cassiar hwy: Despite its name including the word "highway" it is a remote mine access road and not for the folks that need human company every day. However it has some of the most stunning views available on any road in North America. When I drove it in the early 1980's all the bridges were one lane so if an truck was coming you pulled over. Drive slow and enjoy the views. There were hundreds of places to pull over and camp and fish, but I was a passenger on that trip and had no control of what we did.
Three trips north and only one trip south all in the 1980's. The one trip south was the start of a 36,000 mile 7 month road trip around the US after college.
Coolest things seen:
Bridge wash out near a lake caused the road to detour onto a glacier wash. The repair crew was sitting on the remains of the road feeding parts of their lunch to a herd of Stone sheep.
At night in Banff NP saw one of those flashy collared bull elk standing in the road. Thought is was some kind of alien until my lights fully lit up the elk. He might have gone 350 inches.
Just south of Ft Nelson through a 2 mile long construction zone I counted 8 black bears eating the grass on the embankment. The road crew all had their backs turned to them working on the new asphalt. Black bears in BC - who cares.
On a dirt section of highway south of Whitehorse I saw a five legged black bear cross the road in front of me. I started to stop since this bear had five legs. That is something you don't see every day. As I started to slow down where the bear crossed I was able to look over and see the bright yellow eyes of a huge totally black wolf. The fifth leg was the wolves tail.
On a trip north I watched motorcylces launch themselves over the big rolling ridges south of Lake Kluane. I don't if they were purposely launching themselves 20 feet into the air on their BMW touring bikes, but it was pretty interesting to watch bikes jumping towards me like I was on a supercross race track.
On my second trip north I was west of Whitehorse in the burn area where the "watch for horses" signs are and noticed a funny looking horse running behind some wild horses. A second look and there were horns on that horse. A hard look and it turned out to be about a 180 to 190 inch mule deer buck in velvet. An aquaintence in Whitehorse as confirmed that they see some huge mulies up there once in a while.
Laird River hot springs in the winter. The coolest thing ever at -30 below. Getting dressed as the water freezes on your skin was kind of weird though. At night watch out for the benches mounted on the bottom of the pool out in the middle.
Just west of Tok once some bison ran across the road and we had to stop and watch them cross. One big bull stood there an dared us to drive past them so we just sat and watched until they moved into the trees.
Not long after letting the bison pass we were over flown by a red super cub and passed at the same time by a Nija like sport bike with a 5 gallon fuel can strapped on the rear. About 5 miles later the super cub was on the road side and the sport bike driver was taking to the pilot. Fueling the plane, or maybe the plane was fueling the bike? I have no idea what that was about but it was pretty strange.
On my second trip north in 1986 I was driving my "new" 1977 Dodge Power Wagon. The kid (Navy jet mechanic) that sold it to my dad that summer said that it had some kind of fuel flow problem with the tank behind the seat. The bed tank worked fine. I had some serious issues in Idaho with the fuel flow and changed the fuel pump. Several times in southern BC I had issues and the truck would stall out at 70mph. Several fuel filters later and it was still shutting down.
One morning outside a diner in central BC I decided to take the whole fuel line apart. If I didn't get this fixed I was not going to make it through Yukon without buying fuel cans. The fuel up take line from the seat tank to the engine area was all factory band clamped between the steel lines and the rubber hose sections.
I had dozens of hose clamps from the fuel filter kits so I tore the factory bands off and found the fuel flow issues on the steel pick up line. There was a small stainless steel section of some kind of fastener or pipe stuck in the end of the tank pickup line. The only way for this small piece of metal to have gotten there was to have been placed there when first assembled at the factory in 1977 or 1976. This was a decade later on back road in BC and had caused the two previous owners of the truck to sell it as a lemon. The piece was wedged in there so tight that I was forced to cut the end of the fuel line off with a hack saw. No fuel flow issues ever again in the old Dog Dodge. I miss that truck.
In February 1990 it was -72 in Tok and we were ending the round trip of the US that winter by driving home with extra stuff from the states in trailers. Still in the old Dog Dodge. Just after all the hills to the east of Tok I blinked and fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up when the 4 inches of snow on the shoulder of the road started to suck me into the ditch. Over corrected and into the ditch I went. The ditch was filled with 10 feet of plow pushed snow so I was still sitting almost level with the road sort of. There was silence for a second and then the trailer slammed into the truck as it jack knifed up on the road. The engine died with all the snow being sucked into the carb. I had my winter gear in the front seat and called my buddy on the CB to turn around and come help me dig out. He as already up at the bridge and could see Tok in the far distance.
As we stood on the road to assess the situation two trucks stopped and out popped a group of folks headed home to Northway. Their highschool B-Ball team had just beaten Tok and the party was over and they were headed home. I should mention that they were all three sheets to the wind and dressed in light jackets and high tops with work gloves. No winter gear on anyone but my friend and I. it was -72 below and here were folks trying to help and I thought they were going to die out there helping me. Well 30 minutes later all three trucks pulled my rig back onto the road - now frozen solid- and nobody but my friend and I were cold. Arctic gear didn't help much. Dragged the frozen truck to Tok and had it thawed the next day and put some good antifreeze in it. -50 below just didn't cut it that trip.
People and Food:
Off the main drag Asian resturant in Jasper. The waitress was from Quebec out for the summer prior to starting college back east. Stunning on all levels. Sun lighted brown hair down to her knees. Olive eyes. The song bird like voice with the French accent. She spent her time off work climbing the local mountains and was in awesome shape. Headed to med school in the states once she finished her undergrad in a year. I could not pronounce her name correctly so we settled on Jacky. The food was just run of the mill asian but it was the largest tip I have ever left while sober.
In BC there is an indian reservation near a lake that you cross on a long bridge. Just after the bridge there was a truck stop on the left (west) side of the road. On the back of the parking lot was a little grey diner with the order counter right at the grill. A small old lady was taking orders and cooking with her son backing her up on another grill. The only place to sit was along the wall on a counter with 6 or 7 stools. The old lady was pretty crabby but the french toast was the best I have ever eaten anywhere - 2in thick fresh baked bread, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of apples with the egg batter. I have never been able to copy it at home.
At Haines Junction I took the last 2-top table out in the middle of the room and had just received my food when a back packer walked in. Cold wet and looking for a friendly face. I had the only empty chair in the room and invited him to sit. He was 22 and on holiday from Toronto. He owned a printing business that specialized in post cards and other heavy stock printing. He takes August off and travels by getting on a train and getting off someplace and walking around for three weeks. This time he flew to Whitehorse and started walking. He as on his way back from Haines where he had just spent two weeks silver fishing and was looking for a ride back to Whitehorse. We talked alot about Alaska and that was his next years plan - kayak down the Mckennzie then paddle to Prudhoe - it might take longer than 3 weeks.
On the trip down in 1989 we were camped near some fields in central BC off of a small rural highway west of Banff/Jasper NP. There was a stream running at the base of a high glacial esker ridge that the road cut through. It was very dark by the time we finished dinner and started to turn in around midnight. Things were quiet when we heard something walking across the stream towards us. This is deer and elk country so that is what I thought it was. We listened some more and that is when we determined that what ever was walking across the stream towards us was on two feet moving really slow.
We started talking loud and said that "we can hear you so why don't you identify yourself" and it would stop for a few seconds and then take another step towards us. We tried really hard to make it sound like four feet but it sounded just like a fisherman wading in the stream. We broke out the flashlight and the pump shotgun and racked a shell in the chamber. At that classic sound it turned around and bounded up the side of the hill still making the sound of just two feet. The stream was about 25 feet across and it only made two splashes getting out of it, but we don't know how far it was across to start with. All we saw in the flashlight beam was moving brush on the hillside, but it stopped making noise about half way up over a 100 yards away so our light could not show us much by then. Bigfoot or a deer I will never know since we didn't cross over in the morning to check it out.