August 21, 2005

Canada: Tome 1 Prince Rupert to Stewart BC

My eyes are squinted , my mouth is pursed shut and I'm pointing my nose down trying to keep the bugs from making their way into my diet. Numerous speacies of bugs, blackflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and noceums, all kamikaze trained, pelt at my face at about 40km/hr. Today I've probably swallowed half a dozen and inhaled another half dozen up my nose.

Lucky for us we are cycling through northern BC, the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories late in the summer so, the bugs should begin to subside as the frost sets in. It has been unseasonally wet this summer. Our record dry days have been numbered... After a soggy week cycling up Vancouver Island and a few more on the Queen Charlottes, we are far from experiencing the 100 days and 100 nights of rain that Marcel Gjissen (new fellow cyclist) experienced but our journey on the Stewart-Cassier Highway has been a little wet and clammy.

First off in Prince Rupert we were reunited with Maria and Marcel, with whom we cycled in Southern Mexico...seems they had nothing better to do (hehehe) than continue their cycling saga while awaiting the OK from the immigration Canada folks (Maria is trying to become a Canadian).

The five of us began our journey westward enjoying a fabulous tailwind and enjoying the amazing views as the highway snakes the side of the Skeena River to Terrace B.C. In Terrace we had to do our first big stock up of food as we were not going to see a big grocery store for at least 500km. A dirt road north of Terrace took us through the Nisga Lava beds. In the mid 1700's a small volcano erupted... Canada's last major volcanic activity. As the Nisga'a legend goes, several young boys were playing on the side of a river during the salmon spawning season. They were putting pieces of slate and burning wood in the backs of the salmon and watching them swim upsream. The Salmon spirits did not take this abuse well at all. Later the volcano erupted and buried more than 2000 nisga'a people. In one of the chiefs longhouses there was a girl in puberty isolation. In the panic of the eruption the family forgot her there. It was only several weeks later when the lava had cooled that they dared to go back to their village. When they did they found the girl exactly where they had left her, but petrified in Lava. The Lava beds now have a really beautiful appearance as the mosses and a few hardy trees attempt to re-colonize the landscape. 36 square kilometers of land are buried by the lava that is about 12m in depth on average but up to 30m deep in places.
The Nisga'a memorial Lava bed interpretive centre is the only provincial parks site with both provincial and native involvement.

Leaving the lava beds was a little muddy, the road was under construction and with all the rain, our fenders were caked. This muddy road took us back to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. We had planned to go directly towards Dease Lake but we ran into a pair of Swiss cycle tourists who convinced us that a 70km detour to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska was worth it, to see Grizzly bears fishing for the spawning Chum salmon in Fish Creek. In Hyder, Alaska, a mere 5km west of Stewart, B.C. is the Tongass National Park with a Grizzly Bear Observation Deck. We hung around for three hours watching a nice big bear showboat for us as it scratched its back on a tree and occasionally caught a few big chum Salmon. It is a town for about 100 happy people with a winter population of a mere 30. All the shops and bars only accept Canadian Dollars as the only way to get to Hyder by road access is through Canada. Even Telus is the telephone provider. Stewart BC currently holds the record for the most snowfall in one year, 90 feet!!!!
It is no suprise then to find the Salmon Glacier only 20km away. On the road back to Meziadin Junction you can see all the smaller ice falls and glaciers squeezing between the mountains. Their source is the Cambria Icefield.
The main glacier that runs down to a lake next to the road is the Bear Glacier.
In the 1940's and 60's it butted up against the other side of the valley creating a much larger lake. Every once in a while as the lake grew to be too big, the glacial ice would float and the lake water would escape below in a breach. This happened several times and would catastrophically flood the valley downstream. Since the sixties however the glacier has been in fast retreat and the lake is no longer dammed by ice.

From Meziadin Junction there were 500km of road left to the Alaska Highway.
We hope to have the time to write about the rest of the ride up the Stewart Cassiar on our next internet opportunity which will probably be in Inuvik.
We will also write about the Alaska Highway, Whitehorse, the Klondike Highway and of course the last strech on the Dempster Highway.
So much good stuff

Posted by tania at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Canada: Location Update

!!!! We are in Dawson City in the Yukon TerritorrySunday 22nd of August2005

The riders are:
Gwendal Castellan, Tania Lo, Mael Castellan
Marcel Gjissen. et Maria Josenhans, Armel Castellan et Amanda Kalyn.

We are realizing that we won't make it to Inuvik for the End of the road music festival headlining Fred Penner on the 27-29th of August. Nor are we sure to make it for Gwendal's Birthday on the 1st of September. But we are pretty certain to make it by the 4th of September. We will see how we do on 740km of shale and mud between Dawson City and Inuvik on the Dempster Highway.
It has already snowed in Inuvik, and in Pelly Crossing a slightly adamant local told us "you are one month too late". But we are going ahead confident that we will make it.

Posted by gwendal at 04:11 PM | Comments (1)