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Friday - March 7, 2003
I have 1156 miles on my odometer so far!
I am in Fort Nelson visiting the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) Reserve. As I was pushing my rig up the hill into Fort Nelson last night, Richard Resener drove up next to me and introduced himself, asking me if I was the one riding my bike around the world. I said that I was. Richard is the FNFN Community/Events Coordinator, and they had heard about me already from Vince Prince back in Fort St. John, and had visited this web site. Although I was originally planning to press on toward Watson Lake, I decided to stay another day here to visit. This has been a rewarding decision...
I left Fort St. John on March 1. The night before me departure, after I had posted the last dispatch, Vince took me to a graduation ceremony of students that attended the Petroleum Employment Training program, put together by Doig River Nation and the Oil and Gas Commission. The commissioner for OGC was also there as a keynote speaker. His speech following a prayer by an elder was inspiring as I listened intently. He said, "When one embarks on a journey and is seen to mean his words, many will step forward to help." How true that this applied to my life journey, and to the journey of change and learning toward wisdom on which the graduates had embarked.
I met with Mike Heinzman to join Pat Ferris and his wife at the local McDonalds before starting out. We talked about the interesting characters that had cycled the Alaska Highway. Laughed at some, and wondered about others... Vince's associate John Sam came there as well to introduce me to his two kids ages 5 and 9. Mike will send us some pictures that he took as I left Fort St. John.
A truck driver named Tony stopped me on the way to Wonowon. He was heading south and had turned around to talk to me. He said that he always saw riders on the road and wondered what we thought about while we rode. He wanted to haul me and my rig to Wonowon and to buy me beer. I explained to him that he would have to bring me back to the same spot and I would then bike the remaining distance to Wonowon with beer in my system in the dark - not a good idea. I told him to meet me there in an hour, but he could not wait... Such is life on the highway ;-)
I made it to Wonowon in good time, the location of the military checkpoint during the WW2 at milepost 101. The next day I wanted to cruise on to Buckinghorse River Lodge just north of Sikanni Chief, 72 miles away. I left early enough only to face strong headwinds. Strong enough to break my will, to slow me down on the downhills for fear of losing control with the side winds. My pace was reduced to a crawl at 6 mph...
The bright moments were meeting Will in his sixties who wanted to donate money for the road after hearing my story. I asked him to mail it to our address to make sure that it was entered and properly recognized in our books. Soon after Will, a company SUV stopped with a crew in it happy to be done for the season. One of them was Cecil, from France who wanted my picture taken. I told her that I had lived in Belgium for three years in high school and I spoke some French. She left wishing me "bon voyage" and sending kisses through the window... They made the day worthwhile despite the headwinds...
I pulled into Pink Mountain, 33 miles short of my goal for that day. I was planning on sleeping out as they had a campsite cleared out where I would not have to wade through snow. As I sat in the gas station waiting to dry up my clothes and updating my journal, a man sat next to me in his work clothes. He had been around machinery; I guessed that he worked on one of the rigs. His name was Keith Larabie. We talked for a while. He hauled water to the oil and gas rigs around. Keith said that he and his wife Evelyn would like to offer me a futon in their living room. Evelyn was the attendant that had greeted me at the gas station and did not want me to camp out in the cold! They fed me that night, and I got to meet Mr. Mistoffelees, one of their three cats that was named after the original cast in the Broadway play: Cats.
I had a short day to Buckinghorse River Lodge the next day. The weather was iffy, so I aimed for a short ride. It was snowing on the way up there. I walked the rig down a 9% grade 3 km long to Sikanni Chief as wiping out was guaranteed on the slick snow - there was no way for me to control the bike and the 9% grade would have been too steep even with dry pavement... The climb up the other side was not any easier.
As I approached Buckinghorse RL and had it within sight, I looked ahead to decide which entrance to take into their parking lot. That moment of eyes off the road was enough for my front wheel to catch some snow on the shoulder, and there I found the rig and myself stretched across the entire lane of traffic. Fortunately, there was no one approaching from behind! The headlight broke apart and the frame of the handlebar bag broke in the corner. I pulled everything to roadside, limped over to the lodge and found a room there. I was able to put the lamp together, the bag was hanging by the fabric, and my right hip was sore where I hit the pavement. I checked in for one night to see what the weather would do...
The next morning, I woke up to a partly cloudy morning that looked reasonable for travel. I had breakfast and started up the hill. Every settlement that I stayed until here on this highway, has been at the bottom of a hill where the water usually is, next to a river for example. This also meant that there was no cellular reception, unless I was in a sizeable town. This time I stopped at the top of a hill to give the cell phone a try before rushing down the other side. With noisy trucks whizzing by, I finally talked to the crew in Seattle.
There was a cold gray fog hanging in the air that got thicker over time, eventually dumping ever-bigger flurries on me. This was the same pattern as the day before when I arrived at the Buckinghorse RL. I did not have a choice but to press on in the falling snow. These are the conditions that create danger for me. The blowing snow with passing trucks lowers the visibility for other drivers, which makes me vulnerable on the roadside. I had to pay attention to traffic coming and going, small and wide. I pulled over many times to check behind me to see if it was clear.
Eventually I arrived at Prophet River, to the Neighbor's Inn and RV Park. They did not have a place at all, but Karen the owner offered me an unfinished trailer behind their office that would keep me out of the weather. Again, as I sat trying to dry, Bill Cardinal arrived who was a foreman for a seismic outfit. He oversaw a crew of slashers to clear grids for seismic instrumentation. Karen and Bill knew each other, and I was handed off to Bill to sleep on his couch... Bill guided tourists in the summer and hunters in the fall. He did the seismic work in the winters. The pattern is that everyone waits for the winter for the muskeg bogs to freeze over to do work in the backcountry... It snowed late into the night, which made the roads dangerous the next day, so I stayed another day. Karen helped me fix my handlebar bag with a bracket that we fashioned that we riveted to the plastic. Her husband Mike arrived that evening who was a master craftsman, making the finest looking knives for sale in their office. I left the next morning after Karen fed me a breakfast of waffles?
I arrived into Fort Nelson after a cold day of riding at -20C(-4F). It was cold enough with the headwind that I had to stop to don my neck gaiters as well as my Gore-Tex bibs. I was wearing the bibs for the first time on this trip. As I had guessed they made pedaling very cumbersome. I could not lift my foot high enough across the bike -- getting on and off the bike involved a short hop with a mild kick ;-)
On the way up, Jamie Dingwell stopped across the road, asking me if I wanted coffee. When I said that would dehydrate me, he asked: "How about some water then?" He had seen me on his way up, had wondered all day how far I would go, and had grabbed the coffee and water just for me. I took the water and we exchanged addresses and the web site info. Kind gesture?
I rode 57 miles in that cold with the last 2 miles into Fort Nelson that involved the climb up from the Muskwa River, which is the lowest point on the Alaska Highway at 341m. That last hill into Fort Nelson was really not necessary and felt like adding insult to injury. The saving grace was meeting Richard near the top of it! The highest point on the Alaska Highway is between here and Watson Lake, located near Summit Lake at 1,295m. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the climb up!
Today, I visited the community school at the Fort Nelson First Nation Reserve, and talked to students in classrooms. We traced the route, talked about ocean currents, continents and their highest points. I met with the community leaders who were thrilled about my journey. I met with Harry there as well; the 90-year elder that I had run into in Vince's office. He compared my journey to his trips down the Muskwa River when he was younger that took him days. This was a nice stop overall, and I am glad to have spent this nice sunny riding day with them. I am sure that I will cover the distance anyhow... From here on there will be longer stretches without lodging, so camping will be necessary more often.
Best to all,
Saturday - March 8, 2003
Dear friends and supporters,
I am asking that for the next week to 10 days that you hold Erden in your thoughts closely, as he is heading into the toughest part thus far (mentally and physically) of his journey. I say he is entering the abyss....or "his personal descent."
He just left this morning in temperatures of -36 C Which is very, very cold.....but the sun is out so he must go. He is climbing uphill for most of this journey, and he will be sleeping outside most of this week, as there will be very few towns or villages along the next 300 miles. Once he gets to Watson Lake in the Yukon....he hits his first big town in a week! I will also have little contact with him during this time. But once there, the "ascent" begins.....he will be out of the coldest, hardest part....and actually, over half way to his destination!
He is prepared mentally and spiritually for this challenge. But it would challenge anyone....He amazes me with his strength!
It seems ironic to me that as we in the USA prepare ourselves for another kind of abyss....a war that we hope will not happen, but must try somehow to prepare for...our Erden is preparing the abyss of his own personal journey. His journey, however, is one of peace, strength, love, hope, and inspiration. I wish that same kind of peace be with all of us.
So please hold him in your thoughts and prayers...I know it will help!
Sunday - March 16, 2003
I think Nancy's words about the last stretch were a bit strong. She was worried, rigthly so ;-) I just crossed the Terminal Range of the Northern Rockies. North of here, Rockies are no more!
I am writing this update on a borrowed computer in Watson Lake. The computer for the bike along with my journal are in the hotel room, the mileage is over 1,400 so far. I have 1,007 miles left to Anchorage according to the sign that I saw leaving the hotel.
I left Fort Nelson on a bright and chilly morning, on the 8th. Richard Resener of the Fort Nelson First Nation came to the edge of town with his son Derek to see me off on the journey. I was riding with my bibs, climbing boots and goggles, feeling the bite of the -34C temperatures. It had only risen two degrees since the -36C at 06:30 that morning.
Steamboat Mountain was the biggest hill on the journey so far. By 18:00, I made it to the Steamboat Cafe that was closed for the season. There was smoke out of the chimney, but no light or car in the front. The cafe was about two-three miles up the hill, on a windy saddle. I did not want to dilly dally, so I dove into my sleeping bag and my bivouac sack in their parking lot. All the damp clothing on my back had to be dried with body heat, so it was time to shiver for warmth!
A couple hours of shivering later, out came three dogs... They soon discovered me, barking at the stranger in their territory. The owner, Karen, called them in to let me be. I did not have the desire to get up, put on boots and seek shelter. I was settled for the night.
In the morning, Karen waited for me to stir before she let the dogs out. She called me in for coffee as I rose. I accepted, and brought along the sleeping bag that needed drying by now. We had a nice conversation, she told me of their life on the mountain, the seasons and the tourists, and I told of my journey. She fixed me breakfast while she told me that she had been sleeping when I arrived the night before...
Karen also gave me a book called "The Trail of 42" about the construction of the Alaska Highway during World War II. There is so much history, flora, fauna, geography, cultural experiences around me that it is not going to be hard to teach youngsters while captivating them with my journey.
I had a short day planned that day to Tetsa. Originally I was heading for the Tetsa River Guest Services that was another 30 miles or so down the road, but with the huge Steamboat Mountain in my way, my progress was not up to par! Today, I was going to go to Tetsa to be in position to shoot over to Toad River, past the Summit Lake by Stone Mountain. By the time I got out, the dogs had been around my bike, peed on the kickstand, and on what else I do not want to know.
Steamboat Mountain continued up another three miles from the Cafe. In the clouds, I was able to pick out the rock feature called the Indian Head in the distance as I rode just like Karen had told me. Then the road wound its way down to the Tetsa River Valley. This was a narrow, curving snow covered road with little shoulder that was lined with trees. I was alert the whole time about traffic.
I was surprised how little traffic came through on this section of the Alaska Highway compared to the traffic between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. The latter was driven more by the oil and gas industry...
I made it to Tetsa early in the day. Loryne had already heard about me from Richard Resener who alerted them of my arrival. She had guests over and invited me in the group as well. She had an Inn that was available to travelers, and they were guiding trips in the surrounding country for seasonal tourists. They lived in a gorgeous setting that had an overgrown air strip behind it. The location used to be a laundry facility during WW2, and the boiler and the coal mounds brought in from Pennsylvania at the time were still visible. Mike, who helped with their horses and with guiding, told me that there was a plane and machinery buried nearby that the army could not remove at the end of the war. Women pilots used to bring the fighter planes in, they would find their way up to Fairbanks where they would put a Russian star on the plane on its way to Russia under the lend-lease program.
Loryne was kind to me, and encouraged me on my journey. She gave me a batch of cookies that she had made, she fed me and gave me a place to stay. I tried to be useful by helping Mike in breaking a bale of hay for the horses. He had his hands full as wolves had gotten to a pen full of yearlings, killed one and wounded another. Mike did not think the animal would make it. Reality on the highway. Then he told me about the bicyclist that got dragged off the highway by his head by a grizzly. The man lived to tell about it when a passing driver shot the Grizzly. He had a straight face when he told me this, so I am debating still about that shotgun on my return trip!!!
After breakfast, I took off for Toad River that was about 50 miles away. I had a run in with a plow operator that was trying to squeeze past me on a narrow bridge, overtaking me from behind. He did not appreciate that he had to break for me. On his way back, he was hanging out the driver's side window, calling me names. I choose to forget about such incidents and to remember the better ones, but this S.O.B. was persistent, whizzing by me at 60 miles an hour twice later in the day, with the blade only a couple feet from my shoulder. It had to be the same operator. I had seen nothing but support from the operators until then, so I wonder what that guy was smoking!
I arrived at the Toad River Lodge by 17:30. Only a mile before the Lodge, I had come across a lone moose on the road that made me stop. I raised my hands and yelled "Hi there!" It took off into the bush, jumping gracefully over the snow bank. He kept an eye on me as I rolled past him... They do not have their antlers yet, which they regrow every Spring.
The lodge was interesting. They had baseball hats tacked to the ceiling, and by the last count they had 6130 hats in the dining room and in the hallway to the guest rooms! Much like the Watson Lake sign forest to which people keep adding...
Toad River to Muncho Lake was not hard except when I had to escape the Toad River Valley to enter the Trout River Valley. This meant that I had to climb over the foothills of Mt. Peterson, a challenge comparable to Steamboat Mountain. Muncho means big in Kaska language. The lake is about 5 miles long and 3 wide, in a beautiful setting. Certainly worth a visit in its own right.
I pressed on from Muncho Lake to Liard River, where the much advised hot springs are located. I checked in at the hotel across the springs. When I arrived, I had been in -20C all day, and my neck gaiter had grown a gautie of ice, with frost covering everything around my face. I had given up on goggles and sunglasses when I could not keep them from fogging, and my eyelashes were growing icicles, too... I took a picture of that for posterity ;-)
The wind picked up to a furious pace outside soon after I checked in. It was fortunately blowing in the way that I wanted to go. Still, I decided to take a day off close to the springs, to let the winds calm down a bit. The snowdrifts on the approach to Liard River were catching my front tire, giving me the willies for fear of crashing the bike.
I made one attempt to go to the springs. I dressed up for the weather, totally prepared to walk the mile back in the blizzard after the hot soak. I took my camera and headed out. I got there to find one couple soaking in the springs, with frost growing in their hair, giving them a white medusa look! I took pictures, enjoyed the unique oasis in the middle of a raging blizzard, and returned to the lodge, for I had forgotten my towel ;-(
I never went back to the hot springs that day, a decision that I may regret. At the same time, I justified it as "I do not want to get sick!"
At the lodge, I ran into "Snoman" Doug that I had met at Windy Point. He was asking about me along the way, whether I had been through. He is the one that has SNOMAN written on the wind spoiler on the hood of his truck. We caught up, had breakfast together, and I started riding. Doug told me me of buffalo herds on the roadside, which I saw. They were on the roadside, and I did not have to weave through them. I also saw a fox that did not look happy to put its rear down on cold snow. When it took off, it had the gate of a cat walking through a puddle, not wanting to step down...
I was reaching for Contact Creek Lodge that day, which was the only place open between Liard River and Watson Lake, a distance of 93 miles. Could I make it? Perhaps if I rode into the night... That did not happen when a freak snow storm caught me just past Fireside at about 55 miles. The sky looked very dark, it was 17:00, and I set up the tent for the first time, fully prepared to not leave the tent for a couple days. I even had my pee bottle inside, expedition style!
I got a full 12 hours of sleep, with interruptions between 20:00-08:00. I woke up to a reasonable morning. The tent as well as the sleeping bag were soaked with condensation from my breathing, and the drying of my damp clothing. I had to get to Contact Creek Lodge to dry them before another night out. I got to the Lodge by 17:00, I asked the lady for a room, she said that they do not have such things. "A tool shed? anything covered?" I asked. She reacted as though I had violated her personal space, she had a long face after that... Their phone did not work, I could not call. Her husband came in, they would not talk to me, it felt like they just wanted me to leave. It was weird.
The name Contact Creek Lodge conjures up images of rooms, and a hotel. All such named places before were hotels where I could stay. I was prepared to pay for the service, I naturally asked - oh well. Milepost should take them off their list of lodge listings, I guess.
I sat there trying to dry up my clothing before I camped again. While I sipped my tea, I met Ed, a plow operator who had climbed El Capitan in Yosemite, and Mt. Logan. He had been a skateboarder "who never landed any tricks" by his description. He had raced on mud, on ice, on road with cars, dune buggies, bicycles and on foot. He had run a rickshaw business in Whitehorse, staying fit as a fiddle for the longest time. We connected, and before long, I was heading for his trailer up the road.
I parked my bike in his trailer, then Ed and I drove into Watson Lake for dinner. I bought his dinner in gratitude. We had left my sleeping bag in his clothes dryer... The roads looked different from his truck. Ed is from Whitehorse, and he will be there in a week's time. We will get together and he will give me the tour of the town, then and on the way back from Alaska in early July.
In the morning, we got up at 06:00, and I was rolling by 08:00. I made it to Watson Lake by 14:00, totally unaware that today was a Sunday. Everything was closed. I will pick up my general delivery from the post office at 09:00 and roll. I had asked Nancy to send me special detergent for my garments to retain their waterproof treatment. I also asked for a copy of Mitchener's Alaska. I want to read about the history and the people of this area, then to incorporate that into my book that I want to write about this journey.
Tonight is a beautiful clear night. I will sleep out again tomorrow night, then ride to the next available Lodge along the way. I should perhaps use that word more cautiously ;-)
All is well, I am strong, fit and motivated. I am enjoying the challenge, there is no descent, no abyss -- it is all a winding road toward the day that I will meet my friends near Denali, a day that I am savoring already. So Nancy, I have made more friends of the First Nations people, truck drivers, plow operators, and lodge owners who are all on the look out for me. They will see me through, I am in good hands.
Best from "Canada's True North" Yukon,
Sunday - March 23, 2003
I will post an update from Whitehorse soon. Some statistics so far from Seattle to Whitehorse:
- 1,768.2 miles - reading so far on the odometer
- 78.04 miles - longest ride in one day from Quesnel to Prince George
- 41.0 mph - maximum speed down a 7% grade
- 11.4 mph - fastest average in a day
- 4 falls - one serious by Buckinghorse River Lodge
- 3 corners out of 4 - bracketed on the frame of the handlebar bag
- 3 flats - one ripped at the base of the valve stem, discarding the inner tube
- Lost count on new friends
- -34C (-30F) - coldest start on the trip, back in Fort Nelson
- 4 days and 5 nights - longest storm wait at Windy Point
- Steamboat Mountain - biggest hill on the journey
- 44 beats per minute - lowest resting heart rate on the trip
- Muskwa River Bridge (341 m) - lowest point on the Alaska Highway
- Summit Lake by Stone Mountain (1,295 m) - highest point on the Alaska Highway
- Bridge over Nisutlin River in Teslin - longest bridge on the Alaska Highway
Sunday - March 23, 2003
I am in Whitehorse right now, as you figured from my earlier dispatch on the statistics so far. The roads are bare, with daytime temperatures hovering around 5C(40F). The snow on the shoulder is mostly gone, and what remains is running. I can now see patches of dirt through the thinning coat of snow along the roadside. For the first time during the trip, I was able to smell dirt, cedar and pine in the air just short of Whitehorse. The warming trend is remarkable, bringing out the fragrances of spring along with it. It is March 23, and officially the spring started on March 21, right? ;-)
The journey goes on despite the on-going war elsewhere. I think about my brother who may be involved if duty calls. I wonder about Sgt. Quen and his helicopter crew who airlifted Göran and me to Yakima Memorial Hospital on September 30...
Back in Watson Lake, I picked up the general delivery from the post office on Monday the 17th. Nancy had sent me bottles of Nikwax Techwash and Polarproof, along with a spare inner tube. I mailed to her a copy of my journal, and receipts, did laundry using the Techwash essentially taking care of errands!
The clothing that I have is dry treated with Polarproof, and require the Techwash to retain the treatment. Techwash is a nondetergent soap. The treatment makes the garments hydrophobic, shedding water as I perspire. A wring and a shake is all I need for the garments to feel dry again against my skin. The manipulation of how much to wear for a given riding speed at a given temperature has been a learning process that I think I am fine tuning by now!
The Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake was closed for the season, but the manager told me that they would incorporate me into their program should I stop by on the way back. I should prepare a powerpoint slide show ahead of time to tell the story... I think I saw a wisp of the northern lights that evening -- it did not appear to be a cloud. The first time that I saw the northern lights was from a plane during my flight from Seattle to Stockholm last fall. I was glued to the window for a long time, trying to take it in. Now I have to remember to stay up at night and hope to see the lights from under...
I pressed on from Watson Lake westward. The roads were relatively flat, allowing me to move quickly. I had a strong wind from the south which was shoving me around from my left. It brought a flash storm with it that dropped enough snow on me to turn the road all white. In my haste to put on my bibs under the two layers of jackets that I had, I forgot to put on my nylon vest that was breaking the wind against my core. It was resting on the trailer when I took off again. I realized that I was not riding in the same colors, and that the yellow vest was not on me, a good 10 miles down the road... Too late to turn around, I decided to keep going.
I saw a pair of caribou on the road, which did not wait for me to sneak up on them. I had my camera out, and I was walking toward them when they disappeared into the trees.
Later, the rig dropped on its side when I tried to get it started after a rest stop. The front of the bike was sluggish, much like the morning after my stay at Lynton's hay shed. I had a flat in the front. I swapped the inner tube, inflated and kept going. The storm and the flat had broken my pace and I was not going to ride into the night...
Around 6:00 pm, I decided to stop when I saw a plowed access road to the base of a microwave tower. I walked to the base to find a generator room, with a parking spot cleared almost bare to the ground. Yey, I did not have to wade through snow and shovel a pit in which to sleep! I settled for the night with a full moon. I was asleep until dawn and started riding again at 08:00 am. My bivy sack was missing, I had no idea where I had left it. I would call back later all the places where I stayed ;-(
I was riding with my belay jacket, which goes over all layers. This made me hot very soon and I stopped to take it off. A man towing a horse trailer behind his utility truck stopped by to ask if all was OK, and said "I'll be darned!" when I told him that was getting hot ;-) It was about -10C (14F) out...
I passed two herds of caribou on the way to Swift River Lodge. Along the way, I crossed the Continental Divide that separated the Rancheria and Swift rivers, which emptied into the Mackenzie River and Yukon River basins, respectively. Theoretically, it was all downhill from there all the way to the Bering Sea!!!
I met Bill at the divide while resting and taking pictures. He said "you have more goddam courage that I ever had" and promised to buy me dinner when I got to Anchorage. He left me holding a bag full of Oreo cookies, peanuts and Milky Way chocolate bars. He said all they did was get him fat, and that I did not have to worry about fat. He said that it would cost me a whole lot more to buy the same down the road than to take them from him. He left after we had exchanged cards...
Swift River Lodge was there 20 miles earlier than I had expected. I was using historical miles, and not the actual miles in my calculation for that stretch. I was pleasantly surprised to be done at 49 miles for the day instead of 69. I checked into the lodge, and filled up the small room with all my panniers, the bike and the trailer. I was not given a key: "it is pretty safe around here" I was told... After dinner, I patched the flat inner tube, and took out the next page of Milepost map to study. I had promised Nancy my itinerary over the next few days.
In the morning, Nick who owns the rock shop next to the lodge, took my picture saying that he was going to post it on the wall in the restaurant. He told me that he would take me rock hunting on the return trip, and that he would call CBC after I left. He made me promise to call CBC when I pulled into Whitehorse...
Teslin was the next stop. A beautiful location halfway along the length of Teslin Lake. To access Teslin, I had to cross the longest steel bridge on the Alaska Highway that went across the Nisutlin River. I was warned to walk that bridge as the steel grid surface was rough even for vehicles. The steel grid reduces the contact surface for my bicycle tires, taking away from the control that I have over the bike as well. So I walked it, savoring the great scenery.
To my left were the Three Aces peaks across Teslin Lake. To my right were more snow capped peaks in the distance at the far end of the Nisutlin River inlet from the lake. The town of Teslin was situated on the corner where the river met the lake. The Yukon Motel where I stayed was next to the bridge along the water. A few log homes dotted the shores of the river which was frozen and snow covered, with snowmobile tracks crisscrossing it.
In the morning, I had to double back after a short while of riding to return the room key to the Yukon Motel when I figured out what was nagging me. I had the feeling of having forgotten something again!
The Teslin Lake continued on for another 30 miles that morning. I would occasionally turn around to check on the Three Aces diminish in the distance. The scenery was spectacular. One thing that I tried to do often on this trip was to look back to savor the scenery behind me as well as in front of me...
As I crossed the high bridge over the Teslin River at Johnson's Crossing, I saw a dozen arctic swans on the edge of the water. The water was openly flowing where the ice had melted away. Early on my ride from Seattle, I had already come across flocks of numerous swans wintering around Mt. Vernon. These arctic swans would winter mainly in California and use the Pacific Flyway to return to their breeding grounds in the Arctic in eastern Siberia. They were on their way back already, they were the leaders of their breed!
There were signs up along the way that hunting for caribou and for mountain goats were prohibited by the council decision of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation. The numbers of the animals that had wintered in the thousands in this area had been reduced to a few hundred, and a recovery program was on.
I arrived at Jake's Corner after a 64 mile ride where Philip was expecting me. I had called ahead and he offered me a cabin where the last to stay were crews back in November. The approach to Jake's Corner where the road from Atlin joins the Alaska Highway was where I first encountered the spring aroma and fragrances in the air while riding in a long valley with rocky face to my left. The rocks were lit up in the alpenglow of the setting sun as I rode - I heard myself saying, "I can climb that, and that one too!"
I left Jake's Corner late around 11:00 am to look for Ed Lockington at the Carcross corner of Klondike Highway and Alaska Highway where he had told me to ask for him. He was the plow operator that had taken me in back at Contact Creek. I found his landlord to be - apparently I had arrived faster than he could move in.
I rode along with another recreational biker who was putting in his first ride of the season. We met on the road and he turned around to join me. We were greeted to a hail around the Carcross intersection in which moving downhill at 25 mph hurt my face when the hail particles hit it. That too quit, just like Ed had said: "it is all flash storms from now on..."
In Whitehorse, on the banks of the Yukon River, I checked into the Stratford Motel and realized that I had again ridden off with the key to the last hotel. I had to stop making a habit of this!!! I called back to Jake's Corner to ask for their address, so I could mail the key to Philip. It turned out that Gary, the manager at Stratford Motel, had hitchhiked a ride with Philip back in 2000 from Fort St. John to Whitehorse. They knew each other, and Philip would be coming to Whitehorse tomorrow when he could pick up the key. Problem solved, it is a small world indeed!
Tomorrow, I will take the bike to a bike shop for maintenance and tune up. I need to stop by the post office to see if the new handlebar bag arrived. The current one has been abused in my falls and has three corners of its frame bracketed. A temporary solution at best... I will try to meet with Ed as I spoke to him over the phone.
I will take off again on Tuesday morning for the rest of the trip. I hope for clear skies to see Mt. Logan to my left and front (southwest). It is the highest point in Canada, only a 100m or so lower in height when compared to Denali.
Best wishes from Whitehorse.
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