As the late night turns to morning we wake up at 6 am still at my parents house near Olympia, WA and start packing my parents truck to the brim with gear, food and our boats. My parents have graciously volunteered to drive Anna and I for 15 hours up to Bella Coola, British Columbia to begin or paddle up to Alaska. They are always up for an adventure.
The reason we decided to start there was was a logistical reason, it allowed us to skip the towns/houses and all the boat traffic right off the start. It will keeps us on our tight schedule of having to finish no later than August 30th and allows us to explore the less traveled areas of the inside passage without rushing. When we reach Skagway, we’ll take a ferry back down to Bella Bella, picking up where we started and kayak South.
Our trip for some reason started on Memorial Day weekend so traffic was crawling. My main worry was getting through the border. Not just because of all the traffic going through but because every-time I go through I get stopped and questioned and many times my vehicle has been searched. Not that I have anything to hide nor do I dislike the border patrol doing their job, it just seems like I get stopped more than normal. Anna says it’s because I get nervous and talk too much. My dad has the same problem. So the unanimous vote in the vehicle was to have Anna drive through and no one else talk, especially me. Couple of things I was worried about was the food and the bear spray. What do you know, she was right and we made it through with only a little questioning. Mostly on how we were going to get back and I only had to say one thing.
The drive up through Canada along the Fraser River was spectacular. It runs along large gorges and through fun little towns and into dry county. (I would highly recommend the drive by making it into a loop and coming back down through Whistler then on to Vancouver). After switching through all the drivers we decided to stop for the night and make camp at a nice provincial park along Green Lake. That was our first night in our new tent new bed and new sleeping bag, and it was a pretty good night. We jump on the road to Bella Coola and climb in elevation as we maneuvered along the dirt road over and down the pass. Heckman Pass is the only access to Bella Coola other than the ferry. In winter the road may be shut down for some time due to snow and avalanches so it becomes it’s own little isolated community. The road was originally built as a mule trail by the people who live there because the government wouldn’t give them a road. I can understand why they were reluctant to try to build a road- it has vertical sides and is incredibly steep with switchbacks. But the view is amazing as you wind down into the valley with waterfalls streaming down off the snow covered mountains on both sides.
Bella Coola is a small town. Not much is going on. Logging, fishing and a small amount of tourism. We find a place to camp and sleep uneasy, thoughts of our trip and a million last minute details running through our minds.