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The Cassiar Highway - Watson Lake to Kitwanga

posted Aug 24, 2009, 5:59 PM by Christopher Philpott   [ updated Aug 24, 2009, 6:33 PM ]
Scenery - 8
Road Conditions - 7 (some gravel and less than smooth sealed roads)
Free Camping opportunities - 10
Hills - 7
Services - 3

This section of the trip was one of the highlights so far.  I can't remember quite when one day ended and the next begun, I'd like to say this was because it was one great continous adventure but I just have a pretty bad memory.  So my descriptions of certains parts might be a little sketchy.
The first day to Boya Lake Provential Campground had plenty of good swimming spots of which all were appreciated as it was a pretty hot day.  The Boya Lake campground is in a beautiful spot which was only tarnished by the large number of RVs (massive caravans for the UK readership) but still comes recommeded nevertheless.  We took a day off here as we hadn't had a day off in a while and I managed to handwash some clothes with my general purpose biodegradable dish/hair/body and now clothes soap.  I was pretty happy with the results and shouldn't need a laundry ever again!
Towards the end of our rest day a guy came over and offered us a beer and a lend of his canoes!  We gladly took his beer and his canoes and had a little explore of the lake.  From on the water you can grasp the size of the lake much better and it was pretty massive or at least much bigger than it seems from land. 
The next day the scenery started to improve as we got into the mountains and after around fifty miles of riding we found a great camp spot by the road right next to a river.  The cassiar highway overall was great for wild camping and it would would be easy to ride the whole road without paying for a campsite. The next day was undulating with geat scenery for most of the route and we finished up in Dease Lake.  I imagined a scenic settlement by a lake and was disapointed.  The town is pretty ugly and we picked up some groceries (they have a better selection than Iskut and are a little cheaper) and camped on a dirt road that wasn't in use that ran from a trucker station just south of town.  The trucker station itself warned campers and RVs not to camp therefor thier 'own safety and enjoyment' and to stay at the RV park across the road (who I suspect made the sign) but we had a pretty good time nevertheless.
There was a long gradual climb out of dease lake follwed by a long downhill to the Stikine river and then a shorter steep
climb out of the valley and then another downhill into Iskut.   For most of this day the views were hidden behind smoke
from recent forest fires.  Iskut was advertised as the 'resort capital of northern BC' .  I suspect the guy who wrote this had been dabbling in some hard drugs at the time because it was another disapointing ugly town.  It had one redeeming feature and that was it provided us with a great camp spot.  I asked a lady who worked in the understocked and
 overpriced supermarket if she could recommend somewhere to camp for free and she told us to follow the dirt road across from the store.  After about half a mile we came to a large clearing which had great views of the mountains and a river close by that had a cool old wooden bridge across it.  From iskut it took is two days to get to about 5 miles past Bell II.  The scenery in this section was probably the best of the whole road, a continous supply of snow-capped mountains.  The campsite 5 miles past Bell II was one of the best of the trip so far.  We met two other cyclists who were heading north and camped with them beside a beautiful lake.  I went for a swim but it was hard to relax as any part of your body that was above the water was attacked by moquitos and a some type of wierd biting fly. 
The next day we managed to get the Stewart, towards the end of day there was a long climb and then a down hill
to the junction for the road to Stewart.   We decided that we would try and hitch to Stewart and ride back since it was off route to save time. After waiting about two hours, we decided that if the next pick-up didn't pick us up we would go to a nearby campground.  Would you believe our luck!  The next truck that passed us stopped and picked me and Paul up and two other German hitch hikers.  To our distress he then decided to try and set the land speed pickup-truck-with-two-bikes-precariously-balanced-in-the-back record.  We all luckily survived and arrived in stewart in great time! Stewart was a small town with an amazing mountain backdrop.  We stayed at the municipal campground which at $11 a night was pretty reasonable.  We took the next day off, Paul went to see the bears at Hyder, they have a viewing platform there,
and saw a black bear and I just hung around town. We treated ourselves to some petty good value steaks that night and cooked them over a fire and they tasted like heaven. The next day we rode back to the cassiar highway.  The road from Stewart back to the highway has great views for its entirety and I would highly recommend the side trip. 
It took us about another one and a half days to get to the junction of the Cassiar Highway and Route 16, the Yellowhead Highway, on which we would head east.  There was a town, Kitwanga, near the junction with a free campsite which we didn't take advantage of as we hadn't ridden very far that day.  We picked up some groceris , they had a pretty good selection and it was fairly cheap, then cycled to the junction and the Cassiar Highway was saddly over.