We pulled out of Stewart, B.C. at 8:30 a.m. and headed back up Highway 37A to re-join the Cassiar Highway. Within 5 miles, we saw our first bear! It was a lone black bear walking in the river adjacent to the road. We watched, took some photos and continued on. Believe it or not, a similar scene played out SIX more times today, resulting in our seeing 7 lone black bear mostly right on the shoulder. Each time they became unhappy at seeing us and hustled into the trees.
The most noteworthy bear-sighting occurred a couple hours into the day as we rounded a curve and saw two bicyclists on the right shoulder, waving their arms at us, requesting that we slow down to talk. We spotted TWO black bears 100 feet ahead on the opposite shoulder. Turns out the bikers were, understandably, not willing to bicycle past the bears and wanted our help. They asked us if we’d drive very slowly between them and the bears while they pedaled past to safety. Bob suggested we unlock our trailer door so if the bears decided to go after them, the bikers could drop their bikes and jump in the trailer to safety. Just as we began to drive toward the bears, they crossed the road directly toward the bikers! The bikers dropped back, passed behind our trailer and moved to the other side of us. After that, it was uneventful. The bikers pedaled furiously on, and we stayed with them until they were well beyond the bears, at which point they yelled thank you and waved good-bye. They had Swiss flags stitched on the sides of their panniers, so presumably that’s where they’re from. Since we saw many more bears further along the road, we imagine they may face similar circumstances repeatedly.
And then there were the mountains! This morning was sunny and beautiful, and the huge mountains rose well above the tree line and were topped with gleaming snow. It went on for miles and miles as a backdrop to the spruce, birch and fir trees and many, many lakes. The further north we went the less snow, smaller trees and more ice-covered lakes we saw.
And finally there was the road itself. The southern half of the Cassiar Highway was a high-quality, well-paved road with a yellow-painted centerline, white fog lines on the shoulder, good sight distances and smooth surface. The northern half of the highway was quite the contrast – few shoulders, no yellow center or fog lines, much narrower, very bumpy with frost heave and often pot-holed, sometimes gravel for miles at a time (no pavement), and poor sight distances. One of the oddities of northern BC highways are the little “Slow” signs stuck in the gravel along the road. Though trial and error we learned that these signs don’t mean, slow ahead. They mean slow NOW! Usually there is a patch of gravel or a large pot hole immediately adjacent to the sign.
Needless to say, we made better time in the morning than the afternoon, often slowing to 20-30 mph on the northern segment. But the scenery throughout remained very different from “back home”, beautiful and a pleasure to see. There was very little traffic the entire length of the Cassiar, sometimes 5-10 miles between vehicles, no garbage whatsoever, and lots of simple rest areas, litter barrels and pull-outs.
We arrived at Iskut, our intended overnight destination at 1:00 p.m., and because we’d taken a day off from driving yesterday, weren’t ready to stop, especially as there was nothing to do there in the tiny wide spot in the road.
We continued on and eventually arrived at Watson Lake about 5:30 p.m., shortly after crossing the line from British Columbia into The Yukon Territory. This is where we’d intended to spend tomorrow night, so for the first time in our traveling history, we’re on track with our itinerary but a whole day ahead of schedule! Today’s total: 406 miles, quite a lot when pulling a trailer and on some rough road.
Bob felt enormously better today, was able to drop the heavy-duty painkillers, and thus was able to get back in the driver’s seat of the truck again – yippeee!