Alaskanada – British Columbia

Alaskanada – British Columbia

Arrival into Canada was, as always, fairly straightforward. I’d had to buy a “customs decal” for $28 in advance to place on the airplane (seems to have no other purpose than a tax), and then file an e-apis declaration online with the US CBP. Apart from that, it was just filing a VFR flight plan online, and calling the Canadians to let them know about the arrival. The flight was a short, less than 30 minute hop up to Vancouver International. On arrival I called customs again from the airplane, and they gave us the OK to continue; we never even saw any body! A short Uber ride, and it was time to explore Vancouver.

Vancouver harbour panorama

The Vancouver stay was for two nights, and it was possible to see a reasonable amount of downtime. Highlights included the excellent dining, great museums, and picturesque walking routes. It was fun to stand overlooking the harbour and watch the sea-planes come and go.

I left Vancouver on Sunday evening, just as a cold front was blowing in, and headed east in front of it. Tailwinds meant I flew the 67 nautical miles to Hope, BC in less than 30 minutes. I tied down the aircraft with my new set of “Claws” and set up the tent just in time for the front to arrives, and rain to fall all night. Hope was a good stop, a large grass field with pilot building including wifi!

Racing east to Hope, BC

When I woke the next morning, it was still raining and cloud was low. I had a relaxing morning as the weather gradually improved. The airport maintenance manager came by, and gave me a lift to the local service station in his tractor, to grab some food and some local currency. By the time I was done with lunch the weather had improved enough to start heading north through the valley.

The first small steps into vast Canada

My first stop was the small airstrip of Cache Creek. A gentleman came to meet me who’d been operating an excavator nearby; he kept his ultralight airport at the strip. Apparently, Cache Creek had been used as a filming location for the movie “2012” where it was destroyed by an eruption of Yellowstone. Ironically it had then burned down a couple of years later in forest fires, a case of life imitating art.

Departing Cache Creek I headed north, but the weather soon started to close in again. I stopped at what was marked in Garmin Pilot as a public airstrip. It turned out to actually be the highly exclusive spa resort of Echo Valley. The owner, an experienced pilot, welcomed me and after hearing about the weather diversion insisted that I join them for the night. The resort was gorgeous, and I spent a very happy evening with the owners family and the other guests.

The weather the next morning was ideal for flying. After exploring the resort a little, I set off for a long day of flying that I hoped would take me all the way through BC and into the Yukon.

Through “The Trench” into the Yukon

My first stop was Williams Lake, to do a little planning for the legs ahead. From there I flew north to Mackenzie, the final fuel stop before “The Trench”. The Trench is a 400nm (800km) glacial valley that runs up through BC and is one of the main routes to Alaska from the lower 48. There is no fuel, and only a couple of small dirt strips if landing is needed. The final 200nm is entirely devoid of man’s influence.

I stopped off at the small strips of Fort Grahame and Fort Ware. Fort Grahame was deserted, and the few people I saw at Fort Ware were cold and unfriendly, so I didn’t linger.

From Fort Ware, there is no sign of man until reaching Lake Watson, more than 400km away. The cloud-base was low, and the valley walls disappeared into the clouds above. The way ahead remained clear and safe, however.

Watson Lake has a dedicated camp site for pilots, and I met two pilots in a Cessna 170 who were on their way south. We had dinner together, keeping out of the drizzle in the pavilion, before turning in in our respective tents. I was now far enough north that it was not getting fully dark at all in the nights.

Camped out at Watson Lake

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