7,724 km - 9,366 km
After camping the night at Kitwanga, we rode south and met up with Sam from Eyecandy Customs Cycles who had provided us with the bearing the day before. He has a great setup in Smithers, BC and was really kind in having a look at our bikes and give us some helpful tips.
We continued southeast along Highway 16 through Burns Lake and Prince George, noticing a growing population and increase in settlements. Wild valleys had evolved into a quilt-pattern of cultivated farmland maximized to produce crops even on the sloped soil that seemingly disappeared into the canyons below. The fertile land was now fenced in, creating pastures for hungry horses who now happily feed on the abundantly rich grass. As we continued on the road, small groupings of remote homes would appear out of blind corners and quickly vanish again behind us, their inhabitants' lives and stories remaining as mysterious to us as ours did to them.
We had organized a stop for the night in Quesnel, BC where we were graciously hosted by Jim and Barb, the parents of Ben's good friend Deane. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and great conversation about their lives in BC, learning about the geography and geology, climate and history, people and culture. They live on a wonderful property with four lovely horses, overlooking Dragon Lake which is invaluable in spawning fish for freshwater BC lakes.
After a hearty breakfast and some valuable insight on our route to Vancouver, we were once again on the road watching the miles rush by our feet. A short day saw us pass through Williams Lake before turning west on to Highway 99 and arriving at our campsite in the very unique Marble Canyon Provincial Park. An excerpt from the information sign reads: "Situated in the Pavillion Mountain Range its 335 hectares protect a sample of the dry interior ecosystem. The rainshadow effect of the Coast Mountains creates a warm dry climate here." Wonderful! A pleasant surprise of desert like conditions in otherwise rainy BC. We had no idea. Just one more sleep in the tents before Vancouver for a few days and we were guaranteed a dry night, right? Wrong!
Starting sometime in the middle of the night the heavens opened up and the rain was relentless well into the morning. Our wettest night yet, by far. We packed up our soggy tents, barely shaking them dry as it continued to pour down on us. Knowing we would spend that night in the comfort of Tym and Dom's middle brother Olek's condo our spirits remained high and we rode on into Lillooet for breakfast. The approach into Lilooet is spectacular. The highway hugged the hillside as the railway tracks criss-crossed above and below us on wooden trestle bridges and dark tunnels through the massive rock walls that frame the Fraser Valley, carved deep over time by the continuous flow of white capped rapids. The day would only get better when we left Lillooet, entering the Coast Mountains on the Sea to Sky Highway.
Multitudes of plucky pine trees were perched precariously on the steep rocky slopes that were cloaked in a patchwork of low lying clouds. We rode through a consistent mist, watching beads of water trickle to the side of our visors, allowing us momentary views of our breathtaking surroundings.
We sped along wide-eyed, watching pencil-thin lines of water trickling down the near vertical rock faces, feeding the emerald green glacial rivers and lakes of the Coast Mountains. The twisting road would snake upwards towards the sky only to slither back down again crossing the numerous creeks on narrow wood-planked bridges. Notional knee-high concrete barriers were few and far between leaving the view and potential plummeting fall very much unobstructed. Ascending from the depths of the valleys to the heights of the mountain tops encompassed by clouds and fog was an experience to remember as the fragile seam between land and sky is not often felt so closely.
Before long Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish had come and gone and we were on the final approach to Vancouver. Traffic and speed steadily increased as we blended into a population of humans who, unlike their northern cousins, were late for this or that - rushing between work, family, and friends trying to live their lives within the tight grip of urban life. Towering rock dissolved from view as towers of concrete and steel occupied the skyline and the fresh air that we once took for granted developed a prominent city taste. There had been a distinct shift: the grey of asphalt that was once a small human scar on the otherwise infinitely green wilderness had become the overwhelming norm as brave trees and bushes planted in planters and parks had become rare sources of shrubbery, and the sounds of scurrying squirrels and blissful birds were now drowned out by angry drivers and broken mufflers. Having been living the same busy and noisy city life only weeks ago, it feels like the northern solitude had instilled in us already a lifetime of change.
The next few days will be a chance to repair some lingering issues with the bikes such as a broken headlight, malfunctioning odometer, and a balding tire; and reset our minds as we gear up to say goodbye to Canada and hello to the next chapter of excitement and adventure.