Day 72: Houston to Burns Lake

We talked with Yvon in the morning before we both set off for the same destination of Burns Lake. He was sure we would be faster, but we were pretty sure that he would be. We let him leave first and thought that we potentially may see him again in Topley where we were all planning a food stop.

Arriving in Topley, the cafe Jesse saw online had turned into the Post Office but they told us to go a bit farther down the road to the General Store – Grizzly Jim’s. This store had the typical offerings plus they also made burgers. We found out Yvon had left just 15 minutes earlier. Jesse had a cheese burger, and I asked for one minus the burger. The woman making them asked if I wanted a fried egg as well for energy for the hill ahead, which was a nice addition! The owners said they want to cater to to cyclists and hope to have more to offer them in the following years.

The 6-Mile Hill began just after Topley, and it was quite the continuous hill. Unlike Grizzly Hill where we could see ahead quite a ways, this hill had lots of turns so we were never quite sure when we had reached the top. From the peak we rode mostly downhill into Burns Lake, stopping near to town to read and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Arriving in town just past 5pm, we were a bit too late for tourist information center. However Yvon was waiting for us to let us know the campground he had previously told us about was ahead, was no longer open. He said there was a free municipal campground that was a bit sketchy but nevertheless an option. After stocking up on food for dinner we found the campground.

It was in a nice location, right on the lake and next to a nice park, but the campground itself wasn’t very well maintained at all and didn’t provide any sense of security, though we were able to use the public park washrooms until 9pm which were nice.

After dinner Jesse chatted with Yvone while I tried to stay warm in the tent – my feet often freezing until hours after I fall asleep.

Day 71: Smithers to Houston

For the first day in a long time we woke and packed up without the rain. We spoke with another Cross-Canada tourer who also camped in the campground, Yvone, who is doing a similar route and who we’ll likely see a few more times along the way.

We stopped in the town of Telkwa at a little diner attached to the gas station for breakfast. Nothing fancy but it was great to relax while we chatted with another customer as well as the waitress/cook. Camping gets us up and moving faster so we can have a bit more leisure time when there’s somewhere to stop – though late starts haven’t hindered us much before.

The rest of the ride was rather uneventful. The valley we are in is extending and opening up, and we are leaving the mountains behind us for a little while. There was one hill climb today, Hungry Hill, but it wasn’t too challenging though it did take us to the highest elevation of the trip. When we reached the top of the hill there was a managed burning of dead trees and debris which was interesting to see. There seemed to be a lot of dead trees in that area – an area hit hard by the pine beetle.

Just beyond the peak we ran into another tourer. Axel started his trip in March in Las Vegas and was making his way north in a very indirect way. He was travelling on his own and wild camping, and seemed a bit lonely and eager to talk. We spent a while talking to him at the side of the road before we parted ways. As we made our descent down the hill we could see a huge rainstorm ahead. There were large dark clouds, the air grew cold, the smell of rain was present, and oncoming cars had their windshield wipers on. We didn’t rush to get down the hill – not only because going faster makes me colder, but I was also hoping to be able to avoid the rain. And we did. Nearing the town of Houston the road was very wet and we could see there had been a lot of rain, but we managed a whole day with only a few rain drops and the spray off the road, no rain pants or booties needed. Though I love my rain jacket and waterproof socks, I hate riding in my rain pants and booties.

We rode into town and stopped quickly at the information center to find out about camping spots, then went to a cafe for sandwiches for dinner before moving on to the Shady Rest RV park – a great campground with the best camping bathrooms we’ve seen this trip, laundry and internet access. All for $19. Yvone had also chosen this campground so we were able to talk a bit more with him.

Day 70: Seeley Lake to Smithers

By the time we got moving this morning rain had begun. With all our rain gear on we started the ride, reminiscing about yesterday’s sun. Jesse was hit suddenly with a full blown cold so he wasn’t 100%. We reached Hazleton early and had had higher expectations. Ksan was at least 5km off the highway and in the rain we decided against that stop. Instead we stopped at a terrible restaurant for breakfast – the better looking one across the street had closed down. As had the Subway just a bit farther. The town definitely was not booming.

Without wildlife or towns along the way and in the rain, we just kept going, eating quickly at the side of the road when hungry. As we neared Smithers the clouds cleared and the sun did come out. We weren’t sure if we would camp in town or go 10km farther to the provincial campsite. We decided to check out the municipal site and since it looked good (wi-fi and showers!) we setup there so we could see a bit more of Smithers. We had heard good things and this would give us a bit more time in town.

Around 6pm we started wandering town looking for a place for dinner. Nearly every store and restaurant was closed. One restaurant we found that was open had terrible online reviews, the other one we were advised not to go to by a woman who worked in a hotel across the street. We went into Tim Hortons but decided instead to go to Safeway and indulge in a good home cooked meal – a far better option than any of the restaurant choices. Jesse also bought a ridiculous amount of fruit to try to fight off his cold.

Day 69: Terrace to Seeley Lake

Another morning started in the miserable rain. It rained continuously that heavy drizzle that with the very thick clouds. We had a long day ahead of us and started at a reasonable time for us – 9:30am. It was 140km to the next town – Hazleton, or there would be a motel and camping just before.

The wildlife feature of the day was a moose swimming across the river. Jesse saw her first and pointed her out to me. I was initially worried that she wasn’t supposed to be there and was droning, however Jesse assured me that she was just working her way across to the other side, and indeed when we looked back she was closer to the shore on the other side of the river.

Early into the afternoon the clouds started to part, the rain eased, and eventually the sun did come through, and it stayed with us the rest of the afternoon. We had nearly clear blue skies all afternoon, a really big tailwind, wide shoulders, little traffic, and beautiful scenery. What more could we ask for?

With the sun we were able to take a couple breaks at the rest stops, which was good because there was no other stops for nearly 90km when we reached the turn off to Alaska. At this junction there is a gas station and restaurant where we stopped for a snack. As we continued, we found a small roadside stand selling freshly made bannock, so naturally we had to stop.

When we saw a campground at 125km we decided it was time to finish the day. We knew of another campground called Ksan which is also a traditional native village. But we thought it was past the next town, Hazleton, so this way we can stop in town tomorrow morning for breakfast and snacks before making our way to Smithers and weather permitting stop in Ksan on the way.

Day 68: Kasiks Resort to Terrace

While reading in the front room I heard the bellowing “Go!! Get out of here! Get the **** out of here!” then some honking. I knew something was going on but couldn’t see anything from my window. Then the caretaker for the resort, who had recently just returned and seemed very calm and friendly, came walking by to tell me there was a grizzly out front. So excitedly I grabbed my camera and following him to the front.

Sauntering by was the bear, just taking her time, not at all concerned by our presence. We were standing in the doorway of the motel while she walked right in front. There were two other guys in a truck right there who were honking their horn. The bear eventually turned and walked the other way, and rested a while in a pile of gravel. We stood talking for a while to the caretaker and the two other guys, who we found out were biologists who monitor hummingbirds. An exciting start to the morning.

We started our 60km ride to Terrace. Not far of a distance to travel. We started in the rain again, saw three more bears along the way and what we believe to be foxes. The high number of bear sightings are inhibiting our comfort with the wild camping idea.

The rain did let up for a while and we were even able to see our shadow for a few minutes.

We arrived in Terrace and for lack of anywhere else found ourselves at Denny’s to get a bit of food and to decide how to proceed with the day. Some places in town had no vacancy, and one guest house I phoned said it was fully booked for the year (!) so we found a place 10km out of town that would take us. Stocking up on food at Safeway we then set off for the motel. We had a tiny room but it had a view right on the river which at least helped when feeling a bit claustrophobic.

Day 67: Prince Rupert to Kasiks Resort

We spent some time this morning chatting with another couple, Ian and Gabrielle, who were also staying at Javalodge. They were visiting from Edmonton for a few days. Ian is a photographer so we heard about his trip on a small boat to get up close and personal with the grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen Sanctuary. We saw many of his photos before we said goodbye and wished him well on his flight on a small plane for the next phase of his photographic ventures.

With enough food to get through the day we got going, again in the rain. The rain was very heavy at first and made for quite unpleasant riding. The views though still amazing, would be absolutely astounding I’m sure without the clouds. We rode right along the river, and on the other side of the river was the mountains. After a while we ran into two other tourers who were doing a fairly large loop of the area. They told us of a place they stayed at 90km from Prince Rupert and said it was a good option – though it wasn’t really open, otherwise there was a campsite not too much farther. We had no plans for where we would stay and were considering wild camping, but this option was more appealing given the rain.

We had a small climb today and as the other tourers told us, the rain did ease up a bit on the other side of Rainbow mountain. Eventually it stopped (though the clouds stayed) and our wet clothes were able to dry.

Finding Kasiks around 7, we did see what the others mentioned in that it wasn’t really open. We were let in by who we found out later was the cook, though she said the kitchen was closed. We were the only ones staying, and the only ones indoors. We were told we could use the microwave or toaster oven to make our own food. It was a bit bizarre to have the whole place to ourselves! The cook lived in an RV outside so we never saw her again. I started making our dinner in the commercial kitchen, then we relaxed in the huge living room area before calling it a night.