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We left our campground at Kleanza Creek Provincial Park and headed east. After passing the Cassier Highway, we reached new roads for us again. Prince George was the next large city on our route, and although there were several provincial parks along the way, most were closed due to fires. Once again we had several hours of smoke, although fortunately it was not quite as bad as it was on the Cassier Highway.
From Prince George, we had wanted to leisurely work our way south and east through the Canadian Rockies, but it seemed like most of British Columbia was on fire. (The 2018 fire season was the worst in BC’s recorded history in acres burned, even worse than the historic 2017 fire season.) Besides the prospect of more thick smoke, there were reports of fires close to the highway along some of our planned route. We’d had enough of smoky roads and fires. So we changed our plans and instead headed directly east from Prince George toward Edmonton instead of south through Yoho, Kootenay and Banff National Parks.
Meziadin Lake Provincial Park was our last stop on the Cassier Highway. We headed south about 100 miles to the highway’s end, where it intersects the Yellowhead Highway. (We had been on the Yellowhead Highway from Jasper to Prince George at the beginning of our trip, but that was well east of where we were now.) Our choice was to head east toward home, or head west about 150 miles to the end of the road in Prince Rupert. And the Prince Rupert area was pretty much the only reason to head west. It would be a 300 mile side-trip, since the only land route toward home would be back the way we came.
We left the beautiful Kinaskin Lake Provincial Park campground in hopes to find bears in Hyder, AK. Stewart, BC is a forty mile side-trip off the Cassier Hwy, and the tiny town of Hyder, Alaska is just across the border. There is not even US customs at the border, although there is Canadian customs when you return to Stewart.
We left our Yukon campground and headed south. Soon, we said our goodbyes to both the Alaska Highway and the Yukon Territory. Although we were excited to drive new (to us) roads on the Cassier Highway, I was a little sad to leave the Alaska Highway for the final time this trip after driving 1,500 miles on it up and back.
The Cassier Highway was in good condition, although it was a bit narrower than the Alaska Highway and without shoulders. (The Alaska Highway varies considerably along its length, but as you’ve seen in the pictures, much of it has some shoulder and most of it is as wide as a typical two-line highway in the lower-48.) Traffic initially was a little heavier than I expected, but still lighter than the Alaska Highway. (I was expecting almost no traffic, but we saw other vehicles at least every few minutes, typically.)
The morning after our train ride, we packed up and started our drive out of Skagway. From the road, we had views of the White Pass and Yukon railroad that we had ridden the day before. Our timing was bad and we didn’t get any shots of trains, but it was still interesting to see the route we had taken the day before from a different perspective.
The weather was still heavy overcast with fog at higher elevations, and parts of the landscape looked otherworldly in the fog. We had heard that the scenery entering and leaving Skagway was spectacular, and it was, even in the fog. The terrain is basically tundra (although different looking than the tundra in Denali) with small trees, lots of lakes, and moss-covered rocks. It’s gorgeous. That said, we’d love to see it when it is not so foggy as I am sure it is probably even more spectacular.
There are two ways to get to Skagway from Haines. You either drive back into Canada, along the Alaska Highway for a while, and then back into Alaska (350 miles of driving), or just take a 45 minute ferry ride. The choice was easy for us. We would save both time and money by taking the ferry. And so with heavy hearts, we left the Chilkoot River and the beautiful bears, and headed for the ferry that was to take us to Skagway.
We were instructed to be at the ferry terminal and register about 2 hours before departure time. So we got there and got into our line (there were several).
After the ferry arrived and emptied out all of its passengers and cars, it was time to start reloading the ferry.
We left our campground on the water and headed a few miles away to find a campsite at the Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site. We found a couple that looked like they might be preparing to leave and asked them if they were. Turns out they were planning to switch to a beautiful site across the road that was on the water, just as soon as it became vacant, so we played musical campsites and occupied their old site as soon as they moved.
Despite not being on the water, our campsite was nice. It was close to the campground entrance, which made our walk down to the weir shorter. The price was also not bad for an Alaska state campground at $15/night. (Some of the SRAs were as high as $25/night for dry camping in campgrounds that were not as nice as this one.)
We had started making our plans for Haines while we were still in Tok and had internet. We knew there would be no internet for the next several days. We thought 3 nights in Haines would be enough and then take the ferry to Skagway instead of driving back into Canada and crossing back into Alaska again. So we started making reservations for a campground, ferry ride to Skagway, and while we were at it, the famous White Pass Summit excursion in Skagway.
There were two campgrounds in town and we chose the smaller one along the waterfront. Who doesn’t love a waterfront view? We needed electric and water and a place to do laundry. This place would work. They only had 2 nights available with hook ups for our stay, but we could dry camp in the front area for the last night if we wanted. We had booked the two nights with services and would figure out the last night later.
After failing our attempt to see a bore tide, it was time to leave Alaska and head to … Alaska. Southern Alaska is purely coastal, and many towns, including the state capitol of Juneau, are reachable only be sea or air. However, there are three towns that have road access from Canada: Haines, Skagway and Hyder.
After Fairbanks and the North Pole, we decided to retrace our steps down the Parks Highway. We learned that the bore tide south of Anchorage in the Turnagain Arm is supposed to be very unique and can be magnificent to see, so we thought we’d head back down and give it a shot.
The bore tide often happens during extreme minus low tides (but isn’t guaranteed). The one in Turnagain arm is one of the largest in the world and the only one bordered by mountains on both sides. The timing looked good as the next several days had promising tides.