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Published: June 11th 2009
We left Whitehorse at about 8:30 on the 10th of June heading north on the Klondike highway. We've left the Alaska highway behind for a while but will link up with it again in a few days. First stop was 80 km north of Whitehorse at a little outpost called Braeburn Lodge. They are apparently famous for their giant cinnamon buns which allegedly feed a family of 4. I ate half of one. On the way there we had passed a Holland-America tour bus. Good thing too, they pulled in to the Braeburn Lodge a few minutes after we did and 40 or so Texans came into the lodge for their very own cinammon bun.
We carried on for another 100 km or so and stopped for fuel in Carmacks where I met a fellow from France who was pumping fuel into a little red bottle that belongs to a camping stove. He and his friend flew from Toulouse to Vancouver, cycled up to Whitehorse, and are canoeing to Dawson City, where they shipped their bicycles to. They will then cycle up the Dempster highway (which is gravel) to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Wow.
Despite how far north we are,
the road continues to be remarkably good. No wildlife sightings all day though.
On particularity of the north that may be an issue is the 21 hours of sunlight. This makes it hard to decide to go to bed and makes it hard to sleep when the sun rises at 3:30 in the morning. I brought one of those sleeping masks along and it seems to be helping. Pat R on the other hand, is starting to look a little weary from his 4 hour nights.
I also met a retired Swiss couple on a BMW 1200 GS motorcycle with California plates. They bought the bike in California when they came over for their trip and will sell it upon completing their journey. They ended up behind us for most of the trip to Dawson City. I told them about the Hostel we were staying at and they also rented a cabin here.
Let me back up though, although Dawson City is a bit of a tourist trap, it still is like entering a time warp of sorts. Everything here is turn of the century (20th, not 21st). People have gone through great lengths to keep a
lot of the old hotels looking like they belong in the gold rush period. The streets are dirt with wooden sidewalks. There aren't too many gawdy souvenir shops. The town is built on the banks of the Yukon river, which has quite a current flowing north. To get to the hostel - and to the Top of the World Highway, there is a ferry that takes about 5 minutes to make its way across the river. It runs 24/7 and is free. They fit about 8 cars per trip.
We crossed the river immediately upon arriving and got settled at the hostel. Dieter, the owner, lives pretty much off the grid, no power, no phone. He has solar on his house for the essentials and heats with wood in winter. The hostel is made up of a series of cabins and one dorm style building. There are no showers, but you can heat a large bassin of water with a wood stove and have a sort of sponge bath if you like. It's a pretty original place and is very quiet right now. Dieter said the whole area is slow and he places the blame on the sluggish economy.
We had a nice meal at Klondike Kate's eatery and walked around the town for a bit.
We only have about 150 km to cover tomorrow to get to Chicken, Alaska. I get conflicting stories on the condition of the Top of the World highway, but tour buses make it so I'm sure we can too.
The part I've looked forward to the most has been the Top of the World Highway that connects Dawson City, Yukon Territory to Chicken, Alaska. It did not dissapoint.
The Canadian side of the highway is in excellent shape: a few paved portions but mostly gravel. The views are breathtaking and somewhat scary to someone with vertigo! But I kept my breathing under control and actually enjoyed it immensely. The lack of guardrails and the fact that a lot of the road is above the treeline made for an unobstructed view that you couldn't imagine existed without seeing it for yourself. The only wildlife encountered was an arctic fox watching us from the side of the road, seemingly unimpressed by our grandiose adventure.
From the highway we could see rivers meandering for miles and miles, a
distinct treeline and small creeks flowing through the rockbed. It was a bit cooler up at 1200 meters but still very pleasant. Photo opportunities abound and I had to fight the urge to stop every other kilometre to snap one. Pat kept a distance of about 1/2 a km behind me to avoid the dust I was kicking up.
The border could not have been a more isolated outpost. It is the northern most border crossing between Canada and the United States. In speaking to the US Customs officer, I found out that they are rotated through there for 2 months at a time. Once our wheels hit American soil, the road turned rough. Larger gravel and washboard were regular occurences. We had been averaging 80 km/h on the other side, we were down to 55 or 60 km/h now. Luckily, there was only about 60 km left before Chicken.
There was hardly any traffic in either direction, and we found out that the Alaska Highway at Liard River was closed because of the forest fires. We made it through there just in time.
We found our camp at Chicken and settled in to our cabin. No
phones in Chicken but they do have Wi-Fi!
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