Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crust skiing on the Cassiar

We headed for a soak in the Liard Hotsprings and were glad we did.

The wood bison were everywhere along the road and they have to plow trails along the sides to keep them from just staying on the highway. You see, they love the cut grass on the road sides. The amount of bison poop was equally as impressive, let me tell you.

The Cassiar Highway is everything it's chocked up to be. The road is in perfect condition and dry as a bone. They really get after the snowplowing. But, there are almost no services, and many weren't open for the spring. One could make a fabulous ski trip out of it. There's at least one heliskiing operation, and lots of possibilities from the car. Mo spotted a black wolf through the trees, and at Dease Lake we picked up a few groceries and gas.

We camped on a lake south of Dease but in the morning, we couldn't make it past Kinaskan before busting out the skis for a sunny skate across. What a treat when the stars allign for this phenomen. It takes warm melting conditions and cool nights to set up to a solid corn kernal-like consistancy. Dreamt of by skate skiers all year- lakes, marshes, and open meadows are all likely suspects.

Afterward we drove on and passed a couple of spruce grouse on the road, likely filling up on gravel. Yes, they really do eat rocks. Something bigger caught our eyes and we realized we were seeing a lynx!

It was nonplussed by us and seemed to care less that we we rolled to a stop right next to him. We got some photos and video.

Still buzzing by our "Wild America" encounter, we decided to take the Stewart,BC/Hyder, AK turnoff and down to the Portland Canal. Stewart keeps its Christmas decorations up at least until April, and is a town of about 1000. Hyder population 30. They stare at each other across the border at the end of a 90 mile long fjord. Stewart enjoys a favorable position on the mudflats, Hyder, hangs precariously to a rocky ledge nearer the deep water. Both date to mining, timber, and roadbuilding booms. The inn we are staying at was built in 1922 and is a grouping of Victorian-looking wood homes on the main drag. They say it's the friendliest ghost town in Canada.

However, the pizza at the only open restaurant really sucked. They sell this stuff at the grocery stores in large bricks called "pizza cheese". It looks and tastes a bit like drywall compound mixed with Velveeta. Not recommended. But then again, this is from a guy who bought ketchup chips.