|7-25-04 Smithers, British Columbia to Dease Lake, British Columbia |
via the Cassiar... with a side trip to Stewart and Hyder.
I slept well, over the covers. The room never cooled down overnight. After reloading the bike, I hit the road.
| At Moricetown
Falls and Canyon,
I stopped to photograph the cascades caused by the Bulkley River squeezing its quarter-mile wide surface through rock
outcroppings and into a narrow gorge in a thunderous blast of water.|
The locals were
out fishing for salmon, sweeping long-handled nets into the currents.
after, I stopped to put on the rain gear again.
The weather was
overcast, with a steady rain over the next few miles, but the rain wasn't intense enough to pool on the road. I broke through the rain into partly cloudy skies. After refueling at
Kitwanga, I turned right onto the Cassiar Highway and headed north.
There wasn't much traffic on the Cassiar.
There weren't many people out there, either. I went
through some wet gravel, leaving both the bike and me
short distance up the Cassiar at Meziadin Junction, I turned left onto the Stewart/Hyder
road (39A) for a recommended side trip. The road immediately plunged into a gorge, with waterfalls
and glaciers towering overhead.
of the glaciers makes it almost to the road. The Bear Glacier has
receded from the roadway, but is still close enough to enjoy. The light
shines through its ice with a peculiar blue tint.
I glimpsed part of a waterfall through the trees and high on the slopes, and pulled off for a closer look.
The road entered Stewart after going through a series of
sweeps. Almost to the international border, I pulled
off to take a photo back towards Stewart. Just
as I pulled off, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police unit scared the bejesus out of me by lighting me up and blowing his siren. I never saw him coming up behind me. The RCMP officer said he stopped me for lack of a license plate. I told him he would have been stupid not to, but surprisingly, he was the
first on my trip to check if the bike was licensed. I showed him the paper license I carried in the tank bag (I left before the permanent plate arrived) and we talked
about the bike. He was interested in
getting his 8 year old son a trail bike, and wanted something to ride along
with. I recommended the KLR. I told him that the bike was dependable and that used prices were reasonable.
After a nice
talk, I went into Hyder. There was no US border
check going into Alaska.
It was a contrast of night and day.
Where Stewart was neat, clean, and orderly, the town of Hyder was
composed of rutted out roads and haphazard
architecture. I started to drive into the
Tongas National Forest to see the Salmon Glacier, but there was too much
dust from too many RVs. I turned back towards Stewart.
border, the guard told me to shut off the bike. He asked if I was the
red bike pulled over down the road. I said, “yes”. The guard asked
how long I was in Alaska. I said “20 minutes – too
crowded”. He waved me through. I think the Canadian Mountie
must have put in a word for me.
Once back in Stewart, I stopped
to wander around Stewart's park, located on the estuary of the Portland
Canal. The estuary is at the end of a 90 mile fjord, reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Stewart is a deep water port.
The road in reverse was just as much fun. Once back in Meziadin Junction, I refueled and returned to the northbound Cassiar.
part of the Cassiar experience were the numerous stretches of loose gravel interspersed with the pavement. Areas
needing repair were marked by sticks with orange flags placed
alongside the roadway. The flags served to warn both of rough
areas and to mark the direction and intensity of the winds gusting
across the roadway.
I had the entire highway to myself.
I hit rain
again. There were no problems with my gear. The rain boots
purchased in Calgary gave me everything I needed for all-weather
The conditions on the Cassiar
Highway became progressively better as I headed into
the day's final stretch to Dease Lake.
I started to increase my speed, but still stopped late in the day at Upper Gnat Lake for
I arrived at the Dease Lake Hotel 20 minutes too late
for dinner. I went to bar next door, but
their kitchen was also closed.
It was 11 PM, and
sky was still lit. Full
darkness would be around 11:30 PM.
I was staying at a beautiful
days make for long drives. I needed to
stop earlier. A fellow traveler recommended: ride ‘til 5, then look for a hotel.
Any later during the high tourist season risks running into full bookings and no available rooms.
And finally, the Cassiar combined with the Stewart/Hyder Highway was one great ride.