Day 7 / Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The temperatures were not rising back up in the morning and while it was pleasant to be riding through gently flowing meadows, I was looking forward to having some warm food at 100 Mile House. By the time I got into town it had started raining steadily. Funny name for a town, but it comes from the 1860's when there was a roadhouse here, a resting point for travelers moving between Lillooet, about 100 miles back and Ft. Alexandria about 80 miles ahead. There's a town called 70 Mile House and 150 Mile House.
If anyone thinks I'm carrying too much, check this out. That's a trike with a trailer and I've see those trailers expand into very comfortable accommodations.
Not having any shower facilities at the rustic campground I stayed at the night before, I resorted to what is called a "McDonald's Shower." All though this was at an A&W, it's basically a sponge bath in the sink that people who are temporarily away from civilization, like for hiking, fishing, hunting, riding, resort to upon coming across a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere. I brushed my teeth, shampooed my hair and tried to feel as clean as possible. And dealing with the strange looks from regular patrons comes with the shower.
I love the comforts of a 5-star hotel all the way down to slumming it in a McDonald’s bathroom. Haha. And there's nothing better than feeling nice and refreshed before sitting down for a meal.
One thing I've always enjoyed about coming to Canada is getting the chance to eat Poutine. I know most people don't like it or think of it as a country food, but I just love the Québécois combination of French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy. Mmm mmm good. I had some at the A&W along with their good root beer.
The rain that had been falling dropped the temperatures on the road up to Prince George and I was wearing my maximum gear: base layer, thermal top, heated vest, rain/wind liners, jacket and rain/wind jacket on top of that along with heated grips. I felt comfortable and was just enjoying the good tunes. Being prepared for all kinds of weather conditions makes a ride that much more enjoyable.
The DR's alternator is only rated at 200 watts and knowing that I might have to run both the heated vest and the heated grips at some point in the trip, I mounted a battery voltage monitor from Voltminder (designed for semi-trucks) and made sure the battery was always getting enough charging juice (not dropping below 13.2 volts).
Before I left on my trip, many non-riders asked how cold Alaska would be and wouldn't it be all covered in snow? Funny, but I felt the coldest on this road here in central BC during my whole trip all the way to the Arctic Ocean.
At a gas station in Prince George, a guy in a truck couldn't believe that I was all the way from Chicago and had to check my license plate to be sure of it himself. And on top of that, he found it unbelievable that I was doing this trip solo. He said he usually sees groups of riders or clubs making these trips. We had a good chat and he said he saw a teen grizzly in the woods a few weeks back and told me to be aware of my surroundings wherever I camp.
Heading west out of Prince George (population 80,000), leaving the last big city of Northern BC, I felt I was finally heading into the proper remote north, with no more big cities besides Whitehorse at 20,000 and Fairbanks at 35,000 population.
I would be taking the Yellowhead Highway, which runs all the way to Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast to service the marine highway of ferries, to the start of the famous Cassiar Highway, which runs north to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory.
In the town of Vanderhoof, I noticed my muffler end cap was rattling itself loose at the rivets that were holding it on. I wondered why the muffler was seeing so much vibration. Only being able to put a band-aid on the problem, I pulled into a newly opened muffler shop and explained my situation to the owner, Daryl who came out and said he'd put a screw in a new spot to hold the two pieces together. I asked him how much it cost, ready to pay, and he said not to worry about it as he was glad to help a traveler keep going. He said others had helped him along in the past and he felt he should pay it forward.
After getting fixed up by Daryl, I got chatting with another guy outside the store who said he was a logging prospector of sorts for the government. He went into the woods on foot or on ATVs, spending days on end living of the land, surveying and mapping which plots were suitable to sell or lease to the logging industry. Generally being concerned with deforestation, I asked him if the logging industry simply just took whatever trees they needed, or where they required to replant and help revitalize the forests. I didn't get a clear answer, but it sounded like he didn't care about that too much saying that there was just so much forest out here and he was still enjoying getting paid to do what he liked. Logging and outdoor tourism are the biggest industry for all these small communities.
The start of my bike troubles on this trip - the end cap of my exhaust was vibrating itself loose.
I stopped at this muffler shop and the owner, Daryl quickly came out and drilled a hole and put a screw to hold the end cap on and wouldn't accept any payment. He said other people have helped him out while he was traveling and he was just paying it forward. This was the start of this recurring theme on this trip.
The highway is pretty straight in many places and I was wishing that I had thought about adding a throttle lock (cruise control) of some sorts, but I didn't think the roads would be so straight for such long distances. There are definitely some dangers in using a throttle lock device, but just being able to stretch and rest the right hand occasionally would've been very helpful.
Heading west on the Yellowhead Highway to catch the start of the Cassiar Highway heading north to Alaska. The road was wide and had quite a few straight stretches. I could've used a throttle lock of some kind. But very pleasing scenery.
Coming up to New Hazelton, situated right by this majestic mountain.
Besides the straightaways, the highway was pleasing to ride with gentle undulations. However, the view changed as I pulled up to my destination of New Hazelton, riding towards the majestic Hagwilget Peak. I knew of a campsite here from motocampers.com but arrived too late to buy any firewood. I found a beautiful campsite right on the river under some tall trees and then went into town to find some firewood for sale. I asked the first local person I came across where I could buy firewood and he said not to worry because he had lots at his house right there and I could take what I needed. As I was talking with Jacob (a mix of the local Native American tribe and Caucasian) his father Peter came out and was intrigued about my trip as he's an avid rider himself. He said he regularly goes across Canada on his Honda CBR600RR, which is surprising for an older gentleman. He had a lot of energy and said he had heated grips and provision for a heated vest on his bike.
Jacob told me that he was the public spokesperson for the local Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations groups and he regularly traveled around the region visiting the various groups. I asked him if this huge peak towering over us was important to the local tribes (just like Denali is in Alaska) and he said it definitely is and if I had some time, he had a great story to tell me. I was all ears.
The story goes like this: long ago, there were greedy tribesmen living here who abused their natural resources and killed all the mountain goats for food, except one young goat that they left for their children to play with. But most of the children also abused the goat and beat it almost to death. One young boy saved the goat, nourished it back to health and released it back onto the mountain. A few days later, important looking chiefs came down from the mountain and invited the whole tribe for a feast up on the mountain. While everyone was having a good time in traditional long houses that were built on ledges hanging off the edge, a young boy from the chiefs side pulled the young boy that saved the goat outside and then the chiefs inside the long house turned into huge ram goats and stamped the floor until it gave way and everyone perished with their blood on the mountain side. The young chief told the good boy that this blood stain was a lesson to live harmoniously with Nature. Today, the rich copper veins in the mountain are the blood stains of long ago.
It was interesting to hear first hand the stories that people passed on through the generations to give explanation to phenomenon in Nature. In my view, in various ambitious parts of the world, these stories became religion.
Another story that Jacob told me related to how local tribesman are able to talk to the animals, like the grizzly bear, which features heavily in local legends. He said part of his job is to re-introduce young Native Americans who have moved away to bigger towns and cities to their rich traditions, which were being forgotten as progress chugs along. One simple event is just camping out in the woods with elders and sharing stories of the past just like the one above. And during one of these story-telling times, a real grizzly bear approached the group and a youth from the city had the courage to stand up and gently talk to the bear and tell him to go away as he was not needed, which the bear did. The elders were very impressed and felt it was proof-positive that the old traditions had not died and could still be passed on to the new generation.
Feeling all warm and fuzzy after hearing these stories, I returned to my site to enjoy the rest of the evening. I love starting a camp fire and appreciate how easy it is these days to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a fire with relative ease, compared to pre-historic time when it must've been a struggle to harness the power of fire.
With the fire going and some tunes from the iPod, I got out my cooking stove, boiled some water to heat up my pre-cooked dinner of Thai Limegrass Rice and Yellow Tuna Curry and enjoyed dinner with a view. This is what I was most looking forward to on this trip: enjoying the evenings around a campfire with stunning views.
Is that a gorgeous campsite or what? I saw a picture of this campsite on motocampers.com and decided to stay here. The setting was just great with very few campers, nice facilities, river and...
...a stunning mountain view. This is the 6,800 ft Hagwilget Peak of the Rocher de Boule Mountain Range. The mountain features in the local Native American tribes of Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations. I happened to run into a spokesperson for the tribes and he shared some tribal stories about the mountain.
This is what I brought my digital SLR camera for - low light photos. And with Nature throwing such beautiful colors and scenery at me, it's not hard to take good photos.
I'm new to SLR cameras and was still trying to figure out the optimum settings.
A shot of the campground from my campsite. What a view, huh.
Getting a fire going. The camp store was closed so I went into town and asked a local where to buy some firewood and he said not to worry because he had lots at his house and I could take what I needed. How nice.
Fire. I love the concept of getting a fire going. It immediately adds warmth in terms of heat and light to a campsite making it feel a bit more homey.
My compact camp stove that I borrowed from a mountaineering friend. It boils water very quickly.
And this was my typical camping dinner. I carried along pre-cooked food (some Thai Tuna curries, basmati rice, briyanis - can't take the Indian out of me). I just needed to put the pouches in boiling water for a few minutes and I had a warm meal ready to eat.
Sun setting at about 11 pm local time.
The campsite at night, feeling a bit lived-in due to the fire.
Next: Day 8, Riding the Cassiar Highway
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