The first dramatic destination on my Yukon journey was the Salmon Glacier near Stewart, BC. The most northerly destination was the Tombstone Provincial Park in the Yukon. I left home on the 8th June.
The first night was spent at 100 Mile, an hour south of Williams Lake, to visit a friend who had spent time in the Yukon. The second was north and east of Williams Lake, between Barkerville and the Bowron Lakes canoe circuit, where other friends owned a bog I had long wanted to visit when in bloom. I was delighted at my first sight of bog rosemary in flower.There were also two species of the insect-eating sundews, the long-leaf (which is very common at Nuk Tessli)
and the round-leaf
,On the way there, I had marvelled at the green, to which I was still unaccustomed after our long winter. This sentence will be revealed as significant later in the journey.The night was full of a cold rain, which by morning had turned to snow.
Day 3 was a long drive. Highway 16 west of Williams Lake is a major route, but it is narrow, reduced to 90 km per hour or even 70 kph for long stretches, there are almost no passing lanes, and there is too much traffic to overtake on the straighter stretches. So a tedious 12 hours later, I finally turned north on the Cassiar Highway, finding a pull-off at a tiny, buggy lake to camp. It was the first of many nights that I spent under my sleeping net in the van, in comparatively visual privacy, but with traffic roaring by not far away all night long. Despite travelling through thousands of kilometres of what is considered to be remote country, I never had a quiet night until I got back home.
From Meziadin Junction I turned west to Stewart. I expected the drive to the coast to be much like the road to Bella Coola – and in a way it was, but way more spectacular! The early cloud began to clear off the mountains.
Glaciers could easily be seen along the highway. The commonest plant on the gravel bars below is the mountain avens.
Stewart, BC, is a small touristy place. To get to the Salmon Glacier, one has to follow a mining road that takes a small jog into the US at Hyder, Alaska although the Salmon Glacier itself is back in BC. I had no identification except a BC driver’s licence so wondered if I would be allowed into the States, given the American’s current paranoia about foreigners. I went to the information centre to ask. It was about 10.00:am, but it was closed. It happened to be a Sunday, and the info booth is open only Monday to Friday. I drove along the road anyway… I never even noticed the barrier but I see that, now I look at the photo, that there is one and it is open. One is in Alaska for about two kilometres. Then there is a small “welcome to BC” notice and the well- used gravel road climbs steadily up the side of the valley. Suddenly, there is a spectacular view of the glacier’s snout. And, looking downstream…Shortly after that, the road was closed by a barrier. I thought it was because there was still snow on the road, but I found out afterwards that there had been a rockslide. It was no problem, however, to walk up the highway for a couple of kilometres.
‘Twas the plants of course that interested me: Slide alder
The fattest pussy willows I’ve ever seen.Mountain hemlock, that most rugged and dramatic of mountain trees.And salmon berry.I had not seen the ice for a while, then, just as snow almost covered the road, there was the view. Not the one on the posters, but no less spectacular.The ice details were fantastic.
The rock striations were fascinating, too.And so, back down again.At a pull-off, I met three guys who were obviously tree-planters. (Having done the job myself I recognized their Budget rental crummy with its insulated canopy on the back, necessary to keep the trees cool.) They had long hair and pierced faces, but were perfectly pleasant guys – one from Ontario and two from Australia, who were in Canada with work permits. Here is some tree-planting philosophy.They were ahead of me as we came down the road and drove through Hyder. On the way back into BC, however, we had to halt. The insignificant grey shack I had vaguely noticed on the way to Hyder turned out to be a Canadian customs post.A guy popped out, and asked if I had a passport or indication of Canadian residency. When I said “no”, he immediately held his hands up in horror! “Where were you born?” “England.” Even greater horror. He proceeded to give me a long angry lecture about how could they possibly let anyone into the country without proper documentation etc etc. This went on for about 10 minutes. Now the road to the glacier goes into Alaska for about 5 minutes. There are no other roads connected to it. Hyder no longer has a ferry. There I am, an old lady with a BC driver’s licence, in a vehicle with BC plates, in a situation where the only way I could possibly be on that road was to drive from mainland BC in the first place. Finally, he took my driver’s licence. “This could take a while,” he said gloomily. Two minutes later he was back out with a smile. “Welcome home,” he said. Some welcome!
And the tree planters, two of whom were Australian…. A woman was searching them and pulling everything out of their vehicle. As far as I know, they could still be there.
I can understand this behaviour at a more serious border post, but in this case, what is the point?
This is the first of 8 Yukon Journey posts. I screwed up when loading them. To access #2, press the left-had arrow saying “previous.”