RV Life: Costs and Experiences during 56 Days on the Road

We’ve been home now for 5 days, and although I’m not nearly caught up on a few jobs, I want to give you a global look at the trip, including a summary of costs that may help you with RV trip planning.

The Route

We travelled 4,992 miles (8,034 kilometers) in the motorhome, another few hundred in the Tracker (I didn’t keep track of the mileage on it). I made this map before I started, and it’s still substantially correct – click on it for a larger version. Part 1 was 3 weeks with just me and the fur-kids, Part 2 was the 5 weeks after Cathy joined us in Kelowna.

Map - RV trip around BC and Alberta

The Costs

We spent $2,988.17 for 2,742 liters (603 Imperial gallons) of gas for the RV, which got 8.3 miles per gallon. That mpg is a bit less than I planned on for the RV but not much and I’m not unhappy about it. We also spent $430.67 for gas in the Tracker, which gets much better mileage, though I have no idea what. The average price of gas was $1.09 per liter, with the lowest (not counting our commercial cardlocks in Watson Lake and Whitehorse) being Dawson Creek at $0.979, and the highest being Dease Lake at $1.319.

We stayed at rest areas, pullouts, parking lots and free campgrounds for 14 nights – costing a total of $0
We stayed at Provincial Park campgrounds for 17 nights, costing a total of $486.00.
We stayed at a National Park campground for 3 nights, costing a total of $114.80.
We stayed at commercial campgrounds for 21 nights, costing a total of $693.95.
The total cost for 55 nights accommodation was $1,294.75, an average of $23.45 per night.
For more information about our overnights (pullout locations, park names and prices, etc., I’ve created a pdf (29Kb).

Attractions: $208.10, most of which was the Jasper Tram and Calgary Zoo.

We spent about $1,300 on restaurant meals, wine, etc., and another $785 on groceries for meals we cooked ourselves. However, the motorhome was well stocked when I left home, and I hardly spent anything on food for the 3 weeks I was travelling alone.

We had some repairs done:
– repaired a rock chip in the windshield: $50.39
– the badly-installed RV windshields had to be re-done: cost to us $0
– damage to cabinets, mostly broken hinges and struts from crashing into a deer: ca. $30.
– broken dishes from the deer crash: $75.
– we replaced the windshield in the Tracker: $376, but that’s been broken for years.
– the kitchen faucet had to be replaced when high water pressure blew the cartridge out (I have a pressure reducer to prevent such things but it wasn’t on the hose – DOH!): $70.
– welding the towbar bracket on the Tracker, which broke on the last nasty day on the Alaska Highway: $50. I would rather have replaced the part, but Roadmaster wouldn’t sell me just that part – it’s either the entire $400 kit or nothing. Thumbs down to Roadmaster.

“Working”

I spent about 120 hours writing 40 blog posts with almost 900 photos (of the 5,527 photos in my folders after editing). The first post of the trip was on April 26th.

The Experiences

Cathy and I have discussed what the best experiences were, and can’t even come up with a short list – there were just so many. For me, Tumbler Ridge, Farwell Canyon (seen below), and Bella Coola were the places that I most wished that I had more time. The Ancient Forest gets special note as the place that most impressed me as a show of what volunteers can accomplish in a spiritually powerful place. Our grizzly encounter on the Icefields Parkway was one that neither of us will ever forget (in positive ways except for seeing how stupid people can be).

RV at Farwell, Canyon, BC

Three negative experiences have stayed with me – being attacked by the black bear at Tumbler Ridge, killing the deer at Yale, and the jerk who gave us grief about our campsite at Meziadin. The jerk will soon vanish from my memory, but the other 2 are “lifers”.

The RV & Toad

After 2 solid months in it, Cathy and I are convinced that the motorhome we chose is perfect for us – the only thing that I plan to add is a hydraulic lift to carry my motorcycle. The motorhome is a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A with 2 slideouts. It’s powered by an 8.1-liter Chevy Workhorse gas engine, with an Allison automatic transmission with overdrive. You can see a full tour of it as well as a discussion about our lengthy shopping process here. The photo below is from a previous trip to Kluane Lake – I didn’t take the canoe this time.

RV at Kluane Lake, Yukon

What did I not bring that I should have? A short list of tools that are now on a “Must-bring” list, and the canoe.

The final comment is about the old Tracker, which Cathy bought new in 2001. She’d like a new car, but I think that I’ve convinced her that the Tracker is perfect as a motorhome toad/4×4. Crashing through the brush and rock-crawling to get to the abandoned rail line in Gnat Pass in particular was the sort of thing we can only do with a small and old vehicle. Even some of the gravel-road day-trips such as the one around the Gang Ranch, however, were not ones that I’d like to take a new car on.

The real summary for us is that the trip was near perfect. Averaging only 143 km (89 mi) per day was a nice pace, and we stopped pretty much whenever we wanted for as long as we wanted. Most people think that after 2 months on the road, getting home was great. It was in a way because we love our home, but we both hated for the trip to end.

Cheers! 🙂

RV at Whistlers Campground in Jasper


The Final Days: Boya Lake to Teslin Lake and Whitehorse

This is the final post about our experiences on the trip, though I’ll post a summary with some costs, and high points and low points. This post, post #40 from the trip, covers our final 3 days driving from Lower Gnat Lake to Boya Lake to Teslin Lake to Whitehorse – Days 54, 55, and 56.

This maps shows the route for the last 3 days – click on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Lower Gnat Lake to Boya Lake to Teslin Lake to Whitehorse

Once my railway exploring was finished at Gnat Pass on Thursday morning (June 16th), we headed north on Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Our destination was the campground at Boya Lake Provincial Park, one of the highest-rated campgrounds in BC. It would be an easy day, only 177 km (110 miles). We stopped at Dease Lake for a load of fuel and a rather dismal breakfast at the commercial centre of town which includes a Petro-Can station and a large “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it” sort of store that includes a “cafe”. There had been an excellent restaurant next door, but I was disappointed to find it closed. Cathy was told that the young man who opened it had a bad back and couldn’t handle the work 🙁

I shot this photo at 11:20 along one of my favourite sections of the Stewart-Cassiar.

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Jade City

Cathy wanted to stop at Jade City (the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store), now even more famous than before due to the TV series Jade Fever which we watch.

Jade City on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Cool chess set. I found their jewellery prices to be very high, so I can only imagine what they want for this.

Jade City on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
This young fellow setting up a template to cut some jade outside was very chatty, and we talked about jade for a while. My Dad and my older brother and I used to hunt for jade in the Coquihalla Valley decades ago, and then make it into jewellery in a big shop Dad had built in our back yard in Surrey.

Jade City on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Boya Lake Provincial Park

We reached Boya Lake Provincial Park at about 12:30. It’s a couple of kilometers off the highway, down this pleasant paved road.

Access road to Boya Lake Provincial Park
We were soon comfortably set up in a lakeside campsite, #31. Looking over all the sites later, we think that #31 is the best site in the campground, with a great beach access and a superb view.

RV in the campground at Boya Lake Provincial Park, BC
Once we were set up, I drove back to the entrance to register and pay the $20 nightly fee. You can also just wait for the operator to come around in the evening. I discovered that they also have canoe rentals, at $15 for 2 hours, $20 for 4 hours.

Canoes for rent at the campground at Boya Lake Provincial Park, BC
I’d been to Boya Lake before, but never on a sunny day. The colour of the lake in the sun is quite incredible. BC Parks says that: “The lake is noted for its colour and clarity. The bottom is composed of marl, a mixture of silt and shell fragments. The crystal clear waters and aqua-marine lake colour are a result of the light reflecting from the marl bottom.”

Boya Lake
This photo and the one above were shot right from the beach 50 feet or so from our campsite.

Boya Lake
The water wasn’t quite warm enough for me to go swimming, but Bella had a ball chasing balls and this big beaver-chewed stick. Tucker went in, but not swimming – he’s still isn’t a big fan.

Our puppy Bella retrieving a stick from Boya Lake
The rocks still have a layer of silt on them, but I rather expect that that will be gone after a few weeks of summer activity. There were hundreds of tiny fish visible, especially in the marshy area beside us. There were some bugs, but not bad – certainly nothing like Meziadin Lake had been.

The clear waters of Boya Lake, BC
A sign 100 feet from campsite said “Boya Lake shore trail 1.5 km return”. It’s a lovely trail, but is far longer than stated – maybe 1.5 km each way.

Boya Lake shore trail
The trail loops at the far end but there’s no real destination like a great beach, just some beautiful views and lots of flowers.

Boya Lake shore trail
We had a wonderful evening around a campfire, but by 8:00 pm this storm was moving in…


…and we were soon forced to move inside for a few games of Scrabble. Like a certain wanna-be politician, Cathy knows words, she has the best words. 🙂

Playing Scrabble in the RV
A large Class A motorhome that arrived that evening had a very bad experience. He backed into the picnic table, and tore a couple of inches off about 3 feet of the bottom of the fiberglass back fender, as well as doing a lot of damage to the table. It sure made an awful noise as it was being torn off 🙁

Damage to a picnic table from a motorhome

We thought about staying at Boya Lake if the sunshine had returned on Friday morning, but that didn’t happen. We were back on the road at around 11:00 as had become our norm. Friday’s route to the Teslin Lake Campground was a rather long one, 339 km (210 mi), and it was made even longer by a lot of strong and gusty headwinds and very rough construction on the Alaska Highway.

Rancheria Falls Recreation Site

By 1:30 I’d had about enough of fighting the winds and bumps so we stopped at Rancheria Falls, a Yukon Recreation Site at Km 1112.8 of the Alaska Highway. A combination of trail and raised boardwalk takes visitors to a pair of small but very scenic waterfalls.

Rancheria Falls, a Yukon Recreation Site
With some walking, some waterfalls, and some lunch, I was soon ready to get going again.

Rancheria Falls, Yukon
Shortly after leaving Rancheria Falls, we encountered the first of a series of strong thunderstorms that continued right to Teslin Lake. Some of the lightning was massive, pretty much filling my field of view, and at one point the winds were so strong I nearly pulled over.

Thunderstorm along the Alaska Highway west of Rancheria

Teslin Lake Campground

A few minutes after reaching the Teslin Lake Campground and getting set up, this storm hit. It’s too bad that the lightning and thunder didn’t get captured, because they were impressive.


By 6:00 the storm had passed and we could get out to enjoy the campground. Back in the Yukon, where nice campgrounds (and firewood) are free for Yukon seniors, and only $12 total for anyone else (or $50 for an annual pass).

Teslin Lake Campground, Yukon
The entrance to the campground is a bit difficult to find. There’s a sign on the highway saying that it’s 2 km ahead, then soon after, another sign saying that there’s a rest area 2 km ahead. About 2 km ahead, there’s a rest area sign at the driveway, but nothing about the campground, whose entrance is in a corner of the rest area.

Teslin Lake Campground, Yukon
The flowers around the campground were about at their peak.

Rose at Teslin Lake Campground, Yukon
The beach at the campground was the best beach we had in the 2 months we were on the road. The kids loved it. They are so incredibly good together – they make me smile a lot 🙂

Dogs on the beach of Teslin Lake, Yukon
A couple of kayakers paddled by at 7:30 – what a great way to spend the evening.

Kayakers on Teslin Lake, Yukon
Jammy-comfort in front of our last campfire of the trip, with a very tired and snuggly puppy.

Snuggling with a puppy in front of a campfire at Teslin Lake Campground, Yukon
The scruffy boys 🙂

Murray Lundberg and his puppy Tucker

Back to Reality

We didn’t leave Teslin until almost noon – neither Cathy nor I wanted this to end. By the time I fueled up the RV and dumped my tanks, it was 2:30 by the time I got home and had a look at some of the jobs ahead. Mowing the lawn was certainly Job #1!


I’ll be posting a summary of the trip – some data, costs and thoughts about the trip and our equipment – tomorrow.



Gnat Pass: Exploring the BC Rail Northern Extension

The plan for Day 53 of the trip – Wednesday, June 15th – was fairly vague. We’d simply leave our beautiful campsite at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park and just drive north on the Stewart-Cassiar until I didn’t feel like going any further. In the back of my mind, though, a look at a long-abandoned BC Rail project was a possibility.

We ended up going 309 km (192 mi) to Lower Gnat Lake, where we parked to overnight in a small pullout with a great view. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Meziadin Lake Provincial Park to Lower Gnat Lake
At 07:30, the day wasn’t looking like much, but we were by then well used to sudden dramatic weather changes at Meziadin.

Rainy morning at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park
By 10:15 as we were getting ready to leave, it was looking like a pretty good travel day. Despite bad bugs (mostly mosquitoes), we’d been extremely happy with our stay at Meziadin, and will certainly be back.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park campground
The highway was in good shape, and with a few short stops along the way, we reached my favourite pullout at Lower Gnat Lake at 3:30 pm, greeted by a strong north wind and a looming rainstorm. It was perfect timing, as I felt like quitting for the day.

Lower Gnat Lake, Stewart-Cassiar Highway, BC
Molly loved this spot – swallows kept landing on the rearview mirrors just inches from her. She was so excited for a while that we thought that her little brain was going to explode! 🙂

Molly the cat on our RV dash
Tucker was happy with his window on the world, too. He was watching ducks on the lake when I shot this. We scanned the slopes for caribou or grizzly, but had no luck.

Tucker watching the world from the RV window
The storm passed by without dropping any moisture on us, so after an early dinner, I unhooked the Tracker to go for a look at the long-abandoned grade of BC Rail’s “Northern Extension” from Fort St. James to Dease Lake.


The BC Rail Northern Dream

Wikipedia has a good summary of the Northern Extension project: “In the 1960s, a new line had been projected to run northwest from Fort St. James to Dease Lake, 412 miles (663 km) away. On October 15, 1973, the first 125 miles (201 km) of the extension to Lovell were opened. The cost of the line was significantly greater than what was estimated, however. Contractors working on the remainder of the line alleged that the railway had misled them regarding the amount of work required so that it could obtain low bids, and took the railway to court.”

“The Dease Lake line was starting to appear increasingly uneconomical. There was a world decline in the demand for asbestos and copper, two main commodities that would be hauled over the line. As well, the Cassiar Highway that already served Dease Lake had recently been upgraded. Combined with the increasing construction costs, the Dease Lake line could no longer be justified. Construction stopped on April 5, 1977. Track had been laid to Jackson, 263 miles (423 km) past Fort St. James, and clearing and grading were in progress on the rest of the extension. It had cost $168 million to that point, well over twice the initial estimate. The trackbed can be seen on Google Earth all the way to Dease Lake, via the small towns of Leo Creek and Takla Landing.”

The access from the highway to the grade running south from Gnat Pass is the sort of route that makes me fight getting a new toad for the motorhome. A few more scratches on the very-well-travelled Tracker don’t matter. Very few vehicles can be towed “4 down”, that is without a trailer or dolly, and some of the vehicles she’s looking at (like this one) wouldn’t be going into any bush!

After some bush-crashing and rock-crawling, though, we were soon on the rail grade, which is well used by ATVs at that point. My impression is that the grade has been purposely cut in a few places to limit access by hunters, though pretty well all hunters up here have ATVs now. A pickup, though, couldn’t cross one particular rocky ledge that the little Tracker barely got across.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
After less than a kilometer, the grade was blocked by a rock collapse in a deep cut. An ATV track led up and around the cut, so I left Cathy and the dogs in the Tracker and went for a hike. The track around the cut was through thick brush, very grizzly-friendly, and I made a lot of noise!

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
There was a couple of hundred yards of wet ground south of the cut. Once I got through it and saw this ahead, though, I knew that this was going to be a very hard hike to turn back from 🙂

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
Some of the fills were nearly 100 feet deep. I’ve always been incredulous that this route was approved, and then abandoned so close to the final destination after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
A telephoto shot of the view to the south, with the Stewart-Cassiar Highway cutting across and dropping down towards the Stikine River, which is only about 30 km (19 mi) from our camping spot.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
This is where I reluctantly turned around. Rail grade cuts can be seen far ahead on the left, and the highway is on the right.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
I had a hard time keeping my mind off the railway that night, and by 08:00 on Thursday morning, I had hiked up to the grade directly above our camping spot.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
Liking what I saw, I went back and got the Tracker, intending to see if I could find the spot where construction actually stopped. Just south of Km 465, a short road took me to the rail grade, which I followed north 0.9 km to this spot. Directly below me is a cut from which the rock had never been hauled away. That was a good indication that I was near the end of the line.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
Continuing north, I drove or walked to the rail grade at a few other points.

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake

The End of the Dream

This appeared to be the end of the line, where construction was halted on April 5, 1977. There’s a large pullout at this spot, just a few hundred meters/yards from Gnat Pass Summit, which tops out at 1,241 meters (4,072 feet). The end of gravel on the Gnat Pass section can be seen in the distance to the south. However, I discovered thanks to a comment here after I posted the blog that there’s more finished or nearly-finished grade between Gnat Pass and Dease Lake – see, for example, this huge loop that gets the line down from the pass. On my next trip down, I’ll try again to find the northern end! 🙂

Grade of the BC Rail Northern Extension south of Dease Lake
Back in 1994, I drove south from Gnat Pass with my Blazer while wandering after the tour bus season had ended. As you can see, the grade then was in great shape – I quit at this point because I ran out of time.

The Dease Lake Extension of BC Rail in 1994

I was surprised to find while researching this post that a bridge had been built across the Stikine River for the railway, and it’s still useable (see photo). About 40 km (25 mi) of the line south of the Stikine River is accessible from a spot near Tatogga Lake, and a brief report at TrailPeak.com talks about it as a great bike route.

BC Parks notes in their information about Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park that “The Ealue Lake Road and Klappan Rail Grade are both unmaintained. Recent rain in August 2015 has increased water flow and washed out sections along the rail grade. These washouts have been temporarily fixed for 4×4 vehicle access.” Motorcycle site DualSport BC has a discussion that, while dating back to 2008, has some good information about the southern part of the line.

My impression from what I’ve learned to this point is that much of the line can still be travelled. Some of it is drivable with a 4×4, much of it by ATV, and even more (perhaps all of it) by mountain bike or even motorcycle. So much to explore, so little time! 🙂

Once I got back to the rig and had breakfast, we headed north again, with 2 only more nights on the road planned before reaching home.



Exploring Hwy 37a, BC’s Glacier Highway to Stewart

Well pleased with our decision to stay at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park for a third night, Day 52 of the trip – Tuesday, June 14th – was going to be laid-back. I did, though, want to spend some time on the Glacier Highway and see if I could reach the toe of the nearby Bear Glacier.

The day was perfect to do some glacier exploration, but I didn’t get away from the campground until almost 10:30, by which time most of the sites had already emptied. I saw one rig leave at 05:30 – that’s some vacation!

Rainy morning at Meziadin Lake campground
That’s the Highways gravel house, at Km 54.8 of Highway 37a (measured from Stewart – it’s 10.2 km from the junction with Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway).

Highways gravel house, at Km 54.8 of Highway 37a
Surprise Creek, at Km 52.8. Fed by both glacier and snow melt as well as rain, the water levels of all the creeks was quite high, which didn’t bode well for my route-search.

Surprise Creek, Glacier Highway 37a
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, BC Highway 37a is called “the Glacier Highway” because you pass by about 20 glaciers and icefields (most unnamed – see map).

Unnamed glacier above BC's Glacier Highway
Given how rapid the retreat of the Bear Glacier has been over the 41 years that I’ve been watching it, I wonder how large this glacier was when I lived here? I should have taken more photos! 🙂

Unnamed glacier above BC's Glacier Highway
The view ahead at Km 45 – Cornice Creek is half a kilometer ahead. Going through these photos again makes me want to drive back there tomorrow for another week or two.

Km of BC's Glacier Highway
Above Cornice Creek is aptly-named Cornice Mountain. What fun those cornices would be for the guys with the avalanche mortars and bombs!

Cornice Mountain, on BC's Glacier Highway
There used to be a lovely rest area overlooking Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier, but it was closed perhaps 20 years ago, not too many years after it was built. I expect that it was because of the danger of avalanches, but the Bear Glacier has also retreated out of sight of the rest area since it was built. The road to it is still open, but Mother Nature is slowly but surely reclaiming the ground.

Road to abandoned rest area along BC's Glacier Highway
A particularly fine waterfall along the road to the former rest area, shot with a fairly long telephoto lens. The brush between the road and it was much too thick to permit an approach, unfortunately.

Waterfall along BC's Glacier Highway
Back on the highway, this is the first view of Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier, at about Km 40.5. It’s hard to imagine now that in the 1940s, the glacier filled the valley – the original road is hundreds of feet above the current one.

Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier
The main glacier viewing area has this sign lit up…

Rockfall Hazard sign along BC's Glacier Highway
…because of this very steep and unstable slope above it.

Unstable slope along BC's Glacier Highway
A rough road leads down to the creek (the head of the Bear River) that I needed to cross to reach the glacier. I was able to wade most of the way across, but the last two channels were too deep, fast, and murky. If I hadn’t been carrying an expensive camera and so afraid of a fall, getting across would probably not be a big problem.

The head of the Bear River
Going downstream looking for a crossing, I found a well-anchored rope across the creek. The creek was both too deep and fast for that crossing, though, camera or not. I gave up the attempt to reach the glacier after about 20 minutes. I’d be back, with a canoe to simply paddle across Strohn Lake with next time.

Anchored rope across the head of the Bear River
The massive base of an old avalanche mortar is visible from the highway at about Km 50, and a short hike to it seemed like a good plan.

Access road to an avalanche mortar along BC's Glacier Highway
I was very surprised by the size of it. Although it’s secured from entry, all electrical equipment has been stripped from it, so I assume that it’s no longer used.

Avalanche mortar along BC's Glacier Highway
Bugs hadn’t been a problem at all during during my wanders so far, but back at the motorhome, the mosquitoes were very bad, so we had lunch inside while hordes of the little beasts licked their chops outside the screen. 🙂

Mosquitoes at Meziadin Lake
Cathy was in the mood for a drive, and there’s a fish ladder on the Meziadin River that I hadn’t been to in many, many years, so we headed out at about 2:00 pm. The one-lane bridge that carries the Stewart-Cassiar Highway over the Nass River always intrigues me, so we started out there. It’s always nice when a tanker truck comes along at the perfect time for the shot I really wanted.

One-lane bridge over the Nass River on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
I had only a vague memory, combined with rather vague directions in The Milepost, of the location of the fish ladder, and the first turn took us to the Meziadin River just downstream from the lake. So we were close, and even knew the general direction to go from there.

Meziadin River just downstream from the lake
The next road took us to what was probably a fish ladder, but it wasn’t the very scenic site that I remembered and wasn’t very accessible, so we kept going along an ever-smaller road.

Fish ladder on the Meziadin River
There, that’s the place I remember! The weir forces most fish into the fish ladder on the near side of the river, though I’ve seen salmon jump the weir. The water, though, was dramatically higher than the last time I saw it. Mission accomplished 🙂

Fish weir on the Meziadin River
It had been an excellent day, and the weather had been good, but as we relaxed outside the RV that evening (with just enough wind to keep the bugs away), a storm approached.

Relaxing outside the RV at Meziadin Lake campground
By 7:30 pm, the winds from the storm forced us inside, and the rain began soon after.

A storm approaching Meziadin Lake campground

On Wednesday, we’d drive north until we felt like stopping, with Gnat Pass, south of Dease Lake, the likely overnight boondocking location.



A Glacier Day at Stewart, BC

At Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, Cathy and I both felt that we were home – back in the North. It looked and smelled familiar, and we soon decided to stay for a third night. On Day 51 of the trip – Monday, June 13th – we’d drive into Stewart for a look, with the main focus for the day being the Salmon Glacier Road.

We put just over 200 km (124 mi) on the Tracker during the day. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Meziadin Lake to Stewart and the Salmon Glacier
I was up early, and by 06:00 when I shot this photo from our campsite, the day was looking like it was going to be perfect for touring. It would have been a wonderful morning to have a canoe. While I hadn’t had many days during the trip when I’d wished that I’d brought mine, there were a few.

Early morning at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park
Looking over the campground from the day-use picnic shelter on a bench above the lake, at 08:35.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park campground

The Glacier Highway

We started the 65 km drive into Stewart just after 10:00. BC Highway 37a is called “the Glacier Highway” because you pass by about 20 glaciers and icefields (most unnamed – see map). There are also apparently 72 avalanche paths, some of which cause the highway to be closed even now and then during the winter. Below all the ice, snow, and bare granite, the vegetation is lush, a vibrant green that almost glows. I love this country! I believe this is Entrance Peak (because it’s the entrance to Bear Pass, I expect).

Mountain scenery along BC's Glacier Highway
There appears to be some superb glacier-access hiking until you get close and look at the vegetation – there are no trails, and this is very tough country to bushwhack through.

Unnamed glacier along BC's Glacier Highway
This tongue of the Bear Glacier (Bear River Glacier on the topographical maps) is the heart of Bear Glacier Provincial Park, which was just created in 2000. It flows from the massive Cambria Icefield east of Stewart. I’ve posted 5 photos that I shot between 1975 and 2015 to show the dramatic retreat of the Bear Glacier.

The Bear Glacier (Bear River Glacier)
The tongue of the glacier. I really want to get over there, but haven’t seen an easy way across Strohn Lake or the Bear River yet. The names in this area add to the confusion caused by the topography – Strohn Creek doesn’t flow from Strohn Lake, the Bear River does.

The tongue of the Bear Glacier, BC

Stewart

We didn’t spend much time stopping along the highway, and crossed the final Bear River bridge into Stewart at 11:00.

Welcome

Our first stop in Stewart was the visitor information centre, to pick up a copy of the excellent Glacier Highway and Salmon Glacier Self Guided Auto Tour booklet (which can be downloaded at that link).

I was pleased to see across the street that Stewart once again has a newspaper, the Stewart Times, which was started a few weeks ago by Mary Mandelin.

The Stewart Times newspaper office
The constant “must” for me whenever I visit Stewart is the estuary boardwalk. It’s apparently 805 meters long (2,641 feet), and a recent extension connects it to the road to Hyder and beyond. There are many interpretive signs along its length, adding to the spectacular views over the estuary to the Portland Canal, the docks, and up to the peaks and glaciers.

The estuary boardwalk at Stewart, BC
The poor old fire hall, afflicted with wet rot, looks worse each time I see it. It used to house the museum, but that’s now been moved to city hall, though the putside artifacts are still at the fire hall.

Historic fire hall in Stewart, BC

We stopped in at the “King Eddie” (the King Edward HoteL) for lunch, and just after 1:00 passed through Hyder on our way to the Salmon Glacier.

The Salmon Glacier Road

Stop #8 on the auto tour is the site of the Riverside Mine, where silver and copper were discovered in 1915. Development began 7 years later, and some 4,000 feet of tunnels were blasted out. In some years, it was the most productive mine in Alaska for silver and copper. It operated intermittently until 1961, but fires and floods had destroyed most of the mine structures by 1987. I recall there being a fair bit at the site when I lived in Stewart in 1975.

The historic Riverside Mine near Hyder, Alaska
Looking down the Salmon River from the Riverside Mine site.

Looking down the Salmon River from the Riverside Mine site
I pulled over to let a pilot car go by, and the large load of mining equipment that followed proved to be a good excuse to drive very slowly up the road.

Mining equipment going up the Salmon Glacier road
This view (Stop #12 – the Premier Mines Viewpoint) is the one that’s most changed since I travelled the road to work every day 41 years ago. On that hillside was the massive Premier Mine, with buildings dating back to about 1918 (see a 1975 photo). The truck full of equipment I was following went up the road behind the building to the left of centre in this photo, but I haven’t yet discovered where it went.

Premier Mines Viewpoint
Looking down on the Salmon River. A very enticing view, but all but impossible to reach except by helicopter.

The Salmon River and a clear glacial pool
The toe of the incredible Salmon Glacier. As with the Bear Glacier, I’ve posted a series of photos showing the dramatic retreat of the Salmon Glacier. I was disappointed to discover at about this point that the road terrified Cathy – if you have a fear of heights, this is not a road you want to be on.

Toe of the Salmon Glacier
I was surprised to see a Sikorsky S-64F SkyCrane slinging loads to what appeared to be a new communications tower above the glacier viewpoint. A 1993 model, the helicopter is operated by Erickson Air-Crane from Oregon.

Sikorsky S-64F SkyCrane slinging loads over the Salmon Glacier
At Km 37.0 on the Salmon Glacier road, which is the main viewpoint, the road has now been closed by the mining company now working the former Tide Lake property of the Granduc Mine where I worked. Last October, I was able to drive a few miles further, but the last time I was able to get right to the Granduc site was 2002.

Km 37.0 on the Salmon Glacier road - closed beyond this point
I was hoping to be able to hike the old Granduc road seen in this photo (it gets much closer to the glacier), but the access to it is now beyond the security gate.

The old Granduc road
I hiked above the viewpoint to get this shot. There’s a vague trail to start but also lots of snow and bare granite to reach this point. I was tempted to keep going, but…

The Salmon Glacier
Starting back down at 2:50, after a much shorter day than I’d planned on.

A waterfall along the Salmon Glacier road
Back in Stewart, the Global Hero was loading a cargo of raw logs. Thanks to the Stewart Times, I know that the 179-meter-long ship is registered in Panama, has a crew of 20 under Captain Pangan Gelera, and that she loaded 31,000 tons of logs for China.

Freighter Global Hero loading raw logs at Stewart, BC

We were back to the campground by about 4:30, and had a quiet evening – there were enough periods with the right conditions to have a campfire for a while (mostly, that meant enough wind to keep the mosquitoes away but not enough to blow us away 🙂 ). For Tuesday, I decided to see if I could get to the toe of the Bear Glacier.



Burns Lake to Smithers and Meziadin Lake Provincial Park

Our final few days of the trip had only the vaguest plan of action, and the weather played a big part in the way they played out. Prince Rupert unfortunately got deleted from the itinerary, as did hiking at Smithers, but all in all it worked out well.

On Days 49 and 50 – Saturday and Sunday, June 11th and 12th – we put a total of 411 km (255 mi) on the motorhome, and a few more on the Tracker. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.


It had poured all night and morning at Burns Lake, so by 10:15 we were hooked up and ready to head west in search of sunshine.

RV leaving Burns Lake in the rain
By the time we stopped at this rest area east of Smithers just before noon, the skies were at least brighter.

Rest area on Highway 16 east of Smithers
Cathy checked RV park reviews as we got close to Smithers, and we decided that the small Glacier View RV Park (20 sites) would be good. It was perfect – we were the first arrivals of the day, and got the site furthest from the highway noise (#20), though it didn’t have the glacier view out the front windows. The park has had a great deal of work done recently, and is very nice, for $31.35 for 30-amp full services.

Glacier View RV Park, Smithers
Cathy and I spent the rest of the day looking around Smithers, enjoying some sun occasionally. When Cathy wanted to go into a kitchen shop, I probably rolled my eyes, but it was me that came out with a bag – they had a good sale on Riedel single-malt whiskey glasses 🙂

Riedel single-malt whiskey glasses
For dinner, I took Cathy to my favourite restaurant in town, the Mexican Trackside Cantina. It was excellent as always (though Cathy makes better margaritas 🙂 ).

Trackside Cantina, Smithers
I had hoped to be able to hike the difficult Glacier Gulch Trail on Sunday, to expand on my Destination BC article about the Twin Falls Recreation Site, and we were open to staying another day to make that happen, but despite a fairly decent weather forecast, and it had potential even at 05:00, the clouds soon lowered and got wet. This photo shot from the RV park at 05:00 shows the Hudson Bay glacier I’d planned to hike to.


We were on the road by about 10:30, with Meziadin Lake Provincial Park the planned destination. Nothing of note happened on the drive, and by about 4:00 pm we were set up in a beautiful site on the shore of Meziadin Lake, with power and good wifi! Yes, good wifi in a provincial park in the middle of nowhere, and yet many (most?) commercial RV parks up here will cry and whine that it just can’t be done. Anyway, good value for $27, and another $5 total for wifi access for as long as you stay.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park

When we arrived, we were the 2nd rig to set up on a spit with about 10 sites, all of which had “Available” tags on the posts. At about 6:00 pm, a camper-truck from Colorado pulled up as I was about the pay the park operator, and he claimed that he had reserved the site we were in. After a couple of minutes of his bitching, including saying that we might have just taken an “Available” tag from another site and put it on ours, I said that I’d pull up stakes and move 20 feet or whatever to one of the other available sites. Perhaps realizing how stupid he sounded, he agreed to take the one beside us. Geez…

Meziadin Lake is beautiful, but sudden violent storms blew through often – this guy took advantage of a calm period to get his canoe out, but didn’t go very far. With high water, there was pretty much no place to land if a wind came up. Mosquitoes were quite bad, so some wind was a good thing.

Canoeing on Meziadin Lake
The park was great for the dogs. Even though there was only a few feet of water access over by the boat dock, there’s lot of good walking.

Boat Dock on Meziadin Lake
With a bit of a breeze, some good bug dope and long sleeves and pants, our first evening at Meziadin was perfect. The next day, we’d day-trip to the two largest glaciers around Stewart.

Campfire at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park


Back to the Fur Trading Days at Fort St. James

Day 48 of the trip – Friday, June 10th – was fun, spending a few hours at a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading fort, and then making a fairly short drive to another lakeside campground.

Cottonwood Park on Stuart Lake at Fort St. James was a lovely spot to wake up at, and at 06:00, it looked like we might have decent weather for the day.

Cottonwood Park at Fort St. James
While the rest of the family slept, I was out wandering just after 06:00. This is the Tom Creek steam shovel, which was built by the Marion Steam Shovel Company in the 1920s. In the mid-1930s it was brought under its own steam to the Fort St. James area by Thomas A. Kelley. It was barged to Takla Landing, then walked 19 miles to Tom Creek, where it worked at a placer gold mine until 1940. It was brought to Cottonwood Park in 1994.

Tom Creek steam shovel at Fort St. James
We were having breakfast at 09:00 when I spotted a potential photo. Walking a couple of hundred feet from the RV, I got this shot of the Ripples of the Past Interpretive Trail and Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church.

Ripples of the Past Interpretive Trail and Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church
Looking back to the campground from near the washrooms. In the foreground is a 1/3 scale Junkers W34 float plane. This type of plane was used by Fort St. James aviation pioneer Russ Baker’s company, Central British Columbia Airways in the late 1940s. Note: various Web sites use several names for Russ Baker’s airline – this photo of Baker and the Junkers from “Bush Flying to Blind Flying” confirms the name I’ve used.


We dawdled around as usual, and after dumping the rig’s tanks and filling the water tank at the free Cottonwood Park sani-station, made the short drive to the Fort St. James National Historic Site.


Our Parks Canada annual pass got us in, and we began our tour with the short film “A Letter Home”, which summarizes the fort’s past. It was the North West Company that built the original fort in 1806 – the second permanent fur trade post west of the Rocky Mountains. Fort St. James became the centre of the northern fur trade district, known as New Caledonia. In July 1821, the North West Company amalgamated with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), and the Fort St. James operation continued on the original site until 1952.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
While student groups can be disruptive to a historic site visit, they can also be fun to watch, and the reality is that student tours make up a large percentage of visitors to some sites, including Fort St. James. Here, some kids are learning about piece en piece building construction.

Piece en piece building construction at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
I’d never known whether the “World Famous Chicken Races” billboard that I’ve passed by many times on Highway 16 was serious. It is – every day at 11:30, five chickens run down a track from their pen to freedom in the open grassy yard.

Chicken races at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
And they’re off!! It’s over in about 3 seconds, but good fun. It was mostly fun watching the chicken-wrangler getting them ready – one was just not in the mood to play 🙂

Chicken races at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
An interpreter was running a kids’ program in the General Warehouse and Fur Storage building (from 1888-89), getting them to guess which animal each fur came from. There’s a small fortune in furs there.

Fur storage at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
We were free to look around the building, which has a wide range of products from the site’s target date of 1896. Included are these boxes of Santa Claus brand “Pile Annihilator”. I wonder if it’s mostly old truckers who take particular notice of products like this? 🙂

Santa Claus brand Pile Annihilator at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
Parks Canada says of the building: “The general warehouse holds the highest designation Parks Canada can bestow on heritage resources. It is perhaps the finest example of Red River framing (or ‘piece-on-piece construction’) in North America.” Today’s warehouse is from the fourth rebuilding of Fort St. James.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
What is now the Men’s House, built of squared timbers in 1884, provided accommodation for temporary and permanent fort employees, as well as occasional visitors. It served first as a clerk’s house, then as a men’s house, and later as a guesthouse, a school, and finally, in the mid-1900s, as a private residence. The newspapers on the wall kept out drafts – they’re reprints of historic papers.

Men's House at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
The views out many of the windows at the fort, looking over Stuart Lake, are extremely nice.

A view out a window at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
Picking through items to decide which ones you’d take with you on a winter trapping expedition was a very interesting process, with some surprises – like a rifle not being on the list.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
The Trade Store and Office was originally built in 1884, but the current structure is a reconstruction, as the original burnt down in 1919.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
The Trade Store and Office was the heart of the fur trade operation, and Barry did a great job of explaining its role, and the processes including replacing money with beaver pelts and porcupine quills.

Trade Store and Office at Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
An HBC clerk was always on duty, so having his bed beside his work desk made life easier.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
Life was very good for HBC officers, as can be seen in the Officers House, another structure from the major 1884 rebuild. A. C. Murray was the Chief Factor here in 1896, so the house reflects his life. This building operates as a B&B once the site closes for the day.

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
A young relative of the Murrays “got in trouble”, and came to Fort St. James to have her baby, later going home with few knowing what had happened, as the Murrays adopted the baby (if I remember the story correctly).

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
“Caution: Jumping Goats” said the sign. They didn’t jump, but they did snuggle 🙂

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
We decided to have lunch at the on-site Commemoration Cafe, prompted by “Mr. Murray’s Chili: This is the best chili you ever ate or your money back. $7.95”. It was very good, but not as good as mine (but I paid 🙂 ).

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC
From the fort, we went back to Cottonwood Park, hooked the Tracker up to the motorhome again, and then it was 175 km (109 mi) to the municipal campground I’d read about in Burns Lake. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Fort St. James to Burns Lake
Following rough directions and then finally some camping signs got us here. This couldn’t be right but we knew we were close, so went for a walk in the rain that had arrived.


The campground was indeed close, at Burns Lake Spirit Square (part of the recreation complex we initially parked at) but you have to turn at the road before the camping sign, not after it. Anyway, we had our choice of sites – no services, lovely view, washrooms close by, and free. Destination BC says that the campground “has seven free tenting sites on Burns Lake”, but as you can see, they are RV-friendly.

Municipal campground, Burns Lake, BC
The view out the window. We took Bella and Tucker for a long walk before the heavy rain started, and we do like the sound of the rain on the roof, but any incentive to look around Burns Lake was soon washed away.


It was good weather for ducks and Canada geese, though, and Molly thoroughly enjoyed her viewing window.

Canada geese at Burns Lake

Cat watching Canada geese at Burns Lake

The plan for Saturday was to make the 90-minute drive to Smithers, where we’d spend the night.



From Purden Lakes Park to Fort St. James

Our route on Day 47 of the trip – Thursday, June 9th – took us west on Highway 16, and after a stop at the Vanderhoof Museum, north on Highway 27 to Fort St. James.

When we first bought the motorhome, I envisioned 240 km (150 mi) as a good mileage for an average day, and that’s worked out to be very good for the way Cathy and I like to travel. The route from Purden Lakes to Fort St. James is 222 km. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Purden Lake Provincial Park to Fort St. James
The campground at Purden Lakes Provincial Park is very nice, though the bugs were fairly bad when we were there.

Purden Lakes Provincial Park, BC
It was a big surprise to find flush toilets in what looked to be old-fashioned outhouses.

Flush toilets in the outhouses at Purden Lakes Provincial Park, BC
I took Bella and Tucker down to the lake and just sat on one of the docks for a while. The welts and wounds from the bugs at Gregg Lake were still bothering me 3 days later.

Bug bites on my feet
We’re pretty consistently one of the last people to leave each campground we go to, and this was no exception – we pulled out right at the 11:00 checkout time. There’s a sani-dump available as you leave the park. There’s a $5 charge, but we didn’t need it anyway – without any conservation measures, we can go a week without services.

RV at sani-dump at Purden Lakes Provincial Park, BC
Heading west on Highway 16 at 11:20. This is pleasant country – nothing dramatic. The stop at The Ancient Forest, however, has given me much more of an appreciation for what’s along the road.

Highway 16 west of Purden Lakes Provincial Park, BC
Approaching Prince George at 11:45. Our only stop there would be a pet shop. The last 2 nights of bad thunderstorms had really bothered Bella, and even bumps in the road were becoming a problem, so we decided to see if we could find a Thundershirt for her in Prince George (it’s an anxiety-reduction shirt that many people get great results from).

Approaching Prince George from the east on Highway 16
Cathy spotted a Total Pet store as we passed it on our route through town, and it wasn’t too hard to go around the block and get into the fairly large parking lot. The staff there was great, and Bella soon had her Thundershirt (for $56.99) – and we had our fingers crossed that it would work for her.

Bella in her new Thundershirt
We fueled up in Vanderhoof ($211 worth, at $1.219 per liter), then went to the Vanderhoof Community Museum, which I’d been to a few times, but never when it was open. A guide greeted us and showed us around the property, which is a “heritage village” of buildings that have been moved here. Many of the buildings have been re-purposed over the years, and the museum has done a good job of showing what the different stages woud have looked like.

Vanderhoof Community Museum
The Vanderhoof school as it would have looked in the 1920s.

Vanderhoof Community Museum
In 1918, R. M. Wade & Co. introduced and patented the gasoline driven one-man drag saw for loggers. It had a wheel on one end, making it possible for one man to operate it by himself. It was originally made by a factory located in Oskosh, Wisconsin. Later production was moved to the Multnomah Iron Works Company in Portland. It was a world famous product, sold in Australia, England and Germany. A Youtube video shows one at work sawing a log.

Wade Drag Saw at the Vanderhoof Community Museum
We left Vanderhoof a little after 3:00 pm, and by 4:00 were set up in Fort St. James at Cottonwood Park, which includes a 10-site municipal campsite right on Stuart Lake. There are no services, but there’s a firepit and picnic table, and the location and view make the $15 fee a bargain. The marina manager keeps an eye out for arrivals and drives over to collect the fee.

RVs camped at Cottonwood Park in Fort St. James, BC
Cottonwood Park was great for the dogs. We played on the beach and then walked a bit of the Ripples of the Past trail that runs in front of the campsites.

Ripples of the Past trail in Fort St. James, BC
Our Lady of Good Hope Church, built by Oblate Father Blanchet in 1873, is one of the oldest Roman Catholic Churches in BC. In 2010, following many years of awful treatment of the Natives who moved to be near the church, the church and land around it were transferred to the Nak’azdli Whut’en, a non-treaty First Nation.

Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Fort St. James, BC
The detail on the church steeple is wonderful. It’s a later addition to the 1873 structure, I believe by Father Morice, who was the church priest from 1885 to 1904.

Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Fort St. James, BC
Enjoying the evening sun with margaritas on the lakeshore at 8:00 pm.


At about 10:30, it looked like another storm was moving in.


The plan for Friday was to have a good look at the Fort St. James fur trading fort, then make the short drive to Burns Lake.



Experiencing an Ancient Forest in BC

On Day 46 – Wednesday, June 8th – we stopped to see BC’s newest Provincial Park, an ancient forest east of Prince George that volunteers have put 14,000 hours into developing. Walking all the trails that have been built among the massive cedars was a powerful experience.

This was a fairly long day – 400 km (250 mi) from our overnight spot at the Freson Bros. grocery store in Hinton to Purden Lakes Provincial Park. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.


We got away from Hinton just after 09:00, heading west on Highway 16 under skies that were far friendlier than had been forecast.

Highway 16 west of Hinton, Alberta
We’d be re-tracing our route for the 80 km to Jasper before continuing on into new country. Three bridges east of Jasper are being rebuilt, but delays were minor. Two vans full of Asian tourists apparently thought that the delays were too long, though, screaming by us on a double solid in a construction area – a few minutes later, we passed them as they were getting out at a photo stop. Idiots.

Bridge rebuild on Hwy 16 east of Jasper
The weather stayed good enough to make a stop at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 meters (12,972 feet).

Mount Robson, BC
Mount Robson has very special memories for Cathy, who spent a few days hiking to and on the mountain about 25 years ago.

Cathy and Bella at Mount Robson, BC
The small interpretive centre on the lower floor of the visitor centre is very good, but few people go down to see it. The history of tourism on the mountain is very interesting.

Interpretive centre at Mount Robson, BC
We’ve seen very few traffic accidents during the trip. This one just west of Mount Robson was an odd one – a semi had gone into the Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park rest area at high speed, lost control, took out three lights, jack-knifed and crossed the highway where he flipped into the ditch. Thank heaven nobody else was involved – or so it seemed from the type of equipment and traffic control being used in the cleanup.

Semi crash on Hwy 16 at Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park rest area
I had read a few weeks ago about the creation of a new provincial park at The Ancient Forest, and it was on my must-see list for the trip. We reached the site just before 3:00 pm, and were surprised to see no signs about it being a park, and by the overgrown picnic area in particular. The steep parking lot wasn’t very rig friendly, but I decided to park on the side of the short access road down by the highway where it’s level, and have a look at what’s there.

Overgrown picnic area at The Ancient Forest, BC
This is the entrance to the forest that’s been developed by the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society of Prince George. The Ancient Forest is part of the Interior Cedar Hemlock forest, the only known inland temperate rainforest in the world.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The first Ancient Forest Interpretive Trail was officially opened on June 4, 2006, and there is now a circuit with a couple of branches, most of it on boardwalks.

The Ancient Forest, BC
Many of the western red cedar here are over 1,000 years old. To get this one in a photo I had to create a panorama with two 18mm verticals. There are many interpretive signs along the trail system.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The beauty and the power of this forest is breathtaking. When I lived in the Fraser Valley 30 years ago, I knew where to find old-growth forests like this, and spent a fair bit of time in them, in places like the lower Carmanah (years before it became a park in 1990), Stein, and Chilliwack River valleys. To once again walk among the ancient ones was a very moving experience.

The Ancient Forest, BC
This story of the saving of this forest goes back to 1990, but it got critical in 2005 when, as Block 486, a license was issued to log it. The paint from the timber cruising done then is still visible on some trees.

The Ancient Forest, BC

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
Here, the boardwalk goes around a fallen giant.

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
A side trail leads to…

Waterfall trail in The Ancient Forest, BC
… a waterfall, Treebeard Falls, 34 meters high.

Waterfall in The Ancient Forest, BC
I’ve seen a lot of this “gold dust” on old trees, but didn’t know until reading a sign in The Ancient Forest that it’s Gold Dust lichen, a delicate species that’s unique to old-growth forests and only found in abundance on trees over 250 years old.

Gold Dust lichen in The Ancient Forest, BC
Protection has been put in place for many trees that have been damaged by people climbing on them. Much of the bark has been torn off the lower part of this tree. Some people just don’t think, even when they come to a place like this.

The Ancient Forest, BC
A great deal of thought has been put into signage, which includes this one: “Look Up At The Cedar Circle In The Sky”.

Look Up At The Cedar Circle In The Sky at The Ancient Forest, BC
And yes, I probably wouldn’t have looked directly up to see it without the sign’s help.

The Cedar Circle In The Sky at The Ancient Forest, BC
Me at “the Big Tree”, which is apparently almost 16 feet in diameter.

The Big Tree in The Ancient Forest, BC
The side trail to The Big Tree goes under another fallen giant – head clearance is almost 6 feet.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The boardwalk-builders had some fun, here putting it tightly between two trees.

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
Cedars sometimes grow in circles of 3 to 5 trees. It’s not known why, though some speculate that a tree starting life in a shady spot will grow laterally in search of light, and can sometimes touch the ground and root itself.

A cedar circle in The Ancient Forest, BC
Walking back to the motorhome after spending an hour and a half at The Ancient Forest. Cathy walked the 500-meter universally accessible boardwalk, and I walked the full circuit and side trails with the exception of the Driscoll Ridge trail, which is 15 km long. All in all, an exceptional stop that I’m sure will remain one of the highlights of the trip.


Just after 5:00 pm, we reached Purden Lake Provincial Park, and were soon set up for the night on a very nice site.

Purden Lake Provincial Park
The flat light didn’t do justice to Purden Lake, which I expect is beautiful on a sunny day. That night, we had another extremely violent lightning storm, though we didn’t see much because we were in a dense forest.


After some discussion about the route home, we decided that historic Fort St. James would be our destination for Thursday.



3 Days Around Hinton, Alberta

Days 43, 44, and 45 of the trip – Sunday through Tuesday, June 5-7, were quiet time with my son and his family in the Hinton area. We had learned in Kelowna how perfect RVs are for having quality family time together, and that was the plan for much of the Hinton-area stay.

On Saturday night, Cathy and I started off at the Hinton/Jasper KOA Campground, where the quality of everything except the wifi is at a very high level – including the view – for $50 per night. On our last visit we’d stayed at the KOA for our entire visit.

Hinton/Jasper KOA Campground
The KOA is very dog-friendly, and the kids had a lot of fun in the agility park – I think that I need to build some of this equipment for them when I get home 🙂

Dog agility park at the Hinton/Jasper KOA Campground
On Sunday, we got the rig ready, took it into town for its first wash in weeks, and did some shopping. Steve had his new trailer loaded at about the same time we finished, so we met in the Walmart parking lot and made the short drive to the Gregg Lake Campground in William A. Switzer Provincial Park. We got a pair of sites in the Fox Den circle that backed onto each other, with power, for $33 each per night.


Once we got set up, we walked the lovely 800-meter trail to Gregg Lake. My grandson, Brock, just turned two, but walks a good dog with no problem – and Gracie is a good dog until there’s a ball or stick to fetch 🙂

Trail to Gregg Lake
There are 3 public areas on Gregg Lake – the boat launch, a tiny gravel swimming beach where no dogs are allowed, and another tiny spot with a gravelled beach, which is where we went. Bella had never had warmish water to swim in before, and loved it. Fetching a ball got her into the water a few times, and then she started swimming just for fun. Steve and Rachel’s old dogs both love the water.

Playing with dogs at Gregg Lake
Tucker had never been swimming at all yet. We got him in the water, but not very deep except a couple of times, and he’s still not a big fan of the idea. And yes, he’s one funny-lookin’ dude when he’s wet! 🙂

Wet puppy
A friend of Steve and Rachel’s came over to our beach on a paddleboard with her kids, and the way the conversation went that evening, it was no surprise when a trip to town on Monday resulted in a kayak coming back with them. I took it for a spin, and it looks like a good investment in fun.

My son and grandson in a kayak
Another couple of the kids’ friends who have a dog and a pair of kayaks joined us on Monday, and it was a wonderful day.

Kayak and dog at Gregg Lake, Alberta

The Gregg Lake Campground is beautiful, and was perfect for what we wanted to do. The downsides to Gregg Lake are its horrible clay-mud bottom everywhere except the two tiny spots where gravel has been poured in, and the bugs. I have never been bitten so badly, or by such a variety of bugs – some tiny bites, some large bleeding wounds. I didn’t see most of the bugs, and don’t even know what they were. Days later, I still itch.

On Tuesday, Rachel had to go to work, and we all headed back to Hinton. Cathy and I stopped at the lovely little lake called Kelley’s Bathtub to walk the 1-km trail around it.

Kelley's Bathtub

In Hinton, Cathy and I parked the motorhome at the Freson Bros. grocery store, and then met the boys for dinner at Boston Pizza a couple of blocks away. Freson not only welcomes RV camping in their lot, they have free and fairly fast wifi that reaches the RV area. It’s where I’ve always done my shopping in Hinton anyway, but that sort of service certainly cements the idea. There’s also a Walmart that allows RV parking, so Hinton makes it very easy to stay longer.

We went over the the kids’ home, were the boys played and played and played 🙂

My grandson playing
…until Brock was so tired that he couldn’t even lift a dessert spoon!

My very tired grandson
Back at Freson Bros. just after 8:00 pm, with a storm moving in.


All hell broke loose that evening, with one of the wildest electrical storms I’ve ever seen. As it started moving away, it occurred to me that I should try to photograph it. Being in a hurry and not being very well set up, the photos I got aren’t much, but I now understand the concept in case I ever see another storm like that. Just set the shutter speed to as slow a speed as you can (this was a hand-held 1/4-second), and shoot continuously – maybe one photo in 40 will have lightning in it.

Lightning storm in Hinton
Looking at the weather forecast for the trip home, we were pretty disappointed to see a great deal of clouds and rain. Oh well…


On Wednesday, we’d start the drive home, with about 11 days to do the 2,300 km (1,429 mi) or so, depending on which detours we took.