In this blog post, we continue our journey home, backtracking on the Haines and Alaska Highways, then traveling down the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and the Glacier Highway to one more tiny piece of Alaska. We finish this post by leaving British Columbia and re-entering the lower-48 in Washington.
To Alaska and Back Part 10: Back in Alaska/Canada One Last Time
Today we drove north from Haines, exiting this part of Southeast Alaska, and re-entering British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Our border crossing back into Canada went smoothly and we enjoyed seeing two black bears along our drive.
We returned to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, where we had spent two nights on the way up.
Another travel day, backtracking on the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake, which was where we placed our nephew Bryce’s amazing sign in the Signpost Forest on our way up. We enjoyed a great dinner together in the campground at Baby Nugget RV Park.
We said goodbye to the Alaska Highway for the last time today, turning south onto the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, an alternate route heading south. This road is used by a lot of truckers because it is a bit shorter than the Alaska Highway. While much of it doesn’t have a center line or any kind of shoulder, it is a beautiful, lightly-traveled road that was something new for all of us.
We saw a bit of rain off and on, and a couple of black bears and three foxes, always thrilling!
We also stopped at Jade City, not a city, but a place filled with jade. Apparently, this part of British Columbia mines and sells 1 million tons of jade per year, and it was beautiful to see the carvings created by the amazing jade artists.
Our final destination today was Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park Campground, a wonderful little campground right off the Cassiar Highway and right on the lake. With no hookups and no nearby towns, we still had a great dinner together and enjoyed the peacefulness of this quiet place on Kinaskan Lake.
Today our vehicles headed further south on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and then west onto the Glacier Highway, which took us literally to the end of the road.
Along the way we passed Bear Glacier, one of countless glaciers we have seen on this trip, but still stunning.
We got settled and enjoyed Ron’s fabulous smash burgers in our campground in Stewart, British Columbia, a small town of 500 people at the end of the Portland Canal. This little town is the most northerly ice-free port in all of Canada, so it is busy handling all the mining and logging activity that happens in the surrounding area. The mountain views around the campground were stunning.
After dinner, we headed west, traveling into the United States with no border crossing, into the very tiny town of Hyder, Alaska. Hyder only has about 15-50 residents (depending on which publication you read). It identifies more with Canada—children go to school in Stewart and they don’t change to Alaska time, but stay on Pacific time with Stewart. It is the third and final place in Southeast Alaska that you can drive to (the others being Haines, which we visited, and Skagway, which we didn’t make it to). If you look at a map, Hyder is 80 miles northeast of Ketchikan, which many of you have visited on an Alaskan cruise. But there are no roads going across the boundary mountains, so the only way to drive to Hyder is the way we came through British Columbia.
Why travel out of the way to go to this tiny town of Hyder? Some do it so they can say they have hyderized (drinking a shot of grain alcohol in one gulp at the Glacier Inn). Some do it for the fudge.
But we were here for a different purpose. This was to be our last chance to be in Alaska and to see grizzly (coastal brown) bears.
A few miles outside of Hyder the National Forest Service operates a gorgeous boardwalk called Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. For $5, you get an all-day pass (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) to come and watch chum and pink salmon spawning along the creek. And where salmon are spawning, bears come too.
Our first evening in Stewart/Hyder, we were fortunate to see two coastal brown bears. One would appear out of the bushes, walk through the water, grab a fish, and then wander into the bushes to eat the fish. It might reappear and go grab another fish, or maybe it wouldn’t come back at all. We watched for over an hour, mesmerized by seeing the bears.
And, though we didn’t have any U.S. Customs/Border Patrol coming into Hyder, we did have to go through Canadian Customs on our way back to the campground. Yes, we had our passports with us!
Allyn’s birthday! Judy, Allyn, Ron, and June started the celebration by going out to breakfast and exploring the town of Stewart. We stopped by Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site, but no bears appeared. Then we headed up the road to the Summit View of Salmon Glacier.
Along the way we spotted old mining equipment, a restarted gold mining operation (the Premier Gold Project owned by Ascot Resources and being developed by Nuna Logistics), and glorious views of the surrounding mountains.
We had the easiest border crossing ever (no border patrol in either direction), as we crossed into Canada and then back into the U.S. on our return from the glacier).
Salmon Glacier is the 5th largest glacier in Canada and the largest one that is accessible by road. We enjoyed looking at the toe (boot) of the glacier.
Then we made it to the Summit View—what a tremendous sight. The glacier is so enormous that you can’t really capture it in pictures, but we tried.
And on the way down, we spotted another hoary marmot, sunning itself along the road.
We stopped again at Fish Creek and got to see a young black bear sneak out of the bushes, grab a dead fish on the bank and head back into the woods. Apparently, this bear knew that it was in brown bear territory and didn’t want to linger too long!
Our evening was spent celebrating Allyn’s birthday with pizza and cookies at our campground.
Then we headed back into Hyder for one more visit to Alaska and one more visit to Fish Creek. We were rewarded almost immediately by the sight of a large female brown bear, who was very hungry. She would grab a fish, go into the bushes to eat it, then grab another fish, eat it, then another fish…Finally, she wandered off in the other direction, but we had about 45 minutes of pure joy watching her feeding frenzy. No wonder she was so big—she was a good fisher-bear!
Two juvenile bald eagles showed off for us on the way back through Canadian customs, and then we were home, having said good-bye to Alaska for the last time on this trip (but hopefully not forever).
Traveling again—we completed the Cassiar Highway and then headed east on the Yellowhead Highway. It was another beautiful drive (we’ve had so many, it has probably become a repetitive phrase in every blog post).
We ended our drive in the small town of Smithers at a lovely city campground right on the Bulkley River.
A visit to the Smithers Brewery gave us some refreshment on this rather hot day. Yes, summer has finally come to us Alaska travelers. It was in the 80s today. I know many of you facing temperatures above 100 degrees are rolling your eyes right now.
To celebrate the arrival of summer, Hank and I enjoyed our first Dairy Queen Blizzard of the trip. And Leilani and Danno had a great time eating grass!
We pulled our RVs out of the Smithers Riverside Municipal Campground this morning and headed back onto the Yellowhead Highway, continuing to journey southeast.
We arrived back in Prince George, BC, so we have now completed the loop. We stayed in Prince George right before we got to the Alaska Highway, so it is fitting that we would come back here after finishing the Cassiar Highway. It’s warmer now than when we were here in June, and there are a lot fewer mosquitoes!
Tacos for dinner at the campground was a great way to finish the day!
Today was a catch-up day. We slept in, did some organizing, and got in a final trip to Costco, which should keep us going the rest of the way home.
We ventured into downtown Prince George for a great dinner at Crossroads Brewing & Distillery.
We drove back to Willow Springs RV Resort in Clinton, BC, where we had stayed our first two nights in Canada back in June. Along the way, we enjoyed the farmland, rivers, and rolling hills, and we were glad that the smoke and wildfires kept their distance.
We celebrated Chaco, Ron, and June’s last night with us by returning to Eddy’s Bar and Grill in 70 Mile House for some wonderful fish and chips.
Today we drove along the gorgeous Fraser River Canyon and crossed back into Washington State, so we have left Canada for the final time on this trip ☹. We’ll explore the final nine days of our 80-day journey in our last blog post for the trip. Thanks for journeying along with us.