b.c.

All posts tagged b.c.

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You have probably figured out by our lack of postings that the “Big 2014 Alaska” trip, for all intents and purposes, is over. We arrived at our cabin/second home in rural New Mexico in late September. We thought we would venture out from the cabin on a short trip or two since we planned to stay through the end of December, but other than a few hikes and a little back road exploring, it just didn’t happen. We still have to get back to Florida, but that will mainly be a road trip visiting friends and family along the way.

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Our cabin is an ongoing project and we just keep finding things to do! One of the first projects was to import a little Inuit cultural influence in the form of an “Inuckshuk”.  We were introduced to these in Western Canada and immediately decided we needed one of our own. The Inuit used them for various purposes including navigational markers and indicators of a place of significance.

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We had tentatively planned to go to Moab, Bryce Canyon, and the White Rim Trail but ultimately decided to save those for next year. With winter quickly approaching and no trips planned we decided to winterize  the trailer and put it away for the winter. It was a bittersweet moment…

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… but a timely one!

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We had been planning this trip with Alaska as the focal point for many years. Sometimes you worry the experience will not equal the anticipation but that was definitely NOT the case. This trip delivered! Look for some “best of” photo compilations in the near future. We hope you have enjoyed following along on our journey and rest assured there will be more in the future.

For now it’s back to Florida and I have some interesting vehicle projects on the agenda.

Stay tuned…

After the the repairs in Glennallen were complete, we were anxious to hit the road again, partly because signs of autumn were appearing and partly because our time in Alaska was coming to a close. Alaska had always been sort of the “primary goal” of the trip, and everything there and back would be “icing on the cake”. So it was time to move on to the next chapter of the trip.

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We very much enjoyed our trip through British Columbia and the Yukon on the way to Alaska, so we were both a little surprised that neither of us were looking forward to crossing Canada again. Perhaps because we now had first hand knowledge of the length of time required to reach the lower 48 through Canada, not to mention fuel and food costs being higher.  But we forged ahead, and vowing to make the best of it, we headed toward Chicken, Alaska.

“Beautiful Downtown Chicken” home of the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever eaten.

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After visiting Chicken, we crossed into Canada via the Top of the World Highway and made our way south towards Whitehorse where we joined, once again, The Alaska Highway. On our way North, we joined the Alaska Highway via the Cassiar Highway just west of Watson Lake and drove to the end in Delta Junction, so now we would complete the Alaska Highway to mile zero in Dawson Creek.

A view from The Top of the World Highway

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No, we didn’t drive it. I’ll be back!

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Everything was again very scenic and enjoyable until we reached Fort Nelson, then it took a turn for the worst. The oil, gas, and logging industries made the drive from Fort Nelson to Calgary a very heavily trafficked, large truck congested experience. On top of that, we noticed an increase in roadside litter and graffiti after entering Alberta. Rest areas, trash cans, roadside pit toilets and pullouts virtually disappeared. Jasper and Banff National Parks were the only redeeming qualities we could find in this part of Canada. In short, unless you feel like you have to drive the entire Alaska Highway as I did, I would suggest skipping this part.

Banff National Park

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It was cloudy and chilly but bright when we arrived in Stewart, British Columbia. Because we had plans for outdoor activities, we hoped the weather would improve during our three-day stay. We camped in Stewart, a small community of about 600 that borders Hyder, Alaska, a self-proclaimed ghost town that was our intended destination. In an effort to maximize our time, we set up camp, ate dinner and were off to Hyder, approximately four miles from Stewart. It felt really weird to enter into the US from Canada and not have to stop at a border crossing. I guess the US Government’s position is if someone wants to enter and stay in an end-of-the-road community of 89 people, you are welcome to do so. Yes, if you turn left instead of right, the road literally ends in the ocean in Hyder!

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Note the low-lying clouds and lack of sunshine

Hyder is known for grizzly and black bear sightings as they fish in the streams for salmon. We had read that the best times for sightings were early mornings and late evenings. We arrived at eight in the evening with camera in hand and high hopes of photographing a bear or two. After waiting and watching for 30 minutes or more, our enthusiasm was beginning to fade because the mosquitoes were the only ones eating dinner and unfortunately we were their dinner. Just as we were about to give up, a lone grizzly bear appeared from under the bridge and came lumbering down stream, stopping to check intermittently for fish that might be hiding in the brush at the edge of the stream. We were safely positioned on a boardwalk above the stream as the bear walked right past us, enabling me to get a great face shot. What great timing!

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So it was back to British Columbia for the night, but not before going through customs in order to re-enter Canada. We needed to regroup for our return trip to Alaska the next day in order to view the Salmon Glacier. We awoke to another overcast day with rain in the forecast. So with raincoats and camera in hand, we set off to Alaska. After leaving Hyder we discovered that the glacier is actually in British Columbia because as we were driving, a sign on the side of the road indicated that we were re-entering Canada. Off to the right a few feet back was a small bench mark that had United States embossed on it. It is a different world in these parts!

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Along the way, we stopped at the “ice cube” playground. Large ice chunks were strewn throughout the river basin after the seasonal ice damn upriver broke. Jim was “called” by the surrounding mountains to return to his ancestral home.  For me, it was play time.

ice remanants  from lake in Hyder Jim longing for his return to the mountains

Finally, we reached the Salmon Glacier and it was indeed worth the 25 mile drive into the wilderness.

Salmon Glacier

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The next day we woke up to another cloudy day, but along with the clouds, we had to deal with rain as we packed up to leave camp. It rained all day with only hints of sunshine that was quickly overtaken by clouds. There was a metaphorical ray of sunshine in my day, however. What appeared to be a mirage in the distance was a black bear walking down the highway directly toward us.  He hung around long enough for me to get a couple of pictures before he meandered out of sight into the woods.

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Sunshine or not, I left the Stewart/Hyder area feeling satisfied that my mission to see bears and glaciers was accomplished. I can’t help but wonder though, does the sun ever shine there?

After leaving Clearwater, we explored the Falls Grey Wilderness Area of B.C. Waterfalls and raging rivers were impossible to avoid, not that we tried. Even after seeing hundreds of waterfalls (I am not exaggerating), we couldn’t resist each one we encountered, especially when we could obtain close access to them. Unfortunately forest fires in B.C. were generating a lot of smoke in the area.

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By the end of the day, Jim was lured to this spot by the river to contemplate the beauty of nature, with a little help from an Irish Death Ale, courtesy of Peter Roesler.

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The next day, we encountered an ancient forest in British Columbia that is a rare inland rainforest. It is one of a kind in Canada. The Red Cedar trees are gigantic in this forest and were due to be cut for lumber before this area was discovered by a botany student and protected as a Canadian national treasure. Some of these trees are reported to be between 1,000-2,000 years old.  Mind boggling that they survived droughts, forest fires and the good old chain saw!

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It wasn’t long before we were on the Cassiar Highway bound for Hyder, Alaska. Like much of British Columbia, this stretch of the highway was full of snow-capped mountains and yes, more snow-melt waterfalls.

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area view

Today I checked off one of the items that has been on my bucket list for at least a decade: whitewater rafting! When we arrived in Clearwater, British Columbia there were whitewater rafting ads on every corner. Since I had told Jim I wanted to whitewater raft during this trip, I decided this was the time. Plus the Clearwater River is so beautiful. It is part of the tributaries of the Fraser Water System and we had been parallel to it for miles before reaching Clearwater. Parenthetically, one can not escape seeing water in this area of Canada. It is EVERYWHERE!

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I wasn’t sure what to expect and asked a lot of questions as we were registering for the trip. When it was time to sign the waiver, I had to force myself not to comprehend the words I read: Whitewater rafting is dangerous and the said company is not responsible for injury or death, etc. I am not a strong swimmer under the best of circumstances and didn’t think I would last two seconds in the snow-melted, frigid rapids of the river.

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But soon after registering, I was able to contain my fear, yet I listened carefully as our guide gave us a tutorial on safety and paddling. Yes, if something went down, I intended to come out of it alive! But, as we began our four-hour descent down the river, I felt nothing but exhilaration. We navigated class II and III+ rapids, got soaked on more than a few occasions and even had a chance to float/swim in the calmer area of the river. I confess that I did not remain in that cold water very long, but Jim stayed in for the allotted time of about 15 minutes. I guess he is a mountain man after all!

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We prepared for our border crossing as best we could. Passports at the ready, paperwork for the shotgun, and the beer got moved from the truck fridge to the trailer fridge.

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The crossing was actually a non-event after we paid the $25 for the firearm permit and the agent did the obligatory inspection of a few bags, storage areas, and the fridge.

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A few things about British Columbia: It is rugged country, seriously rugged. When you see a highway on a map it’s not like a highway in the US. Most are narrow and not in as good a state of repair as we are used to. Drop offs, no markings, no shoulders, no guardrails, and narrow bridges are all quite normal. On top of that, rest areas generally consist of one or two pit toilets and a couple of bear-proof trash cans.

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Seems you can’t get away from water in one form or another.

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We had breakfast at this little spot where I had probably the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever eaten. We also got some tour guide services from a local named Nico who was admiring the truck and trailer.

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Some time on backcountry dirt roads yielded even more water.

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This is for my daughter and son-in-law. (their last name is Sutherland)

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By the time we got to Kamloops, we thought we had been transported to New Mexico!

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Time to find somewhere to cool off…

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