Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Day of Firsts

 first fox

first experience with Canadian healthcare system

first moose

first glacier

first stop in Alaska

While having coffee in our Lake Burns campsite this morning we noticed movement out the window and realized we were seeing FOUR foxes, with bushy white-tipped tails scavenging through the campground peeing on the trees and looking for food. They hung around for 15 minutes racing from spot to spot. We took some photos, but it was still darkish dawn and raining lightly, so none turned out.

Right after the foxes left the area, Bob sneezed. While some folks think we occasionally go into too much detail on our blog, we wouldn’t normally report a sneeze. However in this case the sneeze resulted in some changes to our trip plan, the first being that we needed to avail ourselves of the evil SOCIALIZED MEDICINE here in Canada (sarcasm absolutely intended). Bob tripped and smacked his ribs on a table 5 days ago, and since then has been in some discomfort, largely managed by taking Tylenol, but otherwise proceeding along our trip as normal. This morning’s sneeze caused the discomfort to escalate severely enough to require something with more punch than Tylenol. We decided to go to a clinic in the town of Smithers, B.C.

On entering the clinic, they collected $60, then led us immediately to an exam room. Five minutes later a good-looking guy wearing jeans and a pin-striped shirt (half un-tucked) who could NOT have been more than 28 or 30 years old walked in, introduced himself as “Kevin” and proceeded to examine Bob. Turns out this was the doctor! He described 3 different things that might be wrong with Bob, said none of them needed treatment unless new symptoms develop, prescribed pain medication and told Bob he’d feel a good deal better in 2 weeks, all back to normal in 6 weeks. We filled the prescriptions at a nearby pharmacy (3 for $78) and went on our way. Whew! The pain meds go a long way toward dulling the pain, but unfortunately mean Bob can’t do any of the driving for a week or so until he can go back to Tylenol. We were quite impressed with the easy availability and low cost of Canadian healthcare, especially as a non-resident!

Mid-day we left the Yellowhead Highway 16 on which we’d been traveling westbound from Prince George and turned north on the Cassiar Highway 37. Almost immediately we saw a large, dark shape on the shoulder up ahead and realized it was a moose! There was no traffic in sight, so we stopped the truck and watched. The moose seemed disturbed by our presence, and shortly an 18-wheeler came over the hill toward us and also slowed, but nonetheless spooked the moose, which ran across the highway directly in front of us and disappeared in the bushes. It appeared to be a young moose (or female? We don’t know) as it was not as large as we expected and didn’t have any rack on its’ head. But still, this moose would make any horse or deer look tiny! It had a beautiful loping style of running and lovely coat. We were so pleased to see one so soon, and so close and in the clear!

45 miles after turning onto the Cassiar Highway, we took a detour to the west toward salt water, a big change from the inland terrain we’ve traversed since leaving home. We headed down (in elevation) highway 37A toward Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska, tiny “twin” towns that meet at the Canadian/U.S. border on a small bit of land adjacent to the Portland Canal. The Portland Canal is the 4th longest fjord in North America, stretching 85 miles from the coast into the interior. Here at the end of the canal, it’s only about ¼ mile wide, and from the look of the map, never gets much wider. Check out our “Spot” tab above and click on today’s location message to view a Google earth map of the area.

This area is slightly north of Ketchikan, AK but not connected by any roads. This is where Alaska begins to cut off the northern half of British Columbia and all of the Yukon Territory from the Pacific coast. On highway 37A we drove past our first glacier sighting, of Bear Glacier, which begins high in an adjacent mountain and ends at the river next to the highway at 1,400 feet of elevation. We’ll be seeing lots of “bigger and better” glaciers over the next few weeks, but this was our first and it was blue and beautiful!

At the end of Highway 37A we entered Stewart, B.C. and 2 miles later crossed the “border” into Hyder, AK. There’s a small structure on each side of the road designating the border, but only the Canadian building was staffed by a nice man who asked a few questions, looked at Cathryn’s I.D., and waved us along. The U.S. post was closed. More on these two towns and this area tomorrow, as we plan to stay here two nights to explore. We’re ready for a day off from driving, and the campsite we’re in at Bear River RV Park is pretty, inexpensive, and has full hook-ups (a first on this trip) as well as wi-fi right at our site.

We drove 305 miles today, making our total mileage about 1,100 since leaving home. The scenery is gorgeous, has changed from the rural-but-still-developed feel of lower B.C., and the terrain has begun to exhibit the “wild and vast” feel described in the books.

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