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Old 09-12-2012, 04:38 PM   #1
selkins OP
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Yukon and Beyond

I think my attraction to the Far North started one hot, Texas summer day more than three decades ago. The memory is pretty faint, but it was a television movie I happened across, a documentary about a handful of guys hiking around in some far, northern location – maybe the Arctic. It seemed dated even at the time, but I was captivated by these guys moving through a wide, open wilderness. And I retain this clear image of the hikers looking down a slope toward a vivid rainbow touching the treeless valley floor. Then the frame cuts to those hikers standing in a circle around the base of the rainbow, seen from the camera filming above. The narrator intones something about how they didn’t find any pot of gold.

Maybe they didn’t, but that image created something just as appealing in my mind. A vision of open spaces, big skies, and awesome landscapes filled with mountains, rivers, wildlife and adventure. Places people can go to. Maybe even some kid from Dallas.

So, I decided to go to the Yukon.

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Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 10-18-2012 at 03:12 PM
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:58 PM   #2
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Wow, I thought I was going to substitute my normal evening dose of porn for some bike pr0n, and all I got was a doctored 1950s postcard. Even thought "wow, with that fancy DSLR, I bet he got some amazing pictures...". Now all I've got is an unused box of kleenex and a couple of cheap beers.

Waiting for the next/first leg report.
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Old 09-12-2012, 07:39 PM   #3
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Old 09-12-2012, 08:44 PM   #4
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Old 09-13-2012, 05:04 AM   #5
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Another one to look at......

Well, I've never jumped into one of these so fast but this has that flavor of the far north and those are the kind that I look for and like. Two of our kids live in Alaska so that's another reason that I keep a look-out for such stuff. Sooooo, into the book-marks it goes!

Gary "Oldone"

Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
Grampa’s National Monument Ride

Oldone screwed with this post 09-28-2012 at 07:39 PM
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:00 AM   #6
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We're all patiently waiting...even your lovely wife's adorable dog...

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Old 09-13-2012, 08:49 AM   #7
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Prelude

In part because of my attraction to the north, shortly after college I left Texas and settled in Minnesota, which at the time seemed “way up there.” I recall the first couple of years, when my mother would call up on cold winter days, “I saw the forecast, the high is supposed to be well below freezing. Are you okay?” And the year my grandmother gifted me a pair of camo-colored mittens for the holidays.

Anyway, Minnesota is a fine place to call home, but the more interesting riding destinations require some hundreds of miles of flatland. So I decided to cut a few days off my trip time by riding out to Seattle over a long weekend a few weeks before the Yukon ride itself. And as good luck would have it, my old friend Darkrider would be able to do this stretch with me.

July 18 - We cut out of Minneapolis with the late afternoon traffic on a Wednesday in July, eventually zipping up I-94. Neither of us is a fan of the super-slab, but it felt good to get decent miles under our belt before the day was out. We made it over the border to North Dakota and spent the night in a Valley City hotel.

July 19 - Thursday morning we ate a breakfast of hotel waffles and quickly routed up to US Hwy 2 across the northern edge of North Dakota. It was a hot day of a hot summer. Hot enough the twice that day I bought gallon jugs of refrigerated water, drank a quart, and poured the remainder over my head.

If you haven’t been there yet, I encourage a visit to Williston, North Dakota. Just don’t plan to stay overnight. Williston sits in the heart of the Bakken Shale. Recent increases in oil prices and advances in hydro-fracturing or “fracking” technology means that quite suddenly, the Bakken is a hot place to be if you’re in the oil drilling business. (Yes, oil. Fracking may be associated with natural gas, but in the Bakken it’s used to access oil. Incidental natural gas is flared off.) One result, the once sleepy ranching town of Williston has become a literal boom-town, surrounded by modular “man camps” and choked with traffic and commerce.

Taking a break in Williston, drinking my refrigerated quart of water, a guy (let’s call him “Don,”) stepped up and greeted us. After some polite chat about motorcycles, I asked if he was in oil. “Nope, I’m from Salt Lake City. I build houses. Moved up here four months ago and it was just me. Now I’ve got fourteen guys working for me. I got lucky and a friend is renting me his house, but all my guys are living in the man camps.”

Don told us for $165 a day you can rent a small, spare bedroom and get three meals a day in the man camps. “You can’t get a room in the Super 8 for less than $250 a night. Funny thing is, the motels are half empty most nights. The big companies rent them all out long-term and just use ‘em as they need ‘em.”

He warned us to be careful riding the first 75 miles out of town. The big trucks own the roads, and those narrow, rural two-lanes are hard-pressed even as the crews work furiously to repair and widen them. Still we made it out fine that afternoon, and got as far as Havre, Montana – far enough from the Bakken to get a reasonably priced room.

Rural central North Dakota



Darkrider, looking all bad-ass



I guess Darkrider would rather make tracks then sample the local wines, err car wash...



Entering Montana




July 20 – With more than 600 miles under our wheels yesterday, we had less than 200 to cover to reach our destination in Glacier National Park, and we covered them quickly.

It’s amazing what getting a bit off the beaten track will do for you. I figured – mid-summer, Friday, there’s no way we’ll get a decent campsite. Sure enough, the big campgrounds with hookups and paved access were well-filled. But, the Cut Bank Campground didn’t have paved access or hookups. What it did have was an incredible meadow and a pleasant, shaded stream where Darkrider and I could drink cold beer and practice casting our fly rods.

In the early evening some showers passed over us. Afterwards I went for a short walk down the meadow. The rain-fresh air, pine trees and wildflowers smelled like heaven.

Public art - Eastern Montana



Darkrider likes Glacier N.P.



Check it, I so nearly pegged him with this cast...



It didn't just smell like heaven that evening



July 21 – After the previous evening I was fully in vacation mind-set. Unfortunately, this was the transit leg and I had three weeks of intense work ahead of me starting Monday morning in San Francisco. So, Darkrider and I packed bags and headed over the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The traffic was manageable and the vistas dramatic. So, we poked along, stopping regularly for pictures, or just to take off a helmet and enjoy a beautiful day.

By mid-afternoon we were in West Glacier, and after a quick lunch we parted ways. For Darkrider there was another 10 days of riding, camping, and meandering ahead. For me, a not-quite-beeline to Seattle along US-2.

Leaving Cut Bank Campground



Some Going-to-the-Sun Road images









NW Montana billboard



Coeur D'Alene River



July 22 – I woke up in a Spokane hotel. I needed to be in Seattle by 4pm to secure my storage locker and get my bike locked up for the next three weeks. Hrm…I-90 or US-2…speed or scenery.

Duh – scenery.

Highway 2 ended up being pretty damned cool, with golden fields, winding canyon roads, rushing rivers and Stevens Pass over the Cascades. I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and smell the roses, but once again I was reminded that it always pays to avoid the super-slab.

The bike and gear safely stowed away, I closed the day at an airport hotel sipping a glass of scotch and re-adjusting my frame of mind. “Get yourself focused, do good work, and in three weeks you’ll be heading north.”

Eastern Washington scene



Stevens Pass vista



Minneapolis to Seattle

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“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 09-15-2012 at 12:37 PM
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:01 AM   #8
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Uggh, now I've GOT to get a DSLR camera...keep 'em coming!
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Old 09-13-2012, 04:28 PM   #9
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I thought so.....

Just as I thought, this is going to turn into a great ride report......Another one that'll stay in my bookmarks for awhile, I can tell. Thanks again......

Gary "Oldone"

Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
Grampa’s National Monument Ride

Oldone screwed with this post 09-22-2012 at 10:54 AM
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Old 09-13-2012, 06:29 PM   #10
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Fast Forward Three Weeks

August 15 – Months of anticipation reach a peak as I assume-my-assigned on a 6am flight from Minneapolis. Everything goes according to plan and by early afternoon west coast time I’m three miles departed from Ride West BMW, where they popped on my Heidenau rear tire and wrapped up my 6,000-mile service. It’s another unseasonably hot day, mid-90s, mere blocks from the freeway to Canada.

Chunka-chunka-cough-sigh.

My engine dies at a red light.

Clicka-clicka-clicka.





Two hours later and I’m again pulling out of Ride West – this time sporting a new battery. When I ask how much I owe, the service manager tells me no charge for the tow and labor, “I figure you’ve given us enough money for one day.”

It’s almost rush-hour, but my mind is floating over the traffic. An hour’s delay at the border (“Sir, are you SURE you aren’t carrying any firearms?”), and then there is no holding me back. I’m on my way north! Yee-haw!

It’s been a long day, but I make it past Vancouver to camp at Porteau Cove Provincial Park off the Sea-to-Sky Highway. I snag the last tent site. Not a lot of room to stretch here, and the neighbors are certainly using their “outside voice” as the evening wears on, but it’s all good. I already feel far away and clear to the horizon all I can see is the journey.

Bringing the Hawtness out of storage



Evening at Porteau Cove beach



Moss Graffiti at Porteau Cove



August 16 – Up in the morning with a camp breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Last night’s noisy neighbors are sleeping in, so it’s peaceful as I pack up and get an early start buzzing up a nice bit of Sea-to-Sky as far as Whistler. I wander around town to find a few bits and pieces I need, and sample the Canadian coffee.

Wow – lots of beautiful people in Whistler. Hard to write in the journal with all the rubber-necking I find myself doing. Something about that combination of scenery and money certainly attracts the attractive.

But I’ve got miles to cover and places to see that are far removed from this. So, back down the Sea-to-Sky where I catch a ferry across to the Sunshine Coast. I meet David as we board, he on his F800ST. He is a Canadian partisan, and for a while we talk politics and such until he finally decides to make the big reveal:

“Yeah, well, I was born in California. So, technically I’m an American.”

Expressions of surprise.

“But,” he quickly adds, “I’ve lived up here since I was a teenager. I’m planning to renounce my U.S. citizenship and make it official.”

Outside of the relative merits of the U.S. and Canada, David and I are of a like mind on politics, so we have a great chat. He goes on to fill my calendar for the next few days with all of the hikes and detours I need to take along the Sunshine Coast, and they sound very appealing. I wish I could take him up on the ideas, but the further north beckons.

Up the coast, mid-afternoon and it’s hot…again. The road joins the shore of Trout Lake with lots of folks swimming. I pull over, swing my leg over my bike and right away Philippe says, “Jump in! The water’s great!”

What the hell. The water is great. Warmer than I expected, but still brisk enough to refresh.

I chat for a bit with Philippe and his friend Joe. They love the bike and do a bit of riding themselves. They’re quick to smile and offer a beer, “No thanks, gotta ride.” Right here, right now, this is the best way I could imagine spending my time – nothing but the moment.

Eventually we say goodbye and I ride on to the next ferry. From there more gradually-cooling coastal road and forested stretches till I arrive in Powell River near the end of the Sunshine Coast Highway. I set the tent up in the town’s tree-canopied, water-side campground and after ambling around town and a tasty dinner settle in for the night.

Beautiful People of Whistler (I cribbed this photo from a website, but seriously, the place is filled with these hyper fit, attractive yoga types - and yeah, this was taken in Whistler)



Ferry Traffic for the Sunshine Coast - it pays to be a motorcyclist and skip the line



David, the proud Americ... err Canadian!



Philippe and Joe at Trout Lake (I took one pic and Philippe was like, "Wait, wait, I've gotta be holding a beer can!")



Ferry landing treat



August 17 – I cross the Strait of Georgia the next morning on the ferry to Comox on Vancouver Island. From there I wander north up the island, over forested hills and through low valleys. In some I bake under the hot sun, while in others I bask in cool breezes, and I can’t tell what makes the difference.

I reach Telegraph Cove in the mid-afternoon. A tiny historic town nestled on the banks of its namesake water feature. I walk into a shop, “Are you here to see the orcas?”

“Um, I don’t know. Where are the orcas?”

“Hurry! There’s a boat taking off now around the other side of the harbor!”

So, I follow orders and move quickly down the boardwalks, but I’m too late and miss the boat. Still, yeah, I do want to see orcas! So, I buy a ticket for the evening cruise and amble around the quaint buildings, indulge in a beer, and relax for a few hours.

The cruise is great. Orcas we see, and a humpback as well, plus a gorgeous sunset. I chat with Sandy and Eric from New York City, and wouldn’t you know it, about three minutes in we discovered that Sandy’s cousin lives about six doors down from me. This leads to laughter and an immediate sense of acquaintance and warmth.

I also chat with the cruise naturalist, Sarah. Recently graduated from university, she’s unsure what she wants to do with her life. “I was doing some aquatic research down in Central America last winter when I got the call and they offered me this job. It’s great! I love talking to so many people and sharing with them, and everyone is so nice. But, do I want to be doing this in three years? I have no idea.” Seems to me she shouldn’t worry too much about the future, the present is treating her just fine.

The only downside to the cruise was the necessity to ride the last forty miles to Port Hardy in the fading twilight. The decision to put PIAAs on the bike a couple of years ago pays off. Cautious speed and a strong arc of light keep me safely away from wildlife and into town well after dark.

As I get a bed for the night at the local hostel, the manager asks where I’m going. “The Inside Passage and then north,” I say.

“Really? How far?”

“The end of the road.”

She laughs. “Funny. That’s where most people think they are when they get here.”

Queen of Burnaby - the ferry to Vancouver Island



Vancouver Island on the horizon



Chainsaw sculpture park in Campbell River



Scenes from Telegraph Cove





Jonah's View



Sandy and Eric



Orca Kid and Mom



Sarah



Sunset on the water



Seattle to Port Hardy

__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 09-15-2012 at 09:33 AM
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Old 09-13-2012, 08:50 PM   #11
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I'll take a DSLR...and Sarah...NOW
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldone View Post
Just as I thought, this is going to turn into a great ride report......Another one that'll stay in my bookmarks for awhile, I can tell.
Thanks again......

Gary "Oldone"
Thanks, Gary, I hope it lives up to your expectations!



Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkRider View Post
I'll take a DSLR...and Sandy...NOW
Knowing your preferences, Darkrider, I suspect you meant Sarah, not Sandy.
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“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:19 AM   #13
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Knowing your preferences, Darkrider, I suspect you meant Sarah, not Sandy.[/QUOTE]


Ah, the joys of posting too late at night...and editing the next morning
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Old 09-15-2012, 10:49 AM   #14
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Port Hardy to Stewart

August 18 – The ferry runs from Port Hardy, near the northeastern extreme of Vancouver Island, to Prince Rupert just south of the southern extreme of the Alaskan panhandle. Most of the year, the ferries are generally overnight, with stops in small towns like Bella Bella along the way. But, May through September the ferries tend to be a straight-through 15-hour sailing, from early morning to late evening.

I was up at 4:15am to be in line by 5:30am. The ferry doesn’t depart till 7:30am, but a 2-hour check-in is required. In front of me are a long line of Harleys, some of the riders with Hells Angels – British Columbia vests. The older guys are gruff and stand-offish, but the younger ones are friendly enough. One tells me, laughing, about how he bought his Harley with its gold-flecked, orange paint job because it was such a match for his similarly colored hair. Another talks to me about my bike for a bit and then nods his head and says “That’s the next bike for me.”

The M/V Northern Expedition is a new boat, put into service in 2009. The previous ferry, M/V Queen of the North, struck a rock and sank in March 2006. It had been lightly loaded – just 101 passengers and crew – but it was the proverbial dark and stormy night, and two passengers died, though their bodies were never found. Interestingly, the ferry sank near the mouth of the same long, winding channel where fully loaded oil tankers would transport crude away from the terminus of the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline at Kitimat, BC.

This entire motorcycle trip is kind of a long slide into the beyond. By the time I had reached Powell River I already felt far away from the crush of people. The long ferry passage was another increment down the slide. More than 200 miles of remote, forested coastline and islands slide by throughout the day, with just an occasional lighthouse, remote hunting resort, or small village along the way. By the time we reached Prince Rupert, the sun had set and I felt far away, indeed.

Early morning ferry lights and mist



Carving our way through the Inside Passage



Humpback sitings along the way





I met Kelly (GISdood) and Brandi on the ferry. They were wrapping up a week-long spin. "Yeah, I go back to work for a week and a half, and then we go on another long ride!" They generously offered me tent space in Prince George, though as things evolved I didn't have the chance to take advantage of it.



August 19 – After an overnight at Pioneer Hostel near the historic center of Prince Rupert, I take a morning walk and grab some coffee and a fresh-out-of-the-oven pastry at Cowpuccino. I really mean it, too. Behind the counter at this funky coffee shop is the small, tidy kitchen where the pastries are baked. The woman told me how she gets up at 5am each day to come down and start baking. “You must love baking,” I said. “I love feeding people,” she replied.

My idea for the day is to head to Hyder, Alaska, an isolated town in the extreme, southeast inland corner of the state. The only way to enter and leave Hyder (assuming you don’t have access to a good boat) is via Stewart, BC – a 40-mile spur off of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

The 140-mile ride from Prince Rupert to the southern end of the Stewart-Cassiar parallels the Skeena River for much of the way. It’s the season for the salmon run, and all along the river are camps of anglers taking advantage of the bounty – tents, folding chairs, campfires. In some places it’s just a few people, in others it’s dozens. Getting to experience the salmon runs is one of many advantages to doing this ride in the late summer.

Kitwanga, just a few miles up the Stewart-Cassiar, is a quiet First Nations village off of the main road, with a remarkable collection of totem poles. A couple of dozen of them, including one that’s purported to be the oldest in existence at well over 120 years. The small museum is locked up, but it’s an easy and worthwhile stroll to take in the totem poles.

The rest of the ride to Hyder is scenic, but uneventful. Once in Hyder, it’s about 20 miles or so on a gravel road, up twists and turns and back in to BC, until you reach the Salmon Glacier. The route moves from thickly forested lowlands up into the alpine zone, with cold waterfalls and patches of snow as you reach the higher bits. The few times I’ve seen glaciers it’s been mostly small ones, or the “toes” of large ones. But the viewpoint for the Salmon gives you a sense of the real mass and immensity of what a glacier can be. Not to be missed. Each spring a glacial lake forms near its base and eventually breaks its ice dam, raising the water level in the river to rise by 4-5 feet for several days. That would be a site to see.

Afterwards, I wander back down to Stewart, a town with a mining history that saw a peak of population to 10,000 prior to World War I. Today it’s at just 400, but along with the tourists that’s apparently enough to support a gourmet food truck, Dash, where I have a dinner before wandering out on the town’s estuary boardwalk for a stroll. You get the sense that Hyder and Stewart are two towns that have fought long against their own extinction. Community improvement projects, some left half completed, are easy to see; and the towns split their promotions between tourists and miners.

That night, I sleep in a former bordello on Stewart's main drag. The floors and stairs are creaky hardwood and it's not hard to imagine the antics that took place here decades ago.

Pioneer Hostel - Prince Rupert, BC



Prince Rupert Mural



Skeena River



A salmon fishing camp on the Skeena



Starting up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway



Totem Poles in Kitwanga



Hyder, Alaska



The Salmon Glacier



Street Scene in Stewart



Evening outside of Stewart



Port Hardy to Stewart

__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 10-15-2012 at 09:51 AM
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Old 09-16-2012, 04:18 PM   #15
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August 20 –Hard up on the same gravel road that leads out of Hyder to the Salmon Glacier is a superlative salmon-spawning stretch of streambed that is also in great bear habitat. The result is that for a few weeks in late July and August, you can get an up-close view of salmon-feeding bears.

So, I got up early today and rode out. It was late in the spawning time, so up and down the stretch of stream you could see the partly decomposed bodies of dead salmon, and others lethargically swimming in pace with the current. It didn’t take long before a black bear mother and her cub came wandering up the stream. Like kids in a candy shop, they’d eye what was on offer, swat a fish up for a bite or two, drop it, and move on to a more attractive specimen. They both sported a healthy layer of fat and seemed eminently content to take their time.

Back in Stewart I settled down at a likely breakfast spot, the Rookery, on the ground floor of the former bordello.

Like other readers who have seen or are in their mid-40s, I’ve come to realize what age does to your metabolism. So, I strive to think about what I eat and make “healthy choices.” The waitress comes up to my table:

“So, what will you have?”

“Well, I’m torn between the salmon and bagel, and the granola with yogurt. What do you think?”

Silence. She frowns.

“Hrm,” I stall, looking higher up on the menu. “Maybe I should have the eggs, toast and potatoes…”

Her face brightens, but still the silence.

“…with sausage?”

She smiles broadly, “That’s what you should have. Give you energy for the day.”

The bread and sausage are both homemade. It’s delicious.

After breakfast, I take off back to and up the Stewart-Cassiar. The road has been fully-paved for a few years now, and winds up and down valleys through thick, coniferous forests that gradually shrink and thin along the course of its 400 miles, passing through two mountain ranges along the way. They’ve cleared right-of-way along a few dozen miles of the road for power line construction, but otherwise the forest closes in close to the road though the sight-lines are good. I’m kind of interested in checking out the abandoned mining town of Cassiar , but I miss the turnoff and keep heading north.

I see four more bears along the roadside coming up the Stewart-Cassiar. The first lets me pull up within 50’ or so and watch him munch on roadside plants for a few minutes. The others scamper off before I can slow down for them.

By late afternoon I pull into Boya Lake Provincial Park, near the Yukon border. I’ve thought of spending the night here, but there is plenty of daylight left and I’ve got an urge to keep going. The lake though, is a standout even among the brightly colored glacial lakes in the north. Boya is a particularly striking shade of green/blue, and notably clear. I find a campsite, get off the bike and relax for a while eating a powerbar lunch. “Stay or go,” I think. After a few pictures and washing my face off in the lake water, I decide to go.

Not long after crossing the border into the Yukon, I intersect the Alaska Highway and turn west. The Alaska Highway, I find, is a two-lane highway graded like an Interstate with expansive, mown right-of-ways that stretch for more than 150’ on each side. Low, forested hills surround with occasional views opening up. The result is less appealing than the Stewart-Cassiar, and I’m happy to find a campsite at Dawson Peaks Resort after a two-hour ride, squinting into the setting sun.

Salmon in prime spawning habitat, aka bear-breakfast



Salmon-feeding black bear and cub







The little guy in all his glory



Near Hyder



Abandoned storefront, Hyder



Stewart-Cassiar Highway





Boya Lake



August 21 – When I rode in the evening before, I wondered whether the resort was closed up for the season already. The motel rooms and cabins were empty, and the main building had the closed sign up more than a half-hour before closing time. But there were a few others in the campground, so I had picked a spot and set up.

This morning I meet Dave at the front desk. At 65-years-old he looks young and spry, but he is winding down a bit early this year, and after more than 20 years of operation this is his last season. He built the resort with his own hands, and runs the place with his wife, Carolyn, through the summer season. They spend their winters in warmer climates, often Thailand. “We live in a house on land adjoining, so we’re going to hold on to the place for a couple of years and take our time selling. We want to find folks that we’re happy to have as neighbors.”

After my camp breakfast of oatmeal and coffee I ride off, following the Alaska Highway for another 60 miles before taking the turnoff for Skagway, Alaska. Now I’m following the path (in reverse) of the Klondike gold rush, where men came streaming up the Chilkoot Pass from Skagway, making their way to Dawson. It’s a beautiful ride, through forests and alpine meadows with glacier carved lakes and rough stone outcroppings. The road passes back into British Columbia and then into Alaska at the top of the steepest section of the pass. Minibuses disgorge cruise ship passengers who then mount bicycles to coast the 15 miles back down to town.

An Alaskan I met in Hyder said I had to take Dyea Road out from Skagway. The road makes an easy nine-mile ride out to the old townsite of Dyea where many of the Klondike gold-seekers geared up before tackling the Chilkoot. It’s peaceful walking around old Dyea, which hardly resembles the rough and ready town in the pictures I see. All that remains are a few, quickly decaying wood facades and foundations and the occasional piece of detritus among the trees.

Skagway is another story entirely. While the outlying town is genuine enough, downtown resembles nothing so much as Mainstreet USA at Disney World. With thousands of cruise ship passengers ambling up and down three or four blocks of curio shops, “saloons,” and jewelry stores. The cruise ships themselves sit hulking and improbable at the edge of town. I’m lucky to arrive just 45 minutes before the daily ferry to Haines departs.

Haines is a sharp contrast to Skagway, oriented more toward a hard-core of local commercial fishermen and an outdoor adventure industry (the local newspaper features a story about heli-skiing permit controversy). Walking around town there’s a combination of young, skinny hiker-types and older, stouter residents. I set up my tent in one of the town’s campsites and while starting up a load of laundry nearby I meet a young couple from Ohio. They’re working summer jobs leading tourists on rock-climbing outings. “My older brother works for the same company leading expeditions in Asia. This is how he started out,” the young woman says. I ask if they’ll make a career of it. “Why not?” she says. “For a while, anyway.”

There’s a chill in the air as I eat dinner on the deck at Fireweed, a hip restaurant with good beer and pizza; a view of Portage Cove below and towering, snow-capped mountains beyond.

Approaching Teslin on the Alaska Highway



UNIMOG!



Another global adventure rig on the road to Skagway



Southern entry to the Canol Road (I'll have to save it for another trip)



Views from the Klondike Highway









Skagway license plate



Downtown Skagway with cruise ship and mountain



Haines



August 22 – I wake up to rain, but manage to pack the tent up under the partial shelter of a thick spruce tree. Today I’m thinking I’ll make a short ride up to Kluane National Park. There’s supposed to be a hike near Kathleen Lake that gives a great view into the heart of the roadless mountain park.

The ride up the Haines Highway reminds me of the Scottish Highlands. Cool rain, snowy mountain tops, and wide treeless valleys, with mist and cloud playing at many levels. Very few other vehicles on the road today and I just sort of bliss out on the scenery, stopping frequently to turn off the bike, take off the helmet and enjoy the silence.

When I reach Kathleen Lake, however, the clouds sit low and it’s clear that the hike would only give me a view of mist. So, I stay on the road, gas up at Haines Junction, and continue on the Alaska Highway. This stretch is more engaging than the last, with the Kluane Range seeming to maintain an almost impenetrable wall to the south and west for more than 100 miles. I wonder, what’s behind that range? The answer, I later learn, is a massive system of mountain glaciers and snowfields extending well into Alaska – thousands of square miles.

I ride on into the day. I can’t even recall the border crossing, but I do pass back into Alaska and eventually make my way to Tok. After 450 miles on the saddle I’m ready to settle in, so I grab a likely motel room, buy a few local beers and cook up a camp dinner before turning in early.

Views from the Haines Highway









Stewart BC to Tok AK

__________________
“How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.” - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 10-05-2012 at 08:22 PM
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