Change of plans/route leads to a stunning discovery
Our plan on heading back south was to go to Prince Rupert and take the 19 hours ferry ride through the sounds to Vancouver Island and then meet up again with Rod and Lorrie who were spending a week there.
However, when we got back to Dawson City we were so tired, physically and mentally, and we knew that we would not “safely” manage the 1900kms in 3 days to Prince Rupert.
So we decided to make our way slowly back to Kelowna over 8-10 days covering some roads and routes we hadn’t yet done.
We took the road south and came across a little campsite right next to the River Yukon ...the same river that we had stayed next to thousands of miles away in the Yukon. It was an idyllic little spot.
We had also been beaten by the weather and had to buy a blanket to go over our sleeping bags!!
The next day we moved onto a small ex mining town called Faro.
The mines were abandoned in 1998. But a small number of residents refused to leave and give up on the community. They set about reinventing the town …much like successful companies re-structure to maximise productivity and people like Madonna and Lady Gaga reinvented their image to stay current and interesting, these guys have turned a defunct mining town into a quaint and friendly place to visit …out in the middle of nowhere.
The Visitors centre is new and clean and welcoming with hot coffee and cookies offered as you walk in.
There is a campsite with the cleanest showers and an endless supply of hot water.
There is a local store that sells everything from wrenches to avocados and at real prices not elevated “tourists need this” prices. There is a café that opens at 6am every morning to feed local roading crews.
And there are a series of bush walks that lead out from the town in loops, all sign posted and all very beautiful.
Nick lit a camp fire (most campsite here in Canada supply free firewood) and we cooked our dinner and made our coffee over an open fire. Perfect!
And that evening we saw a few little streaks of the Northern lights again.
The next morning (4th Sept) we woke up freezing cold …even the extra blanket we had brought wasn’t keeping us warm. We’d had our first frost! The outer of the tent was frozen as we packed it away. We really were racing against time now to see as much as possible before the weather closed in for the winter.
We headed towards Watson Lake along a 380km gravel road that felt like our own personal road as all we passed along the entire length was 4 cars, a bear and a lynx!
The autumn scenery was stunning and Nick veered off down a side track and found a great place next to our own personal lake for lunch …there was even a table and two chairs!
5th September, and we head off down the Cassiar Highway. At the Faro campsite we had got chatting with some guys who had shown us some great places to visit and advised us what routes to take AND very generously gave us a Map book that is waaaaay better than the free one we had been using (thank you Bob!).
We end up that night at a campsite on the edge of Dease Lake, and because the weather was meant to close in for 24 hours we splashed out on a little cabin with a real bed, running cold water and a gas heater and stove!!! Total luxury!
Because we hadn’t had a rest day for 8 days, and after finishing the Dempster Highway our bodies still ached and our minds were a tad frazzled it seemed like a good quiet place to stay and refresh for a couple of days.
It was a great place to start to plan where we might go when we reach the USA as well as upload some photos and make some blog posts!
On the 8th we head off for the town of Stewart which was well worth a visit according to the guys we had met at the Faro campsite. They were not wrong and as we got further along the road the higher the mountains became and the more stunning the scenery.
We saw a lot more bears too, either munching on berries at the side of the road or just crossing the road with their young.
We came to a glacier and were like “wow! This must be the Salmon Glacier” took some photos and then moved on.
When we got to Stewart, we dropped into the local visitor’s centre (free wifif!) to see what was in the area.
The unusual thing about Stewart is that even though it is thousands of kms from main land Alaska there is a little bit of Alaska joined onto it called Hyder. And Hyder is where you can view the bears fishing for salmon! Off we set to cross the border into Alaska again BUT due to not putting on our glasses we missed the fcat that you needed to prebook viewing the fishing bears AND it cost money. Pftt… we had seen lots of bears already and as previously mentioned not really “tourist trap” kind of people.
Bec remembered seeing (without seeing, as she didn’t have her glasses on!!!) that there was a gravel road past the bear viewing place that went up into the mountains and wasn’t advisable for non 4WD vehicles or bad weather. Sounded perfect!
So off we head with no idea where we are going.
After 20kms or so we were stopped by a road worker and honestly thought we were about to get growled for being on a private road. Nick asked if we had to turn around and he said no and that they were shifting some rocks and the road should be clear soon. Nick then asked what was ahead and the road worker raised an eye brow and said a glacier, Nick then asked if it was worth a visit, the road workers eye brow raised even more as he said that, “Yeah, it was worth a look!”
Off we head and the road got gnarlier and steeper with some BIG drop offs to the side and lots of pot holes and rock falls. We were having a great time! This is what we came around the world on bikes for! We felt like real explorers!!
Then we saw the glacier …the REAL Salmon Glacier! BLOODY HELL!!!!!!
We nearly missed this; it was only our adventurous streak that made us take this road and see this epic piece of nature.
That evening we decided to celebrate with a rare meal out and went to the only place open in town.
There was a 2 hour wait for a table so we sat out side with the chicken (for real!!!) and drank far too much red wine so by the time we came to be seated we were not only starving but drunk so didn't look at the prices and ordered a lot of food!!! Lesson learned!!! (the food was delicious though).
The following day we headed to a native village called Ginglox (pronounced gienglouch) another locals recommendation.
We were told to take a backroad called the Cranberry Connector which would take us along a forestry road. Great we thought! the only problem was our GPS took us down an unused forestry road that even we weren't game enough to continue on.
On the way back we stopped at the Nisga lava beds in the Nass Valley, the result of an eruption 250 years ago that wiped out 2000 local natives. It was an incredible sight.
We stopped at the local information centre and talked to the guide who explained how there used to be many lava tubes but the weight of the snow in the winters (they used to get 16feet of snow a year before global warming kicked in!!) had slowly caved them in, creating and almost ridge and furrow landscape on these lava beds.
We continued on along to Terrace where we planned to stop for the night, BUT Terrace was the first biggish town that we had hit for a few weeks, and the sight of car after car after car and chain stores and fast food restaurants was a bit of a shock for us; we had been used to searching out the local grocery stores in buildings that resembled a lock up/small warehouse with no advertising, and lining the pockets of the locals that ran them and not some multimillion conglomerate organisation. We moved on.
We found an amazing campsite 30kms or so down the road. It was beautiful, it was immaculate, and the caretaker there told us some great (and true stories!). Once we had put the tent up and were cooking our dinner she told us about the mumma Grizzly bear and 3 cubs that were fishing the creek right behind our tent
and the 150lb male Cougar who used the tree on the other side of our camp as a scratch post!
Hahahaha to be honest we are kind of used to this kind of thing now so still slept like lambs that night even with this knowledge.
Now its time to get the bikes serviced in Kelowna and unfortunatley say good bye to Canada :(