Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Interesting Development

Thursday, July 29th, was another travel day. BUT, first Magic had to get another bath. It seems like once a week - like it or not. And, it is ALWAYS needed!! We are getting pretty good at it by now, though, and have it down to about an hour. Of course, that is without Elizabeth getting on the roof to get all the grime from up there;-)

By 9AM we were on our way. First photo stop was a repeat - Bear Glacier. Only this morning the lighting was very different as the clouds/fog shrouded the surrounding mountains and cast different shadows - making the blue ice really blue.

The Bear Glacier not too far outside Stewart, BC.

Before long, the Junction of 37A and 37 North (to Alaska), the Cassiar Highway, was in front of us. The Cassiar Highway was mentioned in the last posting as scenic, good for seeing wildlife and, VERY importantly - the connection from the Yellowhead Highway to the Alaska Highway. More on this just a little later.

The morning was beautiful - no wind, no rain, no traffic, lots of beautiful scenery in the likes of flowers, mountains, more glaciers - AND, a few animals -

Heading north on the Cassiar Highway

No particular destination was sought - just traveled down the road following the Bell Irving River until something looked intriguing. One thing about this area - the thriving metro areas - the BIG dots on the map - consist of one building which serves as the General Store/gas station/post office - AND, if it is a really BIG stop the same building also contains an ‘Inn’ and cafe/restaurant;-) Generally if there is an ‘Inn’ there is also an RV/Campground. (Inn is a little kind - therefore the ‘ ‘ .) The Bell II Lodge looked charming in the pictures, offered four-star accommodations, great food and campsites for RV’s so thought that might be a destination. Not sure where they took the picture for the brochure?? We did top off the tank, though, and thought perhaps their lunch fare would keep us around. Didn’t do it for us - SO, we were movin‘ on down the Cassiar Highway. Lunch was productive, however, as we learned of a forrest fire north on the Cassiar just below where it connects to the Alaska Highway (our ultimate destination on the Cassiar) and the fire had caused the closure of the road. There were still several days before we got this far up the highway, but, decided it was something we needed to keep track of;-(

The role of the RR has shown up on several of our postings - and, around here the telegraph line also played an important role. Born of the Klondke Gold Rush of 1898, the 1,900 mile Dominion Telegraph Line linked Dawson City (way up north in the Yukon Territory) with Vancouver via the CPR wires. Built in 1899-1901, the line blazed a route across the vast northern section of the BC Province but gave way to radio communications in the 1930’s. Today, some of the trail provides road beds (for some of the very roads we are traveling on) and some of the cabins used by the isolated telegraphers still serve wilderness travelers. Parts of the Cassiar Highway are benefactors of this trail.

The Highway also passes through the Iskut burn, where fire destroyed 78,000 acres in 1958. More than 50 years later the trunks of some of the burned trees are still standing!! So - how long DOES it take for the forrest to regenerate after a fire????? This area is also British Columbia’s largest huckleberry patch;-) Which may account for our bear sightings -

We spotted this bear along the roadside. It didn't waste any time heading for the bushes.

The next BIG dot on the highway was Tatogga Lake, which boasts the Historic Tatogga Lake Resort. Despite ALL the amenities (restaurant, souvenirs, gas, diesel, RV sites with hookups and wifi), they didn’t have a laundry, which was an essential at this stop. SO - on up the Cassiar Highway to Iskut with a population of 283. Here the Red Goat Lodge on the Eddontenajon Lake was calling - it had wifi AND a laundry!! It also had a fabulous view, which is a good thing and that’s all there is to say here -

We had this awesome view from our campsite at the Red Goat in Iskut.
The forest fire smoke created some interesting colors that evening.

Our intrepid photographer hard at work. Work, you say? Bulls**t!

Gary decided he could only take ONE day of the Red Goat - so we packed up and progressed another 50 miles, which took us about 2.5 hours, on Friday. “Why 2.5 hours??” you might ask. It seems that perhaps we hit some of that road we were warned about -

The Iskut views be damned.  I couldn't wait to leave the campground so we continued north
on the Cassiar Hwy and ran into some of the rougher roads we were warned to expect.

Not sure we have ever seen a bridge this square before.
Good thing we didn't meet someone coming the other way.

A little mud...a little smoke.

Dease Lake was the target today - the end of three weeks on the road!!

On the southern end of town one can see the Arctic/Pacific Divide. Here the Tanzilla River, to the south of Dease Lake, is a main tributary of the Stikine river, which runs into the Pacific Ocean. Dease Lake, north of town, empties into the Dease and Liard Rivers, and ultimately spills into the Arctic Ocean. This unique point, where water flows in different directions, is called the Arctic/Pacific Divide. Much like the area encountered on the Icefields Highway where the watershed was in three directions - to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic!!

Dease Lake became yet another Hudson’s Bay Co. post in 1837, and the town was named after the company’s chief factor - Peter Warren Dease. The Dease Lake region was the site of two major gold rushes - one in 1864 and one in 1873. Laketon, on the west side of the lake, was a center for boat building during the Cassiar gold rush of 1872-80. In 1874, William Moore, following an old Indian trail, cut a trail from Telegraph Creek (a Tahltan/First Nations commuity) on the Stikine River to the gold rush settlement on Dease Lake - this was the beginning of a failed attempt to build a telegraph line linking North America to Europe!! The trail became Telegraph Creek Road, which was used in 1941 to haul supplies for Alaska Highway construction. Today, Dease Lake (population 450) is a government center and supply point for the district. We wandered just north of town and found the Water’s Edge Campground on the shores of Dease Lake. Don’t know why, but for some reason it just reminds me of the “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -

“By the shore of Gitchie Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.”

Either that - or “On Golden Pond” (or both). It is a beautiful setting to just sit - read - and enjoy the view -

Our reading room on Dease Lake for the next couple of days.
The Waters Edge campground is very nicely maintained and we even have an internet
connection until they turn their generator off at night.

The view of the sun setting from Magic's picture window.

AND - we could be here a while. As mentioned in the discussion of our lunch at Bell II, we learned of a forrest fire to the north which had caused a road closure. Actually, not just a road closure - the closure of the Cassiar Highway just below its junction with the Alaska Highway - our destination!! Reports are put out daily at 8AM, 11AM and 4PM about the road closure - ie, still closed or not. There is no discussion of possible opening. Yesterday at lunch this was a new event - BUT, word was spreading quickly. By today - this is all everyone was talking about at every stop!!! Apparently there is quite a line-up of cars/trucks/RV’s where the road is closed. Which is not helping the fire fighting effort there. The closure is actually about 100 miles north of our current campground - but, there is a blockade here at Dease Lake warning of the closure. To understand how big a deal this is here - a description/picture of the roads is in order. During the past week, we have traveled from Prince George - 300 miles west on the Yellowhead Highway to the Cassiar Highway where we turned north and have traveled about 300 miles. So - we are now about 150 miles from the Junction with the Alaska Highway via the Cassiar Highway (the left vertical line).

Junction w/Alaska Hwy
X - - -- - - - - - 540 miles
I I- - -- - - - - - - - -I
;-) We are here I- - - - -- - - - -
450 miles ^ Cassiar Hwy Fort St. John
^ I
X - - - - - - - - I 250 miles
Kitwanga Jct l - - - -< - -- - < -----< --------I   I
300 miles                        I I
Yellowhead Hwy I - - --<- -- X
Prince George

If the road to our north does not open, the only way to the Alaska Highway at the same point is to go back from whence we came;-(.  Back down the Cassiar Hwy, across the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, north to Fort St. John, which will take us north to the Alaska Highway!! BUT, that is 1390 miles instead of 150;-(((!!! *$****##***!!!! We have a few days and have every intention of waiting out the fire. Hope it cooperates!! Unfortunately, we are now meeting up in the campgrounds with those who do not have the luxury of time - and they are having a difficult time trying to figure out what to do. It will take at least 2-3 days (in a car - not an RV! Would take us a good week.) to drive all the way around - and the Cassiar could be open by then. But, sitting and waiting is difficult. We are happy to have such a beautiful setting to wait in - and all at $20 a day, with WiFi!! Of course, the WiFi means we get to post all this wonderful information for you before we take off for Saturday’s activity - which is investigating that gnarly Telegraph Creek Road mentioned above;-).

Hope the weather and the fire cooperate over the next day or two or you will get a LOT of pictures of our lake view here at Dease Lake!! Hope all is well back in the lower 48 -

Our Love to All - E & G

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