Surviving The Cassiar Highway

The trip south on the Alaska Highway from Tok was actually worse than the trip up, in many sections. The Alaska Highway Department had clearly done little on road repairs since our trip north in June; the potholes were more rampant, larger, and deeper. We crossed back into Canada without issue, and found their side to be a little better. We eventually arrived at our first stop back in Canada, Congdon Creek Provincial Park, on the shores of Kluane Lake.

Congdon was our first true “off-grid” experience: no Wi-Fi, no cell service, no electrical service, and no water. It was wonderfully quiet and serene, with few people. The park did have some electrical service because there was an electric fence to protect tent campers from bears, but no service for RVs. We could not see the next closest camper from our trailer windows. But the next morning, I discovered that we did pick up some visitors (mice) during our stay there. So far, I have trapped three four of them and I hope that is it. Mice gnawing on RV wires is not good. Fortunately, they prefer peanut butter to wires so that was the bait in our traps.

Congdon Creek Camping
Kluane Lake at Congdon Creek Campground

We proceeded south to Teslin YT the next day (seeing an Elk cow and her calf and a couple bears) for another one-night stay, then on towards Watson Lake, where we took a right turn to head south along the Cassiar Highway.

Back in March when I was looking at our return routing from Alaska, I considered taking the Cassiar as an alternative to driving back the way we had come, but had rejected the road as too remote and narrow. But I learned that others had taken the Cassiar pulling larger RVs that we have, so eventually I changed my mind. I should have kept my own counsel and ignored the others. The trip would have been fun with just the truck, but dragging the trailer along made it a little nerve wracking at times. We also had no reservations along the way, because the few camping areas along the route didn’t take reservations, so we were winging it. And there was no cell phone coverage anywhere, so CA kept up with our paper copy of the Milepost.

How the road can be called a highway amazes me. Very steep hills and descents, very narrow at times, mostly graveled, with occasional steep drop-offs on the side. No shoulders, and no markings of any sort on the gravel road. At some point in the past, I think it had been paved, but the provincial government seems to have given up with the cost of maintaining it. CA left some fingernails dug into her armrest, particularly when we had large logging trucks coming at us and I had to move to the very edge of the road. Oh, and lots of bears and other critters wandering along the road to watch out for.

We made a stop in Jade City BC to visit a small shop that sells very nicely carved items made from jade mined nearby. This shop also has their own reality TV show, though we have never seen it. A bonus for us is that they let wayward campers’ hangout in their parking lot for the night at no charge, so we spent another one-night stay there.

Hanging out in the Jade City Parking Lot

Our second day on the Cassiar Not-a-Highway continued like the day before, only rain was added in, making several sections of the road slippery, particularly on a hairpin turn with a steep grade (imagine the feeling of slipping tires). After a fuel stop at Dease Lake I made a grave error: I passed by a perfectly good campground. I had been driving a little less than four hours, and thought we should continue a little longer so the next day wouldn’t be as long. I was also feeling better since the gravel sections had stopped and we were on more of a narrow asphalt road, though still lacking any sort of shoulder.

It ended up taking another 3+ hours of driving to find a campground with room for us, and we ended up grabbing one of the last spaces at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park. It was a long day, but left us with only a short trip the following day to Kitwanga to complete the Cassiar.

We are resting up in Kitwanga for a couple nights, then will continue on to Prince George BC, then to Vancouver.

4 thoughts on “Surviving The Cassiar Highway

  1. Sign: “Make noise and bring your bear spray”!! Yikes. Slipping sounds…Fingernail impressions…Yikes. A multiple-season jade-digging TV show??!! And I can hear your D’OH!! after passing the perfectly good campground. Rest up – and I sure hope your peanut butter doesn’t run out!

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  2. Have perused every picture and experienced every single hair raising turn on those poorly cared for non highways. I can imagine how you all felt as you went down those narrow steep Rhodes with big things coming at you. I remember the Amalfi drive in Italy where all the big Italian tour buses will go beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beepers. I already had you in Vancouver. You will enjoy it’s beauty, and sophistication. The butchart gardens are hard to get to but well worth the trip.

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  3. Well that was an interesting ride, hope you all got some jade carvings for the effort. Hope you get the rest y’all deserve for driving a dirt highway. Enjoy your stay. Irish.

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