Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 7 - Hinton, Alberta - Charlie Lake, British Columbia

By 7am the bike was packed and I was ready to leave.  I walked across to Richard's site and we said goodbye for the third and last time, we never ran into each other again.  It was interesting trying to understand his English and he mentioned something about me talking too fast and that it was difficult for him to follow me.  I know what he means, my daughter takes after me and she does talk fast too.
The Koa campsite was near route 40, soon I was traveling north on Forestry Trunk Road, route 40 towards William A. Switzer Provincial Park.


The park is situated north east of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies foothills and during most of the ride north you have the mountains to the left.  The 2 lane paved road is well maintained, I was able to quickly make up miles stopping only for pictures and enjoying the scenery which is really beautiful.  The only problem is the Caribou also like this area, I never saw any near the road but proceeded with a little more caution.




There wasn't much traffic on the road and I was able to enjoy the smell of the pine trees and immerse myself in the constant drone of the engine, I really enjoyed traveling alone along this stretch of road.
About half way between Hinton and Grand Cache I stopped to take a break next to this bridge and sat relaxing by the water for a while.


Pretty much had the road to myself,
and the area by the river
A few miles up the road I see a side road that leads into the forest, I follow it for a while and turn around by this lake.  This is the reason I carry a small tripod, to be able to capture scenes like these when I'm alone.



45 minutes later I arrive in Grande Cache, stopped for gas and a warm cup of coffee, the temperature had been falling and it was in the high 40's by the time I stopped, I was glad I had bought a scarf in North Dakota.


After Grande Cache the road was pretty much empty, lots of green and winding roads with beautiful vistas along the river.  I followed this couple on a BMW GS for a while but then zipped by them, I'm not one to follow the speed limits which in my opinion are simply ridiculous in Canada.  In most roads it's either 90kph or 110 which is 68mph and this is in the countryside where the roads are well kept and with little traffic.  There were a few bicyclists on the road too.





A few more miles and I had to stop when I saw the devastation in the forest.  I guess it's a necessary evil having to cut down trees but we all need houses to live.



After another long stretch of road I stop when I see a trailer on the side of the road selling coffee, it was just after I passed  this bridge.  The coffee trailer was owned by native Indian people, there were a few shacks behind and the family lived in the area behind the trailer in what looked like a squatters camp.






I continued on route 40 and was soon through Grande Prairie without stopping, taking route 43 next and only making a stop about 20 minutes later when I saw this giant beaver on the side of the road.  The beaver is located in Beaverlodge, a town of about 2000 people.  Right next door is the Beaverlodge Motor Inn.


Half an hour later and I enter British Columbia, the seventh Canadian province I have visited.  I continue my march to one of the highlights of my trips, Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alaska Highway.  The last hour before I arrived in Dawson Creek was the worst I have had so far on this trip, the wind was so strong from the northwest that I must have been riding at a 45 degree angle.  The constant buffeting and me trying to counteract the wind just drained me, I was glad when I saw the sign for Dawson Creek.  You can see the flag is almost completely horizontal with the wind.


I arrive in Dawson Creek a little later, also known as "Mile Zero City" and as the sign says, "Where the Adventure Begins!".


I had chosen this route north because I wanted to ride the entire length of the Alaska Highway and it starts right here in Dawson Creek, you can't miss the sign.  As you ride through town you hit a circle with a statue in the middle and as you go around the circle to Highway 97 you come upon the historic monument built to commemorate the construction of the road.  The statue is a surveyor pointing in the direction of the road.


The Alaska Highway, also known as ALCAN was built during World War II to connect the U.S. to Alaska through Canada.  Completed in 1942, its length has changed due to constant reconstruction of the highway, which has been rerouted and straightened out in numerous sections. The highway opened to the public in 1948.  The entire length of the highway is now paved.




Looking in the opposite direction, two panoramas done with my little Sony camera.



The plaques by the monument.




I leave my bike and walk one block over to the center of town where I see this beautiful hotel and a marker with the distance to other important points along the Alaska Highway.  I'm still 1523km away from Fairbanks.




I still have a long way to go and no time to waste looking around the city, I take a few more pictures and then leave starting the long trek along the ALCAN.




A little later I cross the Kiskatinaw River Bridge and notice a few bullet holes on the sign.



A few more miles of beautiful highway and scenery and 20 minutes later I cross the bridge over the Peace River on the way to Fort St. John.  Located at Mile 47, it is one of the largest cities along the Alaska Highway. Originally established in 1794, as a trading post, Fort St. John is the oldest European-established settlement in present-day British Columbia.



A lot of the bridges on the way to Alaska are metal grate bridges and one thing I found out is my new tires do not like the grate on the bridge, the front wheel is all over, best thing is to relax your hands on the handle bars and just let the front tire do its thing.


I was planning on camping for the night near Fort St. John and found the perfect place at the Charlie Lake Provincial Park located on Charlie Lake.  The Provincial parks work on the honor system, you enter the park, find an empty site and park your bike, someone will come by and collect the money.  If it's late and the ranger is not around, you supposed to put the money in the envelope and drop in the box located near the entrance gate.  I found a site close to the entrance and I would have had to walk quite far to get to the lake so I didn't bother taking any pictures of the lake.  It looks like I had the camp to myself but across from my site were two Canadian brothers doing a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska on identical Suzuki V-Strom 650's.



After setting up my tent I walked to the front gate and main road to get a picture of the sign and was rewarded with a dear crossing the road a few yards from me.



A few minutes later I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset, I took one last look at Highway 97 North, the famous ALCAN and returned to my campsite.  I had bought a gigantic "hoagie" sandwich in town and managed to eat it all, I was starving since I hadn't eaten anything for lunch. I finished it with a warm cup of coffee and a Bear Claw Danish. 




Interactive Map:


340 miles for the day with 50 on the ALCAN.

To be continued.....

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