The Roads of Adventure Part II: the Roads continue
Cleaning the van from the mud collected at the Dempster Highway was actually quite some fun. Because cars regularly get this dirty around here, every gas station had coin operated pressure cleaners. It took me 10 minutes to get the worst off But at least I could look out of my windows again. The mud on my mud flaps was more than 10 cm thick. For the first time in weeks my van was red(ish) again. Two more things I wanted to check in Dawson City before heading south again: the viewpoint a few 100m above the town. Nice very steep winding dead-end dirt road (the van got dusty again). And an old restored huge gold dredge at Bonanza creek which was at the end of a rainy dirt road (the van got muddy again). Then it was driving down the Klondike highway. People had warned me there were some intense patches where the paving was bad. But after the last few days of driving this was easy. At the end of the day I had found a campsite at a lake with a 25km dead-end dirt road leading too it (Do you see a pattern forming?). The road was not maintained and was at your own risk. Well this was something else. Extremely steep with completely washed out bits. On one of the steepest bits I ran into a little rabbit who was sitting in the middle of the road. I slowed down, bunny didn’t move. I slowed down some more, bunny just looked at me. I slowed down to a stop, bunny runs away. But once I had stopped I could not get the van to move uphill again. The hill was too steep. So I had to back down and try again. Well, it taught me some more mountain driving lessons. At the lake it was very sunny but there were some evil clouds coming up. I did not want to know what that would do to the road. So I tried to ignore that and enjoy the sun.
I got lucky, the rain went around the road and the lake. The way back out was pretty OK. No more rabbits on the road. It was time to head back towards civilization. Back to Whitehorse and the Alaska highway. Both seemed like the emptiest places on the way up a few months ago, but now it seems very busy and civilized. A nice stop on the way were the Five Finger Rapids in the Yukon river, They are some enormous rocks in the river creating some decent rapids. They used to be a big problem for the boats when that was the only way to get north. I stayed at a campsite at the Takhini Hot Springs just north of Whitehorse. The previous hot springs I visited was nicely in nature and this one in a concrete pool, but it was still very nice after some long days of driving.
In Whitehorse it was time to get my oil changed. I should have done this a while ago but I had misread the manual and swapped the petrol KMs (15000) with the diesel KMs (7500). But I was now in a biggish town and it was a Monday so it should be no problem. Garage said they would be done in an hour. Four hours later I could finally leave when they had finally figured out what the type of my van was and what filter they had to use. I went back to the same campsite as on the way up where I had gotten loads of free food because it is next to the airport. The trick worked again and I left with quite some food and an ax!
**Back to adventure**
The Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to the cut off of the Stewart-Cassiar highway is the only bit I have to drive twice. Since the day before was a relaxing day (sitting in the waiting room of the garage). I decided to drive this whole stretch and the first bit of the Stewart-Cassiar in one day. It was already evening when I got to the cut off and my hopes for wildlife were rewarded with a black bear. It ran away before I could stop the car and take a picture. I spend the night at a lake once again. The very pretty Boya lake. By the time I got to the campsite all the lake front spots were taken. So what do you do in this case? You get yourself invited to the campfire of people who do have a lake front spot.
The next bit of the Stewart-Cassiar was rainy. Flashing lights and stopped traffic in the distance… Mudslide… Just a few minutes before I got there, the hill at the side of the road had collapsed and a good stream of mud had flushed over the road leaving some 30cm of mud and rock. An excavator had to come up to clear the road. Luckily this only took 30 minutes. I picked a campsite that advertised that they had wifi so I could upload some stuff for the website. What the ad did not say is that you had to pay for the internet. A whopping 12 bucks for half an hour. Ow and please don’t use the internet for any high data purposes… (So no websites were updated that day).
Stewart is the end of the roads of adventure (for now). My day in Stewart was a funny one with 6 (six!) border crossings between Canada and the US in one day and three very coincidental encounters with people. The road to Stewart goes through a pretty canyon with a view of the pretty Bear Glacier. Stewart is a tiny village at the border with the bottom bit of Alaska. Right across the border in Alaska is the even tinier town of Hyder. The main attraction of the Stewart/Hyder area is the Salmon Glacier. To get to the glacier you have to driver from Stewart, Canada into Hyder, Alaska (1st border crossing, no checks) and back into Canada (2nd border, no controls). The road leading up to the glacier goes from 0 to 1100 meter in no time. It was very steep and very much gravel (and of course a dead-end road to follow my pattern). I stopped at one viewpoint on the way up and decided they were too steep. I’ll stop on the way down. The viewpoint at the top was great. The glacier was just so enormous. A great spot for lunch. When I was parked there some Dutch people came over for a chat after seeing my Dutch plates. After a minute they said. Wait, but we know your story. Turns out that a week ago they had met someone I had met almost 2 months ago on my trip and he had told them about this Dutch guy in a red van driving around the Americas. Funny experience and first coincidental encounter. Then I found out that the car parked next to mine was the same one that was in front of me the day before at the mudslide (2nd encounter). One of them joined me for a hike from the viewpoint higher up the mountains for a better view of the glacier. On the way down from the glacier, stopping at the viewpoints I ran into an American couple that I had met a week earlier at the Hot Springs in Whitehorse (that’s number 3!). I drove back through Hyder (border number 3, no checks) to my campsite in Stewart. This border (number 4) does have checks. Apparently many people drive into Hyder without a passport (because no checks) and then have a hard time getting back into Canada. But this was an easy one. After dinner at the campsite I drove back to Hyder (border number 5) because of the famous Fish Creek. Fish Creek is a spawning place for salmon. They swim up from the ocean to mate up in the creek. The creek is less deep than the salmon are high and they kind of stay in the same spot in the river while swimming against the current. This means it’s a perfect snack spot for bears. The bears mostly show up in the evening or the morning. And they did so both the evening and the morning before I was there. So I sat at the river from 7 to 10 in the evening with loads of other people. But no bears. However, the salmon were interesting and there was a beaver couple very busy building a dam (apparently the rangers break down the dam every day because it blocks the salmon… poor beavers…). Finally I drove back to Canada again (border number 6). The border lady greeted me with a “Hello again” and asked me if I was going to come by tomorrow too. I told her that if the weather was nice I’d like to go hiking and she gave me some extensive hiking tips for the area (while there was a queue of cars waiting behind me). It rained the next day. I did not go hiking.
Stunning photos Maarten!
PS: Maybe it was a good thing you didn’t get a photo of that bear 🙂