Friday, August 31, 2012

Yukon dirt roads

A preview of my adventure off-road near Whitehorse, Yukon.

Five of us decided to have fun, we enter a dirt road a few miles north of Whitehorse, along the Alaska Highway, and follow it for about 30 miles to a beautiful lake at the end of the road.  We had lots of fun.

Calcium chloride is used on the roads to control the dust but on this day there was no dust, there was a lot of rain and mud which made the roads very slippery and my bike very dirty.

More to follow....

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 9 - Liard Hot Springs, BC - Dawson Peaks Resort, Yukon

Day 9 started just like any other day, we packed our equipment, left Liard River Hot Springs early and about an hour later stopped for breakfast at the first place we saw on the road, there aren't that many places out here.  When we saw the sign "Berry Delightful" and "World Renowned Chocolates, Jams & Jellies" we knew it was going to be good.  I had a nice egg & bacon sandwich with 2 cups of coffee.

There were a few bikers that showed up after we were inside and when I came out I saw this Kawasaki Vulcan, wow, that's all I could say, this guy is really packed, I have never seen a bike this packed, the load high on the bike can't be too stable.  The extra fuel tells me he might be on the way to Alaska.

After filling up our bikes we continue north and less than an hour later I see this brown bear on the side of the road.  I stopped about 50 feet from him but Pete decides to pass me and stops a little closer to him with John a little further up the road.  Pete used his little camera, I wanted to take a picture with my Canon which has the zoom, that requires opening up the tank bag and pulling the camera out, if the bear started running towards me I would have to put it back in the bag and then take off, I needed the extra buffer. He wasn't bothered by us though, continued looking for food and didn't even look at us.  I guess when you are this size you don't really worry too much.

The day was cloudy and cold, the clouds touching the mountain tops and the temperature in the mid sixties with a few rain drops coming down sporadically.  We entered Yukon but the Alaska Highway travels along the border and soon we were back in British Columbia.  We stopped when we saw this sign but the official sign came up later.  While we were stopped taking pictures, a couple of Bison walked along the road on the opposite side.

Our next stop was at the bottom of this bridge.  I saw the clearing from above and a dirt road leading to it, time to test the tires going downhill.  There was a nice view of the river and allowed me to capture a nice panorama.

A little further up the road we ran into another bear, a black bear this time, doing the same as the one before, foraging for food.  This one stopped what he was doing and kept looking at us while we took pictures. After a while he scratched himself and went back to whatever he was doing.

A few more miles up the road and another black bear, this is starting to be routine.  I also see two ladies on bicycles and one of them was pushing the bike up the hill.  Seeing them on bicycles kept me wondering what would they do if a bear showed up and started walking towards them? Luckily the bears are more afraid of us and usually will ran away.

I stop a lot during my rides, usually when I see something interesting and this little pony was sitting all by himself close to the road, I had to stop to take a picture.  My friends continued, I had to speed up to catch up to them, not that speeding up is a problem for me.  Check out the black one stretching his leg.

We finally reach the official welcome to "Yukon, Larger than Life" sign a few miles south of Watson Lake, we take a few pictures, stretch a little and have fun posing in front of the sign.  I can't believe I've already been riding for 9 days, almost 3700 miles, it's Friday and I have to be in Whitehorse by tomorrow, a mere 275 miles to go.

John, Paul and Pete

Last night we had arrived at the campsite without buying any food, big mistake, we were not going to make the same mistake.  We arrive in Watson Lake and stop at the first supermarket we see, time to go shopping for food.  John had promised he would cook for us and he wasn't kidding, he didn't buy already made burgers, he bought ground beef, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese and promised us we were going to have the best burgers ever.  While he was looking for stuff I walked around and couldn't believe how pricey things are up north.

Special K at $6.79? It better be special
We left the supermarket and just up the road stop at the "Sign Post Forest", one of the most famous stops along the Alaska Highway. According to Wiki the forest has over 75000 signs.  The forest was started by a homesick GI in 1942.
More info here:

There are signs from all over the world and I kept wondering how people bring them over, do they ship them? carry them on the plane? and more importantly, do they steal the signs?

 After a while we leave Watson Lake, you can only read so many signs, and continue towards Whitehorse.  I see the sign for Faro, the Tenere group had a ride planned to Faro but unfortunately the rain and floods the Yukon had a few days before had closed the road.

After a few more stops and a little over 2 hours of riding we come upon the Dawson Peaks Resort.  The place looks nice, there's a restaurant inside, not that we will need it for tonight but it's great to get up in the morning and have a good breakfast, they have wi-fi, it's by a lake and the best part, the owner says we can easily fit 4 tents in one site, price? $20 for all of us.  What? $5 a person, this is the cheapest and best place I have camped so far.  They have cabins but they are already taken.

Back of the building
Cabins by the lake
After setting up the tent and help collect firewood so John could cook us dinner I went looking for wi-fi to call my wife.  I was able to Skype which was great, the speed was fast enough to Skype with video.  I go back to the site to grab my camera and these guys had arrived pulling trailers.  In less than 5 minutes they had their tents up.

I walk down to the lake and grab a few pictures, the weather up north was threatening rain and a little later it did get to us.  Towards the south there was still some blue sky.
Teslin Lake spans the border of British Columbia and Yukon, more info here.

Teslin Lake

This lady was throwing a stick into the lake and the dog seemed to be having fun getting it back.

Time to go eat the burger John was making for me, I walk back to the campsite, smoke was streaming from our site, that's a good sign.  Earlier on we had picked up a 24 pack of beer, I had 3 and John had 1, he has a health problem and can't have more than one, that left 20 to be split between Paul and Pete.  You can see the devastation they did to the 24 pack, the crushed cans are on the floor.

I have to compliment John on the burger, it was the best burger I've had so far, cooked to perfection, tasteful and eaten in the best company possible.  Thanks John.

The earlier rain had stopped and the sun was peeking again through the clouds, I take one last walk down to the lake and get the best shots of the day.

Today was a really enjoyable day.  We only rode 286 miles, a leisurely day, we are less than half a day away from Whitehorse, no hurry tomorrow, we should be in Whitehorse around noon.   A ride with good friends, beautiful road and scenery, saw lots of bears and ended up with stunning views of Teslin Lake.  To finish the day we had the best burgers cooked by John.  I can't complain.
I take one last look at our bikes and then retire to my tent, the others were already snoring.

Interactive map:

More to follow....