In the first instalment of our Northern British Columbia Circle route trip we visited an inland rainforest of giant cedar trees and joined the iconic Alaska Highway, stumbling across many interesting vehicles along the way. In the second and concluding part we travel the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake, Yukon and its sign post forest before heading south along the scenic and isolated Stewart-Cassiar Highway.
Mere days before we had left on this trip a section of the highway had been washed out after a beaver dam collapsed causing a bridge and portion of the road to wash out. Given the remote location there was no viable alternate route to take. Luckily, after a few days a detour using an old, disused section of the previous highway was connected and temporarily opened. We had to follow a pilot car through the detour for a few kilometers as each direction took a turn.
We expected a lengthy delay but at least the road was passable. I might be less enthusiastic about the road if I was towing a travel trailer but the truck handled it fine. As it turned it the detour was pretty quick all things considered making it mostly a non-event.
As we re-joined the main highway we passed by this neat bus/motor-home rig. Anyone recognize the brand and model?
Edit – identified as a Flxible “Hi-Level”.
As we continued north and west we came across and passed the Land Rover from the night before. Interestingly it is a right-hand drive diesel powered import with California plates. Given that people flock to the Alaska Highway from around the world there are a huge selection of license plates to be seen.
Welcome to the Yukon for the first time. The highway weaved back and forth between British Columbia and the Yukon many times before sticking to the Yukon and coming to Watson Lake.
Watson Lake is famous for its signpost forest. Often copied this was apparently the first one of its kind and is absolutely huge. The story goes that is was started by a homesick worker who put up a road sign pointing to his hometown which was quickly copied by others. The video above shows a small portion.
There were even a few classics inside the forest including this Canadian Military Pattern vehicle with a crane. Not sure if it was a Chevrolet or Ford.
An International firetruck lurked nearby as well.
Not surprisingly around the sign post forest there was a large number of travel vans from all over the world. This one was the most interesting as was an air cooled Volkswagen that had come from Costa Rica.
I am not sure if they were going north to Alaska or heading back south as my Spanish was about as good as their English.
A four eyed classic Land Rover pickup drove by the sign forest. Someone had combined the earlier inset headlights with the later outset ones giving an unique look.
This Toyota 4Runner was filing up with fuel at the same time as us as we were getting ready to leave Watson Lake. Due to the lack of campgrounds we had found ourselves a day ahead of plans without a place to stay for the evening. While we would have liked to explore the Watson Lake area a bit more we were aiming to stay an extra night at our next campground. Again, we had no reservation so we needed not to arrive at midnight to ensure we could get a spot as it was the only real option for a few several hours.
We headed south on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway which is much less well travelled than the Alaska Highway but possibly even more scenic. We had planned to visit the ghost town of Cassiar but managed to miss the turn off. It is apparently no longer sign posted to discourage visitors. Cassiar was a town founded after an asbestos discovery peaking at a population of 1500 in the Seventies. By the Nineties demand had dropped off and the mine as well as the whole town was auctioned off. Only a few buildings remain to this day.
There was not much beyond the natural scenery along the road but we did manage see this minor cluster of CCs.
We were lucky enough to secure a spot at our intended campground and were able to enjoy a relaxing couple of days with some paddling boarding on a beautiful lake.
Next up was Jade City which, not surprisingly, was named after the jade mining that occurred in the region. “City” was rather optimistic with only a handful of residence and no services. There was an interesting display of retired mining equipment.
Jade City also had a Bedford TM truck likely left behind from the British army in the Eighties or early Nineties.
This UK registered Iveco travel RV was also passing through at the same time. There were a fair number of these serious exploration rigs along with the usual Transit and Sprinter van conversions.
Across the street was Volkswagen in primer as well as a second generation Toyota MR2. What Jade City lacked in population it certainly made up for in CC density.
As we continued south we did our next detour off the main route to the town of Stewart. I have already shared this amazing place so if you have not read the Stewart article I would urge you to take a look.
After a lovely evening and day in Stewart we again headed south coming across the national historic site of Gitwangak Battle Hill. This was the spot of the fortified First Nations village of Daa’ootsip which warrior chief ‘Nekt used as a base to raid surrounding communities. For defence they used the steep terrain and released spiked logs to roll down the hill. Shortly after we joined highway 16 and started heading east. This re-joins the section of the route near the beginning of my motorcycle journey a few years ago but in the reverse direction.
Smithers is a Swiss inspired town that had a number of good CCs including this 1962 Lincoln convertible outside the movie theatre. It looked great even if the large aftermarket rims would not be my choice.
Moments later the boxiest of the Fox-body based Ford Thunderbirds drove by sporting later Mustang rims.
I was very excited to this AMC Pacer.
A peek in the interior revealed what amazing condition it was in.
It packed some V8 punch under that later, face-lifted nose..
What a survivor!
Another small detour off the main highway meant crossing this unique suspension bridge. It is not really visible here but this single file bridge went over a very deep valley. Traffic flow seemed to be up to the drivers themselves to sort out.
This is the third CMP truck of the trip. This time a firetruck and powered by a straight six that would make this one a Chevrolet.
Next to the CMP firetruck was this very old snow machine, a Bosak Super M. These are Canadian made by Mike Bosak in Manitoba.
It comes from the early days of snow machine design and features a rear engine presumably for better traction. The controls look interesting and the overall design differs quite a bit from its modern successors.
We soon found ourselves back in Prince George officially the finishing the circle route but we still had a significant drive left to get home. This classic Jeep shell was being used to attract buyers for its modern offspring.
As we headed back towards the Alberta border the CCs were thinner on the ground, but we still managed to see a few more. This Volkswagen Eurovan looked rather lonely at the back of the parking lot serving the Mount Robson information center.
Also present was this GMC Safari sporting a rather eye catching appearance. There is a company in Calgary, Alberta that rents these wildly painted Astro/Safari vans as no frills, mini RVs so they are not an uncommon but hard to miss sight in the mountains.
Here is Mount Robson itself, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 meters (12972 feet), from the parking lot. Like most mountain photos it is more impressive in person.
After quick stop in Jasper we headed for the last leg of the journey home which was rather uneventful.
In the end we drove 5121 kms (3182.042 miles) over 10 days creating many memories along the way.