9 - 16 MAY
We had a relatively short drive from Tim and Lisa’s up the Sea to Sky Highway (99) to Whistler. The road goes up the eastern side of Horseshoe Bay and provides breathtaking views of Bowen Island and more Coast Mountain peaks. We have traveled this road more than a few times on-route to skiing at Whistler, but it’s been quite a few years. Although there is a lot more development in parts, it’s still a wonderfully beautiful drive.
In the early 90’s we took our first trip up this road and saw a gigantic mining dump truck outside the Britannia Mine. It brought back a great memory for us when we saw that it’s still there. The mine is now closed and there is now a water treatment facility there to clean up the nasty run off that is still being generated from the previous mining activities.
Our original plan was to stay in Whistler for 3 nights so that we could enjoy their extensive paved bike trails, but the extended winter weather nixed that idea. Instead, we spent just one day walking around Whistler Village and remembering all the great times and great skiing we had there. For those of you who joined us on those ski trips, you’ll be pleased to know that all our old haunts are still open, the village has expanded a lot, but the original square is as it always was. We lunched at the Longhorn Saloon located at the base of both Blackcomb and Whistler mountains and our favorite après ski bar back in the day. They now have heat lamps and warming fires, which sure would have come in handy for those times where we stayed the whole evening and night without even getting out of our ski gear. What a great trip down memory lane it was and a good reminder that we need to ski there again.
From Whistler we continued northeast on the Sea to Sky highway. Just past Pemberton you climb up and over the Cayoosh Range of the Coast Mountains. A steep, narrow, winding road where we caught an occasional glimpse of stunning views through the clouds and rain. As you drop out of the Cayoosh Range there is a huge transition from the wet coastal forests into the dry interior plateau. At the town of Lilloet, the Cayoosh Creek flows into the Fraser* River. It’s a bit hard to see in the picture, but the water from the creek is a beautiful blue/green while the river is dirt brown. As we continued up the Cariboo Highway (97), which runs along the Fraser River and up through the Interior Plateau, the reason for the dirt brown water became apparent: clear-cut forestry practices combined with clear-cut pastures for cattle grazing for several hundred miles. We were not very impressed with the Cariboo Highway, nor the portion of the Yellowhead Highway (16) between Prince George and Smithers, not much to see besides lumber mills, grazing lands and land clearing equipment companies. We did find a nice spot to stop at Fraser Lake and I’m sure there are a lot more beautiful lakes and place of beauty away from the highway, but given the cold, wet weather we decided to keep moving in hopes the pattern would change.
Moving west on the Yellowhead Highway brought us closer to the Hazelton Mountain range with nicer scenery and clear waterways. We stayed 3 nights in Kitwanga, which is at the junction of the Yellowhead and Stewart-Cassiar (37) Highways. Kitwanga is a very small First Nations (indigenous) village which is at the crossroads of the Skeena (grease trail) trade. The ‘grease’ was candlefish oil, which was a trading staple between the tribes of the coast and interior. The Skeena trail is believed to have extended all the way to the Bering Sea. We also visited the Gitwangak Battle Hill Historic Site, which is a natural, fairly small hill where a Gitwangak leader decided to build a defensive fortress. This allowed him to go raiding against other tribes, then run back to his fortress for safety. There were several attempts made to penetrate the fortress, but none were successful. His glory was short lived though, as he was hit in the back of the knee by an arrow while out raiding another tribe, fell down and was swiftly beheaded. These warriors wore an armor that was pretty much impenetrable made of bear skin on the outside and layers of slate sewn into the inside, so the enemy got a lucky shot in. After their leader was killed, the tribe moved away from the fortress to a spot just up the Skeena River, where they still reside today along with 8 of their historical totem poles.
We really enjoyed our stay at Kitwanga. The RV park we stayed had a beautiful view out to the Seven Siters Peaks and there weren’t many of us there, so it didn’t have that parking lot RV park feel to it. The weather was good enough to be outside and enjoy a fire each night and we met several fellow travelers, a couple of which who live in Alaska and whom we will try to meet up with again when we get up there.
The remaining drive up the Stewart-Cassiar was just beautiful, it seems every time we’d come around a curve, there was another stunning mountain view to be had. The road was also so quiet, that we felt like we had the whole wilderness to ourselves. The only drawback was that you should normally see tons of wildlife on this road, which we did not because spring hadn’t really arrived yet.
Our last night in British Columbia we spent near Iskut at the Red Goat RV park on the Eddontenajon Lake which is at the base of Mount Edziza. It was bitterly cold when we arrived, with the wind howling over the still frozen lake, we thought we’d be stuck inside the trailer the rest of the night. But the sun came out and the wind died down long enough for us take a little walk around and sit by the office so we could use the WiFi and figure out where our next couple of stops would be. We would be moving into the Yukon next and a review of their government campgrounds uncovered ‘Conrad Campground’. It was a two-day drive from where we were and a little bit of a side-trip, but of course that’s where we headed next.
*Fraser must have been an influential person in the early days of Western Canada as there are rivers, lakes and towns with that name all around British Columbia and up through the Yukon.