– I saw Doron and Kornelius again as I checked out of the campground. Kornelius was thinking of heading down the Stewart-Cassiar today, while Doron and I were going south on the Alaska Highway.
“Liard Hot Springs!” Exclaimed Doron. “A world rider deserves to relax in a hot springs when he gets a chance. We should meet there tonight.“
It sounded like a good idea, and we agreed that whoever arrived first would peg down any open tent site. But as I rode by some hours later, the campground sign said “full” and I passed by. I had ridden 400 scenically unimpressive miles from Whitehorse at that point, and I wasn’t interested in spending the night in a campground already packed full with RVs.
The scenery picked up very shortly after the park, as the highway wound up into the mountains at the north end of Muncho Lake Provincial Park, and for the next 100 miles I was treated to twisty roads, views, and mountain lakes. It was late in the day as I pulled in to Summit Lake campground in Stone Mountain Provincial Park. This was the place I was looking for – sparsely occupied, a mirrored lake and mountains surrounding. That night I enjoyed a campfire as the near-to-full moon rose over the mountains.
Bison alongside the Alaska Highway
Plenty of shuttered road houses along the way
Some scenery in Muncho Lake Provincial Park
Evening camp at Summit Lake
– The night had a humid chill, and I woke up to a clear sky and a rainfly that was soaking with condensation. It was a bit before dawn, so I climbed out of the tent and took a short hike up a nearby hillside that gave me a panorama of Summit Lake as the sun rose.
Today I had a goal in mind, and its name was Prince George. That meant roughly 600 miles of two-lane highway, which for me constitutes a long day of riding. Still, I lingered on the hillside to both enjoy the tranquility and give my tent some time to dry a bit.
As I’ve mentioned, the Alaska Highway has some good stretches, but overall I found it more of a slog than a pleasure to ride. After thirty or so miles of mountainous twisties, it returned to form. The 200 miles after Fort Nelson were particularly monotonous.
I shouldn’t complain. The Alaska Highway was constructed at a blinding pace, all 1,700 miles in the course of just eight months, seventy years ago. The stories about its construction by seven military engineer regiments are many and remarkable, but better told by a history buff. In any event, with speed of the essence in its construction, I can’t very well blame them for an emphasis on straight lines.
North of Saint John I peeled off to follow a more scenic route down BC-29, and then turned on to the John Hart Highway in late afternoon. By that point, it already felt like a long day in the saddle, and I had close to 200 miles yet to go. I had eaten two packs of instant oatmeal in the morning and a power bar in the early afternoon, but the imperative of one…more…mile had a hold on my mind. Time started to slow and the miles barely crept by. After a time the road started winding up to a mountain pass and the temperature dropped. I started shivering and I could feel my torso clenching up. My focus drifted and the curves seemed suddenly unpredictable and edgy.
I’m happy to say that I finally grasped the situation and pulled over. I downed another power bar, drank a liter of water, added another layer of clothing, and when I got back on the bike it was as though I was a different person.
About 30 miles out of Prince George I stopped to fill up the tank. A minivan with California plates pulls up as well, and the driver gets out and comes over to me. "How far have you come today?" "Where have you been?" "How far do you usually ride each day?" More questions. I'm tired. I'm covered in road grime and bug guts. I answer his questions one by one. Finally, he looks me up and down and with sincerity in his voice and face says, "Wow, you're a real man." I have no idea how to respond, so I mutter a low "thanks," and ride off.
Two weeks prior, on the ferry to Prince Rupert, Kelly and Brandi had offered me tent space at their home in town, but by the time I rolled in I was spent. With as much efficiency as I could muster I bought a six-pack, checked into a hotel, ordered a pizza delivery, and after gorging myself and downing a few preventative antacid pills, fell asleep.
Moonset over Summit Lake
Approaching Prince George
Time to recoup after two days of hard riding
Whitehorse to Prince George