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.