Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Saturday June 20, 1998 - Yukon

Snafu Lake, from my bed in the back of the truck
Tatchin Creek - sunny to overcast

I woke at Snafu Lake to a fabulous view of the lake. But on the other side of my truck was a little Boler trailer, blocking the way out of my campsite. It must have arrived after I went to sleep. I had a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal and around 10.30 am said goodbye to Ray and Laurena who were headed out. We exchanged home addresses and they invited me to come visit them in Victoria when I got back from my cross-Canada trip. That felt far more complete than at Boya Lake and I haven't felt any regret or sadness since. They were keeping Sparky very close by because there was a large eagle that appeared to have its eye on the little dog. After Atlin they were going to Whitehorse to a clinic to get Ray's lungs checked out, he's been wheezing a lot which he blames on the cottonwood pollen. Then they were going to go to Alaska. Laurena thought we might run into each other again in Inuvik since we both hoped to go there.

The two women in the little Boler trailer did not get up until after Ray and Laurena had left. I chatted with them for a while and ended up exchanging addresses with them as well. They are teachers in Whitehorse and this is the last week of school. On Friday night they decided that they would go kayaking in Atlin over the weekend. But they didn't leave Whitehorse until after 1 am and arrived at Snafu Lake around 3 am. They also liked the campsite on the sandy hilltop and proceeded to back into it with the trailer, nearly hitting my truck which they didn't see there until the last moment. I slept through it and they decided to just stay there rather than find another spot. They showed me around their trailer, it had a double bed which converted to a dinette, a couch and a kitchenette. Very cute. They bought it in Ontario for $3000.

The old Montague Roadhouse on the Klondike Highway
After the women had their breakfast and were ready to leave I was able to get out too and head back up to Whitehorse. I got gas and headed up the Klondike Highway for Dawson.

Yukon River, from the Klondike Highway
Around 5.30 pm I stopped at Tatchun Creek, just past Carmacks. Almost immediately the two women in the next campsite, Charlotte and Nona, came over to ask for bug spray. Then they came back with beer. I met their two dogs, Snorri and Elsinor and got the tour of their trailer which was similar to the Boler at Snafu Lake. It was a Glendale which they bought for $500. They are on the Klondike Highway road crew, chipsealing the highway. Chipseal is a stabilized gravel road with a lot of calcite in it (which rots steel the same way road salt does). Charlotte is from Tagish and Nona from Carcross but in the summer they work on the road crew and live where they work. Right now they are working on the section of highway between Carmacks and Dawson.

Nona and Charlotte went across the highway to walk the dogs along the Yukon River. After I had my supper I headed down to the river too and found them with a couple of young German campers sharing their beer in honour of the summer solstice. The bugs were bad. At one point we heard a rockfall on a loose gravel and sand slope further down the river. Charlotte and Nona debated whether it was spontaneous or caused by someone or something walking on the cliff. A canoe went by, part of a race from Skagway to Dawson, and we greeted them. They must have wondered about five people on the shore in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Later we went back to camp, Nona crashed and Charlotte and I stayed up till 3 am talking around the fire. Charlotte lives alone in a log cabin she built in Tagish Lake. She's very independent and prides herself on being an eccentric Yukoner. She had a black eye acquired the day before at a baseball game. I gather this has been an intense week for her between that, crashing into the chipper truck, and an altercation with the boss's girlfriend. At 3 am Nona got up and they had their supper of sausage, hotdogs and salad. then we all went to bed, around 5 am. It's so easy to stay up late because of the light; it seemed a little dim but I had no idea of the time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Friday June 19 - Yukon

Snafu Lake - sunny and warm

Before leaving Squanga Lake I tried casting with my borrowed fishing rod, but the lake was so shallow that even the lightest lure dragged in the mud at the bottom. I could see it zooming under the mud toward me when I reeled it in, like a worm on drugs. The Japanese cyclist in the campsite next to me had a squirrel trying to eat his breakfast, so he photographed it then blew smoke in its face to chase it away.

I drove the short distance to Whitehorse, stopping along the way at Miles Canyon. During the Klondike Gold Rush, prospectors had to ship their supplies through this narrow channel on their way north. Because of the extremely strong currents this was dangerous and many bargefuls of supplies were lost there.

Miles Canyon
In Whitehorse I booked some internet time at the library and took some camera film in to be developed. I bought groceries and gas while I waited for my time slot. Then I got on the computer and read some email from friends at home. It almost made me wish I had stayed home, I was still missing Ray and Laurena and now I missed my home friends. I missed the Potluck Hikers and the Salon.

Downtown Whitehorse is very small and laid out as a grid in a bend in the Yukon River. The airport sits on top of a cliff overlooking the town. After a few hours of errands, internet time and just wandering around I headed out again. I had decided to visit Atlin, one of the northernmost towns in BC and it can only be reached from the Yukon. The Alaska Highway hugs the border between BC and the Yukon, mostly in the Yukon but sometimes dipping down into BC. Anyway, my plan is to visit Atlin via Carcross and Tagish, and then to return to Whitehorse and go on to Dawson City and the Dempster Highway. The Dempster connects Dawson City to Inuvik in the NWT near the Arctic Ocean, in the summer it is the only way to reach Inuvik by land.

I stopped at the Tagish bridge to nap in the back of the truck and then stopped briefly to see the Carcross Desert. It is a very tiny desert.

I then drove into Atlin, arriving there around 7 pm. The drive wasn't that great, a lot of dirt road and scrubby forest.

The town is quaint with many turn-of-the-century buildings, a grounded steamship that used to ply Atlin Lake, a three-storey pyramid-shaped house, and a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains and a glacier across the lake from the town. I took a few photos and headed back toward Whitehorse with the intention of stopping at a campsite just across the Yukon border for supper.

Atlin Mountain and Atlin Lake
I didn't really like the first campground I came to, Tarfu Lake, so I continued on to the next one at Snafu Lake. And the first thing I saw there was Ray and Laurena's camper truck, what a surprise! I was so glad to see them and they seemed glad to see me too. It was such an unbelievable chance to run into them again in such an out-of-the-way place, I was totally amazed!

They were headed to Atlin and after that were going to Whitehorse. I found a nice campsite on a little sandy hilltop overlooking the lake and had my supper there. I was so hungry and it was so late, I didn't finish supper until 10 pm. Then I did some journal writing. By 11.15 pm the light was just starting to dim, but there was still enough to write by.

Snafu Lake

Monday, June 18, 2018

Thursday June 18, 1998 - Yukon

Squanga Lake - sunny and hot

In the morning Ray and Laurena left the campground before me and I did not meet them again on the road. I did see them stopped at a rest area just before the Stewart-Cassiar joined the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory, but I did not stop there myself. I wished I had, I was missing their company. I was planning to head as far north as Dawson City which meant travelling through Whitehorse, but I went the other way on the Alaska Highway to see the Watson Lake Signpost Forest. I got gas and tried to use a car wash but I didn't really understand how it worked so I only got a partial carwash. Then I turned back and headed toward Whitehorse.

The Alaska Highway is paved so that was a treat to finally get off the dust and mud of the Stewart-Cassiar. It is paved, straight, flat, and goes on forever through boreal forest with mountains in the distance. Kind of boring actually. There are tons of motor homes, campers and whatnot on the road, with licence plates from all over, mostly the US. The camps are full of them, and generally they are not terribly sociable. There was an Austrian couple that I met at Kinaskan Lake and Boya Lake, and I met them again at Rancheria Falls on the Alaska Highway.

I was going to stop at the Teslin Lake campground, but it was empty and I wasn't really ready to stop. Squanga Lake was the next campground, I stopped there. It was just 10 sites close to the highway, not much to speak of but it was time to stop. In the campsite next to me was a young Japanese cyclist who is taking a year and a half to cycle from Anchorage Alaska to the southern tip of South America! He has a tiny guitar that looks almost like a dulcimer but sounds like a soft guitar.  He didn't speak much English though. There are fish in the lake so I might practice casting tomorrow.

Art and Ginger at Avondale Sky

On Saturday I went to the Art Fair and Ginger Fest at Avondale Sky Winery. Had a ginger ice cream cone and walked around looking at art, crafts and craft foods (baked goods, chocolate, etc.).

Avondale Sky Winery
The last stall I came to was the art of a young man, Tylor McNeil, who was painting while selling prints of his art. When I arrived at his stall he got up and came around from behind his table to introduce himself, telling me all of the places he has lived so far and where he intends to live next. Then he started explaining his art, both his process and his subject matter. He told me the stories behind some of his prints. I asked a few questions and thanked him for telling me all this and then wandered off to find the friend I had come with and listen to some music.

I was really struck by his stories and a couple of his paintings. My friend and I decided that we had seen all there was to see and had no desire to stay any longer so I went back to the young man's stall and bought the two prints that had most appealed to me.

Letting Go - Tylor McNeil
The first one is called "Letting Go". It is the fourth in a series about his mother. The series is about the artist's coming to terms with his mother's alcoholism, and also about his remembrance of time spent in the garden with his mother when he was younger.

The Ghost of You - Tylor McNeil
The second one is called "The Ghost of You". The artist's father is dead now but he used to enjoy deer hunting. There are several prints in this series about his father as well, but I thought this one was the most haunting. My friend agreed, she was not particularly taken with the floral paintings (normally I am not either), but this one she said she would have bought too knowing nothing of the young man or his stories.

If I had come to his stall and he had just continued to paint or had just said something banal about his art prints, I don't think I would have bought either print. It was the stories he told about the prints that hooked me. When I look at the pictures I remember the stories and I feel a little of the emotion that must have gone into creating them.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wednesday June 17, 1998 - Stewart-Cassiar

Boya Lake - sunny with cloudy periods

We moved to different campsites, picking better ones than the night before. I went swimming off the dock in the lake, it was very very cold but I got my hair washed. The water is so clear and turquoise! The park operator said it was a limestone lake and that is why there are no mosquitoes or biting flies. But there are loons and dragon flies.

Boya Lake, after the rain
There was a bit of rain but it dried very quickly. We are now on the Liard Plain, a glaciated terrain that is quite dry.  The sun sets just after 10 pm and rises at 5 am but it never gets fully dark now, the light just dims  around 1 - 3 am.

Sparky prefers big sticks
Sparky is a cockapoo (cocker spaniel/toy poodle cross) who loves to swim and chase sticks. Not just little sticks but big ones, some around 6 feet long! Ray and Laurena had to keep him leashed when we camped on the Stikine or he would have jumped in and been washed away. But here it was very entertaining watching him swim after sticks in the lake.

I was loaned a fishing rod for this trip so Ray spent some time showing me how to cast and how to untangle the line when it backlashed. He gave me a swivel to snap lures onto. Ray said I could expect to spend a few hours just getting used to it. He said that the reel on this rod was a bit tricky, and I do seem to spend a large amount of time untangling the line, compared to actually fishing. Fishermen here talk a lot about Grayling. I have no idea what that is, but that's what is in most streams.

Ray and Laurena are both on their second marriages, Ray has four kids the oldest of whom is 46. He had an operation to remove half his lung (cancer due to smoking) which slows him down a bit but they are both quite active and he is very outgoing and chats with everybody.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tuesday June 16, 1998 - Stewart-Cassiar

Tuya River from Telegraph Creek road
Boya Lake - sunny and windy

The drive back to Dease Lake was uneventful. From Telegraph Creek to the Stewart-Cassiar turnoff is about 115 km but since it is a dirt road with steep up and down sections, you have to drive very slowly for half of that distance.

Tall skinny trees on the Stewart-Cassiar
At one point I stopped and saw a bear, but as soon as the bear saw me it disappeared into the woods. We stopped for lunch in a grove of cottonwoods that broke the wind a bit, and threw sticks for Sparky. Yohan is too old for chasing sticks.

Rest break on the Stewart-Cassiar
Ray suggested that maybe the burnt out fuse for the dome light was causing my radio not to work so in Dease Lake I stopped in at an auto repair place and bought some fuses and Ray was right, the new dome light fuse fixed my radio.

Dease Lake was having a selective power outage, one of the two gas stations there had no power to operate the gas pumps and there were line-ups at the other station with only one girl to run the place. She could only deal in cash, she couldn't take credit cards. The grocery store had some lights out and some cash registers out. One of the registers stopped while I was waiting to talk to the cashier.

Another time on the Stewart-Cassiar we stopped to photograph some mountain sheep. They were completely unafraid, allowing us to come right up to them.

The campground at Boya Lake was beautiful. The water was a lovely turquoise blue and there were no mosquitoes! We walked around with the dogs, had beer after supper and we agreed that we would spend another day here, it was so nice. And I was enjoying the company.

Beautiful turquoise Boya Lake, impossible to capture the colour!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Monday June 15, 1998 - Telegraph Creek

Kinaskan Lake in the morning
Glenora - mixed sun and cloud

From Kinaskan Lake I continued north on the Stewart-Cassiar and crossed the Stikine River. I had heard of this river many years ago and it was one of the places I really wanted to see.

At the bridge across the Stikine
I was still hesitant about going into Telegraph Creek so I drove to Dease Lake which is just past the turnoff for Telegraph Creek. I asked about the road into Telegraph Creek at the gas station and decided to chance it. I had checked the truck fuses in case that was what was wrong with the radio, but it wasn't. The dome light was also not working and it turned out its fuse was burned out, but the radio fuse was fine.

Ray and Laurena on the road to Telegraph Creek
Shortly after turning off onto the Telegraph Creek Road I ran into Ray and Laurena again. They suggested that we travel together which I quickly agreed to, it seemed less scary with company. We took numerous photo breaks along the way, letting the dogs, Yohan and Sparky, out on leash.

Poor old Yohan, I didn't know at the time but he probably had liver cancer and was not a well dog. But he was a good road tripper
Telegraph Creek is on the Stikine River which goes from central northern BC to the coast, through part of the Alaska Panhandle. Telegraph Creek is probably about three quarters of the way from the Stewart-Cassiar to the Alaska border.

My truck by the Tuya River canyon

Tuya River canyon
The Stikine Canyon is sometimes likened to the Grand Canyon, parts of it are quite spectacular. The road goes across a plateau for a short distance before descending into the Tuya River canyon (20% grade with switchbacks). then it goes up again and down to the Tahltan River at Eagle Rock, which marks the junction of the Tahltan and Stikine Rivers. Then it goes up again and down to the Stikine River.

Eagle Rock
Eagle Rock is a large rockface that appears to bear the image of an eagle with outspread wings in the lava tube rock. There are fabulous views all the way along, lava rock faces, narrow gorges and distant mountains. The road is very narrow, not wide enough for two-way traffic. There are a few pull-outs in case you meet another vehicle going the other way, but it means that someone has to back up quite a ways when that happens. Most of the traffic on that road is First Nations trucks travelling at speed. The road is steep and very slippery, so as a tourist I was driving very slowly.

Stikine canyon
At one point the road is on a narrow ridge between the Tahltan and Stikine River canyons; the ridge was maybe twice the road with wide and straight down on either side. Half I didn't dare look out the window and half I wanted to see the fabulous view.

Tahltan smokehouses
The Tahltan Indian Reserve has fish nets on the Stikine and vertical pole barns which are used as smokehouses for the salmon they catch there. We reached Telegraph Creek a short distance later on the bank of the Stikine in time for supper at the Riversong Cafe.

Riversong Cafe in Telegraph Creek
Ashley, the son of the proprietor told us of forestry campsites a little further down the road near Glenora and recommended one in particular. The Cafe was very homey and set in a general store that carries a little bit of everything. We chatted with some other people there as well. After supper we headed down the road to the recommended campsite. It was right on the bank of the Stikine, a flat gravel area in the river itself. Laurena got out some beer and we sat in our camp chairs on the Stikine.

I had always wanted to see the Stikine, and now here I was, sitting on the riverbed having a beer at sunset.

Glenora campsite on the Stikine riverbed


The other day I went out my front door (I usually go out the back door) and there was a note under a brick on the porch that apparently had been there for a couple of days. It was from a man who way back when had been a Big Brother to my eldest son when he was just a kid; the fellow was in town and had talked to someone who knew me and knew that I was still in my old house (or rather, had moved back into my old house), and he thought it would be interesting to make contact.

I phoned him. What he was really hoping for was to make contact with my son but that was not possible, so he settled for tea with me instead. He came by yesterday morning and we had quite a lovely time catching up on 33 years. He was a young man then, maybe in his 20s, and now he was in his 50s and thinking about retiring. He had been all over the place—England, California, Vietnam—to name a few of the places he talked about, and lived a very interesting life.

He was trying to cram in a lot of visiting in a very short time so he had to leave for a lunch date, but he gave me a couple of daylilies as a parting gift. I will have to find a couple of spots for them in my backyard, they are different varieties from what I have already. I look forward to seeing them bloom.

It was such an interesting conversation, I hope we are able to stay in touch.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sunday June 14, 1998 - Stewart-Cassiar

The Bear Glacier near Stewart
Kinaskan Lake - rainy

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway does not go to Stewart (or Cassiar for that matter) but you have to turn off the highway to go to Stewart. On the way you pass a glacier on the far side of the river. It is the Bear Glacier and it is quite blue. Stewart is on the coast and it is also on the Alaska border, immediately across the border is the town of Hyder. I didn't plan to spend any time there but I did cross the border and drive through Hyder and then back to Stewart again. I think I spent all of 15 minutes between border crossings. There was a rodeo going on in Stewart, I think the horses in the trailer were headed to the rodeo because later in the day I saw their truck in town.

My truck on the muddy Stewart-Cassiar
It was a dismal day. Leaving Stewart the radio in my truck stopped working. I tried to set up my portable CD player but couldn't get it going either. The Stewart-Cassiar highway was only partially paved and I spent most of the day driving on the muddy parts. I stopped at a rest area to make some lunch in the rain. There was a a big RV already there. When I pulled into the rest area a young couple came out of the RV. They were stopped there because a few days ago they got two flat tires on their rig and had to wait for new tires to be delivered, Monday night at the earliest. They were driving from Arizona to Alaska. At least they had all the comforts of a big RV while they waited for their tires, but every time a vehicle pulled into the rest area they came out to socialize.

Shortly after I arrived at the rest area a camper truck that I had passed earlier in the mud stopped in. Ray and Laurena and their little dog Sparky were travelling to Alaska from Victoria. After a short time socializing with the folks from the RV and the camper I headed out down the road. In the photo above I think the camper appears in the distance on the highway, you can just make it out if you expand the photo.

In the evening I pulled into the Kinaskan Lake campground and Ray and Laurena arrived a short time later and pulled into the site next to mine. We chatted about travelling and dogs and so forth and it looked like we were travelling the same direction for awhile. They were talking about taking a side trip to Telegraph Creek. I also was interested in going there. They had talked to a man earlier in the day who had said that the road into Telegraph Creek was very steep and dangerous which kind of worried me, I didn't really want to tackle it on my own.

Kinaskan Lake
The rain finally let up and it was a pleasant clear evening.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Saturday June 13, 1998 - Stewart-Cassiar Highway

The Nisga'a lava bed
Cloudy day

I left Prudhomme Lake as early as I could and drove to Terrace, then up to the Nisga'a Lava Beds. This is a lava flow from a few hundred years ago before Europeans arrived in the mountains. It is a large area that covers some former Nisga'a villages, it was eerie to think about how this lava flowed over the land and destroyed existing villages. Today very little grows on the lava bed, it is still pretty barren. There is lava gravel and a few tiny trees and a lot of yellow lichen.

I wanted to see this lava bed because years ago when I lived in Ottawa I went to a talk by a Nisga'a chief about the land claim treaty talks being conducted then. He said that this lava bed was an important piece of evidence in the Nisga'a land claim because they had oral stories handed down about how this lava bed was created, the first time that oral stories were counted as evidence of a claim. In the story, the lava flow was retribution for some young Nisga'a boys mistreating salmon in the river.

Kitwanga totems
After walking around there a bit I drove back to Terrace, bought gas and headed for Kitwanga, on the Stewart-Cassiar highway (Highway 37). This highway goes from Terrace to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. It does not start in Stewart or go to Cassiar, in fact you can't drive to Cassiar now at all. But that is what they call this road.

Kitwanga totems

I have been reading Emily Carr's journals and I know that she spent time in Kitwanga and Kitwancool drawing and painting the totem poles there. Most of the poles have been moved to a single location in a field by the road. When I got there the light was not great but I tried to photograph them anyway.

Kitwancool totem painted by Emily Carr: "the Totem Mother"
I have become quite familiar with Carr's paintings and thought I recognized some of the totems. There was a First Nations fort on a hilltop which was similar to old pioneer forts. the campground there was just a big empty yard with picnic tables and gravel which didn't really appeal to me so I continued driving up the road until I found a small lake I could park by. There was a truck with a big horse trailer already parked there but it was late and no one was about. I could hear the horses in their trailer snorting. When I went to bed it was drizzling out.

More Kitwancool totems