Harrison West

In the name of exploring places closer to home, we decided to take a look at Harrison Lake, BC. The lake is mostly famous for its hot springs on southern end. It’s actually quite large, covering 218 km² and 60km long according to Wikipedia. At the north-end of the lake, there is a small community called Port Douglas, also known as in-SHUCK-ch.

To plan our route I went over to my mapping app and came up with a hypothetical counter-clockwise loop starting from Vancouver, up north following the west side of the lake; then east side of Lillooet River and Lillooet Lake; turning south via Pemberton and follow Sea-to-Sky highway back home, all in seven days. Then we decided to start from Coquitlam to make the first day distance bearable.

Chehalis River
Chehalis River

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Hokkaido – Overview

I think Bengul and I left Hokkaido with a sense of appreciation of its beauty and distinct culture. It was our first experience with Japan and I feel like we hit the jackpot. Even though we had to change our original plans, our second half of the journey well exceeded my expectations and now we have one more reason to come back.

Following is an overall view of all routes we followed on our tour. Individual sections have different colours. You can click on the map to open each section. I’ve used RideWithGPS to plan and draw the maps and it worked great as a planning tool. If you pay a few bucks a month, it lets you download the maps for offline viewing. Navigation is also available during riding but we didn’t need it most of the time. Maybe a free open source app such as OsmDroid is enough too; depends on what you want.

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Full route

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Hokkaido – Lake Toya to Chitose

Days 26 to 30 – Clearest Lake – Escape to Hotel – Best Sunset – Back to Chitose…

We have a comfortable breakfast inside the cooking shelter and hit the road towards Sobetsu. We take #453 to reach #2 and then start climbing. We have lots of headwind today and it gets unbearable as we reach the top of the climb. At 500m elevation we stop to admire the view (non to be had) and stumble on a cycling couple from USA, coming from the opposite direction. They seem to be enjoying the tailwind. They are on the road for two days from Chitose, they are already here and not planning on stopping at Lake Toya – – too fast? They warn us about the raccoon family that stole all their dry food at Lake Shikotsu.

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Hokkaido – Otaru to Lake Toya

Days 21 to 25 – The Best Whisky – Climbing Niseko – Hiking Mt Yotei – Beautiful Lake Toya – Mt Usu…

Masa-san takes our picture before we leave and gives us the direction to get out of Otaru. We have to take Hwy 5 once more. Fortunately it’s not too far to Yoichi, where the road goes inland. I notice a few tour buses and we decide to check it out. It turns out to be a whisky distillery, and a famous one apparently. It’s called Nikka Distillery, and the guy who built it (Masataka Taketsuru) got himself trained in Scotland before marrying a Scottish lady and starting his business here. The special thing about it is the distillation is still done using coal fire, supposedly giving a caramel taste to the end product — I don’t know if it’s true, we didn’t taste it.

Nikka Whisky
Nikka Whisky

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Hokkaido – Wakkanai to Otaru

Days 15 to 20 – Wakkanai to Otaru – Hugging the Coast – Autumn Fest – Tunnel Overdose – City Scapes…

By early morning the weather becomes mild enough so we slowly pack up to catch the 9:30am ferry to Wakkanai; we have lots of time. We bring our bags downstairs, I go out to cleanup our bikes. My hands find a crumbled paper in my pocket, I open it and see it’s the ferry schedule. The hours seem strange… My eyes grow wide as I notice that the morning ferry is at 8:30, not 9:30. Fortunately it’s only 7:45 and we are almost done. I wake up Bengul from her day dreams, we say good-bye to our hosts, cycle to the ferry port, get tickets at the last minute and walk on to the ferry just in time. There are lots of foot passengers and the seas are still a bit rough. We choose to sit towards the front of the ship, a big mistake. I start to feel dizzy and decide to get out to get fresh air. After two hours we are back where we were four days ago.

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Kita Bouhatei Dome

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Hokkaido – Asahikawa to Wakkanai

Days 7 to 10 – Asahikawa to Wakkanai – Mountains and Lakes – Beautiful Coast – Wind and Sun

Getting out of Asahikawa is hard. We zigzag on city streets to reach relatively quiet secondary roads leading north, briefly visiting a Temple that we just saw. At this point we rely on general directions and not on our nifty navigation app eager to tell us where to turn. In fact, we haven’t used it since the first day. We just need to find road #72 and then #275. The phone’s GPS and the map helps a lot though. On the way to Lake Shumarinai we take a lunch break at a Horokonai road station which has a nice soba noodle shop inside. The staff is very curious and chatty. They prompt me to make a map of our route on paper and hang it among other people’s maps on the wall. After a nice meal they fill our bottles with icy water and tea — awesome.

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Lake Shumarinai

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Hokkaido – Asahikawa

Day 6 – Fukiage to Asahikawa – Downhill – Storm aftermath – Into the City…

The storm seems to have died down by morning and we checkout by placing our bed sheets and pillow cases by the door. After a quick breakfast we get out and walk around to take in the beautiful morning air. There are a bunch of hiking trails heading into the forest and we take one of the short ones. Blue gentians at the edge of the vegetation takes some time to get over with. The trail is well marked, or rather, you can’t even leave it due to thick dwarf bamboo undergrowth.  We walk about an hour among what I assume to be fir and birch trees. The vegetation seems to have a lot of variety here; my eyes are accustomed to see uniform groves of cedar and spruce… It looks more lush compared to the Pacific coast.

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