Days 32/33/34/35

Geoff’s Update

Bye bye Dawson

So after updating the blog in Dawson and waiting for hours for the
rain to quit, we finally give in and hit the road about 2:30 in the
afternoon… in the pouring rain.  Our goal is Takhini Hot Springs, a
lead give to us by Adam who was heading north with Nevil on his KLR.
The train eventually subsides, as it always does, and we have a nice
if fairly uneventful ride to the springs.  We did see our first
porcupine of the trip, crossing the road as usual, and we moved on.

The hot springs were cool… but unlike Laird Hot Springs where it was
all natural, they had built a giant swim pool inline with the stream
out of the springs to catch the 110 degree water and pool it up.
Then, every day starting at 9:30PM, they drain the pool(s) down the
stream it’s supposed to go down and start refilling overnight.  So,
instead of paying the $10 to go into the springs, the budget minded
show up in a hot-tub sized natural pool just downstream of the pool
drain and get a hot spring dip for free… at least until the pool is
done draining.

There’s no way like Skagway

From the springs we are going to head down to Skagway via a road that
we have been told multiple times is a “must do”.  You may have
noticed, I have not mentioned rain in like 16 hours.  And it was still
not raining when we left the spring at noon(ish).  The first part of
the trip is uneventful and we are looking forward to the road into
Skagway.  The highlight of Whitehorse is the wind-vane at the airport.
It’s a full sized retired DC-3 airplane that is placed on a big pivot
so it points towards the wind.  It’s actually pretty cool.  We also
stop for a quick bite in a small town called Carcross.  It was
basically a gas station with a small store and a restaurant.  The
restaurant consisted of a case that looks like it used to be in a
Baskin Robins but instead they had Mexican food and Sushi.  Great
combo!  The Mexican food was a burrito or a fried burrito and the
sushi are rolls like the Alberta Roll, Canada Roll, Alaska Roll… you
get the picture. I asked the gal behind the case(young Indian gal) if
the burritos were any good and she said she thought so, but had not
actually had one.  I didn’t bother to ask about the Sushi… but the
cashier in the main store was an older Japanese lady with a demeanor
of Womanincharge so I can draft my own conclusions.

The road does become more and more beautiful and we are at ~3,000’
elevation nearing the pass that will lead us down to Skagway at sea
level.

And it starts….  Slowly at first… just a few drops.  Then it gets
colder too.  The glacial valley is beautiful, what we can see of it
through the rain spattered helmets.  At the summit, we cross the
border(again) between the US and Canada and it’s pouring and we are in
the clouds making visibility about 30’.  And its freezing… about 40
degrees.

The road is steep and windy and we can’t see anything.  At customs,
the gal makes us take off our helmets to verify our identity (they
rarely do that in Canada) even in the rain and cold.  Heartless.

We pull into town, do a quick reconnaissance and find Skagway Brewing
Company. We plop ourselves down at the bar with a squish and try not
to become despondent at another rain-out.  We had hoped to take the
ferry over to Haines, do some fishing, or both.  Now our options are
have a beer and get out of town.

The quite cute blonde at the end of the bar is apparently researching
a trip to Thailand using a guidebook from 2001.  Well, she is blonde,
so I decline to tell her my option of planning a trip to the 3rd world
using a decade old guidebook.  We do start chatting though (soaking
wet boys on motorcycles have an odd draw to strangers- don’t ask me
why) and turns out she works at the brewing company.  She tells us we
can’t leave, we just got here and it’s Friday night in Skagway, after
all!  After telling her we don’t really want to camp in the
rain(again) she dutifully calls the hostel in town(she has cell
reception, I do not).  Full.  She then calls a few more hotels and
finds out that Skagway is booked.  I’m starting to warm up to the idea
of staying in town on a Friday night (been a long time) versus staring
at Elliott over a campfire in some desolate campground in middle Yukon
Territory, and she starts asking her friends and co-workers if they
know of anyone who has room to take in strangers.  By now I am warmed
up and fine with the idea of camping in the rain here (it’s only 4
blocks from downtown) but Elliott is not yet convinced.

I load up and get a site and start rigging up the best campsite I can,
complete with tarps over the motorcycle to keep it and my stuff dry,
and Elliott comes around eventually as well.

We have a fun night at the local scene and it even stops raining at
some point.  The laws in Alaska are great- like they don’t stop
serving until everyone stops drinking.  I think there may be a cutoff
at like 5 or 6 am but I didn’t make it that long.

There was one thing I did notice about our campsite that wasn’t
disclosed initially.  The train tracks.  They are about 30’ from our
tents.  And apparently they are active too.  I am not bothered too
much that night (as a result of above noted drinking laws) but the
trains early in the morning were not welcome.

Cassiar here we come

So we bid adieu to Skagway the next morning and head back north. Our
goal is the head of the Cassiar Highway which is also highly
recommended.  It’s long, like 450 miles, and has a number of turnoffs
that we want to hit5 on the way down.  But I get ahead of myseld.

The road out of Skagway really is beautiful and I am glad we stayed so
we’d get to see it.  I’d really like to do it again some day when it
was sunny but I got the idea even in the overcast.

We make it back to the Alaska Highway in a section we have already
done on the way up to Alaska so we move through pretty fast.  Our goal
was 320 miles to the junction, camp and start down I the morning but
we are moving well and we decide to go an additional 50 to a lakeside
campground on the Cassiar itself.

As soon as we get on the highway we can tell it will be different.
It’s much narrower and windy and very wild looking on each side.
Within 10 miles we see a brown bear cub running across the road.
Tempted to stop and watch, but figure mama bear is close by and don’t
want to deal with her.  Then, another 5 miles on, a black bear crosses
as well (smaller adult, maybe a female?)

And as an added bonus, it’s not rained on us all day!  We get to camp
and set up and try to do the math.  It’s the second day in the last 10
that we have managed to stay dry all day! It’s cold and windy but the
sunset (at 9:30pm) is awesome against the mountains and clouds which
all turn bright red and orange across the lake.

Today we are headed to Telegraph Canyon.  It’s a short distance (like
160 miles) but the road into the canyon (60 miles) is supposed to be
very technical dirt/gravel road with 18-20% grades and switchbacks.
Looking forward to it.

We have no internet or cell reception here so may be a while before
you get this update.

More to follow.

OK- sending this update via Elliott at Jade City.  Not really a city…
just a collection of businesses dealing in Jade.  Factoid of the day…
92% of the worlds jade comes from this region of BC.  92%!!!  Crazy.
No phones here… or much of anything but they do have wireless
internet… good times. The ride in I saw three sheep- white.  Think
they are Dales Sheep or something like that- rare except here.  Will
have to research that when get done for the day.

1 comment to Days 32/33/34/35

  • Chris (tuumi from advrider)

    Hi,
    Interesting story. My name is Chris and I offered some Alaska advice and my cabin in Denali Park to Geoff (I think) on Advrider. Took a weekend trip to Chicago from Detroit with my girlfriend and had dinner with her friend. Her boyfriend talked about his brother and his motorcycle trip to Alaska. Long story short turns out I had dinner with Elliot’s brother Marshall. Small world huh?
    Ride safe guys. Enjoying the blog.
    Chris

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