7/10/15 – 7/12/15 (4,194 miles)
Prince Rupert is on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia at the mouth of the Skeena River on Kaien Island. It is one of the world’s deepest ports and is a terminal to ferries going all sorts of places as well as containerized shipping. It is 215 miles west of Smithers following the Skeena River through the coastal mountain range.
Our first stop out of Smithers was at Moricetown Gorge. Moricetown is a First Nations community of the Witsutwit’en people who fish with dip nets in the river as it comes into the gorge. We were glad to see that they attach themselves to safety lines, as the fishing with these very long poles looks precarious. They were very productive fishermen and caught several fish while we watched.
Just north of Prince Rupert is the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, founded by British Columbia in 1994 to attempt to save the grizzly bears that are rapidly declining in population. We took a boat tour from Prince Rupert up the coast and into the inlet in the park in an attempt to see the bears that (allegedly) come to the edge of the inlet at low tide to feed on sea sedge. Although we moved up and down the inlet three times, we saw no bears. The captain of the boat told us that this was the first time in 2½ years that they had not seen bears.
On the trip to the Sanctuary we saw two hump-backed whales. Because of the change in weather patterns, the whales have come to the area earlier than usual. Adventure Tours, the outfitter providing the trip, does bear tours in the early summer and whale tours beginning in August. All the animals are behaving differently, and the tour folks aren’t sure how to respond. The whales were magnificent.
As we neared Prince Rupert Harbor on the return, the boat slowed, and one of the guides told us they would try to “call down the eagles.” Eagle calls were played over the PA system, and in about a minute an eagle approached the boat. The guide began to throw meat into the water, and soon eagles were swooping down in every direction. “Chumming” for eagles seems a bit strange, although the guide told us that as soon as the salmon run began, no eagles would approach to get the meat tossed from the boat, preferring to hunt the salmon. Standing on the front deck of the boat with eagles whizzing by in every direction was amazing.
Near the boat terminal was the Wheelhouse Brewery, one of very few microbreweries in BC. As it was only just around the corner from where we were parked, we stopped in for a brew. The beer was good, and the place was a hoot. It was obvious that the “seating” was placed for customer use on Friday night and spent most of its time stacked out of the way so the facility could be used for brewery activities. It was crowded with rowdy, cheerful young people.
On Saturday, at the urging of our new friends, Bev and Gary Barton, the Kiwis/Aussies/Rhodies next door, we laid in supplies of meats and vegetables. They had just come down the highway we will take on Monday, and they told us that food is of limited variety and very expensive in northern British Columbia. After shopping, we went to The Breakers for lunch and had a good beer from Terrace, BC, and fish and chips. Now we are ready to begin the trip North to Alaska.