Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kleanza Creek Provincial Park

Saturday, May 28, 2005 8:00 a.m.

"Dogs 'n Suds" restaurant, Williams Lake, BC

An odd little family restaurant with a biker theme. Stopped here because of the half-dozen motorcycles parked at the curb. Other than "Tim Horton's", this was the only place showing any signs of life this early. I was disappointed to find that, despite its picturesque setting, Williams Lake is just another industrial town with a timber-based economy. But what can you expect? What other job potential could lure someone out here?

"Boston Pizza", "Subway", "A&W" and "Tim Horton's" are landmarks in each of the big towns.

An early start this morning. A long, slow sunrise. Even though I wore ear plugs, the endless train of semis rolling slowly by on the gravel road below had kept me awake much of the night. Feeling the $10 camping fee would be "insult to injury" after such a hellish night, I decided to evacuate the campground as quickly as possible to avoid the rangers.

Cautiously unzipped the tent flap and looked out. Despite the cold, there was a mosquito waiting for me. Trying to out-race the bugs, hurried to pack things up. But within minutes, they were swarming. These guys are so big, you can feel it when you bump into one.

My movements became more frenzied as I was now under assault. That's dangerous if it leads to sloppy or careless packing. I was swearing at the insects, and at my stupidity as I continue to overlook things in packing, having to undo gear to include the missed item.

I was just climbing onto the bike when a truck drove up to my site. "Damn!" Just a few minutes too slow. I complained to the ranger, but she just apologized for the conditions and said she'd still have to charge me. It felt almost as if I were being ticketed.

It was refreshing to be rolling along in the brisk air. A sharp pain in my right shoulder blade returned immediately this morning. Yesterday's 14 hours on the road was too much!

LATER:

On highway 97, there's a 100 Kph speed limit, which I occasionally pushed to 120. I'm amazed at how much traffic there is out here in the "wilderness". Pulled into a rest stop north of Hixon. Took off my riding suit and shirt, enjoying the warm sun.

A car turned in and this character came over to chat. I never did ask his name, but learned he is from Prince George and that, before retiring, he operated heavy equipment for a forest company. He said it's the "spruce bark beetle" that's decimating the Jack Pine throughout the region. (The forests are filled with dead and dying trees.) His language was colorful, if bigoted, as he referred to "turban twisters", and the "need for a revolution". But, "Canadians are cowards", he concluded, with a tone of resignation.

Driving through Prince George and then Vanderhoof, one sees logging on a massive scale. It's impossible to imagine this is sustainable. All along my ride, the ruddy-topped forests reflect the devastation from beetles. Can the forests sustain this in addition to man's assaults?

West of Vanderhoof, I see the first trace of clouds in days.

One of the destinations on my list was Tyhee Lake Provincial Park. I had read, I thought, that the water there was clear and crisp. Coming upon the lake, it was not what I expected. A busy campground, I parked in an open site and walked around to see if it was worth staying. Along the water's edge, a slimey algae covered the surface. A small sandy beach was swarming with kids. Parents were crowded onto the tiny bank. Jet skis raised a storm just offshore. Not too appealing to me, I returned to the bike and continued west.

Recalling passages from Karen Larsen's Breaking the Limit as I retraced her route through the region. Beyond Fraser Lake, rises the Coast Mountains, dramatic snow-covered peaks, among which are the "Seven Sisters", a rampart with seven jagged spires. It's a sight you might expect in Switzerland, but coming up from the eastern foothills, it takes you quite by surprise.

Not far beyond, I paused along the Skeena River to absorb the view. A motorcyclist rode up and joined me. A friendly chap named "Roy" introduced himself. He was riding an '81 Honda CR400T. He said he owns "Ardill's DC Electric" just up the road, in Terrace. He comes out to this spot to watch for bears, he said.

After he left I snapped a few pictures of the river, stretching out my stay, hoping that I too might see the bears cross the highway. But after a while, I decided to move on and find a campsite. A mile up the road, just off the shoulder, I saw a mother bear with two cubs, clambering through the brush toward the riverbank.

Found a campsite at the Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, just east of Terrace. $14.00CAD for the site. Only fifty feet away, the "creek" roared down through the canyon. After setting up my camp, I climbed down on the rocks and scooped up some ice-cold water with my bucket. I'll use it for washing up tomorrow.

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