Tuesday Aug 24th- We left Skagway on the South Klondike Hwy, a steep, winding road through rugged countryside. Driving on this road, we marveled at the prospective miners who traveled this way on their quest for gold. The hazards for them were so great that the Canadian Mounties would not let anyone through without 1 ton of food (enough for the year) due to so many people dying on the way.
We stopped at the border to say goodbye to Alaska. This portion of the trip has come to an end, bringing mixed feelings. It is a wonder and a sense of accomplishment to have always said that you want to drive to Alaska—then finally DO IT. I am proud of us for taking the steps to live out this dream. Alaska was all that I had hoped the trip would be. I feel that our planning was good and we came away from this area with a much greater understanding of it, an understanding which included knowing that there is so much MORE to see. But dreams realized can sometimes be bittersweet……..over too quickly. Fortunately, there were several more days of wide open “wildness” to see heading through the Yukon and British Columbia.
We had talked about taking a bit of a side trip to Atlin, a small town at the end of a gravel road that was supposed to have amazing views. But, the weather was cloudy with intermittent rain, and we realized that we were in a mood to drive on. What was promised views could not be more beautiful than what we had seen so far.
This is Boya Lake from our campsite at the Provincial Park, about 50 miles south of Watson Lake on the Cassier Hwy (Hwy 37).
The Cassier Hwy was the road that had been closed due to a fire when we had passed through Watson Lake on our way up on the Alaskan Hwy. It was now open, but there was evidence of the fire – charred trees and ground and some smoking and smoldering spots- for the first 26 miles. We wanted to drive this Hwy to take a different route, and a somewhat more direct route, heading towards Jasper and Banff NPs. If different was what we wanted….this was a good choice.
The Cassier Hwy reminded us of a lot of the ‘good ole’ Union Parish roads…..only steeper and more winding …….two lanes? (more like 1 1/2), no yellow dividing line …..and NO shoulders, only a fairly steep drop off along much of it. It even made Fred “white knuckle it” when big trucks came roaring around the corner. This land was beautiful - around each curve was a scene more beautiful than the last (but there were FEW places wide enough, or safe enough to pull over to get a picture). It was 450 miles of WILD country, with a few small towns here and there.
As we were driving, we noticed a car ahead of us stopped in the road. This momma bear and her two cubs were happily munching berries just along side of the road. They did not seem bothered when we pulled up, rolled down the window, and took their picture. We were, after all, just passing through.
After rather nonchalantly tolerating our presence, the momma bear ‘moseyed’ over to our car (I had quickly rolled up the window!) and just sniffed our front right tire, before leading her cubs across the road.
Wednesday evening, we camped at Tyhee Lake Provincial park, just past the town of Smithers on the Yellow Head Hwy (Hwy 16). The “wildness” of the Alaskan and Canadian frontiers was behind us. Along the road were electric lines, road sides, rest stops, and farmland and communities. This, in some ways, was a relief……..we realized that we like our wildness a bit tamed. Much of the Alaskan wilderness was only accessible if you were willing to bushwhack through the backcountry (there were few marked trails, and I never DID find a good Topo map of the area) or if you hired a guide (something we might consider in the future) or did a fair amount of advanced planning (we did NOT want to end up like the young man in the book “Into the Wild”). But we knew that we would miss watching for the occasional bear to happen along the roadside.
We drove on, putting miles behind us, heading to Jasper NP. We knew that there was more “wildness” to be seen on this next leg of our journey……….