At the Tatogga Lake Lodge, we tried to get some intel re: condition of the rail bed. No dice.
So without further ado, we continued north to the Ealue Lake access road. Actually, we passed right by the first time as it looked a lot different than even a year ago.
Last summer, there was a piece of plywood leaned against a tree with "Sacred Headwaters" spray painted on it. But not this year. The turn off kinda looks like a gravel pit, but with a building like this. There we found a few Tahltan gentleman, but unfortunately all were in various states of inebriation and none had been past Mt. Klappan on the rail grade.
This Sacred Headwaters thing is kind of a big deal here. It's a long (and complicated) story, but here's the gist from Wikipedia:
The Sacred Headwaters is the name given to a subalpine basin in northern British Columbia that is the source of three wild salmon rivers: the Skeena River, Nass River and Stikine River. It is also referred to as the Klappan Valley, although the Klappan—a tributary of the Stikine River—is only one of the area's watersheds. Local Tahltan people call the area "Klabona", which is loosely translated as "headwaters."
The area has a significant population of grizzly bears, stone sheep and caribou wolves and goats. Salmon swim over 400 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the upper reaches of the river.
The Sacred Headwaters is rich in mineral and energy resources, particularly coal and coalbed methane. Several industrial development projects are planned for the area, including Fortune Minerals' open-pit Klappan Coal mine  and Royal Dutch Shell's Klappan Coalbed Methane Project. Shell Canada's website reports to be conducting several environmental baseline studies being carried out within the Klappan tenure area.. The British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources estimates the Klappan coal deposit could contain as much as 8.1 trillion cubic feet (230 km3) of coalbed methane gas.
The Klappan Coalbed Methane Project is a proposal by Shell Canada to develop a coalbed methane methane project in the area known as the Sacred Headwaters. In 2004, the British Columbia government granted Royal Dutch Shell (which is now a parent company of Shell Canada) a 400,000 hectare (4,000 km2) tenure for coalbed methane development. It is accessed by road via the abandoned BC Rail grade, which intersects British Columbia Highway 37 south of Iskut. As of Summer 2008, Shell's project is in the exploration phase. Shell drilled three exploratory wells in 2004 and is preparing to drill an additional 14 wells in 2008, 8 of which are proposed for the headwaters of the Skeena River. If developed, shell's project will entail a network of gas wells connected by roads and pipelines, as well as a pipeline to deliver the gas to market. Shell has disclosed neither how many wells will be necessary to make the project economically viable nor route options for the delivery pipeline. The Klappan Coalbed Methane Project has been met with opposition by both First Nations groups and Non-governmental organizations. The Pembina Institute, an environmentalist think-tank, released a report on the potential impacts of the Klappan Coalbed Methane Project methane project on wild salmon, calling it a "risky experiment" as commercial coalbed methane production has never been attempted in a salmon-bearing watershed
For more info on the conflict re: the Coalbed Methane project, click here
Wade Davis has written several articles
and a book
about the subject due out in October.
has some great pics of the area.
As recent as this fall, road blockades were in place here, and even on the main Telegraph Creek road:
But we weren't there for politics, we were there to ride, so we said goodbye to our native friends and hit the road.
The Ealue Lake Road was superb, lined with brilliant fireweed for miles.
Even if you are too chicken to ride the rail bed, the short jaunt to Ealue Lake is worth your time.
The gravel is twisty with lots of great views. Oh, and it's full of bears.
And by "full", I mean there was 12-15 bears in the 22km before we hit the rail bed. Big ones, small ones, black ones, brown ones. Pretty much a bear a minute. Maybe it's because the WR250R is so fast and quiet, or maybe it's because it's been so wet this year, but I saw a ridiculous amount of bears on my trip this year, probably 90-100 in four days. No joke.
Despite all the worrying about getting attacked, the primary danger from bears in Northern BC is collision, not consumption. I came within 6 feet of hitting 3 different bears on this trip (two if them Grizzlies: one on the Golden Bear and one the Telegraph Creek Road.) And if you don't hit an actual bear, their turd mines will take you out on the corners if you're not careful.
Anyways, this one was interesting because it looked like a young Griz when I first rode by, but the head and front said it's a black.
Eating clover, not campers.