On very wet Day 60 of the trip, June 24th, we spent the afternoon driving up what used to be called the Granduc Road out of Stewart. I picked up a copy of the “Glacier Highway and Salmon Glacier Self Guided Auto Tour” brochure (available as a 2.3 MB pdf download) at the Visitor Information Centre, and the very helpful woman there said that the road was only open as far as the Salmon Glacier, the last she heard. I hoped, though, to be able to drive beyond that, perhaps as far as the old Granduc mine site where I worked in 1975.
To orient you, here’s a map of our entire route for the afternoon, from the auto tour brochure.
We left Stewart at 11:15, pausing briefly along the harbor to see if the boom boats were working. No, it was all quiet. It was not a good day to be heading into the mountains, with ragged clouds and a light rain, but it was worth a try.
Northbound along the Salmon River at 10:30.
The clouds were high enough that I was actually pleased with the photo potential. Sunshine is great, of course, but misty clouds like this show the reality of coastal BC and Alaska.
At 7.6 km / 4.7 mile (from the Stewart Visitor Information Centre) is Moose Pond, named for the Loyal Order of Moose, a fraternal organization, not because moose are seen here.
At 10.0 km / 6.2 mile, I stopped for a look at the start of the Titan Trail. This 8-km / 5-mi trail was built to access the Titan Mine in 1922. It looks like a good option on a dry day.
The Titan trailhead parking lot is the ends of pavement. These signs warn that construction can be expected for the next 50 km (which is the entire road). The signs were installed by Pretium Resources, which is set to go into production at the Brucejack gold mine on their Valley of the Kings property at the end of the road this summer. They have built a new access road that joins Highway 37 south of Treaty Creek, though.
The ruins of the Riverside Mine, which began development for silver and copper in 1922, are at 14.1 km / 8.7 mile. It operated with sporadic success until 1961.
At 16.6 km / 10.3 mile, we came to Nine Mile (how odd!). Texas Creek, in the background, joins the Salmon River here. The wreckage of a bridge that provided access to mineral properties in the Texas Creek drainage until 1976 can be seen in the foreground.
At noon, we reached the most unstable part of the road. Slides often close the road here, especially in wet weather.
At 21.0 km / 13.0 mile, we crossed from Alaska back into British Columbia. A small cairn marks the border…
…and you can also see the border cut line. Every 10 years, the entire length of the border from Hyder north is cleared.
This is part of the 31 MW Long Lake Hydroelectric Project.
At the old Premier gold property, a great deal of rock is being moved, though I couldn’t tell for what purpose.
The toe of the massive Salmon Glacier, at about 27.7 km / 17.2 mile. For a rather nasty day, this had turned out extremely well.
On the edge of that cliff, a marmot was surveying his domain. I shot the photo from an adjoining cliff, not with the drone.
At 12:25, we had reached the first of increasingly-large patches of snow alongside the road.
Far below the road, the birth of the Salmon River in a cave at the base of the glacier.
The infinite patterns and the display of power of any glacier, but the Salmon Glacier in particular, fascinate me.
Deepening snow at about 33.0 km.
The Salmon Glacier is the 5th largest glacier in Canada, but is by far the largest with this sort of road access.
The summit viewpoint, at 37.0 km / 22.9 mile. “The Bear-Man” sells Salmon Glacier postcards and books, living there in a tent and going to town once a week or so for groceries. Nice on a warm sunny day, but…
The summit viewpoint was a great place to let the kids have a snow-play, but with distractions and cliffs everywhere, they stayed on leash. They may have thought that we were close to home, because there was snow in their yard when we left in April 🙂
The clouds soon moved in and shut down visibility badly, but the road was open past the summit, so I continued on for a look.
One of the places that I really like on what really is the Granduc Road past the summit is this tunnel. In the winter, and well into summer, the road went through this tunnel to avoid very deep snow that accumulated on the slope to the left. Deep as in 40-60 feet.
The tunnel is about a kilometer long, and when it was in use, air-operated doors were at each end. Our bus driver would open his window and pull on a cable hung at a convenient height to open the doors to get in and out. Last year, I could see the other end of the tunnel, but this year, something was blocking it. As well, I could hear a massive amount of water in the tunnel, pulsing as if it was ocean waves, though no water was visible.
This short video lets you hear the water.
At 41 km, which is about half-way along the outside of the tunnel, I got stopped by deep snow and turned around. It was now 1:20 pm.
One of my goals for this drive up the Granduc Road was to assess the access for a group of fans of John Carpenter’s Antarctic thriller The Thing. It opened in theaters on June 25th, 1982, so I unknowingly missed the 35th Anniversary by one day. Anyway, the group, which has a Facebook page, is planning a 40th anniversary trip to the filming site, which is seen in the next photo. Fifteen years ago, I helped group founder Todd Cameron find the site for a visit in 2003, and I hope to be with the group in 2022.
Due to difficult lighting, I’ve processed some of these photos as HDR images so you can see both the foreground and the snow and ice.
A creek that runs through the filming site has washed out the road that used to go across it, but the two ends of the road both reach the Granduc Road so access to all of the site is easy.
It was raining hard, driven by a strong wind, so I didn’t do any exploring of the site, which still has some helicopter and other wreckage from the filming.
The main road seen here is the original Granduc Road which opened in 1965. It was later moved to the higher route used now, though I haven’t found the date of that re-routing.
The heavy rain certainly made for some wonderful waterfalls all along the road.
Summit Lake was chock full of icebergs.
A final look at the filming site before it vanished into the clouds.
I was surprised to see a guy pulling a fairly large recreational trailer up towards the glacier. While it’s not unreasonable, it was the first one I’d seen in several trips up and down the road.
The Canadian border crossing between Hyder and Stewart, at 2:45. There is no border crossing post going into Alaska, and the Canadian one seems to me to be a ridiculous waste of money.
We went back to the RV park, but then immediately went out for a long walk, to the Bear River and then towards town. It had been a long bumpy road for Bella. Tucker was hanging out the window laughing half the time, but Bella doesn’t like that sort of road at all. It must be a boy thing 🙂
I was happy with the day, but there’s a lot more that I want to see, so I plan to get back again this year, when I see a solid spell of good weather.
Talking to Cathy on the phone that night, I decided to start north the next morning and get home quickly so we could go away for an extra-long Canada Day (July 1st) weekend. Due to poor weather, it turned out to be a very quick trip – 23 hours from Stewart to Whitehorse.