Contrary to Prince Rupert’s wiki page, we experienced only a couple days of rain in a place where apparently they see two-thirds of the year with droplets of drizzle. At Leo and Laurence’s we were taught the magnanimity of embracing trickles of time – watching waves and weather pass while reading, playing with daughter and enjoying food and company. A stark contrast to a life filled with errands and work and stresses of everyday life.
Leo is a manager of a scallop farm outside of Prince Rupert and Laurence is a waitress/manager at one of Prince Rupert’s oldest restaurants in town. Together they make the most laid back open people you’ll come across in life. They’re working their tails off to move to Chile where they’ve already arrange a plot of land allotted for a paradise of self-sufficiency, organic gardens and rural cottages for travelers. We’ve already agreed that we’ll meet again either in Chile or Latvia – whichever comes first.
Aside from lounging about, reading, painting, playing cards and drinking Chilean wine (and Canadian beer from Vancouver) we did actually go out for some exploring. On July 12th we decide to hit Wantage Road (10km) that switch-backs up the nearest mountain. The ten kilometers turned out to be a three and a half hour slog up a rocky berry ridden road. Ance observed that the road is much more of a mountain biker’s trail and with our Novara touring bikes and Augustine in tow we were more like mountain-pushers, not bikers: since two-thirds of the way we ended up pushing our bikes up the hill.
I had Augustine in tow for the day and probably sweat gallons in the rare Rupert sunshine. A couple of locals stopped and asked if we were alright and warned that the top was aways away, giving us a look that questioned our sanity and ability as parents.
Never-the-less, on-top of the mountain there is a great view of nearby Digby Island, Prince Rupert below and the distant mountains. If you find yourself in Prince Rupert and are ready for some exercise we highly recommend heading up Wantage Road. You may, however, want to be a bit more prepared and arguably smarter than us and take a mountain bike as the terrain is quite rugged.
Port Edward Day Trip (July 13th)
After our Prince Rupert mountain adventure we decided for a bit more mellow ride to the nearest town – Port Edward. A 15km stretch with a wide shoulder and just steep enough hills made the ride enjoyable with much less sweat and swearing than the mountain trek.
There is a great swimming spot just after the bridge on the mainland side (after a rewarding 2-3km drop on bicycles) to get off Kaien Island. We stopped and dunked ourselves into the unbelievably frigid water while Augustine kicked around the water and lounged in the nearby grass, throwing rocks and repeating over-and-over again with a wheezy-insane giggle “water’s cold!”
We didn’t get any good shots of Port Edward itself, but it seems to be a slow moving mill and fishing town. We stopped at the deserted playground where Augustine got to goof around for a bit and then dropped into the tiny general store with plywood floors to grab a Canadian Mr. Freeze popsicle (think Otterpops only bigger with the strangest flavors you can imagine) where we crunched up the ice in the shade with the regular locals staring at us and our bicycles wondering what the hell we were doing there.
We cycled back to Prince Rupert to find Leo and Laurence prepping for a weekend B-B-Q with friends. After a night of good beer, grilled salmon, fresh vegetable shish kabobs and Augustine finding a new friend of 9 or 10 years old to run around with, Ance stayed up late with Laurence making crazy-beautiful cakes and treats for Augustine’s birthday, while daughter and I hit the sheets early dreaming of sunshine and charcoal.
Augustine’s Birthday (July 14th)
Ance and Laurence ended up staying up till 3AM baking and drinking wine in preparation for Augustine’s birthday. Augustine and I got a good solid 9 hours in and woke to another humid sunshine filled day in Rupert. We spent the day getting way too much food prepared while Augustine wandered around telling everyone in the house that “it’s my birthday!”
Laurence invited the kids she knew in town to celebrate Augustine’s birthday. We played tag with a giant pink ball and ran around the yard screaming till the sun went down. Needless to say, it was a good time and a birthday we hope Augustine will be able to recall at least vaguely in her latter years.
Prince Rupert to 70km Marker (July 15th)
Serendipitously, on Augustine’s birthday we also got our new three person Alps Mountaineering tent and two extra front panniers in bright yellow via Canadian Post. Our time at Prince Rupert was at a close and we ended up with a nice foggy early start at 12:30PM (what can I say, we are early risers).
After crossing the bridge off Kaien Island we entered new territory after the turn-off to Port Edward. The road just out of Rupert towards Terrace winds slowly uphill and past a few lakes with towering peaks on each side and in the distance towards the northeast. We stopped at a flat pull off area around two hours in and ate salmonberries for a couple of hours, hiding in the shade.
After lunch we climbed slowly to Rainbow Summit (a mere 160m+) with a great 2-3 km slow-drop next to the Skeena River. With a good steady wind with strong gusts at our back we were making around 20-25 KMH for a good 30 to 40mins.
We ended up camping out at a remote boat launch just before the 70km marker with a nice flat spot and view of the surrounding mountains and river. Our first actual camping dinner was of couscous and broccoli with a nice cup of expresso coffee and hot chocolate for daughter. Surprisingly, no one was to sore or tired, we enjoyed a brisk wind keeping the bugs off and an amber sunset by the Skeena.
70km to 10km outside of Terrace (July 16th)
We slept in until 10AM and didn’t get on the road until 12:15PM (again, early risers). Ance had Augustine in tow for the day. The first 20-25km continued with the winds at our back – fairly flat and easy rolling. At certain points the road narrowed right next to the rail road with cliffs jutting straight up on the left – leaving little wiggle room for logging and shipment trucks to pass by. At around 120km in I magically hit one tiny staple and blew a tire. I now ask that Staples change their name and request that all staples be banned in Canada.
We then began a 170m climb with few breaks. After a bit of a peddle we dropped down to the Kitsumakalum River about 5km out of Terrace where we found a dusty/sandy boat launch to camp for the night – pointed out to us by a couple of Terrace teenagers.
Terrace to the Windy River Beach (July 17th)
An easy ride into Terrace greeted with hot weather. We rolled into town hung out at the playground for Augustine, dumped some extra clothes/gear at the local Salvation Army and met a grandma and granddaughter from Kitwanga who told us to prep for rain for the next four to five days.
Towards the evening we took a short hour and a half ride just outside of Terrace and camped on the banks of the Skeena. Folks fished until 11PM while we cooked dinner, washed dishes and ourselves and unknowingly crept into our tent for a night of 60 to 70mph winds.
While Ance and Augustine slept peacefully (beyond my ability to understand how) I laid with my headlamp on my head watching the tent poles bend nearly to our faces in the howling wind. A few times I got to scurry out of the tent to secure the vestibules that got ripped up by the wind on either side of the tent.
Eventually, I found that using the little hooks on our pannier bags worked well for holding the vestibule door flaps down to keep the rain out – as the tent steaks kept getting ripped up from the sand by the wind. Unfortunately, while we stayed relatively dry, the wind howled so well that it actually blew a nice dusting of sand under the rainfly and through the screening to cover everything in a layer of sand.
Upon waking in the morning, the wind had largely died down and I related to Ance the nights adventure, she responded with something like, “I slept well.” Augustine, I think, could have cared less, she loves sand.
Windy River Beach to 20km Before of Kitwanga (July 18th)
With the rain and wind having died down we carried on in a muggy warm morning that lingered all day. I took my shirt off exposing my beer belly to Canada to fight off the feeling of drowning in a sloppy caking of plastic wrap. The day seemed to drag on due to the humidity and slow up hills we squeezed through 20 mins at a time.
We’d made the commitment to trek 52km earlier that day to the nearest rest stop (after doing 20km already) in hopes that there would be a bit of flat open space to set up a tent and water relatively close. About 5km out from our rest stop destination, I began to feel a dark cloud of pessimistic fever drowning me in negativity. Augustine was pretty angry at being in her trailer for nearly three hours now and I was pretty pissed that these 52km weren’t giving a sloppy centimeter. These feelings, in retrospect, may have been entirely related to the fact that I slept a good solid 3 hours the night before.
As if reaching the holy grail, I saw that wonderful blue and white sign indicating a rest stop 200m ahead. Luckily, it was a large one that pulled off a good distance from the road with large pines sheltering us from the light sprinkling coming down.
We thought we were closer to the Skeena river than we actually were and made a small hiking trek through the woods on what seemed to be a derelict trail. It ended up just looping us around to the other side of the rest area. To secure some water we unloaded one of the bikes and I cycled back 3-4km to where we last saw the river to filter some water.
Upon returning, we made some tea and crawled in the tent where I fell into a thousand year coma, while I believe Ance and Augustine stayed up for sometime reading Dr. Suess and Man Patik Skolā.
Outside Kitwanga to 5km before New Hazelton, Seely Lake (July 19th)
The day ended up being much cooler without much rain during the day. We cycled to the gas station that lies at the junction for highway 37 that heads north to Alaska. We filled our fuel bottle for the cook stove (a whole .37 cents) and headed down 37 to check out Kitwanga. Right after crossing the bridge over the Skeena I heard a strange noise followed by a worrisome slap-bang. Looking back, I saw my whole pannier rack and bags dragging behind me.
Apparently, I hadn’t checked the tension on the bolts that hold the entire rack onto the bike and the whole damn thing fell off. I was able to find most of the components except for a small 5mm allen bolt that held everything together (something I probably lost a few kilometers back). I used the one remaining bolt to rig the whole rack together, hoping that Kitwanga had some sort of store where we might be able to find something that worked.
We rolled into Kitwanga general store (the store literally didn’t have a name) and checked out the hardware section for bolts. Of course, stocked items were all standard sizing and I began to think that we’d just have to survive until Smithers (110km) to get a proper bolt.
Being a pretty small town, however, the owner of the shop came out and asked what we were looking for. I showed him the remaining bolt I had and he took a glance and said he’d be right back. He left to storage area of the store and came back with a proper fitting bolt, which he explained he’d taken off of an Italian milling piece of equipment a couple years ago.
The owner gave us the bolt for free, saying he was just being neighborly, and while we were checking out after grabbing some groceries for the road, a grandfather with his granddaughter bought Augustine an ice cream for no other reason than the fact that they were running around together through the store. A little later on, we walked to the community park where Augustine got to play with some kids and climb around on what looked like a locally made miniature tug boat.
As a personal side note, I’d like to mention that the kids that Augustine was playing with eventually left the playground on a four-wheeler – with what looked like a 12 year-old driving with three 5-7 year olds riding along in a flat-bed trailer behind. It reminded me a lot of growing up in the village.
Needless to say, if you happen to be in the area, take a pit stop into Kitwanga, as the people there seem to be among the salt of the earth.
After leaving Kitwanga we made a good 35km trek to just outside of New Hazelton to Seely Lake Provincial Park. We’d hit farmland and so there seem to be a lot less open spaces to just throw up a tent and camp for the night.
New Hazelton to Beyond Evelyn (July 20th)
Another muggy hot day. The weather intermingles with clouds and sun, in the distance towards the Hazelton range you can see that it is raining, but all that is brought to you is this heavy humid air. A good day consisting of variable ups and downs opening up to large swaths of farmland nestled between massive mountain ranges.
Towards the end of the day we realized we’d not found enough water and were contemplating stoping at a farm house to ask for water. We pulled into on farm and knocked on the door – nobody home but an angry guard dog. We took the bumpy dirt road off the property to across the street to ask, where I found I’d blown another tire.
Ance and Augustine went to go ask for water while I broke down my bicycle to swap out the tube. Almost immediately, a man came out asking Ance if she needed air. After explaining that we needed some water and we had a blown tire the man invited Ance into their house fill up the water bottles. While Ance went in the house, he came over and asked if I needed anything.
After some fumbling about and getting the tire back into shape, we found ourselves being invited into Rob and Diane’s home for the night. They’ve got a beautiful home on 160 acres of land looking out at the Hazelton Rang and Hudson Bay mountain. They made us dinner and shared beer and stories – Rob took me for a ride through his property and into the nearest town – Moricetown.
Rob instantly strikes you as a character larger than life, cracking jokes every few minuets followed up with a steady stream of Canadian “ay’s” and laughter. Augustine and Rob almost instantly took to each other, fighting over toys and coloring together while Rob pulled out his tried and true phrase: “what are you doing, you dirty rotten kid.” Rob’s wife Diane turned out to be that loving maternal figure, she even went so far as to pack us lunch for the road the next day.
Outside of Evelyn to the top of Hungry Hill outside of Houston (July 21st)
Diane made us breakfast in the morning and we gave a fond farewell, setting back out on the road. Rain clouds continued to linger near the surrounding mountain ranges. We had a nice 15-20km into Smithers, where we stopped at a playground and stopped to re-supply at the local Extra Foods (the only store in Canada that seems to carry good Rye bread).
Towards the evening we eventually hit one of the three hills that people have been mentioning for the past several days – Hungry Hill. At a fairly good pitch, especially towards the top, over the course of 5km you hit 844m of elevation. We were disappointed to find that the rest area at the top was fenced in by farmland giving no extra space for setting up a tent.
We opted for heading down Hungry Hill on the other side to see if we could find a spot to throw up a tent. After a couple of kilometers, we rolled onto a dirt road leading to a countryside house overlooking the surrounding farmland.
Once again after asking for some water and whether-or-not it would be okay to throw up a tent nearby, the owners (Fran and Hendrick) ended up offering up a place to stay – a large house trailer on their property with a hot shower, kitchen and bed to sleep in. We got to whole place to ourselves to watch the sunset and eat dinner, observing the weather change from showers to broken overcast in the red light of the evening.
Around dinner time Augustine comes running across the huge yard yelling “daddy, daddy! My have a mousy!” holding something in her hand. I am not sure if she chased the thing down and gave him a heart attack or if he was already dead, but we had to have an awkward conversation with Augustine about dying and trying not to pick up dead things in the yard.
Down Hungry Hill to the East Side of 6-Mile Hill (July 22nd)
We got a good start for the day with a giant 8-10km coast down Hungry Hill nearly into Houston. Ance managed to blow both her front and back tires on the way down the hill. In the process off pumping the second tire back up I simultaneously exploded the pump itself into pieces and in my rage snapped the the valve off of the presta tube. This I believe is called a circus.
Luckily, we were nearby a rest area, so we unloaded my bike and I road into Houston while Ance and Augustine hung out by the Bulkley River. I bought the last small mounting bicycle pump in the local outdoor shop and got Ance’s bike rolling again without any more tweedle-dumb moments.
The next big hill that everyone psyched us up for was 6-mile hill just outside of Topley, so much so that we actually believed that we’d be heading up some hellish 10km 9% grade gnashing hells gate monster deep into dark night sky of despair. It turns out though that the fear is in the name, not in the hill. Aside from a 2km stretch of about 7-8% grade, 6-Mile Hill had nothing on Hungry Hill. We banged out 6-mile and began descending into an on coming thunder and rain storm.
Getting a bit late, we decided to pull off onto a farm with a big sign “Bedding Plants” out front. The family offered up their yard and a place to dry off in their green house, where they fired up a wood stove and brought Augustine hot chocolate with marshmallows. Rough life.
Green House to Burns Lake (July 23rd)
A short 30km day brought us into Burns Lake were we did a food re-stock and found a free municipal campground right next to a lake and a playground – pretty much heaven for Augustine. We ended up spending the day lounging in the sun, swimming and running around the playground with Augustine until bed time.
As a side note, we really loved Burns Lake. Its a neat little town that feels friendly, open and lively. Everyone should go check it out.
Burns Lake to Fraser Lake (July 24th)
I got perhaps the easiest stretch of 70km you could get today. We had a good steady wind at our backs and some winding downhills we were making 20-25kmph throughout most of the day and rolled into Fraser Lake around 3:30PM.
Fraser Lake also has a free municipal campground right down by a lake and we were able to call it a day early with a special treat of beer and popcorn. It ended up blowing so hard in the wispy sunshine that we took shelter in a outdoor concert stage right on the campground. We also did a humorous circus act of moving our tent and gear around 10:30PM to avoid the gusts of wind, again blowing our tent steaks out and making our poles dance.
That night we also met a French Canadian cyclist from Ontario traveling by himself. All smiles after a day of riding into the wind (he was going the opposite direction), we sat and talked about life on the road and gear BS. He said he might be heading into Haines or Skagway, Alaska. We shared email addresses and hit the therm-a-rest for the night.
Fraser Lake to Vanderhoof (July 25th)
The winds turned a bit, so that Ance with Augustine in tow got one of the harder days of 75km+ into and just outside of Vanderhoof. We were hoping that Vanderhoof might carry on the lake towns tradition of free municipal campgrounds, but Vanderhoof sadly wanted $23 a night to pitch a tent – we said tootles and make a short 10km trek just outside of town where in found a nice gravel road that opened up to government grassland were we pitched a tent and slept like dead cows.
Outside Vanderhoof to Prince George (July 26th)
An 85km day with a short drenching thunder storm and slow climb for pretty much the whole day. Ance and I laughed as we slowly putted along the road to Prince George because everyone seemed to be all about warnings for Hungry Hill and 6-mile hill, but all praises for the easy ride into Prince George from Vanderhoof.
Granted we had a bit of headwind, but everyone seemed to miss the fact that the entire ride with few exceptions into PG from Vanderhoof is a part a monotonous slow slog and part glorious scenery. People also seemed to overlook the 800m+ climb that happens along the way.
At any rate, we pulled into Prince George exhausted and jumped on the internet to see if we’d got any couchsurfing.org hosts – we had not. Getting a bit late, we swung by the first sited liquor and grocery store to load up on supplies for Ance’s name’s day (beer, pastries and salad!) and got directions from a local on where we might be able to camp for free in town.
We ended up pitching a tent basically in someone’s front yard at a city park, which had to be breaking some kind of law, and slipped into a deep black hole of dreams.
Prince George Break (July 27th-July 30ish?)
Getting up early to break down the tent, while we sat eating breakfast and drinking coffee near the Nechako River our vagrant neighbors (two guys hopping trains and one cyclist up from Sacramento) came over to ask if we’d gotten mugged the night before.
Apparently, someone found them under the nearby bridge and held them at pepper-spray-point and made off with some of their bags and gear. We offered some coffee, cookies and breakfast beer for their troubles. Getting ready to pack up and possibly head out of Prince George (to hopefully avoid getting mugged) a couple came down to the water front with their dogs eventually asking us where we were from and how far we’d traveled.
In a quick 7 mins they were offering up their yard, hot shower, hot tub and dinner. So, here we find ourselves at Tracy and Leanne’s suburban paradise. Augustine waters plants with Tracy, there is a big playground and public water park for children to run and scream about, along with a whole neighborhood of loving and kind neighbors dropping by to say hello. Just last night, Lynn, another motherly badass type with a British accent came by offering us a ride down to Vancouver to party and celebrate Gay Pride this coming next weekend.
Sounds tempting, but we’re to much of the boring slow puttering type, so we’ll probably kick it around PG for another day and its back on the road again!
The Latvian Alaskan Family