Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Monday, June 11: High 40s, cloudy, sprinkles as we leave for Watson Lake around 8am. Not sure what we will find when we get there, though we did call ahead and make sure our host was holding our room. Sign in the highway--NO ROOMS AT WATSON LAKE! The road is good, just dodging potholes and bear poop. Drive aside Dease Lake for almost 30 miles, then it narrows to the river, which widens as it accumulates rain and melting snow as we both move north in the Arctic Ocean watershed. See a moose climbing a steep, sidehill and bear #16! Made a great stop in Jade City. Lots of pieces of raw jade outside. The owner's daughter tells us how he always loved jade and came to the Cassiar Mts in the 70s looking for it. One day he knelt down and prayed to God if he could find his dream, he would build God a church. An eagle feather floated down from the sky and landed on a bigchunk of jade and his dream began! Now they have a huge store, but most of their ore is shipped to the Orient and Australia. They go to China to work out designs for the pieces they want, then the finished products are shipped back. In fact, 92% of the world's jade comes from the Cassiars. Ron used the bathroom and the flusher, switchplate and frame around the lightswitch were made of jade. (And yes, the man did build the church.) Passed through an avalanche gate, one of many in these mountain roads; they drop them to stop traffic while they clear the snow. Passed the spot where the biggest gold nugget (without quartz) came out of a BC placer deposit. Spottted a Northern cousin of a sharp-tailed grouse. As we left the Cassiars and drove onto the Yukon Plateau (much easier going), we entered an extensive, recent burn-over--it went on for miles--and saw over a dozen hunting camps along the road. Turns out they were hunters--of morels!--for $8 a pound! Crossed the Yukon border and the flooded Lower Laird River (looked like the Nemadji in full flood!) then the crowded town of Watson Lake. Cars, campers and semis everywhere, even parked on the sides of the freeway. Took a nice walk after unpacking at the spartan, but comfortable Air Force Lodge (was barracks for the Royal Canadian Air Force beginning in 1942); the community has really responded to the plight of the "stranded travelers"--opened up the rec center for free, provided meals and other emergency social services, even provided beds in private homes when the motels were full. One of the guests here even saw the Premier of Yukon Territories at a community dinner tonight. Played a little cards in the commons area; Ron stayed to talk to the other interesting guests (old bikers!) while I retired to our room to play my computer game and crashed for the night.