Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Into the wild: Stewart Cassiar Highway

Just as we left Smithers, it began to rain and it would do so on and off for much of our ride up the Stewart Cassiar Highway. Along the way, when we took advantages of openings in the clouds to make quick stops, we met some really interesting riders, both coming from and on their way to the most Northerly Points of the continent: Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The ones we encountered who were returning from Prudhoe Bay via the Dalton Highway had varied stories to tell. Some said it was their best EVER (in true American fashion), yet and others warned that we would hear the former, but to be warned that it could at times be a dangerous and terrifying ride to Prudhoe Bay. “Everyone tells you in retrospect that it was the greatest, but that is because they are still alive and feel exhilarated. They have forgotten the moments along the Dalton where they questioned if they would make it home alive.” Hmmmmm. Ok. 

Bear Glacier

We continued on, unthwarted by the ugly weather or the ominous stories. We rode to Stewart hoping to see bears feasting on Salmon and disappointed to find out that it was far too early in the season for such an occurrence. We admired Bear Glacier through our fogged up face shields and continued on, determined that we would get some miles under our belts since that sense of accomplishment would be the only thing to enjoy in such dismal weather. At the turn back onto the Cassiar Highway, we met a couple of interesting fellows and stopped for a chat. Determined not to have to change a tire while on his ride from Chicago to Alaska and back, Fran had swapped his rear tire for a car tire. A CAR TIRE!!!!! Sure, the cornering was a little different, but it hardly showed any wear and was on it’s way back from the tire-shredding northern highways. 

Some ask "Why"? Others, "Why not?"
The closer it got to quitting time for the day, the more our concerns about the bear population and more importantly, the hunger of said bears was growing. We had seen a half-dozen bears feeding along the side of the road and they didn’t seem to be too fussed by the noise our motorcycles made as we rode by. We pulled off at a rest stop to cook, figuring that at least we would cook in a different place from where we would camp. While we were eating, another couple of riders pulled up and we had a conversation about bear safety and they said they would be riding on to Belll II to camp in the campground so that at least they weren’t the only food for the bears around. We decided this was wise and pulled into the Bell II lot just as they were heading up the drive to occupy their site.
After fueling up, we inquired within about campsite pricing and were told that it was $23/night but all sites were sold out for the evening. We looked around at all of the empty space and wooded areas, scratching our heads… No problem lady: if you don’t know how to make money, we’re not going to waste our time telling you how.

Nonetheless, happy to save the $23 we rode a few kilometers down the road and pulled off onto one of the many logging road turnouts. We tried our best to ward off any nearby bears by making tons of noise, banging rocks and sticks (a la the step-mom wannabe in the Parent Trap), and Roel even “marked” our perimeter. Where my girlie items (lip balm, hand lotion, wipes, etc) usually sit in the roof pockets of our tent, now we stowed a loaded bear banger, bear spray, a fog horn, ax and a knife. 

Goodbye: lip-balm and lotion... hello: bear bangers, blow horns, bear spray and knives!

It was not a restful evening, but we woke up to the sun shining on the snow capped mountains behind our tent and on we rode.

Camping along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

No comments:

Post a Comment