Tuesday, 7 July 2015

From One Bear to Another

Location: Stewart, BC V0J, Canada
As we headed north on the Nisga'a Highway with Justin and Melissa we were looking forward to, and at the same time apprehensive of, the 32 miles of unpaved road that lay ahead. Being unpaved meant there would be less traffic that had the benefit of us being able to ride next to each other and talk, but had the disadvantage of being frequently frequented by bears. Having not seen bears Sophie and I were still nervous about these, seemingly, terrifying beasts. After a few climbs we hit the hard, packed gravel road and worked our way towards the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. With the appearance of some bear scat we were preparing for the inevitable sighting but all that appeared was the stop sign signalling the pavement and our left turn north. Before getting onto the road we ate our lunch and all did the customary dance to ward off the bugs.

Carrying on north Justin and I took the lead while Sophie and Melissa brought up the rear. It was fantastic to talk to somebody else while riding, some different stories and experiences. Please, don't get me wrong I love talking to Sophie but we had been on the road almost 4 months and adding conversational topics made the time fly as we completed the long ride to Meziadin Junction Provincial Park. At this point Team Baby Bunny (as we were now calling ourselves) were about to split with Sophie and I heading west towards Stewart while Justin and Melissa were going to just head north and blitz it to Watson Lake. However, after the couple of days of great riding we decided to keep Team Baby Bunnies together and all four of us were going to spend our 4 month-anniversary celebrating at our western most point of the whole trip.

Waking up on the 27th June, exactly 4 months after flying into San Fransisco, was great. We headed to the boat launch and jumped into the cold water to refresh our bodies and bring our minds into focus. The day ahead promised a down hill to the ocean, glaciers within touching distance and root beer floats with our new friends. There wasn't as much downhill as we had hoped (or had been promised) but we hoped that would mean an easier return the following day. As we climbed one of the unmentioned summits in the distance we spotted our first bears; a mother with her two cubs.  She looked at us and ushered her young ones into the bush, only to reappear moments later since Justin and I hadn't moved a muscle.  Justin went down to let the girls know about our furry friends while I tried to catch them on camera.  Unfortunately the battery was pretty low and I only managed to get a couple of seconds, from a very long way away.  When the trio arrived so to did an RV which caused the mother to stand up and investigate the situation before heading once again into the bush.  It was so brilliantly fantastic to finally see these wonderful creatures and what a treat to get to see a mother and her cubs.  We carried on further down the road to be wow-ed once again by a bear, but this one in ancient ice form; Bear Glacier. The glaciers were astounding. These massive frozen relics, snaking down valleys of their own creation were jaw droppingly beautiful, but tinged with sadness knowing that every year they recede up away back into the mountains. The other issue we faced was the head wind, but this is where the benefit of four riders came in. With the final promise of root beer floats just a few miles away, Justin and I alternated eating the wind as our four person peloton headed towards Stewart and the US border.

Stewart had once been a sizable town of 10,000 people. However, it's glory days are somewhat behind it and those hoping for a fast food establishment were quickly disappointed. There are two good grocery shops, however, and after some fevered snacking we were all well watered and fed and ready to organise a place to camp. The store owner of one, a Swizz guy that had lived in the town since the 70s and had seen quite a few changes in the town and wasn't afraid to let us know them, offered us some grass next to the shop but wanting showers we decided to head to the municipal park. When were arrived at the campground we were welcomed with the question "Can I help you?" with the subtext of "Roll your bikes off the property before I cut somebody" but looking past this we headed into to have an uncomfortable conversion and zero compromise. After rolling the bikes off the property the shouts of "You'll find nothing cheaper in town" fell on deaf ears and we pitched for free next to the grocery shop. After a wonderful steak sandwich made possible by Melissa and Sophie, and the awesome root beer floats sourced by Justin we really felt like we celebrated in style and prepared for the climb out of Stewart and back north towards the Yukon.

The climb was easier than first feared and actually, because we were not hindered by the brutal winds of the previous day actually managed to do the "climb" in just over 15 minutes longer than we completed the "descent".  Again we passed the glaciers and again we spotted a bear, this time a lone grazer in the grass that again left once it had noticed our presence.  After the climb we stopped for a break at the services at the top of the hill when 3 fellow cycle tourists turned up.  All 3 three from the British Isles and all heading south, one was heading to San Francisco while the other two were aiming for Argentina.  We exchanged camping and bear stories and found out that there was a lovely German lady at the Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park that would let cycle tourists stay for free.  Well feed and buoyed up with the knowledge of free camping in a couple of days our troupe headed northward.  After another 37 miles of riding we ate our camp food by a river and headed on looking for a suitable place to camp.  Justin was the only person that was completely comfortable about wild camping with bears around but there was no official campground around and all the trees were too small to hang our massive weight of food to keep it from wandering bears; what would we do? 


  1. "Offered us some grass next to the shop" - I read that wrong the first time and was going to remind you - 'Stoned cyclists die!' Mummy

  2. More great stories and photo's. still waiting to see that elusive bear, but only if it's safe! Mr P