(June 14 – written by Dave)
We were up early, ready to ride after a nice rest at the Arctic Divide Lodge. I think we were the second couple down to the brekkie and ate heaps of food. Just as I was starting to feel like a pig, Sophie came out of the kitchen with a basket of muffins – nice one Dave. We still managed to eat a muffin each.
It was trying to rain as we started to leave so we delayed, all of about 10 minutes. It really didn’t look like serious rain and just riding turned out to be a good call. It was cold starting but we had the first of our two climbs start almost right away and we warmed up quickly. Not long after leaving the lodge, we passed the “official” Arctic Pacific Divide sign – pretty weird actually as it was right in the middle of a slight incline with no noticeable change in grade – kind of a weird place for a “summit” sign. I’m still not sure that the whole Arctic Pacific Divide thing isn’t just a tourist puller!
We were only 5k into the day when we saw our first (and last) bear of the day. He happened to be right on the side of the road where, from a distance, I had sort of planned to have a quick nature break. Needless to say, the nature break was postponed. The bear looked at us but didn’t appear overly interested. From my limited knowledge it appeared to be a small/juvenile black bear. Bear count is now 9 black, 2 brown, FWIW.
The first climb was actually quite pleasant. It was over 15k long and had some steep pitches but we both do a lot better when the climb is long and steady, as opposed to lots of ups and downs. It could also be having the day off yesterday made us fresh. It seemed like before we knew it, we were at Gnat Summit where we found the first summit sign of the entire trip – I’m still not counting the Arctic Pacific Divide Summit sign as a real summit.
The next 20k was through a fantastic rolling summit meadow where you’d think we would have seen a moose or ten. Nope, still no photo of a graceful moose with a mouthful of reeds. The area is known for having caribou herds as well but all we saw was four horses (from a very remote farm) and a bald eagle. Still it was quite pleasant riding with some small ‘payback for climbing’ downhills and a slight tailwind – yeah.
We knew we had a downhill and another climb to get across the Stikine River. The downhill was a ripper at 8% for 5kms. We had to ride the brakes a bit, just to be safe. The bridge over the river was quite impressive though I’m still not sure I like riding across these open grate decks. We had lunch overlooking the river but didn’t linger as there were some dark clouds about. (we managed to dodge them)
The climb back out of the river was steep and had the only remaining dirt on the entire Cassiar Highway. We’d seen a grader and water truck heading back to Dease Lake earlier in the day and sure enough, they had just graded the road. This made it smoother but it was also wet and a little slippery. We grunted up this part in low gears and were lucky to have no trucks or motorhomes pass us in this section.
The second climb was also good. It was not quite as long as the first but took us to roughly the same elevation. As we neared the top we could see storm clouds brewing in the surrounding mountains. We rode fast to reach the end of the climb and the final decent into our home for the night at Mountain Shadow RV park. It never really rained but at one point it almost looked like snow would get us!
The RV park is nice. They have great views out to the mountains and some nice hiking trails. We got camp set up and I walked the trails while Nancy took an afternoon nap in the warm tent. I didn’t see any of the moose that the owners told us about, but neither did any of the hikers that I ran into.
The park is for sale, as are many of the places we stop at along the Cassiar. While clean and neat, they do have a lot of signs at this park, mostly telling you things that you shouldn’t be doing. They have nice tenting area but it has no water near the tents and in the toilet block, the only place you can get water, there is a sign saying not to wash your dishes in the sink. I’m not sure how you can say that you have tent sites when you don’t provide basic clean up areas – perhaps another Trip Advisor review is in order.
Dirty dishes aside, it was a very pleasant day. We both rode strong and feel pretty good. Tomorrow is kind of a funny day in that we need to split the next 100 miles into a 30 and a 70 mile ride – unless we bush camp. Tomorrow is the 30 mile ride so we don’t need to be up early. And best of all, there is a resort that serves pancakes 15k from here, so of course we will need to stop and see how they are. So, it should be a really easy day – we’ll see…