North to Alaska
On our second trip to Alaska, we drove through British Columbia west of the Rockies, along Highway One. We spent the first night parked at a lake outside the town of Ashcroft.
The next morning, we looked around the town park’s display of local history since the Europeans settled the region were on display. Mining, first for gold then for other precious metals, began in the late 1800s.
The covered wagons that carried settlers to the region and the sod-roofed cabins they lived in remind visitors of the hardships they faced.
In New Hazelton, early settlers are honored for three major economic activities: Mining, lumbering and packing. Cataline, pictured below, was said to be the best packer in British Columbia.
Before the influx of settlers, the First Nation Peoples lived a nomadic lifestyle, following the fish and the animals they hunted. In Ashcroft, a historian noted that the gold seekers changed all that.
“A shortage of white women among the miners means that a lot of Indian women are taken as wives or housekeepers. Many Indian males become cowboys or handlers of horses. This sort of interaction with the white man effectively puts an end to their nomadic lifestyle and changes their life style forever.”
The next day we visited the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum along the Bulkley River, a replication of an ancient Gitanmaax village. Similar to those of other First Nations, these totem poles tell the story of an individual clan and communicate legends, history and culture.
In Canada, many First Nations Peoples have well-funded cultural centers and thriving economies but others, like these in a beautiful mountain setting near ‘Ksan, reveal poverty and neglect.
Ice-crusted surfaces on a lake in early May.
We continued north along the Cassier Highway, headed to the Alaska Highway.
We often drove without seeing other cars or trucks but one day we saw seven black bears on the edge of the forest. They were waking up from their winter habitation and hungry!
The snow-capped mountains grew in majesty as we went further north in the Yukon.
After five days of driving, we entered Alaska where we spent the night at the Eagle Trail and in the morning took our first hike in the state this year. Hello to the Wrangell Mountains!
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