Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Iskut, B.C. - Stop 34 on our Trek North to Alaska

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway offers scenic views of the Cassiar Mountain peaks, some still with snow on top even though it is already August!  These mountains were the scene of the Cassiar Gold Rush from 1872 to 1880.  There is still mining in the area, though now it is mostly for jade.  In fact, 92% of all the world’s jade comes from the Cassiar Mountains.  We stopped at Jade City, a community of about 50 residents and one jade business with its own reality TV Show in Canada.  We got a quick tour and admired the hand-carved jewelry and stone goods.

The roads turned ugly quite quickly, but the views of Mt. Edziza reigning majestically in the sky were lovely.  Simmons Lake was like glass--check out the mirrored reflection.

A glimpse of snow-capped Mt. Edziza

Simmons Lake

We arrived at Mountain Shadow RV Park and Campground, which bills itself as “a slice of heaven in the wilderness.”  How true!  The park is nicely laid out and nestled in a valley, with panoramas of mountains, fields, and a lake for fishing.  The sites are very long with easy access to the Cassiar Highway about 1/3 mile away.  We had 30 amp electric and water at the site.  There is a dump station, but no sewer hookup at the site.  No problem—Dad hooked up the blueboy so Mom could catch up on laundry.  Water pressure at the park was a bit low, though.  Wi-Fi was quite good but there are limits on usage.  Downloading/uploading pictures, streaming, etc., will cause the provider to throttle down the service in accordance with Canada’s Fair Access Policy (sounds like the U.S. Net Neutrality policy to me).  Owners Steve and Anne live on the premises in a charming log ranch home, which is surrounded by cheerful, colorful flower gardens.

We got settled in and were ready to see the area sights.  We had several suggestions from the British Columbia Tourism representative at the Quartzsite RV Show.  When we spoke to Steve and Anne, however, we learned most things the Tourism representative suggested are not truly accessible to the average tourist.

Take Mt. Edziza Provincial Park as an example.  Access is limited to flying in or doing a three-day backcountry hike.  We asked about aircraft services and were told there is only one left in the area.  The other one is out of business since last week, when the plane crashed and the pilot was killed.  I said “pass” on seeing Mt. Edziza, let’s try for Historic Telegraph Creek, a town from the Gold Rush Days.  Well, according to The Milepost, access is via a 70-mile gravel road that is narrow and steep, with many winding descents and switchbacks, many sections with 20 percent grades, and steep ledges.  They caution to take a spare tire—reminds me of McCarthy Road in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  Doesn’t sound like something we can do with Big Boomer or the motorcycles, and we didn’t recommend subjecting Claudia/Mike’s car to this either.

We asked if we could put our canoe in the campground lake.   After all, the sign outside the office mentions “boat rentals”.  The owners responded by suggesting we go north about 15 miles to find a launch into Dease Lake.  Unfortunately, the roads on those 15 miles were pretty awful. There were few hiking trails in the immediate vicinity, and we received warnings from Steve and Anne that the trails were poorly marked since the transmission lines were installed in recent years.  So instead, we just walked along the grounds and to the lake enjoying the fresh, crisp mountain air and the sights and sounds of serenity.

Dad purchased his British Columbia fishing license, so he was quite happy to spend time at the campground lake, where rainbow trout were abundant.  When Mom and I joined him, we could see the fish jumping out of the water!  But none of them made it onto his hook.  Wish I could say the same for the tree branches and logs.  Having no waders with him, Dad had to resort to some hillbilly fishing tactics to unsnag his line.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, but he was successful in saving his rigging setup.

Dad had another little incident while fishing—a visit from a black bear!  Of course, it was the one time he neglected to bring his bear spray with him.  Fortunately, Mom insisted he take a walkie-talkie with him, and he was able to reach Claudia/Mike, who had the other walkie-talkie.   Like the Four Musketeers, one for all and all for one, Mike, Claudia, Mom, and I clamored along the wooded trail to get to the lake to save Dad.  Armed with two cans of bear spray and Dad's shotgun, we were like the Cavalry but with the gun acumen of Elmer Fudd.  We tried to make lots of noise to avoid our own bear encounter.  Fortunately, we reached Dad and the bear was no longer present--the swimming bear was just as surprised as Dad that he had company at the lake. The five of us high-tailed it out of those woods!  Though a little scary, it is just another great adventure from our Trek North to Alaska.

A  black bear taking a dip in the lake--right where Dad was fishing


  1. Sure looks like your getting some nice weather for fabulous views. Don't know if Stewart and Hyder are in your plans but if so the Salmon Glacier is a must do weather permitting. There is a bear viewing area plus you can get Hyderized. We stayed at the Provincial Campground at Meziadin Lake.
    Safe travels!

    1. Oh yes, Stewart and Hyder are on the list, you will see on the next post! Although we did not get Hyderized (Mom and Dad were riding their motorcycles so they opted not to have to call a taxi!)

  2. I think I'd carry bear spray all the time.

    1. Yes Jan, as they say "Don't leave home with out it", Mom and Dad will be making sure it is on them when they wander outside in Boo Boo country again!