Our wonderful lake respite just happened to be near the midpoint of the Cassiar Highway. We were on the road again this morning by 7:30, feeling well rested and refreshed from our long afternoon on gorgeous Kinaskan Lake. From this point on, the road conditions began to shift and we started to encounter more and more rough chip seal with sections of gravel, even a section of rough dirt that was in the process of construction, and several construction zones along Dease Lake.
Decided to stop at Iskut for fuel, and paid a whopping $5.40 per gallon (C$) adding $192.50 to the tank to be sure we had plenty of gas to get us to the Highway this afternoon. The scenery north of Kinaskan Lake was again beautiful, with several long narrow lakes parallel to the highway before we climbed into a higher landscape thick with spruce and sphagnum soils and wetlands. We stopped for photos of the lush, green Gnat Valley, with a large beaver lodge along the creek in the distance.
By mile 294 the construction zone took over and the grades were usually 8 percent and the road was very narrow with NO shoulder, dropping immediately from the road surface nothing. No room for an oops on this road! Dease Lake was just a small community but was alongside the brilliantly blue and very long Dease Lake to the west. Again, because of the construction, the rest areas and pull outs were less than inviting, so I didn’t get any shots of Dease Lake. We crossed the invisible summit of the Arctic Divide, and now all rivers that we see are emptying into the Arctic Ocean instead of the Pacific.
Around mile 330 we entered the Cassiar Mountains, and this time I know the name of the range. Again, this range has it’s own unique personality, huge like everything in BC, but dominantly formed in serpentinite rock, the source of the asbestos from the Cassiar Mine, that is no longer in operation. Where there is serpentine, there usually is jade, both rocks hydrothermally altered from old ocean crust rock at great depths and then squeezed to the surface like a watermelon seed. Yeah, I stole that line from an old geology book about California’s serpentine belt, but I love it, because it describes it so well.
Because of the construction, we were in a line of vehicles when we passed a beautiful green marsh to the west, punctuated by a cow moose and her calf. The fifth wheel from Texas pulled into the only available space. I sure hope they are bloggers and got the photo! We couldn’t stop so just kept crawling along the gravel road with the rest of the line of cars.
We are now in the Cassiar Mountains, on smooth gravel, with many lakes and marshes parallel to the road beside us. I managed to make tuna sandwiches with some chips and a pickle while Mo was being piloted at a reasonably slow pace through the construction. The gravel is smooth, but dusty, and every time one of those big aggregate haulers goes by, it takes a bit for the dust to settle. Now THIS is what I thought this trip would be like!
What I have learned so far is that it’s possible to see the beautiful wild wilderness of northern British Columbia without ever touching a difficult route. The Yellowhead Highway all the way from Edmonton to Prince George to Prince Rupert is beautiful, in great shape, and there are state of the art facilities just about everywhere you might need them. You can then drive north on the Cassiar more than half way to beautiful lakes and provincial parks still on great roads. Some folks recently discussed avoiding the Alaska trip because of how hard it might be on your rig. I suggest that those folks check out this beautiful, amazing, fabulous part of British Columbia and the north.
We, however, still want to do the road, The Alaska Highway, even though I am not entirely sure that I haven’t already seen the best part of the trip. It’s now 1 in the afternoon, we are 78 miles south of the Highway, and plan to stop in at Jade City before continuing north. More later
It’s now “later”, 3:30 in the afternoon and once again a pristine northern lake has called us in. After only 180 miles we decided that we needed to take on some water and drove down to Boya Provincial Park. The park attendant at Kinaskan talked poetically about the beautiful turquoise lake that was right on our route north and said we shouldn’t miss it. Our night destination was to be somewhere between where we were and Whitehorse, but we knew we wouldn’t make it to Whitehorse.
Checking the maps for campgrounds along the highway between Upper Llaird and Whitehorse yielded a few spots, but not many. We also aren’t sure of the boondocking options along the main route, and really don’t feel like paying top dollar for a regular crowded RV park tonight. We plan to stop in Whitehorse for a couple of days anyway and will pay the big bucks then for the opportunity to do laundry and get caught up on the internet.
If you look closely, you can see me in the center in the water
Once again we are camped on a lake, and within minutes of setting up the rig, Abby and I were in the water. This time I decided to go for a real swim. Boya Lake is warmer than most northern BC lakes, and the outside temperature this afternoon hit 82 *F! Pretty darn warm, and I needed a good bath. Boya Lake is underlain by white marl and is so clear that you can see fish swimming beneath you. There is an interpretive trail here around the lake that we plan to walk later this evening, but not before I try one more dip in that gorgeous water.
I think tonight we won’t unload the kayaks, and just enjoy this beautiful place from the beach. Might be time for a bit of relaxation that doesn’t include paddling for several hours. The park information kiosk posted weather information for the days ahead, and if they are correct, we will be driving into rainy wet skies as we approach Whitehorse for the next few days. It will be a good time to clean house, clean ourselves, and do a bit of town stuff before we continue north to Dawson City.
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here
Tomorrow: Whitehorse, Yukon Territories
Miles driven today between stop 13 and stop 14: 180
a mix of chip seal and about 1/3 gravel, with several construction zones, no delays.