How Years in the Mountains Train ya for a Stormy Night at the Whitehorse Walmart

Blowing rain not far above the freezing point, it felt like a mini Patagonia. Guying out a flimsy 3 season tent on pavement with frozen fingers is an art! Rocks, we needed more rocks! Thank goodness the strip mall across from Canadian Tire had some decorative river rocks. I ferried load after load. In the morning with sleep & a much higher blood sugar level a shopping cart hauled them all at once. But brute force is often the main tool to meet exhaustion and terrible conditions head on. Fall is showing signs of its arrival. It snowed a few hundred feet above town last night. We’ve been seeing yellow leaves since mid BC but they’re for real now, red ones too. I’m not a big fan of rushing things but we’re in a rush to get north. Winter will soon be coming to Prudhoe Bay!

One of the wisest choices we made on the way up was a stop at Telegraph Creek & Glenora. It’s been 10 years since I spent a couple great days there. I remember cooking dinner along the Stikine in the August twilight on the fiest sand I’ve seen in ages. This is what I wrote from Glenora the other day at roads end on the banks of the mighty Stikine River. While enjoying the river I met a couple of folks who live in the bush across the River, Tami & Rod. They were ferrying loads of fuel for their tractor and equipment. I had a chance to chat with them each time they came over to pump gas outta one 55 gallon drum in the truck and into one in the boat.

Touching the past here I found a secret in plain sight, one I forget from time to time. You have to get off the beaten track. In ’02 we explored every nook and cranny we could. It was magical! Recall the night here sleeping on the sandbar having gone as far as you can drive on the Stikine. The fine sand got in everything and stayed with us through the journey. It was one of my most memorable nights out on that trip on our own beach for a night along the Stikine. Maybe it’s the mountains down the river, some of the fiercest in North America or the remoteness or both. Devils Thumb and its 6000′ unclimbed north face calls out from the vast wilderness.

Telegraph creek didn’t get power until ’76! She was 15. Now she said lights dot the valley as their look out form their perch. White folks have moved in. (here and there between Telegraph Creek and Glenora.) White folks have also moved out as their kids reach school age. The natives stay in Telegraph Creek and always seem to number around 300. Her dad bought one of the first 4X4 trucks around in 1980. The road today is a far cry from the 3 day (131km) drive to Dease Lake of her childhood. The days of her dad calling in a plow to Glenora are gone- they only plowed if you asked back then. Twas a public road but they were the only public around. He used to tie his rifle to a tree outside of the village when he skidooed into town.

While things have changed it’s still remote here. The drive takes a few hours from the Cassiar and while the Cassiar has been tamed by pavement this road hasn’t. It still scares most tourists. (honestly the dirt is smoother than the pavement on the northern Cassiar thanks to the road crew!) One becomes alive traveling off the cattle path. This morning in Telegraph creek was the most excited I’ve been behind a camera in some time! For a short time I felt like a little kid. I need that little kid. I went on this trip in part to search for the wonder that went gone and missing. At times I didn’t think it would ever come back. Part of me died a few years back. When I take a hard look though part of that wonder died a few years before that- not enough time in the wild or on the wander, bad choices .. the list could go on.

The wind is picking up. High clouds are building from the west. Experience says a storm is coming. My pops wants to be on the move. For some reason I’m attached to this place. I’ve love to spend the night on that sandbar again but he wants to head back up the road & stay at the ‘rest area’ overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. I’m ok with that. It’s like visiting an old friend. (another spot I stayed a decade ago) I know I will come back some day and explore these waters & mountains & people more. In ways it’s like Sand Creek further south along the BC Coast range but far more remote than even there!

Tami’s grandpa was born in 1885. He came to the Stikine in 1919 & ran pack horses. The horses in these hills are descendents of those. You hear them on the roads at times, a bell clanging around the neck. They carry on with the families of the area … as family. Pack horses predated roads for a long long while. They moved supplies for the masses who had thronged to the area like so many in the late 19th or early 20th century. GOLD!!!!!! 3,000 people lived in Glenora! Today google can’t compute distances to and from here. It’s barely a dot on the map. Time change. When I mentioned to Rod & Tami how Telegraph Creek looks like a ghost town down by the river. The said two sets of old timer residents died this past year. A granddaughter comes back during the summer to one of those places but she has very little company. When I asked what parts of isolation are the hardest Rod said immediately he likes it. A few minutes later Tami softly said it’s hardest when someone is sick or hurt.

In Whitehorse the rain has stopped and the sun is out. The trendy guy with neon headphones isn’t here speaking french to someone on his computer. The hundred or so RVs have yet to disband. Locals fill the starbucks across from Walmart this morning. We’ve reentered a foreign world, a world of people & Americana or Canadacana. So we head north. North to Alaska, north to the beginning.

All American Adventure: The Beginning

After 10 years of plotting and too many false starts to mention we’re underway on the All American Adventure that until now has only been a vapour in my dreams. Tom Petty says the waiting is the hardest part. And while that may be true for those who go on long trips with me it’s really the leaving that’s the hardest part. The larger the trip the more of those million and one little things there seem to be prior to the leaving, maybe 10^7+1 little things.

But we’re off. The first few miles were almost overwhelming. All the doubts and dangers bundled into one feeling. Will this really be the year? Will my car break? I could go on. Who knows really and after the first few miles those thoughts evaporated. I was back to my normal relaxed self. We were one the road. I know it well- the open road- we’re great friends. At first it began with my best known road of childhood, the road north to my grandma’s. After a short visit and a crossing of the Columbia it soon became the road to Alaska, land of my dreams. In this case it contains the starting point for our All American Adventure, the Arctic Ocean.

We traversed west in BC into the Okanogan and took in the beauty of many small farms dotting BC 3.  to Vernon was in full tourist mode. Lake Country was nice to look at but we were glad to be beyond all the nonsense of that world. A stop at a fruit stand run by an Indian family rewarded us with many peaches, cherries, blueberries, peppers and garlic. That was the best $20cdn I’ve spent in some time.

A few snapshots:

 


Beyond Kamloops we spent a nice night above the Thompson River and rose before first light to hit the road. After Valemount traffic thinned considerably, plucked away by Jasper and the international lure of the Canadian Rockies. We plugged along the Yellowhead Highway enjoying the Fraser and Thompson Rivers so far from the Pacific. After a short absence the sun greets us once again in Prince George. Now we’re off to see the wonders of the Cassiar. All the effort, years and frustrations that went in to making this happen are now a blip in the past. Now it’s North to a new beginning.

Jon

 

For those who like numbers: in a leisurely 27 hours we covered 762 miles. Google claims that equates to a driving time of 16 hours and 5 minutes.