June 9 , Tuesday - 2,700 miles from home - we have just crossed into Yukon Territory after spending the last week driving north through British Columbia. The last two days were exceptionally remote, on rt 37, passing along the Skeena , then the Cassier Mountains. This area was characterized by deep glacially carved valleys, hemmed in by steep mountains. The road followed one river valley to another, much the way the early trappers and the indians traversed this landscape. The road is rough, The Milepost guide advising "rough grade, no shoulder or center line, steep banks with ice heaved irregularities. Watch for wildlife along the shoulder". We did see many bears eating what appeared to be wildflowers and low bush berries in the thin gap between the rough road and the dense woods. Today we spotted our first Bald Eagle, but I am surprised we have seen so few birds at the many lakes we have visited. No geese, loons, only one duck, and no other fishing birds or raptors. There have been a handful of grouse, and a few woodpeckers. The road had crossed over the Stikine River, a navigable waterway that stretches from the it's headwaters in the highlands of the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park far inland to glaciated mouth near Wrangle where it reaches the sea. On its way from source to Sea, it passes through a Grand Canyon, as the river followed, then excavated a natural gorge cutting through the still glaciated coastal mountains. The multi-day stretch of river east of the bridge crossing is navigable by canoe, that to the west requires a raft, Kayak, or jet boat as the current is swift and the channel I've read is narrow and choked with boulders.
Once we hit the Alaska Highway just west of the small berg of Watson Lake, the road improved, as did our productivity behind the wheel. Now as we pass through the high rolling boreal forest of southern Yukon, we can see the snow capped peaks which lie ahead of us to the west. they must be big, because we are watching them grow hour after hour behind the wheel- much like seeing the Sierras from San Francisco and along the entire drive to the Sierra crest. The land is rising in folds as we once again head towards to coast - trapping rivers and lakes, bogs, and meadows in the low spots. Once to Whitehorse, the road will turn to the north, as further protrusion to the west would require penetration of the coastal mountains - which protect themselves effectively with ruggedness.
Looking at a traditional map is not real helpful here, and each publisher has resorted to different means to portray the long road way corridors amidst overwhelming wilderness. Our favorite,and most useful by far is the "trip tic" format which reduces the map to a series of strips, each following the roadway axis with about a 20 mile border on each side for a length convenient for a map fold. The red line representing the road is almost blotted out by the blue of intersecting rivers and adjacent lakes, with the only reference points the steadily increasing milepost numbers. We cross the Continental /Cassier mountain divide at milepost 1120.8.
We carefully monitor our fuel level and mileage projections, as it is not uncommon for the road to stretch 150 miles or so between fuel depots. With a 425 mile range with 25 miles safety margin in the tank, we make good use of the GPS to forecast our stops, allowing for closed establishments, map inaccuracies, and other contingencies.
With no Canadian cell phone coverage plan, and no internet, we use the Delorme Satellite text device to convey our progress to Ground Control in Southern California, where my brother is tracking our progress. Without the usual outlet of instant photograph transmission to a social network, we have resorted to brief bursts of text, under 160 characters each to communicate our wonderment, joy, and accomplishments to a few selected recipients who have shown a willingness not to block our dispatches.
We are averaging 250 miles per driving day, and at that rate should reach Wrangel St. Elias Park in four more days. That leaves us at least four rest days which we intend to use at a Bluegrass festival one day in Haines Junction west of Whitehorse and hiking nearby in the Kluane National Park & Preserve for the balance.
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