The Yellowhead: Part II

The Yellowhead, Part II: Prince George to Terrace.

The rain and heavy mists persisted.

Vanderhoof was our first camp after Prince George. A small town in Sai’Kuz Traditional Territory. We found a bicycle path through a small section of woods and found a small spot in the rainforest by a pond.

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We had been traveling through the inland wet belt—technically a rainforest—for days and were completely soaked. The thick, wet undergrowth ensured that everything only got wetter as we set up as well. We were both grouchy that night. We agreed to search for a gas station with a hand dryer the next morning to give our pruned feet some relief.

No dice.

Our next camp was 77 miles from Vanderhoof at Burns Lake.

We found a Canada Rail service road leading off the Yellowhead and down to the train tracks. An almost invisible path lead down to the uninhabited shore of Burns Lake.

Someone had built a fire pit by the Lake. An absolute steal! We were thrilled to have found such a good camp, and right on a lake as well. We started a fire and enjoyed the evening. A loon reeled its quivering call over the lake into the night.

We noticed that the sun had been setting incrementally later the further Northwest we went.

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We asked someone the next day and they told us we were entering the land of the midnight sun. A bit further North the sun never really sets; rather, an ethereal glow hangs in the sky as the sun dips below the horizon, and then rises again.

We agreed: This is Northern Canada. We’re here.
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We adjusted our plans in the morning. We had initially planned to take nine full days to get to the coast, but since the ferry only sails on even days, we would have had to spin our wheels for a day. Raphael came up with the ambitious plan that we push harder and arrive a day earlier. That meant adding dozens of miles to already full days of riding.

We adopted this new plan. 23 miles into the day, we added 94 on. It was a difficult day, to say the least. 118 miles of riding through the rolling hills of central B.C. all but exhausted us.

Along the way, an adolescent black bear ran in front of us and stopped beside the road. We weren’t sure if we’d startled it sufficiently for it to attack us since it was just standing there, so we pulled out our bear spray and continued forward, talking as soothingly as we could to the bear. It turned and disappeared into the wilderness.

My left ankle and Raphael’s right started to ache and give way after 110 miles. It was dark, though, and another bear crashing around along the treeline was enough to give us new strength. We couldn’t see it, and thus, couldn’t be sure which type it was. This had happened several times, in which we couldn’t identify the bear, and yet heard the heavy, slow footfalls. Now, we just generally assume its a grizzly, unsafety the bear spray and get out of there as quickly as we can.

We arrived in Moricetown at 11:45 p.m., pitched camp, set alarms for 6:00 a.m., and promptly passed out.

The next morning we were both in rough shape from the previous day’s ride. But we crawled out of camp and hit the road by 7:00 nonetheless.

We saw people fishing with nets and gaff poles at a waterfall on the way out. A smoke house plumed just next to it. We learned David, the town’s gas station clerk, that this is a native tradition here. The bounty is shared among the community. There was a salmon festival the next day, which a woman in town invited us to. Sadly, though, we couldn’t stay. We had a ferry to catch and an ambitious schedule to stick to.

David told us to keep an eye out for the “Spirit Bear”: A subspecies of the black bear. It’s white and yet not an albino black bear. It’s an endangered species unique to British Columbia. He said a Spirit Bear was known to frequent the Kitimat-Stikine forest District, in which we were riding.

We dug up some granola we had saved from the day before and ate yogurt and granola for breakfast at the gas station in Moricetown.

We set out with 109 miles to ride for the day. After such a tiring day as the one before, this was a true challenge. 118 is an all-time record for us, and we had never before tried back-to-back days that totaled more than 100 miles.

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We broke the 4,000-mile mark in the late morning.

In Hazelton, we reached the Northernmost point of our trip. We were further North than Alaska’s southern border, but to the east, and thus still in Canada.

We stopped at the Cassiar Highway intersection in Kitwanga for lunch.

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And on we went. The Yellowhead turned Southwest now, cutting below the Misty Fjords of Alaska.

The Bulkley-Nachako river, which we had been following for a while, was absorbed by the Skeena river coming out of the Yukon to the North.

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We saw an abundance of wildlife on this day. Bald eagles dove at the Skeena and landed on the shores in droves. We saw three Bald eagles, a family perhaps, land on the northern shore at one point and huddle together.

We startled a black bear in the afternoon as it munched on berries by the roadside. It dove into the woods, though. We yelled an apology to the poor fellow and rode on without incident.

The Skeena expanded in width and flow as every creek and stream in sight joined it. The water raced toward the Pacific. We raced Westward beside it.

We made it to Ferry Island as planned, which is a small island in the middle of the now massive Skeena River, 109 miles from Moricetown.

It was hard to get to sleep, tired as we were. We were too excited, knowing that we were merely 90 miles from Prince Rupert and the Pacific.

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