Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Smithers, B.C. - Stop 36 on our Trek North to Alaska

We encountered another rainy, damp day as we left Stewart and headed down Highway 37 towards Smithers.  Fortunately, the weather improved as we drove on.

The scenery changes from forested wilderness to bucolic hay fields with farm houses and livestock dotting the lands.

We registered at Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, a small but adequate full hook-up campground with an outstanding view of Kathlyn Glacier.

Claudia and Mike, however, had to bypass this portion of our trip and continue on to Prince George.  Their RV fridge crapped out, so they must get it repaired or replaced.  Fortunately, our phone plan includes Canada and we actually had decent service, so they were able to use our phone to make arrangements.  We offered to give them our big freezer for their food, but unfortunately, it will not fit in their rig.  So instead we lent them our big cooler and several 10-lb bags of ice we had on hand.  We provided a safe, cold haven for their treasured halibut in our freezer.   And being a considerate stuffed rat, I offered to eat all the cheese in their fridge so it didn't spoil.  Let's hope the problem can get resolved quickly.

We toured K'san Village and Museum, built in the 1970s by the Gitxsan First Nation.  The Gitxsan, People of the River of Mist, inhabit most of these Skeena River towns, and their ancestors lived on these lands long before any Europeans arrived. These lands are rich in natural resources, including game, fish, trees, and plants, so the Gitxsan were not required to have a nomadic lifestyle and instead established permanent villages.  The Gitxsan are comprised of four clans:  Frog, Wolf, Eagle, and Fireweed, and we toured samples of their red cedar log houses and their artifacts.  They do not allow photography in the museum or cedar log houses, so I can only share photos of their beautiful grounds along the Skeena River.

Like many First Nations, the Gitxsan believe everything in nature, including trees, plants, fish, and animals, has a spirit, and they offer thanks to these spirits for providing them resources.  They express thanks by ensuring no part of a resource is wasted.  So if they kill an animal, they use its meat/hides, bones, and sinew.  The few parts of a natural resource not used are burned to send back to the spirit world.  I like their thinking!  My Grandma always said, "waste not, want not".

I found their uses for plants quite fascinating.  For example, fireweed is eaten as a green vegetable when the plants are small and the stalks are young.  The inside marrow is used as a natural sweetener, particularly to make soapberries more tasty.  Have you ever tasted soapberries?  Yuk!  All the sugar cane plantations in Brazil can't provide enough sweetener to make these edible for me.  But if you can tolerate the taste, they supposedly are used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and indigestion.

The tour was extremely informative and a real bargain for my folks--they learned afterwards that they were charged the "senior citizen" rate ($10 Canadian/person).  I always tell them they look like a couple of old farts!  

We visited the villages of Gitanyow and Kispiox to check out the totem poles, and we stopped at Battle Hill National Historic Site in Kitwanga.  I felt like Rocky Balboa climbing all those stairs!

Gitanyow Totems

Big Boomer admiring Kispiox totem poles

Just a small portion of the stairs at Battle Hill

Touring Historic Hazelton was a bit anti-climatic like the Heritage Tour in Stewart. 
Founded in 1866, many of the buildings/homes are well maintained.   However, there was nothing to access, despite the Visitor Center telling us to visit the Library for free Wi-Fi and the Museum (both closed until 1 p.m.).  If you are a shopper, you will be hard pressed to find anywhere to browse.

The New Hazelton Visitor Center rep told us to stop in the designated parking area to view the Hagwilget Bridge, originally a footbridge built in 1856 of cedar twigs and tree limbs and replaced in 1880, 1913, and 1931 when it became a steel suspension bridge.  However, he neglected to advise that the one-lane bridge was under construction (a delay for us of 20 minutes, which could be as high as 40 minutes if you get caught at the start of the closure).  This didn't provide the best photo opportunities.  We were able to capture the Seven Sisters Mountain Range, though.

Hagwilget Bridge in background

Seven Sisters Mountain Range

Similarly, he said to stop at the parking area on the north side of the bridge to see Hagwilget Canyon.  Unfortunately, the parking area is not accessible now--it is filled with construction equipment.  Hence, our opportunity to photograph the Canyon from this viewpoint vanished.  Fortunately, we caught a glimpse from another area.

Gotta love folks working in Visitor Centers.  I think calling them "information" centers is an oxymoron.  They seem to be the most uninformed people around, not just here but throughout our trip.

I think the giant "I" really stands for "idiot", not "information"

Statue of packer "Cataline"

We did notice that the Information Centers in New Hazelton and Smithers had public dump stations and fresh water spigots.  Good to know if you are a boondockers!

Smithers is a nice-sized town with full amenities--a few restaurants, fast food joints, food stores and fuel stations.  It's "downtown" reminded me of Main Street, USA, with its businesses, eateries, banners, and flowers adorning the streets.

We hiked half of the Perimeter Trail.  This is a 13-kilometer series of wooded and urban trails that take you around the outskirts of Smithers.   We were led to Riverside Park, where they have a municipal campground with water and electric sites.  Although it might be tight for our setup, the sites were more than adequate for the average-sized RV.

Smithers even has an RV Park right on a golf course called Par 3 and RV.  Imagine relaxing on the greens.  Dad would have enjoyed this.  Personally, I equate playing golf to fishing--quite frustrating!

The leaves are already starting to turn golden brown and many have already dropped.  Ugh, summer is coming to an end.   But with the days getting shorter and the skies turning dark, we were privileged to glimpse the Aurora Borealis on Tuesday evening.  Saw some shooting stars, too!  Pretty wild!

Time to hit the road again.  I'll speak to you soon!

1 comment:

  1. OMG! So excited for you that you saw the northern lights! I would love to see even a glimpse! Gary says we probably will before we leave! Hope he's right! Wishing you continued safe travels!