“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” [ Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings]
Have you ever seen the Seven Sisters clad in snow-capped splendor? If not, then you have to drive the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16), between Smithers and Terrace. There are many vistas along this route that will cause your heart to soar (and for some), it will also cause your mouth to be filled with praise to the Creator whose handiwork is so exquisitely displayed. The Seven Sisters Range, part of the Hazelton Mts, is impressive in the midst of all this grandeur.
I had the opportunity to drive this stretch of highway twice in the past month. The first time I was on my way to Terrace on a brilliantly sunny afternoon in early May. I came around a curve in the road and was treated to a breath-taking view of the Seven Sisters in all their snow-capped splendor. On the second occasion, I went searching for the Seven Sisters and ended up on a totally different adventure – discovering historic Hazelton and its landscape. We left Smithers on a partly cloudy afternoon and drove west for about 1.5 hours. Because of the cloudy conditions we never caught a glimpse of the Seven Sisters. On our way back to Smithers, with some time on our hands, we decided to pay a visit to historic Hazelton. I had driven past this turn-off many times but had never ventured down this road before.
A short way down the road to historic Hazelton we crossed the single-lane suspension bridge over the roiling, boiling waters of the Bulkley River surging through the Hawilget Canyon, cut into the ancient rocks of the Bowser Basin. The bridge would be difficult to maneuver in winter and in very windy conditions.
Crossing the bridge was like “crossing over into another world”. This may be overstating the case a bit but I was quite struck with the change in the landscape and the advanced growth of the vegetation in the valley.
The view from the lookout just beyond the bridge is impressive.To the south, the granite mass of Stekyawden (Roche Boule), stands like a sentinel watching over the raging torrent of the Bulkley in the Hagwilget Canyon far below. To the west the horizon is framed by the Seven Sisters range. I had found them after all.
Driving down into old Hazelton the vegetation appeared to be a week or two advanced over Prince George and Smithers, probably because of the valley bottom location. We stop at Boat’s Cafe located on the banks of the Skeena. The Cafe is aptly named since it is housed in an old sternwheeler either an original or replica of the vessel that plied the Skeena in the early days. The cafe owner is Australian and on his menu for this day is turkey- cranberry soup with coconut oatmeal cookies for dessert. Through the window of the cafe we can see the Skeena flowing swiftly by.
We did not have enough time to explore much of historic Hazelton but we saw enough to make us want to come back for a more leisurely visit.
If you ever plan to motor west be sure and take the turnoff to historic Hazelton. It’s worth the visit.
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