Monday 7th July ?:00 p.m. Fort Nelson, British Columbia
This is the cheapest hostel I've ever stayed in. On the corner of 48th street and 49th avenue *or 49th avenue and 48th street, I can't remember* it's some sort of government run hostel for 'transients', whatever they are! Not only is it free, but there's free coffee too! Not that caffeine is high on my list of wants at the moment. It's somewhere around 11:00p.m. according to the clock in the corridor, and I've travelled in the vicinity of 1000 kilometres today, after less than two hours sleep last night.
Yesterday's hitching got off to a record start, even though I didn't hit the road till 4:00 p.m. Jean had taken me on a four kilometre hike in the morning, up the steep slope behind her house. I was impressed to find fresh bear shit on the path, and a massive bear footprint. I disguised my alarm when I later noticed a tiny bear footprint as well. Then after a feed of eggs on toast and a few hours fencing, Jean drove me back to the highway. I was still waving to her when a car pulled over next to me. The driver was a Korean guy who had recently completed his training as a helicopter pilot in Vancouver. He's on a 3000 kilometre road trip to try to line up a job. JK as he called himself, drove me all the way to Prince George- a place, not a person. As promised, the scenery up till Liloet was breathtaking. Snow capped ranges thckly forested with tall trees, sheering down into shimmering blue green lakes, each one a slightly different shade. After Liloet, the scenery changed dramatically. My dry throat alerted me to the change in climate- the air here was hot and dry like a desert. The evergreens were still green *I wonder if that's how they got their name* but the ground was a mottled grey and beige- sand, rocks and dead grass.
I think JK said it was about midnight when we stopped just short of Prince George. It was almost dark. He was planning to sleep in the car, so I wandered off and found a safe place to stretch out on the ground. It was nice to lie down, but it's hard to sleep when every breath of wind is a grizzly's breath on the back of your neck. I like to think I got a couple of hours sleep, but it would be more correctly defined as 'rest'. The temperature dropped quite a lot overnight too; how low I'm not sure but I sure appreciated my down sleeping bag. Also it demonstrated the value of a good sleeping mat. I always thought a sleeping mat was for comfort, but in fact it's most important use is to stop the temperature loss from your body by effectively separating you from the cold ground. Last night, I would wake up immediately each time an arm or a leg would slip off the mat onto the ground.
Of course it wasn't long before dawn; I got up early and left JK to sleep. I had thanked him and said goodbye last night. It took a while to get a lift into town, but the french toast and bacon and eggs was worth the wait. From there it was a couple of hours before anyone pulled over, but when I did get a lift, it was a good one. George, an ex-boxer, was heading to Fort St John to pick up some gear before starting a job on the oil rigs. Fort St John is actually off Highway 97 a bit, but I had an important errand to make, and I couldn't delay...
Stupidity costs!Guess what I found in the pocket of my shorts this morning? Gail's keys! Crikey, will I be in the bad books. Gail and Christa only have two sets of house keys, and the front door key is one of those funky 'do not duplicate' ones. So I spent a day's budget on sending the keys back to Vancouver by next-day express. Perhaps that will teach me to be more alert. But will Gail and Christa ever forgive me??
An old guy in a pickup gave me a ride back to the highway. The dark storm clouds were building on the horizon to the south and the west. I was headed north. After half an hour or so, the clouds were overhead and I was starting to consider my options. Lightning streaked across the sky and a late model sedan came to a stop beside me. Bill is a union representative, and he was on his way to Fort Nelson to settle a dispute. He knows this part of the country like the back of his hand, so gave me a running commentary all the way...and shouted me dinner!
This hostel has cost me something though. My toothbrush fell into a puddle of water next to the toilet, and was immediately reassigned to the rubbish bin. Beware the hitchhiker with bad breath, at least until I find a store.