Our last days in Alaska were spent in the Misty Fjords National Monument and it totally lived up to its name and reputation. It is described as an incredible, jaw-dropping and majestic wonderland which I’m sure it is when the cloud base lifts above 100 ft! We spent four days visiting three of the fjords and they were pretty dramatic. The inlets were deep and narrow and above the tree line the steep rock faces have been smoothed and curved by the ice of glaciers which have long since receded. U-shaped valleys perch like bowls on the skyline drained by streams which tumble as waterfalls down the cliff face.
One day we anchored in Punchbowl Cove and walked up the trail beside the waterfall to a lake in the valley above. The trail could have been created for Bilbo Baggins; steps carved into fallen tree trunks, stairs made of logs and everything was covered in a thick layer of soft spongy moss. Bear tracks and poo reminded us to keep singing or talking or coo-eeying to make our presence known as we crawled under fallen trees and scrambled over rock falls. The lake was spectacular and the Forestry Service had kindly left a canoe for visitors to use. We paddled through the still water up to the bare rock faces and admired the stark beauty of the place.
Our route south to Prince Rupert required us to come out of hiding amongst the islands and cross the Dixon Entrance which is exposed to the weather on the “outside”. We waited up for a couple of days as strong southerlies were forecast but hidden away in Alava Bay we felt none of them. We went ashore to pick blue berries and checked out the Forestry Service cabin at the head of the bay which can be booked by visitors for an overnight stay. It was pretty sparse but once we got a fire started in the wood-burning stove it soon became pretty cozy and we enjoyed toasting our toes while we waited for the rain to stop.
The passage down to Prince Rupert was fairly easy-going with no big winds or swells. We took a shortcut through Venn Passage which should only be used at slack water as the tides rip through the narrow strait. It is not very well buoyed but the charts were good so all went well and we arrived in “Rupert” (as they call it), completed our customs and immigration formalities and tied up at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club dock in time for sundowners.
Rupert is a very friendly town with all the facilities we need (supermarket, laundry, fuel dock and a good selection of pubs and restaurants) all within cycling distance of PRRYC. The museum is interesting with great displays of implements and carvings used by the first nation people who have lived in the area for thousands of years. I loved the clothing and headdresses decorated with puffin beaks, bear claws and seal whiskers!
Rupert is the railhead for the “Rupert Rocket” and we decided to take the train into the mountains to the pretty village of Smithers, to see some of the interior of the country. The railway follows the Skeena River valley deep into the Rocky Mountains and the scenery once again is superb. We were lucky to be able to sit in the panorama car so we could enjoy the views but the trees lining the track made taking photos a bit tricky. A number of times the train had to stop and wait for enormous freight trains to pass carrying wheat and coal to the docks at Rupert and on to Asia.
The beauty of the scenery belies a darker side to this part of BC. Highway 16 which parallels the railway between Prince Rupert and Prince George is also known as the “Highway of Tears”. Since 1969 nineteen women have disappeared or been murdered here and the number doubles if you step away from the highway. The lack of regular and affordable public transport (there’s only one train every two days and no buses) causes people living here to hitchhike to get about. Only two of these murders have been solved and women are warned not to hitch. We met a Belgian woman who was sleeping in the station house in Smithers, waiting for the train the following day.
So now we are back in Rupert and will head south again tomorrow. Although we have been incredibly lucky with the warm sunny weather we’ve had recently, I get a feeling the summer will soon be coming to an end and the stormy winter weather will soon be upon us. We still have 600NM to go and we plan to sail down the west side of Vancouver Island so, once we leave Shearwater in a week or two’s time, we will be exposed to the North Pacific weather systems.
Good to know we will be able toget the sails up and the motor off for the first time since arriving in the Pacific Northwest!