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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Smithers, Canada to Whistler, Canada

Once we arrived in Smithers we went directly to Oscar's fly shop to get the run down on where to find the Steelhead. Unfortunately, the report was that we were too early. Our only chance would be to rent a car and drive West to Terrace and fish the lower Copper where it meets the Skeena. Once we knew were we were going we purchased our Canadian fishing licenses, rented a mini-van, loaded up on food and hit the road. The Copper is about 200km west of Smithers which should only take about 2 hours to get to but took me about 4 hours because I have not been behind the wheel of a car in months. Seth reclined his chair and immediately fell asleep while I was forced to listen to the one available radio station which had a program on about the overpopulation of yellow jackets in Canada this year. About 20 minutes into the drive my legs started cramping worse than they had the entire trip. I found it funny that I can comfortably cycle 80 miles in a day but can't sit in a car for half an hour without hurting myself.

Once we finally arrived at the Copper I was an expert on the five different types of yellow jackets in Canada and ready to get out on the river and do some fishing. We scouted the area for a while and finally chose a spot that had relatively easy access from the road as there was only a couple hours of daylight remaining. Within the first 20 minutes of fishing I hooked up and was was delighted to see the first Steelhead of the trip tearing line off my 7' and jumping fully out of the water 3 times before allowing me to land, photograph, and release the fish back into the river. While it was not the biggest Steelhead ever caught on the Copper, (actually quite a bit smaller than even the average fish on this river) we were thrilled and could not be happier with how the trip had begun.

As dusk approached we decided to retire and find a camp spot before is was completely dark. Of coarse by the time we got back to the car it was completely dark and we drove around aimlessly looking for anywhere to pitch our tents for the night. We finally found a clearing at the end of a dirt road where we set camp, made dinner and passed out with very high hopes for the next 3 days of fishing. A few hours later Seth and I were suddenly awoken by the sound of a very large and very angry animal approaching us at a full sprint. We both sat up and looked around but could not see a thing as it was an overcast night and there was absolutely no moonlight. All we could hear was the barking getting closer and closer but could not see where it was coming from. Just as it seemed the animal was right in front of us a loud voice shouted and we realized it was someone walking their dog. The dog continued to bark at us for a few moments then retreated in the direction of the voice. This whole experience was very odd as we were camping in a fairly remote spot and this occurred at about 3:00 in the morning. So this person was walking their dog in the middle of nowhere at 3 in the morning in the pitch black with no flashlight. Once they were gone we fell back asleep only to be woken up again by another animal approaching our tents which fled once we started making noise. Needless to say neither of us got much sleep that night.

The next morning we returned to the Copper only to discover that the river had turned muddy and the fishing had gotten very slow. We did not have any action the entire day and the only other fish we landed for the rest of the trip were some Dolly's and a couple Pink Salmon. Seth hooked 2 Steelhead the 3rd morning at about 6am but was not able to land either fish. I even shaved my beard into a mustache the last night of the trip to appease the fishing gods but not even a rally-stache could change our luck. Maybe it had something to do with the 18 bananas we ate over the 4 day period as there is an old superstition that bringing bananas fishing is bad luck. I remembered thinking if I brought 18 bananas on Captain Mark Madden's boat in SD he would throw me overboard for sure.

On the way back to Smithers we stopped to do some laundry and I took this picture of the disastrous mess we had created. I realized that while most people are fascinated with two guys living on their bicycles, nobody is fascinated with two guys living out of their van.

Once we dropped off the rental car at the airport and picked up our repaired bikes from the C.O.B. (Children of the Bluff, not Chris O'Brien) bike shop, we started to pack up and realized we had more stuff than we had ever had before. Somehow we had terribly miscalculated how much food we already had and how much we had needed to buy. Miraculously we strapped it all down, headed south, and got in about 20 miles before it got dark and we were forced to camp at a rest stop. The next destination was the Stellako river where we had some great rainbow fishing and met Ernie, Bill, OB, and Ethan. They were heading out to catch the evening hatch just as we were getting off the river and they noticed our bikes and asked us where we had come from and where we were going. Intrigued, they invited us back to their cabin for cold beers in exchange for some good fishing stories. We happily accepted this trade and cooked dinner while they fished. Ernie, OB and Ethan are all high school teachers and coaches and between the 3 of them I think they coach every sport offered at Homestead High. They told us that they would begin their classes this year by bringing up our website on an overhead projector whenever we update the blog. At one point Ethan asked me how old I was and when I answered 25 he replied, “Jesus, you look much older with that Wyatt Earp mustache you got there.” We want to thank these guys for allowing us to crash in their living room as we really had no clue where we were going to camp that night. We even scored all of their leftover food as they were heading back to Oregon the next morning.

Once again fully loaded (or overloaded) with food, we pushed forward with Prince George in our sights. In between Fraser Lake and Prince George we met an awesome family during our lunch break. While having our usual peanut butter, jelly, nuttella, honey, and bagel sandwich, we noticed a man doing laps on his bike on the frontage road we had pulled off on. By the 2nd or 3rd time that he passed us he stopped and asked if we needed to refill our water bottles. We did not at the time but I asked him what he was training for and he said he was on a daily routine of biking and running to stay in shape and keep his kids motivated as well. He then returned a moment later with all 5 of his kids and continued running his laps. Seth and I had a great conversation with the Bock (I apologize if I misspelled this) kids and we agreed that they asked us the most interesting questions we has received thus far on the trip. They also shared various cycling and fishing stories which entertained us while we ate. We took a couple of pictures, said farewell and moved on.

When I later reviewed these pictures I was a little shocked that anyone would even let us talk to their kids the way we looked.

The next day we arrived at Prince George and decided to camp on the south side of town so we rushed to find a camp spot before dark. We settled on a random wooded area behind a Shell gas station where we were out of sight from the road. Just as we were setting camp the sky exploded with lighting and thunder and it started to dump rain on us. At first, the lighting was a good distance away but we could tell it was getting closer. All of a sudden Seth and I were almost knocked down by what felt like an explosion. I have never been so close to lightning before as the flashes of light and the deafening booms of thunder seemed to be simultaneous. I was forced to cook our dinner in the tent and settled in for a very uncomfortable night of sleep.

The next morning it stopped raining just long enough to break camp and eat breakfast. Within the hour we were being dumped on again and it remained this way all day. We were now on highway 97 which was by far our least favorite road of the trip. There was constant construction all the way from Prince George to Cache Creek. The worst part about this highway was its insufficient or in some places absence of a shoulder to bike in. Add the constant passing of semi's and large RV's and you have a very bad combination. When the semi's pass in the rain they create a massive spray of water that pretty much blinds you for about 2-3 seconds each time they pass. At one point just before we reached our camping spot in Cinema, we were being hailed on so bad that we had to pull our hands inside our jacket sleeves and look straight down to avoid being blasted in the face. The holes in my helmet were filled up with ice chunks. I decided I must shave off my mustache immediatly as we had experienced slow fishing and terrible storms since I started sportin it. Seth was very displeased as he had been taking pictures of me non-stop for the last 4 days.

Two months into our trip we were feeling a little spiritually malnourished so decided to stop at the Chubb Lake Bible Camp to boost our spirits.

This was as good as the shoulder would get on highway 97 and these trucks were usually passing at about 60-80MPH. If nothing else we decided that this was good practice for the roads in Baja which are much worse than this.

Within a couple days we made it to McKleese Lake where we decided we must pay for a warm shower at the McKleese Lake “Resort”. We went to the office and inquired about the price of camping which was ridiculously overpriced so we decided we would just go for the $1 showers. The lady informed us we could not have the $1 shower without paying for a camp spot. After some arguing and haggling we got the price down for camping and a couple showers and cut a deal. We were really in no mood to leave as we had already biked close to 80 miles that day and were desperate for a shower and food. The lady at the office had given us the worst camping spot in the whole “resort” which was located on a hill that would be impossible to tent camp on. We quickly remedied the situation by a finding a beautiful and very flat spot right on the shore of the lake and set camp. We then set off for the showers which turned out to be quite an experience. The water absolutely wreaked of sulfur and we both left the washrooms smelling worse than we had entered. Besides the small issue of smelling like shit it did feel great to be clean.

The people from the two RV's next to us came by and introduced themselves (Tom, Linda, and Barbara) and asked us a few questions about our trip. They asked us if we had eaten yet and invited us over for a feast of steaks, sausages, potatoes, and fresh salad. After we had eaten all of the prepared food, including an entire tub of cottage cheese, Barbara asked us if we were still hungry. We were of course and she made us cheeseburgers and baked beans. After dinner we walked down to the large lawn in the middle of the “resort” were a wedding reception was taking place. We were very happy to just relax on the shores of the lake drinking beers and listening to music. The music continued very late into the night which did not bother us in the least but I remember seeing a family that had a camp site no more than 50 feet from the speakers. Considering the music was loud at our site ¼ mile away, there is no way these people got any sleep. The next morning Linda, Tom, and Barbara invited us over once again for breakfast and spoiled us with bacon, eggs, pancakes, pastries, fresh fruit and coffee. This was the best food we had eaten in quite a while and we can't thank them enough for their generosity. I graciously ate half a plate of bacon, 6 pancakes, and whatever else was left on the table after everyone was finished.

With our stomachs full and bodies somewhat clean we pushed forward towards Whistler. The plan was to take a cutoff from highway 97 to 99 in Clinton which was supposed to be a tougher route but much more remote and NO semi's. We arrived in Clinton and found the cutoff and began climbing the pass when a resident stopped us to ask us if we were tourists. She informed us that they just closed the road because of the fires and we would not be able to use the cutoff. We knew there were some bad fires in the area but we made sure the road was open the day before at the visitor center in Williams Lake. This was quite a blow as we were thrilled about getting off of highway 97 and over to Whistler ASAP. Instead we had to turn around and spend another day with terrible shoulders being brushed by speeding trucks. By that evening we finally made it to 99 and pushed forward another 15 miles to set camp next to Crown Lake. We took a quick swim in the lake, made dinner, and passed out at about 8:30PM.

The next day was an amazing ride which began by startling two black bears just up the road from our camp. Seth rode right past them and did hear or see them as he had his earphones in was already rockin out to his “Riding Mix” which mostly consists of Michael Bolton and Boy George tracks. As soon as the bears saw us they dove off the side of the road and rolled down the embankment which was about a 30 foot drop into thick brush. I stopped and looked over the side and could hear them rustling around in the bushes. All of a sudden I saw a baby black bear dart up the large pine tree in front of me. As soon as he saw me again he freaked out and fell out of the tree when he was about half way up. As soon as he hit the ground he tried again, this time reaching the top of the tree. He was followed by the mother bear shortly after who stopped about ¾ of the way up and started swinging her arms in my direction. She was knocking down branches and I could not believe how agile she was for her size. These bears could climb a 60 foot tree within seconds. I took a few pictures and resumed pedaling to catch up with Seth.

The rest of the day included some of the most intense climbing we have experienced so far. The terrain in betwen Lillooet and Pemberton (This is the town 35 km north of Whistler) consists of 10%-13% grades with one particular ascent lasting over 10km. However, at the end of this nightmare was a 13km descent that was by far the longest and most fun downhill we have had so far. Unfortunately, Seth could not fully enjoy the steep descents as the day before he noticed that he had four large cracks in his rim and one of the nipples holding his spoke was being pulled away from the wheel.

We both managed to pretty much toast our breaks by the end of this stretch but it felt great to blow past cars for once at 45mph on the the winding downhill.

After completing the Duffy Pass Seth checked his messages and found out that COB (Chris O'Brien, not Children of the Bluff) had found us a place to stay in Pemberton from, a website that connects touring cyclists with people that are willing to host them for the night. I called the number and introduced myself to Nikki who said she and Anna would be home by 5:30PM and we were more than welcome to stay for the night. This was perfect as we had planned to fish the Birkenhead River which was on the way to their house. We ate lunch and found our way down to the river where I talked to a native for a while about the fishing. All around us sockeyes were jumping out of the water and he had come down to catch a few for a party that evening. He informed me of a good run to catch trout and told me to hurry up and fish before more natives come down in the afternoon. He told me not everyone is as nice as he is. We briefly fished the run by the bridge and caught a few fish before being joined by a couple native kids. One of them asked Seth what he was fishing for to which Seth answered, “Whatever I can catch.” The kid looked at his fly rod and responded, “Well you ain't gonna catch shit with that.” Seth asked him what he was using and he said, “Treble hook.” The kids were just dragging the hooks along the bottom of the river trying to snag salmon. We decided to leave the kids to their snagging and move upstream. We were dismayed to see that every time they caught a fish that was not a salmon they would smash it against the rocks and throw it back in the water. Sad to think that they do this almost every day of the summer.

Upstream we found another nice run and hooked into a couple more fish before deciding to wrap it up and head north to Pemberton. While we were at this hole we ran into three more native fisherman who were extremely friendly but all told us separately to watch out because not everyone was as nice as they were. This was pretty funny because everyone we ran into was overly nice to us.

We arrived at Niki and Anna's house that evening and were thrilled to walk into dinner already made and on the table for us. After dinner we were able to take showers and do laundry which I can't even describe how essential this was. Our clothes had been disgusting and we were amazed to finally be clean and have clean clothes at the same time. Very rare. The next day Anna drove us to the organic potato farm that her family has been running since the 80's. Their farm is beyond beautiful and her parents house was very unique.

They had huge stacks of firewood outside as they have been using a wood burning stove for many years and just purchased an electric stove this year. Anna was thrilled that she would not have to spend the entire winter splitting more wood for her parents. They loaded us up with a large bag of organic potatoes, organic cheese, dried apricots, and even dried potato chips from the best variety of potato that they grow. Anna then lent us her car for the day and Seth and I drove into Whistler to get his rear wheel rebuilt. The guys at Summit Bike shop hooked us up with a great deal and rebuilt the wheel in about an hour. Seth and I sat at a bar at the bottom of the downhill terrain park and enjoyed lunch and beers while watching mountain bikers hit massive jumps. Whistler is an awesome town which I found very closely resembles Vail, Colorado.

We headed back to Niki and Anna's house and spent another night with them which included another enormous organic dinner which was unlike anything we have had since we left California. Niki even made her famous apple crisp which was the best I have ever had. Nikki and Anna went far beyond their duties as hosts and we are very grateful for their incredible hospitality. Both Nikki and Anna are hoping to tour South America soon, maybe we will see them there. Next stop is Seattle, USA. We are both VERY, VERY excited about reaching Seattle. Upcoming events include Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge, Bumpershoot Music Festival (Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse), and our beautiful hosts the Veal sisters who have already started receiving massive boxes of gear from some of our sponsors.


Stephen Mull said...

Seth, bro, that beard is quite simply the most beautiful beard I have ever seen. Don't ever change.

Ernie Millard said...

Looking good guys. My students will be showing up tomorrow and I will be sharing your trip with them. Keep it up.


Kiel said...

Enjoy the ride down from Whistler...the Sea to Sky boasts some awesome views!

Keep up the good work boys!

Cob said..., not .com. Get it right parker!

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