Day 8 July 13 Northern part of the Cassiar Highway

Cassiar N  Day 8_930Our wonderful lake respite just happened to be near the midpoint of the Cassiar Highway. We were on the road again this morning by 7:30, feeling well rested and refreshed from our long afternoon on gorgeous Kinaskan Lake.  From this point on, the road conditions began to shift and we started to encounter more and more rough chip seal with sections of gravel, even a section of rough dirt that was in the process of construction, and several construction zones along Dease Lake.

Gnat Valley looking north the RR was started but never built hereDecided to stop at Iskut for fuel, and paid a whopping $5.40 per gallon (C$) adding $192.50 to the tank to be sure we had plenty of gas to get us to the Highway this afternoon. The scenery north of Kinaskan Lake was again beautiful, with several long narrow lakes parallel to the highway before we climbed into a higher landscape thick with spruce and sphagnum soils and wetlands.  We stopped for photos of the lush, green Gnat Valley, with a large beaver lodge along the creek in the distance. 

more gravel but smooth towards Dease LakeBy mile 294 the construction zone took over and the grades were usually 8 percent and the road was very narrow with NO shoulder, dropping immediately from the road surface nothing.  No room for an oops on this road! Dease Lake was just a small community but was alongside the brilliantly blue and very long Dease Lake to the west.  Again, because of the construction, the rest areas and pull outs were less than inviting, so I didn’t get any shots of Dease Lake.  We crossed the invisible summit of the Arctic Divide, and now all rivers that we see are emptying into the Arctic Ocean instead of the Pacific.

Around mile 330 we entered the Cassiar Mountains, and this time I know the name of the range.  Again, this range has it’s own unique personality, huge like everything in BC, but dominantly formed in serpentinite rock, the source of the Cassiar N  Day 8_971asbestos from the Cassiar Mine, that is no longer in operation.  Where there is serpentine, there usually is jade, both rocks hydrothermally altered from old ocean crust rock at great depths and then squeezed to the surface like a watermelon seed.  Yeah, I stole that line from an old geology book about California’s serpentine belt, but I love it, because it describes it so well.

Because of the construction, we were in a line of vehicles when we passed a beautiful green marsh to the west, punctuated by a cow moose and her calf.  The fifth wheel from Texas pulled into the only available space.  I sure hope they are bloggers and got the photo!  We couldn’t stop so just kept crawling along the gravel road with the rest of the line of cars. 

We are now in the Cassiar Mountains, on smooth gravel, with many lakes and marshes parallel to the road beside us.  I managed to make tuna sandwiches with some chips and a pickle while Mo was being piloted at a reasonably slow pace through the construction.  The gravel Good Hope Lakeis smooth, but dusty, and every time one of those big aggregate haulers goes by, it takes a bit for the dust to settle.  Now THIS is what I thought this trip would be like!

wildflowers in the Gnat ValleyWhat I have learned so far is that it’s possible to see the beautiful wild wilderness of northern British Columbia without ever touching a difficult route.  The Yellowhead Highway all the way from Edmonton to Prince George to Prince Rupert is beautiful, in great shape, and there are state of the art facilities just about everywhere you might need them.  You can then drive north on the Cassiar more than half way to beautiful lakes and provincial parks still on great roads.  Some folks recently discussed avoiding the Alaska trip because of how hard it might be on your rig.  I suggest that those folks check out this beautiful, amazing, fabulous part of British Columbia and the north.

Cassiar N  Day 8_965We, however, still want to do the road, The Alaska Highway, even though I am not entirely sure that I haven’t already seen the best part of the trip. It’s now 1 in the afternoon, we are 78 miles south of the Highway, and plan to stop in at Jade City before continuing north.  More later

It’s now “later”, 3:30 in the afternoon and once again a pristine northern lake has called us in.  After only 180 miles we decided that we needed to take on some water and drove down to Boya Provincial Park.  The park attendant at Kinaskan talked poetically about the beautiful turquoise lake that was right on our route north and said we shouldn’t miss it.  Our night destination was to be somewhere between where we were and Whitehorse, but we knew we wouldn’t make it to Whitehorse.

Checking the maps for campgrounds along the highway between Upper Llaird and Whitehorse yielded a few spots, but not many.  We also aren’t sure of the boondocking options along the main route, and really don’t feel like paying top dollar for a regular crowded RV park tonight. We plan to stop in Whitehorse for a couple of days anyway and will pay the big bucks then for the opportunity to do laundry and get caught up on the internet.

If you look closely, you can see me in the center in the waterCassiar N  Day 8_997

Cassiar N  Day 8_1020Once again we are camped on a lake, and within minutes of setting up the rig, Abby and I were in the water. This time I decided to go for a real swim.  Boya Lake is warmer than most northern BC lakes, and the outside temperature this afternoon hit 82 *F!  Pretty darn warm, and I needed a good bath. Boya Lake is underlain by white marl and is so clear that you can see fish swimming beneath you.  There is an interpretive trail here around the lake that we plan to walk later this evening, but not before I try one more dip in that gorgeous water.Cassiar N  Day 8_1026

I think tonight we won’t unload the kayaks, and just enjoy this beautiful place from the beach.  Might be time for a bit of relaxation that doesn’t include paddling for several hours. The park information kiosk posted weather information for the days ahead, and if they are correct, we will be driving into rainy wet skies as we approach Whitehorse for the next few days.  It will be a good time to clean house, clean ourselves, and do a bit of town stuff before we continue north to Dawson City.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here

Tomorrow: Whitehorse, Yukon Territories

Miles driven today between stop 13 and stop 14: 180

a mix of chip seal and about 1/3 gravel, with several construction zones, no delays.

Kitaskan to Boya lake

Day 7 July 12 The Cassiar

Cassiar  Day 7_744At the moment, I am trying to mentally and emotionally process the difference.  I have traveled and worked in mountains all my life. The big named ranges in the US are familiar to me: The Cascades, The Sierras, The Bitterroots, The Bighorns, The San Gabriel Mountains, The Colorado Rockies, The Smokies.  All magnificent mountains in their own right, each with a distinct personality.  Here I am unsure of the ranges, the names are not even on the scale of map I am using for British Columbia. 

north from Meziadin LakeI have finally decided it is the glaciation that makes the difference.  Huge sheets of ice, miles thick, extending hundreds of miles in all directions once covered these mountains and it shows.  Continental glaciation from 10 to 100 thousand years ago has rounded even some of the highest peaks, and huge piles of glacial debris line the river valleys.  More recently, alpine glaciation has carved jagged ridges, peaks, and hanging valleys.  Avalanche chutes scar slopes that are close to 100 percent, rising at least 1000 feet from where we are driving along the highway to the top of the ridge.

Bell-Irving River southeast Big.  Such a small word for such a concept.  These mountains are big, and they go forever.  We have been driving for days now through the bigness of British Columbia, with not just miles, but hundreds of miles of breathtaking landscapes around every curve. 

Cassiar  Day 7_777The magnificence of the mountains is reflected over and over again in brilliant blue lakes, lily covered ponds, and wild rivers.  British Columbia is also a land of big rivers.

Again, the big word isn’t really “big” enough to describe the power and size of the Skeena River, the Bulkley River, the Bell-Irving River. The “creeks” we cross on one lane wooden platform bridges are as big as many rivers at home. Huge glaciated mountains, small glaciers resting in the summits, powerful strong rivers, wild creeks milky from glacial melt, and forests.  Miles and miles and miles of forests, lodgepole, northern spruce, sitka spruce, fir, and into the subalpine firs of the higher mountains, all shades of green.

Nass River BridgeWe are traveling through all this magnificence on a highway only completed with the building of the Nass Bridge in 1972.  At the moment we are about 175 miles north of the Yellowhead-Cassiar junction and have yet to see a speck of gravel or a single construction zone.  The pavement is smooth as glass, with newly painted yellow lines everywhere except for the few areas of fresh chip seal road.  Even the minimal extent of chip seal is solid and smooth, they just don’t have the lines painted yet.

We woke this morning to utter silence. Surprisingly, with the late night sunset, the sun wasn’t up until 6am this morning. We woke about 5 and after hooking up the Protect-a-Tow were on the road by 7:30.  Not before a moment of entertainment, however.  As we sat sipping our morning tea in the dim light, a pick-up drove up and parked not ten feet from our rig.  We watched for a moment while a man got out and stood on the highway side of his truck looking around a bit strangely.  I finally opened a window and asked if he needed to get past our rig and he said, “No, I’m just taking a whiz”.  Mo and I laughed in astonishment.  Why now, and why here?  There are ten miles in either direction of us with plenty of places to stop.  Did he just need to mark his territory near our truck?  Was he checking to see if anyone was around the rig?  Was he just oblivious?  Too too funny.

First day using the Protect a towEven though Mo drove yesterday, she asked if she could drive again today.  She knows that I want to be taking photos, and day before yesterday I made the mistake of shooting a couple of shots while driving.  Not a good plan.  I promised I wouldn’t do it again, but she said she would rather drive than have to sit doing nothing except letting Jeremy crawl around on her lap.  So Mo is driving and I am finally taking some time to write.  It’s hard to do, however, I keep thinking I will miss something, but magnificence just keeps showing up no matter when I look up, and after awhile I suppose that one more gorgeous glacier on a gorgeous mountain will eventually become redundant.

The bears haven’t read the Milepost, I guess, because so far, except for the two young ones we saw last night, there haven’t been any wildlife sightings on the highway. The sky is such a brilliant gorgeous blue, with tiny puffs of cloud very far away over some of the mountains.  The temperature is about 63F, and every few miles we see another more perfect boondock site or another lake.  Ever few miles or so we see another rig, and have passed a few loaded logging trucks coming south.  One unloaded truck flew past us while we were stopped at the Bell-Irving rest stop, but we have yet to encounter any of the big aggregate trucks that ply the highway.

Meziadin Lake PP campsiteCassiar  Day 7_752We stopped in for a drive-through of Meziadin Provincial Park and Meziadin Lake, a place where we originally planned to camp last night.  It was lovely, $16. Canadian for no hookups, but sites right on the lake.  Manicured, a bit crowded, and nice.  There is a tiny store and supposedly there is WiFi there.  We were glad to have camped free at our silent roadside stop. A bit beyond the Bell-Irving River we came to the Mehan Lake rest stop.  There were picnic tables and trails around the lake, and a spot where we could have launched the kayaks.  Instead, Mo thought she wanted to keep driving, and we know there will be more lakes along the way.  We will see what happens next.

Note: first fairly bumpy chip seal road at mile 208.

Cassiar  Day 7_795Kinaskin Lake our stop for the nightMuch later: I am so glad that we didn’t take the time to kayak Mehan Lake.  We continued up the highway enjoying the changing scenery and at mile 227 the sign for Kinaskan Provincial Park invited us to drive in and take a look.  We certainly didn’t plan to stop this early in the day, after all, it was only noon or so and we had only driven 175 miles since we left. We wanted another boondock night, both to save money, and to enjoy the solitude.

Cassiar  Day 7_892 Kinaskan Lake had other plans for us, though.  The park was nearly empty, with site after site nestled along one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen.  The sun was shining, it was in the mid-70’s, and a lakefront campsite with free firewood beckoned.  We couldn’t resist.  We had our very only kayak launch just feet from the car, and decided that a relaxed afternoon of boating and relaxing shouldn’t be missed.  Huge clouds were threatening a shift in the weather, it could even be raining by tomorrow, so I didn’t want to give up a gorgeous day on a gorgeous lake when we had the chance.

Cassiar  Day 7_804It has been perfect.  We set up, and decided that the lake was so smooth we wanted to go out right away.  A couple perfect hours out on the lake exploring yielded another loon pair, and I practiced with my 200 lens, still unable to get close enough to really catch that great red eye. We then we came home and decided to make an afternoon supper.  After steak on the grill and yummy salad, the gorgeous lake beckoned us again and I said, “Maybe we could just go out and float around and enjoy the reflections?” The paddling was so incredibly perfect, we decided instead to cross the lake, about 2 miles according to the paddle garmin, and we found a beautiful rocky cove on the far side. On the way back, we passed another loon, and later closer to shore, another one serenaded us with his magical call.  The stillness and the reflections on the lake of the wild clouds was incredible.

As perfect as it getsIt only took half an hour to cross the lake, even with me stopping every little bit to take photos.  On our earlier kayak I took the big camera with all the lenses in the Pelican case, but this time I just took the baby camera. This evening has been spent deciding which photos are keepers and which need to be ruthlessly culled. It’s only 8:30 and I had visions of waiting for sunset after ten, but something tells me that a few hours of kayaking and a couple hundred miles of riding is enough for one day.  Mo built a hot sparkly campfire with the free wood provided just across from our site.  It was hot, dry wood and lit immediately, of course we had a couple of fatwood sticks to help it along.  I think I won’t make it to sunset and as soon as the fire dies down I am going to draw the shades against that gorgeous bright sky and go to sleep.Cassiar  Day 7_915

Miles driven today from stop 12 to stop 13: 175

Excellent 2 lane smooth paved with a couple 20 mile sections of well done chip seal, no loose rockCassiar to Kinaskan

Some truly gorgeous photos that you may not want to miss are linked here

Tomorrow: Northern part of the Cassiar Highway

Day 6 July 11 The Yellowhead

Leaving in the morning rainI was so happy that we kayaked in the afternoon yesterday, because by late evening the sky was dark and the clouds were thick with heavy rain.  All night long the rain sang on the roof of the rig but by morning it had slowed to a gentle drip.  By the time we hooked up the Tracker, the rain had stopped, even though the air was still misty.  Today we are traveling the Yellowhead Highway, 16, the route that connects Prince Rupert on the BC coast to Edmonton, Alberta, by way of Prince George. When I was in Prince George in 1973, the road was fairly new, and one day we drove east a bit to just say we had been on it.  I remember lots of snow and ice, and trees, and boring. 

foggy misty morning on the Yellowhead Highway at mile pg119That certainly wasn’t the case today as we traveled west on the Yellowhead.  Fraser Lake to the north of the highway was still shrouded in dark clouds as we passed, but by the time we reached the Lakes District the sun was trying to shine on us.  We stopped at a rest area called Tintagel Cairn, with an interesting stone in the center of the cairn that was from Tintagel Castle in England, supposedly the birthplace of King Arthur.  The sign at the rest stop had maps of what is called the Lakes District.  These lakes are huge, long crevasses in the glaciated landscape, much like the Finger Lakes of New York, but exponentially bigger.  Many of the roads leading to these huge lakes are rough gravel and not advised for RV’s. 

Yellowhead Day 6_562With the cloudy day ahead, we read the Milepost and thought that a visit to the charming little town of Smithers might be fun in addition to a planned visit to the New Hazelton area.  Both towns have excellent visitor centers, a great resource that we try to use often when traveling. The highway was great, smooth and wide, and very little traffic on this Monday morning.  Arriving in Smithers before noon, we found the visitor center and parked across the street, picked up a map of the town, and walked toward Main Street.

Yellowhead Day 6_574Smithers is an interesting mix of tourist town, ski town, mountain bike town, and First Nations town.  There was definitely an interesting mix of people on the streets, and there were a good number of fancy outdoor outfitter shops.  I stepped into one and emerged with a nifty Pelican waterproof case with foam inserts that is made for kayakers and cameras.  Even if it goes in, it floats, and there is some kind of weird pressure release valve that will keep the camera from getting Twin Fallscrushed by the weight of the water.  I don’t expect to be in that kind of water, but am still tickled that I can now take the good camera and telephoto lens out on the lake with a bit less trepidation.

mean angry gorgeous plantWe walked around Smithers for an hour or so and enjoyed a latte and tea from a corner kiosk that tasted wonderful.  In the Milepost we read about Twin Falls, a must see in the Smithers Area and the visitor center provided a nice local map to the Twin Falls Road. As we started up the trail, the sun started to emerge, and glimpses of the snow covered mountains all around Smithers peeked through the clouds.  The hike to the falls was just fifteen minutes or so of incline to the viewing platform, but we decided to go on to the base of the falls. Beautiful.

Yellowhead Day 6_629As we drove back down to town, the sun was out all the way and the mountains west of town took my breath away.  We stopped at an RV wash just north of the main intersection to get the road grime off the Tracker before going back to the visitor center.  There is a free dump, free WiFi, and good water all available and easily accessible.  Since we planned to boondock for the next 2 or 3 days, it was important to start fresh with enough water and clean tanks.  In no time at all, my photos were uploaded and the blog pages that I wrote the previous day were posted.  Sure wish my internet at home was that fast!

Yellowhead Day 6_666Continuing north on Highway 16, we followed the raging Bulkley River past the native village of Moricetown where the native people took advantage of the narrow canyon to trap salmon. Our route continued north and west to “The Hazeltons”, three Yellowhead Day 6_683communities that are centered around Old Hazelton. Situated at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers, Hazelton grew up as a major transportation and navigation center, and a wintering place for miners and prospectors from the daunting Interior.  We crossed the suspension bridge that spans the Bulkley River high above a magnificent canyon, surrounded by craggy, snowcapped mountains.  There is much to see in Old Town Hazelton, but it was getting late in the day and it was time to move on. We stopped in at the local tribal store and filled up for a mere 1.24 per liter, 4.57 per gallon C$  still not sure what the US exchange is right now, but it is somewhere between 4 and 6 percent higher. I bought a half gallon of milk, a bag of chips, and two Haagen Daz bars and it cost me 15.80.  I didn’t get a receipt so I have no clue what particular bit of that package was outrageously priced.

Here we go!It was with some internal excitement that I saw the sign at the junction of the Highway 16 and Highway 37. The Stewart-Cassiar Highway seemed to me to truly be the epitome of wild British Columbia, and we were there at last. Our original plans were to go to Meziadin Provincial Park, about 97 miles north of the junction, and then earlier this morning we decided that we would rather boondock somewhere along the highway.  It was getting close to 7:30 and around mile 50 we started looking in earnest for a place to stop.  We found a small lake, with three campsites, and dropped down into a mosquito infested hole that already had a crusty camper and a crusty dude settling in, and decided that we wanted to be out somewhere alone, not smashed in close to someone else. It was tight in there, so we had to unhook to get back out, and after a few moments of traveling companion backing conversation, we managed to get back on the road. You all know those conversations, and we don’t usually have them, so it was funny when it was over.

first boondock site of the tripboondock on the CassiarWe actually saw two young bears, but even going 50 mph, we had no way to stop to see them, or nowhere to pull off, so it was just a quick sighting and they were gone. Within a couple miles we found another pull off, this time it was just off the road and no one else was around. The sun was still high in the sky, even close to 8 pm, and we lowered the jacks, put out the slide, and in no time at all had our supper on the trays.  Mo went to bed while once more I tried to manage the 200 photos that I took today, and I gave up without writing a word about the day’s travels.  I know that I have to write every day, because it is so very hard to regenerate all we have seen a day later.  The only way I can keep track is with a review of the Milepost and my photos.  I started marking photo sites in the Milepost since my camera doesn’t have GPS capability.  I actually thought about trying to shoot an iPhone shot at each site to get coordinates, but decided that was just plain stupid.  Red pen in the Milepost is working fine.

the Cassiar Highway at mile 52 or so at ten pmI stayed awake until after ten, watching the sun set on the mountains around us and listening to the silence.  An occasional truck would go past, but as the night wore on, I never heard a thing and slept wonderfully.  I think it may have been the quietest, darkest night we have spent on the road.  Perfect.ten pm at the boondock site

Miles driven today from point 7 to point 12 about 275

Road Conditions: 2 lane perfect all the way

yellowhead

I took a LOT of photos today, including some gorgeous wildflowers at our boondock site, the link is here

 TOMORROW: THE CASSIAR HIGHWAY!

Day 5 July 10 The Cariboo Highway to the Yellowhead

And no, it isn’t spelled “caribou” as in the animal.

Cariboo Day 5_518 In the late afternoon shadows on Fraser Lake, we were serenaded by the haunting call of the north, the loon.  I have heard their singular cries often on NatGeo specials, listened as some nature photographer captured the essence of wild northern lakes, but it is the first time I have seen a loon up close on the water.  I couldn’t believe how big he was, and how very loud.  He let us get within a few hundred feet while his mate stayed much father away from us.  I didn’t see any little ones, but with the racket dad was making to draw us away from mom,  I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were out there.

Fraser Lak Day 5_530The water was smooth when we launched, but turned rough and windy, so I was glad that I hadn’t brought the good camera.  For now, the point and shoot is all I will take with me in the kayak unless I can be assured all is glassy smooth.  When I heard the loon, I thought I could maybe get a video with sound, and snapped on the baby camera only to get the dreaded message, “Battery Exhausted”.  Sigh.  I had just put in the new battery before we went out in the boats, but with the power shifts and inverter on/off kind of thing, it somehow wasn’t fully charged.  Yeah, I know, always carry a spare, and I did, in the motorhome.  So no photo of the loon couple.

Cariboo Day 5_509It just started raining a bit ago, and the skies are heavy and dark.  We are settled in quietly at Beaumont Provincial Park on Fraser Lake, about 86 miles west of Prince George on the Cariboo Day 5_510Yellowhead Highway.  We landed about 2:30, with plenty of time to take Abby for a swim and then go for a kayak on the lake before supper.  I thought we might be entering the wilderness when we headed west from PG, but not so much. Evidently this string of lakes along the Yellowhead are popular with the local weekend RVing crowd, since there was a long line of rigs returning east on this Sunday afternoon.  Lucky for us it was Sunday, since the park was almost empty and once again our no-reservation plan is working.  Camping here along the lake is 16 Canadian dollars, for a spot and no hookups, but it is lovely.

Today was my turn to drive, and we actually got out of Clinton at 7:30 this morning, knowing we had a long driving day planned.  I am sure there are sights to be seen along the Cariboo Highway, 97 north, the Gold Road as they call it, but we still are pushing to get north.  I think now we are north enough to move a bit more slowly.  The 335 miles that we logged today covered long straight miles of gorgeous road, much of it newly developed 4 lane highway, smooth as silk and no traffic at all. I am sure we are leaving all that silky road behind us before long, so I appreciated it a lot today.

Cariboo Day 5_487I lived in Prince George for a few months in 1973, and drove there in a very old car with my 4 babies on a long winter night in January. That is another long story that probably will never get told, but I couldn’t help comparing that drive to the one today in utter luxury. In those days I think the road must have been wilder and more terrifying, the wilderness was everywhere.  My first taste of wilderness today was the sound of that loon. 

Cariboo Day 5_500But this morning the sun was shining when we left Clinton.  The one stop that drew us in was the Heritage Display at 108 Mile House. the information center and museum were still closed, but we did enjoy walking around the grounds and admiring the beautiful log buildings that have been so lovingly restored. The “houses” along the Cariboo Highway were developed during the gold rush and gave the weary miners safety, shelter, a bed and some food along the way north.  Still called 100 Mile House, 133 Mile House, 150 Mile House, I’m glad they didn’t try to change the house to something or other Meter House!

Cariboo Day 5_492Since I was driving today, there are fewer photos, and the few times I really wanted to stop for some shots of the flooding Fraser River there absolutely wasn’t a single place to pull off.  The Fraser is a magnificent river, draining the Fraser Plateau all the way to the Pacific Ocean, with a rich and wild history from the fur trappers to the present day.  It was chocolate brown and angry today, filled to the banks from all the recent flooding in the northern part of BC, and carrying all sorts of logs and debris torn from the riverbanks.  It was exciting just to see it.

We crossed the Quesnel River and the drove beside the Fraser through the cute little town of Quesnel.  I remember when I lived in Prince George that I wished we could live in Quesnel.  I had no desire to try to see anything in Prince George.  My memories there weren’t especially good, and the town has quadrupled in size since those days.  I was happy to just drive on the outskirts, hook up to Highway 16 and skip the whole thing.  This is a trip about going north, about wilderness where we can find it, about silence and solitude and big landscapes, not about towns.

Cariboo Day 5_513The rain has stopped, Mo is reading while I write, and I am wondering how long the evening will stay light.  Even with the dark overhanging clouds, I don’t expect darkness to fall anytime soon.  We are glad for the light darkening shades that we have throughout the MoHo, and I think they will come in handy as we continue north.

Cariboo Day 5_522 I don’t have an internet connection tonight, so can’t spend a lot of time looking up things like weather, sunset and sunrise times, or reading blogs and my only job is to write this piece and then drop into bed and try to remember what I was last reading on the Kindle.  Actually, the Kindle remembers for me, good thing, since there are a lot of books that I loaded up before taking off on this journey and I haven’t had a moment to pick it up since we started.

Tomorrow: Smithers and on to the Cassiar Highway

clinton to fraser lakeMiles traveled today: 335

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here

Day 4 July 9 Into the British Columbia desert!

South BC Day 4_371Somehow I never knew that there was a huge part of south central British Columbia that is arid sage country.  The southern part of the Okanogan Valley only receives about 12 inches of rain a year, and the shrub/grassland community is referred to as Canada’s “pocket desert”. It is a beautiful region, filled with wildlife, wine, rivers, and wildflowers, and I would love to come back and spend some extended time exploring.  Today, however, we have other goals.  We are saving most of the exploring for the northern parts of the province, for the Yukon, and for Alaska. 

out the back window at Osoyoos Municipal Park on the Okanogan RiverWe were up early with the light, and were on the road by 8:30 or so after a lovely walk with Abby along the beautiful Lake Osoyoos. We didn’t bother hooking up right away, since the gas station was right at the entrance of the park.  We filled the MoHo again, at 3.79 per gallon and 123 bucks, but it was only half full, not empty.  Sure am glad we aren’t filling an empty tank!  I guess it all works out in the end anyway.  A quick hook up right there in the gas station was easy since no one was coming in behind us, and we were off for our entry into Canada.

South BC Day 4_352The border is barely five miles north of Oroville, and we were ready for our crossing, with passports, registrations, animal health certificates, and rehearsed answers.  Where are we going? “Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska”. The customs officer was a tiny woman with a serious face.  No silly comments, Sue, just keep your mouth shut and don’t offer anything.  Let Mo do the talking.  Fine.  Of course, it was as simple for us as most folks, with a few questions, and not a single comment about the country of origin of our animal food, no questions about wasp spray (yes we carry it instead of pepper spray), and no questions about food except what produce we had.  At that point I piped up with “Five pounds of potatoes, some onions, a bag of carrots, and 2 bags of packaged coleslaw”.  Somehow that answer seemed to satisfy all her other questions and she said, “OK, go on”.

Highway 3 west from OsoyoosOsoyoos is right at the border and has an excellent information center.  We pulled in immediately, and the guides there were really helpful, insisting that we should drive all the way north on 97.  I looked again at our map, and thought, “no, that isn’t the plan” and we turned west on Highway 3 toward Princeton.  It was a great drive, leading us through the beautiful, fertile valley of the Similkameen River, lush and filled with orchards and organic farms, wineries and fruit stands.  We stopped so I could add some good produce to my limited supply for crossing the border and I got some ripe, soft, very red tomatoes, and fresh crisp pickle cukes that were perfect for our supper salad.

stopping for the wildflower photosWe stopped to take photos of the wildflowers, and the roads were in excellent condition for most of the day.  We circumvented Kamloops and the major part of the Okanogan Valley with this route, but also skipped a lot of traffic and Similkameen  Valley organic farmscongestion that we got a little taste of as we passed through Merritt.  I turned off my phone since I don’t want to pay the huge fees for a data plan, so couldn’t use the gas buddy app to figure out where we would get the cheapest gas.  We filled up again in Merritt, and figuring in the exchange of 1.04, and 3.75 liters per US gallon, it cost a whopping  $5.34 per gallon and $156.52 to fill the half full tank one more time.  We laughed and said that maybe we need to sit a day or two so our daily cost can drop a bit! I am using a Capital One credit card while in Canada since, as advertised on TV,  they really don’t charge that exchange fee that some other cards do. I also called them before traveling so hopefully I won’t get denied at the pumps. So far so good.

South BC Day 4_457Emerging from Highway 8, which was perfectly fine to travel, to TransCanada 1, we followed along the huge and very full Thompson River.  The mountains seemed so much like the dry parts of Montana that I was really surprised, and then we would round a curve and there were deeply eroded badlands that looked ever so much like landscapes I have seen in Wyoming or Utah.  Once we were on Highway 97 however, the landscape started to change, with pines showing up, and then suddenly we were back in lush green fir country, and we arrived at the small town of Clinton, BC.

South BC Day 4_459The Gold Trail RV Park here seems to be a popular stop, and it was our choice because we wanted full hookups before we continue north to the Provincial Parks.  It also has our CampClub USA discount, and even on a Saturday night, there was an opening for us. As I mentioned earlier, we decided to travel as much as possible without reservations, and so far it is working.  Gold Trail Park has an interesting vibe, maybe you could call it “down home”?  The owner in “interesting”, and very friendly, and he joked with us a lot while showing us to our site.  Full hookups, and surprisingly level, for $17. Canadian.  (I did use the ATM and my no fee debit card to get some Canadian cash back at the visitor center).  For another 3 bucks in Canadian change I have darn fast WiFi to actually upload photos and catch up on blog posting! 

South BC Day 4_475There is a big bbq buffet  here every night, fairly cheap at 9.95, but Mo and I didn’t really want an all you can eat thing, and decided instead to grill some Alaska cod from the freezer accompanied by the yummy salad from the Similkameen Valley.  (Now I have to go to the internet to look up how to pronounce that name, since who has a clue which syllable get’s the emphasis!) OK, I can’t believe I never knew this, but if you type in “pronounce Similkameen” into the google search bar you will get this. Love it!

South BC Day 4_478After supper we walked the extent of the town down one side and up the other in the evening light.  Right on the Cariboo Highway, the town actually has an interesting history.  Even though it was Saturday night and the museum was closed, the village has great signs throughout with historic photographs of the enterprises that once occupied the empty blocks taken from the same vantage South BC Day 4_471point.  The villagers have pride in their little community as well, with a town notice for clean up day to get ready for the town flower judges who will pass through later this month.  Summer flowers or not, I can’t quite imagine living here through a long, dreary, icy winter. 

The skies have been brilliantly blue so far throughout our trip, but this evening there are some clouds hovering to the north and the forecast may include rain as we continue.  This evening has been quiet and gorgeous, the vistas are all brand new, the faces and people are all different, even the cars don’t look the same.  I’m definitely on a long-distance road trip at last.

Distance driven today: about 255 miles

map to clinton

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.