September 18, 2007 GMT
North British Columbia

From Watson Lake we head off for Stewart on the Stewart Cassiar Highway. After a detour at the Post Office to mail home another box of stuff we don't need, we turn onto the highway.

Straight away the road is really patchy and bumpy with the usual gravel every mile or two. The brush or forest here is really thick - straight away it feels like bear country. It is really enclosed as the trees are tall and the road is one lane wide. I feel isolated and in the middle of nowhere straightaway. This feeling gets worse the deeper we go and the less traffic we see.

After about 2 hours of trees and nothing else, I start to see glimpses of blue between them -some really big lakes. Then the views start to open out with mountains, lakes and trees, the combination is beautiful.

There is nothing on this road at all, no services, no petrol, no cafes - nothing. Just as we are starting to panic about fuel and the amber light confirms we are nearly out, we hit a small village. We stop for the fuel and a drink, then realise that there is a restaurant 50 feet away. Stopping there for a nice meal of the house buffet, we then head off at just after 6pm to our stop for the night in Iskut. The sun is getting low behind the mountains and I start worrying about it getting dark quickly out here. Then we come across awful road works, it is gravelly, muddy and very wet for some reason. We slide around for a while whilst trying to get up the steep hill, then down it, then we hit a bridge which is by far the worst. It has a metal gauze/ grid type floor which you can see the river 60 feet below through, it is shiny and slippery and basically every gap in the grid doesn't work with our knobbly tyres so some bits get stuck in the holes as we traverse it.

Scary bridge

We finally decide to set up camp in a campground at the foot of a Mountain. It is a lovely and quiet spot as we are the only campers there.

Mountain view.JPG
Mountain View


Em has just mentioned the first day, but it actually took two days to complete the Stewart Cassier Highway, the second day from Iskut dawned cloudy and wet and after packing up the tent we set about trying to dodge the rain.

No luck though, we spend the next 4 hours riding on roads that get worse in tune with the weather. At one point we are riding on a road that is still under construction and is very wet, visibilty through the visor turns to zero - no fun when you are trying to pick the only line that will keep you upright. I keep a close eye on the fuel gauge whch has been flashing yellow for the last 30 miles, I know we need a fuel stop within the next 14 miles or a difficult day could potentially become a nightmare.

fun road.JPG
A fun road

Add into the fact that hands and feet are starting to become numb, the prospect of putting up the wet tent at the end of the day doesn't fill me with glee, I tell myself to get us first to a gas station then a motel to get warm and dry - this lifts my spirits in time for another metal floored bridge like the one Emma mentioned from the day before. What a surface, the combination of wet enduro tyres on the metal grid makes for interesting riding.

Thankfully around the corner we find the only fuel stop in the area (one other is closed for work) alongside the pumps is a rather posh fishing lodge complete with spa. After filling up with fuel we grab a hot drink and drip copious amounts of water onto the lodge floor as we sit, all the while I try to convince Em that maybe this would be a good place to stay.

Shes having none of it however, with an eye on the budget Em tells me that I should have wired up my heated vest (she has a point) as with her vest on, her mood and temperature is a great deal better than mine and insists we press on to Stewart in the rain.

Several hours later after passing through more stunning scenery that made an appearance through the rain occasionally, we reached Stewart.

double waterfall.JPG

Stewart glacier.JPG

Cold and wet we find a cheap motel to get ourselves and kit dry. In the hot shower, I think back to Ems commitment to the budget and smile - she was right of course.

Next day dawns with a bit of a luxury - a full breakfast and with full stomachs we ride out of Stewart some 3 miles to the border of Alaska. We cross from Canada back to Alaska and its one of those borders were the difference between the countries is vast. From tarmac and well built buildings we cross over to mud/gravel tracks and wooden shacks.

The reason for the detour is to visit the town of Hyder, it is here that the wildlife trust has an area that you can safely view bears in the wild as they feed at the river. We spend about an hour waiting and see nothing, I start to think back to the boat trip and not seeing the Whales and think that the Alaskan wildlife has something against us.

Fish creek.JPG
Fish Creek

Then Em grabs my arm and points to a nearby tree, I look on in amazment as a Sow chases her two cubs up the tree before joining them. She is protecting her young from a male down by the river, so for the next 30 mins we watch the three bears sit in the tree, not 20ft away from us (maybe 40ft from Em as she is now backing away!) - a real privilege.

cub in tree.JPG

momma bear.JPG
Bears in the woods

After another 3 mile ride we are back at the border once again telling the nice Canadian lady that we don't own a firearm, two minutes later we are back in Stewart and looking at the GPS for our next destination - a campsite in a native indian reserve called Moricetown.

As we leave Stewart I spot something crossing the road in front of us and slow down, its a Black Bear and Em gets the pic.

bear in road.JPG
Bear crossing (just!)

The road to Moricetown cannot live up to the sights and fun of the Stewart Cassier Highway, but does have two more furry highlights. Rounding a bend a large male Black Bear sits looking at us as we pass, then a bit further down the road I spot something else black beside the road - as we approach I slow down and eventually stop and can't quite believe our luck. Another Sow with two cubs, she is not worried about the bike and sits looking at us, while the two cubs stand up on their hinds as if to pose, just 10ft away. Not wanting to put them or us in a situation that could be uncomfortable, I release the clutch and we ride off.

Our camp for that night is the Canyon Falls campground, which is again desserted.

Canyon river falls.JPG
Canyon river falls

We attempt to build a big fire to keep the mossies away, but the wood is too wet so we retire to the tent to play cards. After a good nights sleep we pack up and head off for a short ride to Smithers where we had planned some time out.

Posted by Darren Homer at September 18, 2007 09:50 PM GMT

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