Well, we managed to avoid being eaten by bears in the meadow behind the Hyder pub, and we managed to escape town without getting “hyderized”. Once out of Alaska and back into Canada (again!) we had a nice ride out of Stewart back up past the glaciers and over the mountains. Stacey and Maurice passed us in their RV on the way up and tried to tempt us into their comfy van but we managed to resist. I had to be pretty strong however because as they pulled up we saw a black bear on the side of the road and Jules almost threw Betty off the road in her rush to get inside the van. However, I managed to talk her out of leaving me on the side of the road and we waved goodbye to Stacey and Maurice.
This section of the trip was actually the point at which Jules conquered her bear-phobia. We saw so many black bears along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and they were all either unconcerned with our presence or completely scared of us, running away when they saw us coming. Whenever we would see a bear we would stop riding and call out “Hey Bear”. This is the recommended method for dealing with a bear sighting.. Initially I was fairly sceptical that this was the best response (running screaming in panic was my first response) but I soon found it somewhat reassuring, maybe I just fooled myself into thinking they could actually understand my friendly overtures! Jules would also bring out her whistle, and toot away on this but this didn't seem to scare any of them off, just annoy them (as it did me!). Our chief form of scaring off bears was to sing. This was fairly effective as my singing is guaranteed to scare anything off. When we saw a bear we would sing loudly the first song that came into our head and for some reason this often happened to be “Gentille Alouette”. Probably not the most effective as this line was all we knew of it and had to keep repeating it in our terrible French accents.
Jules and I had got into the habit of picking wild berries along the way, which we would put in our morning porridge. We had found blue-berries, Saskatoon berries and lots of thimble-berries (similar to raspberries and so good!). At one point I made Jules stop and pick thimble-berries on the side of the road, even though she was nervous about running into bears in this spot. I kept telling her that we would be fine, that we'd make lots of noise and bears won't dare come near us. So we were picking away when I heard a 'crack' from over the road, and I looked over to see a black bear calming sitting in the bushes across from us munching on some berries. “Umm Jules, maybe we should get going” I said, and had to admit that yes, maybe she was right about the bears.. this time.
I realised Jules was over her bear-phobia when we once spotted a bear the side of the road while we were going up a hill, and she refused to stop (you never ever stop cycling on a hill as you may never get going again!). We just kept pedalling past the bear singing our “bear song” and yelling out “hey bear”, and panting from the combined exertion, all of which seemed to scare him off. But I realised that we had come a long way from the first time we had seen a bear (otherwise known as a black dog) on the side of the road and had ridden with great speed in the opposite direction.
We camped at a number of nice lakes along the Cassiar Hwy. Our first day on the Cass felt like we had pedalled into a different country – it was actually summer! The sun was shining, it was hot, we went for a swim in the lake and sat in deck-chairs that somebody had lent us to watch the sun set (and discuss how to tie deck-chairs onto our bikes so that we could bring them with us). At another lake that we camped at further down the highway there was a floating dock so we sat out on that to cook our meals and to watch the water. The lake had a resident beaver family so we watched them being busy, moving things around and swimming back and forth with bubs on back. One of the adults must have surfaced under a lily-pad leaf because he was swimming around with the leaf perched on top of his head.. ah better than television.
Our last night on the Cassiar we camped at the town park in the tiny town of Kitwanga and the next morning we headed west down the Yellowhead Highway. We were back to a big highway with much more traffic again, but at least it had a nice big shoulder. We started to get into areas with a few more people, and finally reached the town of Terrace. We were a bit stunned coming back into Terrace, which is not a large town but was big enough to cause us some culture shock! We were definitely not ready for cities yet. It was also stinking hot in Terrace, and it wasn't helped by the fact that we desperately needed to do laundry and had no clean clothes to wear while we did our laundry. So we ended up sitting around in the laundromat in our bathers, rain pants and our fleece vests – looking ridiculous, dripping with sweat and getting grumpy. Not our finest hour.
Our last day on the Yellowhead was really hot and we rode an over 150 km day back into Prince Rupert. It was a very pretty ride along the river but it got incredibly hot (this is supposed to be Canada, its not supposed to get this hot!). We were melting by the time we made it into town and lay panting on the grass. We inhaled a couple of ice-creams and celebrated our return to Prince Rupert with a beer overlooking the harbour.