After my 48-plus ride to Hyder Seek 2002, I had five days before the festivities started. I thought I'd be too pooped to pop, but the road was calling and I couldn't ignore the desire to giddyup. So after spending a couple nights at the Grandview Inn to rest up and ensure my blood alcohol level had time to quiesce, I packed up the bike and was on my way to somewhere else.
When I arrived at Meziadin Junction where 37 (The Cassiar Highway) and 37A (The Glacier Highway) meet I had two choices - I could follow the original plan and head for Jasper and Banff or I could head north to Watson Lake and ride a big circle-type route around northern British Columbia. After stopping on the road for a few minutes to let the mind and bike idle as one, the wing and I decided to head north. And that's what we did.
Here's a map of the loop:
The first stop was Dease Lake. I wanted to make it down to Telegraph Creek, but when I got to Dease Lake it was raining rather hard and was late afternoon. After talking to the clerk at the hotel about the road conditions down to Telegraph Creek, I made an executive decision to wuss out. Mainly, because I was on the wing and the clerk indicated the road was dirt/gravel, steep and windy with absolutely no room for error in quite a few places. I've no regrets for not attempting the ride down. Plus, I'll be on my GS next year and won't pass up the opportunity again. The clerk showed me some amazing pictures of the area and it's imperative I see these sites in person.
The next morning I set my course (not too difficult to do when there's one road that travels north and south) for Watson Lake. It was still raining at the time, but had dwindled down to a light, cold drizzle. As I was coming up over a hill I saw a bear zoom across the highway about 50 yards in front of me. It was an amazing site of untamed animal with a brown coat and a honey brown mane that swayed from side to side as it scurried across the road ahead of me. I thought to myself, "Whoa! That was a fucking Grizzly! It had to be! What a trip!" I rode slowly up to where the bear had crossed the road hoping to get a glimpse of this magnificent animal, but he was too quick.
I saw more bear than any other animal in my travels through Alaska and British Columbia. I reckon they all totaled over two dozen. But this sighting was the best one by far. I only wish he wasn't as quick as he was. It was an amazing sight and one that I shall not forget. By the way, I don't have any pictures of any bear. The ones along the side of the road would scamper off after recognizing the bike as something big and non-animal. A real bummer.
I found a nice little cafe at the junction of the Cassiar and the AlCan and decided to have a late breakfast. The food was good, hot and plenty.
Heading into Watson Lake, the Sign Post Forest is an unmistakable landmark you'd have to be blind to miss. I walked through the forest and spotted some known and unknown cities from my home state of Texas and from all over North America. Some of these places I would see in my travels through the western states in the weeks to come and some I hope to travel through sometime in the future.
Heading south on the AlCan I fell into a dreamlike trance thinking about the majesty of the land before me and marvelling at the thought of the people who pioneered the land. I had my head so far up my ass that I pulled to the side of the road to take pictures of my bike and the mountains as a backdrop. This wouldn't have been a problem under normal circumstances, but I was the last person in an escorted construction zone and wasn't even thinking about the people I was holding up on the other end. I only stayed there about ten minutes, but ten minutes seems like an eternity to the people on the other end just sitting there waiting. All I could do as I passed the line of vehicles waiting on me was smile and think, "What an idiot." Just like shit, idiots happen too. Apparently, it was my turn.
All along the highways of British Columbia there are signs that warn of Deer or Elk or Moose or Mountain Sheep or... While making my way down a large stretch of highway somewhere around Fireside (I'm pretty sure) I see two black dots on the left side of the highway. I start slowing down to make sure I don't startle whatever it is and, plus, I want to get a good picture of it - especially if it turns out to be another bear. As I'm getting closer and closer though, I realize it's two massive Buffalo grazing on the side of the highway.
I stopped the bike about 100 yards from the Buffalo, loosen the camera from the mount and begin walking toward them. They don't even pay me any attention at all. They keep their heads down while sniffing, grunting and rooting out the primo grass. I did not expect to see Buffalo on this trip and these two animals were a surprise. It was amazing to be able to get close enough to them to take some good pictures without startling them and causing them to flee.
After leaving the two Buffalo to graze along the side of the road I see a warning sign about Buffalo for the next 20 miles. All along both sides of the highway it was obvious that large herds of Buffalo graze along the highway. All of the grass is trampled down and there's Buffalo dung all over the place. I kept looking for the herd, but never saw another Buffalo. I'm thankful for having seen the two along the side of the highway. It was an unexpected treat. Not too far down the road I came up on a small herd of mountain sheep.
I can't tell you how many lakes I passed along the way, but I can tell you one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen is Muncho Lake. The jade color of the water, the absence of a noticeable human population, the snow-capped mountains and the crisp, cold weather all combined to make my stop at Muncho a magical experience.
I stopped in Fort Nelson and enjoyed a nice, quiet evening surfing the TV for something to watch. A familiar touch to a day filled with unfamiliar scenery, animals and thoughts.
When I got underway the next morning I thought I'd stop in either Fort St. John or Dawson Creek. But after stopping for lunch in Sikanni and talking to a few locals about politics, guns and good food, my new friends and fellow patriots talked me into traveling highway 29 just a little north of Fort St. John and heading to Chetwynd for the evening. I'm glad I did.
Chetwynd is the chainsaw sculpture capital of the world and there are some amazing works of art that dot the city streets. From huge bears to a magnificently and meticulously sculptured eagle the artwork was truly amazing. Unfortunately, I got to Chetwynd late and the pictures didn't turn out good at all. Go there anyway!! :)
I stayed at the Stagecoach Inn because the restaurant there was recommended and touted as having some of the best Chinese food in British Columbia. I concur. The owners immigrated from China and moved to Chetwynd twenty-five years before, set up shop and have been cooking ever since. Actually, Chetwynd has numerous Chinese restaurants. My only regret is that the pictures didn't turn out and I didn't stay long enough to critique all of the restaurants.
Somewhere between Chetwynd and Prince George there is a magnificent waterfall. I cannot recall the name with any certainty (Bijoux Falls?), but you can't miss it as you ride by.
Highway 16 from Prince George to Hyder was a familiar road. There are a lot of cool things to see along the way, but it's a tourism artery between Prince George and Prince Rupert. I spent the night in Smithers which is a nice, medium-sized ski town and headed to Hyder the following day.
When I arrived in Hyder there were people gathering for the next day's Hyder Seek festivities and a few more 48-plus riders. It was great to meet them all and share some laughs, lies and beers. I look forward to going back to Hyder in 2003.