Monday, July 11, 2011

Smithers to Boya Lake, British Columbia. Great fishing

After visiting the Ksan Historical Village we pressed on to Stewart, British Columbia. We saw our first Grizzly Bear and Black Bears not long after we were on the highway.
First Black Bear

Every turn of the road presents vistas that are prettier than just a few miles past. Snow covered peaks, thundering waterfalls are around every bend in the road. And, the roads have been great. While there are some stretches that cause some rumbling, in general they are as good as any secondary road in Massachusetts. We can easily maintain 50 – 65 mph most of the time (except on the big up-hill climbs).

The highway spur, 37A, to Stewart is a beautiful road. It passes close by Bear Glacier then down into Clement Lake (Bear Lake to the locals because of the numerous bears). We pulled into the Clement Lake (Bear Lake) campground. This was the most challenging campground we have encountered yet. Sarah did a supreme job directing me to back into a very tight spot. One wheel of the TV (tow vehicle) was nearly axle deep in mud while backing the trailer into the campsite. We are so glad for our 4 wheel drive. While some say that you can tow an Airstream with much smaller vehicles, that may be true on paved interstate highways, but NOT in rain soaked Provincial Parks.

I tried my hand at fishing early in the morning after spending a rainy night at Bear Lake. The fish weren't biting, but Sarah pointed out the fresh bear tracks in the sand where I was fishing. Clearly, we had visitors in the night.

We drove into Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK for breakfast. Crossing from Canada to America was a non-event. There is no United States border security at all, just drive across. On the return, the Canadians are a little more concerned. They have a border agent who asks the requisite questions, do you have drug, pepper spray or handguns?. Of course we have pepper spray, it's for the bears. Oh, the agent replies, it has a picture of a bear on it. It's bear spray, not pepper spray!!!

We drove out of Hyder to the Salmon Glacier. This immense river of ice is hard to comprehend due to the grand scale and the distance from which it is viewed. . We were impressed at how much snow remained from last winter. I could only hope that the melting of the last eighty years might be reversed and the glacier would once again be sustained.

We saw our first marmots at the end of the road to the Salmon Glacier. They whistle loudly when approached. They are only moderately shy and can be approached to within about 75 feet.
River of Ice, The Salmon Glacier

It seemed appropriate that we reached Alaska on the 4th or July. Hyder Alaska is truly a town at the end of the road with all the personalities one could expect in such a town. There is the gregarious gift shop owner, the gruff motel/hotel manager and all the characters at the local watering hole. We resisted the local attraction of getting “Hyderized” (falling down drunk).
Almost Hyderized

Mountie Sarah

Having purchased a season fishing permit for British Columbia and knowing we had some good opportunities to fish ahead we stopped at Kinaskin Lake Provincial camp ground. This lake reportedly has a good population of Rainbow Trout. Here I inflated the dinghy and put the 5 HP Honda motor onto it. I tried fly fishing but switched to a small plug that I trolled. I caught one 24cm Rainbow. This one fish wasn't enough to make dinner for two, so I released it after failing to catch another. The next afternoon I had more success. In less than an hour I had two 25 cm beauties. Just the right size. The flesh of these trout, even though they all breed in the same lake can vary in color from nearly white to a rich pink color. These two had light pink flesh. I cleaned and fileted them then simply broiled them in butter. They tasted as good as we had imagined they would.

Bringing home the trout at Kiniskin Lake

We made a short drive the next day to Dease Lake. We stayed at the RV park in the center of the town because it had laundry facilities. It is also at the intersection with the Telegraph Creek Road. This seventy mile long gravel road leads to the town of Telegraph Creek, a town made significant due to its role as an important telegraph outpost that helped connect Northern British Columbia with Vancouver . The first 50 miles of this well maintained road was not unlike some of the roads in Vermont. However, after that, the road climbed to a ridge where the trees thinned out revealing a spectacular vista. Over a thousand feet below was the Stikine River which we reached by descending a tortuous and steep road. Sarah and I were taken aback by the sheer enormity of the valley we had descended into. As amazing as this was, even more breathtaking scenery awaited us just around the corner. Again, the road climbed back out of this valley to a high lava encrusted desert like environment. Then the land fell away on the right side of the road to a canyon with a river roaring at the bottom. We had found what is described as the Grand Canyon of Canada. At the next turn of the road, we found ourselves on a promontory overlooking the confluence of two rivers where the road now fell away on both sides leaving just a strip of land wide enough for the road. This led back down to the river to a First Nations settlement where many families were gathering to fish for Salmon that were just beginning to reach this far up the river.
The Canyon

The last stretch of road from the village to Telegraph Creek was the most frightening road I have ever traveled on. One lane wide with only a few turnouts to allow two vehicles to pass, this road is carved into the side of a cliff with the roaring river over a thousand feet below and there are no guard rails. While we enjoyed the views on the ride in, I silently mulled over my deepening apprehension of having to retrace my route out. Needless to say, we made it. But, I was thankful once we made the First Nation village on our return.

Telegraph Creek

There are so many interesting and beautiful places to see. We have guide books that we have come to trust, especially when they list places as a must see. When this information is reinforced in talking with other travelers heading south, we make sure to adjust our plans to include these places. Boya Lake, our next stop was just such a place. Called the jewel of British Columbia by some, it is a pristine, aquamarine lake at the foot of a richly forested mountain, made even more dramatic by a brief squall with thunder and lightening. The squall delayed my plans to fish for the reputed Lake Trout present here. So dinner was tofu stir fry. But, since it doesn't get dark until nearly midnight, after dinner I went out onto the lake and caught a 28-30cm Lake Trout.

Lake Boya
Squall over Boya Lake as viewed from our camp site

On the ride from Boya Lake, we passed through a large area of forest that had recently burned. We saw many people tenting and camping along the road in this burned forest. We were confused about why they would be here. We saw one group with rifles and others with dogs. We concluded that they must be hunting, but for what? We got our answer a few miles later when we saw a tent with a large sign that read “Mushroom Buyer”. Then we remembered that the person who sold us the Morel mushrooms in Smithers told us that morels were found in areas where there had been a fire. We decided to stop and try to buy some from one of the buyers. It was early in the day, and most of the buyer's tents were closed (the buyers usually show up in the afternoon when the mushroom pickers return with their find). We spotted one buyer on the opposite side of the road and was just about to pull into a rest area a couple hundred yards further along when we saw a large black bear in the rest area. The bear had gotten into a trash barrel. Even though the bear was leaving, we knew that it was not safe to walk in an area where a bear considered it a food source. There were no more mushroom buyers along the road. But, at Junction 37, the intersection of the Cassier Highway with the Alaska Highway, we found some buyers staying at the motel. Here we bought two pounds of fresh morel mushrooms for $5 per pound. That night we had Lake trout steamed in foil with onions and herbs and morel mushrooms with a cracker crumb crust fried in butter. We were the embodiment of happy campers.
You see a burned forest, I see morel mushrooms

There is much more to tell, but we are in the public library at Whitehorse and it is a chamber of commerce day. We have places to see here before we head onto Skagway to catch the late afternoon ferry to Haines. So, even though we may not have internet access until we reach Alaska, we will leave off here and continue later.

Stay tuned.

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