I arrived in Kitimat on May 26, 2014 and the next day biked to Terrace in an all day rain. I was planning to stay put at friends there for a couple of weeks while the spring run-off abated and to catch up on my journal. However, it wasn’t until July 3rd that my travels resumed. A few years earlier I had volunteered to take on administrating an uncle’s estate. Attempts at selling the property were stonewalled due to a change in municipal regs but, while I was in Terrace, the municipality agreed to purchase the property. Wrapping up those duties added weeks to my departure.
This cycling leg would take me 700 kilometres east to the waters of the Peace River drainage where I would resume paddling. Cycling main highways is a necessity where there are no other options, but on this journey I did have options to get me away from traffic. Francois Lake is a long and narrow lake running 100 km in an east west direction. I could access its west side with a 65 km diversion on gravel logging roads and its eastern end was only a short distance from rejoining Highway 16. The Nechako River also provided an available water route to Prince George. Francois Lake worked as planned but not so for the Nechako.
Leaving Terrace, the highway follows the Skeena River at an easy cycling grade for 150 km. This up and over at 850 metres elevation was the highest point reached along Highway 16. At Hazelton I chatted with a cycling couple who invited me for supper and put me up for the night. The beginning of a great many acts of kindness from those I would meet over the next three months.
The high point between drainages on the logging road access to Francois Lake. The roads were ‘in use’ – being used by logging trucks – and were hard-packed and smooth with very little washboard.
A decent camp spot at the end of a 100 km day on both paved and gravel roads.
The ferry at Southbank half way down Francois Lake. I enjoyed tailwinds to this point. Enjoyed a nice lunch too as there was a cafe adjacent to the ferry landing.
The morning of my last night camped on Francois. I stopped twice the previous day to let the wind settle but in hindsight should have stayed put at the second stop. I was soon back to paddling in white caps, in a quartering cross wind from behind, too much reminiscent of days on the ocean. The difference being that the lake did offer places to take out. I don’t enjoy paddling in such conditions but I persevered, perhaps foolishly. It was getting near dark when this perfect camp spot availed and I was able to duck around the corner into the sheltered landing. How nice too, to not have tides to deal with at the end of a trying day.
The Stellako River which runs between Francois Lake and Fraser Lake. It was going my way and looked inviting, but it has rapids that I didn’t care to see. I took out and once again morphed my setup back into its wheeled version and rejoined with Highway 16.
Headed down ten kilometres of the Parsnip River to where it becomes Williston Lake. No rapids but good flow made for a short hour and a half long paddle to the lake. And here I was once again following the route of Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
… sudden strong winds! The serene scene from the previous photo quickly changed, making it necessary for me to flatten the tent post-haste before it was blown over. I hadn’t taken any wind precautions in setting it up in the loose dry sand, like placing rocks on top of the tent pegs. Lesson learned. I did catch two fish at this site.
I arrived at Bennett Dam not knowing how I was going to get around it. Found out that the best option would be to cycle to the town of Hudson Hope 24 km distant. Dinosaur Lake, is a second dammed lake below the main dam. It made sense to bypass it as well, and launch into the Peace River at Hudson Hope. I met Joan, employed with dam security, and learned that I would not be able to camp on the beach as intended. I would have to get my gear off-site. She then suggested she would call her husband to come and fetch me, and all my gear, to town. I thanked her for her concern, but said it was too late to expect anyone to do that, and I’d camp off-site and bike my gear to town tomorrow. I packed up a backpack load and hiked the half hour uphill to the security gate. When I arrived she said her husband would be there in five minutes. Earl not only hauled me and all my heavier stuff to town but took me back out the next morning so I could bike the canoe in. Many thanks to Joan and Earl! I would have had to make two trips to get my gear to Hudson Hope. With the rowing unit, and other items that I normally shipped ahead when cycling, I had too much weight for one trip.