First real day of a tail wind. Felt amazing. 100 k in 5 hours. Landed in Nugget city. Tried to hitchhike to Watson Lake for supplies and it took an hour and a half to get a lift. Waited just as long on the way back and ultimately had to get a cab for forty bucks.
Nice owners at Nugget (Steve and Linda). Let me use soldering gun to fix dynamo adapter that was ruthlessly chewed apart by a squirrel. They were not so bad at Nugget, but there was a little 14 year old miscreant that kept trying to get into our cookies. He started by begging for them, and when that didn’t work began to make moves on them and kept telling us he would get them. Casual explanations about having spent three hours hitchhiking and spending an amount equivalent to his weekly allowance on a cab did not deter him. For a moment I forgot he was a person and not a raccoon and almost threw a small stone at him. After some hissing he backed down.
Steve and Linda gave us a lift back into town in the morning to get a few things I had missed the night before. They gave us a strange lecture on millennials and their utter dependence on social media. The irony was not lost on me an hour later as I sat at the picnic table reading my book while they and a half dozen other people twice my age were complaining about the wifi not being strong enough to check Facebook.
I went into the Nugget café in the morning to get some intel about the Cassiar. We had heard that it was basically under siege with forest fires. The wind had changed directions overnight and we were now in a cloud of ash. The morning news was showing footage of several blazes. We debated the safety. It didn’t seem like there was a danger of actually getting caught in a fire, but some were fairly close to the road. There were conflicting stories about the Cassiar being closed at some points and several towns had been evacuated. I wasn’t particularly interested in riding 250 kilometers to get turned around.
“Maybe it is the British in me, but I guess I just trust that if it is unsafe the government will send somebody to find us,” Soph said.
“Maybe it is the American in me, but that just sounds ridiculous.”
In the end we decided that Canada would not allow us to become fodder for the fire and pushed on. The next stop was Boya Lake. Everyone we had met that had been there said it was one of the best spots on the Cassiar. The headwinds returned, but the hills seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. We made it to Boya early evening and met a couple named Diane and Leo that were cycling from Vancouver to Anchorage.
Boya is the only BC campground that we stayed in that gave a discount for cyclists. It was raining as we pulled in and the attendant said that we could set the tent up in the pavilion if we wanted. What a treat that was. Right on the lake. A shelter within a shelter. I walked to Diane and Leo’s site and invited them over for a potluck. As I walked back I recognized a red truck with German plates. It was Jans and Serki, the German couple that had shared some fruit with us at Swan Lake. I invited them as well and we had a small dinner party in the middle of the forest while it rained. I had managed to procure a 3 pound bar of chocolate in Watson Lake that I was itching to lighten and it was a hit for dessert.
Rest day at Boya. Short hike to quite possibly the most impressive beaver dam Canada has to offer. Lots of napping. Evening kayak trip chasing beavers and loons. Water so clear and blue that you can watch the beaver dive ten feet below and swim into the entrance of its den. Little drizzles of rain, but not enough to make us feel like the fires would let up.
Rough day, cold morning. More headwind. Soph’s back was in rough shape to the point that she was concerned about whether or not she could ride.
The road was beautiful, but it was hard to appreciate knowing she was in pain. To take my mind off of it I spent most of the day listening to a book and learning about the shared Latin roots between English and Spanish.
A man we had met at Boya Lake stopped to make sure we were ok and did not need a ride ahead of the fires. The air looked fine so we told him not to worry. Not long after we passed the elbow lake fires. There were 9 plumes of smoke. Not very dramatic, but a bit unnerving Read an article in the economist afterwards that they can spread at a rate of 3 to 20 kph.
Stopped at sawmill rec area for the day. 115k. Dipped and bathed in Dease Lake. Met another nice camping neighbor named Chris and invited him over for dinner.
Thought we had a long hill out of the campsite, but it wasn’t so bad. 5 minutes after getting back on the highway, we were in the smoke. And of course the wind picked up. We thought it would be a quick ride to town. It took over 3 hours to go 40k. Lungs burning. My bike had been making a clicking sound the last two days and I needed to stop to clean my drive train. It was already 12:30 when we arrived, so we decided to just stay the night.
The community college has water, wifi, electrical outlets, and allows camping in the back. It is the smallest college I have ever seen. Two buildings, each about 30 x 40 feet and single story. Corrugated steel sides and roof. Locals and travelers would pull in every few minutes to check messages on their phones.
Made a mess of myself cleaning my chain with gasoline, but it looked dandy. Decided that I had carried the shirt that Denali Steve gave to me for too long without wearing it and cut it into rags to clean everything off. Food stashed in a bear proof trash can across the street. That always makes me feel especially homeless. That and the birdbath I took in the gas station bathroom.
Town totally covered in smoke. Forest fires nearby. Soph met one of the firemen. His sole job was to protect two houses. He had a helicopter and a bucket. He flew around picking up water and dumping it around the houses to keep them from burning.