Canada: 1 to 6 July and 13 July to 26 August 2010

Beaver Creek to Haines Summit, 07/01/2010 – 07/06/2010
When we got closer to the border of Canada just then the weather got better so when remembering our entering Canada we feel a distinct difference to the end of Alaska. The lovely Al’kan Highway led us soon to Beaver Creek where we spent two nights on a campground. When we met the owner we were surprised to see that he was a fellow country man, Beat, who offered us the second night for free and told us about his emigration in the fifties, which was mainly a result of wanting to escape the Swiss Army. I, Chris, could understand him very well :-).

The next valley was very beautiful. Swiss people will know what I mean when I say it is very much like the Swiss National Park and the Engadin. But of course these valleys are a hundred times longer and wider and there are hardly any villages nor cabins in the higher places.
We remember the sunny day along Lake Kluane when suddenly from some distance we could make out that a number of cars were stopping on the road. Coming closer we caught sight of a beautiful black bear with a shining brilliant fur walking beside the road. It was thrilling to see this animal for the first time so close. So I, Chris, rode even too close which made the bear curious and he walked straight towards me. Immediately I crossed the road and luckily got some distance. Waiting some minutes the many cars nearly caused a traffic jam while watching out for the bear. Happy that we were travelling by bike we eventually passed by, smiling.

Here a description of a situation we experienced in Burwash Landing, but this happens very much the same way in other places:
We entered an old lovely restaurant just beside Lake Kluane. First we attracted attention because of our stinky outfit, and when we were getting served we soon found out who owned the spot and who was working here for a season. We were friendly as usual to the owner as well as to the waitress. We always like to meet people and have a talk with them.  Well, we got more coffee than was good for us :-). At the end of the day of course one of us could not sleep because he went overboard with drinking coffee. In fact this happened to the writer of this diary, and it was not the only time :-)…  Sometimes we even meet Swiss tourists in such a spot and most of them are thrilled to meet us and sometimes if we are really lucky, they even give us Swiss chocolate.

It was an eerie atmosphere when we climbed the pass from Haines Junction towards Haines, silence covered the woods and only a few cars passed by. You could even feel the presence of bears in the air, it had that much fresh excrements and we could see bear trails all over even on the road. But despite of these many signs we only saw one tiny black bear eating grass. At night we lit a fire to keep away the bears from our camp in the wood which gave us a feeling of security.

Skagway (Ak) to Cassiar Junction, 07/13/2010 – 07/20/2010
When we entered Canada again after the days in Haines, Ak, and Skagway - there we had been part of an excited public of two parties watching the World Championship’s Final Netherlands against Spain in a pub, of course we as real Swiss were neutral - we climbed the White Pass and reached the lower lands behind the coast range. Looking closer we saw the first forests of pure pines which is no coincidence because the area is much dryer. Being back on the Al’kan Highway a tailwind pushed us towards East for which we were thankful. There we first met Babs and then Peter (see encounters) who became for some time our companions. On these roads where a lot of large trucks and campers are overtaking you, but few face to face meetings are possible to give you the chance to chat with someone, we felt happy to have these companions and enjoyed these rides.

The Cassiar Highway, 07/20/2010 – 07/31/2010
What change we felt when we finally were on the Cassiar Highway: Cycling on this narrow road in comparison to the Alaska Highway meant again experiencing much more wildlife as well as living far more in the forests. Beside the road we often camped right at the shore of a lake. Once at the Dease Lake we were waked up by a moose wading through the fordable water only a few meters from our tents away early in the morning.
Following this less frequented road we saw about 17 black bears crossing the road, mostly running away, scared more of us than we of them.

In Bell II we entered a restaurant in the center of a heliskiing area where Reto soon supposed that this way of accommodation could not be from local people, but nevertheless we were surprised a little when we met the owner, Franz, who indeed was not Canadian but a Swiss, from Zermatt. – At that time I, Chris, had an injured thigh muscle that hurt a lot. How surprised and happy I was when we met a Swiss doctor spending his holiday with his family in a camper passing just here who gave me the necessary medicine to recover soon.

We decided to do a little extra loop going down to the fjord of Stewart and Hyder and indeed it was worth the effort: The glaciers hang down from all mountains beside and by chance we could even observe the breaking off of some huge ice blocs from a glacier’s tongue crashing down a tall wall of rock.
Nice weather was waiting for us again as well as a peaceful boulevard where we found a grocery store with internet café outside, also belonging to a Swiss couple. We are glad to remember Godi who even gave us a Swiss Fondue as a present. Here we enjoyed a few days doing some internet work and all day long meeting interested and interesting people.
Towards night we were used to go out to a boardwalk set in front of the fjord over wet land to spent some open air nights observing even a short northern light. How awesome.
Another day we met Stefanie and Leya: What a coincidence, we got the chance to ride with the two girls in their car up to the Salmon Glacier the mightiest glacier we ever had seen. Being very impressed we walked even right down to the ice blocs.
The completion of our stopover was finally the observation of a fishing grizzly in the Fish Creek of Hyder, Ak, we were fascinated how easily the big bear in a short time caught three salmons. We have to admit that in another place we tried to copy it but the emphasis is on the word tried :-).

Highway number 16 to Prince Rupert, 08/01/2010 – 08/05/2010
Approaching the end of Cassiar both of us began to feel more and more tired of the bush that we had seen now for almost two months and we also were a little fed up with being mostly isolated. So we felt ready to escape the endless wilderness of our long trip here in the North and to switch over to a new stage closer to civilisation. So we decided to go to Prince Rupert to catch the ferry to reach Vancouver Island because we estimated that it would be much more interesting to cross the island living of the influence of the Pacific Ocean than to follow the highway on the mainland.

What a surprise we experienced when we were going for it: It was the first of August, Swiss National Day of celebration, when suddenly a car stopped and a man shouted “Switzerland” because he had recognized our flags. We stopped too and were immediately invited to their home. It turned out that the man inviting us, a Canadian living in Southern Switzerland, was just visiting his brother here in Terrace and our get-together became even better when we could offer our Swiss fondue which the two completed by some fresh Canadian salmons they had just caught. So we celebrated first of August in the uncommon way of enjoying a binational dinner.

When we arrived at Prince Rupert we met a woman not too young who was that excited of our appearance that she went to a supermarket bought a lot of fruit and gave it to us. Wow, we were amazed.

Vancouver Island, 08/05/2010 – 08/22/2010
Finally after a trip on the ferry through the inside passage amidst wonderful scenery we arrived at Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
Concerning the wilderness the North was nothing new to us, furthermore we had some foggy days.  But when we reached the East coast at Campbellriver the whole atmosphere changed, it was as if we had suddenly come to the Mediterranean Sea. In fact it almost overstrained our senses because we had been so much used to the silence out in the bush. Looking for a spot to camp when it was already dark we luckily met the “Nelson reunion” just beside the main road a meeting of a family originally from Norway. They immediately gave us chance to camp with them and offered us dinner as well as breakfast the morning after. Thank you.

A challenge was waiting for us when we decided to choose logging roads to cross the island to the Southwest coast: The first two days led us along the Comox Lake, lovely scenery but hard to pedal, ways of loose gravel even more than through the bush we already were used to. At least the loggers were not allowed to work because of a fire ban. We have to admit that we once lost the trail because the map we used was not detailed enough. In the end in the darkness we almost rode into a small gorge because the road was washed away. (See gallery) The next morning we rode back trying to find our way out of this labyrinth and found after some effort a man from whom we hopefully expected an answer how to find our way out. For him as a local everything seemed clear so he was more pleased to tell us everything else about the island but not the precise way out. In the end we knew how much a mushroom picker earns a day or where the Wallmart was in Port Alberni but still didn’t know the precise way out. :-) On the way out we took a cute baby black bear with the size of cat by surprise that ran desperately off. Luckily we stopped and observed immediately the mother following it.

We expected that the logging roads in the South of the island would even be more impressive, so we went by ferry to Bamfield. The following way led us to several refreshing lakes through the northernmost rainforest and in the end to the South coast from where we caught first time sight of US’ lower 48. What a great moment.
Happily we rode along the South coast on an old railroad that is nowadays a cycling path towards picturesque Victoria, our next goal, where we were already expected by a great host family, John, Debi and Craigh.

Review on the period of 06/03/2010 – 08/22/2010

Looking back on the first two and a half months of our tour we must first of all say how enriched we are by the US and Canadian People. We met mostly very friendly people who trusted us and blessed us a lot for what we are very thankful. We were greatly amazed and surprised how many persons gave us a gift or even invited us to stay with them.

Furthermore we enjoyed nature, the wonderful scenery out in the North’s wilderness a lot. It is a great experience to cross unviolated landscapes where it is allowed to camp everywhere, or at least we thought so :-).

Concerning our equipment we can say that we are very satisfied: We have got comfortable bikes and did not have any flat tyre in these 4500km, only one broken spoke we had to suffer. At night we sleep well relaxed in an excellent Mammut sleeping bag and are well covered by one of the lightest and strongest tents.

Being still human beings we knew that on this tour reaching the goal would mean to go through a lot of mental and psychic challenges. The first month felt more like a holiday although it was quite hard to pedal. We were still absorbed with a lot of thoughts about our latest past in Switzerland and felt free from all of that at the same time. Progressing to the following time we observed a disassociation that made us finally ready to absorb the new impressions of which we were now part. But only here the challenge just began for a new way of journey to which we were not used just started. I, Chris, had first a fight finding the balance in which there was enough time to calm down and to find enough rest for my soul to digest all the new impressions against the tiredness we feel mostly every day that makes us lazier than we ever have known ourselves from the normal course of life.

When we think about the way we have chosen we do not have the same opinion. Till the end of the Cassiar Highway both of us felt happy especially with the side trips we made to Haines and Stewart. Then our ideas diverge: Reto is still pleased that we went down the Inside Passage. I, Chris, feel a bit sad that we did not go the way that would have brought us by our own power all the way down to Vancouver even though at first I too agreed in the moments of being tired of the bush and have to admit that Vancouver Island was one of the most attractive spots we visited. But since then I have learned that for me it is no more a question of where it is nicer or if I already feel satisfied or am tired of an area, but it is only a question of having patience to reach the goal by the basic idea to stay on the direct way although it might be more boring or harder, but in the end one feels a lot more joy by abiding by the basic idea.
Concerning the safety on the roads we can say that American roads are a lot more secure than European roads because as a cyclist in most of the cases you have a shoulder to use.