My thoughts go out to the Goodwin family and all the other wonderful staff at my secondary Yukon home.
I had a pretty good night at the turnout even though I practically woke to a gale, with Miranda rocking back and forth. I had coffee and the rest of the bannock, then set off under a clear a sky at about 10.
My first stop of the day was Kitwanga where there is a side road that goes through ‘town’ and loops back to the Cassiar. I took this loop road because it announced a nearby Parks Canada site of a First Nations battleground. I enjoyed the walk down to and up the hill.
Lunch was had at a pull-out just before Smithers and then I headed to my destination for the night, an RV park just east of Houston, 300km shy of Prince George. I followed the signs for the park, all of which proclaimed it was open… except for the one after the last turn that ended in a shut gate.
I found myself in a situation not unlike that back in Manitoba, caught in a turn where I couldn’t unhook. This time, backing up with the toad and doing a million point turn wasn’t even an option seeing as the road was very narrow and bordered by ditches. The only possibility I could see was to cross a culvert and turn around in a big field. I got out and checked the culvert, finding it sturdy. The field was pot holey and definitely not a place I would have voluntarily taken Miranada and the toad into, but I felt confident that I could get turned around without doing any damage or having to unhook. I was right. Whew!!!
With all of that, I forgot that I was low on fuel and left civilization without gassing up. 50km from Houston, I woke up in that regard and realised that I was staring at a bunch of long uphill stretches with no gas in sight and a gas gauge needle dipping deeply into the red. This was the first time I have ever come close to running out of gas and I figured I’d used up all my luck for the day. Both the GPS and the Milepost were in agreement that the nearest gas station in either direction was too far away.
So, you can imagine that when I saw a sign in the distance announcing gas, I thought it was a mirage. 😀
As it turns out, it was a pump on a native reserve, not a proper gas station. But there was a sign announcing prices for status and non-status folks, so I figured I could gas up there. The pump was in the middle of a perfectly-sized roundabout, full-serviced, and offered the cheapest gas I’d seen since Whitehorse (1.03).
I wound up being there almost an hour seeing as my credit card would not go through after several attempts. I called the company to see if there was a security hold on the card, but no. The very helpful person I spoke to suggested that the problem might be with the POS terminal, not my card. The attendant was a young gal fairly new on the job and I coached her on how to call for POS support. Sure enough, there was a glitch with their system and she was walked through the process of resetting the terminal. My card went through fine after. Had the problem been on my end, I would have used an alternate method of payment, but since the problem was theirs and it was more convenient to pay with my credit card than with another method I had no problem with the time the transaction took. Moreover, I think I did the girl a favour showing her what I knew about POS machines.
Like the day before, I pushed on in search of a non-advertised RV park or other legal overnighting option, but found none. I reached the end of the Cassiar and turned east onto Yellowhead highway 16, which also does not permit boondocking. Here, the reason is obvious with frequent billboards reminding people, especially women, that the road is nicknamed ‘The Highway of Tears’ because many young women have disappeared on it. There is a strong possibility that a serial killer is stalking this desolate stretch of highway.
The sun was very low in the sky by the time I passed Vanderhoof, so I decided to just take the plunge and limped all the way to the Walmart in Prince George, covering in total that day more than seven hundred kilometres!
There were signs at the Walmart that overnight parking is not permitted, but there were so many RVs parked that I just ignored the signs. I’m such a rebel!!!
It was COLD in Prince George and I turned on the furnace for the first time. It would have been nice the other nights, but this night it was no luxury.
I didn’t sleep at all; it was just too light, noisy, and COLD. I was cranky and just wanted to get out of civilization. Last time I was in Prince George I stayed for a few days at Les Doll’s place, but that detour didn’t fit in with my itinerary this time around. I instead decided to go back to the Chasm and spend two nights there.
The morning was spent running errands, including a quick run into Canadian Tire where I actually ran into Les. What are the odds?!
It was sooo good to be back on the road, even with the construction coming out of Prince George. It was nice in a way to be back in familiar territory, especially since I was out of fresh water and driving with full black and grey tanks. My first stop of the day was going to be Quesnel, which has some of the best RV facilities in the west; a large day parking area, dump station, and potable water pump, all free. Taking on water was fine, but my holding tanks were frozen solid!
From Quesnel, I drove straight back to the Chasm, knowing I was racing the light. I pulled into the turnoff at bang on six. The turnoff was in worse shape than it was in the spring, very muddy and without a single level spot. I unhooked and drove Miranda into an area below the turnoff with a couple of fairly level places to park if you don’t mind doing a bit of a dance with your RV to get into the right position. I didn’t mind the work, finding this spot more suitable for a long stay than is the turnoff.
I spent a quiet evening reading and watching a movie. I had a rare good night’s sleep.
The next morning was bright and cold… and my fresh water tank was frozen solid. I had to laugh. I grabbed a bucket and made a couple of trips down to the creek to get some slush to melt for washing purposes and as well as some drinking water from the spring to boil for drinking. Life without amenities suits me, I’ve discovered. Had I not needed to haul water I would have probably not had any exercise that morning.
It was a quiet, homey day, where I got caught up on my sewing (!) and cleaning. Some people walked past Miranda a few times to take in the view of the Chasm, but no one bothered me. I was relaxed and pleased that I was only a day away from the ferry terminal, two days from Croft’s. My journey was practically over and I could relax…
The night on the Tanzilla River was chilly, but I’d bundled up and was quite comfortable. It’s amazing how being just 200km due south of somewhere brings you into a new climate. The morning was overcast, damp, and snowy, but warm. I puttered around outside for a bit and then came in to make bannock and a pot of coffee, relishing the fact that I could leave as late as I wanted. I read for a couple of hours and headed out shortly before noon.
I thought it would be an uneventful exit from the campground. I just had to back the toad onto the laneway, drive Miranda carefully around the trees, hook up, and go. The first part of that plan ended with a thud as I backed the toad right smack into a tree. Why, praytell, can I back up a 31′ motorhome with blind spots the size of New Jersey and never hit anything, but backing up a small car ends up with damage more often than not?! Oh, the toad was just fine, not even a scratch or dent on it, but that poor tree. :LOL:
The next town was Iskut, where I gassed up at a station that was super easy to get in and out of. Like at all BC gas stations, there was a sign indicating that I needed to prepay, so I went in and asked to be charged for 150$ worth of fuel. The lady would not run my card through, disbelieving that I could take on that much. She told me to go fill up as much as I could while she held on to my card. Of course, I was able to take on that much fuel. 😀
The day was all about scenery. I stopped at a rest area at Bob Quinn Lake where I met an Alaskan part-timer, a feisty dame named Lynn who travels in a spacious class B with her adorable little dog Maya. Lynn has ‘been Outside fifty-six or fifty-seven times’, spending her winters somewhere warmer than Alaska. This day, she was zipping along as she was on schedule to be in northern Washington state in a few days. Our paths crossed a few more times, but she eventually left me in the dust shortly after the junction of the Cassiar (route 37) and the road leading to Hyder, Alaska (37A).
I planned to stop at an RV park called Bell 2 which promised 15A hookups, but changed my mind when they informed me that their rates were 31.50$. For 15A!!!!!!!! I was already tired by this point, but I decided to push on in the hopes of finding another cheap legal option. Coming close to six, with only a half hour of light left, I gave up and pulled off the highway at a turn out. It wound up being much too sloped and I resigned myself to continuing in the dark since the Milepost indicated that there would be no more turnouts for a great distance. Thankfully, it was wrong, as it occasionally is, and just a few clicks down the road I found a nice flat turnout, the far side of which was a respectable distance from the road.
Dinner was fettucini with homemade rosée sauce primavera. Who says that just because you’re spending the night on the side of the highway you can’t eat a first class dinner? 😀
The highlight of the evening was the incredible fuschia sunset I watched for almost a full half hour.
Leaving Nugget City as suddenly as I did ahead of the major dip in weather was a wise decision brought on by the not-so-wise decision I made last fall to stay at the RV park in Oliver. Whadya know, the gal can learn from her mistakes.
The owners were very understanding of my decision and paid me promptly. By the time my water hose was thawed and I’d taken on water and dumped my tanks it was close to 2PM. It was a beautiful, clear day; perfect driving conditions.
I decided to head south via route 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. I’d heard mixed reviews about this road, with some people saying that it is a muddy, rutty mess while others claimed that it had much improved over the years. What finally made me decide to take it is that the Alaska Highway would have taken me more east than south and over high mountain passes while the Cassiar was almost a straight shot south, bettering my chances of finding improved weather conditions after only a few hours of driving:
I hadn’t driven more than 5KM when I crossed over into British Columbia for the final time this year. As I stood there, between the signs on each side of the highway welcoming travelers to BC and the Yukon, I faced my adopted territory and thought of McArthur, vowing that I would return. 😀
The first section of the Cassiar was very scary. It was narrow, slippery, and steeply uphill. One particularly nasty incline made me consider turning back, but I’d done enough research to know that the worst was behind me. After, there were a lot of hairpin turns, but it was smooth going. The landscape was a kaleidoscope of emerald pine and amber poplar, snowy peaks and rocky hills. I could not stop gasping at the sheer humbling beauty of it all.
All the literature about the Cassiar and many signs along it state that it is unlawful to overnight anywhere but in established campgrounds. The only reason for this that I could find is that there is a concern about bears. I’m told that ‘everyone’ ignores the rules and boondocks on the Cassiar, but I decided to at least try to be legal. It was easy the first night since the Milepost mentioned a Lions Club campground with unserviced RV spots just south of Dease Lake on the Tanzilla River, roughly 200km from Nugget City. It sounded idyllic and the 10$ per site was a price I felt comfortable paying to avoid having the RCMP possibly ticket me.
The campground was indeed very beautiful, with sites tucked in between trees along a roaring river, but to call the sites RV spots was really stretching it. I would say that Miranda at 31′ was the absolute biggest RV I’d recommend trying to squeeze in there, and I only found one site wide enough for her. Moreover, the back-in only sites aren’t even remotely level.
I unhooked and then tried to manoeuvre Miranda into spot number four. Even though the site was super wide, I could not get her into it because of trees on the opposite side of the laneway. I noticed a clearing ahead and decide to turn around and approach the site from the other direction. This worked like a charm and Miranda slid in fairly easily.
This is where I came up with an idea that is really going to help me with my backing up. I’m going to get some bright flagging tape to tie around items I want to avoid. I notice that when I’m backing up I have a hard time identifying in a mirror the objects I’m trying to avoid, and my relation to them, especially if the objects are trees and there are a lot of them.
Once Miranda was tucked away, I tried to get her level, but failed since her muddy tires kept sliding off the the levelers when I tried to put her on more than two. The fridge was level enough, so I didn’t push it. I was only there for a night after all.
I spent a quiet evening reading a fantastic book I picked up at the Dawson dump called Parrot Pie for Breakfast. It is an anthology of first hand accounts of pioneer life written by women from the early 1600’s to the mid-1900’s in places all over the British Empire, from Burma to Sierra Leone, Canada to Australia. This book occupied several evenings after my departure from Nugget City.
I made chicken, potatoes, and veggies for dinner and used a new toy I picked up during my last shopping trip at the Dawson thrift store, a vegetable steamer. It’s one of those things I couldn’t justify spending 10$ on but thought would come in handy if I ever found one cheap. I used it to cook frozen veggies and it was the ideal method, rendering them nice and crisp.
Miranda history was made that night. I checked her useless sensors just for fun and for the first time, the grey and black tanks read empty!
Very quick update!
I am posting from Prince George. (Les, if you’re reading this, I won’t be stopping in on this trip, thanks!) I can’t do justice to the last four days with a free Starbucks wi-fi connection, so details will have to wait. 🙂
I am now at my third day of boondocking and will be boondocking again tonight, with no hardship whatsoever. I have plenty of battery juice, heat, running water, a fully charged laptop, and plenty of reading material. And I’m not even running the genset! I just solved my battery charging issues from the spring; more on that in my next post.
As for the genset, it probably needs a new fuel filter seeing as no fuel whatsoever is getting into it but it runs fine when I inject gasoline directly into the carburetor. I’m going to go price one at Canadian Tire this morning, but if it’s expensive, I won’t bother for this trip seeing as I’m not in dire need of the extra power.
My decision to take the Cassiar Highway was one of the best I have made in my thirteen months on the road. More about that will follow. 🙂
Unfortunately, the weather being what it was in Nugget City, I didn’t make nearly as much money as I would have liked, so I’m in a real rush to get to Campbell River and a new job. I’m therefore doing long days of driving and provided Croft says it’s okay ( 🙂 ), I might be there at the end of this week!
Long days and cold nights not withstanding, these have been my absolute best days on the road so far, bar none, just because I’m finally living my dream of a self-contained life. If only I could have my own internet, but I’m now back in ‘civilization’ and my Starbucks account gives me two hours free DAILY at their hotspots so I can at least check in periodically. 🙂