Day Nineteen & Twenty: The Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Before I started thinking about making this loop up to and around Alaska, I had never heard of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. In fact, my plan was to take the AlCan its entire length up and back. My first morning in Alaska, two weeks ago, as I was loading the Emerald Bullet for the day, a lady asked me if I had come up from the south. I said I had.

“AlCan?” she said.

I nodded.

She looked a little sad. “I hope on your way back down, you’ll turn south on Highway 37, just before you get to Watson Lake. You won’t be sorry.”

I immediately grabbed my map of western Canada, found Highway 37, and made a note. I have now spent the better part of two days on that highway, and I will say it has been one of the best parts of the trip.

Before I made it that far, though, I was backtracking over the Alaska Highway, aka, The AlCan. Essentially, I spent the first half of yesterday driving over territory I had already driven. I didn’t mind at all. I don’t know if or when I will ever get a chance to drive this road again, so this took on the taste of a victory lap, all while saying goodbye to this epic road.

I only took a few pictures yesterday, as I had already captured much of what I wanted to show on my way up. I did take another picture of the Teslin bridge, leading into the village of Teslin, though.

If you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind (an excellent question for me on most days) yes, I do realize that those are statues,

It wasn’t long before I saw the real thing, though”

You’ll notice that most of my shots of caribou show them running. That’s because they are quite people-shy, and don’t like me pointing something black at them, even if it is my Canon instead of a cannon. I did get this nice shot of a buck and cow checking me out as they crossed the road, though:

Fifty or so miles down the road, though, I came across another small herd of them, grazing.

Including this lopsided young buck:

One last thing, before I bade farewell to the Alaska Highway. Apparently, I crossed over a continental divide. I’ve been over the divide just east of Butte, Montana, so often, I don’t even think of it any more. Since someone thought enough to post a sign, explaining why this is a continental divide in Canada, I thought I would share it:

Shortly after that, I turned south on Highway 37 and my world changed. The Alaska Highway is a very nice road. It is broad, with nice shoulders in most places, which allows amateur photographers like me to pull over and get as many shots as I want.

As soon as I turned onto the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, that all changed. The wide open vistas ringed by tall hills or mountains disappeared, to be replaced by dense forests of spruce trees and subalpine firs. It was lovely, but did leave me feeling a little closed in. The road itself isn’t bad (most of the time) but it has two odd characteristics that make it less fun to drive: no center line, and no shoulders.

When I see a semi barreling down on me from the other direction, my first instinct is to make sure I am well off the center line. (Should I say centre line? I am in Canada.) That’s difficult to do when there isn’t one – about all you can do is hug the shoulder, assuming there is one, but there isn’t. Since it rained the entire day, this all added up to a slightly stressful drive.

After a few hours on 37, I was ready for a break, and so pulled of at Boya Lake for a reprieve. Boya is very pretty, and from this photo, you can see it is starting to melt its ice. Around the edges, you can see the rocky bottom, but after just a few feet, it’s ice the rest of the way:

Did I mention that from the time I turned off the AlCan, I never had a cell phone signal? I don’t mean a poor signal, I mean I had the little “x” where the signal should be, a small “x” laughing at me, saying, “Oh, you thought you’d be able to call your wife out here? No, dear sir, no.”

I thought that at least when I got to my hotel, there would be some sort of cell phone coverage. This is how I can tell I am still an optimist. There was none. The motel I stayed at claimed to have free wifi, but in a story as old as time, what they called wifi and whatΒ I called wifi are worlds apart. Thus, no blog last night.

This morning, as I was checking out, the nice lady at the desk inquired, “What wildlife did you see?”

“Not so much as a chipmunk,” was my answer, as I knew she meant once I had turned off the AlCan. It didn’t take long this morning for my luck to change and for me to fill up my Wildlife Bingo card:

I know Dawn Adele will love this picture, because she loves bears, and this fuzzy little guy had such a sweet face. Unless I got close enough to get eaten like the guy in “Grizzly Man,” which we watched again just before I left.

From then on, for the rest of the day, there was wildlife like in a Disney movie, although much of it moved so fast I didn’t get shots of it. Here’s an example: There was a big buck caribou in this shot just a moment before I pushed the button:

It was still a pretty shot of the snowy woods, though, so I thought I’d show it to you.

Up next was another black bear. This was a big fellow, and he didn’t seem to be shy around me at all. In fact, I spent so long with him or her (I have no idea which) that I finally got my own lunch out and ate while I watched this one forage. I took about 150 photos, but I will just share four of my favorites:

I love the expression on his/her face in this last one, as if saying, “I know you’re there. I am keeping an eye on you.”

I need some help on this next one, as my ability to identify the birds of the Yukon and British Columbia is sadly lacking. Anyone want to tell me in the comments what it is? I did a Google image search on it, and Google very helpfully told me that it thought this was a “bird.” Thank you, Mama Google. I don’t know what I would do without you. In any case, I’m sure someone smarter than me will recognize it:

I know it once again looks like I was right on top of it, but whatever that is, it looks so grouchy I never would have gotten close. In fact, its nest was at the top of a fairly tall, dead tree:

Finally, about 4:00 in the afternoon, I must have hit a cell phone signal, as it beeped and booped for several minutes, complaining that it hadn’t been able to communicate with me for two days. I enjoyed the break from technology, but not being unable to call Dawn.

Today was a wildlife day, but just before I pulled into my rest stop for the night, I did take this shot of this pretty little valley, watched over by these two mountains tall enough that their tops were lost in the clouds.

I try never to give unsolicited advice, but I am going to anyway. If you ever find yourself planning a trip on the AlCan, I strongly recommend driving it one way, and catching Highway 37 the other way. Both are spectacular.

Cheers, and safe travels!

Shawn

 

16 comments

  1. I knew what the Continental Divide was and roughly where it was and had crossed it many times (well into the double digits) by the time I was 9 or 10. You would have loved the triple take I did the first time I was driving through the flats of eastern North Dakota and saw a Continental Divide sign. πŸ™‚

    I think the one you crossed is the one that is called the Great Divide and separates the water running into the Pacific and Atlantic (more or less) which is the same as the one just east of Butte, but a lot further south. The Wikipedia article has a map showing others in North America.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, the Teslin bridge, I have crossed it a few times. I miss seeing caribou and moose. Gorgeous pictures. Thanks for sharing. It brings back so many fond memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When you get to road 37A it’s a short drive to Hyder, AK. the southern most town you can drive to in Alaska.. the lady that owns the best of the two motels there lived on the Damron Road for many years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always enjoy your blog, thank you so much for sharing. I love how you changed your path due to a suggestion from a nice stranger, and it worked out great! What fun you must have had coming across all those beautiful wild animals,birds and natural scenery. Continued safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I thought the Canadian bear was thinking, “hmmmmm. Am I in the mood for grubs…or foreign cuisine this morning??”

    Big, hungry bears! Impressive creatures! How far away from those bears were you?

    PS. Is watching Grizzly Man before going to Alaska similar to watching Jaws before going into the ocean?? πŸ™‚
    Glad you got to fill up your Wildlife Bingo card!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is exactly like that! I was quite a distance away from the first bear – he was down in a little valley away from me. I was much closer to the second, larger bear, but he or she had no interest in me, They were only after the grubs they were digging up. With the second bear, I was never farther than five or six feet away from my car door. I don’t think a black bear would have any interest in me, but, at the same time… πŸ™‚

      Like

  6. What a great road. I am glad you are taking us along as you explore. Your camera has an amazing zoom lens. Safe journey

    Like

  7. Someone beat me to the bird ID. Yup, definitely an osprey. Was there a lake or river nearby? They dive for fish. Hwy 37 is fabulous! We took it when our (adult) kids did the Yukon River Quest in 2013 and saw all kinds of wildlife. We were on it in late June/early July and my favorite shot is of bears sitting on the shoulder amid wildflowers carefully selecting and nibbling their favorites. No hurry. No worry. Just enjoying those tasty flowers!

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