Exploring the Kitimat-Stikine Area By Car

Well, it's been a very long time since I've posted anything. Here I am in Kitimat at an industrial work camp, craving nature and exploration more than ever. I'm up here for 6 weeks at a stretch and back home for one week. We get Sundays off and the money is amazing, especially for an apprentice like me. I now take home more per week than I used to take home biweekly back in Victoria. But there is one major thing missing ....my regular nature fix. I was a bit bummed when I learned that we weren't working this Monday due to it being a holiday. I would have loved the double time pay. On the other hand I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to take off for two days to explore the area. Looking back at it, I'm glad I didn't work today.

The trip in my trusty (and rusty) little Dixie:

Leave Kitimat Sunday morning
Run some errands and fuel up in Terrace
Head north on the Nisg'a highway (hwy 113)
Head east towards Cranberry Junction from Gitlaxtaadmix (New Ayansh)
Hang a left towards the modern day ghost town of Kitsault (64 km's along a bumpy dirt road from the turnoff)
Hike 3.5 km's into Kitsault at the gate
Hike back out and drive to Stewart, BC / Hyder, Alaska
Stay overnight, then drive back "home" to Kitimat on Monday.

All in all an amazing trip!!!
950 km's total and some stunning scenery and wildlife

12 black bears
2 grey foxes
1 moose
1 marmot
1 black wolf
One spirit bear, aka Kermode bear

Leaving the industrial world behind in Kitimat. It's time for some rejuvenation of the soul. I hope I find some peaceful solitude in nature.

Abandoned homestead in Rosswood north of Terrace on the Nisg'a Highway. No human noises, except for the occasional motor vehicle going by on the adjacent road. The chirping birds kept me company while my soul and spirit thanked me for the respite from an ugly industrial world.

Looking south along Lava Lake along the Nisg'a Highway.

A step back in time. New Aiyansh, BC.

Modern day ghost town of Kitsault. Recreation Centre. The two black dots to the right of the building are black bears.

It was a 1 hour hike into the townsite from the locked gate. I packed up my survival gear, extra food, bear spray and knife and trudged down the gravel road. I took all the turns wide to give me an extra metre or two of sight line in case I should happen upon brother bear along the way. I heard a cracking branch in the bush and the whistle hanging around my neck suddenly found itself in my mouth emitting a shrill shriek. Probably just a branch knocked from a tree by the blustery wind which accompanied me on the walk.

One of the town's inhabitants. There is only a caretaker living in the town, along with the bears and of course this little fox. I was hoping not to be spotted on the way in and asked to leave. But on the uphill hike back out I was wishing for someone to show up and "escort" me to the gate in a motorized vehicle. 3 days later my shin splints are still bothering me on the job site.

There are several of the apartment complexes where the workers used to live. It's all quite spooky and reminds me a bit of the nuclear test site town in the last Indiana Jones movie.

Another beautiful black bear in the Kitsault town site. I have an affinity for bears and always love encountering them. This biggie was probably as curious about me as I was about it. On the hike back out of the town site I had to answer the call of nature. The female of most species are at a disadvantage when it comes to this kind of thing. This squatting business puts us at a distinct disadvantage compared to the male who can have a running start at the first sign of danger. So there I was clutching my bear spray with both hands, pants around my ankles, nervously looking all around me ....OK you had to be there.

Nature doesn't take too long to reassert herself.

The laughter and playful shrieks of children probably filled this playground in the early 80's.

Caution, slippery when poopy.

Old road maintenance equipment.

This little rock slide wasn't there on the way in. To spare my tires from being shredded I got out and cleared part of the road.

The road to Kitsault rises to about 2900' above sea level. It was snowing at times. Three homeys from camp were on their way back, muffler sticking out of the trunk. They decided to turn around after the going got too rough and their muffler decided to forsake them.

Frozen lake on the way to Kitsault. May long weekend.

Feeble attempt at an artistic shot.

View along the road on the way back south from Kitsault. The mountains here are simply stunning. The treeline seems a lot closer to see level and the various roads than what I'm used to further south.

This moose didn't appreciate my presence but grudgingly allowed me to take a few photos before disappearing into the woods.

This was one of the highlights of the trip. A fairly rare kermode bear aka spirit bear. There are only 400 to 1000 of them and they are almost exclusively restricted to the areas surrounding Kitimat, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Hazelton and areas in between. I feel quite privileged to have seen one. We even spent a minute or so looking at each other after it took off into the woods and peered back at me from between two trees.

Old mining town of Stewart. Yes the kermode bear was quite special but it was eclipsed by staying in a motel and having a soak in an actual bathtub. Four weeks in camp with only a shower is taking its' toll on a bath addict like me.

Stewart, BC.

Stewart, BC.

There's one grocery store in Stewart, the Quickee Mart. No sight of Apu.

Abandoned building in Stewart, BC.

Stewart Yacht Club. Stewart, BC / Hyder Alaska have the northernmost ice free seaport in North America.

Wildlife viewing boardwalks in Stewart, BC.

Entering Hyder, Alaska. Permanent population 80. Hyder has no road access to the rest of Alaska nor any other part of the USA. The only road goes straight into Stewart, BC in the south. To the north the road turns to gravel and ends up back in BC in about 9 miles. Canadian mining trucks rumble along from BC mines, through the short stretch in Alaska and back into BC in Stewart.

Pier in Hyder, Alaska. The inlet is shared on either side by Canada and the USA. We are pretty much at the far southern end of the Alaskan panhandle.

This is where you can get Hyderized. Drink a shot of pure grain alcohol, Everclear, and you get a certificate. Been there, done that over 20 years ago. Not interested anymore.

Hyder's main drag. Hyder, even though it's in Alaska and thus part of the USA, uses the Canadian dollar, gasses up its' cars and does its' grocery shopping in Stewart across the border. I had a chat with the traffic control guy at a road construction site. He grew up in Hyder and considers Hyder and Stewart to be one and the same. He also pointed out an interesting little fact. Anyone in Hyder with a criminal record is basically stuck and can't even go shopping for groceries since they can't get into Canada with a record. The only other ways out are to fly with the weekly US mail plane or take a boat to Ketchican, from where they can fly or take another extremely long ferry trip to Bellingham, Washington. He tells me that those with criminal records pretty much just leave town.

Everything was closed on Monday in Hyder, including this souvenir shop.

When I pulled into Stewart Sunday evening I decided to pop into Hyder to see if I could find a cheap motel. It didn't work out and I headed back into Canada. When I was up this way over 20 years ago there was no border checkpoint. Now, much to my surprise, the Canadian side had decided to put up an official border crossing. The young border agent was friendly and asked a few questions before she let me proceed.

The next day, on Monday, things had shifted quite markedly. The young male border agent asked about purchases, weapons, etc. Then he asked me to pop the trunk. As I stood by the back of the car, somewhat puzzled, he asked if there were any valuables which I'd like to remove from the vehicle. I politely indicated that I wasn't quite following what he was saying. Would you like to remove any valuables such as cell phones or laptops from the vehicle before the search he cheerfully asked. I uttered something to the effect that there was a laptop at the front of the car, and no, I did not wish to remove it first, and yes please search all you wish. I stood there dumbfounded as this young, friendly, cheery, and obviously very bored border agent looked through the cargo area of my hatchback. All the while he asked "friendly" questions in an obvious attempt to try and bring out any nervousness in me should I have been a rather lost drug smuggler or gun runner. The only thing I had to be just a tiny bit nervous about was my pepper spray covered up by my hat right in front of the gear shifter. Of course it is a legal product which you can purchase at Canadian Tire and most outdoors stores, along with most hardware stores in the north. But one never knows how an inexperienced, bored, overzealous border agent might react.

Bear Glacier along the road to Stewart. This is only a small part of the vast Cambria Icefield.

Kitwancool Idol.

Weathered totem poles in Kitwancool. This is one of the areas I vividly remember from my previous trip up this way, more than 20 years ago. At that time I had the pleasure of actually seeing a native carver work on a new totem pole.

Reaction ferry from Highway 16 to the USK reserve. This ferry does not have a motor and simply runs along a sturdy cable attached onshore. By changing the angle at which the pontoons cut the current, the ferry moves sideways towards the appropriate shore.

I felt a bit beat after the trip since it was a long one. But it also helped me greatly in dealing with the denatured, soul sucking environment in which I'm now working.


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