CANADA - A Surprise Vision from Hell!! (and then on to Hyder Alaska & the Scenic Cassiar Highway).

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 00:00


Monday 27th August
Morchuca Lake Reserve
Highway 37 - British Columbia.

The mozzies dropped off once we decided to head to bed so a good night’s sleep was had. We had agreed to be on the road down to the Fish Creek bear viewing area at 07:00 am as it was a good hour drive to the base of the valley. This means it was a 06:00am when I stuck my head out the door of the camper to be greeted by a vision straight out of a horror film. There was Larry the Loser standing there covered in dried blood, one eye puffed shut and not facing the direction it should have been and his face beneath his hoody covered in congealed, dried blood, a vision from hell.

"Can you help me. I've spent all night hangin' from a cliff" he croaks,
"what happened?" says I, knowing full well the circumstances that have led to his condition.

"I dunno" he replies.
"Well have a seat ' bleep for brains' while I fill in the gaps for you!"

Not being overly sympathetic I had knackers sit down on the nearby bench. I had him pull back the hoody and it then became apparent just how lucky this bleep was! He'd all but scalped himself with deep lacerations biting through his scalp and into his skull. There was a sizeable circular depression on the left side of his nogin and naturally, more than a few cuts, abrasions and contusions across his face and extremities. He would have bled profusely and no doubt spent a good amount of time unconscious. A lot of this damage could have been easily avoided if he'd been wearing a helmet. Naturally the state of intoxication he was in at the time of leaving us last night, I’m not going to even mention! Looks like the evangelists prayer worked! Scott and Gaby volunteered to take "lucky" Ryan down to the hospital at Stewart while we finished packing. God knows where or what state his borrowed ATV was in!

Being somewhat inured to the things that can happen to the human form (and very little sympathy for numbskull) it was a matter of keeping everyone else focused on the days activities rather than let the shock of the morning settle in on them. It was never the less a magnificent morning with the sun bathing the surrounding peaks in light. We were pretty much on time getting away and heading back down the mountain saw us arriving at the bear viewing area at precisely the same time as S & G. We paid our $5 admission and got to see quite a few salmon swimming but no other wildlife. Our mate Keith was there as well in all his strangeness.John suffered a fair bit of lens envy from the gathered crowd. No luck with the bears and the amount of heavy traffic heading up the road left me in no doubt as to their reasons for moving on or dining at quieter times.

Heading back into dusty Hyder, we visited the wharf which is accessed via a long, narrow wooden causeway. There is a heap of work being undertaken to put in a new causeway and widen the man made island that services the passing ships. We got talking to Vivienne , a Hyder local who was working as the stop sign holder. She was a wealth of info and held a enraptured court for quite a few minutes. Heading back across the causeway to the border, we produced passports. The officer knew Scott and had gone to school with his brother back in Ontario. Talk about a small world. We ran into Sandy & Pete in the main street so said g'day before heading up to the local museum for an hour or so.

Stewart is predominantly a mineral town and its viability rises and falls inline with the ebb of the mining industry? Boom and bust was is never more evident in a town’s history than that of Stewart. At the moment the key driver of the local economy is mineral exploration. The deep water harbour allows for the export of timber as well as molyberylium and zinc from mines within a general radius of the area. Naturally tourism adds a boost as well. The museum was an eclectic collection of historical artefacts from the towns history and recent past including a lot of movie paraphernalia left over from the three films made locally. At midday it was time for us to bid Stewart fair well and head out onto Highway 37a, the Glacier Highway, the breeze showering us with the golden leaves falling from the roadside poplars.

70 kilometres north of Stewart, the 37a joins the Cassiar Highway. What was originally a combination of logging and mine haul roads has been improved and sealed to become the Cassiar Highway, Highway 37. The Cassiar knifes through Mountain, river, glacier and lake country. For us it was north through the Skeena Mountains towards the Continental Divide and the township of Dease Lake, which straddles the Stikine and Dease River basins. A further 240 km north, the highway crosses of the 60th parallel into the Yukon Territory, becoming Yukon Highway 37 and terminating at a junction with the Alaska Highway near Upper Liard.

You can't really describe the Cassiar Highway unless you've driven it. On a 23C day surrounded by snow capped peaks, the drive is one that has to be experienced! Here and there the Forrest valleys are dotted with picturesque lakes. The glacial valleys, long bereft of their terraforming ice rivers are now shrouded with pine, spruce and poplar. The upper slopes have been cleared by snow and avalanche and a coved with lichen, grass and moss. Patches of snow on the upper slopes feed the many streams with water to provide many high waterfalls as the water tumbles to the valley below feeding even bigger streams and rivers. Often you find the ribbon of bitumen wedged between a sheer rocky walls of the valleys and the wide river of the valley floor, the road having been built upon the stony river shore. While the weather is warm, flowers and berries are abundant and yet the deciduous trees are starting to colour and drop their leaves.

There appears to be a lot of forestry being undertaken and a lot of clearing of the forest back from the roadside, possibly as a firebreak but also to facilitate new access tracks. Here and there the cleared timber and shrubs have been heaped into giant "slush" piles looking like giant tepees. These will be burnt when safe to do so.

It is quite evident where the pine beetle is taking hold in the forests. Once infected, the life span of the tree is limited to four years. This limited window of opportunity means that logging is being undertaken at a break neck pace to utilise the timber before the effects of the beetle infestation renders the timber unusable. According to our new friend Dale, Japan is the major market for the beetle infected timber.

The latter stages of the highway towards the road condition deteriorated. It became narrower with no verge whatsoever. The table drains were very sharp and deep and a moment’s inattention would be disastrous. The scenery was still amazing though and we managed to spot a mother black bear and three cubs making their way across the road. As with most bear sightings, it was fleeting and the animals didn’t hang around. John was getting low on fuel so we stopped at the First Nations township of Iskut and then a few kilometres down the road pulled into a recreation reserve at Morchuca Lake. The snow capped peaks on the northern end of the Skeena Mountains making a picturesque backdrop for the happy hour, horses-doovers by the lake shore. It was a stir fry for dinner and an early night.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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