A Travellerspoint blog

2017 Happy Trails - Week 13

August 13 thru August 19, Stewart, to Kitwanga, Terrace and Prince Rupert, BC

Sunday, August 13

Drove 134 miles.

Route: East on Highway 37A to Meziadin Junction, BC then southeast on Cassiar Highway to Kitwanga, BC.

Campground: Cassiar RV Park, Kitwanga, BC $40.00

Today we retraced our drive along Highway 37A from Stewart stopping at the Bear Glacier for a few more pictures (different time of day and without the sunshine). Along the way I counted at least seven more glaciers – identifiable by the blue ice.

The blue and lavender colors in the ice were stunning.

After turning southeast onto Cassiar Highway at Meziadin Junction the road was excellent, albeit a little narrow at times. We were making good time travelling the speed limit at 90 to 100 km (55 to 60mph) when suddenly there was a sign for a “narrow bridge ahead – slippery when frosty” and the 1-lane wood plank bridge over the Nass River was upon us. The gorge is 400 feet wide and 130 foot deep on a major highway but a single lane wood plank bridge is all it warrants. Astounding.

We arrived at the campground at 2:00pm and then rode back into the small town of Kitwanga for lunch at the 37 Grille there.

When we returned to the campground we noticed signs for Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Site leading down a path beyond the campground into the forest. We learned it was about a mile down the path but we decided to hike on down to see what it was all about. After about a 20 minute hike, just when the path dropped into a gorge to the river/creek bed I got scared that there might be bears near the river because of the salmon and so I turned around, taking my guard dog Sunshine with me back to the trailer. Tim thought I was being silly and continued fearlessly on down the path.

When he got back he told me he had seen King Salmon as big as his arms’ span, 5 feet plus! And he saw lots of other species too. One of the workers came up on the bridge and explained everything to him. Now I’m sorry I missed it.

Monday, August 14

Drove 2 miles.

Route: To the grocery store in Kitwanga and back

Campground: Cassiar RV Park, Kitwanga, BC $40.00

Surprise! Got a text from Tiffany and they are leaving Hyder, AK this morning and will be here this afternoon.

They nestled their 5th wheel right up next to ours and we had a great visit, catching up and comparing notes on all the places we’ve been and all the experiences we’ve had.

This afternoon the four of us hiked down to the counting site of the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority. It was pretty interesting.
Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility

Kitwanga River

Tim learned yesterday that this is one of the only places in the northwest where all five species of Pacific Salmon come upstream to spawn. It is very interesting how different each of the five species is in terms of its life cycle and spawning activity.
1. Kitwanga Sockeye migrate from the ocean to freshwater of the Kitwanga River as 4 and 5 year old fish to spawn along the shorelines in the fall and then die (approx. 1,700/year). Their eggs and alevin remain in the gravel for the winter before emerging as fry the following spring when they move to the depths of the lake to feed for one year. As smolts they then move downstream to the ocean where they spend three years before returning to the Kitwanga River to spawn.
2. Kitwanga Chinook (aka King Salmon)migrate to the freshwater of the Kitwanga River to spawn as 4 and 5 year old fish also (approx. 2000/year). But they spawn in the main stem of the river, not along the shoreline. Their eggs and alevin spend one year feeding in the Kitwanga and Skeena River main stems and then the smolts migrate to the ocean for three years before returning to freshwater.
3. Kitwanga Chum migrate from the ocean to freshwater as 4 year old fish and spawn in the main stem of the Kitwanga River (approx. 1000/year). Chum fry emerge and immediately migrate to the ocean where they spend 2 to 3 years along the coast feeding before returning to freshwater.
4. Kitwanga Pinks migrate from the ocean to freshwater as 2 year old fish. Odd and even year runs are completely independent of each other and do not interbreed. Odd numbered year runs average 330,000 adults whereas even year runs average only 30,000 adults. They spawn in the main stem and spend the winter in the gravel before the pink fry emerge and immediately migrate to the ocean where they spend 1 year before returning to freshwater.
5. Kitwanga Coho migrate from the ocean to freshwater as 4 year old fish (approx. 4,300/year) and spawn in the upper reaches of the Kitwanga River and its tributary streams. The following spring the fry emerge and rear for 1 to 2 years in beaver ponds upstream of Gitanyow Lake, in the lake itself, and in the slack waters along the Kitwanga River main stem. In the spring the smolts migrate to the ocean where they spend 1 year feeding before returning to freshwater.

We saw a huge King Salmon, bright red, and some other salmon too but the reflections on the water made it difficult to photograph anything but the King.

The counting facility is strategically located at the downstream end of the Kitwanga River, near its confluence with the beautiful Skeena River, because returning Salmon spawn upstream of its location, allowing them to be counted while migrating to their spawning grounds. In a good year over a half a million salmon will be counted here.

We had brought Tiffany’s bear spray along with us so I felt more confident hiking through the woods today than I did yesterday. And there were four of us.
90_IMG_2161.jpglarge_IMG_2162.jpg (last leg of the path returning to campground)

Tuesday, August 15

Drove 0 miles.

Campground: Cassiar RV Park, Kitwanga, BC $40.00

We enjoyed the morning visiting with Tiffany and Jim who were sitting outside after cooking breakfast outdoors on their electric fry pan. We decided we would do a little touring of the area but before we left we heard Jim calling to Tiffany - "Bear!" There was a Black Bear coming out of the woods right behind their trailer! She actually got a picture of it from the trailer door. It went back into the woods but there was my proof - there ARE bears in these woods! We think it was drawn by the smell of frying bacon.

Our friend Jim drove today as we travelled to Gitwangak Battle Hill. This place commemorates the history of a fortified village occupied by the Gitwangak “people of the place of rabbit” during the late 1700s. The Gitwangak are one of the nations of the Gitksen, “People of the Skeena River” or since “Skeena” means River of the Mist they are really the “People of the River of the Mist”.

Anyway, Battle Hill is a hilltop stronghold where the warrior chief ‘Nekt led a series of raids against neighboring coastal First Nations tribes. In response his hilltop village was attacked twice by tribes seeking revenge. He defeated the attackers by rolling spiked logs down upon them. Yikes!

Stairs leading down to the area of the hilltop stronghold seen off in the distance. (Wish I had counted them – there were a lot of steps and we have to climb back up!) Note that Tiffany has her can of Bear Spray handy. I was sticking close by her.

Archaeologists discovered the remnants of five houses measuring 35 by 25 feet each, on the top of the hill. The Kitwanga River flows around the base of the hill so it was not surprising that they also found many salmon bones in the dig site. They also found many rabbit bones - hence the name Gitwangak, "people of the place of rabbit".

Tiffany, Jim and Tim on top of Battle Hill reading the interpretive panels.

(Inside joke: If you try to read this native language out loud it really sounds a lot like Sunshine as she tries to talk to you when you pet her. Maybe she’s really speaking a Gitwangak dialect! LOL)

These precious tiny little, white wildflowers lined the walkway from the stairs to the hilltop.

View of stairs from Battle Hill top. And we have to climb back up!

The day was young yet so we decided to drive east on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16) to the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum in search of some instances of First Nation Totem Poles. Here we found seven traditional long houses and enjoyed a wonderful interpretive tour led by a knowledgeable young First Nation guide. Sadly no pictures were allowed inside the long houses because they were a treasure trove of First Nation artifacts and our young guide brought the typical daily life of a first nation clan to life.

Traditional Gitksen Longhouses and Totem Poles.

At one time in the history of the northwest, settlers in their ignorance thought that the native peoples worshiped the totem poles and so they began burning them down considering it to be a form of idol worship. Actually the totem poles were simply a way of recording their history as the native people have no written language. Their history is largely oral and is maintained through storytelling and with totem poles.

Authentic stick house used for smoking the salmon.

Me getting just the right view to take a picture.

After leaving the Museum we drove into North Hazelton looking for a place to grab some “linner” (as Tiffany calls it) and stumbled upon a gem, Rob’s Pizza Restaurant. They did hand tossed, wood fired pizza and the Quatro Frommage Pizza Tim and I ordered was delicious. A nice glass of Peller Estates Pinot Grigio was a perfect accompaniment.

Driving back to camp we had beautiful views of the Rocher de Boule Mountain Range around the confluence of the Skeena and the Buckley Rivers.

Hagwilget Canyon

Back at the trailer Tiffany surprised me with a birthday cake! Is she sweet or what. And it was delicious.

Wednesday, August 16

Drove 70 miles.

Route: South on Cassiar Highway 37 to the junction with the Yellowhead Highway 16 then west toward the seaport town of Prince Rupert stopping in the town of Terrace, BC.

Campground: Braun’s Island RV Park, Terrace, BC $36.75

The Cassiar RV Park emptied out pretty early this morning. Tiffany and Jim left around 8:00am. In fact we were almost the only ones left by the time we were ready to pull out. (I think we’re getting slower with each passing day. LOL)

It was a drizzly day and we only drove as far as Terrace, BC because we plan to do some day trips in the area if the weather clears up. We stopped in at the visitor’s center to get a recommendation for a campground in the area. The nice young ladies staffing the center actually phoned the local campground for us to be sure someone was going to be there to check us in. What nice folks. We got a site with 50 amp service and full hookups and there is cell phone coverage so I’m a happy camper!

Braun’s Island RV Park Campsite

Thursday, August 17

Drove 15 miles.

Route: Into and around the city of Terrace, BC

Campground: Braun’s Island RV Park, Terrace, BC $36.75

Uh oh. The BBOTTB is up to her old tricks again. When I got up this morning I noticed that there was hardly any water pressure when I flushed the toilet. I asked Tim if he had turned the water on and he said yes so I didn’t think anything more about it. Until I heard him shouting that is. It wasn’t that the water pressure was low; it was that the water never shut off. So the bathroom flooded, water leaked into the furnace vent, and also ran down into the “basement” (storage area). This isn’t as bad as a home toilet overflowing; in the RV the water comes into the toilet to rinse after you flush. Tim found where there was a water shut off valve for the toilet and so for the time being everything was okay.

We drove into the city and had lunch at The Elephant Ear Café. Excellent food. We browsed a few shops in downtown Terrace and made a visit to Walmart. This is the first Walmart we’ve seen in three weeks so we took advantage.

All around the city there are these white bear statues painted in all sorts of designs by local artists.

Known as the “Spirit Bear”, the Kermodei Bears are really Black Bears with white fur. They are not albino bears but are the result of a recessive gene and when two bears with the same recessive gene mate, it results in the “Spirit Bear”. They are unique to the North Coast Rainforest. Sadly we didn’t see any real Spirit Bears, just the statues.

Tim couldn’t relax with the toilet problem hanging over his head. To make a long story short, we went back to the trailer, he found a video online teaching him how to fix an RV Toilet, and now all is good.

All but the weather that is. Yep, it is still cold (didn’t get above 52 degrees all day) with an almost constant light rain. This seems to be the predominant weather pattern of the coastal northwest, literally a “North Coast Rainforest”.

Friday, August 18

Drove 218 miles.

Route: Yellowhead Highway 16 west to Nisga’a Highway 113 north and then west to Gingolx, BC

Campground: Braun’s Island RV Park, Terrace, BC $36.75

We were hoping for a miracle – nice weather – to do our touring today but it wasn’t meant to be. But we had a great time anyway and the scenery was beautiful as we drove north along Kitsum-Kalum Lake and then Lava Lake on our way to the Lava Beds of British Columbia.

Our first stop was at the Nisga’a Visitor Center which is housed in a traditional “long house”, but it was closed.

The Visitor Center is located in the midst of the Lava Beds. In the mid-1700’s Canada most recent volcanic eruption killed over 2000 of the Nisga’a First Nation people. The lava flowed from the volcanic cone down Crater Creek thru the Tseax River Valley to the Nass River where it crossed and then filled the Nass River flood plain. Over 39 square kilometers lay buried beneath this bed of lava.

Map of lava flow

Lava Beds

Our next stop was at the Nisga’a Museum. I was VERY impressed at the facility itself as well as the wonderful artifacts and the history of the Nisga’a people and their culture.

Nisga’a Museum

Note the ceremonial neck wraps worn by the chiefs of the clans.

There was a huge totem pole on display just as you enter the building – quite an impressive work of art – known as The Eagle on the Decayed Pole.

And its history was even more remarkable. It had been carved around 1870 but was cut down in 1928 as part of the missionary’s misguided efforts to eliminate paganism; it was taken by an individual and then sold to Marius Barbeau; then sold to the Canadian National Railways; then sold to the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1963; in 1996 it was put into storage. It was repatriated to the Nisga’a nation in 2000 as part of the Final Agreement (more on that below). And was erected in its present location under the watchful eye of the Nisga’a nation in 2011.

Nisga’a Lands (in purple) along the 400 km Nass River. (Note the village at the far left, western most point on the road – Gingolx. We drove there after the Museum visit.)

As you can see the Nisga’a First Nation people have claim to a very large land area along the Nass River. I thought it was an interesting story how a man named Frank Calder brought about the First Nation’s recovery of these ancestral lands (so I took notes – LOL).

In 1915 one of the tribe’s matriarchs had a dream in which she saw that the chief’s wife’s youngest sister was pregnant with a boy who when born would bear the spirit of the chief’s dead son who had drowned in the Nass River. The sister did in fact give birth to a son August 3, 1915 and Chief Nagwah’un and his wife Louisa Calder adopted him and raised him.

The baby, Frank Calder, was presented to a gathering of the elders who were meeting to discuss the issue of the Nisga’a peoples Land Claim, a cause which some likened to an “immovable mountain”. The chief famously declared “This boy is going to learn the laws of the white people and when he comes home, he’s going to move the mountain.”

At the age of seven he was sent to the residential school at Sardis, BC and over the course of his life he achieved many “firsts”.
• He was the first status Indian to study at Chillwack High School;
• The first admitted to the University of British Columbia;
• In 1949, the first Aboriginal person elected to the British Columbia; legislature where he served for 26 years;
• The first Aboriginal person appointed Minister of the Crown;
• In 1955 after 100 years as the Nisga’a Land Committee, it was reformed into the Nisga’a Tribal Council and Frank Calder was elected its first president; he held the office for 20 years.

The Council hired a Vancouver lawyer to take the Land question to the government of British Columbia and to pursue it through the courts.
The case became known as “The Calder Case”. It was rejected by the BC Court; it was rejected by the BC Court of Appeals. But in 1973 three justices of the Supreme Court of Canada found that the Aboriginal Title did exist prior to Colonial Law; three justices ruled that it was extinguished with the Confederation of Canada; and the seventh justice dismissed the claim on a technicality. "However, the acknowledgement that there was "Aboriginal Title" opened the door to what eventually became the Nisga’a Final Agreement reached in 2000. The Nisga’a Treaty is internationally known today and many subsequent agreements have been based on it around the world.

“For more than 10,000 years, we have thrived in this land, organizing ourselves into four clans – the Killer Whale, the Wolf, the Raven, and the Eagle. We have survived to become a powerful symbol of rebirth and renewal for many of the First Nations of the world. Look at our faces. We are survivors. We have a story to tell."

"Under the Nisga’a Treaty we will no longer be wards of the state. We will no longer be beggars in our own lands. We will own our own lands, which now far exceed the postage stamp reserves that were begrudgingly set aside for us by colonial governments. We will once again govern ourselves by our institutions in the context of Canadian Law. We will be allowed to make our own mistakes, to savor our own victories, to stand on our own feet.”
Frank Calder at the signing of the Nisga’a Treaty.

For his part, Frank Calder fulfilled prophesy and helped “move the mountain”.

After the visit to the museum we continued the drive along the Nass River to its end at the fishing village of Gingolx where the river empties into the inside passage of the Pacific Ocean.

Picturesque Church in the village of Gingolx

A clerk at one of the shops in Terrace yesterday told us that we should make the effort to drive all the way out here to eat halibut at a quaint little native restaurant named “U” Seafood, “U” Eat It. We searched around the village until we found it and she was right. It was scrumptious! It was a tiny place consisting of about six tables and we were the only ones there for much of the time.

On the drive back we stopped to take a few photos of the Nass River with the mountains in the background and clouds floating above.

And then we realized that we were seeing Bald Eagles everywhere, hundreds of them, on the shore, and up the mountains in the trees even! Oh to have had my camera with its telephoto lens.

As we came back to the Lava Beds the clouds were beginning to disperse and a few rays of sunshine actually broke through.

We stopped to stretch our legs, all 12 of them, at the Lava Lake Picnic Site. With just a little bit of sunlight, the lake is breathtaking. The water is almost green, not aqua like we’ve seen earlier in our travels.


Tim, Sunshine and Sprocket

Finally back in Terrace, we stopped at the Sherwood Brewery for a quick pick me up.

Saturday, August 19

Drove 98 miles.

Route: Yellowhead Highway 16 west from Terrace to Prince Rupert, BC

Campground: Prince Rupert Park Avenue Campground, Prince Rupert, BC $53.50

Our wildlife sighting of the day – a deer as we were driving out of the campground.

We braved the drizzle and went on a walking tour of the Cow Bay harbor area of Prince Rupert, so named when a Swiss man unloaded a herd of cows for his dairy from a barge. No sight of them today however. LOL

This is but one of many beautiful murals painted on buildings in Prince Rubert.

After a late lunch of clam chowder at Smile’s Café (built in 1922), we walked through the shops and art galleries before returning to the trailer to relax for the evening. We've survived yet another week on the road.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 12:02

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