Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Telegraph Creek - DON'T MISS IT

Well, I thought while I was hanging around the area, waiting till it’s time to head south this winter I should put in a plug for the Telegraph Creek area. If you are on an Alaskan adventure and need some encouragement to put the Cassiar Highway on your map this might help you. There are a ton of stories out there about the condition of the highway. Here is my read on it and for the last 4 years I have been on it almost daily. From the time you head south on the Cassiar (Hwy 37) at Watson Lake you will encounter some gravel stretches intermittently. For the most part the highway from Watson Lake to Dease Lake is seal coated but there are a number of small gravel stretches and one large one, 20 miles, just north of Dease Lake. South of Dease Lake it is all seal coated except for 5 kilometres across the Stikine River and south of the Stikine it is really quite good for the rest of the trip. Take it easy and you won’t have any problems, the gravel stretches themselves are quite smooth it is just the transitions that are a little rough. The scenery is spectacular so going slow should be mandatory anyway. Wildlife abound along this route and it is likely that you will encounter Moose, Caribou, possibly some Stone Sheep around Good Hope Lake, as well as foxes, and maybe both Black and Grizzly Bears. (Have a look at my Flickr link for more photos) If you're really lucky you might spot a wolf or a wolverine along the way also, I have. I have seen much more wildlife along this route than I ever did in the two Alaskan trips I have taken over the last few years. Once you get to Dease Lake your journey is just really starting. At this point you have a couple of options, the first is to just continue on south, but the second will be an experience that you will never forget. Overnight in Dease Lake, there is a full service RV park just on the south side of town, and unhook, and take the road to Telegraph Creek.
This will certainly be the side trip that will make the highlight reels on your trips down memory lane. It is 112 kilometres from Dease Lake to Telegraph Creek but it is one of the most spectacular, beautiful drives I have ever been fortunate to take, and I’ve been on a few. The road is gravel all the way but well maintained. The first 70 odd kilometres wind through the forest and it is pretty nice. Once you get through that forest though you are in for a treat. You actually cross the Tuya River just above the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River.
Some pretty nice vista’s here. Once you climb out of the Tuya river valley you cross over to the Stikine River, which you will follow until you reach the end of the road. There are some beautiful viewpoints along here, stop at least half of them, you should stop at the other half on your way home. As you first break into the Stikine valley you should stop along the descent and have a look at the valley, there is an old ranch down on one of the terraces that is called Days Ranch and it still belongs to the Day family who settled there in the early 1900’s. It is private property though so please respect that. Once you get past Day’s Ranch there is another viewpoint, Rest Area, that is a must stop place for a few photos. You can see all the layers that make up the country side in the walls of the canyon.

This is a shot up the Tahltan River just before you drop down to the confluence of the Tahltan and the Stikine River

Soon you will drop down to the Tahltan River crossing, this is in the a Tahltan First Nation reserve and again is private land, folks here don’t mind you taking pictures but if you are wanting to fish or leave the main road you really should get permission from the band. There are a number of photo opportunities along this stretch including the Henyu’s Fish Camp cabin

and Eagle Rock.

Eagle Rock has spiritual significance for the Tahltan people. This is the centre of their salmon fishing activities so is quite busy while the salmon are running up the Stikine and Tahltan rivers. As you climb out of the valley there are some great views of the Stikine River and a lot more viewpoints, save some for the return trip.
Once you get into Telegraph Creek head down to the river again. There are a few houses down there only a couple of which are occupied full time. The old Hudson Bay Company store from Glenora has been moved up there and is now a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast called the Riversong. It is only open a few months a year in the summer, but they have the best pie you will ever eat there. The sandwiches are great to but make sure you save room for the pie and some ice cream. If you feel like driving a little farther you can head out of town to the west. This will take you out to the old Glenora townsite and although there is nothing left there it is a pretty drive along the Stikine River.
A view out of the Riversong, sorry I didn't get that perfect pie and ice cream in the shot.
Now if you're really feeling adventurous stop by Pacific Western Helicopters in Dease Lake and ask Jim to take you for a run through Canada's Grand Canyon along the Stikine River. I guarantee you will never forget it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some Photos of the Jobsite

I've promised some pictures of the area in NW British Columbia where I am working this summer so here goes. This shot with a rainbow in it is from an old Gulf Coal mine site on Lost Fox Ridge near Mt. Klappan. It is just one of the spots in this country that draws you back time and time again. And people ask why I went back to work, between the land and the folks who live here it is an almost irresistible pull. This is about 111 kilometres off of the Cassiar Highway but we have the road fixed up so well that you can drive all the way in with almost any kind of vehicle. The first 25 kilometres is on a road called the Ealue Lake road and it does go by that Lake. After that first 25 km's you turn onto an old BC Rail grade and drive another 86 km's till the turnoff to the minesite. You could continue on for approximately another 50 odd kilometres without to much trouble if it hasn't rained to recently. Certainly down to about Km 140 it is passable with no problem. Of course this winter we will not be working in the area so old Father Winter will implement his own road closure. It takes a massive effort to keep the road open as there is a pretty heavy snowfall in this area.

The second shot is just of a scene in mid-September along the railgrade. I have characterized a trip into this country as like taking a drive through a painting. The scenery throughout this part of Northern BC certainly has a high wow factor in every season and irregardless of the weather. It is no more spectacular on a beautiful sunny day than it is on one that is rainy and misty.
And of course world class scenery is not really much without world class residents. This valley is home to a large population of Grizzly bears, Black bears, Wolverines, Lynx, Moose, Caribou as well as Marmots, Stone Sheep and Mountain Goats in the higher elevations. The bear below is just one of 5 Flowers and the Big Guythat I saw on a single trip into this location. Three Griz and a couple of Blacks all just going about their business with no concern that I was in the neighbourhood. As the season progresses to fall that laissez faire attitude disappears as the hunters come to the land. But for thousands of years the residents of this land have depended on each other for sustenance. Holy smokes that's a nice way to put eating each other. But that is the way of the land. There are many other photos that I would like to share with you but I need to figure out a better way to import them so that the aesthetics don't take away from the subjects.

Same bear, different spot.


A local Lynx, now that would control your rodent population.

Here Kitty, kitty, kitty,......

As I have wandered around the internet reading posting I have seen a lot of coyotes mislabelled as Grey Wolf sitings, just for the record this really is a Grey Wolf and once you've seen the real thing the little old yodel dog just don't measure up. It's all in the eyes, and oh yah, he probably out weighs a coyote twice or more.

Back Home

But why spend all this time in the North, away from my family you ask, it is a means to an end and the end has an Arizona sunrise figuring prominently ever morning. This one was near Why, Arizona last winter and I am hoping to see a great many more this winter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Well we found ourselves back in Alberta at the end of March. My old company asked me whether or not I wanted to give them a hand with some Community Consultation back up in Dease Lake. I thought what the heck a little bit of work won’t hurt anything. Kind of keep my hand in. Well it turned into a little more than a little bit; I’ve been averaging around 25 days a month on the road. It is interesting work and the folks around Dease Lake are great. Not to mention that it is some of the most beautiful country I have ever had the good fortune to be in. Not to bad to be out of town a lot while the weather is cold, and Lord knows we have had a cold spring in Cremona, but once the heat starts the grass growing it kind of gets away on you if you’re not there every few days to hack it down. I’ll certainly have to change that next year if I have another opportunity to get a few days of work in. Brenda and her brother Brent have been doing a great job keeping up though this summer.
The other thing that gets missed is the trips to the mountains with our horses. We have a brand new, last year, Arctic Fox camper and a new horse trailer sitting in the Quonset hut just waiting to head west but I guess it is unlikely to happen this year. Well next year for sure!!
You might ask, “why would a relatively sane (my assessment) guy who is financially capable of retiring take on what looks an awful lot like a full time job.” Well, other than the aforementioned interesting work and great people there is a method to my madness. On August 11, Brenda and I ordered a brand spanking new 2009 Fleetwood Discovery 40X coach. It is loaded with all the things we dreamt about having last winter and will make our trips even more exciting and comfortable. I am thinking what this coach doesn’t have, we really don’t need. In fact we probably don’t really need many of the things, like the 40” HDTV, which it has as standard equipment. It is supposed to be delivered in mid-October and that should give us a week or so to get it packed and then we are heading west to do some visiting at the coast, before heading back across the medicine line and looking for warmer climes. Our intention this year is to stay in the south west portion of the US, with a possibility of heading over to south Texas if the weather is not warm enough in Arizona.
I am keeping this blog thing off the subject of work for the most part and as that is a big part of my job right now the entries should be quite brief until we start on our next adventure in late October. But I can’t resist uploading a few pictures from the Dease Lake / Cassiar area. There is an abundance of wildlife in this country from the smallest chipmunks and squirrels up to the moose, grizzly bear and wolf and every thing in between. If you ever get a chance to travel up this way you must travel the Cassiar Highway (BC #37). There is lots of misinformation out there on the condition of the road but it is no where near as bad as most reports would have you believe. It leaves the Alaska Highway just west of Watson Lake in the Yukon and runs approximately 750 kilometres south to Kitwanga on the Yellowhead Highway (#16). There is about 20 kilometres of rough pavement just south of the Alaska Highway and then it is pretty good down to near Dease Lake. There is about 20 kilometres along the lake that is very good gravel/dirt road and other than getting a little dirty, if it is raining when you come through, you will have no problems along there. As for the 500 kilometres south of Dease Lake it is all paved except for about 5 kilometres as you cross the Stikine River. In fact south of an airstrip at the Burrage River it is newly paved in the last few years and smooth sailing. Good as any road anywhere, except for the wildlife that can be found all over it.


Hmmm, there may be more to this blog writing than I originally thought. I wrote the last entry on the 1st of January and here it is early in September and I am making my second entry. I haven’t had a good internet connection this summer so although I have actually written this a few times it seems to never get saved. Going to do the draft in Word and then try to transfer it to the Blogger form. That way if the internet flips out I won’t have to remember what I wrote and can get on to the next post, and put them all on when the connection is better. We were in Key West, Florida when I last wrote and have seen a bunch of country and put a lot of miles on since then. We hung out at East Lake Fish Camp near Kissimmee for the rest of January and into early February. It is a great spot, a little run down but definitely a jewel in the rough, and reasonable also. Met some super people during our two month stay. After watching a Space Shuttle launch in early February, with some folks, Randy and Sue Beck, that we had originally met in Nashville, we decided to get back on the road and head towards Arizona.

It took us almost two weeks to get across, but we stopped in Gulf Shores, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana for a couple of days each. As well we stopped in Beaumont, Texas to visit with some friends we had made earlier in the winter in Longmont, Colorado. Idell Jacobs and Donna were there to see us arrive in Longmont with the roof held on with tarp straps. We spent a couple of days with them and broke bread a couple of times with them and met Idell’s nephew and his wife, Reg and Jeanne. Great folks who we will definitely cross trails with again.
After a couple days catching up there we headed over to Houston and had the coach serviced. Then it was off to San Antonio and the Riverwalk for a couple of days. The San Antonio rodeo was just finishing up but there were absolutely no tickets available so we just enjoyed the rest of the town. Then we headed off to Arizona via a lot of Texas and New Mexico.
Once we hit Arizona we had to stop by Tombstone and have a look around. Tough place for a cowboy type to pass by without at least a short look around. We’ll be back. Then it was off to meet Bill and Margaret Klepacek in Why, Arizona. Why not? Bill and Marg are friends of ours from Dease Lake, British Columbia. They run the Dease Lake RV Park in the summer and hide out in the deserts down south in the winter. If you are on your way to or from Alaska it would be a shame to avoid the Cassiar highway and if your in Dease Lake stop and say hello to Bill and Marg. We thought we would spend a couple of days boondocking with them but it turned into a week with more to follow. After spending the winter in RV parks across the country it was a welcome change to be away from the traffic and the hubbub. Although there was a lot of Border Patrol activity around in the night. Horses, trucks, quads and helicopters all looking for a few Mexicans sneaking across the desert in search of a better life. I am sure there is a lot of impact on the economy from these folks but it seems like they are spending more money trying to catch them than it would cost to solve the problem. After a week in Why we headed off to Apache Junction looking for a place that we could bring our horses down to next winter. After a few days in Apache Junction we moved over to Wickenburg with the same mission. There are a few places around but seeing as how there is a huge grass shortage in the desert it is quite expensive to board horses down here. I think we will have to spend another winter doing the necessary research to answer the question of whether or not to bring the horses. While in Wickenburg we hooked up Ken and Theresa Rogers some folks I had connected with through Flickr, a web site where I have some photos posted under the name JBBAR. They have a great spot in Goodyear a small town being swallowed by the Phoenix metropolis. Also managed to get together with some old friends, George and Shirley Bertram and Bud Sinclair and Art Bapte for dinner at the Bertrams. Great dinner and the company was superb. Good to see some old doodlebugger friends.
We headed out of Wickenburg to go over to Quartzsite and join back up with the Klepacek’s for more lessons on how to boondock in the desert. Lot’s to learn from these folks and we get along great. What started up as a few days visiting turned into the rest of the winter. We were almost stalking them but they just seemed to know all the great spots.
This was a shot of Bill and Margret’s outfit one Quartzsite evening

We convinced them to follow us up to Prescott though. Must have been some DNA dragging us up there, before we left we had snow on the ground, reminding us that we have to head north towards home soon. We took a run over and visited Sedona while we were in the area though, nice place, reminds me a lot of Banff, Alberta except the mountains are smaller and red.
As we left Prescott it started snowing off and on and that lasted all the way Kingman. Apparently just behind us on Interstate 40 near Kingman there was a big pile up, not surprising, the visibility was almost zero and no one other than Bill and I even slowed a little. We headed down to Laughlin and pulled into the Tropicana Casino. They allow folks to park in the lot for a few days as long as you join their Members Club. The camping was free but I suppose we left enough money in the Casino to make it worth their while.
From there it was off to Overton, Nevada where we camped on the mesa south and east of town. Beautiful vistas but boy was it windy. We also ran into the only “Ugly American” we saw on our whole 22,000 kilometre trip. I think he had had a little too much bourbon in his life and the effects were pretty near permanent.
While the winter getaway was coming to an end and we headed up to St. George, Utah via Mesquite, Nevada to prepare for our dash towards home. Once you leave southern Utah the weather is a lot cooler so the slow ambling method of travel we have used for the last month or so is unsuitable. It took us three days to get home including some last minute shopping in Great Falls, Montana. We arrived back in Cremona just in time to help celebrate our daughter Rebeccas birthday on the 28th of March.