The Whole Park to Ourselves
Van Dyke Logging Camp to Kitwancool Lake

September 24th-25th, 2014

What happened…

Andrew writes: You know those times when you think you’re alone? Well, it turns out that there are probably mice there with you too. Amanda and I woke up several times last night as we could hear them assaulting our equipment. At one point I remember saying, “That sounds like a wrapper.” and Amanda shrieked, “Shoot! I forgot to pack away my granola bar!”. Sure enough, I went to throw out her granola bar and there was a small mouse nestled inside the bag on her top-tube. It ran off, but not before the damage was done. Oh well, live and learn!

It rained all night. It also rained for a good part of the morning. Fortunately we were under cover. We left everything unpacked and just sat and enjoyed the peace and serenity of nature. Then, like magic, at 1045 the rain called it quits. We decided to make a go of it, and were on the road by noon. As we were leaving the park, I said to Amanda, “I’m turning south.” This started a bit of a roadside discussion about where we were heading to today. Amanda is growing tired of what she calls my indecisiveness, although I prefer to call it spontaneity. I thought that since it was still pretty cloudy, that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the views along the road to Stewart, and that we should just try to get another 50-60km down the road towards the end of the highway. Amanda prevailed, and so we turned west for Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska.

The road to Stewart/Hyder is known as Hwy 37A. It starts in Meziadin Junction and is 64km in length. From Meziadin we rode downhill for about 5km, then up Windy Hill (the “pass” as it was called by some locals we talked to, which was maybe 2-3km and then it was mainly flat through “Bear Pass”. This takes us about halfway through the ride. Amanda and I kept stopping to stare blankly at the giant peaks, with their glaciers covering them like a shawl. Water and rocks were falling off the mountainsides as we rode past, and they glaciers were right up in our face. This includes the Bear Glacier, which is MASSIVE, and used to be a lot bigger judging by the treeline.

After the Bear Glacier we rode down through Bear Pass for about 30km. “I’m not looking forward to riding up that tomorrow.”, Amanda remarked to me at one point. Beside us, the waters from a river were absolutely raging, whether it was from glacial melt, or all of the rain we’ve been getting over the past few days. It looked like it would be fun in a kayak.

Finally we reached Stewart. Up high, looking over the town are another two large glaciers. We could just barely see them however, since it started to rain heavily just as we got into town. We hunkered down at the Silverado Pizzeria and enjoyed a really great pizza pie. We’ll enjoy it some more for lunch tomorrow I think. While we were there, I asked if the campground in Hyder Alaska was open. Turns out that it is closed. This put a wrench in our gears for only a moment. Amanda already had a free camping spot picked out. We finished dinner, did some food shopping, and Amanda led us to our stealthy little camping spot in the middle of Stewart. We’ll see how stealthy it is tonight…

There’s a weak WiFi signal coming from across the street that I was able to pick up and this let me check my e-mail at least, and see a little bit of what was happening in the world. I also checked the weather forecast; rain for at least 7 more days by the looks of it. Amanda is really worried that she’ll be really cold all the way to Jasper, and that the weather might not cooperate when we do get there, and we wouldn’t be able to see the ice fields. So there might be a change in plans coming up…we’ll let you know!

We woke up to rain on Thursday, but Amanda had put the tent up under shelter which allowed us to stay dry. I had trouble sleeping actually, stressed out about things that aren’t worth stressing. Ahh well. So we woke up before the sun so that we could stealthily un-camp, made breakfast, and rode into Hyder, Alaska.

Hyder; the friendliest ghost town in Alaska! We took some pictures right at the border and almost turned around at that point since it looked like everything was closed up. Down the street though Amanda spotted a neon open sign at the Boundary Gallery. The note on the door said that they would be open whenever the front door was unlocked. I turned the knob. It opened. It was dark inside, but I could see someone in the kitchen at the back washing dishes. “Hallo!?” And so we met Carolyn.

Carolyn runs this small gift shop, famous for its fudge (which is pretty damn good) and home to a variety of knick knacks and paddy whacks. When we told her that we were looking for a place to have coffee, she offered us some from her pot. We then spent the better part of an hour talking, listening to Carolyn play the dulcimer and sultry, I got to play my Xaphoon for her, and then we even bought a few things. The way that Carolyn’s bright smile really lit up the room reminded me of my friend Sunshine (Christine). I could’ve probably spent all day talking with her, except Amanda wanted to get going so that we could hitch a ride out of Stewart.

We rode to the other end of town and got setup to hitchhike. There we stood for about 2 hours with our thumbs out. A man from Montana (David) stopped to talk with us for about 30 minutes. He was nice. Apparently it doesn’t get cold in Montana until late November. I should qualify that though; cold means -40F. Brrrr. Finally around 12:30pm, a logging truck pulled up and Amanda sweet-talked Wes into giving us a ride to Meziadin Junction, 65km away.

Wes is semi-retired, and was really friendly. We spent the entire hour with him talking about all sorts of things. I was really impressed with his ability to get everything loaded onto the back of his truck because despite the large loads his truck hauls, there isn’t a lot of real-estate in the back for 2 bikes and 10 bags. It was a tight fit, but we made it work. We even ended up about 16km further down the road than Mez Junction, and the terrain was flat, which made for another hour and a half of easy riding afterwards.

We found an abandoned weigh scale building of some sort and Amanda setup the tent inside, so at least we will be covered if it rains overnight. The weather forecast is calling for rain forever apparently, so I’m glad we found shelter. We’re about 100km from “civilization” at this point. On one hand I’ll be happy for my creature comforts like internet, espresso and McDonald’s. On the other hand, I know that for the next while we’ll be riding on busy, loud highways. I’ll miss having the whole road to myself, well, I don’t mind sharing it with my lover, Amanda. G’nite!

Amanda writes:Sleeping in a desserted campground has its pros and cons. It was great having the whole place to ourselves in terms of human beings. Animals and rodents on the other hand, seem to own the joint. Aside from the mice that shit everywhere on our things, there was some kind of creature living in a bunch of trees just outside the shelter. We knew it was there before we went to bed as we could hear it. Small enough to climb a tree and hide itself, yet large enough that we could hear its thud when it jumped out of the tree after we had nestled in our tent. This was followed by hearing it do laps around the shelter we were sleeping under, all-night. Again footsteps that were loud enough to make out, but not too heavy so not a bear. We never did see it but it certainly made for a sleepless night for me.

Last night we had agreed we were going to head to Alaska and then again said as much when we were leaving our campsite; or so I thought. Andrew declares at the highway that he is going South; what?! Don’t get me wrong I’m all about spontaneity but make up your mind already. Yesterday we were just heading South and then he saw the sign to Stewart and said let’s go West and then South and; anyways it was a bit much. So I finally said no; let’s go to Alaska. We said we were going to do it, so lets do it. We’ll have a day of riding in and day of riding out, so two days to see glaciers.

And glaciers we did see. The ride was mostly down hill after the climb but we were travelling at a snails pace checking out the scenery and taking pictures. Most of the action was on the left and I actually felt like my neck was getting sore. I was so glad that we had come. I have never seen anything like it. They’re so massive and beautiful and it was amazing. The clouds didn’t allow us to see all of the big mountains around us but I was still happy with what we had been afforded. As we rolled into Stewart it started pouring. Andrew made the executive decision we were having pizza for dinner and I’m glad he did. I’m also glad he had the foresight to inquire if the campground in Alaska would be open. After learning it was closed we decided to hunker down in Stewart and had a great sleep. No mice, no unknown four legged creatures; just us and the sweet smells of the ocean that we had realized we missed from home. It was wonderful to think just over a month ago we were at the Beaufort Sea and now we were on the North Pacific Ocean.

Going to Alaska in the morning was cool. Kind of a bucket list thing for me. It was too bad much of the town was closed but Carolyn made it worth while. After hanging out in Alaska for a bit we did the hitch hike thing and I got to tell you I’m not very good at it. I’m always afraid that it won’t happen. We are two dirty, smelly, wet cyclists with a lot of bags. Fortunately with Andrew’s positive outlook, again it worked out great. It’s interesting because the logging trucks we shared the road with yesterday is part of the reason we were trying to hitch a ride. It’s about a much for them as it is for us. When we were hitching we were only putting out our thumbs for pick up trucks. As we were doing this, the logging trucks we shared the road with yesterday were going by but we just waved. Then I had my thumb out for a pick up truck at the same time a logging truck was coming by and the logging truck stopped. It hadn’t occurred to me they would be able to help out. We had two of them offer and Wes was awesome. I’m really glad we went to Stewart and am looking forward to riding more tomorrow.

Oh and we still haven’t talked about what direction we’re headed in when we get to the interchange. West to the ferry to see family for Thanksgiving or East to Jasper as originally planned. Maybe tomorrow we’ll decide.

Today’s Photographs

The Whole Park to Ourselves
Van Dyke Logging Camp to Kitwancool Lake