Monday, May 27, 2013

Stewart-Cassiar Hwy North of Bell II to Rancheria Lodge on the Alaska Hwy

A bridge crossing just north of Bell II.
Bear Scat: It was hard not to step in it
there were so many piles
On July 9th I woke early again, packed up camp and stop to use the shower before hitting the road.  It was misting rain on and off during the morning.  The clouds were hanging in the trees and beautifully framed the mountain peaks I made many stops along the road to admire the view.  During my stops I found many signs of bear in the area, the gravel turnoffs were scattered with dried bear scat at least I hope it was.  You need to watch where you were stepping there were so many piles.
A black bear eating dandelions north of Gnat Pass Summit.  This is my favorite picture from the whole trip.  I spent
40 to 60 minutes sitting in the car taking pictures hoping for a shot like this.
From my readings about the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy, this is the place to see bears.  On the first day up the road I saw 4 black bears; one of the bears was dead along the road side and the rest did not stick around to be photographed.  Luckly that changed on the second day I had the pleasure to see several more bears and one bear was nice enough sit to along the road side eating dandelion seeds.  Earlier in the morning I saw a lynx casually trotting across the road looking for breakfast.  It was a treat to view it since they are shy creatures.  I did not even try to reach for my camera since he was on a mission and in no mood for pictures.  It was a real privilege just to see a lynx since they are rarely seen.
Burrage River
This remote wilderness highway will soon be lost to civilization.  Between Bell II and the Devil River a transmission company is logging along the east side of the road and putting up transmission wires.  Electricity means that more people can now can live much more easier in the back country and meaning less space for the wildlife.  Bears will be nothing more than a nuisance and the lynx will disappear.  If you want to look across the land without seeing human civilization intruding on it you should drive this road sooner than later.  It will be gone very soon.

Loons on Kinaskan Lake
About 8:30 AM I pulled into Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park and inspected campgrounds before stopping at the boat launch.  There were loons swimming near the docks, so I patiently sat on the dock hoping the loons would swim closer to me.  I took many pictures and some very nice.  It was about an hour before someone drove up with a boat to launch.  It was a nice peaceful hour enjoying the loon and the misted filled lake before I decided to move on.  Just north of the park is where I saw the lynx crossing the road.
Rest Area to the west of Eddontenajon Lake
Eddontenajon Lake

Between Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park and Dease Lake is Gnat Pass, this is the highest point on the highway at 1,241 meters (4,072 feet) above sea level.  Soon after reaching the summit I stopped to view the black bear eating dandelion seeds.  Dease Lake is where I stopped for lunch.  I ate at Mama Z Restaurant the food was delicious and service was good.

Some more of Eddontenajon Lake
Pullout between Eddontenajon Lake & Upper Gnat Lake
Upper Gnat Lake
Gnat Pass Summit: The highest point on
Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37).

Dease Lake

I hit the road again soon after lunch and stop a Cottonwood River Rest Area and watched a group of woman fishing.  Not far north of the river is Jade City, where you can buy carved jade jewelry and other items from the family who owns the near by mine.  I enjoyed wandering through the store but passed on buying anything.   Again it was time to get in the car and keep driving north to the Alaska Highway.  I made several rest stop and one of them was at Lake Boya Provincial Park.  The lake has a lovely aqua blue color which is from the light reflecting off the marl bottom. 
Cottonwood River: Northbound Rest Area
Canadian Burnet at Cottonwood River Rest Area

Aeroplane Lake north of the village of Good Hope Lake.
American Vetch found at Aeroplane Lake.

Aeroplane Lake: Showy Locoweed or Showy Crazyweed
Scientific Name: Oxytripis splendens
Boya Lake
Boya Lake: I wished I had time to take a swim.  It just looks wonderful.
Blue Lakes was my last stop on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.  You are looking at past damage from a forest fire.
I finally reach the Yukon Territory at 5:19 PM and Alaska Highway was just another 5 minutes away further north.  Once I reached the highway I turned northwest and started to look for a place to eat and sleep for the night.  I stopped at the historical Rancheria Lodge for the night.  The food was terrible and the campsites were OK but the outhouse looked like it had not been cleaned in weeks. 
The people running the place lost their electricity in the June 2012 flash flood.  They were running on a generator but the bath and shower room was closed but that is no reason for not having someone cleanup the outhouse daily and I did not expect gourmet food but it should taste good.

Lake behind Rancheria Lodge

Rancheria Historical Marker

Acetic Lupine at the lodge

Pickly Rose

Drawf Dogwood Bunchberry

I woke to rain around 3:30 and quickly pull and packed the tent.  I was on the road by 5:00 AM on July 10th.  The 10th was my longest day, I traveled from Rancheria Lodge to Tok, AK that day and this will be my next post.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yellowhead (Hwy 16) & Stewart-Cassiar Highways (Hwy 37)

A hazy day due to the forest fires in the lower 48.  This picture was taken at a rest area on the Yellowhead Hwy between Houston and Telkwa.
As I described in The Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16): Jasper to Burns Lake I woke early and so afterwards started driving west toward the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy.  The sky was filled with haze it greatly reduced the visibly.  While listening to the BBC they mention that the haze was due to the large forest fires in the Western United States.  I found it interesting that the haze traveled west when most weather fronts travel west to east and I thought the mountain would have kept the smoky haze to the east but I was wrong.  The traffic was very light along the Yellowhead this early in the morning and the wildlife does make use of the highway at that time.  I saw three foxes hunting along the shoulder and one moose was travel west on it.  I was not able to stop and take pictures if I tried they would have been long gone. 
The Buckley River formed Moricetown Canyon.  The community fishes salmon during the run off the boulder. 
I stopped at a First Nation community called Moricetown.  There is a rest area just before the town where you can see and take some photos of Moricetown Canyon.  The residences of Moricetown fish for salmon in the rapids of Bulkley River.  The salmon were not running while I was visiting but I did get some picturesque views of the canyon. 

Moricetown Canyon from the bridge in the picture above.
Lance-leaf or Spreading Stonecrop.  If you know what it is let me know.
After exploring the canyon I turned my car west toward New HazeltonNew Hazelton has a nice Visitor Centre where I could finely get cleaned up and change out of the clothes I spend last night in.  I wish I had more time to explore the town they have the 'Ksan Museum and Historical Village which I believe would make an interesting visit.  While I was cleaning up, people were arriving and setting up a farmer's markets in the New Hazelton parking lot but did not have the time to waiting for them to open so I toured the displays inside their Visitor Centre before hitting the road.
Cow Parsnips, they perfumed the air
all around the intersection.
There is 27 miles between New Hazelton and the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37).  I stop at a gas station just before the junction to fill up before starting up the highway. There are long stretches along this road where there is no gas or other automobile services.  At 10:30 I started my journey up the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy.  I soon passed a road which leads to the village of Kitwanga.  If you are interested Kitwanga, it has a nice collection of Totem Pole to view.  I kept going north and but stop at Gianyow road to the village.  The whole area was blooming with Cow Parsnip and the scent from the flowers just filled the air around them.  I do not remember ever walking in a field of wildflowers and having the scent perfume the air without leaning toward a flower to smell it.  I initially stopped at the cross road to take pictures of the mountains with the flowers but the scent of the flowers is what I remember.

Gitanyow North Intersection: The meadow with the
Sheeka Mountains in the background

Nass River Bridge Rest Area
I made a few more stopped before reaching the junction to the Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK. The road is known as the Stewart Highway (Hwy 37A).  The road winds it way down through the mountains to Stewart and of coarse I had to take pictures along the way.  The most interesting stop was Bear Glacier Provincial Park.  I left after a walk along the highway try to find the best angle to photography the glacier. 

A second hanging Glacier heading down to Stewart, BC.

Hanging Glacier Along Stewart Hwy.  I have also
seen the road refer to as Glacier Hwy.

Bear Glacier viewed from the east side of the park.
Bear Glacier Mouth: I hope I am using the correct description.
Bear Glacier from the west side.
Stewart was my next stop, it was mid afternoon by the time I reached the town and I needed to eat lunch.  After lunch I explored the Visitor Centre, walked their boardwalk along the marsh, checked out the shops and explored the local museum's outside exhibits.  I want to visit Hyder, AK and Salmon Glacier but the sign post stated 50 as a distance.  The 50 was most likely in kilometers but being American I thought it was 50 miles.  It was very late in the afternoon to go that far and so I started back up the highway.
The view from Stewart's Boardwalk.
The Ripley Creek Inn from the boardwalk

I found a great t-shirt here. 

Another old building on Main Street.

Rainey's Cabin located at Stewart's Museum.
Sign on Rainey's Cabin
Stewart's Museum
Bitter Creek Bridge was washout in September 2011. 
Stranding everyone in town for 3 weeks.  The government
sent a boat to ferry the tourist out of town.
A waterfall on the way back up the Stewart Hwy.

Fireweed found on the Stewart Hwy.

Stewart Hwy (37A): Daisy
Stewart Hwy (37A): Goatsbeard

I left Stewart Highway and turned north hoping to find a place to slay the night.  Mehan Lake Rest Area was my last stopped before I called it a night at Bell II.  Bell II is a privately run lodge where you can gas up, get a nice meal and lay your head down for the night.  By the time I reach here I was dead tired and I knew if I went any farther I be in trouble.  I asked while gassing up the car if they had any tent site since all I could see there RV sites.  Yes, they did about 4-5 tent sites.  The tent sites here nice but the mosquitoes were viscous this was the first place I had any trouble with bugs.  Once the tent was up I went up to the lodge for dinner and then found the recreation area to hide from the bugs until it was time to turn in for the night.

Mehan Lake Rest Area
Close up of the Mountains at Mehan Lake Rest Area

Finally I am including a picture of me, a father and two grow sons asked me to take a picture of them and they offer to take my picture.  You can see the picnic area at the rest stop.