I awoke on Saturday morning (July 5) in Watson Lake to cloudy skies. At least it wasn't raining like it did all day yesterday while I traveled. After breakfast, I could see the rain moving in, so I put on my rain gear and headed down the highway. I had to backtrack the Alaska highway for about 20 kms to pick up highway 37, the “Stewart-Cassiar”. I had heard horror stories from people who recently had driven it, both by car and motorcycle. I've learned that these things are simply a matter of opinion and experience, so I was still prepared to try it myself. By the time I got there it was raining lightly, and this continued for the first 100 kms south or so. What I found really wasn't that bad at all. The first 30 kms or so south of the Alaska highway were rough and under construction in a number of places. There was one stretch with a pilot car. I found the rough spots, potholes, etc. were probably easier to navigate on two wheels than 4. Once I reached Boya Lake Park, the highway had recently been upgraded with a chip seal, and was in very
good shape. I stopped in the Boya area to remove my rain gear as the sun had actually come out.
It barely shows on maps, and there are no signs on the highway to point the way to the town and minesite at Cassiar. One-half of the namesake of the highway, I thought it would be remiss of me to not go there. With the help of my GPS, I figured the unmarked, paved road heading off to the west was probably it. The GPS said it was only about 10 kms off of the highway, so I turned and followed the road. As I got closer to the townsite, the first thing I saw was the huge tailings pile that completely dominates the area. Hundreds of feet high, and stretching for quite a distance. I could see why they don't want people to find the area, it is quite an eyesore. I drove right to the end of the road which lead me to the processing site. The original mining plant and the town buildings have been disassembled and removed, probably around 2002 when the mine shut down.. The buildings and equipment there now, while old, looked like
they were still in recent use. There must be some kind of secondary recovery of something being done from the tailings. I was actually amazed that the mine only closed as recently as it did, as asbestos has been virtually banned from use in Canada for a much longer time. I did a bit of research on the net about asbestos mining in Canada. What I found is that asbestos mining in Canada is wrapped in politics. While asbestos has long been recognized as the source of all kinds of health issues, and is virtually banned from use here, the mining of asbestos still goes on in Canada; currently in Quebec. There are jobs involved in small towns where there is nothing else. All of the product is shipped out of Canada to third-world countries where the environmental and health standards with asbestos are not as strict. Talk about a political tight-rope - asbestos is too dangerous to use in Canadian building materials, but not dangerous enough that we can't sell it to someone else. I read on the net that while asbestos is a carcinogen, the Canadian Cancer Society (at one time I don't know if this is still
true) has deferred to the political masters and kept the product off of their radar.
Anyway, from Cassiar I headed down the highway to Dease Lake for my first fuel stop south of the Alaska Highway. This was about the longest stretch between fuel stops on my trip, about 230 kms. It is not a problem for my mighty V-Strom, which has about a 400 km range with a full tank. My longest run on this trip between fuel stops was Jakes Corner to Watson Lake Yukon, about 370 kms. When I filled up in Watson Lake, I still had over 4 litres in my tank, which would have taken me at least another 80 kms.
I arrived at my destination for the day, the Red Goat Lodge in Iskut, about 3 in the afternoon. I found the lodge on the internet before I left on the trip, and phoned them for a reservation. The lodge consists of a main building with the dining room, a campground, and three log cabins. I was assigned to cabin #2. It had a nice view of the forest, the lake, and the mountains behind the lake. The lodge is owned by
a former Albertan who was away at the time I was there, and I was ably kept care of by his 21 year old daughter, Amy. Another couple arrived for the night (fellow Albertans from Barrhead) who soon discovered that they were related to Amy. Anyway, Amy prepared a Spaghetti dinner for us all that was great, and we enjoyed some conversation about our travels north. It was another coincidence that this couple from Westlock had run into the Goldwing group I had been traveling with while they both were in Haines Alaska, after they and I had parted ways. This couple had also met another motorcycle traveler I had met who was from North Carolina.
I left Iskut shortly after 9 in the morning and rode for about an hour before I had to stop and put my rain gear on. The day started with much promise: sun and scattered clouds, but as I rode south, the clouds were building, and the rain soon started. The rain continued off and on all the way to Stewart. The drive into Stewart from the intersection on the Stewart-Cassiar was spectacular. There were tall mountains on both sides of the highway
From Red Goat Inn
that were full of snow, crevasses filled with snow, waterfalls, and more glaciers than you could stuff noisy Harleys into. I arrived in Steward around 1 PM and took a walk around and had lunch before checking into my hotel, the “Ridley Creek”. I visited the tourist information office and discovered that there was a big glacier close by that you could drive to see. The Salmon glacier is up a valley from Hyder Alaska. While the glacier is in Canada, you have to drive through Hyder in Alaska and north a bit before the road swings back into Canada. The road climbs gradually from sea level to about 3500 feet (1100 metres) at the highest lookout point over the glacier. The road passed by a surprising amount of snow still around. They get a lot of snow in this area, and it takes a long time to melt.
While I had planned on going to Prince Rupert next, the weather report was not very promising, and I decided that I didn't want to ride into known rain, only to ride back the same route the next day. I did consider a side trip: there is a road that
leaves the Stewart-Cassiar highway about 85 kms north of the highway 16 intersection. This road goes down to the Tseax lava flows, then on to Terrace. These flows are the result of the most recent volcano eruption in Canada, about 250 years ago. After a few kms on the road, I turned around. I did the math on how long it would take me at my comfortable rate of speed, and it would have been too many hours on a poor road.
I then continued on for the most direct route to Prince George. The day was overcast, it rained a bit, and I saw not much more than forests. A very long day for me on a motorcycle, about 700 kms. I was motivated, I want to get to Alexis Lake as soon as I can.
This will be my last blog entry for a while as I will be incommunicado up at the lake. My next adventure awaits...
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