We’ve been off the grid for a few days as we drove south-east from Whitehorse to Prince George, boondocking (freecamping) in various idyllic camp sites as we made our way down Highway 37, the Cassiar Highway, the road less travelled.
The first night out of Whitehorse, we were still on Highway 1, the Alaska Highway, intending to camp at a provincial campground, but we stopped and chatted with an Englishman who was cycling from Anchorage to Yellowstone and he was planning on ‘stealth-camping’ so we figured we could too. Found a nice spot in forest far enough from the road that the trucks didn’t sound like they were going to drive through our tent, kept an ear out for bears and other critters, and even had warm showers thanks to our new bush shower and a few kettles full of boiling water. Greg went for a walk a bit further down the track and found a proper campsite with a little burnt-out log cabin, but by then we’d got all set up where we were.
A few people had told us that Hwy 37 was a beautiful scenic drive, and a really good alternate route to the Alaska Highway, but a couple of our maps showed long stretches of unpaved road which made us hesitate a bit. When we bought fuel at the junction, we asked the attendant and he told us that the first 100kms were pretty torn up, but the rest was fine. As we’d just driven a few hundred kms on pretty dodgy torn-up parts of the Alaska Highway, we opted for Highway 37.
We had a funny conversation with the gas station attendant – when Greg started talking to him, he commented that Greg had a ‘commonwealth accent’, ie Australian or New Zealand, because he can’t tell the difference, and in fact on this trip we’ve had more people think we’re New Zealanders than Australians. Hadn’t heard that one before, but I’ve learnt to ask people whereabouts in North America they’re from, rather than assume they’re American …. Canadians don’t like that.
Within half an hour of driving down Hwy 37, we had seen 2 bears and then an hour or so later when we stopped at a rest stop, a mother moose and her calf started walking towards us to check us out, but a passing motorbike scared them off. We took those animal sightings as a good sign that we had chosen the right road, and we got to see more wildlife as we drove along – a couple more bears, a fox, ptarmigan, a gopher. The road was pretty good, certainly no worse than Hwy 1, and with much less traffic. It was probably more winding, but very scenic driving along forest, rivers, lakes with a couple of lovely sections with snow-capped mountains on either side of us. There are a few villages along the way, and it’s possible to refuel every 200kms or so. The whole road is sealed and there is a good assortment of private and provincial campgrounds/RV park. We stopped beside a beautiful lake one night, and in forest just off the side road to Steward/Hyde the next night. We had great views of several hanging glaciers across the valley. That one was … interesting, as there was recent evidence of bear activity nearby. It was very windy and we kept thinking we could hear bears, but if there were any they didn’t bother us.