When we last left our adventure crew we’d just spent all of our lives on an absolutely gorgeous ferry from Port Hardy, BC, to Prince Rupert, BC, a journey of 325 miles that took around 16 hours. Now we’re setting off into the unknown of British Columbia...
Edit: This was originally posted on 6/30/2020 but due to some breaking Kinja updates had to be sent back in time to 6/28/2020 so edits could be made without adding photo attribution.
After de-boating, we quickly found our hotel which was, frankly, a shithole... but it was cheap... and set about getting some much needed rest.
I woke up early to set about trying to fix the Volvo’s oil leak... again.
I found a nearby curb, popped up onto it, and laid down in some authentic Canadian road grime to see what was up. By all accounts it looked like I needed some 3/8" drive hex bits, a couple extensions, and a u-joint, so after a quick shower to remove aforementioned road grime, I set off to the local NAPA to buy those things.
The NAPA was... strange. Not the strangest NAPA I’ve ever been to, but close. Almost nothing of consequence was on the shelf, relying on the employees to fetch everything from behind the counter/ in the back.
Also everything was really expensive.
I ended up parting with far more of my money than I’d like to admit for some hose clamps, a hex set, a set of drive on ramps, and some other odds and ends.
When I returned to the hotel I found my companions pretty much packed up and ready! We pulled out of the hotel pretty much on time, and quickly hit the highway heading out of town, slightly sad we didn’t have a little more time to poke around a seemingly interesting little town that was Prince Rupert.
Maybe we’ll be back.
But no, we had a big day ahead of us: 304 miles to Stewart, BC.
To be honest, we took a bit of a chance on Stewart. It was a bit out of the way, but looked super interesting on the map and street view....
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The drive out of Port Hardy was misty and intriguing, the fog and the scenery mixing to give us a bit of a peep show of what was to come.
Once again around noon the fog lifted and we hit the town of Terrace for a spot of surprisingly excellent (and cheap) sushi. On the way out we hit up the tourist center slash train station slash founders house.
It was... odd.
Moving on, we’d originally contemplated taking an overland route between Terrace and the Cassiar via something called Nisga’s Highway. However we never could get a good read on just how primitive the drive would be. Some people said it would be no big deal, others indicated we could be killed. With 200 miles still to go, we decided to stay on the road more traveled, and soldiered on.
The cars appeared to be running well. On previous days there was a shocking amount of oil droplets on the rear of the Volvo... and the front of whatever car had the misfortune of being behind me. With no major oil mist on the back of the Volvo and the Tracker seemingly smoking less and less, we were starting to think we were in the clear.
We weren’t, but it was nice to pretend.
We were taken aback a bit by the fuel prices, especially as I’d managed, once again, to buy a vehicle that takes premium gas, but we were warned ahead of time so it didn’t hurt too bad.
Soon enough we hit Kitwanga, the crossroads between the Cassiar highway and Canada Highway 16. If we continued east we’d eventually hit the Alaska Highway proper at Prince George, but instead we turned north on the Cassiar.
Next up we hit Gitwangak Battle Hill, which was... exactly as described. Interesting area, pretty views, cool history.
At this point we were noticing at most stops we were encountering the same people over and over. Ordinarily I’d say this was lazy casting, but as it turns out a lot of people were making this drive with us at approximately the same pace.
We stopped briefly to look at some totem poles. While sort of cool, the town they were in was a bit... much. There were some high school age people walking around with a... karaoke machine(?) trying to engage with us from afar, there was a guy standing on the side of the road staring at the ground, and there was an extreme lack of any other traffic.
We moved along quickly.
Our last stop for the day was at a little park, where we saw our first bear!
It was at this moment, and much to Taylor’s dismay, I dubbed his Celica the “To-go Cup” as I can only imagine it looked like a to-go container for most bears.
Alas, the name didn’t really stick.
Also we discovered the Tracker was still smoking. Must have been a lot of old oil.
Must have been.
The drive into Stewart was truly spectacular. The road was subtly twisty with beautiful hills and mountains on either side. Eventually we were joined by a river of snow melt that has a fog over it.
Unfortunately as we driving we don’t have many photos.
We stopped at Bear Glacier for some photos...
And then soldiered on to Stewart, overjoyed we’d decided to make the trip.
We arrived in Stewart early enough to catch dinner at the only open restaurant, and then settled into our frankly excellent AirBnB for the evening.
In contrast to the last couple of days, Day 7 was meant to be an easy, lazy day with very little planned.
That lasted through breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, we ate at Toastworks, a cafe slash toaster museum in downtown Stewart. They served up some pretty excellent food. We then walked next door to the visitor information center where the lovely hostess bent our ear about Fish Creek and Salmon Glacier, a short 25 mile drive on the other side of the border.
Since we really didn’t have anything else planned that day and we were assured it wouldn’t take more than three or four hours, the other two were sold instantly. I, being a bit more of a stickler for schedule wasn’t convinced.
So we went to see Fish Creek.
But first we had to cross the US/Canada borde-
Oh we just cross here...
Turns out while Hyder, Alaska, is in the US, you can’t really reach the rest of the US from there and as such we don’t have a border checkpoint there.
Fish Creek was indeed a short drive down the road and we could smell it before we even saw signs.
As it turns out salmon breeding is a very... death heavy affair. Apparently sexy time is basically the last thing they do before they die.
Then they die.
While we were warned bears were quite active in this area, we didn’t see any. We did see just a whole bunch of salmon, both alive and dead.
It was truly an odd thing.
After Fish Creek we decided to soldier on to Salmon Glacier as it was only another 20 or so miles away.
Well... as it turns out it was 20 miles of climbing a mountain on a dirt road and crossing into Canada again randomly.
The pace was slow and our cars suffered greatly but the rewards were worth it...
While at the Salmon Glacier overlook we met an odd pair of travelers. They’d noted aloud the Celica was an ideal offroad vehicle, and we laughed. Apparently he’d bought one for his son so he was intimately familiar with its offroading ability.
This start a conversation with these two friends who were doing a massive road trip on motorcycles. One of us offhandedly said “Oh hey so doing your own version of ‘Long Way Round’!”
Yes, that was it exactly.
So it was at this point we had to explain that we were doing a Top Gear style road trip, which they found equally hilarious and serendipitous.
We swapped stories and generally were dumbfounded that in the middle of nowhere we’d come across another group doing a BBC inspired road trip of a lifetime.
They’d also suggested we stop at Boya lake in the next couple days as apparently it is otherworldly.
We said our goodbyes and wound down the mountain and rolled on back towards Stewart. We did briefly stop at the US Post Office in Hyder, AK, so George could mail some tax document and all of us could mail post cards.
After passing through Canadian customs without incident, right around dinner time. So why not. We ate dinner at the same place as the night before. This is the only time we ate two meals at the same place for the entire trip. (Boat excluded.)
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur as we motored on to our overnight stop in Dease Lake. We arrived late and turn in quickly.
Alright, this morning we’ve decided to do car fixing.
I put the Volvo up on ramps so I could do what needed to be done.
George decided it was time to replace the upper radiator balloon.
George was successful.
I was not.
But we did meet a dog!
After cleaning ourselves up, we drove the long distance across the street to the grocery store/ post office/ video rental/ gas station/ restaurant to get lunch/ groceries/ gas.
Then we motored up the Cassiar.
As we trudged north we started to see hints of fall dusting the trees.
We then hit Jade City and Cassiar, the town for which the road got its name.
And then we got to Boya Lake and holy-forking-shirtballs it was pretty. We rented some kayaks and communed with this beautiful glacial lake.
Apparently the bottom of the lake is glacial silt, which is greyish white and allows the lake its unreal blue-green color.
Also I fell in. Turns out I hate kayaks.
After drying off, we made the short drive to Watson Lake.
After an excellent couple of days, this drive was the unceremonious end to the Cassiar Highway that we’d been following north since leaving Prince Rupert. It was also our last full day in British Columbia, having now crossed the border with the Yukon Territories.
The moment passed with minor notice, but in retrospect this was very much the close of a chapter of this trip.
That evening was pretty uneventful and we ended up catching dinner at the Asian restaurant next door, seemingly one of the only two restaurants in the city (as far as we could tell.)
Then we called it a night.
Note: All photos are special to us. All the good ones were probably taken by Taylor. Please do not reuse without permission.