Day 4 7/10/12 2516 miles on the odometer. How far can i make it today?
The sun comes up rather early in the north. I wanted to sleep some more, but just wasnt going to happen. The campsite was right next to the highway, making it hard to sleep with the traffic there anyway. Got up around 6:30 and packed up my stuff. The tent site next to me was occupied younger couple on a beamer i believe. Talked with them briefly before departing north on the Alaskan highway(97). Heard quite a few stories about this road, so i was anxious to see what all it entailed! Stopped at Wonowon, BC for fuel for a few minutes and hit the road again. Stopped again in Ft Nelson for fuel. Seemed like the prices were climbing higher in price the further north i went. Gas was around $1.30/ltr in Cranbrook and about $1.45/ltr in Ft Nelson. There wasnt too much going on there, only stopped 20 minutes.
Drove onwards down the Alcan for about half an hour until I reached the turnoff for highway 77 and rode north. The wind really started to pick up from the west. Side winds aren't what I like to see on the bike. The weather has been great otherwise. Just blue skies and sunshine. So 77 wound through the trees and hills with very minimal traffic. Mostly semi trucks going to logging sites or drill areas. There must have been oil or gas in this part of the region. Every so often I would see a logging trail going off into the trees. It was rather tempting to take a few minutes and go blast down one of them, but I had bigger plans in mind. The pavement stopped at the Northewest Territories border. Just gravel after that. Which made for some tricky riding. No more 65mph like I was doing on pavement. Had to slow down to 30 mph on some of the corners. Average speed though was closer to 45mph. From looking at the map for Ft Liard it looked like it was right on the highway. However, upon arriving at what I thought was the designated location of the town I discovered a mere 2 houses and what appeared to be ahighway maintenance shop of sorts. Hardly what I would call a town. And of course that's about where the sign for Ft Liard was. Driving a little further I found a turnoff heading west. I couldn't see what was around there because of the vast number of trees. My handy milepost had a page about the town. And it looked like more than what I was seeing. Turns out the town was about 2 miles off highway 7. Even had a big welcome sign.
Ft Liard is a neat little town. The Liard and Petiot rivers merge right west of town. I stopped at the Northern grocery store first. Briefly considered buying a jug of milk, but at $11/gallon I just couldn't justify it. A can of pop was in the budget though($1.80). Most of the food items there were at least double of what I'm used to paying for in MT. After my big pop purchase I moseyed on outside where a mountie had just drove up. She asked if I was a tourist, and I told her I was indeed. First trip ever to NT. We talked briefly about the town. Hadnt eaten much that day, so i asked her if there were any places to eat in town. There was a cafe listed in my milepost, but she informed me that it had was no longer open, however there was a guy that sold burgers out of a trailer up town a few blocks away. I then drove to the end of town to see what was there. There was a nice little campground by the river i would have stayed at, but 3pm is just too early to stop riding. Took a few pics, then proceeded to go track down the burger trailer. This guy just had a cook trailer set up in his yard. I ordered a burger and fries and chatted with him while he prepared the food. Talked about the town, which is known as 'the tropics of the north', due to its unusually warm weather. The temperature was at least 80 degrees that day. The record is 94, which i found rather surprising, considering the arctic circle is another 4 or 5 hundred miles north. He recommended that i swing by the hot springs by Watson Lake on my way down the Alcan, which sounded good to me. Said it was 5 or 6 hours away, which i could easily make by dark. After finishing my burger(it was big and tasty), i gassed up at the only place in town, only about $1.50/ltr.
The ride back down to the Alcan was still really windy for most of the way. It must have just been the area though. There wasnt hardly more than a breeze when i jumped back on 97 and headed west. The Alcan highway had been fairly decent so far, a few short gravel patches here and there, nothing too serious. About 8pm i had to stop for construction. Thanksfully there were other bikers there to converse with. 4 guys from Tennessee were there on the Goldwings. Two of the bikes had over 118,000 miles on them. Doubt my klr will last that long, but you never know. They also had car tires on the back, which i had seen before on trikes, but never a bike. One of them said the car tires would last 30,000 miles. Dang! I only get 7-12 out of most of my tires. Wish i could get that many miles out of mine. 15 minutes later the pilot car showed up, so the slow, dusty 25mph work zone journey began. Normally i like to ride with my visor up, but couldnt do so here due to all the dust rolling off the road. Thankfully it was only about 10 miles long. The goldwing group was ahead of me, they stopped at a turnoff a few more miles down the road. I procedded to drive a little farther until i reached the small town of Toad River, where i stopped for gas. They only had 87 octane(i prefer 91) and it was $1.60/ltr, or with the current exchange rate $6.02/gallon. Good thing im getting upper 40s mpg. I got there just before they closed, 9pm. Had to buy snack food, their grill had shut down unforetunately. The Tennessee Goldwing boys pulled in when i was there. They rented cabins right next to the gas station and even offered to let me camp on the floor, but the call of the road was too strong. I said goodbye to them and hit the road hard.
Between Toad River and the Yukon border i saw 13 black bears in the trees, roaming the ditches, running across the road. Had to stop for a couple of them, they were running across right in front of me. I tried to get a decent pics, but they ran away when i stopped and the light was getting rather dim. In the 6 years i have lived in montana i have seen a whopping 0 bears, so this was a real treat. Got to Liard Hot Springs about 10:45, they seemed to be closed, so i kept riding. Supposedly the hot springs 'by' Watson lake were the ones to stop at. It didnt really bother me that these ones were closed. Pressing onwards, i rode into Yukon about midnight. Stopped for a few minutes to take pics in front of the sign. Memories of reading Yukon Ho entered my mind, i've always been a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. Best comic ever hands down. The temperatures were dropping off, more clothes were needed at this time. I continued riding until i got to Watson Lake. The signpost forest is a must see for anyone passing through this town. All sorts of signs, license plates, and whatever else people can find to nail on the many posts there to create an odd conglomeration of artifacts. I couldnt figure out if there were any free campgrounds in town. There were 2 listed in my book i believe, but they appeared to be pay ones, which i wasnt going to do. Diddnt want to wake the whole town up at 2am, so i just walked off into the trees at this abandoned rv park by the weight scale on the east edge of town. Finally laid down around 2:30 in the morning.
The campground at Dawson Creek.
Way up North.
Good Ol' Ft Liard (pronounced lee-ard)
The road about a mile before the actual town.
The Petiot River looking from the campground at the southwest corner of Ft Liard
The Liard river
The Fort Nelson River bridge on highway 77 just south of Northwest Territories
In black and white
Coming off the south end of the bridge
Somewhere in BC
The after midnight sky.
838 miles today.