It's August 14th
at this point, and I made sure to inspect the bike early in the morning to troubleshoot the flooding issues. Pulling the carb apart, I didn't notice anything obviously amiss, but made a point to hose everything down real well with some carb cleaner. I also shot the shit a bit with some of the locals. To the left there was a husband and wife duo, along with their 5 or 6 year old daughter. They were on bicycles, and nothing else. I recall them being foreigners and had some trouble understanding them, but what I did get was that they had ridden their bikes up from California with their daughter in tow. One bike was towing a trailer with their gear, and the other was a tandem with the little girl on the back. Wow, these people are hard-core. I, of course, failed to get a picture.... I packed up camp after re-assembling the KLR and headed back to Hyder. I was stopped on the dirt road just outside of town as several black bears crossed my path. A suburban stopped alongside me and a father with his kids hopped out to check out the wildlife. He looked over the KLR and went on and on about how he use to have the same bike, and what an awesome ride it had been. Unfortunately, he had to give it up when his family came to be. So it goes...
I continued on my way, heading up the winding gravel road past the bear viewing area and rows upon rows of RVs, some towing SUVs of equal size. Creature comforts, I suppose. What an awesome road, by far one of my favorites. Waterfalls, glacier melts, snow capped mountains, this place had it all. I just couldn't get enough, and fortunately enough, the road just kept on going. At the summit, I stopped for some photo ops and to converse with the local bear guy a bit. Lots of hiking opportunities, but I was quite content just laying low and hanging out. At this point, atop the rounded rocky ledge overlooking the Salmon Glacier as it pounded into the mountain before me and turning left in a heap of broken ice, time stood still. I didn't care about the world, I was merely consumed by the vastness before me. Serenity. Peace of mind. A rare occurrence in my catch-all of a psyche.
I just couldn't take enough pics as I continued along the dirt road, determined to follow it to the end. What a ride. Every couple of miles some rutted dirt road would veer off down towards the glacier, or up and over the top of the mountain. It killed me to drive past them, but I knew that if I tried to ride them all, I would never get down off this mountain. I passed along what appeared to be an avalanche detour of the road the cut straight through the mountain, shaving off a good mile or so of road by going straight through the mountain. At the end of the road, I discovered what appeared to be Dr. Evil's lair. Holy crap, how had I not seen this thing as I cruised up and over the top. If course I was going to check this out. Veering off the road and careening down an embankment I crossed the rocky clearing towards the concrete fortress before me. I quickly came upon a truck parked just outside an open steel door. A woman was waiting inside, sitting in the passenger seat, watching me as I baja'd towards her. Removing my helmet, I asked her what she knew of the place. With a shrug, she said “Not much” and informed me that her husband had just gone inside to scope it out. I laughed and asked if he'd mind if I joined him, and she countered, insisting that I do so as she was worried for him. You don't have to tell me twice. This place was HUGE. I quickly came upon the man just before an open door deep within the building, out of which hurricane force winds seemed to be blowing. Introductions were passed and we continued on, hopping from rail timber to debris in hopes of avoiding the flooded pathway. My god, there's a train in here. They left a full size train. Several engines and dozens of open topped cars shone in the dim light of my cheap mini-mag. Sheet plastic had been haphazardly thrown over the engines in an attempt to stave off the elements, but it was of no use. The condensation had taken it's toll and everything was covered in a thick layer of flaking rust. Amazing... I didn't manage to get any pics of any worth, however. The air was full of dust and the wind seemed to keep it all from settling...We wandered about for several minutes before the man stated he had better get back to his wife before she begins to worry. I laughed and informed him he was too late, and we both returned to the surface.
As the duo pulled away, an official looking truck had taken it's place. An amber light on the top peaked my curiosity and I wondered over to a guy with a vest and hardhat, holding what appeared to be a sat-phone and some sort of meter. He was taking soil readings and recording some info. Apparently the mine has leeching copper into the surrounding rock. I picked his brain a bit and he told me the mine, known as the Granduc mine (I think), burrowed clear through the mountain and popped out the other side at a vacant airstrip. That would explain the wind. Apparently they mined mostly copper here, but also hit pockets of gold and silver. He told me a story of several surveyors that had hiked through the mine, only to come out the other side with all but one headlamp dead and everyone holding onto belt loops like kindergarteners being led across the street by Mrs. Garrison. This did nothing more but agitate my curiosity, but I was severely under prepared for such an endeavor and forced myself to return to the bike and make my way back towards Hyder. Its here that I noticed the wires jutting out from beneath my fuel tank, right about where my air horn was once mounted. Man, this is getting old. As I slid back into the saddle and go through my cold starting routine, my thumb finds... a distinct absence of choke lever. That fucker was long gone. I did, however, manage to find the air horn on the way back into town, but not before it had obviously been run over by who knows how many vehicles. Cursing myself, I threw it into my pannier and continued on my way.
I dicked around town a bit, grabbing yet another mediocre burger before leaving shortly before 5pm. Heading back out to the Cassiar highway, but not before grabbing some quality photos, I soon found myself once again careening down the desolate highway, the place I'd come to be most at home. I stopped at one of the few gas stops and ran into three guys on BMWs, heading south after their own Alaskan circuit. One barely spoke english, but the other two and I conversed for quite a bit. I suggested they stop at Hyder, and one mentioned reading about this place on ADVrider. Small world. I grabbed some coffee and headed north once again after topping off my tank. It had begun to rain by this point, and I just wanted off the highway. I pulled over in the rest area and dropped down an overgrown path towards an unnamed lake. There was another tent down here, and what looked to be a bicycle bungied up in a tarp like lawn furniture in February. I chuckled and quickly pitched my tent, eager to meet my neighbor in the morning.