Week 6 Review from Janine
Written by Janine Marek, the Ignite Possibilities Tour Bus Driver
We’ve week six in the review now:
We left Whitehorse July 31 driving back to the junction of the Alaskan and Cassiar Highway, this to be the starting point of our journey south. The views are different from this angel but the Alaskan highway is impressive whether you’re coming or going. There’s lots of water out here, big water too, Lakes can exceed 70 km in length. We spend the night back at Nugget City visiting with the friends we made in round one, parking outside the “Wolf It Down” Restaurant. We’ve been off the grid for a while so need to get updated and make decisions prior to crossing the border. After a dose of wifi and civilization we reassess the situation because central BC is burning. This seriously affects the game plan as the push has been to make Kelowna by Aug.12. Why? Jb and Peter were renewing their wedding vows and everything was organized and set to go for a “pink” wedding day. With an evacuation notice pending and guests canceling, the wedding needed to be called off. A somber moment for sure but they are no fools and with the right decision made, recover quickly. In the attempt to help make them feel better I offer to preside over some random roadside pullout ceremony where I’d have them exchange spruce bows instead of wedding vows.
I wake excited Aug. 1 as it was not only the start of a new day; it was also the start of a new week, a new month AND a new adventure! We christened the next month’s adventure as “Destination Unknown”. With no real plan other than cycling, we set out to navigate this new adventure. I’ve personally made quite a few trips around the sun and I know from experience that one should never get too attached to plan “A”, it’s over rated and seldom materializes. The key is to have the ability to tuck and roll while grasping to embrace plan B,C,D or E.
We cross the border waving goodbye to “Yukon strong” and greeting “beautiful British Columbia”. I’ve got to admit the start of the journey was a little melancholy. We were now on a narrow highway with lots of curves, no shoulders or line markers for reference, but that’s ok, I knew what side of the road to be on. The upside was that there was little traffic and very few pot holes so life in the cockpit was good. The initial views were of burnt trees from past forests fires and hazy skies from current ones. It didn’t take long though before my melancholy mood upgraded to enthusiasm and excitement. The Cassiar highway morphed into a beautiful surprise redeeming itself quickly the further south we went. Once again we were engulfed in beautiful mountain scenery giving me that sought after tree huggin’ driver’s high that I’m so grateful for.
Late day we happen upon “Jade City”. I went to the door to get permission to park the motorhome and left feeling like I knew the owner? That’s weird? Turns out it was Claudia Bunce of the Discovery TV series “Jade Fever”. I watched several seasons of this show on lunch breaks while working at the hospital. She was fun, colorful, vibrant and full of her “red neck” passion for life which I found totally delightful. For over 50 years this has been her home, her store and her family business. I got to watch how they cut a slab of Jade and toured the endless selection of Jade products in and out of her store. We stayed overnight as the camping, coffee and conversations were inviting and “free”. It was a great end to day one of “Destination Unknown”. I fell asleep full of anticipation for the adventures that lay in wait.
We leave Jade City and head out to drive through more stunning wilderness, even the lakes are a vibrant jade green. There’s a lot of water driving down the Cassiar Highway with lakes, rivers and creeks around every bend. I read all the names, most are a noun of some sort, a person, place or thing, but then there are those like “baking powder creek” that make you ponder the story behind it. I had to laugh right out loud when I saw Schidt Creek, “ya, girlfriend, you’ve been there a time or two” I muse. We end Aug 2 watching for a provincial recreational site – which we find but opt to sleep in an approach sitting above it instead. The Sawmill recreational site was by a beauty of a lake and would have been quite incredible I’m sure, but the road getting there was steep and overgrown with trees that would have literally been scraping both sides of the motorhome at the same time. With visions of meeting someone on their way out causing my blood to chill, I made the executive decision to sleep up top. Reverse isn’t my favorite gear and reverse going up a mountain was not going to be an option. Safety first adrenaline second.
Aug 3 we continue working our way down highway 37 passing through the very small communities of Dease Lake, Iskut and Tatogga before bedding down in an approach just before Gnat Pass. This was an interesting day as I ended up breaking my own cardinal rule and picked up hitch hikers. Wait. I can explain. On a typical cycling day the cyclists leave the motorhome and tell me what mileage increment to meet them at. I was to check in at the 35 kilometer mark, at 25 km the road crossed a bridge and started a straight up climb – no big deal they are good at hills, at 30 km though I hit heavy construction with greasy roads and no guard rails. I start to worry about their safety getting through here and decide to shut them down. Not before spiking my own adrenaline as I try to get turned around on cliff side. I meet the cyclist and tell them what I’ve found and suggest they not do this hill, hesitant at first but heeding my recommendation they rack and we roll. At the turnaround spot stood two male hitch hikers, Jb and Peter both look at me and ask how I felt about picking them up – being the driver it was my call. I give them (the hitch hikers) a once over twice and see only harmless disheveled older men (most likely younger than me) wearing life jackets and holding an oar that read Iskut. I laughed -“let’s do it”. They jump in and had a great visit sitting on the couch, while heading back up the mountain. The two had just docked with a team of 10 from being on a 12 day canoe trip down the river. They had to take a float plane from Iskut to be dropped off 200 kms upstream to paddle back down sleeping along the shores in all kinds of weather and animal encounters. What a great visit. Talk about a hardcore summer adventure!
Home Aug 4 was Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, another beauty of a spot. We have been enjoying the provincial campgrounds along the Cassair, they’ve seldom disappointed and many of the best random memories have come from back tracking to these sweet spots. Today it rained so cycling was shut down several times with the rain delay, we waited it out playing cards and hit the road several time before we drove to the campground needing a dry out center. The miles between start and finish today had been full of beautiful road side river picnics, incredible vistas, hairpin curves and vibrant valleys. Often it felt like the ditches were offering up huge bouquets for our viewing pleasure. We all noticed and commented on how everything here had such intense color, it felt more like Ireland or Scotland than Canada. Driving through this section the lakes and ditches were smothered with those floating lily pads, you know the ones you expect to see a dancing toad on. Something we just don’t see back home so I was excited seeing so many bloomin’ lilies!
Aug 5/6 we make it to Stewart, home for our weekly connection commitment. The drive as we came to the end of the Cassiar Highway went through what they call the Valley of the Kings and it was seriously a sensory over load. Mountain peaks still with snow and glaciers cradled on the top. Water falls cascading down and lush green mountainside right to the top and when the trees run out there was a mossy green cover and at the base marshes with lush foliage. It’s was like a scene right out of a Jurassic park movie – minus the pending dino doom. Highway 37 can only be topped by highway 37A which was one of the most scenic and spectacular drives so far! Seriously, I want to go back and come in again. We went through canyons surrounded by glaciers playing peek-a-boo with us, 3 and 4 waterfall sightings in one stop. I think this area is one of BC’s best kept secrets! I took a ton of pictures but when I look at them they just don’t do it justice.
We make it to Stewart, a historic town which feels like a real live Heritage Park, complete with chickens roaming the back yards. Once set up for the night I take a hike. I need to figure out just where in the world I am. Turns out we are sitting at the edge of the Portland Canal which is fed from the Pacific Ocean (hence the tsunami evacuation signs). Basically as far west as you can go in BC, well Canada for that matter. Stewart sits on a nub of the Alaskan panhandle which is why the mountains are so unique; they are more like fiords than mountains. With being so close to the ocean we are in a Canadian version of a rain forest which is bringing on all these intense colors minus the rain forest heat and bugs so many layers are required. In my walk I end up crossing the US boundary line (not the border –its closed). I had no idea we were this far west. I take a walk over a very long boardwalk through an Estuary to watch as two little tug boats turn a huge freighter around in the bay to be unloaded. This was so cool! I take pictures standing on the boundary line and head back to try to go to sleep. I had trouble because I was having a sensory overload. Drifting off I’d visions of ships and heard fog horns and am woke the next morning to a rooster crowing. Good Lord. My over stimulated mind has been blown!
Stay tuned and enjoy. I’ll keep you posted as the adventure continues.