Northern BC, the Yukon and then Alaska!

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June 12th 2012
Published: June 12th 2012
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Saturday 2/06/12 – This morning we packed up the tent and headed for Smithers. Nothing much else happened along the way. We camped at the Riverside Municipal Campsite, which backed onto a mighty river that no amount of swimming ability would have helped you if you fell in. We made our dinner and then headed into town to get a dessert from Dairy Queen as a treat.

Sunday 3/06/12 – We started the Cassier Hwy today, which is apparently the more interesting highway north to the Yukon compared to the Alaska Hwy. It started in Kitwanga and twisted through more snow-capped mountains and trees. It was very pretty. We also saw about five different black bears on the side of the road in various positions from crossing the road to munching on grass as we went by. One bear looked a little angry, so we crossed onto the opposite side of the road to avoid him, but he was still only about 3-4 meters from us! We turned off the Cassier Hwy to go to Stewart which had several glaciers to look at. We stopped at Bear Glacier to have a look and aimed to go to Salmon Glacier, but when we stopped in at the tourist centre, the lady said there had been a rock slide which you couldn’t pass at the moment. We will try again tomorrow to see if the road is open. Stewart was quite a small town and the only ‘RV park’ in the town didn’t allow tents due to the number of bears around! We crossed into the town of Hyder, which is actually in Alaska USA (not Canada, where Stewart is). There were no passport checks or anything, and the man at the general store takes Canadian and US dollars. Strange. It was a bit of a ghost town, not much happening, we assume it was an old mining village that is now very decrepit with all the houses very run down and shops that have shut. We found a campsite out the back of a pub, which had a total of 2 customers when we went in to pay. Apparently Hyder is world famous as a “Bikers Mecca”, but we didn’t see any other bikers or pretty much anybody else.

Monday 4/06/12 – This morning, we started up the mining road that goes to Salmon Glacier. After about 30km of pretty bad gravel road, there was a guy in the middle of the road saying that only mining employees were allowed through due to the risk of avalanche. It would have been nice if they had a sign at the start of the road! We did see a nice frozen lake along the way though.

We continued to Dease Lake and ended up riding about 460km, our biggest day so far. We saw lots of black bears including a mother with two cubs. At the campsite in Dease Lake, we met a guy from Burnie in Tassie also touring on a motorcycle, but going from Alaska to Washington state. He was touring with his uncle who lives in Anchorage (G’Day Chuck and Scott!)

Tuesday 5/06/12 – We woke up knowing we had an even bigger day of riding today – 640km to Whitehorse. And it rained for about 600km of that. We were truly miserable, our boots and socks were completely wet through; even a sock change mid-trip only lasted for about an hour. Our gloves also soaked through, resulting in wet hands for most of the trip. We also encountered a long grooved metal bridge in Teslin where the wheels got stuck, you had to just let the motorbike go where it wanted to, it was pretty scary. We only stopped for petrol and kept riding to make it to Whitehorse. We eventually made it at 6pm, but there are about 18 hours of daylight at this latitude, so it didn’t get dark until about 10pm. We picked the campground in town that had showers and a laundry, which unfortunately mainly catered for RVs, so our tentsite had gravel the size of boulders! But the long hot shower made up for it and made us feel normal again.

Wednesday 6/06/12 – While in Whitehorse, we knew we had to get our tyres changed , because our back tyres were pretty bald and Alaska is notoriously hard on tyres. We went to Yukon Yamaha first, as they were apparently the only ones in town who could change the tyres. But they didn’t have any tyres to fit the KLRs. Thankfully though, the guy could squeeze a tyre change in the afternoon, so all we had to do was find tyres. We went to the Kawasaki shop (who sold tyres but didn’t fit them ???) and managed to get two sets of tyres, which Yukon Yamaha then fitted for us. We took off into town and after about 3km, my bike started making funny honking noises. We took it back to the mechanic and it turned out the brake pads were slightly off. The mechanic also found the left pannier was pushing on the chain guard and chain causing a noise, which probably happened when I fell off and shifted the pannier frame. He put in an extra spacer to try and move the pannier away from the chain, which seemed to help. We booked another two nights in Whitehorse before we go over the Top of the World Hwy to Alaska. (G’Day Suitcase Daddy!)

Thursday 7/06/12 – Today it was overcast and rained pretty much all of the day, so we mostly stayed in the tent. We had several offers of help from the RVers in the park. One creepy guy invited us to the transport museum, but we politely declined. Adam asked a different man in the RV next to our tent if he had travelled much. He replied that he had been travelling for 40 years. When Adam asked him where he had been, he proudly said that once he got to Alaska, he would have travelled to all the States except Hawaii. Adam then asked where he had been outside North America and he said Canada. Strange that some Americans think that the USA covers 80% of the world’s surface….That night, we went to the Sanchez Cantina mexican restaurant, which was run by a Mexican lady. It was proper Mexican food and very yummy. (G’Day Wes and Nancy!)

Friday 8/06/12 – This morning, we went to the Muktuk kennels, where 75 sled dogs live. They are mostly Alaskan huskies but some had kelpie, retriever etc mixed in. A man named Frank Turner runs the kennels and he competed in the Yukon Quest 24 times, which is a 1600km dog sled race that goes from Fairbanks to Whitehorse in February each year and takes around 10 days to complete. His last race was in 2005, but he still has many dogs at the kennel that raced with him, including a few still alive from his winning year of 1998! During the winter, the dogs pull sleds for tourists and go on overnight camping trips, with some still racing with other crews. During the summer, they get too hot pulling the sleds, so we got to take 5 of them for a walk down to the river instead. We also got to cuddle four 6-week old puppies! These puppies were not planned, with mum Sweetie and dad Snickers being caught in the act whilst out on the trail one day. But Frank keeps all the dogs at the kennel, he never sells any, but some do get adopted out as pets if they don’t show much interest in pulling the sleds. Each litter has a ‘theme’, so because of their parents’ names, these puppies will all be named after candy. It was a very fun and informative morning, except the horrible clay driveway that felt like it went forever!

After the kennels, we went to the Takhini hot springs. It was basically a pool with very warm water that overlooked mountains in the background. The water didn’t have any sulphur, so it didn’t smell like some hot springs do. There was also a family of marmots living under the pool walkway, popping their heads out for photo ops every few minutes.

When we got back to Whitehorse, we went to the hardware store and rigged up a contraption to carry 5L of spare fuel for when we tackle the Dalton Hwy up to the Arctic Ocean. We also read on the office door of the campground that the rain had been so bad on the 6th and 7th that it had caused a landslide and the Alaska Hwy between Watson Lake and Whitehorse was closed! So all road travel into Alaska had to be suspended until the slide was cleared; very lucky we got through on the day we did, even if we did have to endure all that miserable rain.

Saturday 9/06/12 – Today was finally a nice day and we rode to Dawson City, about 540km from Whitehorse. Dawson City was a pretty cool town. It was settled during the Klondike Gold Rush and to keep the town alive, they have completely stuck with the ‘Wild West’ theme. And it was stinking hot! We got there around 5pm and I’m sure it was still 25 degrees C. We had dinner at Sourdough Joe’s, where Adam expected his chilli burger to come out spicy, but it was actually drowning in ‘American chilli’, the chilli mince sauce you see on TV. But it tasted good! The poor restaurant, and probably the whole town, was low on produce because of the highway closure, but thankfully, our choices were still on the menu. We went to Diamond Gertie’s gambling hall and watched the show, consisting of singing and dancing girls, which was quite entertaining. Then we went to the Downtown Hotel, famous for its ‘Sourtoe cocktail’. Legend has it that a prospector got gangrene on his big toe and he cut it off, pickling it in rum. The toe is now completely mummified and for $5, you can have a shot of whisky with the pickled, severed human toe in it. The toe has to touch your lips to get your certificate, but you can’t bite it or put it in your mouth. Needless to say, Adam felt the strange compulsion to complete this challenge and he said the nail of the toe hit his lip. Yuck!

We camped in a small place downtown, which unfortunately catered mainly for RVs, so again it was rocks the size of boulders. There was a tiny strip of grass between two of the sites, so we managed to fit the tent there, rather than sleep on the rocks. At 10.30pm, it was still very sunny and way too hot to sleep, so we both had a poor night’s sleep.

Sunday 10/06/12 – This morning we left Dawson City to head into Alaska! Firstly, we had to catch a ferry across the Yukon River. It was a little scary seeing the ferry crossing the river, as the river was flowing very fast and the poor little ferry looked like it was being swept away. We also had to ride up a dirt platform to get onto the ferry, which is always a bit challenging on the bike as your rear wheel feels like it always wants to go the other way. We crossed successfully and started the Top of the World Hwy, which goes across the top of a mountain range, instead of through the mountains. It was very pretty. Unfortunately, the road was terrible. It was mostly gravel, dirt or bitumen with potholes that could’ve swallowed one of our wheels! We got to the US border post of Poker Creek (population = 2) just before lunchtime and the US customs guy really needed to have more human contact. He was very strange and was asking us about all the deadly creatures we have in Australia with much excitement, like ‘have you seen a spider eat a bird?’ and ‘I heard you have worms that come out of the sand and suck on you’. We thought he needed to get out more. After a few more hours of crap road, we came to a tiny town called Chicken, whose favourite catchphrase seemed to be ‘I got laid in Chicken, Alaska’ with a picture of a chicken hatching out of an egg. They had t-shirts, stickers, everything. We bought a drink and ate our lunch outside on their picnic table, watching a man with a chicken mask showing tourists how to pan for gold. Welcome to America!

As we were finishing our ride (the 300km had taken us all day because of the 150km of crap road) , we re-entered the Alaska Hwy and saw the beautiful Alaska mountain range in the distance. That night we stayed in a campground in Tok, which had a lovely bed of sawdust for our tent. Much better than the RV gravel of the previous few nights, it felt like cloud nine! Unfortunately though, we had entered the mozzie territory and it was impossible to sit outside without being bitten. Also, due to poor design and Adam being a boofhead, we broke the laptop charger that runs off the bike, so now we can only charge the laptop with the wall charger.

Monday 11/06/12 – Today we rode from Tok to Fairbanks, which was on a pretty much dead straight highway. We stopped at the halfway point, which was Delta Junction where the Alaska Hwy becomes the Richardson Hwy. We were looking for the signposted recreation site advertised on the highway, but we must have taken the wrong turn and ended up outside a creepy abandoned house. We also passed through a town called North Pole, where everything had a Santa Claus theme. We stayed at Tanana Valley campground, which again was a mozzie haven. We went to the local Walmart to get some supplies for going into the Arctic Circle and it was huge!! We went to Wendys for dinner, Adam used to go there about 20 years ago when he was in the Phillippines!

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27th June 2012

Dease Lake
How wonderful seeing your blog, Getting back to work in Burnie, the story of the 2 young adventurers from Hobart I met in the most remote part of BC has been my favorite one to tell! You 2 do Tassie proud! I hope you have healed up from the waterlogged hands! Was happy to see you got to Chucks house. That Arvo at Dease lake was the nicest weather of the trip. Drive fast, talk soon Scott

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