Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 12 of the Great Adventure: Smithers to Dease Lake

Awake and ready to go!  Family shot for the day shows us still smiling.  How could we not be?  We're in the middle (literally/geographically) of Beautiful British Columbia!  Seriously, it's beautiful, green, mountains everywhere, rivers and creeks full of water (this is a big deal to a Texan, our rivers and creeks tend to lack the wet stuff).  
By this point in the trip, I'm loving Canada and trying to fully embrace it.  I (Tim) grew up playing hockey, watching movies like Strange Brew, Canadian Bacon, and CBC's Hockey Night in Canada with Don Cherry (not a movie, it was actual hockey games).  It took some convincing of people in high school that I, in fact, was not Canadian (mostly in jest, but still).  All this having been said, I had to get donuts and coffee from Tim Hortons.  I had to, it's the Canadian Dunkin Donuts.  I don't know for sure, but Canada probably runs on Hortons.  
Mission accomplished.  We acquired a half-dozen assorted delicacies and a couple of chai teas (I chickened out on coffee, I was uncertain of the facilities down the road, and coffee has predictable results).  The donuts were good but... different, I will stick with Shipley's.  Of course we don't have those in Alaska, so I'll probably just lay off the donuts for a while.  Randi doesn't eat donuts anymore as they are essentially 'gluten-Os'.
Robby says, "YUMMY DONUTS!" (He didn't really say that)
Charlie is a big fan of sprinkles we all discovered.  He nearly ate his body weight in donuts.

"Thank you for your prayers"

Spoiler ya'll, Annie made it.  The whole way.

Some of you might be wondering why there are so many pictures of 'Brutus' on this trip.  Well, a couple months before the trip I joined the forums for advice on all things 4Runner.  In return for advice and well wishes I promised pictures and narration of the trip.  I have failed miserably so far to post said pictures and narration, but I'll get to that later.  So this picture was taken at the Petro Canada station at the junction of highways 16 (Yellowhead Hwy) and 37 (Cassiar Hwy).  Hwy 16 continues west to Prince Rupert, BC on the coast while 37 heads north to the Yukon to the Alaska Hwy.  By the way, I'm a huge geography geek and this trip fed that geekiness quite a lot.  As such, I would urge the reader to open google maps (in a separate tab or window please) and check out some of these routes.  You really don't appreciate the scope of the drive and the expanse of Canada until you do, and you really don't quite get it until you do the drive in person.  It's huge, like mind-bottling huge (please see the movie Blade of Glory for reference on mind-bottling) and beautiful the entire way.

Enough of that, NORTH TO ALASKA.  This was actually in the parking lot of the Petro Canada station.  It was about now that things started to get really really rural.  We were heading to Dease Lake, the largest town left in BC on this route and it has a population of 303.  While stretching our legs we met a nice older couple from Iowa who were pulling a BIG travel trailer and vacationing around Canada.  Randi and the wife chatted about family and nice things, the husband and I talked about how sucky the roads were.  
 That bridge was immediately after the right turn out of the parking lot on the Hwy 37 side of the parking lot, onward north!

Our view as soon as we crossed the bridge, a preview of things to come.  Also, as is the case with all of the roads around these parts and north, there are two main seasons of road conditions:  covered with snow and under construction.  Our trip, thankfully, took place during the latter phase.  Shortly after this picture was taken we happened upon a road crew.  They were alternating traffic down one lane as the other lane was being worked on.  The details are fuzzy, but I sort of almost ran the sign holder guy over.  Not really, he was a good 30 yards away... but he got nervous and his non-chalant waving to the open lane became rather emphatic for a moment.  Ahem, moving on!

Quick potty stop (just for me, caffeine is a diuretic, eh) at a sketchy, though Canadianly clean, rest stop out-house.
Oh yeah, the rest stop was adjacent to a river crossing.  On a single lane wood plank bridge.
Over a roaring river, the Nass River.  Look it up eh.
A shot back.  Yes, I was running around on the highway with the camera for these pictures, totally worth it.

Decisions decisions.  This is the junction along Meziadin Lake where one may choose to continue north on 37 or take a left and go to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.  We turned right.  

Oh?  A modern amenity possessing stop along the way?  I think we'd like that.

Here it is!  The Bell 2 Lodge, nice staff, clean, new, modern facilities.  Good food and not outrageously priced considering the area.  Randi and I bought matching t-shirts as our souvenirs for the trip.  I'm actually wearing mine right now (OMG how cool Tim!).
The view from the parking lot, we ended up seeing the people driving the U-Haul a few times on the way up, they are from Oregon and are moving to Alaska for the husband's research.  That's about as nosy as we got.  No more 'deets' on that one.  Well, they had their 3 year old with them, and the 16 month old was back in Oregon with grandma.  They'll fly up to Alaska once mom, dad, and big sis are settled in.  They also had a Subaru (two cars, they're nuts).
ANYWAY, much of the rest of this post is pictures of scenery along the way.  I will interject when necessary.  Enjoy the views!

This picture of Brutus, the one preceding it and the next one are all the same picture basically.  They were all taken from a picnic area turnout with a sign about the avalanche programs, thankfully that is not something we had to worry about.

I forget the name of this river (for shame) but it ran along the highway for quite a while.  It really never got old to see it over and over.

Ok, hold the phone, did someone let their Rottweiler loose in the wilderness??  No folks, that's a black bear or oso negro for our Latino readers.  This was the second or third we saw but they always scampered (read: lumbered humorously) away before we could slow down in the middle of the highway, roll down the window, and take a picture.  This one was obscured by the bushes but was the best one we got.  We saw 7 total black bears along highway 37 (over two days), every time it was a dramatic, nearly religious type experience for Randi and me.  Why?  Because we saw countless bears, moose, elk, etc. along the way that, in actually, were tree stumps, rocks, and bushes.  So to see an actually living mammalian bear that contained no sticks or rocks was quite a feat of observation.

Back to the beautiful river, this was just a couple miles south of Dease Lake, BC (the town, not the lake itself, though that was also just a few miles north).  We were close, the kids were fussing, we all wanted to be there, but it was too pretty to keep going.  So we stopped and I got out of the car to use the bear-proof litter bins and take some mediocre photographs.

Mommy failed to offer a picture of herself for the evening's meal, but the boys are all together at Rumor's Cafe in Dease Lake.  It's basically the only restaurant not able to be towed by a pick up truck in town.  The food was surprisingly tasty and not too expensive either.  I swear I took multiple pictures of our hotel but have been unable to locate them.  So I'll let you investigate it on your own: 
I will say this, the hotel was clean and the rooms were large for a reasonable rate.  But they were also not air conditioned.  So, despite the fact that it was a gorgeous 65-70 degree day, it was stifling in our room.  To add to the problem, our window's screen had a hole in it, small as it may have been, so I was awakened about 4 am with mosquito bites between my fingers and on my head.  Truly, though, aside from that it was a great stay and a nice little stopover before we made our way to Whitehorse, YT. 

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