It seems our strike of fair weather is over. Each kilometre southwards added a couple of boring grey patches to the sky. Upon reaching Stewart, once again near the Alaska border, rain (no snow here!) started pouring down. The road leading towards the seaside was rough, but from what we could see, very beautiful.
The little town, with a population of less than 500 people, is surrounded by high cliffs (unfortunately covered in clouds and totally invisible), layered with glaciers (more about that later) and boasts the northernmost ice-free port in Canada (indeed, there was a vessel). It is also supposed to be prime bear-viewing territory, but it seemed all of them were still sound asleep. Stewart, however, is also the gateway to one of Alaska’s smallest ghost-towns: Hyder. Official population: 87, but I counted one hotel owner, one enthousiastic shopkeeper, three random Alaskan weirdos and your everyday angry old man. Why go there? Glaciers. Hyder owns the Salmon glacier, one of the largest road-accessible ice-tongues in the country. The road up was in very, very bad condition. Potholes, snow, ice…you name it. Thank God we had AWD. After 25km of shaking, just 10km away from the Glacier the road was closed with a heavy chain…!! And for what? No idea. It’s not that they maintained the rest it.
Anyway, it was getting late. We turned back, ready to vent our frustration at the border control police. Oh, yes! There is a border control unit, occupied by two Canadians, to check that you are not illegally sneaking into the country. The conversation went like this:
- Hi there!
- Good afternoon.
- How long where you in the US for?
- You mean…like..right now? A couple of hours?
- Did you bring any animals or rocks back with you?
- Yeah, there isn’t much out there, eh! *laughs uncontrollably*
- Ok. Why is the road closed just before the glacier?
- No idea! I am not from around here!
We “set up camp” in Stewart in spent the night, hoping for a better morning. Unfortunately, we were greeted with the same wet weather the next morning. A quick stroll through the backstreets of Hyder (Didem wanted some shots of their shacks) and another border control later, we took off.
In the meantime, I realised that there are a couple of ex-Bornemenaars living in Canada. A few emails later we ended up in the charming town of Smithers. Charming, yes. There were shops, restaurants, bars, you name it! Quite a positive change after tens of boring 5-person villages. Meester Ivan, thanks once again for the warm welcome! 19 years….time flies!
Prince George, an uninspiring but large city further south marks the turning point towards Alberta. We head East to Jasper National Park. The road was, well, quite boring. Forests and mountains, snow, rain and clouds. The weather turned really bad and we decided to relax a couple of days in Valemount, just outside the borders of the park.
The town of Jasper is much like your average European ski-resort. Nice, but fake. The national park and the Rockies, however, are definitely worth seeing. Even in winter, when the lakes are still frozen.
The Glacier Highway took us from Jasper through the center of the Rocky Mountains towards Banff. An amazing trip, which I am sure, is even better in summer when the lakes show their colours.
From a frozen, snow-covered Lake Louise we drove west. See you soon, Canada. This time during the summer season. Next up: sunny Vancouver and Washington – take II!