May 17th, Fort Nelson BC

Hi folks,
The days are all running together, it seems. I have been nearly a week without a post–something that I will strive to avoid in the future…
We are currently at the home of Pat and Mo Nelson, in Fort Nelson, BC.
The three of us at the Nelson home

The three of us at the Nelson home

 

The Nelsons have shown us so much hospitality and I am very grateful to them. I gave two talks about JWST to high school audiences, bringing the total presentations to 11 so far.
Fort Nelson Secondary School

Fort Nelson Secondary School

Talking to the students

Talking to the students

Pat Nelson is a teacher at the school and is referred to affectionately as “P-Neli” by the students. There is a strong sense of community among the faculty; this was seen at a pizza party I attended which included several faculty members.
Now to catch up a bit.
We left Fort St. John the morning of May 12th, with the goal of reaching the town of Wonowon that evening. This took us past the area of Charlie Lake and we encountered our first real experience of Yukon bugs. Some kind of insect was buzzing all around, thick enough to breathe. Personally, I found that the center of the highway was somewhat clear of the pests so I rode there whenever I could. I guess the warm weather and mild winter means that the insects are going to be ahead of schedule as well. Yuck! (I guess that’s the Yuck in Yukon…)
read the sign if you can

read the sign if you can

We passed a couple of areas that were thoroughly burned out by wild fires.
Wild Fires

Wild Fires

Fatigue and headwinds, and a very late start that morning caused us to stop about 20 miles short of the goal. We had a buffer day prior to the next talk, so we decided not to push it. We got an early start on the 13th, hoping to make it as far as Pink Mountain. But this section has some awful climbs; they are doable, but I have to go slow and it takes a lot of energy.
Tour Speed Record set here

Tour Speed Record set here

On one of the downhill sections, I set a new tour speed record: 40.2 mph. That’s a scary experience! At the bottom of the second hill we passed a small clear stream. Unfortunately, since it was mostly uphill after this stream, this would be the last water we would pass for a while. Passing it was a mistake, because now our only choice was to press on all the way to Pink Mountain where there would be water and other supplies. I was exhausted, and did not have the 12 miles in me that we would need to complete the day.
A nice young man named Tyrell Trask stopped his truck and offered all of the water he was carrying. With that extra water, we would be able to cook two meals and still have enough to ride on into Pink Mountain the next morning. The highway cuts through dense forest. 50 feet off of the road and you are invisible. But–how do you move a bike that weighs 100 lbs through an area like that? I ended up having to remove the bags from my bike and cary them in one at a time. But, it worked. There was a lot of truck traffic from a local compressor plant, but otherwise it was uneventful.
The next morning, we rode about 60 miles through steep hills, on the way to the Buckinghorse River campground.
Hills

Hills

More hills

More hills

And more hills

And more hills

A man we met said that a Grizzly had been spotted a few days early on the other side of the river; but we saw no signs of a bear. The river water was a little cloudy from the run-off, but tasted good anyway (we boiled it, of course) and I took a long-overdue bath in it. I wish I had some time to do some fishing; I bet this river is loaded with fish.
Buckinghorse River Campground

Buckinghorse River Campground

The next morning we got a late start towards the town of Prophet River. On the way, the Rockies showed up again for the first time since Montana.
The Rockies Reappear

The Rockies Reappear

We met our first real cycle tourist; an English fellow on a mountain bike, wearing a wide brimmed hat instead of a helmet. He was an interesting sort of man and I took his picture and gave him my business card. Later, he emailed me and asked me not to post his name or his picture on the blog. This is too bad. My friend Rich Dixon has said that “a dream worth dreaming is a dream worth sharing.” I bet this fellow has a lifetime of touring experiences to share. But I will respect his desire for privacy.
I don’t know what I expected to find in Prophet River, but our guide book said that there was at least one RV park and a gas station. In my mind, I had exaggerated that description to include a pub too. I expected to be greeted by a crowd of cheering people, who would hand me a cold beer as I biked into town. Or something like that.
The entire town has shut down. (The RV park and gas station are for sale if you are interested.) There are still a few people living there and a nice man offered to let us camp in the grassy area east of his house, and we pitched our tents.
Now this next story might be a bit disturbing to some of you, so read at your own risk.
When camping in bear country, you don’t want to cook your dinner near your tents. Bears will generally leave you alone, but if your camp smells like food, they might just find that your tent is a tasty teat with a chewy center. A dirt road continued east of the campsite, and I sent Elizabeth off to see if there might be a nice place to cook dinner.
The road led to a small junk yard with a lot of old cars. I love old cars, and I love junkyards. So many treasures! There was a perfect little spot to have dinner.
Just like the Boxcar Children

Just like the Boxcar Children

A box-like structure would make a good table, and some stumps near it would make perfect chairs. Wait a minute–camping, cooking dinner, a junk yard…. does this remind you of anything? Well, it reminded me of “The Boxcar Children,” one of my favorite stories when I was a kid. I bet most of you had it read to you at some point. I expected to look down and find Benny’s pink cup in the dirt. We set our food up on the table, started cooking and sat down on our chairs. Fun!
There was a bit of a strange smell, but–hey, no matter. This is a junkyard, after all. My nose is not very sensitive for a lot of smells and I tend to miss a lot of things that stink to other people. But, looking down directly beneath our table, we found the source of the smell–a badly decayed dead dog. We had set up our dinner table on top of a dead dog! I can still see those creepy little eye sockets looking out, like it expected a table scrap. Nightmares for years to come, I expect…
We are getting ready to start an 8-day / 7-night stretch to Watson Lake. We are carrying 7 days of food with us, and my bike weighs about 100 pounds. I am sending back about 12 pounds of gear and will likely mail more as the terrain worsens. I will try to post at least SOMETHING each day that phone or internet is available. Until then….
Tomorrow never comes

Tomorrow never comes

Scott

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