Day 1: October 19
Bellingham, Washington to 100 Mile House, British Columbia

by Mark Turner

Sumas border crossing

We had planned to get out of Bellingham at 8 am this morning, but with numerous last-minute arrangements to make and some final shopping to do, it was nearly noon before we finally headed east on the Mt. Baker Highway to begin our journey north towards Alaska.

Immediately after crossing the Nooksack River we turned north on Hwy 9 toward the border crossing at Sumas. The Canadian border guard was thorough as he checked what we were doing going into Canada with a brand-new Audi with private number plates from Absolute Reg plates, a driver from Bellihgham., and a passenger from Albuquerque. He asked whether we had four-wheel drive and whether we were prepared for snow. He also wanted to make sure we had at least $500 in cash or access to money (I guess credit cards count as money these days). We suspected that he called up our license plate on his computer and discovered that the car was registered to Audi.

Fraser River bridge

Just north of the border in Abbotsford we picked up Trans-Canada Hwy 1 east to Hope. Traffic was light on this gray Saturday afternoon, with intermittent rain alternately misty and downpour. We stopped briefly at London Drugs in Chilliwack to get batteries for Rich’s camera, and again in Hope after crossing the Fraser River on a high bridge. Mark scrambled to a high promontory above the highway to catch a few frames of Rich driving across the bridge in dramatic light.

From Hope north Rt. 1 is an excellent two-lane highway with frequent passing lanes. The road parallels the Fraser as it heads north, clinging to the side of the beautiful Fraser Canyon high above the river. We passed through the small towns of Yale, Boston Bar, Logan Lake and Ashford to Cache Creek where we left the river and picked up Rt. 97.

It was only about 5 pm when we hit Cache Creek, our original planned stopping point for the night, so we decided to continue for another hour to 100 Mile House. The name is drawn from its distance from Lillooet, Mile 0 on the old Caribou Wagon Road. At 70 Mile House we topped a 4,000-foot pass where we found snow on the trees along the road, and the conifers changed from Ponderosa Pine to Jack Pine. As we descended 1000 feet to 100 Mile House the land flattened and we found broad wetlands already beginning to freeze over for the winter. The aspens had already lost their leaves, joining the alders and maples in presenting bare trunks and branches in contrast to the dark green pines.

100 Mile House is a bustling commercial center for this part of BC, and seems bigger than 1900 people. Maybe its because the town is home to two lumber mills and is a convenient stopping point for the tens of thousands of travelers who come this way each summer to drive the Alaska Highway. We had our choice of several places to stay, but picked an older motor court run by an exile from the Los Angeles rat race. He told me he bought the place after staying here a few nights, then returning here on his drive to Alaska.

Tomorrow is our long day on the road, with over 400 miles to go between here and Dawson Creek.