Aug. 25-27, 2012
We set out from Whitehorse heading back eastward on the Alaskan Highway. As there really wasn’t any reason to stay in Watson Lake again, we started our journey down the Cassiar Highway. The Cassiar goes south through British Columbia on the western side of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a less travelled route but has been recommended to us multiple times on this trip.
We end up pulling in to camp at Boya Lake Provincial park about an hour south on the highway. It’s a little late, but we still manage to get in a small walk/hike from the campground to an old beaver dam.
Some scenery shots from the days drive.
And a shot of Boya Lake. You can’t really tell from this picture, but the lake was remarkably clear.
The next day we continued south on the Cassiar. There isn’t much in the way of civilization along the way, but one of the few places to stop is Jade City. Apparently, most of the worlds Jade comes from the mines in this area. Jade City, which is really less of a city and more like three four buildings along the highway, is there so you can can purchase your jade mine-direct.
This is “Jade City”. Most of those giant boulders are actually various forms of jade.
On the outside there is a guy is constantly cutting up large pieces of jade into smaller pieces which you can buy by the pound in an unpolished state.
There is also a more traditional store where you can buy just about anything you want made of jade. The most interesting thing about the jade they sell is that although it is all mined right here, they ship everything over to China to be carved into something, and they ship it back to sell in the store. Not too surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be any real bargains on jade in the store.
After overdosing on jade we continue south for what turns out to be a very scenic ride; this part of British Columbia really is a picturesque place. Here are a few shots from one of our rest stops.
Toward the south end of the Cassiar we took a detour west to visit the towns of Stewart and Hyder. The road in passes right by the end of bear glacier.
Stewart and Hyder are small neighboring coastal towns which happen to be in two different countries. Stewart is in Canada while Hyder is actually in Alaska. Even though Hyder is in Alaska, you can’t drive to it from any other place but Stewart. The US doesn’t even bother to man a customs/border station here, although Canada does.
The next day we headed to Fish Creek in Hyder for a chance to see more bears. The creek is a spawning site for salmon and thus a buffet for the bears. Although we see lots of fish spawning, and lots of dead post-spawn fish, the bears are in short supply.
This is fish creek, plenty of salmon, but no bears.
While the bears are away, the birds get to play.
After about an hour waiting we give up and head out to the Salmon Glacier. In order to get to Salmon Glacier you must drive another 16 miles or so up a dirt/gravel road which is mainly used to service the many and various mines operating in the area. Although the ride is not the most pleasant, the viewpoint for the glacier at the end turns out to be worth the effort. Not only do we get an awesome view of the glacier but we get to meet Keith “Bear Man” Scott, who appears to be camping at the viewpoint and is somewhat of a local legend and bear photographer.
Here is Reen (and Will in the background) in front of the Salmon Glacier.
This was, and will be again, Summit Lake. Every year a lake forms here above the edge of the glacier. And every year in late summer, the lake breaks through the ice dam and completely empties under the glacier into the Salmon river, raising the river level 4 or 5 feet for several days! Unfortunately we are a little late and the lake is already empty. It would be in the lower left of this picture, where all that collapsed glacier is.
We didn’t do much else in Stewart other than walk around the town and eat some ice cream. The most interesting thing in town was the toaster museum, a building packed full of toasters tracing back as far as toasters go. Alas, all we got was views through the windows as we learned that the toaster museum has been closed for 3 years due to the lack of staff. Bummer.