Thursday, 9 July 2015

Wild Camping in Bear Country

Location: Dease Lake, British Columbia V0W, Canada
Searching the roadside for a suitable campsite in bear country involves keeping an eye out for a nice flat bit to pitch the tent along with a nearby tree that has a suitable branch for hanging food or alternatively a roadside 'litter barrel' as these bear-proof bins can be accessed from the back and you can stash your food bags inside, safely away from Yogi's grasp. It's somewhat ironic that so far, as far as we've seen, the trees you find in bear country are skinny and nigh on branchless, at least they totally lack any limb that sticks out any distance with a big enough width to support our hefty bags of food and toiletries. Luckily we found a lay-by with a litter barrel and enough flat ground on the otherside of the road to pitch both our tents. We set up quickly, stashed all the edibles and smellies in the back of the bin and retreated from the insects of prey that had suddenly started to swarm. Lying in the tent we thought it had started to rain but actually it was the pitter patter of a thousand winged beasts trying to force their way into the tent to bleed us dry.  I was the last one awake, I often am, lying there reading my book when I hear a twig crack in the bushes and some rustling. I decide that I won't wake Tom up, but deal with what I fear will be a bear encounter myself. So I get my bear spray and head torch (it's not dark, but I've read you can scare them away with lights so...) and I start to peer out the window of the tent to see what I can see. The bushes rustle again and then there it is, a pair of eyes staring at me from the undergrowth. Luckily they belong to a bunny who looks terrified of me and retreats. Glad I didn't wake anyone up for that I settle back to keep reading.

It wasn't the best nights sleep any of us have had and the bugs in the morning were horrendous so we packed and got moving as fast as we could opting for a granola bar to keep us going and the prospect of proper breakfast when we got to Bell II about 20 miles down the road. We were borderline giddy when we arrived at the little roadside stop and checked out the menu. Tom, Justin and I all ordered the breakfast (eggs, toast, hashbrowns and either sausage or bacon) plus a side order of pancakes, Melissa just ordered the breakfast and the waitress informed us that the side of pancakes was a good size and were we sure we wanted both - oh yes! We explained our ride and our ensuing hunger and she totally understood. So much so that when she brought out the three orders of pancakes as a wonderful breakfast starter she said to Melissa, "you didn't order pancakes right?" To which Melissa replied "no, but I wish I had now" and she said "I thought that might be the case so we made an extra plate and it's on us!" Awesome! After polishing off the pancakes and the breakfasts we got back on the bikes fueled up for the oncoming miles. Our aim that day was to push all the way to Kinaskan Lake where the three British cyclists had told us a nice lady gave them meatballs and they got to camp for free. 

We were into some beautiful mountain scenery now and had a good sized climb to do which in and of itself would not have been much of an issue, unfortunately the mosquitoes made it a totally hellish experience. Unable to outrun them we were forced to labour up the hill trying to maintain momentum and balance whilst swatting wildly at each of our body parts in turn. Justin resorted to turning around and whizzing down the hill a bit just for a few moments of respite. Tom had what he referred to as his 'soul-crushing moment' when he'd over estimated how far we'd gone and Justin gave him the painful truth. Nevertheless we all soldiered on and made it to our destination. Alas no meatballs were offered to us, but we had a beautiful site right by the lake and we all enjoyed a warm down stretch in the gorgeous surroundings as for once we were fairly untroubled by bugs. We had planned a swim, but after Melissa braved it and came out saying it was bitterly cold we decided to give it a miss.

The next day we had our big climb of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 'Gnat Pass' which we hoped would not live up to the name and after that a restocking session in Dease Lake where we planned to find somewhere to stay. We'd only been on the road a couple of hours when we got to Tatogga Lake and decided to call in at the cafe there for coffee. Coffee turned into ordering breakfast in a bun and using the wifi, a rarity in these parts. It is well worth a stop if you're passing, they have a bunch of stuffed animals in there which are pretty impressive, including this huge moose. The owner is a character and the lovely kitchen ladies gave us a free apple each, which is a kingly gift.

The grind up Gnat Pass wasn't too taxing and incredibly we arrived at the summit moments before a cyclist coming the other way so we all cheered him up the last few feet. He did stop and talk to us, but boy was he a dour chap. He was young, looked like he was direly in need of at least two cooked breakfasts to get a bit of meat on his ribs and seemed incapable of smiling or being excited. He warned us that the road was closed just north of Dease Lake due to an accident, but since Dease Lake was our destination for the night we weren't too concerned.

We hungrily arrived at the grocery store-cum-gas station-cum gathering ground and demolished some microwave burritos before making cleverer decisions on food.  The atmosphere was pretty sombre as there had been a fatality in the accident and they were having to wait for the coroner to arrive from Prince George, a 12 hour drive away. We made a shared dinner of chicken curry and rice noodles, with apple pie for pudding and then Melissa and I headed to the Samaritan's Purse youth centre to ask if we could pitch our tents in their yard.  Very kindly they agreed and we were sorted for the night.

1 comment:

  1. At least there is no need to worry that you guys are going hungry on your trip! Mr P