Van Dyke Logging Camp to Kitwancool Lake
My Brother Jesse

September 27th, 2014

What happened…

Andrew writes: Amanda wasn’t ready to wake up yet when I woke up, sans alarm clock, at around 7am. I just lay there reading my book until she was wide awake, and then we took our time packing up and making/eating breakfast. I think all said and done we were out of the campsite by 1030. I had peeked at my Garmin GPS last night and saw that there was an ‘unmarked’ road that paralleled the highway for several kilometres, and it was the one that we had used to find our site last night. So off we went down a road which may or may not take us back to the highway. It was so nice having the whole road to ourselves, and riding through the autumn leaves, avoiding potholes and hurdling fallen logs. After 6km, the highway was back before us and wet set off.

Todays ride was never meant to be long. It was about 40km to Kitwanga where we planned to shop, eat, and camp. The terrain was up and down. We completely missed seeing the totem poles in Gitanyow because of poor signage. The village itself isn’t on the highway but we didn’t realize it until we were already past. Kitwanga also is off the highway but they have pretty clear signs when you get close that you can drive through town and reconnect to the road.

First we stopped at the Gitwangak Battle Hill, a national heritage site. I always find it interesting to read about places like this, how they came to be, what became of them etc. While we were there another car pulled up and two ladies and a dog emerged. They began to talk to us about our trip, and then the surrounding area as they were relatively local. One of the ladies, Daphne, even offered us a place to sleep tonight, if we made it as far east as Hazleton. Next we came across Stan and Norma’s Mushroom Buying Emporium. We had seen a few places offering to buy mushrooms, and had also talked to a few prospective mushroom pickers. Norma explained that the price for ‘shrooms wasn’t very good right now, only $13/lb for pine mushrooms. They mushrooms get picked up daily and delivered to Prince George, before being sent overnight to Vancouver. Then they are put on a plane bound for Japan. Wow! Who woulda thunk!?

We made it to the Kitwana Grocery Store, but I felt like we had stocked up enough in Stewart, so we didn’t buy too many things. Mostly we replenished our supply of oatmeal, and bought some fresh fruit. Oh the luxury! After today we’ll be able to shop every two or three days for things, instead of going a week in between stops. I’m really happy about that. Now we just have to eat the approximately 30lbs of food we’re still carrying…

Our next stop was the N&V Gas Station & Diner, right at the junction of Highway 37 (km 0) and Hwy 16, the Highway of Tears. We sat an enjoyed $10 cheeseburgers and fries. We had been paying upwards of $18 for these delicacies over the past two months, so this was such a welcome change. We chatted up a few other patrons who ended up offering us a plate of fries and gravy. We sat inside checking email and whatnot, since we were finally in real-life mobile phone land. Oh, and it was raining cats and dogs outside. I think the weatherman had forecast 20mm of rain today and it all started while we were inside having lunch. Therefore, we weren’t in too much of a hurry to leave. This gave us a lot of time to decide where our next stop was going to be.

To the east, Prince George enroute to Jasper. To the west, Prince Rupert and a ferry to Vancouver Island and points south. One route promised snow and cold temperatures, the other would be much milder, but likely full of raindrops. We mulled over the pros and cons of each and then in a similar fashion as to when we decided to start in Inuvik, I picked up the phone and booked us on the next ferry. It leaves in a week, but is only 240km away. We’ll take a few leisurely days of riding to get to Prince Rupert, ferry to Port Hardy, and then try and make it to Nanaimo for Thanksgiving Dinner with my family.

Some of the thoughts we had while making this decision was that it was cheating or not in the spirit of our original adventure. I think though that the only people who can judge us, is ourselves. We’re in charge of our destiny, and by listening to our instincts, we’ll be best served. While I often look forward to the challenge of doing something, like riding in the Rockies in the winter, Amanda makes a good point, “Why does everything NEED to be a challenge?”. So we’ll just enjoy our ride along the coast, as we did several years ago. This time though, we are in control of our pace, instead of having a limited amount of time to travel a finite number of miles.

We finally decided to hit the road and find a place to wild camp. About 10km from town we came across a rest area with a nice forest behind it. We pitched our tent in the woods near a picnic table and we were all set. Tim Martin, an aspiring baking student, stopped by with his friends and they ended up giving us a bag with some fresh muffins and bread rolls inside. Awesome! I think we had muffins for dinner since we were so full from our big lunch.

Then, just before lights out, Amanda’s sister called on the phone. I could tell right away from Amanda’s body language (and tears) that something was wrong, and I assumed the worst. Sadly, her brother Jesse, passed away today while at home. Amanda took the news in…I don’t know how to explain. She cried, she felt badly for her mom and sister who are back home and have to deal with all of the details, and I think she was sad for her brother too…but they weren’t very close. I think in the years I’ve known Amanda we’ve seen Jesse just a handful of times. So we’ll see how it all plays out. I just want to be here for her in whatever capacity she needs.

I check the weather forecast for tomorrow and it reads: Rain, at times heavy, can be expected. An apt analogy I think.

Amanda writes:We woke up after a great sleep. Very little noises which is rare. We tore down and were on the road at a reasonable time. We knew we didn’t have long to ride until we reached Kitwanga so that was a nice feeling. The downside is that I was not feeling well.

As I’ve got a little older in life my monthly cycles as a woman have become a bit more uncomfortable. I sometimes get pretty bad cramps and headaches and just feel downright ughh. Today was one of those days where if we still lived in a home I would put on some cotton jogging pants, get a cup of hot tea and climb deeper under the warm duvet cover with a hot water bottle resting on my stomach. Instead I was hunched over on a bicycle pedalling in the rain. Not ideal but the discomfort did lessen as we rode.

We rode into Kitwanga and stopped at the grocery store to pick up a phew things. Then we rode down the hill past a beautiful free campground to the restaurant to have lunch. It was at the exchange that we planned to make our decision of which way to go. We talked a lot about the different options. Option 1: Jasper as originally planned. It might be cold but certainly would be beautiful … that was provided we could actually see the mountains. The weather over the last month had been very rainy and the cloud cover prevented us from seeing all the mountains. Part of our fear was that we wouldn’t see the mountains and even beyond Jasper it may be quite cold until we were much further South in the USA. Option 2: Head West for the Coast and take the ferry to the Island and ride down to the Southern tip of Vancouver Island and then hope on a ferry to Washington. By doing this we could honour our family value and see Andrew’s Uncle/Aunt and Grandfather in Nanaimo and perhaps do a little jump across the water for me to see my family again before leaving Canada. The weather would be milder too.

There were so many pros and cons to both ways and we were on the verge of flipping a coin when we both agreed that something in our gut said let’s head West. When we were riding into Stewart and smelled that familiar Pacific ocean smell just a day ago, it just felt right. Something was pulling us West and we both agreed that by making this change perhaps we would come back in a few years to see family and check out Jasper then. Maybe then too we could really honour that family value and continue across Canada and see Andrew’s family in Ontario. And so we picked up the phone and called Uncle Des in Nanaimo and confirmed it was okay to pop by for Thanksgiving dinner. We hopped on our bikes and headed West out of Kitwanga for 20 km before setting up for the night in a nice rest stop. While we were setting up I got a text from my sister asking that I call and then the phone rang and it was her. She told me that my older brother Jesse died that morning.

Today’s Photographs

Van Dyke Logging Camp to Kitwancool Lake
My Brother Jesse