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July 31, 2010

Cassiar Highway


From Carcross we drove back toward Watson Lake and then took the Cassiar Highway south along the Cassiar, Skeena and Coast Mountains. We stopped for the night at a large rest stop where we found a quiet little spot off the beaten path to park our rigs side by side. Since the Cassiar Highway was a little bumpy in places dad wanted to secure his tow plate once more by taking off the front bumper and replacing and tightening some of the bolts & nuts. We were planning on hitting the road again the next morning but when mom tried to get their slide in it made an awful noise and then wouldn't budge. To make a long mechanical story very short, dad fixed it (like always) but by then it was late in the day so we spent one more night in the rest area. 

In taking the Cassiar Highway rather than backtracking back over the Alaska Highway we were able to save about 130 miles. The highway was completed in 1972 and almost all of it is now asphalt with only a few short gravel breaks. It's generally a narrow, winding, unmarked road with some steep 8% grades in spots but it's also very scenic with the mountain ranges, the wildlife and the wildflowers lining the road.

Just down the highway from the rest area is Jade City where we stopped at the Jade Store. The Cassiar Mountain Range supplies 75% of the world jade market. They had numerous jade pieces and we ended up buying a few of them. We both commented afterward at how much tax was added on to the total price - almost $25 just in taxes alone!

Next stop was Kitwanga and Gitwangak where we were told by a cook (many miles ago in Teslin) that we had to stop and get some fry bread made by the local Indian women. We found it at the other gas station in town that we didn't get gas at (which was 2 cents/litre cheaper than the one we used) and I wasn't impressed. It just tasted like bread that had been fried. It had a little sweetness to it but I thought it would be more like my favorite Elephant Ear which dough that's been rolled flat, fried, buttered and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and it wasn't. Oh well, nice try.

After Kitwanga we hit the Yellowhead Highway heading toward Prince George but we stopped for the night at Burns Lake. Actually, mom saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken and we stopped there. While she was getting her chicken, I stopped in the liquor store and bought beer! I have priorities over fried chicken! While in there I asked the clerk if there was somewhere we could park our rigs for the night that was inexpensive or better yet, free. He told us we might be able to park by the lake and told us how to get there. Since it was right down the road we decided to check it out. We found a nice little municipal park right on the lake. It was one of our first really hot days and so Cooper had a great time retrieving the ball I threw in the lake - again and again and again. I also had the opportunity to talk to a local woman who had lived in the area most of her life. I find Canadians are so friendly.

It was also one of the first places I got the blood sucked out of me by mosquitoes. Although I didn't realize it at the time, they weren't bothersome - I only noticed it later because unlike all the other times I was bitten on this trip, these bites itched like crazy and turned out to be more like very itchy blisters than welts. The mosquito bites I got up north in the Yukon and Alaska didn't itch- maybe because the weather was so much cooler - by day and especially by night.

The park itself was really nice. I liked the brick jogging path with the outdoor fitness machines. I notice Canadians are quite fond of these outdoor fitness parks. I wonder why we don't do more of that here in the states?

Some time during the night I thought I heard thunder and sure enough, when I looked outside the next morning I could see smoke in the distant forest, most likely caused by a lightening strike. The first sign of any fire I've seen on this trip.

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