Cycle and Paddle Kitimat to Hudson Hope

May 12/14 to May 26/14Ocean Falls to Kitimat
May 28/14 to July 3/14At friends in Terrace, B.C.
July 3/14 to July 22/14Kitimat to Hudson Hope
July 23/14 to Aug 14/14Hudson Hope to Hay River

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 with 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 administering 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.

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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.

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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.

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A decent camp spot at the end of a 100 km day on both paved and gravel roads.

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The ferry at Southbank, halfway down Francois Lake.   I enjoyed tailwinds to this point.  Enjoyed a nice lunch too as there was a cafe adjacent to the ferry landing.

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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 crosswind from behind, too much reminiscent of days on the ocean.   The difference was 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.

The idyllic start of my very short-lived paddle down the Nechako. Highway 16 crosses the Nechako River just west of Fort Fraser.  I put in under the bridge, expecting to paddle the river most of the distance to Prince George, to a point above a set of rapids.   There I intended to take out and cycle a route that bypassed Prince George. This placid lake soon yielded to the river’s flow and I was surprised to find that I was dodging my way through the rocks of unexpected small rapids.  I considered these as fun but soon enough the sound of an upcoming rapid had me ashore to have a better look.

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Not a lot of concern with getting past these small rapids either except they weren’t supposed to be here.   They existed because of low water levels.   That had me wondering what was ahead.  A few hundred metres upstream I had noticed trail access to the water, that would no doubt provide a means of getting back to the highway. Common sense prevailed and I abandoned my quest to paddle the Nechako rather than taking the chance of being stranded in some canyon with no road access.  My canoe wasn’t designed for rapids.  I lined the canoe back upstream to the trail.   Scouting out the trail I met a fellow and his family who kindly helped me get the canoe and all my gear out to a trail I could cycle. Wheels back under the canoe and an hour of gravel road travel later, I was in Fort Fraser looking back at the bridge where I had put in six hours earlier.  Six hours that produced a net gain of one kilometre along the highway!  It was now past six but I headed west with a tailwind.  Peddling til near dark  I accomplished a surprising fifty kilometres which got me to a terrific warmshowers host family that accepted me on a few hour’s notice. Not only that, but the next morning I noticed two broken spokes on the cart trailer wheel. The fellow not only replaced the spokes but then took the time to carefully re-tune the wheel to perfect true.

Crossing the Nechako at Prince George.   It was a very steep downhill into PG.  Didn’t mind that, but prefer to have the hard-fought elevation gains metered out in miles of easy downhill pedalling rather than a steep plunge.  It was a hot day and a plunge in the river would have been nice too, prior to the long steep climb back out of the valley bottom.

Premium spring water.  Ice cold and free-flowing right from the ground.   You could not find better water than this anywhere.  But what does the sign say?  “Warning. For your safety boil this water before drinking.”  Pure pure water, along with pure pure bureaucratic, cover their ass, BS!!  And you will find similar signs on public water everywhere away from municipal supplies in B.C.   Tramping in New Zealand most of the huts (cabins) along the trail have a water system that consists of a large tank connected to piping that supplies water from rainfall on the roof.  The signs in NZ read, “In general, the water provided at this facility is clean and able to be drunk without treatment. But users may wish to boil or treat the water before use, for their own protection.”   Wish we could tell it like it is, here too.

A camp spot beside the highway near McLeod Lake.  This spot was a second choice.  Further back I had checked one end of the truck pull-out for a tent spot, then walked to the other end to see what it offered.  Decided the first spot was better until I heard a horn honking as a car braked to avoid a bear crossing the highway just up from that spot.  Back onto the bike for a bit of separation thanks.

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Back to paddling at Mackenzie Junction where the Parsnip River crosses the highway. But before I could paddle again I had to get to the bus depot, in the town of Mackenzie, to pick up my rowing unit, and other items I’d shipped ahead to lighten my load on the road.   My bike attached to the canoe initiated a conversation with a fellow who had stopped at the junction for gas.   He was heading to Mackenzie and offered me a ride.  Mackenzie is thirty kilometres from the junction.   Once again I was to experience the kindness of strangers.  This fellow not only drove me to Mackenzie but then drove me back to my canoe before turning about to get himself back to Mackenzie!!

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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.

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Williston is the tenth-largest man-made reservoir in the world, but where the Parsnip enters it was very shallow. Seeing all the stumps reminded me of Kinbasket Lake and I was hoping its shoreline wouldn’t be similar.   It wasn’t. Stumps and snags are not a problem on Williston.

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Camping the first night on Williston.  It was too shallow to paddle the canoe to closer than fifty feet from the shoreline.  I could only wade and drag it along.   I had concerns though, about the possibility of the lake level rising overnight.  Hence the distant tent location to gain what little elevation I could.

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Williston, despite its size, treated me nicer than any of the other lakes I had been on.  It never tried to teach me a lesson for being bold.   Here I take aim on the point of land where the north-south Parsnip Reach meets the east-west Peace Reach.  A long ten kilometre paddle that took me further from shore than I should have been.

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Out of the southerlies and heading east into Peace Reach.

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This was Peace River Canyon prior to the dam construction and flooding of the 1960s.  I was happy to not have to deal with the river as it was for Sir Alex in his 1793 cross Canada journey.

The canyon now.  The Peace is the only river to pass through the Rockies.   I thought I’d be seeing some of the grandeur one sees travelling the Banff  Jasper Highway but there was nothing in the majestic mountain class.

A look back at waters paddled.

Williston is not easily accessed for recreational boating and fishing.  Too bad, as it has good fishing and plenty of nice beaches.  Although … a breach that passes through the Rocky Mountains certainly has the potential for …

… 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.

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An unexpected find at day’s end.  A hunter’s cabin, available for anyone’s use.  There was no suitable beach, however, just a steep bouldery climb up the bank.  Rather than leave the canoe partially in the water I found an old shovel and spent at least an hour digging a lateral ditch that allowed me to pull the canoe to the safety of high and dry

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.