The Cassiar Highway is no more. I pounded out 430 km in three days and, on August 14, I turned east onto the Yellowhead. Finishing a highway usually leaves me a bit deflated, pedaling aimlessly on new pavement, but this time I promised myself that I’d make it to the first major town down the road – Hazelton.
I arrived just as dusk was settling over the mountains, and I quickly made my way to the local grocery store to buy unreasonable amounts of meat and sugar. Protein and go-juice. The next hour saw me sitting on a curb, munching on a foot-long garlic sausage coil and throwing Oreo cookies into my mouth, one after another.
When the food frenzy was finally over, I had nothing to do but bike around a strange town in the dark looking for a place to sleep. My midnight sign reading skills are questionable, though, and the hiking trail I thought I was following turned out to be a patch of thorny underbrush and rocky ground. After a long day, I didn’t care all that much, and I fell asleep with slashed legs and my shoes still on my feet.
Things are always clearer in the morning. I got myself back on the trail and took an early morning hike to a huge (to me) waterfall in the forest. Normally, I’m ghost-faced around heights, but the falls were so beautiful that I scampered up the rocks and sat at the top with my legs dangling over the edge. The view was crazy and it occurred to me that I’d like to camp right there for, y’know, ever.
Later I got back on my bike and set off for Old Hazelton, which lies just across the Bulkley River. The metal bridge spans a huge ravine, and I took a highlight-reel spill because I was too busy gawking at the rushing water. Not my finest moment.
In Old Town I tried to find the public library, but ended up coming across a Cultural Days festival instead. The food smells alone were enough to draw me in, and I spent the rest of the day eating smokies, drinking beer with German tourists and playing hapless games of bingo. It was a blast – the best possible way to get off the highway for a rest.
At the festival, I met a great guy named Darren who invited me to camp at his place in Two Mile, a small community between the two Hazeltons. It’s such a wonderful spot!
Darren and his partner Anise have four beautiful kids, a dog named Luna, gardens and even a shed full of baby chicks! The place is a beehive of activity. I love how everyone seems to be in a thousand places at once, yet always in the here and now.
Yesterday I took another day off because a bunch of us went huckleberry picking in the mountains. We came back with buckets and buckets of berries, purple fingers and a new appreciation for date-guessing bear shit. One blackie looked up at us from a small creek, but he was interested in having a drink, not us.
Tomorrow I set off again. For now, I’m enjoying this break immensely.