In the morning I took a peaceful ride from Lillooet, down on the Fraser River, up to the Alpine and glacier terrain outside Mount Currie. The towering mountains standing nearly 10'000ft around me seemed limitless in recreation. Many BC recreation sites dotted Hwy 99's many twists and river valleys.
By midday, I had reached Pemberton after descending 3000 ft in 8 miles on one of the steepest descents encountered on my travels. Over 7 truck runaway ramps gave me an idea of how serious this could be in snow or ice. Pemberton was warm in the 80's in the sunshine so I had coffee and soaked in the warmth while updating the ol blog.
Continuing down Hwy 99 toward Squamish, I noticed an uptick in traffic and volume until arriving in the large town of Squamish nestled at the end of a long bay. Blue Green glaciers towered over town on the steep peaks and each direction looked like a painting. I found a campsite on Maqmam Forest Road overlooking town for the sunset then scooted down to Raffuse Creek to camp beneath the mossy Cedars.
In the morning, I set out for some hiking then made my way down Hwy 99 pulling over frequently to let the high speed traffic past. This is my last forray into highway driving for a while since this is the only N/S route for 75 miles until Vancouver. After an afternoon of hiking in Lighthouse Park, I drive down into West Vancouver, one of the most pricey new communities in North America. More exotic cars and high rise apartments than LA! Taking my time before meeting my relative Brad, I go for a hike in Lynn Valley and bounce my way across the suspension bridge to the 30 foot pool. Gorgeous city park.
I have had 3 of 8 flats within the first 1000mi of the last 3 tires. This one took 10 minutes to fix and get back on the road. Near Lillooet in Fountain.
With a fresh rear tire, I set off from Prince George in a thick fog from their pulp mill. Down the highway, the fog gave way to smoke from the forest fires to the south. It grew worse through the day until I reached my BC Provincial Rec Site for the night. The otherwise picturesque lake had an air of apocalyptic dread hanging overhead. This too shall pass.
The following day revealed worse smoke and I finally made it on back forest roads from Dunster to Valemount. Down on Kinbasket lake, the glacier views were totally obscured. I did run into my buddy Matt though who finally is free and travelling with his 4x4 Tacoma and CT110 postie.
The next day brought rain and an immediate clearing of the smoke. We shifted camp down the road to Mystery Lake, perched over 3300 ft in an inland rainforest. The fogs and quick changing weather lent credibility to it's namesake.
The final night hanging out with Matt was down on Goose Lake off Hwy 24. We ate well and were accompanied by a vacationing couple from the Netherlands who parked less than 20 feet from Matt's truck. Fortunately they were pleasant and gave us something to keep busy through the evening, though I feel we were both humoring them more than we let on. The sunset over the pond was vibrant and rich in account of fires on horse lake. The loon called over the pond as the sun faded in the west and I was glad to have another friend out on the road.
It was a relief to finally remove the buggered rear tire in Prince George. Below you csn see the egg shaped bulge on the tread. Ordinarily there would be another 1000 mi out of this tire but not in this condition.
A big thanks to Northern Powersports in Prince George for helping me seat the bead on the new rubber. It took their shop a good 30 minutes of ratchet straps and grease but she finally set. Afterward, I took time to rewire the 12v plug to a switch and remove my second failed USB plug. I'm hopeful that by cleaning up my battery terminals and removing the parasitic drains should help my battery stay charged.
With a clean load of laundry and a full belly, I'm quite refreshed after my visit with friends Joan and Dave. The conveniences of water from the tap and electrical plugs is a real treat after being on the road. Heading toward Mt. Robson then down toward Kamloops to avoid forest fires and meet up with Matt this weekend. The weather has been warm and dry so the inch or more of rain on tap this weekend will be a welcome change and perhaps quell the fires.
Once I fueled up in Beaver Creek after they let me back into Canada, I began putting back miles and rising 250-300 miles each day. I only briefly stopped to resupply and say hello to Bastian in Whitehorse before continuing on. There was a monster headwind for three days but the rain was holding off and I was enjoying the ride. Most pictures were with my point and shoot so will likely never see the light of day. Only sorta kidding there. As is typical, I noticed the same fellow travellers on the Alcan and Cassiar continuing on the same route and covering similar miles each day. Turning onto the Cassiar took me away from the row of RVs on a guided tour together which kept passing or stopping on the roadside. Having 6 of these beasts pass you on a narrow shoulder with a headwind is less than desirable. Happy touring elsewhere.
I was nearly finished with the Cassiar when a not-so-routine tire inspection uncovered a dimple in my rear tire the size of a dime. More proding revealed a 2" area elsewhere that was soft to the touch as if no metal bands were behind. Not good. Once I had service in Kitwanga, I called the shops in the area but nobody had scooter tires. Fortunately the shop in Prince George had my size in stock so I bought it. 350 miles to go on a bumpy and stressed tire. When I told Dad I would be taking it slower, he thought I was pulling his arm. At 30 mph max for the entire ride to Prince George, I earned 130 mpg and zero flats. The tire would heat up considerably but never went out. My guess is a big sharp rock and lower tire pressures combined to push into the tire enough to break the inner bands holding the tire together. The outer rubber tread wasn't compromised but there wasn't an inner strength beneath. My hunch, tomorrow we'll see when I spoon it off. Right now it looks like a goose egg is poking out of my center tread. Yeah, try riding on that for hundreds of miles! Oh the joy in Adventure.
It felt like a welcome home when I returned to Bob and Sharon Peek's in Wasilla, AK. They showed me to their gusthouse, known as Uncle Johnnie's, and we shared stories over the kitchen table and coffee. My visit coincided with the AK State Fair which we visited for $2/ea +canned goods on opening day. The claim to fame is the Matanuska region's collassal vegetables which benefit from fertile soil, abundant moisture and the extremely long days of summer in the north. The lumberjack show was enjoyable and if I'm ever back through Bar Harbor, I'll look them up and say hello. Although only a short visit, it was a joy sharing time with the Peeks and I look forward to the next visit.
After my peaceful visit in Wasilla, I used the break in August's rainy weather to scoot up the Glen Hwy. Along the roadside, the Matanuska River slowly erodes the bank and the fondation for this home.
The Matanuska Glacier still stretches up into the impenetrable mountains. The headwind was strong but fortunately turned directions when I crossed the mountain divide. The feeling of leaving the coast behind and setting off toward the south was comforting. Although I could feel the possibilities of future bike troubles or poor weather on tap, today I put it out of mind and rode with the afternoon sun.
Two days of pouring rain found me holed up one night in an American Legion picnic shelter, the next along the shore of Deadman Lake at the Tetlin NWR. This small lake offers 10 free campsites and now has three canoes for use of guests. All this free!
I felt at peace again paddling an Old Towne Pack canoe around the calm lake the following day. Sun came out and I lounged around camp making coffee, canoeing and helping the camp host paint the outhouse. It was a great way to spend an hour or two of my afternoon and really sped up her task. I've now done more painting (interior and exterior) in Alaska than anywhere else! As I lay my head down for my last night of sleep in the 49th state, I reflected on the new friends I've made and future adventures in this great land.
The colors have began changing at higher altitudes and the first dusting of snow hung to the highest mountains. The changing terrain of the Parks Highway through the Alaska Range offers panoramic vistas and many rest stops. Temps are in the upper 50's and damp from the passing showers. Despite the cooler feeling weather, I'm happy to be back on the road again.
Turning off the highway, I welcome the afternoon of sunshine while climbing 3800 ft from Willow to Hatcher Pass. Open only from July 4 - October, this high pass above the timberline is a great motorcycle road. Passing the many mining operations along the way, one crests the pass at Summit Lake, a algae green hanging lake nestled in the pass. It was an engine off affair most of the way down though my brakes may have suffered a bit.
I had planned on camping up at Hatcher Pass but the wet and cold conditions led me down to the Matanuska River just in time for sunset. I pitched my tent on the silty riverbank and fell fast asleep to the rush of glacial melt.
Long time no see! I've spent a memorable summer up in Fairbanks. The weather has been fantastic with long hours of daylight and weeks of dry air. As is normal of August, rainier weather has set in and a cooler air pattern is moving in. With most of the slated projects finished for my friend Ken, it was a welcome joy to get back on the road again. Stay tuned for more as I begin moving southward.
The Dust 2 Dawson event was a fun time with other adv riders. Part of the event is a competition of slow speed and riding skill games which I took 2nd place in earning me a gift card and nifty bike cover.
I crossed the Yukon River ferry at midnight to avoid the morning rush as riders tried for the Alaskan border. Come morning on the Top of the World Hwy, it was a continual procession of LED lights, German made motorcycles and a myriad of colorful goretex suits.
At the Poker Creek/Little Gold border crossing at 4000 ft, a line had formed and it took roughly 45 minutes to an hour before being granted entry to The Last Frontier.
I took a few days getting to Fairbanks where I'll be ordering parts for the Ruckus, working on various equipment and assisting with many odd jobs. Should be a summer well spent and I will incorporate a few posts over the next month or two before setting back out on the road.
This past week has found me exploring the colorful frontier town of Dawson City, famous for the Klondike Goldrush of 1898. It isn't my first time in town but I still found ways to keep my mind busy and active while staying here. The 100 year old buildings reflect a different time and place when things were built with calloused hands, old growth wood, steam and iron. The gold once mined from the hills here provided enormous wealth for some but most miners were left poor or in debt once the decline hit and mining went commercial and industrial.
Today it is the tourism during warm summer months that mines the gold. Active claims still continue but downtown is a parade of tour buses, RVs and motorcyclists. Fortunately there are many sights and things to do during these long sunny days.
Dredge #4 is the largest wooden dredge in North America. Large as a football field and weighing 30'000 tons, the dredge was assembled multiple times on Hunker Crk and later Bonanza Crk leaving enormous tailing piless of overburden in concentric crescent hills.
The steamboat graveyard on the east bank of the Yukon is home to four deteriorating wooden steam ships. The splintered and rusting remains are accessible and mostly intact. It is a marvel nobody has accidentally set them ablaze. Once hauled out for the winter of ice, they remain silenced in their terrestrial graves.
Howdy to all those ADV FF's in Dawson at D2D!
The Dempster Highway extends from the Klondike Highway near Dawson City over 500 miles into the Arctic Circle and the Northwest Territories beyond. In 2014, I passed the turnoff for this remarkable gravel road but a broken front wheel bearing left me to continue to Whitehorse instead. It was in my mind to return and attempt to travel up into the great North of mountain, taiga, steppe and tundra. A Card lock gas station sits at the beginning of the road and I fueled up my tank and additional two fuel cams for the 370km without services until Eagle Plains.
A Yukon Govt work truck with a flat was pulled to the side of the lot and when I noticed the younger worker wasn't making much progres, I rode over and offered to help. We supported the truck with a scrounged 12x12 just quick enough to reposition the jack before the wood split and he was able to complete the tire change. A little good Karma can go a long way, especially at the start of a journey such as this.
The gravel was loose in places with disturbing windrows of small pea gravel which dragged the front wheel and sent plumes of tan dust billowing behind me. It was clear that 25mph would be my average speed for the next few days off pavement. Climbing into the Tombstone Mountain Park, I was taken by the varied geological formations, some volcanic, limestone caps and glacial valleys. The forests of willow, alder and birch began to diminish climbing up toward the 4200ft Engineer Pass. The vistas afforded by the carefully planned road are striking, amplified by the clinging white snow contrasting against the darker cliffs. Sphagnum bogs and deep blue lakes cover the broad valleys with groves of willow tucked into shallow windbreak and streambeds. Here too I see evidence of moose, bear and signs indicating Caribou herds travel through on their seasonal migrations. Turning off the already quiet engine, the chorus of songbirds carries on the northeastern winds that never cease to blow. A rich nesting sit and habitat here draws millions of birds each spring from as far off as Africa and South America. Not long after setting up my tent in the shelter of some willows, a huffing noise stirw the hair on the back of my neck. With pepper spray in hand, I give a loud woop or two and gaze out from my tent only to see the fading rear end of a moose disturbed from a nearby puddle.
The sunny days are hampered only by the relentless north easterly winds which coincide with my direction of travel. When gusts are normal, I can hold about 25mph but on one of the man hills or open ridgelines, speeds sink into the teens and the fatigue on my neck strains the muscles. Now this is what I call summer fun! Passing through the east-west arranged Ogilvie Mountains takes the better part of a morning mostly due to the Alpine vista's and unique terrain drawing my lens. Engineer Creek flows an unusual muddy red color likely due to recent flood and disturbances to the silt layer. The rivers here flow northward to the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean.
From the Ogilvie River, the road climbs over 1000 feet to the Ogilvie Ridge marking the western territorial border of the local Gwichin tribe. Maintaining this exposed position on the drainage divide allows for incredible sweeping views of the Ogilvie River valley but fierce blasts of wind carried for miles to this high spot. The miles tick away but arriving at the top of each rise, I'm greeted by the serpentine ribbon of gravel reaching on to the horizon like the great Wall of China. Finally reaching the halfway point of Eagle Plains, I quickly fuel up paying $15 for three gallons or so. Making camp down at Eagle River, I meet two Germans who inform me the Peel River ferry is not yet crossing due to a missing part. That takes the pressure off arriving there early tomorrow. The picnic table in camp is inexplicably covered in Ritz crackers, a sign I take to make dinner and collect the free food into a used zip lock bag for later.
The following day is gusty and cooler approaching the Arctic Circle rest area. 20 mph winds relentlessly comb the low grasses and mosses and I imagine a warm and pleasant day relaxing at the picnic table here. Instead, I can barely keep the bike upright on the stand due to gusts and feel like the freshly replaced roof on the outhouse was from a day much worse than this. An exposed ride northward into the taiga landscape made me happy for the relative shelter of the spruce from rested Rock River campground where I refueled and had lunch. The boiled creek water tasted strongly of iron reminding me of my time spent in north Alabama where a red ring of iron fell to the bottom of the glass. It was here that I discovered a nail in my rear tire, likely one I had before starting this road. 20 minutes later and it was patched and refilled - good to go.
Crossing into the Northwest Territories the wind gap offers no respite. Twisted piles of metal off to one side of the hill reveal themselves as the contorted remains of steel streetsigns wretched from their flattened and gnarled posts. A blanket of tiny purple flowers endures on the road embankment and I appreciate their perserverence against this unforgiving land. Descending toward the Peel River, I notice difficulty in coasting downhill and a sluggishness associated with surge of power. My mind races through the familiar complexities of the ruckus and I settle on a belt/Variator related issue. A brief cleaning of my air filter first reveals my 62mpg was the result of a dust plugged paper element. Continuing on, the variator I replaced in Teslin Lake had some tacky residue leftover from the tape holding it together. This sticky glue has heated and worked onto the variator roller shaft causing it to bind and slow when riding downhill. As the few passing motorists stopped to help, I polished the drive face clean and hoped that my repair would carry me out of this desolate place over 25 miles from the nearest house. I kept an eye out for a curious bear too as this was their territory evidenced by the paw prints and piles along the shoulder. With the final drive back together, I smiled at my success and pushed forward toward the Peel River.
At the ferry crossing a line of trucks, RV's and cars lined the roadside. A small get together of stranded travellers had formed as everyone reiterated the news that it may be running tomorrow and they were waiting for a new bearing. Aaron had already camped here one night and was preparing for another evening on the road's edge. Two retired veterans from Haines had just prepared pasta with halibut and served a heaping serving onto a paper plate from the back of the pickup bed camper. The meal was just what my frazzled nerves needed and we laughed over their fishing stories and colorful jokes. The night moved on but without darkness as car seats reclined and folks settled in for another night waiting on the highway.
Come morning, Aaron and I gladly accepted Manfred and Rosalie's offer for breakfast inside Maggie, their 1983 Maguras 4x4 adventure truck. Hot coffee and a mouthwatering plate of potatoes, onions, bacon and poached egg on top. The delightful morning meal is occasionally interrupted by the crunching of rocks and metalic clang of the caterpillar equipment grading the ramp and preparing the ferry cables. By 3pm, the horn sounds and to everyone's astonishment, the ferry begins loading. La Tortuga is the last vehicle on board the first crossing and I smile knowing I'm that much closer to fuel and a fresh air filter blowout. I have a brief albeit rewarding conversation with an elder from the village of Alklavik, formerly the original town before resettlement to Inuvik. He tells me of his 1962 membership as a gentleman adventurer for the Hudson's Bay Company, buying and selling furs in season and convincing the locals to use snowmobiles over dog teams in order to save the slaughter of a dwindling caribou herd for dogfood.
Back on the road, I hoped for better mileage with my cleaner air filter. Reaching the MacKenzie River Ferry, I boarded and once the other traffic had passed, enjoyed a relatively quiet and pleasant afternoon ride toward Inuvik. It was sunny and warm well into the evening as I pulled in to Inuvik at the end of the Dempster Highway. The town of 4500 people was much larger than in anticipated with a paved road leading to the airport, the main link t the outside world. I fueled up, took a few snapshots around town then checked the weather forecast. Woah, temps were forecast town plummet to freezing in less than 24 hours. Rather than hang around town for a day, I used my energy and good weather window to turn south down the highway and work back toward the Yukon. The infuriating headwind was now a welcomed asset as I hurdled over some of the best gravel of the highway at 35-40mph. A cloud of dust trailed behind me but I kept a few feet ahead hoping the air filter wouldn't be comprimised. It was just around midnight as I realized I was chasing my shadow south, a first in this land of the midnight sun in the north. At roughly 2AM, I arrived at the MacKenzie River and put up my tent for a few hours sleep.
In the morning I was one of two vehicles on the MacKenzie ferry and the sole vehicle on the Peel River ferry around noon. The return trip was markedly more enjoyable with the added propulsion of the Arctic winds. Mileage was in the upper 80s so I knew there wouldn't be risk of running out of fuel between Eagle Plains and mile zero. I stopped to help the two men from Haines who had the misfortune of their fifth flat tire. My puny slime air compressor was no match for their loaded truck tires but soon a loaded f550 work truck arrived and gave them the pressure they needed. The last I saw of them was balking at the exorbitant cost of a new tire that didn't exactly fit their truck in Eagle Plains garage. Hopefully they made it back to Haines safely.
It was another late night of riding until midnight but the barren ridge and high winds were no place for my scooter and tent. Descending to the Ogilvie River, I found a wind sheltered pullout and set up my tent for a few hours of shut eye. The morning was somewhat cooler but not uncomfortably cold. It was already 9:45am before I woke up, a new habit of waking late and riding later fit with the warmer times of the day.
The remaining ride through the mountains and into Tombstone Park was pleasant and warm under blue skies. The feeling of accomplishment began to set in as the kilometers ticked down and the scooter plodded along. Dust clouds from passing vehicles blocked visibility sending the chalky taste into my closed helmet and for the first time in months I thought to myself "we could use a good rainstorm around here".
After replacing my clutch in Teslin, the scoot held together for the remaining push to Whitehorse. The city remains one of my favorite in the north, not too big and not too small at 30k residents. Surprisingly, the food prices are quite affordable so I stocked up on granola bars and kippered herring for the Klondike Hwy.
While in Whitehorse, I messaged my friend Bastjan who lives in town. He invited me over to catch up and do a little laundry. Dinner at Boston Pizza was my first meal at an establishment since crossing into Canada! The Slovenian cheese and pumpkin oil he shared was a real treat and he wouldn't let me leave without some dehydrated camp meals. Thanks buddy for your amazing hospitality and generosity.
The ride on the Klondike Highway started wet and cool but improved as the long daylight hours progressed. Fellow rider Aaron from New Zealand and I had been crossing paths since Prince George and finally camped together on Tatchun Creek and the Yukon River. A fish camp down on the water made for a perfect site to weather a wet zero mile day. It was fun hearing his stories from the ride up from Argentina on his Ktm 500. With his collapsing rod, he hooked a big Enacanum (?) Similar to a whitefish which we prepared on the campfire for breakfast.
Fortunately, the weather cooled down significantly and the snakes weren't to be seen for the remainder of the week. Asparagus is in season up here so I made many potato and asparagus scrambles on the campfire drowned down with the last of my favorite Crazy Fox Ethiopian coffee. I finished reading Snow Falling on Cedars and started in on one of my favorites, McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. Rain falls on my tarp for another relaxing day in Washington state.
Each day I have been moving along the mountain range exploring the open forest trails and reminding myself it is still the "Winter" season in this region. I see pictures of friends in VA wearing shorts and out in their kayaks while I am wearing gaiters and 5 layers up top. They don't have wild vistas quite like these though.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 55'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.