RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Friday, March 29, 2019

GrizzLee Stories From the North: Episode 3 - Salmon Glacier and Beyond

I finally made it out of Smithers after a day layover to re-tool and clean up. Having spent 2 nights of my allotted motel budget and a new tire, my wallet was a bit lighter. The Smithers Harley Davidson/Powersports store installed a Shinko 705 dual sport tire on the rear.  I was so disappointed because I left home 5 days earlier on a set of brand new Heidenau K60s. In fact, I had an extra K60 waiting for my return trip home in Whitehorse. All-in-all my spirits were in good. I did manage to encounter a huge amount of construction on this day and it was taking me forever to make my way to the Cassiar Highway. And even once I got on the Cassiar, the construction seemed to be every few miles all the way up to the Nass River. It seems that development of this part of the word is finally catching up.

The Cassiar used to be a true wilderness road with partial gravel and partial unmarked pavement. It's too bad that they paved this remarkable road. Time is catching up here. The sides of the road have been cleared and huge power lines now line the highway. Mining and other resource extraction are in full swing. For those who have never experienced in it’s previous glory, too bad for you. This was once "the road" to travel north on as an alternative to the fully developed Alaska Highway. Before the Cassiar was paved, it gave travelers a taste of what travel was like on the AlCan.

I eventually made my way to Meziadian Junction, riding through little spits of rain and lots of construction. The junction is now a busy place. A log cabin grocery store and gas can be found here. Not too long ago, this was a lonely intersection, no, I suspect, it will be one of the major hubs along the Cassiar road. It is here where the traveler can take a 40 mile spur road out to Stewart, BC and then on into Alaska, going through Hyder and up to some spectacular glaciers. At the junction, is wehre I first met Chip Nelson. A fellow rider who was completing his south-to-north quest (South Americas farthest most point to the farthest most point north). Chip is an amazing soul. In his 50s, he quit his job and decided to travel the world by motorcycle. He has some great stories to tell. I was fortunate to travel with Chip off and on during my northern odyssey.

Chip, had reservations at a BnB in Stewart, whereas, being the seat-of-the-pants traveler I am, I did not. It looked like rain going towards the coast, but Chip and I dove in head first. What looked like rain, never fully developed and soon we were at the Bear Glacier. From their it was a stupendous ride into Stewart BC. We rode though a narrow canyon along a beautiful river with glaciers hanging overhead. Long mystical waterfalls fell from the tops of the mountain down the clifs to the valley floor. An amazing ride for sure.

We arrived at Stewart and got some lunch at the King Edward Hotel. From there, I was able to talk Chip into going further into Hyder and beyond up to the Slamon Glacier. Being a Rain forest, I told him that the window of opportunity can be quite narrow and this may be the only chance he gets. So of we went crossing the border into Hyder, Alaska. We took a detour out to the pier sitting at the end of the Portland Canal, a looong deep fjord coming in from the Pacific.

We passed though Hyder and made our way up the gravel road past many mining operations and eventually made our way to splendid views of the Salmon Glacier just across the border and back into Canada. The glacier is huge. It is one of the few places in the north where one can drive up nearly to the toe of the glacier look into the depths of the mountains from which it flows. The scale of the glacier is hard to imagine and it is such a dominant “in-your-face” ice sheet, against the backdrop of the mountains. From there, we rode further, back into Canada towards the Granduc mine. We were fortunate, in that, the road to the mine was not gated. In my experience, this is highly unusual. We made our way deeper into the mountain valley riding among glaciers, waterfalls and rivers. It really is a magical place.

Eventually we came to the mine and another arm of the Salmon Glacier was there. The mining operations looked like they had been abandoned. Form there we rode towards the airstrip in valley. We turned around at the bridge just before the airstrip as our maps and GPS now longer showed any viable roads.

We made our way back to the Salmon Glacier overlook and to our surprise, there were 3 R1200GSA motorcycles sitting there. 3 Couples form Mexico were on their way up to ride to Tuktoyuktuk… just like me. After visiting a bit, both Chip and I made our way back into Stewart where we parted ways for the night. It was now pretty late and I grabbed a room the King Edward Hotel (cheap… $79 Canadian).

The next day, I left a bit early and saw Chips bike parked out by the BnB he was staying at as I made my way to the Cassiar Highway. I was lazy and slow, enjoying the many sights along the way. I pulled into Bell2 and met up with Chip again. From there we rode together to Dease Lake. It was at Dease Lake where we met up with another fellow rider from the Seattle area, Joe Martin, for dinner.

After dinner, Chip and I camped at the Dease Lake Community College grounds, which consisted of a small parking lot and 2 buildings. Not much of a place to camp, but it did have a picnic table and water.

The next day we parted ways as, both Chip and Joe took off to ride the Stikine Canyon. Me, I had other plans. I had unfinished business from another solo trip north. I wanted to tackle the North Canol Road. Due to weather and its remoteness, it was an experience I was denied 3 years earlier.

Friday, March 22, 2019

GrizzLee Stories from the North: Episode 2 - Spirits of the Forest and Bad Medicine

So I wake up from one of the best evenings ever at Fraser Lake. I must admit that I dawdled a bit at camp. Soaking up the views out on the lake and the quietness of the morning. There was a loon calling out that just topped off the morning mood.

Soon I was on my way towards Burns Lake, Topley and Houston. I took my time. The morning light and the temperature were just perfect.

I made a side trip over to Francois Lake and was tempted by a local to take back roads (an all dirt route ) over to Houston from there. But, another local stepped and made mention of the road conditions. Soon they were discussing the possibility of it being under construction. Not wanting to have to back track, I went back to Burns Lake and continued my may along the Yellow Head Highway.

I stopped of r a lazy lunch in Smither’s and did a light wash of my bike. It was already dirty from the rain and mud of the past 2 days. In particular, the smell of the bugs cooking on the engine made me a bit nauseous and I am not sure why. I then made my way over to Moricetown canyon were the Buckley river flows. It is here that one can see natives dip netting for salmon when they are running.

I then went over the Hazelton Bridge and had a pretty clear view out towards the coastal mountains. It was wonderful out by this time.

I stopped in the junction at Kitwanga to get a snack. Along the way I rode through a thunderstorm. But, it was short lived and I actually welcomed the cool down.

Church at Kitwanga Village

Spectacular Hazelton Mountains

I made plans to head out towards Terrace. Saw a couple of bears along the way and the mountains were delicious. There were clouds and bits of rain along the way, but I mostly had nice sunshine. When I arrived in Terrace is was late afternoon, so I pulled into Ferry Island Campground just outside of town and camped along the Skeena River. I set up camp and went into town to get some Bar-B-Q and a beer to have at camp.  I tucked in for the night and slept very well. I was dreaming about the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park. I really wanted to spend some quality time out that way the next day.

The next day, I awoke to very cool and humid conditions. I lazily packed my camp. But not quite fast enough as the rains came pretty quick and pretty heavy.  Fortunately, my tent and my sleeping bag were already nestled in my dry bags, but my riding gear and boots… well that was a problem. I left camp soaking head to toe in wet riding gear. I gassed up in town and then went to a McDonalds for coffee and free internet to check on the weather. Damn it!! The forecast changed overnight from partly cloudy to 100% chance of showers.

It looked like my visit to Nisga’a was going to be short lived today. Which is a shame, because the park sits in the Nass River valley in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, about 80 km north of Terrace, and near the Nisga'a Villages of Gitlakdamix and Gitwinksihlkw.

The park has waterfalls, pools, cinder cones, tree moulds, lava tubes, spatter cones, a lava-dammed lake, caves and other features created by lava flows. The park contains protected moose, goats, marmots, bears and many other species of wildlife. It is believed that a volcanic eruption and lava flow killed an estimated 2,000 native people around 1700.

I had no choice, other than turning back and heading back to Kitwanga. So I decided to see what I could and take the Nass River Valley cutoff road to the Cassiar hwy (Cranberry Junction). It is a rough gravel road and travelling it in the rain may pose a problem for a fully loaded bike and a solo traveler like me. But, that’s part of the adventure. So off I went.

It rained heavy in the park and despite this, I made the best of it and hiked to a couple of waterfalls. The emerald colored water flowing over lava is something that I have never been able to capture on video. But rest assured, it is a beautiful place.

So after doing a whirlwind tour of parts of the park in the rain, I decided to head back over to the Cassiar Hwy to what is called Crannberry Junction and get on the Cassiar. The rain gods decided to take revenge on me, perhaps punishing me for my past sins. As soon as I got on the gravel road, it was miserable. Lots of pots holes and large doses of rain, flooding the road faster than it could shed the water.
Somewhere along the way, I notice my back end getting a bit squirrely. I pulled over, thinking is that it was the mud. Darn it!! Flat tire. It was not the ideal conditions to be working on the bike but I dismantled my gear to get at my tools, my compressor and my tire plugs. Visual inspection of the tire yielded no apparent damage. So I aired it up and saw a leak. I promptly installed a plug. Upon airing up the tire, I see that it’s not holding air. I can’t quite figure out why until I put my rasping tool back in… that’s when I noticed that this was a big cut as if a razor blade had sliced my tire. To make things worse, when I first stopped and assessed the leak, a couple of guys stopped by breifly a BC Hydro truck to ask if I needed help. They offered to put my bike in the back and take me to Smithers BC. I declined, thinking that the tire plug would be enough to get me on my way. Darn it! Had I known that it was more than a puncture, I would have gladly taken them up on their offer. For what followed was a day of pain that I will never forget.

As I struggled to install more plugs, a couple from England came up on me. The rain had now stopped and I was putting my bike back together. The 3 plugs seem to be holding. The couple offered to haul my gear to the Cassiar hwy to help take weight off the bike. I took them up on their offer. I rode the next 11 miles on the gravel road without problem. We arrived at the Cassair and parted ways. I put my boxes and my bags back on my bike. About 10 miles down the road, the rear went flat. The plugs came out came out and the tire wouldn’t hold air. I grabbed another 3 plugs and installed them and they held for about 5 miles. Now I was out of plugs, and faced with a 20 mile ride back to the Kitwanga Junction on a flat rear tire. Fortunately, one of the local road crew guys came by and followed me (there was no shoulder and traffic can be quite fast on this stretch of hwy). So, I was able to make 10-15 mph on the flat. Thank god for Heidenaus. They are so stiff and the tire didn’t roll off the rim.

Arriving at the Kitwanga Jct store yielded more problems, I was hoping for some help in the way of towing. I was referred to call a local guy about towing and he had no flat bed truck, furthermore, he stated that he didn’t want to use his lift on my bike, because it would mark up the bike and he didn’t want to deal with that. I tried to buy more plugs, but the store didn’t have any, but rather they had green slime. A couple of bikers came by and gave me their tire plugs. That and the slime seem to hold air as I rolled around the parking lot. SOO I took off towards Smithers at 30 MPH. My joy was short lived as less than 10 miles down the road, the plugs came out again. It was now about 8:00 am in the evening and it was raining off and on. Lori (my support back at RubiKon Headquarters in Wa) made a room reservation in Smithers, so I moved on, even at 10 miles an hr. My hope was to make it to Smithers without the tire coming off the rim. Being the cautious person, I kept stopping to air up the tire to ensure that it stay seated on the rim.I estimated that I must have ridden nearly 90 miles on that flat. A testament to the Heidenau K60 tires I rolled into Smithers at 1:00 am. I was one tired dude. I didn’t have dinner that day, took a quick shower after unloading my bike and went to bed. Fortunately, the power sports shop had a tire for my bike. So I would be good to go.

I spent the next day getting a new tire installed (it was a bit costly) and cleaned up myself, my clothes and the bike. I stayed one more night in Smithers before heading north. It was a set back, but it was still early in my journey. I had many more days of fun ahead.

Monday, March 18, 2019

GrizzLee Stories from the North: Episode 1 Leaving Home (Video)

“The best laid plans…”
This would become the theme of sorts for this trip.

So I am packed and ready to leave for my trip. Months of preparation, moved my planned vacation twice due to work and business travel... And then …. it begins to rain, rain and rain all through northern Washington State and up into Northern BC.

It all worked out in the end…
I found a great camp along the way and experienced one of the most incredible sunsets ever.