Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Exploring British Columbia

Monday, May 24, 2010

Exploring British Columbia

(This is a post of a previous trip and the picture above is what greets you right before entering Vancouver from the north.)

The highs of our Arctic Circle experience did not readily subside as we cruised back to the lower 48.  From Dawson City we had to go through Whitehorse again but before reaching Watson Lake we had to take a right to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, also known as Glacier Highway.  This nickname intrigued me no end.  But what gave me incomparable thrill was seeing the letters BC, formed by rocks we had earlier laid out on that small stretch of the Alaska Highway (before we made the right turn), were still there!

Stewart-Cassiar is a lonely highway through northern British Columbia.  I did not see a glimpse of a glacier-topped mountain until after a few hours, when we were making the turn to the town of Stewart, British Columbia towards the coast.  But the big surprise was the town of Hyder, Alaska which was only two miles from Stewart’s border!  That little town of almost a hundred people gave us two unforgettable experiences:  driving up to Salmon Glacier and witnessing a spectacular performance at Fish Creek. 
Salmon Glacier is the fifth largest glacier in North America and as we went up the hill (15 miles) from downtown Hyder and Stewart, it slowly made its appearance. When we reached the summit, we saw its entire extent. The pictures I show here do not give it justice.  But the price we paid was high.  The road was dirt-gravel all the way.  And since it was also rainy that day, it was MUDDY dirt/gravel!  I can only imagine the brutal punishment we gave Star.  But there was no other way to get there.  There was nothing commercial about the towns of Stewart/Hyder. No one even wanted to take Bill out fishing on a boat because it was off-season!

Fish Creek, on the other hand, right on the foot of the hill, had a side show waiting for us.  A good-sized black bear showed up and for about thirty minutes hunted for and devoured the salmon he could find on the creek.  I tell you…Bill and I were clicking our cameras non-stop (yes, I used my other point-and-click camera).  At times he was a mere twenty feet from us and we were rendered incognito to him! It really felt like he was putting on a show for our benefit!

British Columbia had many other memorable experiences for us along what is called the Yellowhead Highway:  the small salmon hatchery we found along the way in New Hazelton where we learned how and why they counted the salmon that passed through a small river, some of the oldest totem poles in the world in the small village of Kitwanga, and some native Americans who had the sole privilege of fishing a stream and did so using fish nets in the swirling gorge in Moricetown.  We camped and grilled right next to the river that night. We were not native-Americans so we were not supposed to get that privilege…but they graciously allowed us.
Ripley’s must be active in BC, too, for in Houston, we found the world’s largest fishing rod (60-ft tall, conceived by Jarvis) and in 100 Mile House (which is 100 miles from the start of the gold rush there and which fronts reputedly the best fishing in the world in what has been nicknamed the Fishing Highway) we found the world’s largest cross-country skis! But the exploration was not complete until we got to the Rockies again.  There the town of Lilloet, nestled among the high foothills, offered the biggest emeralds I have ever seen…all firmly planted around town.   But the steep grades going down the mountain sides virtually destroyed our front brakes and we paid another steep price for those thrills on the hills.

Further beyond was Whistler, BC, where the Winter Olympics was going to be held January of the following year.  We saw all the frenzied preparations, including the only peak-to-peak gondola in the world, connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.  At the top of Blackcomb were a mountain side rocky hike and spectacular scenery. But, soon the beautiful coast unfolded before us, as if telling us the remarkable city of Vancouver is not far. 

Before you reach the city, you will be shocked at the great big boulder that welcomes you.  We were in Vancouver before so this time around we went to where we had not been, the Lonsdale Quay Market, to see a view of the city skyline. And when we crossed the border to the state of Washington, seeing Mt. Baker at a distance, we knew we were coming home! But, aside from this therapeutic pinch to a little homesickness, we were also ecstatic…about the substantially less expensive gas with which we could now feed hungry Star!

Lasting thought about Canada besides its vast beauty:  the country is so RV-friendly.   Maybe that is why almost every other RVer we saw there was a European! They have discovered the secret!

Next Stops:  Bend, Columbia Gorge, and Portland, Oregon and Longview and Long Beach, Washington