We woke fairly early, packed up, and headed out 37A to pick up the Cassiar Highway going north. Heading east, one has a better view of the hanging glaciers around bear glacier.
Near the end of 37A, we saw a bird in the road. He was marching slowly, not seeming to make much progress. It looked like a quail of some sort, small but chicken like and, as Mike let off the gas, we made jokes about crossing roads. The bird ignored us and continued crossing the road. Mike applied the brakes, slowly at first – we were pretty far away from the bird when we noticed it. And the bird kept not crossing. There is only so much braking you can do in a bus with a towed; by the time we got to the bird, we were going maybe 20 miles per hour. I’m pretty sure the chicken is no longer crossing the road. I found feathers attached to a rear compartment door and the front bumper of the jeep. We really hoped it wasn’t an omen for the day to come. We had been on the road for barely an hour and already had our first casualty. We try very hard to avoid animals at all costs – not to save damage to our rig, but damage to the animal. However it happened, I hope it was quick.
The worries about bad omens ended pretty quickly as, as soon as we got on the Cassiar, two foxes crossed the road (they were much quicker than I and so, no pictures). The foxes were together, one red and one black. They actually stopped on the side of the road and watched us, much smarter than the chicken.
The Cassiar Highway is a beautiful drive. One could stop every five minutes to take a picture but then, one would take a week to drive it. There is something relaxing about letting the beauty unfold as you move through the landscape; with the huge bug catching windshield, it is much like watching an imax movie.
We stopped at Mehan Lake to take in the view and make another pot of coffee. This would be a great spot to overnight, with picnic tables, a porta potty, and a level parking area with enough room for a few rigs.
As we continued north, the road got narrower. There were no shoulders and frost heaves and potholes started appearing more frequently. Between the potholes, site-seeing, and the sometimes winding road, we managed about 40 miles per hour for the day. One great thing about the road though, at least in May, is that no one is driving it. We saw no more than one car per hour. Since there was no center line, we could dodge around the potholes a little easier. We did manage to spot a few caribou and a black bear. We decided that this would be the perfect place to ride out the Zombie Apocalypse. Chances are, you wouldn’t even know it happened and, if you did, it would take months if not years for the Zombies to get there. It had a certain appeal.
We overnighted at Rabid Bear rest area at Dease Lake. While there is no view of the lake, there is a large parking area with bathrooms and trash cans. We were joined for the night by a class C and a minivan, both also heading north.
The next morning we continued north, stopping at Jade City for coffee and to browse their stuff. If you like jade, this is the place to go. They also have a restaurant (not open) and a free ‘camping’ area for RVs.
About 30 miles from the end of the Cassiar, we came upon an accident. It was at a blind curve; a semi-truck was lying on its side and 3/4s of a Toyota truck was sitting in the road. Members of a construction team from a bit further north had secured the scene. It seemed that the semi had taken the blind curve wide, not expecting there to be a car coming the other way, and then over corrected, tipping over and shearing off the driver’s side roof and windows of the Toyota. With an average of one car an hour, I can understand his confidence. No one was seriously injured but an ambulance was on its way. Because there was nothing we could do to help, we continued north. It was more than 20 minutes later when we passed the first police car and ambulance going south; at a minimum, help was at least 45 minutes away. There is no cell phone service out there – if there is an accident, one must hope someone will come along who either has a sat phone or a very fast car.
We reached the end of the Cassiar and took a left. The Alaska Highway seemed large and luxurious, with its fancy lines and shoulders, after a day and a half of the Cassiar, but we lost the beautiful scenery.
We did spot a black bear scratching himself though.