Adventures

Day 54 & 55 – From Stewart to the Salmon Glacier with a stop in Alaska

Wednesday, June 14 through Thursday, June 15, 2017

We make a detour on Stewart-Cassair Highway to visit Stewart, British Columbia, Hyder, Alaska and the Salmon Glacier in British Columbia.

This installment covers our side trip to Stewart, British Columbia to see the Salmon Glacier.

The Salmon Glacier is the world’s largest road accessible glacier and the fifth largest glacier in Canada. The photos of it looked pretty incredible, so we wanted to make a detour to see it.

Jon and I decided to take a detour down the Glacier Highway (Highway 37A) – located off the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37 at the Meziadin Junction.

This highway is a 40 mile drive to Stewart, British Columbia. From there, we followed the Salmon Glacier Road through Hyder, Alaska to the Salmon Glacier in British Columbia.

The scenery along the Glacier Highway is really amazing. There are row after row of mountains with and without snow on top.

We stopped briefly to see the Bear Glacier.

The Bear Glacier used to block the Strohn Lake’s outlet and occasionally caused flooding. It was notable enough that it was designated a Provincial Park in 2000. But it has been in retreat and now doesn’t even reach the lake.

The Day Use area has been closed. There are no longer signs for the glacier, but there are a couple of pull-outs where you can view the glacier.

We stopped in Stewart, BC. This town is at the end of the Portland Canal and Fjorde.

It is the fourth largest fjord in the World. It is also Canada’s most northerly Ice-free port. Like many places we visited in Canada and Alaska, it has gone through a boom and bust cycle primarily associated with mining. Right now, it is in a bust. The town had definitely seen better days. There was nothing going on in town. The Information Center was already closed for the day. Most of the businesses were still closed for the season although there were a few that had just closed for the day already. We were ahead of the season a little, but we were surprised to see how little was open. The occasional rain certainly didn’t make it look any more appealing.

The weather was cool and misty with occasional sprinkles of rain. This trip has taught me that most of the places with glaciers have a lot of snow in the winter and rain in the summer. This was true for Stewart, too.

We stopped briefly before driving to the Salmon Glacier. We had hoped to find out more information about the road and conditions. We did actually have a little cell and data signal in Stewart, so I took advantage of it to download the Stewart Salmon Glacier Travel Guide.

Stewart Salmon Glacier Travel Guide

To reach the Salmon Glacier, you have to cross into Alaska. There is no US Customs at the border, but Canada does have a manned border crossing when returning from the Salmon Glacier to Stewart.

Once in Alaska, you reach the town of Hyder, the friendliest ghost town.

It is even smaller and less notable than Stewart. Hyder is famous for its bars.

Just past Hyder is a Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area. During salmon season, this is a great place to view bears. At this time, not as good. Plus it was sprinkling.

As the road continued, we crossed back into Canada. We surprised a hoary marmot.

We kept getting tantalizing views of the glacier when we would go around a curve.

Since it was getting rather late and visibility was dropping, we started looking for a place to camp for the night. 

We passed by several nice spots, but most of them already had someone occupying the space. 

We finally came to a nice wide spot with a view of the glacier.

Considering the time, we thought this would be a good place to stop for the night. We couldn’t go any further on the road because only a small path had been plowed through the snow. We certainly wouldn’t fit. A small car might find it passable.

It was cold and windy with a lot of fog, mist and drizzling rain.

The view was pretty amazing. We hoped to see it more clearly in the morning.

In the morning, we were able to see the Salmon Glacier. It turns out that we were camped on the overlook.

It was amazing to be able to look down on it.

It was time to continue our journey.

We didn’t stop to take a lot of photos on the way back down.

There aren’t that many places where the road is wide enough for vehicles to park while there was still so much snow on the road.

But we did stop to see the blue pool.

We had to stop for Canada customs on our way back into Stewart. It all went smoothly.

We stopped at the Visitor Center in Stewart. It wasn’t particularly helpful.

We saw a number of wild animals along the road to and from Salmon Glacier. Unfortunately, we didn’t get photos of any of them today. We saw wild black bears on Glacier Highway. He did what they are supposed to do and moved away quickly into the brush along the side of the road. We saw a moose and Jon spotted a porcupine along the side of the road.

We stopped at the Bear Glacier for a couple more photos.

We did see another black bear along the side of the road.

More about our travels down the Stewart-Cassair Highway in the next post.

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Day 54 – Yellowhead Highway to Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) to the start of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) at Kitwanga.

The scenery along the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) is gorgeous. You can see the Seven Sisters mountain peaks and their glaciers.

As you drive along, you get different views of the mountains.

We stopped in Smithers for brunch. The town has a small shopping district with several bakeries. We had the individual quiches from Schimmels Bakery and Cafe.

We stopped to view the Moricetown Canyon. It is a point where the Buckley River is forced through a small opening in the rocks. The force of the water going through the gap is thundering.

It is amazing to think that salmon swim up it.

We also took a slight detour to see the Hagwilget Suspension Bridge near Hazelton.

The traffic across the bridge was down to one lane while some maintenance was being performed.
We stopped before the bridge to check things out from the scenic overlook. There were views of the Seven Sisters.

I walked about halfway across the bridge.

The view of the river from the bridge wasn’t that interesting, but I did have a good view of Jon.

Our next stop was at Kitwanga where we would start up along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. The Stewart-Cassiar Highway is 450 miles from Kitwanga to the Alaska Highway. There was a convenient gas station there, so we filled up with diesel.

There are limited services along the highway. We bought enough fuel and had enough supplies that we could travel the whole distance without having to rely on a specific gas station. Because the camper has a bathroom and kitchen, we don’t really have to worry about finding a place to camp.

After we took the required photos, we started our journey north. There are a couple of side trips off the highway and we were planning to take the 37A to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.

I’m continuing that part of the trip in the next post.

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Day 53 – Prince George and Sunset Lake 

Yellowhead Highway – Central British Columbia 

Tuesday, June 13

It looked like Prince George was probably our last big chance for shopping for a long while, so we stopped. Prince George is a large town and seems like it functions as a shopping destination for much of the surrounding area.

We shopped at a Wal-Mart. So far, the Wal-Marts in Canada have been pretty disappointing. The shelves are often half empty and the prices aren’t nearly as low as usual. Many of them do allow overnight parking in their parking lots.

We found a private liquor store and bought some Canadian wine and beer.

We stopped at a Canadian Tire shop. Imagine a cross between an automotive store, a tractor/farm supply, a sporting goods shop, and a Wal-Mart. They have a little bit of everything.

Canadian Tire

2017 is the 150th birthday of Canada. Most stores have big displays of Canada merchandise near their entrance. Since we assume that we will still be in Canada on July 1st (Canada Day), we decided to get into the spirit of the event. We bought shirts, a pot holder, a can koozie, flip flops and several other small items. 

After this, we headed west on the Yellowhead Highway (Canada highway 16). Generally speaking, there are only two highways leading from central British Columbia to the North. The Stewart-Cassiar on the western side of BC and the Alaska Highway along the eastern part of BC.

We had a Road Atlas, but it seemed like the maps of Northern British Columbia and the Yukon must be woefully lacking in detail. The reality is that there just aren’t that many highways. It is a mighty big area with a relatively small population.

After looking over the maps, we decided to take the western route to the Yukon and return along the Alaska Highway.

We saw our first wild moose. 

Female cow moose

We decided to try another BC Forest Service campground. We found one that was a little bigger this time. Sunset Lake was near Topley. It had eight campsites and a day use area. 

Sunset Lake BCFS Campground

The campground had a mix of campsites. There were several right next to the boat launch. After our experience with the teenagers, we chose one that was screened from other campsites by trees and brush.

Jon had a chance to try out one of the Canadian beers and the Canada can koozie.

The lake was really beautiful. We went for a walk around recreational areas.

It was nice to have a chance to hang out and enjoy the weather, scenery and peace and quiet of this place.

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Day 52 – Cariboo Highway 

June 12

Buckhorn Lake

I started laundry at 7:30 am because we wanted to make sure there were washers available. I’m glad I did because other people started showing up 15 minutes later. I was finished by 10:30. We took showers and headed to Cache Creek. 

We found a place to buy gear oil. Jon also found out where to dispose of the used oil from the oil change a few days ago. When we found the spot, Jon decided to go ahead and change the transmission fluid. That way we could get rid of both at the same time. It was uneventful. Because the Fuso has such high clearance, it makes doing tasks like this fairly easy. I climbed on top of the engine to pour in the new fluids and Jon worked underneath the engine.

We headed north along the Cariboo Highway (Canada 97). The drive itself was mostly trees with the occasional lake with small communities every so often. 

Like most US Interstate Highways, there are Rest Stops along Canadian Highways, too. Most are fairly utilitarian. They all have parking area usually with trash cans. Many have vault toilets of varying levels of construction, maintenance and cleanliness. Some with nice views may have picnic tables, too. 

We stopped at the McLeese Lake Rest Stop. It had a very nice view of the lake along with toilets. 

We saw our first wildlife warning sign with a moose on it.

We passed by this interesting rock formation of basalt columns. 

When in the US, we use the app Ultimate Campground to find interesting places to stay on public lands, like parks, forests and BLM land. 

Now that we were in Canada, we were using the Ultimate Campground Canada app. 

We usually enjoy the campgrounds in US National Forests. So when we saw listings for free British Columbia Forest Service campgrounds, we thought that we should give it a try. 

Buckhorn Lake BCFS

We decided to stop at Buckhorn Lake BCFS which had four campsites on a lake.

Three of the four sites were taken. 

The first one by a very nice couple and their dog. The other two were filled with teenagers, vehicles and alcohol. Did you know that there is a Bud Lite Apple beer in Canada? 

We were tired and it had been a long day, so we took the last campsite. We angled our vehicle so that our camper windows were facing away from the teenagers’ campsites. 

If necessary, we can always crank up the generator to drown out their noise. We also bring ear plugs. One advantage of owning a true four-season camper is that it is well insulated and has double pane windows. It cuts down on the noise if we keep the windows closed. 

We spent quite a long while talking with the nice couple by the lake. They were relatively local and were taking advantage of the nice weather to swim and fish. 

The mosquitoes were definitely fierce. I left to fix dinner once I had enough of the mosquitoes. 

Jon hung out and talked for a while longer. Jon came back to the camper with a bag of smoked salmon they had made and a fishing rod. The nice couple left. 

Later, someone else pulled into their space next to the lake. The teenagers made all sorts of loud noises as they rev’ed engines, etc. I was waiting to hear something break. They left not long after it got dark. 

In the morning, Jon took a look at all of the trash they had left. He picked up two big bags of trash in addition to a wide variety of clothing, two towels and a fishing pole. 

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Day 51 – Hope, Kamloops and almost Cache Creek

June 11, 2017

We left in the mid-morning after saying bye to the puppies.

It was very overcast with low-lying clouds.

The scenery was beautiful as we followed Highway 7 along the Fraser River. 

We stopped at Hope to pick up some basic maps, etc. at their Tourist Information Center which was actually open on a Sunday.

We wanted to load up on some more supplies before traveling North. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of groceries and similar items. After looking at a map, we drove east along the Coquihalla Highway (Canada 5) to Kamloops, a fairly large city in the general direction we wanted to go.
The mountain scenery was impressive. 

This is an area that was shaped by glaciers during the Ice ages. It leads to u-shaped valleys surrounded by very steep mountain walls and peaks.

 

It was misty with low clouds. This area gets an enormous amount of snow in the winter. There were still some snowy areas. 

It was easy to imagine why there were so many avalanche warning signs.

The area around Kamloops was quite different from the mountain range. 

It is a big city. We filled up our propane tanks and bought more groceries.

We drove West on Canada Highway 1 towards Cache Creek. The terrain along this route was quite different. 

The hills were low and softly rounded. The plants were really different, too. There were a lot less trees.

We decided to stay at the Brookside Campsite RV Park. It is pretty close to Cashe Creek, where we will be picking up the Cariboo Highway (Highway 97).

Part of the reason for staying at this campground is because it includes free WiFi. It also has a laundry. We plan on using that on the morning. 

Our plan with Verizon has unlimited calls and texts in Canada. We are also allowed 500 Megabytes of data per day. Our cell and data signal has been very limited away from the towns. We assume that trend will only increase as we continue north.

We did find it odd that the campground isn’t along a brook.

The campground was moderately full. We walked around talking with folks. We settled in for a quiet night. It had been a long day with a lot of time on the road.

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Day 49 to 50: Canada! Cnoccarne B&B and Irish Wolfhounds 

June 9 and 10, 2017

Cnoccarne B&B

Mission, British Columbia

On June 9, we crossed in Canada at Sumas/Abbotsford – this is a smaller border crossing a bit east of the main Seattle/Vancouver corridor.  Usually a fairly quiet crossing but there was a Blue Jays game in Seattle so lots of Canadian baseball fans traveling south really had it blocked up southbound.  To simplify things we stored our rifle in a mini-storage in Sumas, ($12/month) just a few blocks from the border crossing.

We were staying at Cnoccarne B&B for the first couple of days after reaching Canada. We stopped at a few shops to buy groceries and wine in Abbotsford and then headed to Mission.

I’ve been Facebook friends with Emma Ross for several years now. She and I both have a passion for Irish Wolfhounds. Jon and I lost our last Irish Wolfhound in September, so I was excited to spend some time with her Irish Wolfhounds.

And she had five Irish Wolfhound puppies!

They are already so well behaved.

We stayed in our camper in her front parking area which included electricity, water and a picnic table.

It was great meeting her in real life. She was so welcoming. Her dogs are wonderful, too.

Typical adult Irish Wolfhound position

We had the opportunity to go on a walk with the puppies with some of the dogs following on the other side of a fence.

The first night we went out for dinner at The Historic Dewdney Pub with a few other local Irish Wolfhound owners. It was a pleasant evening following a rather long day.

The next day, Katy, another Irish Wolfhound owner, and her two dogs came over in the morning. It was great meeting her two dogs, too. We played with the puppies and Emma’s other Wolfhounds.

Jon and I worked on general maintenance and cleaning up the Fuso and camper. It is like owning a very small and quite complicated home. There are always things that need time and attention.

At this point in our trip, we had driven around 5,000 miles. It was time for an oil change. We had bought the supplies in the US. It was good to have the time to do it.

Jon gave Emma a hand getting the mower out a field. To keep the property gorgeous, it takes a lot of mowing.

We drove into Abbotsford for supplies and to exchange some US dollars for Canadian ones. The exchange rate was highly favorable for US dollars. It was 1 US dollar for every 1.33 Canadian dollar. It makes a trip like this much more affordable than if it were the other way around.

We stopped at Lepp Farm Market on our way back to Cnoccarne. They had a great selection of meats and vegetables. We brought a nice loaf of bread to contribute to tonight’s dinner.

Tonight’s dinner was stuffed mushrooms, salad and bread. Emma started a campfire in her back garden.

The weather was great. It was a really treat not to be fixing dinner tonight.

Jon enjoying a pre-dinner glass of wine by the fire

And in such a lovely place and in the company of such wonderful people.

Cnoccarne B&B through the smoke from the dinnertime fire

We left on the following morning. It had been great to catch our breath after doing so much travel and crossing the border.

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Day 48 – Rain in Washington 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Rain in Washington State

It started to rain last night and was continuing to rain. I’m sure the scenery would have been beautiful if we could have seen it through the fog and mist.

We hit the Seattle metropolitan area pretty early in the day. We made several stops at stores along the way in preparation for our drive into Canada tomorrow.

We were going to cross over at the Sumas-Abbotsford Customs Center. Because we hadn’t ever gone through a border crossing in the Fuso, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. So we didn’t buy any food or alcohol.

Once we finished our shopping, we drove northeast. We planned to stay at one of the campgrounds in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

We passed several campgrounds that were full. Finally we came to the Douglas Fir Campground. 

We found a campsite. It was reserved for the weekend, but available for tonight.

Really big trees.

Our campsite backed up to the North Fork Nooksack River. The river was running fast and really high. 

The view of the river and campsite from the back of the Fuso was interesting.

It stopped raining for a while.

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Day 47 – Iron Goat Trail, WA

June 7, 2017

Leavenworth,  Iron Goat Trail and Money Creek Campground in Washington 

We drove through Leavenworth around lunchtime. It is an interesting tourist town with an Alpine Village theme. 

We found it attractive, but were very glad we weren’t driving through it during prime tourist season.

We stopped at the Iron Goat Interpretive Site and Trailhead. 

Iron Goat Trail

The Iron Goat Trail is a “rails to trails” converted railway route. The Great Northern Railway, known as the Iron Goat Railway, had one of the most deadly railway disasters in the US. This area is prone to heavy snows and high avalanche risk. In 1910, two trains were stopped along the track when an avalanche swept both trains off the tracks. Over 96 people died in the accident.

Wellington Train Disaster

Even now, the area is prone to washouts. This bridge was constructed to cross over an area that was washed down the mountainside.

The trail follows along the train track and still contains a number of railway structures such as tunnels and snow sheds (areas along the track that have a top and side to protect the train and track from snow and avalanches).

The trail has lots of options for length, elevation change and steepness of your hike. We opted for the suggested 5.9 mile loop trail. It has a long gradual climb along the former railway track, up the steep Martin Creek Crossover, along another section of former train track and finally down the very long and steep Windy Point Crossover. 

There was an incredible variety of flowers in bloom. 

Dwarf Dogwood

We checked out the two tunnels. The wooden supporting timbers of the first tunnel had partially fallen down. 

The stone tunnel was still standing. 

There was a wooden snow shed protecting the gap between the tunnels which had fallen down and broken apart. 

The second tunnel had completely collapsed.

We walked along the side of a tremendous concrete snow shed. 

On the upper part of the trail, we walked along the top of the same snow shed. 

When passing through an area with moderately tall shrubbery, we surprised a black bear. We scared it as much as it scared us. It did what black bears are supposed to do which was climbing up a tree to get away from us. 

It seemed to be an adolescent, so we were concerned that a mother bear might be around. Fortunately, it seemed to be alone. We hadn’t brought our bear spray or bells because unlike many of the places we had stopped, there weren’t any warnings about bears. I took a few photos and then we continued our hike. 

The rest of the hike was uneventful. By the time we reached the Fuso, we had hiked at least 7 miles.

We found a great campsite at Money Creek Campground in the Washington Cascades. 

It was not too far from our hike. The Campground was along the Skykomish River. 

It was at the back of our campsite. The river was running really high like almost all of the rivers in the area.

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Day 46 – Oregon to Washington 

June 6, 2017

Today we headed north to Washington state via highway 97 to highway 197. 

Both were picturesque. We had great views of Mt Hood while in Oregon. 

To reach Washington, you cross over the Columbia River. 

The land along the river was interesting. 

You could see the impact of volcanic forces on the landscape.

And how much effort must have been required to put in roads and railways.

We stopped in Yakima for a few more supplies.

We camped along the Yakima River Canyon. There are several BLM campgrounds in that area. We stopped at each of the ones we passed. 

There weren’t very many campsites at any of them. The first several campgrounds were barely more than parking lots with picnic tables.

We finally reached the last campground, the Umtanum Campground. 

It was a little bigger than the rest and had more of a campground feel. The campsites weren’t just all lined up and had gaps in between them. Plus there was a pedestrian bridge across the river to the other side. 

Like most of the places we visited recently, the river here was running high and fast.

As we had learned earlier in this trip, “great bird watching” usually equates to “lots of bugs”. We decided to not cross over to the other side because of the really wonderful insect habitat.

Once the teenage camping groups went to bed, we had a relatively quiet evening.

We did see several birders out with cameras and spotting scopes early the next morning. 

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Day 45 – Earthcruiser, Bend, Oregon 

June 5, 2017

This morning, we made our way to Bend, Oregon.  A lot of folks know Bend for its beer – Bend has the most breweries per capita of any town in the USA, which alone makes it worth the visit.  We had another reason – to visit friends Lance Gillies and Michelle Boltz at Earthcruiser. Lance and Michelle are the founders of a company that builds overland vehicles on the Mitsubishi Fuso chassis and we have always admired their builds but never had a chance to stop by and see their shop. Robinson Fuso is, of course, built on a Fuso chassis so we often have people ask us where to get a vehicle like ours.  Ours is home built, but for most people a better option is to have someone build your vehicle for you – if you want something on the Fuso chassis then Earthcruiser is the best option we’ve found.  Lance and Michelle are good people, and we really like their work.

 

A Fuso ready to become an overland vehicle

After an afternoon of shopping/resupply, we stopped to have drinks with Lance & Michelle at Goodlife Brewing Company, because when you are in Bend that’s what you do!

Sunset over Bend

Because of the hour, we camped in the Deschutes National Forest again. This time, we boondocked just out of town off of China Hat Rd. The area is obviously used as a place to have a wild time – we can never understand why folks need to leave so much crap behind after they have been out enjoying a nice natural setting. Jon picked up about two trash bags full of miscellaneous garbage left around our campsite. We didn’t have room to haul out the burned mattress but got a lot of the other junk gone.

Thank goodness there weren’t any shenanigans this night. We had a quiet evening in the woods.

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