Chapter 18. Cassiar Highway
(Bert) Previously when we have driven the Cassiar Highway, clouds hid the mountain tops and mud covered the road. Today we have clear skies most of the way and the highway is partially paved, interspersed with sections of gravel that look like they are being prepared for future paving. The first two hour’s driving is tedious, though, since I tire easily if I continue at 20 mph for a long time, so I am glad when Shari volunteers to drive for the next shift. The road gets better and soon is entirely paved.
We stop at Jade City – a store not a town - and find one of the two competing stores has shut down. In our 1996 and 1998 trips, only the store on the east was operating. Then came competition with free coffee and cookies and discount prices. Now only the store on the west is left. This is the first year Shari walks away without a jade purchase.
We arrive at the Deese Lake campground, I check my e-mail and find one from Curtis and Ann. Yesterday, their 5th-wheel shred a tire a mile before last night’s campground and although Curtis and Jim replaced it with the spare, they do not have a second spare tire. This being Labor Day weekend, a holiday in Canada as well as the U.S., Curtis was unable to buy a new tire and found out one will have to be shipped from Whitehorse or elsewhere. Bottom line is that they will not be able to join us for the conclusion of our caravan trip.
Around the campfire tonight I hand out a bear quiz with 16 bear photos to be identified. With all our experience on seeing bears, you would think everyone could separate the Black Bears from the Grizzlies. No one gets all correct answers, or even close. While there are clear identifying differences between the species, it can sometimes be surprisingly difficult to separate them, especially when we can have black Grizzlies and blond Black Bears.
(Bert) What an improvement in the road! Previously mud alley, today the Cassiar is smooth new pavement the whole way to the Stewart turnoff. Steep mountains project high above us on both sides as we drive hundreds of miles along a narrow valley, often flanked by streams or lakes. Earlier in the day the peaks are powder sugared with last night’s snow and mountains are skirted with cotton fog. Fall is less in evidence this far south, with only a sprinkling of yellow aspen. I am surprised Shari and I do not find bear, as this has usually been a bear-populated area. Later I hear that Jim and Donna found three. After settling in camp at Stewart, we carpool across the border into Hyder and head to the bear watching platforms along the river. Chum Salmon are swimming upsteam, although not many. We find a new species for the trip: several Pacific-slope Flycatchers. We watch for bears for over an hour and none show up until I turn to leave. Then, briefly, a black Grizzly Bear walks across the stream and hides again in the grassy sides. Some stay to wait for another showing, but Shari and I return to camp for dinner.
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