Northern British Columbia
At Meziadin Junction in British Columbia, Omar and I said our goodbyes. He continued on to Prince George and home, while I turned down the side road to Stewart. My 40-mile ride to Stewart passed through beautiful temperate rainforests with several glaciers visible in the mountains lining the road.
Once I arrived in Stewart I immediately went to the municipal campgrounds located in the heart of the town and reserved a site. After setting up my tent, I rode across the border to Hyder, Alaska and visited a nearby stream for wildlife viewing. Bears are known to frequent the stream whenever the salmon are running. Above the bank along one side of the stream the Alaskan park service constructed a viewing stand high enough to keep the tourists safe, but still up close and personal with the bears. About a half hour after I got there a black bear was spotted along the bank; however, he was not interested in salmon. He wanted the ripe berries that grew along the bank. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a clear photo of him since he mostly kept under the canopy of the bushes.
After another hour passed with no more bear sightings, I headed to my motorcycle and began preparing for the ride back to the campgrounds. Suddenly, I heard the park ranger quietly say that a grizzly (aka brown bear) had just entered the stream. I quickly returned to take a few video clips of the bear fishing for salmon. After he ate a fish or two he slowly walked up the bank, under the viewing stand and back into the forest. During the entire time, the bear showed absolutely no interest in the humans who were watching from the stand. It was as though we didn’t exist.
Watching a grizzly bear fish for wild salmon left me energized, but eventually the ever-present rain dampened my spirits. The next day I tried to make the best of it by touring the Stewart Museum and walking around town. While at the museum I discovered what the big cargo ship in the bay was doing. It was loading bulk lumber and transporting it to Asia. Unfortunately, they were just taking harvested trees. It was disappointing to hear the trees were not milled into finished products before leaving the country. It would mean a lot more jobs for Canada. I also learned that during the early years of the cold war, the US Air Force jettisoned a nuclear weapon when a bomber developed mechanical problems and was going to crash. After extensively searching the area without recovering the bomb, they gave up the effort and the bomb still remains hidden in the dense forest of northern British Columbia.
Two nights camping in the rain were enough for me. I packed up my stuff and headed to Prince Rupert. My plan was to take the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and spend a few days touring the island. However, when I attempted to book passage the best I could do was to get on the waitlist. I hoped enough people would cancel to allow space for me and my BMW. Since rain was also forecast in Prince Rupert for the next week, I decided to rent an Airbnb and dry out. I was so glad I did, as it did indeed rain steadily most of the time I was there. During the short breaks, I took a few photos of the city and harbor. Otherwise, the low hanging clouds obscured the view.
Every day while I was in Stewart and Prince Rupert, I called BC Ferries to check on my status. Hearing discouraging prospects from the customer service representatives, I had pretty much given up on the possibility of making it to Port Hardy, and would have had to ride inland to Vancouver. Then the evening before the ferry was to depart, I called BC Ferries one last time. Good News!! They confirmed my ticket, and I boarded the ferry early the next morning.
One of the reasons I was so keen on riding the ferry was the route it traveled to Port Hardy. It went through the Inside Passage along narrow channels and past numerous islands. Needless to say, the scenery along the route was spectacular. Three separate times during the voyage the crew announced humpedback whales had been sighted, and three times I jumped up, rushed outside, and caught a glimpse of them.
While I was on the ferry, I met two fishermen who had just returned from a week at sea fishing for halibut. They were very tolerant of my endless questions about life on a fishing boat and the cold waters of the North Pacific. Some of the interesting things I learned were that fisherman don’t earn a base salary. The money they make totally depends on the amount of fish they catch and sell. Also, the length of time at sea depends upon how fast they fill the ship’s hold. Sometimes they make a lot of money in just a few days and other times they make almost nothing after spending weeks at sea. In talking with them, I learned that one of the guys loved fishing. However, the other one hated it and said this voyage was his last.
We docked in Port Hardy around midnight. As soon as I got off the ferry, I headed straight to the campsite I had reserved online. I no more than got my tent up and crawled inside when it started to rain again.