Monday, September 26, 2016

Cassiar Hwy, Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK and bear viewing. August 19-25, 2016

After a quiet night in Watson Lake we headed 13 miles back toward Whitehorse to the start of the Cassiar Hwy. 

The Cassiar Hwy is a 450mile—724km two lane paved highway winding through some quiet remote country with very nice views of mountains, lakes & hills. Fuel is available every 100-150 miles, but may be pretty expensive. 

While the highway is wide enough for two vehicles to pass, the upper 2/3rds does not have center stripes. Be sure to slow down and pull to the side for on coming vehicles. There is very little traffic on the Cassiar. We would frequently drive for 10 minutes or longer w/o seeing an on coming vehicle. 

Most of the time your speed will be in the 45-50mph range, slowing down to 30-35mph for the many curves.

Yesterday, we could have just turned south on the Cassiar Hwy instead of spending the night in Watson Lake.  However the price of fuel along the Cassiar is very expensive and we had just driven 275 miles w/o getting gas.  Also not being sure where we were going to stop for the night, along the Cassiar, it was much move comfortable stopping in Watson Lake and having a fresh start in the morning.

We filled up with gas at the far east end of Watson Lake at GPS:  60.050144 -128.655358 .  They are about 5-10 cents a liter (20-40 cents/gallon) cheaper than in the down town area.  Also they give a 3% discount for travelers.  We paid $1.03/liter. 

Along the upper 200 miles of the Cassiar we were able to receive the Dish Network TV local channels from Juneau, AK.  At Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK we were parked in the trees, but should have been able to pick up Juneau local channels if we would have had a clear view of the southern sky.  

All of the Cassiar is now paved, and has been for several years.  As with most highway up here, you will find several sections under construction, and those will be gravel for several miles. 

The first 40-50 miles of the Cassiar are nice asphalt with the middle section about 200 miles of seal coat.  The last 200 miles or so of the Cassiar is very good and wide 2 lane asphalt with center stripes. 
Seal coat is basically a good dirt/gravel base, which is leveled and packed.  Then they spray a thick coating of tar and spread a thick layer of gravel down.  It is then packed down with steam rollers.  Makes a good surface. 

The upper section of the Cassiar

The middle section is this seal coat:

Our first nights stop was at Boya Lake Provincial Park at KM 638.7.  Not a long drive today, only 66 miles. 

About a third of the campsites are right on the lake with great views.  About 5 or 6 sites are large enough for 35’-40’ rigs. 

Views from our campsite:


In the afternoon I had a nice 2 mile round trip walk to an impressive beaver dam:

View of Boya Lake from the trail

The upper side of the beaver dam

Lower side

Closer view of the beaver dam

Beaver lodge across the pond

Also impressive is the size of the trees the beavers cut down for food. This one is 8 to 10 inches in diameter.

Teeth marks where the beaver stripped the bark from the tree

Leaving Boya Lake, we stopped just a few miles south at Jade City.  Jake City is a private business which mines jade and sells a variety of jade jewelry and lots of jade nicknacks. We spent about $115 CD on some pretty stuff.  We thought their prices were pretty high though. They advertise that they have free WiFi, but it didn’t work.  I asked about using it and they said sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Guess now was when it didn’t work.   They also offer free overnight parking.  No hookups. 

Another fairly short drive today.  Only 78 miles.  Pretty country we drove through.

A couple of view from todays drive

We stopped for the night at a pullout at KM512 with a nice view of Dease Lake.  GPS: N58.64232 W130.02045

Our third day on the Cassiar. 

Plans were to stop in the little town of Dease Lake, unhook the truck and drive the 140 mile round trip to Telegraph on a good dirt road.  We did stop at Dease Lake and parked the motorhome at the free parking area behind the gas station/convenience store. 

The road to Telegraph is reported to be a scenic drive, and from some of the pictures I have seen, it is scenic near the end of the road.  However, after driving for about 30 minutes, only going about 17 miles, down a road bordered by nothing but small trees with no view what so ever, we turned around.  Driving for another hour seeing nothing but tree trunks was not something we needed to do. 

Back at the motorhome we hooked up the truck, stopped at the local community college and used their free WiFi for a little bit and continued on down the Cassair.

About 147 miles of pretty country today.   We really like the scenic unhurried travel of the Cassiar.  Not to mention the lack of traffic. 

We stopped at a level pullout at about KM270, at GPS:  56.857595  -129.987857.   This pullout is at the base of an avalanche so I am not sure I can recommend this as a place to stop.  We had a man stop by and tell us we probably shouldn’t stay here because several years ago there was a mud slide here.  Well the weather was dry and has been dry for quite a while so we decided to go ahead and stay.   If there had been rain we would have moved on. 

Our 4th day we moved on to Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK.

The 40 mile drive from the Cassiar Hwy at KM157 to Stewart is beautiful with the mountain peaks, hanging glaciers and the large Bear Glacier. 


Bear Glacier

In Stewart, we decided to stay at Rainey Creek Municipal CG.  $23 with water & 15amp elect.  Too many trees for us to get Satellite TV.   Verizon cell signal was good. 

Once we were set up in the CG we drove over to Hyder, AK  to see if there were any bears at the National Forest Fish Creek bear viewing area.    

The bear viewing area is a board walk about 10-15 feet above Fish Creek where grizzle and black bears come to feed on the salmon coming up the creek to spawn. 

These two pictures are from the NF website

We never had any bears come to feed during our three visits to the viewing area.  Come to find out, this late in the season, the bears have their bellies full of fish and the just are no longer coming to feed very often.  In mid to late July when the salmon are first coming up the stream there are lots of bears. 

On our drive into Hyder, we did see this black bear crossing the street

Not all was lost though.  Both days we visited Hyder we had excellent lunches at “The Bus”. 


Information/philosophy of the owner

This was the best Halibut fish & chips we had on the entire trip. 

Before we decided to go to Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK I had read that “The Bus” is  “the” place to eat in Stewart/Hyder.     And it truly is “the” place to eat! We stopped by and here is this lady, Diane, around 50+ or -  years old in a dilapidated bus which is the kitchen and a couple of beat up vinyl covered car seats outside for use in nice weather. There is a sort of shelter above the outside seating. There is indoor seating around back if the weather dictates it. Diane is a real sweetheart! A very nice unpretentious lady, pretty much kind of amazed at all the publicity her little restaurant has garnered. At 1pm or so we were her only customers for several minutes, so naturally Sharon got to talking with Diane. I chipped in on the conversation a few times as well. Her husband & son are commercial fishermen and supply the restaurant and a small store right next to the bus where they sell the catch. They probably sell the excess where ever commercial fishermen sell their catch, I guess. More about The Bus go here .

One other thing of note, is a 22 mile drive up a bumpy gravel road (dusty in dry weather and it was dry when we drove it)  to views of Salmon Glacier.  Beautiful glacier, but there is no way to get very close to the glacier.  All the views are from a distance. 

After two days in Stewart/Hyder and no bears, at the times we were at the view area, we moved on down the road. 

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