want to skip all the reading, I suggest you scroll down to the
bottom of the page for photos.
relating this story because it was a major experience for me.
One thing I learned from it was not to take anything for
granted--not be too bold. Up until that night on the Stuart-Cassiar
Hwy., I had grown complacent, nothing scared me--I could take care
of myself. This experience brought me back down to earth, and
reminded me that sometimes there are real dangers to traveling
alone. Especially on long, isolated stretches of road.
here, on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway where I experienced fear like I
never experienced it before! All through the entire length of
the journey across the US and Canada, I often found myself having to
transverse large, isolated stretches of road--it never really
consider myself a safe traveler, alert, aware of my
surroundings--but I made one mistake on the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy.
that I will not make again! I should have followed my
instinct and not ventured out into unknown territory so late at
get into details, let me explain why I was driving on the
Stewart-Cassiar in the first place...
leaving Slana, Alaska, I continued on Rt.1 and stopped at the Tok
Informtion Center to find out the costs & schedules for the
ferry services. I was looking for an alternative route back to
Washington State. I was still feeling pressured for
time. A ferry would be more expensive, but it would save me
from driving over a thousand miles back down throught British
Columbia--on the same road that I'd driven up on.
found out that the least expensive way to go would be to drive down
the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy. to Prince Rupert, and catch the ferry there
to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island, I would still have to drive down the entire length
of the island to catch another ferry to mainland Canada.
Dease Lake by the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy.
back to the story...
travel magazine I had with me said that from the junction in Laird
(Yukon) to Prince Rupert is 446
miles, "consisting of mostly
pavement & sealed dirt, some gravel stretches and a
few one-lane bridges ...north of Meziadin Junction...it has few
cmmunities along the route, but the drive is a scenic adventure
through great tracts of wilderness. Much of the drive is
just you, the highway and other adventures you meet long the
I'll tell you--I met more than just "other adventurers" along the
here's what happened..
most of it right out of my journal...
Entry: I called Luciano (my
son) from a gas station on Dease Lake to say, "Hello". After
that I drove for another hour or so. It was about 11 PM and
just starting to get dark. There were 5 or 6 Rv's parked in a
rest area on the shore of a small lake--a beautiful snow peaked
mountain in the distance. This would be a good place to stop
for the night. I could get a good picture the next day.
pulled in for the night. Took all the stuff out of my back
seat and layed out the sleeping bag, Got the water jug and was
brushing my teeth when an 18 wheeler pulled up and parked right
beside my car. Although it was almost 11 pm, it was still
light enough to see right into the back seat of my car. Gee,
'ya think he could have parked a little further away?
I'd just climb into my back seat & pull the sleeping bag over my
head & try to get some sleep. But the truck sat there with
their engine on high idle. Hoping they would shut it down
eventually, I tried to ignore the noise. Damn, of all places
about half an hour I couldn't take it any longer. So I got out
of my car and packed my stuff away. Figured I'd be better off
driving up the road a few miles and find a quietier place to
sleep. Big mistake!
it was about 11:30 PM and getting darker all the time. I
wondered if maybe I should turn around and go back to the spot with
the RV's. Nope. Go forward. About 2 miles down the
road there was another "Construction Ahead" sign. The road
looked pretty bad. Soft shoulders, no turn-offs, no
pull-offs, no rest areas, no lights--nothing.
saw headlights in my rear view mirror. I wondered who would be
driving a camper down this road this late at night. Some
people has since told me that I should have pulled over to the side
of the road and see if they wanted to pass. But it was late at
night...in the middle of no where. It was safer to just
continue driving. Sometimes you just have to trust your
came up on the side of the road--"Next Services 64 Km". But I
had learned from experience that just because a sign says,
"Services", doesn't necessarily mean that there really are
services. It's not unusual for places to go out of business in
remote areas like this. I'd seen plenty that were
closed. In any case, 64 kilometers is quite a long ride on a
narrow mountain road under construction. During the day they
use "Lead Trucks" to lead the cars through the construction
areas--usually at 25-30 mph.
headlights behind me were making me a little nervous. For the
very first time during this trip--I had a bad feeling about this
situation. I was driving 25-30 mph and the vehicle behind me
was catching up. Not really a big deal. Just thought I'd
drive a little faster and leave them behind. A camper or RV
would not be able to maneuver the hills and sharp curves, especially
in the total darkness over the bumpy "under construction'' road
I looked in the rear view mirror and their headlights were there
again. So I drove faster. Then faster. Now I was
getting really scared--only because it was so late, so dark, and the
road was so bad. I had no way of knowing how long this
construction section would continue. I also knew that when I
reached the end of the 64 Km, there was no guarantee that there'd be
any RV's or anyone in the area. And who knew how far it would
be before I saw anyone else.
headlights were still there behind me. So I drove even
faster. Surely no rational person would continue to try to
keep up with me. They did. Just when I thought I had
lost them--their headlights would peak up over the top of the hill
behind me. By then we were driving up to 70 mph on that dark,
curvy, unpaved road. By then my knees were shaking. (I
learned that knees really do shake when you're really, really
thought that even if they don't catch up with me, I might get in a
car accident. It was pitch black. My car headlights
didn't shed enough light for me to see far enough ahead. It's
not uncommon to come across a moose or a deer standing in the middle
of the road. I thought about all the possibilities.
wondered why this vehicle was keeping up with me. Maybe they
were just in a hurry. I hoped that maybe it was a police car
chasing a speeder--me. Again I considered pulling over and
letting the vehicle go by. But I had the feeling that they
didn't want to just "get by. If I stopped my car they could
block my way or bump my car. Nope. Not worth taking a
chance. If you find yourself in a situation like this--so far
out in the wilderness--it's better to be safe than sorry. I
kept driving 70 mph.
thought about the conversation that I had had with my son just few
hours earlier. I wondered if that could possibly be our last
conversation. My imagination went wild. But under the
circumstances (even now looking back), I feel that my caution and
fears were justified.
I had to
think of a way to get out of this situation. There was no
place to pull the car off the road. Both sides of the road had
soft shoulders and no place to pull into and shut the lights off
until the vehicle passed. And when there were not soft
shoulders on both sides of the road, there would be a ledge or river
on one side.
I thought that maybe, if I could go a little faster, I could get far
enough ahead of them so that when I went around a curve (so they
could not see my tail lights) I could pull a fast u-turn. I'd
have to pull a 3 or 4 point turn because the road was so narrow.
I had to
try it. It was just a matter of time before they caught up
with me, and it would be too late to try the u-turn without them
drove faster and strained my eyes to see through the darkness beyond
my headlights, looking for the next curve. Then a fairly good
sized curve came up. As I turned into it, I looked into
the rear view mirror, and could not see their headlights--so I knew
they wouldn't be able to see my tail lights for a few seconds.
would be the place where I'd make my turn! Stepped on the
brakes, and shifted the stick shift like hell! But careful
& controlled. Reverse. Forward. Reverse.
Forward. I had to complete the turn before they came around
the curve. I couldn't let them see me.
the turn and started driving at a normal rate of speed toward their
direction so they would think that I was just another car going
by. A few seconds later they whizzed by! It was a white
panel truck with a right tail light burned out.
relief! I hoped that they would continue to think that I was
ahead of them. For now I was safe. I turned my car around and
continued on my way. I wasn't going to drive back the way I
came even though I was a bit worried that they might figure out that
I pulled a u-turn to lose them--and they could possibly be waiting
up ahead somewhere. So I knew I wasn't out of the woods
yet. But I was immensly relieved that they were no longer
speeding after me at 70 mph!
the end of the 64 Km was Meziadin Junction. It was well after
midnight. What a relief--there were 5 or 6 RV's parked in the
closed gas station/restaurant parking lot. I squeezed my
little car right in the middle of them, quietly slipped into the
back seat and went to sleep greatly relieved, thankful, and
the story doesn't end there. I woke up early, and moved my car
to the front of the restaurant and waited for it to open at
7AM. Went in for breakfast. There was a "missing person
poster" on thr wall right by the door. A 29 yr. old man had
been missing since June 8. (Today's date was June 20th)
The poster described the man, and said that he was not the type of
person to just disappear without telling someone where he was
going. Neither he nor his vehicle had been found.
I was having breakfast a gentleman sat down with me for a few
minutes. He worked at the Hyder information booth across the
street. We had coffee together and talked. I told him
what had happened the night before on the road. He said it was
"probably nothing" just some people in a hurry.
I left Meziadin Junction, I drove 40 miles to Hyder, Alaska.
Stopped at a gift shop to buy some postcards. There were two
young girls working. One of them asked me if I'm ever afraid
traveling so far alone. I told her that I had never been
afraid before--until after what happened last night on the
Stewart-Cassiar Hwy.. I told them the whole story. The
other girl seemed defensive. She said she had driven that road
for years and nothing like that ever happened to her. She said
that someone must have been in a rush just like I was. I told
her, "No, I wasn't in any rush, I was speeding because they were
keeping up with me." I explained to her that I would never
normally drive like that especially at night on a mountain
road. Then she said that it was probably someone just having
some fun with me. Hmmm.
see the conversation was going nowhere. I started to think
that perhaps the man at the Hyder information booth and the girl at
the gift shop were right--maybe I was just making a big thing out of
speak about it again until I got back to the hostel in Birch
Bay. A woman there told me that the bodies of 3 teenagers were
found in in Kitiman. The killer was not found. I checked
my map. Kitimat is on Rt 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy. not far
from Meziadin Junction. That was kind of creepy to hear.
to think that maybe I should report the chase incident to the
Canadian authorities, but then, I thought maybe it was
nothing. I felt that it would probably be treated with
skepticm--just like it was when I told the people in Meziadin
Junction and in Hyder. So I let it drop.
the weeks passed, it stayed on my mind. When I got home in
July, I searched the Internet to see who I should report it
to. Better late than never. So I reported it, and that's
I've got that off my chest--back to the road trip!
Tourist Information Cabin across the street from the gas
station/restaurnat where I slept in my car in Meziadin Junction.
Main Street Hyder, Alaska
to drive through British Columbia to get there. Check the map
well, Rt. 37 is a sharp left. Miss it, and go straight you end
up on Rt. 37A which will take you 40 miles out of your way to
Hyder. Then you have to turn around & drive back 40 miles
to get back on Rt. 37. But it's worth the detour. The
mountain & ocean views are great. And I even got a picture
of an avalanche and a close-up picture of my car in front of a
Avalanche warning sign. I did stop & get out of my car
between signs. It looked safe.
this camera takes some bad pictures sometimes--well, I suppose I
could have something to do with it.
I like that! Look at that blue ice in the glacier. Look
at that filthy car. It had been through a lot. Yep, that
car can hug corners on those dirt roads going 70 miles an hour in
the dark! Man, I love that car! Sorry...I got carried
Driving down Rt. 37A from Hyder, Alaska back to Meziadin Junction
and Rt 37. This is the view from Rt. 37A -- Look at those
mountains! Just breathtaking!
Here's three pictures of the same bear. I took the photo from
my car. The bear was eating dandilions.
Finally made it to Prince Rupert, BC to catch the early morning
ferry to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. It was pouring
out. Had to pack the tent away soaking wet. Oh well,
won't be the first time!
had been an unbelievable & unforgettable journey through British
Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska.
sooooo glad I decided to take this "side-trip" to Alaska and I
wouldn't hesitate to do it again!