Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dease Lake to Prince George

A lot is happening right now and there's been no chance to process much of it at all. It feels like someone hit the fast-forward button on my life, and I've felt numb to all the miles behind me and terrified of the miles steamrolling toward me. Meanwhile, I've been working hard to churn out the requisite number of miles each day, both in the car and on the bike. There's not much space to summarize right now ... life in fast forward contains a lot of static ... but the trip, as road trips go, has been eventful ...


Up at 7 a.m. to ride out of Dease Lake. The temperature was low enough to turn fairly deep puddles into solid ice ... probably 25 or 27 degrees. My Camelbak hose froze. I, despite layering up as best I could with the "summer" clothes I have with me, also froze. I haven't been that cold in a long time. Definitely since before the frostbite incident.


The ride was hilly and high, as northern BC rides go. I rode hard and felt little in the way of pain or reward until I realized I couldn't feel much of anything, including my arms or legs. Brrrrr.


We rolled south. I shivered. We talked.


The deep snowpack persisted even as we dropped to latitudes equal with the southernmost tips of Southeast Alaska - just a few miles to the west. We made jokes about driving to Prince Rupert and getting back on a ferry bound for Juneau. It was hard to watch the road-level snow finally fade away. I've been sad about the prospect of leaving the North, even temporarily.


We spent Friday night with friends in Smithers. Had a great dinner, late night sipping tea and not worrying so much about everything, when we got an 11:30 p.m. knock on the door. "River's flooded," said the woman holding three huge flashlights. "It's comin up about a foot a minute. I'd take stock of what you'd take with you and be prepared to get out of here quick."


We hadn't received any official evacuation calls, but as we looked out the window we saw flashing lights stretched across the neighborhood. "They're doing rescues," the woman told us. "There are people over there in trees." We ventured outside to survey the scene. The RCMP had most of the neighborhood streets blocked, but we followed one street until we could see the alarming swell of the river. This photo is taken at the head of a neighbor's driveway, about two blocks and an equal number of feet of elevation from Kelly and Adrian's house.


Sleep was restless and I half feared ... and half hoped ... that I'd wake up to find that my car had headed downstream without me. But the flood had started to recede. I set out on my bike and rode non-blocked streets on the outskirts of the flood plain until I found the source ... a big ice jam that was starting the break apart. Our friends' house was spared. And luckily no one was hurt, but we learned there really were people in trees and property damage looked extensive.


I continued my ride through the morning, seeking higher ground. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful region. Rolling river valleys and shimmering satin peaks.


The drive south continues. Maybe tomorrow we'll hit spring.