I was so happy that we kayaked in the afternoon yesterday, because by late evening the sky was dark and the clouds were thick with heavy rain. All night long the rain sang on the roof of the rig but by morning it had slowed to a gentle drip. By the time we hooked up the Tracker, the rain had stopped, even though the air was still misty. Today we are traveling the Yellowhead Highway, 16, the route that connects Prince Rupert on the BC coast to Edmonton, Alberta, by way of Prince George. When I was in Prince George in 1973, the road was fairly new, and one day we drove east a bit to just say we had been on it. I remember lots of snow and ice, and trees, and boring.
That certainly wasn’t the case today as we traveled west on the Yellowhead. Fraser Lake to the north of the highway was still shrouded in dark clouds as we passed, but by the time we reached the Lakes District the sun was trying to shine on us. We stopped at a rest area called Tintagel Cairn, with an interesting stone in the center of the cairn that was from Tintagel Castle in England, supposedly the birthplace of King Arthur. The sign at the rest stop had maps of what is called the Lakes District. These lakes are huge, long crevasses in the glaciated landscape, much like the Finger Lakes of New York, but exponentially bigger. Many of the roads leading to these huge lakes are rough gravel and not advised for RV’s.
With the cloudy day ahead, we read the Milepost and thought that a visit to the charming little town of Smithers might be fun in addition to a planned visit to the New Hazelton area. Both towns have excellent visitor centers, a great resource that we try to use often when traveling. The highway was great, smooth and wide, and very little traffic on this Monday morning. Arriving in Smithers before noon, we found the visitor center and parked across the street, picked up a map of the town, and walked toward Main Street.
Smithers is an interesting mix of tourist town, ski town, mountain bike town, and First Nations town. There was definitely an interesting mix of people on the streets, and there were a good number of fancy outdoor outfitter shops. I stepped into one and emerged with a nifty Pelican waterproof case with foam inserts that is made for kayakers and cameras. Even if it goes in, it floats, and there is some kind of weird pressure release valve that will keep the camera from getting crushed by the weight of the water. I don’t expect to be in that kind of water, but am still tickled that I can now take the good camera and telephoto lens out on the lake with a bit less trepidation.
We walked around Smithers for an hour or so and enjoyed a latte and tea from a corner kiosk that tasted wonderful. In the Milepost we read about Twin Falls, a must see in the Smithers Area and the visitor center provided a nice local map to the Twin Falls Road. As we started up the trail, the sun started to emerge, and glimpses of the snow covered mountains all around Smithers peeked through the clouds. The hike to the falls was just fifteen minutes or so of incline to the viewing platform, but we decided to go on to the base of the falls. Beautiful.
As we drove back down to town, the sun was out all the way and the mountains west of town took my breath away. We stopped at an RV wash just north of the main intersection to get the road grime off the Tracker before going back to the visitor center. There is a free dump, free WiFi, and good water all available and easily accessible. Since we planned to boondock for the next 2 or 3 days, it was important to start fresh with enough water and clean tanks. In no time at all, my photos were uploaded and the blog pages that I wrote the previous day were posted. Sure wish my internet at home was that fast!
Continuing north on Highway 16, we followed the raging Bulkley River past the native village of Moricetown where the native people took advantage of the narrow canyon to trap salmon. Our route continued north and west to “The Hazeltons”, three communities that are centered around Old Hazelton. Situated at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers, Hazelton grew up as a major transportation and navigation center, and a wintering place for miners and prospectors from the daunting Interior. We crossed the suspension bridge that spans the Bulkley River high above a magnificent canyon, surrounded by craggy, snowcapped mountains. There is much to see in Old Town Hazelton, but it was getting late in the day and it was time to move on. We stopped in at the local tribal store and filled up for a mere 1.24 per liter, 4.57 per gallon C$ still not sure what the US exchange is right now, but it is somewhere between 4 and 6 percent higher. I bought a half gallon of milk, a bag of chips, and two Haagen Daz bars and it cost me 15.80. I didn’t get a receipt so I have no clue what particular bit of that package was outrageously priced.
It was with some internal excitement that I saw the sign at the junction of the Highway 16 and Highway 37. The Stewart-Cassiar Highway seemed to me to truly be the epitome of wild British Columbia, and we were there at last. Our original plans were to go to Meziadin Provincial Park, about 97 miles north of the junction, and then earlier this morning we decided that we would rather boondock somewhere along the highway. It was getting close to 7:30 and around mile 50 we started looking in earnest for a place to stop. We found a small lake, with three campsites, and dropped down into a mosquito infested hole that already had a crusty camper and a crusty dude settling in, and decided that we wanted to be out somewhere alone, not smashed in close to someone else. It was tight in there, so we had to unhook to get back out, and after a few moments of traveling companion backing conversation, we managed to get back on the road. You all know those conversations, and we don’t usually have them, so it was funny when it was over.
We actually saw two young bears, but even going 50 mph, we had no way to stop to see them, or nowhere to pull off, so it was just a quick sighting and they were gone. Within a couple miles we found another pull off, this time it was just off the road and no one else was around. The sun was still high in the sky, even close to 8 pm, and we lowered the jacks, put out the slide, and in no time at all had our supper on the trays. Mo went to bed while once more I tried to manage the 200 photos that I took today, and I gave up without writing a word about the day’s travels. I know that I have to write every day, because it is so very hard to regenerate all we have seen a day later. The only way I can keep track is with a review of the Milepost and my photos. I started marking photo sites in the Milepost since my camera doesn’t have GPS capability. I actually thought about trying to shoot an iPhone shot at each site to get coordinates, but decided that was just plain stupid. Red pen in the Milepost is working fine.
I stayed awake until after ten, watching the sun set on the mountains around us and listening to the silence. An occasional truck would go past, but as the night wore on, I never heard a thing and slept wonderfully. I think it may have been the quietest, darkest night we have spent on the road. Perfect.
Miles driven today from point 7 to point 12 about 275
Road Conditions: 2 lane perfect all the way
I took a LOT of photos today, including some gorgeous wildflowers at our boondock site, the link is here
TOMORROW: THE CASSIAR HIGHWAY!