The part I neglected to mention in my previous post is that there has been a forest fire burning near Watson Lake in the Yukon for more than 4 weeks. I t has burned over 80,000 acres! It has also closed route 37 to all traffic and the road only opens when it is safe for a pilot car to take vehicles through. That was another reason for my heading south now because I didn’t want to go to Prudhoe Bay and then get stuck at junction 37 on the way back, wasting more precious time. Also, the weather had definitely turned, as all the locals attested to, and Alaska was going to be COLD! I was getting a little tired of the cold.
After breakfast at a truck stop, I left Watson Lake and headed 13 miles up the Alcan Hwy to junction 37. Huge numbers of RV’s, cars and trucks were lined up on the side of the road. The line stretched for miles! Fortunately, motorcycles have a special pass and go straight to the head of the line. I parked at the road barrier, got out my laptop and watched a movie until near 10am… at which time, the fire had flared up again and jumped the road. The road was completely closed for the day… no pilot cars, no nothing! GRRRRRRrrr!
So, off I went back to the lodge only to find a sign saying “be back at 2pm” hanging on the door. GRRRRRrrrr again! I got out my iPad and checked out driving times to various places. I wasn’t going to stay sitting around outside for 4 hours until the lodge opened. I decided that if I rode hard for ten hours I could catch Brian and Martin on the way to Prudhoe Bay. I was just about to leave when the lodge door opened and Michael walked out. “Hey… you’re back” he said. “I have one room ready if you want it” he smiled. Hmmm… warm cozy room and a lazy day versus ten hours of riding and the cold of Alaska. Tough choice. I unpacked and headed inside where I spent the day lounging in bed and watching TV shows on my laptop. New favorite show is Rubicon and everyone should take a day lying in bed doing nothing 🙂
Next morning, I was up early and at the front of the line, in the rain, by 7:30am. The Harley riders were considerably smarter than me because they were parked under the pump canopy of an abandoned gas station… nice and dry. I quickly followed suit and met Bill and Sherry from Kingston. Nicer people you will not meet. We had breakfast together and waited around FOREVER for the road to open. At 1:30pm the pilot car took us through and it was interesting. I had never seen a new forest fire and the smoke was still coming out of the ground in many spots as we drove along. The smoke wasn’t bad but getting that late a start on the day was causing another problem. My drive to Stewart, BC was about 8 hours and I had to make it before it got dark.
Now, when I say I hauled tail… well, I HAULED TAIL!!! The Cassiar Hwy (route 37) was one of the roads I definitely wanted to travel because of the beautiful scenery. However, it is not a road made for making good time. There are some gravel sections that are quite muddy and slick when wet (yes it rained) and the rest is chip sealed which makes it rough and noisy. I did make good time but I was a bit nervous about the wildlife. As darkness approached, the beasts came out to play. I must have seen 10 or 15 bears along the side of the road. I even got to see a momma and two cubs. I also saw a coyote or maybe it was a young wolf… not sure which. No time for pictures which was sad and I really felt rushed and unable to enjoy the Cassiar Hwy as I should have.
I will say that the last 40 miles of road into Stewart, BC is about as breathtaking as any you will see. They made the movie Insomnia, with Robin Williams and Al Pacino, here and actually built an entire house at the foot of the Bear Glacier on the way into town. Stewart and neighboring Hyder, Alaska are at the foot of the Portland Canal and I came here specifically to see bears… namely the grizzly or brown bear. There is a place called Fish Creek outside Hyder where bears and other animals frequent to feed. See my blogroll for more info.
I arrived in town absolutely frozen. 7 hours on a bike in 50 degree weather with rain does not make for happy riding. I ordered two hot chocolates and soup when I got to town and I sat at my table shivering for about 30 mins. I went to bed fully clothed as my core temperature was still very low.
Cassiar Hwy scenery