Canada & Alaska!

Now that I had decided to go to all 50 states, I had to figure out how and when I was going to get to Alaska. It made sense to head there now since I was already in the Pacific Northwest, but this was complicated by a flight I had out of Portland, OR to Portland, Maine at the end of August. (I decided that I just couldn’t miss out on my annual August trip to Montreal with my friend Jason!) After much deliberation I decided to do Alaska lite, and save a true Alaskan journey for another time. What is Alaska lite you may be wondering – For me it was a 2 1/2 day drive from Washington to Hyder, Alaska, the southern most town in Alaska one can drive to. It’s located at the end of Route 37A with only one way in and one way out. Hyder is a character in it’s own right. Read this great article from Alaska Dispatch News to get the real flavor of the place –  from

I started this leg of my journey by crossing into Canada in Sumas, WA. Canada: Where I have no idea how much I’m paying for stuff nor how fast I’m driving nor how far away anything is.

The conversation with the Canadian boarder guard went something like this.

Guard: Where are you headed?
Me: Hyder, Alaska.
Guard: You know that the road to Hyder isn’t connected to anything else, right?
Me: ….I explain why I’m going to Alaska adding….I’m sure Stewart (Canadian town next to Hyder) will be very nice too!
Guard: *Hands me back my passport. Gives me a completely unimpressed look bordering on disdain and waves me on.*

Then I drive and drive and drive. I pass the town of 100 Mile House which I find endlessly amusing since Canada (like most of the world) uses the metric system. Due to severe weather threatening in the place I planned to camp, I drive and drive and drive until I end up in lovely Quesnel, British Columbia at a very nice Best Western. Not only do I have the best Indian meal on my trip (thanks to the hotel staff for the tip!), but I also get to enjoy Quesnel’s town wide walking trail. This was much needed after 9 hours of driving. As I headed to Burns Lake in the AM, I saw a herd of elk on the roadside. Excellent start to the day. My campground was right on Kager Lake (bet you thought I was going to write Burns Lake). My hike around the lake was much needed and beautiful to boot as was the hour or so I spent sitting in the sun reading. Ahhhh…….

The final drive to Hyder was beautiful. My favorite part was when I spotted a bear’s head pop up in the middle of a roadside field. Wait, what?!?… what I’m sure both of us were thinking! Next stop – Hyder! Well, actually I didn’t have to stop because there is no American border guard. I just drove right into Alaska like I was coming from another state not another country. (The Canadians are not quite so laissez faire, I had to do the whole passport thing to get back into Stewart.) I took the only road through Hyder and just kept driving until I had to stop to let a black bear with a salmon in her mouth and her two cubs cross the road. Yes, I had to come to a complete stop so a bear and cubs could cross the road! Life IS good. Around the next bend I found the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site (from their website) “Bears use the site from mid-July through early September, following the arrival of salmon that return to the fresh waters of the creeks to spawn.” Wahoo, turns out I have excellent timing. Watching the spawning salmon was fascinating and a bit mesmerizing! When I stopped by the next day, there was an eagle just hanging out after having a delicious, fishy meal. I eventually dragged myself away from fish watching and headed toward Salmon Glacier.

Up, up, up I drove on a narrow, twisty dirt road. Occasionally a huge, mining truck would pass me as I nervously held my breath. The views were amazing until I got to the clouds. I wasn’t at the top, but driving in a cloudy fog seemed pointless, so I stopped. When I drove back the following day the clouds were a bit higher up and I was able to see more of the glacier and mountains I didn’t even know existed the day before.  I am always surprised at the shocking blue and dirt covering that exist on the glaciers I’ve seen.  This was no exception.

It was pretty rainy while I was in the Hyder/Stewart area (I actually stayed in Stewart.). While I wasn’t sightseeing, I spent a lot of time in Toastworks Museum and Café. This funky little place had delicious breakfast & lunch and a LOT of unique stuff to look at.

Click to read all about the toasters!
Click to read all about the toasters!

Right next door I stayed at the Stella House at the Ripley Creek Inn (from their website), “It’s almost a Hobbit House. Valentino Stella was a small man, and everything in this house is small. For a single person who would like to experience the bachelor home of a pioneer wine-maker”. It was adorably small. I loved it.

It only took me 2 ½ days of driving to get to Alaska, but I took the scenic way back (5 ½ days). On my way out of Stewart I saw two bears. One was just munching on grass on the side of the road. So cool! The way back to the states took me through a bunch of fun back roads. I crossed lots of First Nation land and lava covered land, saw clear, cool lakes and filled all my water bottles at a roadside spring. Yummy water despite the fact that the spring’s local nickname is the Peeing Tree. At one of my campsites, I had wonderful neighbors. They invited me out on their boat and over for dinner. I said yes to both and had an afternoon and evening of good company and much laughter. Plus they were from Edmonton, so I got to enjoy their stereotypical Canadian accents as well.

On the way back I stopped at Barkerville Historic Town & Park and spent the day wandering the town, taking in the exhibits and hoping not to encounter bears while walking the back road to Richfield courthouse. Court house judgeThis place was huge and really, really interesting!

“Barkerville is a historic site like no other. Many gold rush towns from this era have long since disappeared – but Barkerville remains a thriving place, rich in history and full of life. You can tour the town with one of the colourful characters from Barkerville’s past, watch the notorious Judge Begbie strike fear into the hearts of history’s criminals, witness authentic gold rush theatre, and see a real Cornish Waterwheel in action. Pan for gold with your family and friends, visit Barkerville’s well preserved Chinatown, and go back to school in the 1800s. Or, learn about the town at your own pace by visiting our historic buildings and beautiful displays.” from barkervilleblog

My next big stop was Whistler, home of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. No snow in August but plenty of big mountains and tourists. I had the pleasure of watching some of the 2016 Summer Olympics on a huge screen while sitting in Whistler’s Olympic Park. Luckily I was kept fully informed on how the Summer Olympics were going (for the Canadians)because the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio station had updates about every 20 minutes, no really, every 20 minutes. I know because I listened to a lot of the CBC while driving in Canada. Speaking of which it was a quick drive from Whistler back into the good ole’ USA. I had plenty of time to visit my friend in Seattle for a few days and drive on down to Portland, OR for more visiting before catching my flight back East for my Montreal trip. Yay!

Click the map for photos!

Click for more photos!

For those of you who noticed my grammatical error in the photos – Nice job! Didn’t notice an error? – Nothing to see here, move along.

Next up – how I visited 5 national parks in two weeks and headed back East, not necessarily in that order.

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