Stewart Cassiar Highway
The Stewart Cassiar Highway is the alternative route to the Alaska Highway when going up north from Prince George. For a long time this highway had been known as quite an adventure to drive, today it is almost completely paved. But there is still much to see and being the less driven road it was an easy decision for me to take the Stewart Cassiar Highway from Kitwanga through 700 kilometers of wilderness up to Watson Lake.
I have my first stop at the Kitwanga Battle Hill. People of the Gitwangak First Nation had occupied a fortified village on top of this natural hill next to the xxx river. They had used spiked logs designed to roll onto approaching enemies to defend the village multiple times. Especially the story of Nehl’xt is worth noting, who had been a famous chief of the tribe. When going into battle he was wearing a grizzly bear hide with a protection that couldn’t be penetrated by any weapons. With his magical club called The One Strike Club he had fought many successful battles for his people before he was finally killed in one of his raids.
After the Battle Hill I stop quickly in the next Town called Kitwancool, where a big collection of totem poles can be found. Officially supposed to be rich in First Nations culture, the site looks just very shabby to me and the museum is closed already. I continue driving to look for a place to sleep.
And suddenly there he is. I had waited for about six weeks now until I finally saw him. My first bear! He is just strolling along the highway eating flowers and not caring about passing cars. It’s a black bear and after taking some pictures from inside the car, I drive past him and get out of my car carefully. Being ready to jump back into the car at any second I take some pictures of the bear slowly coming closer to me. He looks at me a few times, but continues to have his supper next to the road, obviously used to people stopping and taking pictures. Once he is almost as close as 10 feet, I return into the drivers seat and drive away. It is just one of many black bears I am about to see next to the Stuart Cassiar Highway and soon I get quite used to the sight of them.
After sleeping on a little forest service road, I watch some Salmon leaping into the air as they navigate up the Meziadin River Fish Ladder. Then I drive up towards the Meziadin Junction to take a little detour along the Highway 37A to Stewart and Hyder. Stewart proudly calls itself the most northerly and ice-free port of Alaska and is located on the boarder to Alaska surrounded by big glacier mountains. I drive over the border into Alaska, which is not really existent when driving from Stewart to Hyder. Being the only little town that can be reached from here, there is probably not much to be smuggled from Canada to Hyder. Following the road further behind the city, I drive up into the mountains where one has a fantastic view over the massive Salmon Glacier. As the gravel road doesn’t stop there, I continue further along a few different glaciers and old mine shafts until I run slowly out of fuel. Not a good place to run out of fuel, as the amount of visitors at this point runs dramatically down to zero! So I turn around and head back towards Canada and the Stuart Cassiar Highway. When crossing the border into Canada again, I get asked a few questions but like last time on Vancouver Island, nobody bothers to check my camper. I didn’t have anything to hide anyway of coarse.
I continue driving for a few hours this afternoon, just stopping at Lake Kinaskan for some sundown pictures, before I find a little camp spot next to the road for the night. As my battery was getting weaker and weaker in the last few days, I decide to make just one more stop on the Stewart Cassiar Highway on the next day. My choice comes down to the aqua-green colored Boya Lake where I unload my Kayak the following day to paddle around this really nice lake for about two hours. The Lake has a lot of little bays and corners to explore and I find quite some beaver lodges. Sadly I don’t see any of their inhabitants, which I was hoping for even though I had been told that they could be really mean little buggers. After my Kayak is securely attached to the camper again, I go for a refreshing swim in the lake.
In the afternoon I reach the end of the Stuart Cassiar Highway and continue for 30 kilometers in the wrong direction to have a look at Watson Lake and get some fuel and food. Next to the Visitor Information Center they have a gigantic collection of street signs from all over the world, called Sign Post Forest. Apparently over 70000 signs by now! Unfortunately I can’t enjoy this strange attraction very long because I realize that my battery has run out of juice completely. I realize too that the connection of the minus pole is very corroded and try to clean it. As the battery is empty already that doesn’t help much though and so I need to ask someone to give me a jumpstart. I drive a few kilometers to recharge the battery before stopping at the fuel station. To leave it again I need to ask someone else for another jumpstart. I get confused about what’s actually causing the problem, but decide to give it another try driving a longer distance. In Whitehorse I could get a new battery if needed…