Drive to the Ferry – Days 32-36

Totem Poles erected in a field

So with Kluane in our rearview mirror, we could begin to get excited about the next “WOW” destination of the trip, Vancouver Island. There was only one problem, we were nowhere near Vancouver Island!

First, we needed to backtrack 400km across the Yukon, then we would take a highway down the middle of B.C. and then we would cut back to the coast to the port city of Prince Rupert. It was going to be easy. The little lines on the map connected the cities, we just had to drive the road. The reality is far different. Firstly, not all highways are treated equally. Secondly, this was the first section where we really didn’t have accommodations booked. Thirdly, we were coming off the high of having stayed in one place (the Yukon) for 6 full days. And finally, we had to say goodbye to our Nan who was heading home after a short visit. As they might say on the amazing race, this was a tough leg.

We departed from Kluane and stopped in Whitehorse to drop off my mother-in-law at the airport. After some tearful goodbyes, we then retraced our steps to Watson Lake to stay at the same motel attached to a gas station. We slept the night, relishing the running water and loaded up on groceries. In the morning we drove to Iskut. We had trouble getting a place and the woman at the Red Goat Lodge had one room left. She also pounded home that this highway wasn’t like the Alaskan and we should bring in any supplies (i.e. food) we would need on the journey. She was right! We thought there were huge gaps of nothingness on the Alaskan highway but the Stewart-Cassiar Highway took it to the next level. Pamphlets say there are stops but I think they might be exaggerating the worthiness. I’m sorry, Jade City, I have no regrets that we didn’t stop. Anyways at least our sleep was picturesque but it was overcast and rainy most of the day. Driving was slow and we were all in a bad mood. But we got in, had TV and some snacks and a good night sleep.

I had really only seen totem poles at Stanley Park and at museums, so when Paigey suggested taking a detour to see a bunch of them, we figured it would be a good world-schooling moment. We pulled off at the “towns” of Gitanyow and Kitwanga and were floored at what we stumbled across. There were numerous (i.e. 20+) large totems on the side of the road. They were mounted quite majestically in the towns and we enjoyed looking at them. Unfortunately, COVID seems to have shuttered any museums and/or information sites about the totems and the towns themselves weren’t prospering. We did learn that Emily Carr painted some of these monuments.

Next, we were off to Terrace (another place that we only knew about from looking at the map) where we decided to camp in the city campground. The motels we had been staying at on the highway weren’t cheap and $25 a night for a campsite would help the budget. This turned out to be the right call as camping at Ferry Island was the highlight of this segment. The facilities were excellent (warm showers, flush toilets, clean sites) and the park was a welcome respite from the rough town of Terrace just down the highway. The campground is actually on an island in the river and each day there were many fishermen catching fish on the island. Kids loved it and the trails were just the right level for the kids. There were wood carvings on the trails that the kids would race ahead to point out. We did make our way into town to take the kids to the movies (at a 2-screen movie theatre where you could get popcorn and a drink for under $10) and ate at our first White Spot.

We left Terrace and made our way to Prince Rupert where we stopped at the North Pacific Cannery which was awesome. We had a great tour guide who easily handled a tour group of 20 people and still kept the kids engaged. It made Paige and I quite depressed listening to how we have destroyed another marine resource (we went to a similar exhibit years ago on the east coast about the cod fishery). But this museum taught us exactly how to can insane amounts of salmon at an industrial scale. Even Julie can tell you which was the worst job in the cannery and what jobs the First Nations kids had to do. The tour really was spectacular.

Prince Rupert was really just a quick stop for us as we would be taking the ferry to the island the next day.

By the numbers:

Child eating ice cream on rocking horse painted like a cow
  • Distance Traveled: 9921km
  • Ice cream: 1 – Cowpuccino’s in Prince Rupert
  • Car service dealers phoned: 6 – All were booked and couldn’t help with our vehicle dilemma (don’t tell my father, it seems to have fixed itself!)
  • Times we were apologized to in the White Spot due to an inebriated customer making a scene: 4
  • What we scored the sushi restaurant in Prince Rupert: 10/10 it felt like forever since we had a good meal
  • Pieces of clothing ruined by sitting on a rail tie that had tar seeping through it: 3 – my shorts and somehow Izzy got both her pants and shirt tarred

Where we stayed (5 words or less):

Animals Seen

  • 1 Grizzly Bear – It was right next to the campground Paige had vetoed in favour of a motel
  • 1 Fisher – We used our Yukon wildlife guide to identify it
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 10+ Salmon – You could actually see them in the water

Ciao for now,

Mike

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