Archive for July, 2009

Northern B.C. attractions: Giant fishing rods and moose

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Houston is home to the “World’s Largest Fly Fishing Rod” although, Becky thinks the large fishing rod just outside of Terrace on the Kitimat/Terrace highway is more impressive. It is just in someone’s front yard, and not quite as elaborate as the one in Houston. We don’t have a picture of the Terrace one yet, but when we get one we will update this post with it.

20090708_0003

Leaving Houston, there were clear signs of the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle which feeds on mature lodgepole pine trees and kills them. Most of the towns in the area were given government grants to removal all the dead trees within the town sites. Ironically, some of the hillsides outside of town which have not had the dead trees removed are very pretty. The reds add to the greens creating a beautiful contrast. That being said, the devastation caused by this outbreak will be felt for years to come.

20090710_0001

When we reached 6-mile hill we definitely felt the benefits of carrying less weight – most of our bags and heavy stuff were left with Becky’s parents. We had been warned about 6-mile hill, but found that it was not 6-miles long (more like 3 km) and even with the constant 8% grade the climb was not difficult.

As we have been traveling from Prince Rupert to Burns Lake, we have seen many First Nations tourist attraction signs, but have not stopped at any of the sites. We also have passed by several fish hatcheries. Although some of the sites do look interesting, we are feeling an urgency to make our way east, so have made riding our priority.

Arriving in Burns Lake, it did not take long for us to develop a negative impression of this town. At one point a kid even jumped out onto the street and feigned pushing Scott over while he was riding, as if knocking over a cyclist while riding would be funny! We were utterly shocked by this behaviour, and definitely not impressed. First time on our trip anything like this has happened.

We spent the night at the Burns Lake Campground, about 6 km east of Burns Lake. The campground used to be a KOA camp. The park had good facilities for RVs staying overnight, but the sites were nothing special. The only bonus was that we were permitted to share a site with Becky’s parents, so it was cheaper than most places that require us to have a separate site.

East of Smithers the shoulders have become less frequent and when they do exist, they are in poor condition. It seems that the street sweepers do not consider the shoulders as part of the road, so often the rocks and junk from the road are swept into the shoulder. At one point, Becky heard a swish-swish with each tire rotation. She stopped to examine her tire to discover a piece of metal stuck in her tire (a staple or a piece of steel belting from a tire). She was sure that when she pulled it out the tire would go flat, but no! Amazingly the tire was not punctured. We are extra grateful for the Kevlar lining in the Marathon Plus tires. Good puncture resistant tires are highly recommended for this road!

When we arrived in Vanderhoof at Dave’s RV park, we discovered that Becky’s mom was not feeling well. Unfortunately, she had picked up either food poisoning or a stomach flu. Either way, she was not in any condition to continue with the trip, so the next morning, Becky’s parents headed back to Kitimat. We really felt spoilt for the two days they supported us – having breakfast and supper made for us.

The ride from Vanderhoof to Prince George felt like it was uphill the whole way, which felt even more difficult after two days of riding without most of our gear. The bikes definitely felt heavy on the up hills, which certainly made the down hills that much more fun!

When we turned onto the street feeding onto Garth’s place, we arrived to find a welcoming party! Garth and his three boys had come to the bottom of the street only 30 seconds before we arrived, thinking that we should be arriving soon! What a wonderful way to start a visit.

Houston to Burns Lake, 90 km, 4h 45 min – great tail winds!
Burns Lake to Vanderhoof, 130 km, 6h 50 min – headwinds
Vanderhoof to Prince George, 99 km, 5 h 45 min

20090710_0002
Moose crossing the road in front of us.

20090711_0001

The landscape in central BC, between the Coastal Mountains and the Rocky Mountains reminds us of Ontario. It looks rather flat, but the roads seem to have a lot of up hill!

(more…)

Rivers and Hills

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

On the route from Terrace to Kitwanga (the intersection of the Cassier Highway to the Yukon and the Yellowhead), we crossed paths with our first group of loaded cycling tourists on this leg of our journey. We pulled over and had a brief chat with the group – three girls who had ridden from Inuvik and were destined for Newfoundland via the Queen Charlottes and Vancouver Island. They had been mostly wild camping, and were much younger and clearly more adventurous than us! They have quite a journey planned for this summer.

Becky with the three cyclists we met (names now forgotten unfortunately)

For the first portion of the ride, we continued to follow the Skeena river. It is a rather large river, with an amazingly strong current. After seeing so many “rivers” with little or no water in the various countries on our journey, it was nice to see rivers and creeks with a bounty of running water.

We stopped at the Petro Can at the intersection of Highway 37 and 16 in Kitwanga for a post-ride pie and ice cream break. The pie was yummy but the service was a little cold. We camped at the Cassier RV Park, in Kitwanga. It is a great campsite, with a nice gazebo for cooking, laundry, and free hot showers. It is only $12 per night for cyclists, which is a nice break; however, it is 5 km off the main highway – a little further than we like to venture at the end of a long day. We were very glad for the gazebo when we awoke to rain in the morning, as it meant we could make breakfast and get organized without being out in the rain.

Awaking to rain, we were slow to get organized and moving. We were hoping that if we waited long enough the rain would stop, but alas, we were in for an all day rain. It was noon before we finally started riding.

We stopped in New Hazelton at Rob’s Restaurant for a late lunch, to dry off, and refuel. The rain had stopped, so we decided to push onto Moricetown for the night. The ‘Ksan campground looked good too, but it was a 10+ km detour in old Hazelton. It was already after 5 pm when we left, so we knew we were in for a late night. We continue to be happy for the long hours of daylight. We left the Skeena behind in New Hazelton, and without the river to follow the hills became more frequent and steeper. There was one rather large climb out of New Hazelton to ensure we were nice and warm after our lunch break.

We stopped for the night at the Moricetown Campground, just above the fish ladders. The campsite felt more rustic than Cassier RV Park, and did not have a cooking shelter, but it did have laundry and free hot showers. It too was only $12 per night for tenting. We arrived late, and by the time we were done with dinner, showers, and laundry, darkness was upon us. We were warned that a bear was sighted a few days ago, so for lack of a better place, we stashed our food and toiletries on a high ledge in the washrooms. (We have ropes to bear bag our food, but it’s nice to be able to avoid the hassle.)

Bukley river at Moricetown falls, with fish ladder

Bukley river at Moricetown falls, with fish ladder

We awoke to a nice sunny day and even the late afternoon showers mostly avoided us. We stopped in Smithers for lunch and to get groceries. We had planned on lunch at Smitties for old time sake (Becky used to eat there before on ski trips when she was young); however, it had long since closed and even the building was torn down. Since it was a beautiful day and the visitor center had free wi-fi and a picnic table, we decided to grab the makings for sandwiches at the grocery store and enjoy a self catered lunch.

Our break in Smithers took a little longer than we hoped, and we were again back on the road with the expectation of arriving at our destination late. We had hoped to make it into Houston before 8 pm; however, we had not anticipated Hungry Hill. Hungry Hill turned out to be a steady climb of almost 300 meters, and when we reached the top, we were told the grade was 8%. It didn’t help that the road was straight, so we could see what we were getting into. This was the biggest single climb we have done since re-arriving in North America, which doesn’t seem like much, but certainly would have a year ago. We were both rather impressed at how much stronger we ride. Although the hill slowed us down, we had no trouble riding the whole way.

In Houston we decided to stay at the Shady Rest RV Park. It is more expensive than the last few places we have stayed, but the showers are really nice. We decided that we would take a rest day to give us a chance to get caught up and sleep and blog posts, as well as resetting our schedule, so we can start off earlier (i.e. in the morning) and arrive at our destination at a decent time. Also, Becky’s parents joined us here with their RV, which will allow us to carry a little less weight through the worst of the hills and into the Rockies. We are also looking forward to arriving to a home cooked meal at the end of the day, cooked on more than our little MSR stove.

Terrace to Kitwanga – 101 km 6 hours
Kitwanga to Moricetown 89 km 6 hours
Moricetown to Houston 103 km 6:45

Scott approaching the landslide

Scott approaching the landslide

The location of the land slide that in 2007 isolated Kitimat and Terrace for a few days.

Our mountains are very pointy, our prairies are not
The mountains are quite beautiful when the sky clears to let you see them!

Reunions

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Our journey brought us to Kitimat so that we could visit Becky’s parents, and so that we could attend Becky’s twentieth high school reunion. Becky finds it hard to believe that it has been 20 years since she left Kitimat. It seems like yesterday and yet so much has happened since then.

Much of our time was spent visiting some of Becky’s closest high school friends; unfortunately, not everyone she wanted to see was in town. She really enjoyed the brief chance to catch up with Gwen and Natalie – both of whom are doing very well. The reunion committee did a great job setting up a few events, and we used those opportunities to see just how much people have changed in the last 20 years. Most of the girls looked the same but with a few more wrinkles. A lot of the guys were completely transformed. Many are much more friendly people than they were in high school – funny how aging does that too us. Not too surprisingly, Becky won the award for having travelled the farthest to get to the reunion – a nice MESS (Mount Elizabeth Secondary School) T-shirt. It’s hard to beat a journey of 42000 km, although not all by bicycle.

M.E.S.S. class of '89

M.E.S.S. class of '89

We also spent a little bit of time on the computer updating blog posts and doing research, and touring around Kitimat on our bikes. Now that we’re out of southern B.C. we get quite a few more comments and questions about them. No-one at the reunion was willing to try them out though.

Cow and calf moose in front of Becky's parent's house

At one point, as Scott was working on the computer, he glanced out the living room window and noticed something moving. After a double-take, he realized it was a female moose and her calf walking up the street. A true Northern Exposure moment!

20090705_0002

Becky and Natalie

Mount Elizabeth

Mount Elizabeth

Gruchy Beach at Lakelse Lake

Gruchy Beach at Lakelse Lake

Riding Home

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

20090630_0001

The morning dawned grey and cloudy, but fortunately there was little rain – only an occasional misting. It did mean our view lacked mountains with their snow capped peaks; however, the mists still made the views quite picturesque. The ride from Prince Rupert to Terrace was to be our longest single day so far on the trip. Becky had fearful memories of the hills leaving Prince Rupert, especially the summit. She was somehow estimating a climb up to 600 or so meters. Fortunately, her memory failed her, and after two hours of rolling hills with a couple of minor climbs and only 200 meters of climbing we were coasting down the summit to the Skeena River Valley. Once in the valley, the road is very flat slowing climbing from sea level to 25 meters, following the Skeena river for almost 100 km.

We stopped briefly at a roadside boat launch, as Becky had an empty water bottle and figured they might have some fresh water. We learned that the launch was actually a government testing site, where the amount and types of salmon entering the Skeena river is measured. The measurements are used to calculate the salmon fisheries quotas for the river.

20090630_0003

On the ferry, someone mentioned a new restaurant between Prince Rupert and Terrace. When we checked with others, no one had heard of such a place. At about the 80 km, we stumbled across the Kasiks Wilderness Resort. It appears to have an restaurant, gas, and camping. Since we had packed our lunch and wanted to try and beat Becky’s parents to Terrace, we did not stop. For anyone doing the ride, this would be a great place to re-fill water bottles, have lunch, or even camp or stay for the night. We did not, and had Becky’s parents not met us, we would have had to filter some water from one of the many roadside streams.

Shortly after the midway point, we met a cyclist out for a training ride – perhaps a warmup for the Prince Rupert to Terrace race. He asked about our trip and warned us of the hills leading into Terrace, saying they were worse than Prince Rupert hill.

For most of the ride the road is wide with a generous shoulder; however, as you get closer to Terrace there are a couple of corners where the road is narrow and the shoulders non-existent. One such place is known as “Car Wash Rock” because the rock face next to the road often has water pouring off of it onto vehicles passing by. Over the years, several people have died when a ice came off the edge. Riding through that area was much less scary that driving. Luckily there were no other vehicles around.

We stopped at the Estew rest area for a quick snack, when Becky’s parents appeared. Mom had finished work early and they drove up to meet us along the way – bringing some water, Gatorade, and snacks. We were especially glad for the Gatorade and water, as our bottles were getting pretty low. They too warned us of the upcoming hills, so we were doubly prepared.

20090630_0004

We left Prince Rupert at 8 am, and before 6 pm we had arrived at the Stone’s place (friends of Becky’s family from Kemano). Tired and sore, but glad to have made it in such good time, we were welcomed with a glass of wine, a wonderful meal, and a great visit, followed by a soft bed which we gratefully collapsed into.

On July 1st, we did the much shorter ride from Terrace to Kitimat. Becky remembers driving on this road at least a thousand times. Interestingly enough, her memories were always in the other direction. She was surprised at how close Lake Else was to Terrace – she always thought of it as the mid-point between Kitimat and Terrace. In all her years growing up in Kitimat, it never once occurred to her that she would ever ride a bicycle between Terrace and Kitimat. It is especially amusing that we considered the 64 km ride a short and easy day!

152 km, 7h 45 min – Prince Rupert to Terrace
64 km, 3h 45 min – Terrace to Kitimat

20090630_0002

Much of the Highway 16 to Terrace closely follows the Skeena River, so is quite flat.

20090630_0005

Carwash Rock

 20090701_0001

Janet and Chris Stone, our hosts in Terrace

20090701_0002

Welcome to Kitimat!

(more…)