Blog 276 Cassiar Highway 19th – 20th June 2013


Current News – We’ve left Seattle not to head south exactly but we have gone west first to explore the area around the Olympia mountains and national park.

Refreshed from our stay at Willie and Grace’s we all started out north together, Dease lake was our next fuel stop and surprisingly had a sizable supermarket attached so we all stocked up. We (Kev and Karen) initially intended to travel the steep 75 mile dirt road off the highway to Telegraph Creek Willie’s ancestral home but we knew we would be returning the same 75 miles back out again and last nights heavy rains would have made a mess of the road. Besides the others were on a tighter schedule than us and it meant we could all stay together as we were enjoying each others company.

Friends on the road

Friends on the road

Travelling the Cassiar highway

Travelling the Cassiar highway

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Interesting Harley/dirt bike cross-breed spotted in a gas station.

Travelling down the road we saw evidence of last nights storm, many tree tops were snapped off and swathes had been ripped through the trees where the storm had passed. At the Yukon border it seemed appropriate to stop for a picture especially as it was the first time any of us had been there.

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Welcome to Yukon

Welcome to Yukon

Yukon

Yukon

We swung into a gas station in Good Hope only to discover it was out of gas and looked like it might be a while until the next refill luckily we all had enough for the next stop. The northern end of Canada is quite sparsely populated and these tank style filling stations are quite common in small towns, the last time we saw anything like this was in rural Russia.

A local appeared who liked our bike and dashed off to get his wife who it turned out was a bit of a traveler too. They were nice people and he worked on a local road gang and gave us some good advice about what was coming up ahead.

There are some road hazards up north that are particular to a cold climate and which we haven’t experienced before. The biggest problem were frost heaves, these are caused when permafrost under the road base melts in some places but not others causing the road to buckle severely. The bad ones are usually marked with orange flags by the road crews until they can be fixed.

On most of this road we were cruising at a steady 100 km/h, most times when we saw the orange flags we rolled off the throttle enough to scrub off some speed which usually gave us a chance to assess what course of action was needed.

 The problem is that there are so many of them and they are so variable, some you do need to slow right down for as there is an unavoidable crater in the road and some you can just pick the right line and blast through. The hazards can be either raised areas, craters, long grooves or potholes or more often than not a mixture of all four. The consequences of getting it wrong would be at best a bump which would have you out of the seat or at worst a jolt which could damage a wheel to knock you off. Indeed later in our travels we came across someone who had broken his pelvis due to hitting one of these frost heaves and crashed.

Yukon gas station - similar to Russia.

Yukon gas station – similar to Russia.

Uh oh do we have enough gas

Uh oh do we have enough gas

Yukon style gas

Yukon style gas

We stopped a little ways down the road at a provincial park for views of the lake. Here we saw more evidence of the pine beetle, many trees have killed by infestation from pine beetle which is native but seems to be having a huge spike in population and territory which is causing a lot of destruction.

Just Hanging out

Just Hanging out

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Pine beetle evidence

Pine beetle or fire damage

 We saw a fair few bears on our trip up the Cassiar although not as many as some locals predicted. The reason for this was possibly that our bike is quite loud and they could hear us coming a way off or possibly that numbers were down. It had been a hard winter and spring was late coming this year so maybe less made it through their winter hibernation. (these photos are the other Karen’s as we had already passed the bear twice and didn’t want to provoke it) This is a cinnamon bear a variant in colour of a black bear not a grizzly. The grizzly are much bigger and have a very distinctive hump of muscle between their shoulders.

Bear

Bear

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Around Watson Lake it was time to find a camp, On the outskirts we found a bar that had camping in the woods at the back. For $5 it was a bargain especially as we could use the WiFi in the bar. Bear produced a hammock and strung it between two trees, here is a picture of them in it. I had hammock envy and quizzed Bear where to get one. I have always liked Hammocks and we could easily use our roof uprights as support for one side removing the need to find two trees the right distance apart, we will see. The others treated themselves to dinner in the bar but we cooked our own and joined them for a beer later, that was our first taste of Yukon gold which was really good. We swapped stories in the bar of our past lives and jobs and a good evening was had by all. The pub dog found it all too much and flopped on the step.

Watson lake camp

Watson lake camp

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Steph and Bear in their hammock

Steph and Bear in their hammock

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The next morning we got going reasonably early for our big push to Whitehorse. At about 11.30 we stopped off at the continental divide cafe for a coffee which standing in the queue with the smell of bacon wafting past quickly turned into a coffee and a bacon sandwich each. Bear made us laugh as he said “boy this mornings oatmeal wore off real quick when I smelt that bacon” It was a friendly and popular little place and was a welcome stop.

 The continental divide is a line that zig zags down the country and marks the split in the watershed. On one side of it the rivers run down to the Pacific ocean and the other side they flow to the Atlantic. We asked if we could leave one of our stickers on the door.

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The locals enjoying a drink

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Continental divide

Continental divide

At the continental divide

At the continental divide

Also that day we reached the Teslin bridge which is an impressive structure. Bear took pictures of us crossing it with his big lens. Karen didn’t enjoy travelling over it’s seven spans of metal grating which made the front wheel snake and squirm. Even when you managed to stay in one tram-line the join with the next section wouldn’t line up making the bike alter course. We made it across okay but it was nice when it stopped.

Teslin seven span bridge

Teslin seven span bridge

Teslin seven span bridge

Teslin seven span bridge

 Arriving in Whitehorse we headed to the visitor centre and were within sight of it when my clutch cable snapped in traffic. I waved the others on ahead and Karen pushed me to the side of the road. I had a spare taped in place alongside the original so it didn’t take too long to swap it and we joined the others in the visitor centre shortly afterward. That was the original clutch cable we left England in May 2010 with so it had done 70’000 miles. There was only one campsite in town so we headed there and that night we discussed our plans. We knew we couldn’t carry on together for ever as we had different plans and time schedules and it looked like Whitehorse was where we would be parting company so we decided to go out for a last meal together in town.

Kev, Ray, Karen, Bear and Steph

Kev, Ray, Karen, Bear and Steph

Karen, Ray, Kev, Karen and Steph

Karen, Ray, Kev, Karen and Steph

We walked along the Yukon river into town, on the way there was a street art mockup of the Canadian paddle steamer and we all we took a turn at steering the great ship. The prow, wheel, and paddles are all in proportion to the real thing which is moored further down the river. We knew we would be coming back through Whitehorse again on our way down the country so the real one could wait until later. On our walk back from town there was a bald eagle protecting the young in its nest right by the side of the road. Back at the campsite we enjoyed an ice cream for pudding in their outside relaxation area.
Tomorrow we would say our goodbyes.

It had been a fun few days and it was nice to have some riding companions for a change. It can sometimes be fraught with problems traveling in a group but with these guys and girls it just seemed to work and we really enjoyed their company.

Titanic girls

Bear avoiding a storm

Bear avoiding a storm

Titanic girls

Kev at the helm

Kev at the helm

Canadian mock up paddlesteamer

Canadian mock-up paddle steamer

Eagle

Bald Eagle

Face plant.

Face plant.

 

Next up – Back on or own exploring the Yukon.

 

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