Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adventures on the Cassiar, August 6-11

All You Can Eat, August 11, 2014
Bell II Lodge.  All you can eat buffet. We made sure to wake up and get there early, and we're glad we did!  There was fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, blueberry waffles, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and four types of fruit juices!  Our taste buds and stomachs were in heaven.  
Numerous groups came in, ate, and left.  One guy asked the waitress the elevation of the lodge, and when she didn't know, he estimated 10,000 feet due to the temperature and her remark about the heavy snowpack in winter. We had passed a tiny sign the day before noting the elevation of that spot as 466 meters.  The highest point on the highway, which was about 150 miles north, was just over 4,000 feet.  Had I been traveling in a car, like this man who overestimated the lodge's elevation by probably 9,000 feet, I probably wouldn't have known those details either.  And while those by themselves aren't all that important, all the little things you notice and learn about the area while cycling add up and, in summation, equal a greater connection with the place.
After we finished our giant, yummy breakfast, we rode for awhile through beautiful mountains, sometimes next to rivers.  The road was mostly moderately graded, and the headwind was minimal.  And, contrary to yesterday's cold rain, it was clear and hot!  
The beautiful sunny weather and moderate road 

Fueled by the morning's calories, we rode all 60 miles in one go, stopping just a few quick times to pee and refill water.  We arrived at Meziadin Junction expecting to see a lodge with a restaurant, but it was all under construction.  So we proceeded to Meziadin Lake Campground and ate lunch.  It was $18 for a site, so we planned to leave and find somewhere along the road, but then we met Monica and Pam, two other cyclists, and they agreed to split their site.  So we stayed at the campground, went for a refreshing dip on the lake, and talked with them late into the night.  

Wonderful Coincidences, August 10, 2014
We woke up this morning to the sound of rain.  No go.  Back to sleep.  Around 9:30, the rain stopped so we got up and debated whether to go or stay.  The ever-present headwind didn't figure in; it was the same every day.  To find out the weather forecast, we talked with the campground host, a nice German lady named Margaret who always lets cyclists camp free.  She said that tomorrow and the next day would probably be the same: overcast, windy, rain here and there.  We decided to go.  The wind was pretty bad, as expected, but we pushed through it and tried not to get frustrated.  The rain decided to stay as well.  About 25 wet miles in, a car pulled alongside and rolled down the windows.  It was Berel and Chris, our German cyclist friends we had spent some time with a few weeks ago in the Yukon! They were unsuccessful at getting a ride down the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse, so they took a ride to the Rockies down the Cassiar Hwy, where we were.  We made tentative and hopeful plans to meet up with them in a week or two.  They left us with higher spirits and two yummy muffins, which we had scarcely finished when a van stopped just up the road.  Out hopped Jeremie, Shannon, and Finn, the folks we had stayed with in Whitehorse!  They were driving south on vacation.  Tam and I were floored at these coincidences; good thing we had braved the cold winds!  Jeremie invited us inside their van/RV and generously shared some chocolate covered almonds, chocolate almond milk, and apples!  The food, the company, and the respite from the inclement conditions made for a perfect break from riding.  Thank you!
We stopped a few miles up the road for lunch.  I guess we were hungry, because, in addition to our regular ration of tortillas, hummus, and cheese, we each had a substantial dessert of 10 or so cookies with peanut butter.  And those extra 1200 calories or so fueled us well, because I didn't need any snacks for the rest of the day.  We were thinking of camping just outside of the Bell 2 Lodge and getting there early the next morning for the all-you-can-eat breakfast, but the thick brush and a couple of bears we chased off the road persuaded us to camp in a site at the lodge.
- Danny

August 9, 2014
Today was the second of our two shorter days.  We slept in at our quiet campsite then, feeling rested, began our 37 miles for the day.  The headwind was expected, and it started to rain as well after a little bit.  Fortunately the clouds were high enough that we could still see the beautiful, surrounding mountains, some with patchy snow in places.  We stopped in Iskut, the final grocery store we would see for a number of days, to supplement our food supply.  Along with beans and veggies, we picked up a pack of 45 cookies for only $5.99!  They will be a nice dessert for the next few days, or at least tonight.  We rolled by crystal clear lake after lake, finally reaching the Kinaskan Lake Park campsite, our destination, around 3:30 pm.  It had stopped raining, thankfully, and we enjoyed a late lunch at a beautiful site right on the lake.  
After, while setting up the tent, we heard approaching bells, as if someone had attached cowbells their car and they were now bouncing on the pavement.  Our attention was piqued, and we turned to watch about twenty horses trot by, some with bells around their necks, unaccompanied by anyone or anything.  What a random event!  We laughed and laughed.
We used the afternoon to change the tires on our bikes and catch up on writing postcards and whatnot, all to the pleasing beats of Toto.  Then in the evening I undertook shaving in the lake.  You may wonder why I bother shaving when I'm traveling all day and out in the wilds of Canada, or wherever.  Some people look like rugged mountain men after not shaving for a few weeks.  I, on the other hand, look like a scruffy teenager trying to look older.  It's awful.  So I try to keep the "scruffies," as Tam calls them, to a minimum.  
- Danny

August 8th
After a stop at the grocery store to fill up water, we're on the road again. We've been warned about the big hill we're going to hit going out of town- it's the Arctic-Pacific divide pass, more specifically called Gnat Pass. It's the highest point on the Cassiar Hwy. For those of you who are wondering- we don't see a single gnat. The climb is much more gradual than we expected and soon we find ourselves at the summit. A large sign says "Trucks check brakes! Steep grades ahead." What an exciting sign to see when biking! 
On the way down we meet Simon, a cyclist from Vancouver who's headed to Whitehorse. He's super energetic and excited about his first bike tour. We enjoy talking to him for a bit. 
After parting ways we continue down through gradual rolling hills that take us by more lakes and streams. It's partly cloudy today, and every once in a while we bike through a burst of rain. The headwind is ever-present.  Our road begins to follow a large river, then suddenly makes a giant U turn and crosses the river. Just after the crossing we stop to have lunch, then immediately start to climb again. No better way to digest lunch than a large mountain pass- right? Luckily, just over this pass we find our campsite. Our shorter "rest" day of 40 miles has taken us until 4:00pm to complete! 
The campsite is called Morchuea Lake. Down a long bumpy road we find the beautiful lake, providing us with a view of what the natives call the "ice mountain," the snowy, volcanic Mt. Edziza. Unfortunately, much of it is hidden in the clouds. As we bike away from the lake to look for a campsite we are stopped by a family who asks if we would like their site- they're leaving soon. Their site is right next to the lake and they already have a fire going- it's perfect!  As they take down camp, we talk, and they loan us their axes so we can chop wood to sustain the fire. This exercise reminds us how much arm muscle we have lost biking all the time. They're a wonderful family, and it's rather too bad that they're leaving. Thanks again! 
In the evening we enjoy the fire and take swims in the lake. It's great to wash off all the sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray! 


August 7th 
Fearing a horrible headwind, we wake up early and get on the road. Luckily for us, although we do have a headwind on and off throughout the day, it's not nearly as bad as yesterday. We do our best to ignore it. We're pretty low on food and determined to get to the Dease Lake grocery today! 
The morning ride is great. We descend into a beautiful valley surrounded by rounded peaks, each cloaked in dense forest. 
Then the road flattens out and we cruise from clear blue lake to clear blue lake. Occasionally we cross a delightful bubbling stream or roaring creek. It's only when we pass the occasional mine, or the town of Good Hope Lake, that I'm reminded that we're not cycling through a National Park. As we ride, we talk and listen to new music that we acquired from James's computer. So fun to have new music!
After lunch, our road follows the shore of the enormous Dease Lake. Naively we predict that the road will be flat. Wrong! It winds steeply up and down between the mountains along the shore. At points we are awarded with amazing views of the lake, but most of the time we can't see it at all. 
Tired and hungry, we finally reach the grocery and devour some garlic cheese bread before doing the rest of our shopping. Outside the store we meet Babette, a touring cyclist from Holland. She started her trip in Calgary and is headed to Anchorage. We camp with her behind the small college in town and enthusiastically share stories about what to expect along the road. 

August 6, 2014
I already wrote an update for August 6, but that was before we met James and Laetitia!  
This is the worst photo ever. Please forgive me for posting it.

They are world travelers, Laetitia having cycled all through Europe and Asia and James soon to.  They were planning on heading south to Argentina, but their hearts aren't in it, at least for Canada and the States, so they'll be heading soon to China.  Tam helped Laetitia with her Chinese while I talked with James about biking, music, birds, and all kinds of other things.  Together, we enjoyed a vivid double rainbow and a large, bright moonrise.  We would have loved to stay and bike the next day with them, but we were almost out of food and had to get to the grocery 72 miles away.  I'm sure our paths will cross again down the road.
- Danny

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