Over the course of a week, we took a leisurely trip down northwest British Columbia’s Cassiar Highway. Our next stop after Boya Lake was Jade City, a retail outlet for the area’s jade mines. Over 90% of the world’s jade comes from this area of British Columbia. We watched the cutter slice a thin wedge from a large stone, and then polish it to a gleaming shine using a dozen different grades of wet sanding disks. We learned a bit about how to judge the quality of the stone as well.
Although Stewart and Hyder are close together, compared to Hyder, Stewart is a major metropolis. We returned across the border and spent some time walking the estuary boardwalk and wondering the small business district. We thought it might be possible that Pat and Fred were here, so we toured the 2 RV parks, but didn’t see them. We then headed out of town, and shortly afterward, a black bear scrambled up onto the road, moseyed up a bit and headed off the other side. Maybe he was on his way to Fish Creek . . .
The Yellowhead Highway runs east-west from Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast to Edmonton Alberta. We were going to join it about 150 east of Prince Rupert and continue east to Jasper Alberta. Our first stop was at the New Hazelton Visitor Center where we managed to get the first communication from Pat and Fred in a week. They had been in Stewart when we were there, but we missed them. They were planning to leave the next day. That settled, we took the advice of the Visitor Center’s recommendation and took a turn up into Old Hazelton and the First Nations’ Ksan Campground and Museum. Sitting on the banks of the Skeena River, Hazelton’s position as the northernmost port on the sternwheeler’s route made it a major hub of activity before the railroads and highways took over as freight carriers.
Sitting on the border between southwestern Alberta and British Columbia are Canada’s first national parks, protecting a large swath of the Canadian Rockies. To the north is Jasper National Park which surrounds a town of the same name and extends south along the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefields – dozens of glaciers radiating out of a central mass. Just south of the Columbia Icefields, Banff National Park begins and extends south to the towns of Banff and Lake Louise. These parks were begun to protect natural resources already heavily promoted as tourist destinations. The intervening century has only increased their popularity and the crush of tourists that come from all over the globe to see them.