Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Yukon Wilderness & The Longest Bridge of My Life

A Caribbean-colored lake along the Stewart-Cassiar

The brightly shining sun that greeted us as we resumed our ride on the Stewart-Cassiar brightened our spirits and also helped to make the massive pot holes that dot the Cassiar more visible. We were especially grateful for this in sections where it seemed that some potholes had just gone and claimed the entire lane. (And warning to riders behind us: those spots are not necessarily marked, so ride cautiously.)

At a gas stop in Dease Lake, we met a Swiss couple on a trip from Argentina to Alaska who happen to know Roel’s friend Chris and his girlfriend, Jolanda. Jolanda and Chris met 3 years ago as a result of Roel dragging Chris to the hostel I was staying at when we first met one another, and now Jolanda and Chris are planning their next trip abroad together from their home base in Switzerland. The minimal degrees of separation in this community never cease to amaze me.

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake was our next stop and was worth the the little detour we took to check it out. In 1942 a Private in the Army of Engineers who was injured while working on the ALCAN (Alaska-Canada) Highway near Watson Lake, became homesick while recuperating from his injury and posted a sign from his hometown of Danville, Illinois. Since then, more than 72,000 signs from all over the world have been posted in Watson Lake and it is indeed quite a sight to see. 

Signpost Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

However nice a town Watson once was, we found the inhabitants to be unfriendly and unhelpful and continued on in the direction of Whitehorse. (And a note to those coming up the Alaska Highway, or Stewart-Cassiar, for that matter, behind us… don’t count on there being vacant accommodation in Watson Lake and don’t count on getting any help to find a room once you get there… Not an issue for us, since we camp all of the time, but we felt bad for the brother-in-laws on Harley’s who looked like they needed to stop for the day.)

After finding a riverside camp spot, and getting a good nights rest, I geared myself up for crossing the 584 meter long, steel grate Nisutlin Bridge. I'd been warned back in Canmore that depending on the profile of your tires, your bike could "jump around" a fair bit while crossing the bridge (the more knobby the tread, the worse). For any "new rider" who has not yet learned to accept that their bike will "find it's way" if left to it's own devices, the term "jump around" and "motorcycle" in the same sentence is disconcerting. Fortunately, my tire profile was street-enough that my ride across the Nisutlin was made without too much wayward motion, but now Roel is fairly convinced that if we are ever to have children, I won't need him to remind me to breath as all he heard for half a kilometer was a consistent wooshing of breath
from my microphone and an occasional hissed "shut up" whenever he would try to distract me from my mission ("Calm down - look how beautiful the river is!). All I heard was my mantra over-and-over in my head: "Loose arms. Your bike doesn't want to go swimming." 

Nisutlin Bay Bridge. Half-a-kilometer of heavy breathing.
No kidding!!
I caught my breath while munching on a PB&J in Teslin and a little while later we made it to Whitehorse where we took advantage of once again being in a town where fresh produce was “affordable” and we could stock up on more oil for my bike.

There is a nice hot spring just out of town which also has camping.
There is also plenty of forested area around there that you can navigate with two wheels and find some pretty magical spots to set up your tent for free. Guess what we did? :)

Camping "off the beaten path" near Whitehorse, Yukon


A beautiful stretch of Fireweed lined highway between Whitehorse and Carmacks
And on to Carmacks, Yukon, where we were hosted by Jon and Jenna, who had loads of travel stories to share and whose relationship was also solidified while riding 2-up. Carmacks is made up of 503 locals and at this time, several hundred migrant mushroom pickers. We’d seen several extremely filthy people walking around Whitehorse, but didn’t have a clue as per why. Well, morel mushrooms pop up about a year after a forest fire blazes through an area, and since they command such a high price on the market they are highly sought-after. And though you couldn't tell by their filthy clothes and faces, these pickers we had come across were loaded after a stint in the woods... with cash.

For two riders who have just spent 4 days riding through the Yukon wilderness in the rain, and have dreamed about taking the scenic (but costly) ferry for part of the return trip to BC… this mushroom picking thing seemed interesting…

While we contemplated it, we swapped out my old rear brakes with the new set that Russ had sent along with me when I bought my bike 20,000 miles ago... thanks Russ :)

No comments:

Post a Comment