7/12/15 – 7/16/15 (5,504 miles)
After talking with Bev and Gary, we modified our plan and stayed at Cassiar RV Park in Kitwanga, BC, in order to see Salmon Glacier on our northward trek up the Cassiar Highway. As we were cooking Giorgio Soana’s (our Tuscan cooking guru) ragu to top our pasta for dinner, we saw a motorcycle and a bicycle enter the park separately, and the riders erect tents near each other. Stephen, having traveled in a self-supported mode on a bicycle, knew how much effort goes into feeding oneself in a marginally pleasant way from a bicycle pannier, so he walked across to invite our new neighbors to dinner. They considered his offer at some length (perhaps 2 nanoseconds) and enthusiastically accepted. FPBSE (food prepared by someone else) beats reconstituted dried food most of the time. Sarah Wilson is cycling by herself from Denver to Anchorage to raise money for Nepal (Her blog is http://coloradonepalalliance.org, if anyone would like to follow her.) Glen and Lina Rees are nurses who decided to take to their motorcycle for a trip from southern California to Alaska. We had a delightful time with all of them.
Because taking the Bev/Gary recommendation would add 160 miles to our trip, on Monday we got up at what Stephen calls the butt crack of dawn (4:00 a.m.) and headed northward to Highway 37A, where we turned west toward Stewart. Stewart, BC, and Hyder, AK, are about two miles apart with a border crossing between them. The crossing is manned only on the Canadian side. Both towns are small and were built initially to support mining operations, but Stewart is still a functional town, while Hyder is a ghost town with a couple of hotels and antique shops. The towns lie at the end of the Portland Canal, the world’s fourth longest fjord.
We dropped the trailer in Stewart and started up the unpaved road to the top of Salmon Glacier. The day was foggy and cool with intermittent rain, and we were the only people on the “highway.” The views of the glacier were marvelous, with the fog only making the trip more interesting. I can’t recall ever having looked down upon a glacier from a road built above it.
As we drove from Prince Rupert to Kitwanga we stopped at the Sherwood Mountain Brewery in Terrace (as one does!) and were told their IPA wouldn’t be ready until July 16. When we stopped at the Fish Creek wildlife viewing area on the way to the glacier, we were told the salmon wouldn’t arrive on their upstream migration until July 16. Our timing is an eighth of a degree off. We did fill our growler with a very drinkable pale ale.
Only fellow RVers will understand why it is important that road next to the sanitary dumping station at the Iskut campground was on an incline. That meant that the gray and black water tanks emptied completely. Stephen was very satisfied by his outstanding dump.
On Tuesday evening we stayed at Rancheria Hotel and RV Camp. It was built in 1949 and has a “rode hard and put up wet” appearance. There were a lot of campsites in the forest, but few were occupied, so we had a pleasant, quiet night. We went into the restaurant to have a beer and meet some of the locals, and that was fun. They were all warm and welcoming. The owner has a fuel pump outside, but it doesn’t have credit card slots and has no monitor inside, so drivers pump their fuel and then walk 40 yards to pay at the office. This trusting nature is something we city folks find surprising.
We have heard of Wal-Mart camping (Wal-Mart generally allows RV’s to be set up on its parking lots.), but the situation in Whitehorse was incredible. There were so many RV’s in the parking lot, many with sliders and awnings extended, that parking for people wanting to shop at Wal-Mart was limited.
The last leg of this section was from Otter Creek Cutoff to Beaver Creek, and that was only 200 miles, so we assumed a leisurely drive. Unfortunately, we forgot to assume massive road repair. Much of this drive was done in a convoy over gravel at 20 miles per hour. Fortunately, we were able to see Lake Kluane and the St. Elias Mountains. And we had a lot of time to see them.