The End of the Caravan (but not the end of the story)
Sep 12, 2005
|We left Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Saturday, July 23 and arrived in Prince George, BC, Thursday, July 28. No, that's not all there is to it, but some of the stops were just that, stops along the way as we wound up the caravan. Some of the stops, however, were fascinating. Let us tell you about them.
At Watson Lake (remember the Watson Lake signpost forest a few weeks back?) we left the Alaska Highway and turned south on the Cassiar Highway headed for Iskut, BC and on to Stewart-Hyder. We stopped at Jade City to see the excellent jewelry and carved items. All the jade being cut here is from the Princess Jade Mine, one of the largest and highest quality jade claims in the world. The Cassiar mountain range supplies about 75% of the world jade supply. We visited two competing stores, each doing their best to attract customers, particularly RV caravans (supposedly we are all rich and gullible, will buy anything put in front of us). They plied us with free coffee, cheese and crackers, salsa and chips, and showed us movies about a new rich jade deposit recently opened, as well as the history of jade mining and carving.
Along the highway we saw the beautiful Kinaskan Lake and the Ningusaw River (both pictured above) as well as a lot of other splendid scenery. At Meziaden Junction we turned east onto the Stewart-Hyder Access Road where we passed Bear Glacier and threaded our way through Bear River Canyon. Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska are virtually conjoined across the US-Canadian border. Stewart has a deep harbor and boasts of being Canada's most northerly ice-free port, while Hyder (with a population of 77) enjoys a reputation as "The Friendliest Little Ghost Town in Alaska."
In Stewart we had a social hour followed by a hot dog roast and s'mores. Later that evening we boarded a bus to take us throough Hyder to the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, run by the U.S. Forest Service, to watch and photograph grizzly and black bears fishing for salmon. The bears did not disappoint us, although we'd have been happy to see twice as many. We got a few good pictures, and our caravan mate Frank Belinne loaned us two more to show you.
Next morning the caravan leaders sponsored "omelets in a bag." We chose among several offerings of goodies (bacon, ham, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, olives, cheese, etc., all nicely chopped) to put into a quart-size freezer bag, followed by two eggs. The drill is, select what you want, dump it into your bag, add the eggs, seal the bag, smoosh everything together real well, write your name on the bag and give it to Bob (the Tailender). Bob drops your bag into boiling water and tells you to watch the time. After 15 minutes, you go back, rescue your bag and empty the perfectly done omelet onto a plate, add salsa, sour cream, more cheese, whatever, then sit down and enjoy!
Next to the egg kitchen stands a piece of granite riddled with holes, and next to that stands a sign that ascribes the holes to the Iceworm, a mystical creature which has been the subject of legend since the sourdough gold miners populated the area. The sign says that the Iceworm gnaws its way through glaciers and sometimes inadvertently burrows into the surrounding bedrock. "Recent studies have shown the depth of these burrows are directly related to the gullibility of visitors to this area."
Leaving Stewart we retuned to the Cassiar Highway and rolled south. As we neared the Yellowhead Highway (trans-Canada highway 16) we stopped at two native villages, Gitanyow and Gitwangak, where totem poles are preserved and displayed. Gitanyow has one of the largest collections of standing totem poles in northwestern British Columbia, while at Gitwangak, native artisans are recreating portions of some of the historic totems as support poles for a new community center. Gitwangak is the home of St. Paul's Anglican Church; it's bell tower houses the original bell from the 1893 bell tower which had to be replaced.
On the road to Prince George we passed through Houston, BC, which calls itself the Steelhead Fishing Capital. As if to prove its point, the prominent feature of the town at its visitors' center is the World's Largest Fly Fishing Rod, a 60-foot long anodized aluminum fly rod. At six times the length of the average fly fishing rod it could conceivably catch a 200-pound steelhead!
On the evening we arrived at Prince George we met for our farewell dinner at the Cariboo Steak and Seafood Restaurant. The two of us recited a poem we had written humorously extolling the virtues of the Caravan Hosts and the Tailenders, plus two couples who had volunteered to work with them to get us all parked in succeeding campgrounds. The recitation ended with a song:
. Thanks for the memories,
. of Yukon Territory,
. Alaska in her glory;
. the trip we took
. could fill a book
. and never tell the story.
. Oh thank you ... so much.
And thus ended our Alaska / Yukon caravan. Next morning, after coffee and doughnuts with the group, we began our way back to Wilsonville, OR, to rest up before continuing on with ... Our Life on Wheels.