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Thread: Inuvik Bound: road2blue

  1. #16
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    Lake Laberge to Five Finger Rapids

    Back on the highway it is a long run up to Dawson. The pavement is good, the road meanders around mountains, over hills and through gentle valleys. The path of the highway is along the eastern slope of the Dawson range of mountains roughly following the path of the Yukon River. Gas stops are between 100 km and 160 km apart, separated by the spectacular scenery showcasing northern wilderness. If your machine fails out here, it is a long walk to civilization unless another vehicle happens to pass by.

    Rounding a gentle curve in the road, I am surprised by a flag lady in the middle of nowhere commanding me to stop and wait for some road construction. I shut my bike off and we have a pleasant conversation about this being her summer job and plans to return to University down south in the fall. In the five minutes I wait for the all clear sign, two vehicles line up behind me. This provides a good indication of traffic frequency along this route.

    About ten minutes north of my first gas stop at Carmacks there is a pullout for the overlook of the Five Finger rapids section of the Yukon River. This was another tricky section for the early gold rushers. Floating down the Yukon on your homemade barge (assuming you made it through Miles Canyon) with the two thousand pounds of food and supplies you hauled up over the Chilkoot trail, you drift around a corner to find you are faced with the choice of floating through one of four channels separated by pillars of rock. Those that had been through this before knew that the broadest channel which seemed like the easiest one to float through was actually the most dangerous. An underwater ledge cause the water to drop two feet which capsized or broke apart many of these handmade barges. Only one narrow channel was deep enough to be safe.

    Once again I am struck by another example in life where sharing your experiences openly with others can help them through a rough spot. Had the knowledgeable locals and experienced Yukoners kept their experiences to themselves, many more ÔÇ£greenhorn flotillasÔÇØ would have been destroyed on their journey down the Yukon. How much better could we do with our mental health journeys if we would more openly share our experiences with others? I am sure the first person to lose his ÔÇ£outfitÔÇØ through the Five Finger Rapids was not ostracized when he shared his experience with the next person to try. Why and how has society decided to allow this stigma to be attached to mental health?
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  2. #17
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    Arriving in Dawson

    Back on the road, I head north to Pelly Crossing where I top off the tank for the next leg of the journey and realize I can make it from here to the Dempster Corner without another fuel stop. I roll past the next town (Stewart Crossing) about a half an hour later and cross the steel bridge over the Stewart River, I come to a definite fork in the road. To the right, I will end up in the mining towns of Mayo, Keno and Elsa; the left takes me up to the Dempster Highway and Dawson City. The road from this point is noticeably narrower and the surface quality seems degraded. I believe there are more commercial vehicles and traffic associated with the Keno and Mayo mines than with the communities I am headed toward but it just could be that the road I am now on is older and has not been recently resurfaced.

    Arriving at Dawson, I find most of the camping spots in town are booked in anticipation of the Dust to Dawson motorcycle rally starting the next day. As I have planned to run the Dempster tomorrow, I have tires to change and the zipper on my riding pants to fix so I book a spot just outside of town to settle for the night.
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  3. #18
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    The Dempster

    There are a couple of issues to deal with before I tackle the only public road in North America that crosses the Arctic Circle (the Haul Road in Alaska is private). I have to finish swapping tires and I have to fix the leg zipper on my Darien Pants. Tires first. Before I left home, I installed fresh Anakees for the trip to Dawson. I also carried a fresh set of TKCÔÇÖs. Last night when I got to Dawson and found a place to camp, I changed the rear tire and got a good start on the front one. I decided to stop just shy of adding air because all the neighbouring campers were asleep and I didnÔÇÖt want to start up my noisy little air compressor and wake everyone up. It was still bright enough to work but it was close to midnight.

    I should add here that I was camping beside a mother and son couple who were living in tents here in Dawson while working a gold mining claim about 90 minutes out of town. They got in about 9 PM last night and we had a good talk about mining and what they are doing and when they turned in, I made sure I was as quiet as possible (not an easy thing to do when you are peeling thick rubber off an aluminium rim with steel tire irons).

    First thing in the morning ÔÇô fix the zipper. ThatÔÇÖs quiet work at 6 AM, then as camp starts to stir, I pump up the tire (which does hold air) and start loading up my bike. I actually donÔÇÖt roll out of the campground until about 10 AM because I got talking with some of the other campers about my trip, their trip, life, etc.

    Riding back to the Dempster corner (about 40 km out of town) I contemplate the madness of riding on this road. 750 km of gravelon a motorcycle. The weather looks good but there is a huge distance between the forecast points of the Dawson, Eagle Plains and Inuvik (closer to my home it is like comparing the weather between Vancouver and Kelowna and assuming it will be the same all the way in between).

    I top off the tank at the corner and pull up in front of the Dempster Monument that guards the beginning of the highway. I commemorate the display with a few snapshots snapshots ensuring the bike is in the picture for good luck and then IÔÇÖm headed north. I cross over the Klondike River on a wood plank bridge and the road surface changes from pavement to clay/gravel.

    A fortress of poplar and black spruce trees line the road guiding you due north for the first few miles but soon opens up exposing a former burned area. As the elevation changes, the road begins to meander and distant mountains grow closer.

    I stop at a pullout just north of the Tombstone Interpretive Centre to capture some images of the impressive vista and meet two couples from Germany travelling in rented campers as well as a young lady from Quebec who is going just this far up the highway with friends. Apparently many vistors to the Dawson area come this far for a glimpse of the highway and then turn around. While I wonder if that may not be a wise decision, so far the road is fantastic and the scenery spectacular; I am encouraged to continue.
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  4. #19
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    Ogilvie Bridge to the Arctic Circle

    Contrary to my initial thoughts, the Dempster is not a straight path through a boring prairie tundra. The road winds through gentle sweeping turns, climbing, descending and banking through gentle mountain passes. The road surface changes from gravel to clay and back again and I have to concentrate completely on the path I am taking. Riding on many other desolate Yukon highways, concentration may slip to 30% or 40% as the mind chases other fleeting thoughts but on this road, anything less than 100% concentration is quickly rewarded with very exciting consequences. Ruts, bumps and soft mounds of gravel all conspire to throw my narrow tires off course. The miles and hours pass in an almost zen-like existence. The concentration is tiring and by mid morning I find the warmth of the sun is adding weight to my eyelids. I find a pullout, stop the bike and listen for a moment to buzz of mosquitoes, chirp of birds, the nearby babbling creek and the whisper of wind through the leaves. Propping my bike on the sidestand, I slump over my stuffed tank bag and drift off into dreamworld. Twenty minutes later, I awake with a start and return completely refreshed to the road.

    IÔÇÖm only on the road for about ten minutes when I round a bend and a view of the Ogilvie River greets my eyes. I stop for a few minutes at this seemingly innocuous crossing to take a number of pictures. This bridge is one of two on the Dempster that was constructed by Canadian Army units based in Chilliwack during the initial construction of the highway. A friend of mine who was part of that operation told me they set the forms for the concrete supports in the middle of winter at forty below and colder when the river was frozen. In this land of permafrost and constantly shifting soils, the bridge has remained solid all these years, a tribute to the fine engineering capabilities of our Canadian soldiers.

    The road winds along the Ogilvie River for a short time before climbing up and following the ridgeline of mountains as it heads north. The tripmeter on my motorcycle reads 285 as the low fuel light flickers on. IÔÇÖm not as worried this time as I was back on Highway 37, IÔÇÖm now packing an additional 5 litres of gas which should give me the range to bring me safely to Eagle Plains.

    My calculations are accurate as I roll into the service area with my engine still running strong. My tank requires 16.27 litres to top it off so I think I had about 3 litres left before I had to start walking. Looking up and down the highway as far as I could see (the Eagle Plains complex is built on a hilltop so I could see quite a distance) there was not another fuel station in sight so I did not argue with their $1.69 per litre.

    It strikes me, as I buy my gas, that IÔÇÖm about at the half way point on my journey to Inuvik. Before I left, I was telling people that when I was half way between Inuvik and Dawson on the Dempster Highway, I would be in a very isolated location and could be in great danger. I should have researched that location a little better I suppose. There have been times on this journey so far when I have been much more isolated than I am now.

    This was a ÔÇ£gas and goÔÇØ stop for me. I had topped off my tank at the Dempster Corner six hours ago. I was half way to Inuvik and the ferries stop running close to midnight (I wasnÔÇÖt sure exactly when but I knew I had no time to dawdle).

    Back on the road to the bottom of the hill, I stop for pictures of the Eagle River crossing. This was the other bridge constructed by the guys from CFB Chilliwack but differs from the first in that it is a freespan rather than supported cantilever bridge.

    As the road climbs out of the Eagle River Valley, winds become noticeably more forceful. About 17 km from the bridge I pull to the side of the road for another photo opportunity. I have reached the Arctic Circle. As I roll into this turnout I am surprised to see a gentleman sitting at a picnic table with a bicycle hooked up to a trailer parked in front of the commemorative/information panel. Despite a time constraint imposed by the ferry schedule, I am interested to hear about his experiences.

    Against the backdrop of incredible scenery, he tells me that he is only a few years from retirement but he had always wanted to bicycle across Canada. A number of years ago he set up a schedule where he would take about three weeks every year to cycle a leg that will take him closer to his goal, this year it was time for the north. Cycling alone gives him a time to reflect on the past year and consider the future direction he wants to take personally as well as with his career. He meets many interesting people along the way and sees amazing things. He considers himself extremely fortunate to be healthy enough for this activity and to have a career that he not only enjoys immensely but allows him the freedom to pursue this interest. The wisdom he shares with me reminds me how important it is to have big goals. In order to realistically achieve big goals we often have to be flexible enough to set smaller achievable goals that together will realize our overall target.
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  5. #20
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    Arctic Circle to Inuvik

    Only about 60 km up the road I stop again at the border of the Yukon and North West Territories. This is also a point of Continental Divide along the Dempster (only the second of four I have crossed that I actually remember to note). From this point, the road rises a bit more to the summit of the Wright Pass before dropping down to the Peel River Crossing near Fort McPherson, my first ferry crossing on the Dempster.

    In addition to high cross winds (which had been getting stronger ever since Eagle Plains), the other challenge I face in the North West Territories is the road surface. While the roads are well maintained, the surfacing material causes great challenge for motorcyclists. Over a solid stable base is a dressing of gravel that moves like marbles under my tires. Ride too slow and the front wheel pushes the gravel into soft mounds that throw me off one way or another, ride too fast and traction decreases on both wheels creating great instability. Just the right speed seems to range between 60 kmh and 80 kmh as long as I keep the established wheel tracks. If I happen to venture out of the wheel tracks, instability can strike with a vengeance and the bike is susceptible to violent sliding and speed wobbles. On the straight section, the track is easy to follow but on corners, gravel is spread more evenly with a less distinct track ÔÇô much less stability. The ÔÇ£riding on marblesÔÇØ feeling is heightened by the strong crosswinds. To prevent the wind from blowing the bike off the road, I have to lean. As I lean, the traction decreases causing a tendency for the wheels to slip out from under. Where concentration earlier in the trip was 100%, I now need even more.

    I catch the last ferry across the MacKenzie River near its confluence with the Arctic Red River. I have been on the road for 13 hours and have about 125 km or about another 90 minutes of riding.

    The sun is strong and behind me as I travel north, balancing between too slow, too fast, correcting for the wind, staying ÔÇ£in the trackÔÇØ. IÔÇÖm not sure if it is the Arctic light or the weariness but I am having great difficulty determining the track my wheels should be in. The definition between where the tire traffic has been and where the gravel is being thrown to is difficult to discern.

    As I leave the ferries about six pickups pass me heading south at high speed and leave me in a blanket of thick heavy dust. Although IÔÇÖve slowed down in anticipation and moved as far right as I can while staying ÔÇ£in the trackÔÇØ I am blind for what seems like an eternity after they pass. My wheels bite the soft mounds of gravel outside of the track and the bike wobbles dangerously. Standing on the pegs lowers my center of gravity and I manage to manhandle the bike back into the track, but not without a few sphincter clenching ÔÇ£tank slappersÔÇØ(when your bike wobbles from side to side so severely the handlebars seem to slap the gas tank). I have survived.

    I carry on, less than one hour to go. I am highly cognizant of the fact that those trucks are probably the last vehicular traffic this road will see for the next six hours. Until the ferries start running tomorrow, there is no reason for anyone to drive down this road. I was the last person off the ferry. If I had fallen and been badly hurt, no one would know for the next 5 or 6 hours.emergency room doctors talk about the golden hour. The first sixty minutes after a serious injury.

    I ride on, exhausted. My tires bite another soft mound of gravel. At least this time there is not dust cloud to blind me but the flat arctic light is not helping. Again the bike hops from side to side until I manage to muscle it to a stop. I need a break. I put down the kickstand and walk away from the bike. Probably only 30 minutes to go. The road is straight as far as I can see. The sun is bright, broad daylight. But it is late at night. There is no one here. I am all alone. The light and the weariness, it is all very disorienting.

    I have no choice, I have to get back on my bike. My low fuel light has been on for quite some time. I dont know how much fuel I have in my tank but I do have some spare in a gas can strapped to my passenger foot peg. One last push to Inuvik. Ive read that when you get close to town, there is pavement. I cant remember how far out, I thought maybe 15 or 17 km. My odometer and my GPS tell me Im getting close but Im so tired the math is hard. I balance around another marbly corner, hanging on once again..and thenpavement!! What a wonderful feeling, I pass the airport turnoff and accelerate into top gearit is so smooth, I cant believe it. Town should be very close, there are a few more buildings, more signs. Im looking for the campsite downtown. The buildings and infrastructure seem to diminish. Did I miss it? The road climbs a bit and as I can see more buildings and more signs of a town and my bike sputters to a stop. Ive run out of gas. Coasting to the side of the road, the bike stand goes down and I fumble to access my spare gas. Almost there. Back on the bike, through the down town I manage to find the campground I have heard about. I stop in at the registration booth and the attendant advises me to find a site and register in the morning.

    The tenting sites here are platformed so the tent is elevated off the ground by about 16 inches. I find a platform and struggle to unload my bike and set up my tent. I donÔÇÖt recall ever being so physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically drained in my life. I am totally spent. I collapse in my tent and sleep deeply despite the bright arctic sun streaming through the fabric in the middle of the night.
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  6. #21
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    Great read! Thanks!
    RoyB....
    2007 BMW K1200R Sport (abs),2007 Suzuki dl650 V Strom (abs),2004 Honda VFR (abs),1972 Honda Trail 90,
    2001 Moto Guzzi V-11 Rosso Mandello

  7. #22
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    Down the Dempster

    I noticed yesterday that my bike seemed not to start quite as quickly sometimes so I changed the sparkplug before going to bed. I am hoping this will make a difference this morning as I want to make an early start and have a fast ride down the Dempster. There is another biker from Pennsylvania in the campground and I hear his bike fire up at about 7-ish (darn Im late). By the time I get packedand this morning I stop at a restaurant for my ham and eggsits about 9 before I leave town.

    I gassed up last night but on my way out of town I do stop for an obligatory picture of where the ice road officially begins when freezeup occurs (yes they actually do have a highway sign with the arrows for Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk pointing to the water channel!). Then we are out of town, past the airport off the pavement and back onto 750 km of gravel.

    Remember, the first part of the trip was the most challenging when I came up because of the ÔÇ£marblesÔÇØ they add to the surface here in NWT. I get back into the ÔÇ£grooveÔÇØ (no pun intended) and the kilometres roll by. It seems a little easier when IÔÇÖm fresh for the day (but I wonder what the south end will be like ÔÇô will it be as easy when IÔÇÖm tired as it was when I was fresh the other day?).

    Ive heard that Highways was applying calcium chloride to the road as a dust suppressant today and I do come across a few places where that it evident on my way to the first crossing at Tsiigehtchic (Arctic Red River). Fortunately most spots it is avoidable (once it gets on your vehicle, it is very difficult to get off and can be very damaging to painted surfaces). Arriving at the ferry, Im waved to the front of the line where two other bikes are waiting. I chat with the riders a bit but something seems off about the conversation (maybe my brain is a little off this morningI ask questions and get responses that indicate I should know this stuff.Im feeling a bit confused).

    Rolling off the ferry on the west side of the Mackenzie I bolt off leading the pack toward Ft McPherson (I know I travel faster than they do). While I ride, I ponder the strangeness of that early morning conversation. I realize that I had been talking with Steve and Neil (the guys from Langley I had met in Watson Lake and had breakfast with yesterday and sat with at the BBQ), Im not sure where my head washow embarrassing.....a short circuit in my head.very strange!!

    I stop at Fort McPherson to ÔÇ£top off the tankÔÇØ. To find the fuel station I actually have to come into town and explore a bit. I wander through the adjacent grocery store and pick up a litre of water to refill my hydration pack. Outside, I contemplate looking further for the memorial site of ÔÇ£The Lost PatrolÔÇØ but decide I need to make miles if I plan to get off the Dempster today. As I leave, Steve and Neil are just pulling in and talking about a lunch break.

    Arriving at Eagle Plains, I am chilled and in need of a break. I have caught my ÔÇ£co-camperÔÇØ from Pennsylvania who has just fuelled up and will be staying in Eagle Plains for night. There is also a rider heading north who fuels up and we end up sitting at adjacent tables in the restaurant.

    Jay is a businessman from Seattle on a big BMW GS. We talk about the road and conversation shifts to our own ÔÇ£real worldÔÇØ outside of this trip. He talks about the competition in his business and we share how technology allows us to do so many things we couldnÔÇÖt even think about a few years ago. How technology increases productivity and yet allows us to be more isolated and independent than ever before. Although we donÔÇÖt discuss it, I wonder how much this increased isolation contributes to the rising rates of depression?

    When we settle our bills with the waitress we discover, as she puts it, ÔÇ£weÔÇÖre all from the same ÔÇÿhood.ÔÇØ She is up from Vancouver for a summer job. Came to the Yukon for a travelling adventure, needed some money and landed the job at Eagle Plains (it is a little smaller and more remote than she expected but the money is good).

    As we suit up outside to leave, I notice Jay programming his GPS before heading north and I wave good luck to him as my motorcycle heads for the south. Although he had advised the road and weather was good coming out of Dawson, I see dark clouds on the horizon and wonder if IÔÇÖm going to get into some of the famous Dempster ÔÇ£greasy when wetÔÇØ clay.

    Similar to the prairies where you can see rain coming for miles before it hits, as I progress south, I can see that I will likely arrive in Dawson a little wet. I pass through a few showers along the way but IÔÇÖm far enough south by the time they hit that IÔÇÖm off the Dempster clay and there is enough gravel on the road to reduce treachery. IÔÇÖve dodged another bullet.

    I pull into the fuel stop at the Dempster corner having noted my low fuel light for most of the past hour, I now know IÔÇÖm very close to the end of my tank. As I pull off my helmet I hear another customer being told that the power has been out for over three hours and as a result there is no fuel available. Apparently a lightening strike over in Mayo (about 160 km to the south east) has taken out the power in the whole region. Dawson City has its own backup generators so there is fuel there. I head down the road to Dawson and after fifteen kilometres, I have to pull to the side of the road and add gas from my spare fuel can, my engine had quit.

    I pulled into the Bonanza RV Park where I had previously stayed and asked if I could have a room for the night. As I moved my bags from the bike into the room, a torrential downpour started that continued well into the night. A room had been a very good idea.

    Just a note to the attached picture. I call this one "riding on marbles." Note that I am travelling about 65 km/h and the bike is leaning a bit to the left. I'm in a strong crosswind here and have to lean the bike into the wind while at the same time trying to maintain balance on pebbles that act like ball bearings. If I go too fast, my tires will slip out from under me (or that's how it feels) and if I go too slow, the front wheel will plough into the soft ridges and toss me off. Very entertaining!

    more pictures on my website www.road2blue.com
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  8. #23
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    Riding around the Klondike Gold Fields

    The Klondike Gold rush story has been a fascination of mine for many years.

    My first night in Dawson (before riding up the Dempster), I had camped beside some people who were working a claim located about ninety minutes drive out of town (and nearly inaccessible at that). They are in the process of trying to reach bedrock so they can discover if there is enough gold at current prices to actually establish a mine. When I expressed interest in coming out to see what they were working on they referred me to a more established operation that was sure to be more appropriate for my level of interest. I questioned a few other people in town and was referred to the same operation.

    Goldbottom Creek, I am told, is about an hours drive out of town along Hunker Creek Road. I check the time and find there is more than enough time to get there but not enough to see both the Goldbottom operation and the Number 4 Dredge out on Bonanza Creek. I recall reading in one of my books about a disillusioned miner from the 1898 gold rush hiking out of Dawson and up the Midnight Dome, looking sadly down on the city of dreams that left so many unfulfilled. The Midnight Dome.I think I saw a road for that close to my campground..and off I go.

    The road up the Midnight Dome leaves from the main road just east of Dawson, winds through a large lot subdivision and ends up atop a hill overlooking the city and Yukon River Valley. The road up is flawless asphalt with beautiful twists and peg scraping turns. This is unquestionably a road that can not be missed if you are in the area on a motorcycle. It is short but sweet ÔÇô I ride up and down a few times just because it is so much fun. The vista from the top is very helpful for putting the geography of the goldfields into perspective. Facing south I look over Dawson to my right and can look up the Yukon River at the bend miners would float around on their final approach into the Klondike. To the southeast I can see straight down Bonanza Creek and off to the east I can trace the Klondike River almost out to where Hunker Creek joins it. For those who donÔÇÖt know the story, the biggest finds were on Bonanza Creek and the discovery was made by a couple of people who had just been visiting a long-time prospector over on Hunker Creek days before they struck it rich. There was some tension in the visit and although the two creeks are not far apart, the long-time prospector was never told what he was missing until it was too late to stake anything.

    I ponder that start to the gold rush as I drop off the Midnight Dome and ride up the valley to the east. Hunker Creek Road is a winding dirt, gravel and sand road that takes me up to the Goldbottom mine located at the confluence of Hunker and Goldbottom creeks.

    IÔÇÖm still about 20 minutes early for the tour but a young lady comes out of one of the ramshackle buildings and gives me a short overview on the gold panning process so that I can play in the dirt and water while I wait for the official tour to begin. I find out that she is a local girl who has just graduated from high school and will be off to college in the fall. She is the daughter of the mine owner and has been teaching tourists to pan for gold since she was six years old (ÔÇ£they listen now better than they used toÔÇØ she tells me). Her dad took over the mine operation from her grandfather who had been working it since the early 1950s and her grandmother is still actively leading tours through the operation. The bigger surprise comes when I discover that her grandmother spends winters in my hometown and is good friends with a few of my friends.

    It is a small group of three that tour the mine and learn about the mining process. Our tour guide is also a young local girl who does a great job of explaining the mining process including the bureaucratic parts pertaining to registering a claim, proving it and working it. She tells us this operation has to recover at least one ounce per hour to break even and much of the land in this area is now being mined for at least the third time. As I listen to her explanations, watch the equipment working and think about the prospectors I was camped beside that first night in Dawson I am struck by the amount of work and capital it takes to establish and maintain a mine in this area. I didnÔÇÖt see a lot of new shiny equipment around so I suspect the margins are pretty thin in this business.

    The innate optimism and inner strength a person must have to be successful as a fledgling operator in this business is absolutely astonishing. I think about all the pitfalls and disappointments that are bound to occur but I donÔÇÖt see despair in the faces of those who are working away their dreams (despite the small returns).

    The tour is over, I have a great visit with Rona Millar, the lady who spends her winters in my home town and I head south on my motorcycle to ride the ÔÇ£Goldfields LoopÔÇØ. On my motorcycle or any dual sport bike, this is a great ride. During the gold rush these creeks were populated by thousands of people. The Bonanza Creek was the richest but there was gold on Hunker Creek, Quartz Creek, Sulphur Creek and Dominion Creek. All of these creeks have their headwaters in an area that came to be known as ÔÇ£King SolomonÔÇÖs Dome.ÔÇØ For many years, miners thought the mother lode of the gold in all the creeks lay in hidden in ÔÇ£King SolomonÔÇÖs Dome ÔÇô the mountain in the centre of the five rich gold bearing creeks. Today there are roads through out this area and the mountainsides are scarred with exploration trails and channels of years gone by. The ride down Hunker Creek to King SolomonÔÇÖs Dome and back up Bonanza Creek is about a 90 km loop. I ride up to the top of the Dome (where a microwave tower now stands ÔÇô sign at the bottom says the road is not maintained, use at your own risk). The road is rough and steep but my 650 manages very well. At the top I dismount and walk around the summit viewing each creek radiating out like spokes from a central hub. It is easy to see how this hill would be suspected of holding a mother lode.

    I ride down the steep little hill and turn the bike out toward Bonanza Creek. The road descends rather steeply and I travel quite a distance further than I thought I should. I seem to be a little further south.the map and my GPS are in a bit of disagreement. I end up in the middle of a fairly active mine site and think I may be lost. Well, I know how to get back to where I was, but not how to get to where I want to be which is on Bonanza Creek. I find someone to talk to and they confirm that I missed a directional sign. I ride back toward King Solomons Dome and out to Bonanza Creek, Gold Dredge # 4 and Discovery Claim.

    As I approach the Dredge, I can see it is closed for the day. This was not high on my priority list although it would be interesting to go through. I ride further down the road to Discover Claim and see Parks Canada has created a very informative walking path through the area with informational panels. I park my bike and walk over to the creek where the first discovery was made. I wonder how much this area has changed and what it really looked like 104 years ago when George Carmacks dipped his pan into the water washing out those first nuggets. The area looks pristine and natural now but I know the land has been mined at least three times since that day.

    As I turn and think about walking further down the path, the sky opens releasing a torrent of rain. I head back to my bike and ride into town for supper.

    Tonight IÔÇÖll eat out. IÔÇÖve seen the gold fields and I head over to the Eldorado Hotel. Rona had told me the Eldorado was the local hangout and I had to go there just to experience it.

    Tomorrow I head up over the Top of the World Highway.I hope the weather will clear. The picture is of Bonanza Creek, where the gold rush began, taken from the top of the Midnight Dome. More pictures are on my website www.road2blue.com
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  9. #24
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    23

    North Canol Road

    The rain I expected last night did not arrive. I awake with the sun fighting to break through the high overcast. Quiet Lake is beautiful in the diffuse light but I am anxious to get on the road so I pack quickly and quietly. IÔÇÖm just leaving as my friendly neighbour sticks his head out of his camper and wishes me bon voyage; he seems pleased that I did not get eaten by bears last night.

    On the road to Ross River I find improvement as I progress toward Ross River. The road seems to be slightly wider, slightly more well maintained and I think I can make a little better time. I round a corner and am surprised to find an industrial loader working on the road, moving some gravel around. I stop in at Lapie Lake to take a picture but my camera decides not to cooperate ÔÇô a total refusal to focus. When I see the campsites and the lake I know I was better off at Quiet Lake.

    The morning ride to Ross River takes about three and one half hours to cover the 80 km distance.

    At Ross River I find out three important things.
    Firstly, they do have gas. If the store is closed they have a cardlock where I can just insert my credit card and fuel up.
    Secondly, tomorrow is Canada Day and the all the businesses in town will be closed for celebrations (but I can buy gas at the cardlock).
    Thirdly, at Moose Creek, 147 km from Ross River, a contractor will be replacing the bridge and the road will be closed tomorrow morning.
    It is now about one oÔÇÖclock on June 30 so I have about 19 hours to get out to MacMillan Pass (232 km) and back to this side of Moose Creek (85 km) for a total of 317 km. Based on my progress this morning, IÔÇÖm looking at about a 14 hour ride so it may be doable. I cross the Pelly River on a cable ferry and set off to the North West Territories on a road that follows the Ross River.

    The North Canol is narrower and rougher than the South Canol. There are steeper hills, sharper corners, narrower bridges and maintenance appears much less regular. My bike, fully loaded with extra fuel is taking a real beating on some of these potholes. The bright side is that there seems to be more gravel on this road so if the rain should come, it may not slow me down much (although the roughness already does that).

    Just past Dragon Lake (105 km) the rain I have been expecting arrives. IÔÇÖve watched the clouds thicken all afternoon and now they have started to spill their cargo. My progress slows in the rain mostly due to visibility issues. Ditches on the roadsides are full and begin to flow over the road. Approaching one of these spots I suddenly realize the watercourse is much deeper with a more abrupt channel than I had anticipated; I havenÔÇÖt slowed enough. I stand up on the foot pegs increase my stability. The front wheel sinks into the channel that the water has eroded and my hands tighten instinctively on the grips. The front suspension compresses and bottoms out sending a jarring jolt up my forearms, into my elbows and biceps. A wave displaced by the front wheel and engine cases hitting the water washes over the bike and leaves a blinding film of mud on my faceshield. The front wheel hits the bank on the far side of the channel and I feel the rear wheel lighten then settle back as the front wheel pops up. Almost instantly the rear wheel hits that same ledge and bounces up. The weight of the whole motorcycle is on the front wheel wobbling from side to side under the stress. I fight to hold on to the bike. The rear tire contacts the ground sending a jolt through the footpegs to be absorbed by my knees and thighs. The suspension again compresses and I slam the toe of my boot onto the brake pedal trying desperately to scrub off speed. I feel the bike skidding but slowly I am able to bring it under control.

    I progress toward the MacMillan pass and as the elevation increases it seems the rain intensity increases as well. Rounding a corner I pull to the side of the road to make room for a south bound road grader followed by a pickup truck. The road grader pulls to a stop beside by bike and the operator throttles the big machine back as he opens the door and pokes his head out. He advises that the bridge over Moose Creek is being closed and he is moving his machine south of that ÔÇô I should make sure I am well back of that point by morning as well. Thanking him for his advice, I carry on.

    My progress is quite slow now. The rain is heavy and visibility very poor. I reach the much photographed point along the road where surplus vehicles and equipment were left behind by the construction company who built the road over 60 years ago. I carry on without pause knowing my finicky camera will be no help in this downpour. I cross over another single lane wooden bridge.

    I consider, as I ride, that I am now the last person on this road. Tomorrow morning, a bridge somewhere behind me will be removed and if I am not south of that bridge, I will be here for another ten days. I realize that as I progress into MacMillan Pass, the spectacular views I was riding to see, are totally obscured by thick low cloud and heavy rain. My progress is slower than I had anticipated and IÔÇÖm thinking that I still have two to three hours to get to the NWT border. That means four to six hours to get back to this point and another hour to get back to where I can camp at Dragon Lake. Potentially another seven hours of riding for no views and more rain. I am wondering if the excessive rain I am experiencing will cause road washouts and what difficulty that might cause me. It is about 5 PM when I decide that I have gone as far up this road as I will go. Additional mileage will not produced anything different than what I am currently experiencing.

    The ride back to Dragon Lake is uneventful with exception that I am developing a suspicion that my rear shock absorber may be compromised. The road is feeling a little rougher than it has in the past. There is more bounce and more bottoming when I canÔÇÖt avoid the bumps. It may be time for new suspension when I return home.

    The Dragon Lake pullout was recommended by the fellow I had camped beside last night. I had not seen any bear scat on the road coming here and could not find any as I checked the site carefully. The rain has slowed to showers and I decide to start supper (instant Backpacker ÔÇ£no cookÔÇØ meal - just add boiling water and stir) before setting my tent. IÔÇÖll start that and set up my tent while the water does its magic inside the foil bag. WeÔÇÖll see what curried lamb is like tonight.

    In my tent, I reflect on my journey. IÔÇÖve done what I set out to accomplish physically. IÔÇÖve done the Dempster; explored the gold fields; ridden the Top of the World highway; and done as much of the Canol Road as possible. ItÔÇÖs time to head for home. This early start to the evening is not a bad thing. I can get a good rest and then my trip home (about 2,400 km) can maybe be one really long day or maybe two shorter days depending on how long it takes to get out of Ross River and down to Watson Lake (the only two gravel components I have left to go). I force myself to sleep. If tomorrow is going to be a really long day, I will need all the sleep I can get tonight.

    I toss and turn a bit through the night. At one point I am sure there is a bear outside the tent and it does freak me out a bit.

    Morning eventually arrives and I step out of my tent carefully surveying the ground around my camping site.not a single animal track anywhere. This was another example of how the mind can play tricks on a person and make you believe in a reality that does not exist. I was once again reminded how fear can create things in the mind much greater than what may or may not exist.

    My timing is about right to catch an early ferry ride across back across the Pelly so I pack the bike up and ride off down the road. The rain has stopped but sky remains heavy with clouds. The road back is no better than it was on the way up but I arrive at the ferry crossing in reasonable time only to find it sitting across the river with a couple of vehicles waiting to board. I see someone walking across the pedestrian suspension bridge that parallels the ferry route. I pull my helmet off to wait. After about an hour I hear that there was a party in town last night and they canÔÇÖt find the ferry operator. The ferry wonÔÇÖt run until they can find him.

    It is noon before they can find someone to operate the ferry but when he goes to start it, the battery is dead and attempts to boost it are unsuccessful (reminiscent of my own experience at Whitehorse). ÔÇ£Have to bring in a mechanic from Whitehorse,ÔÇØ the ferry operator advises gravely. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs about five hours if we can find him.ÔÇØ

    I decide to find a place to stay in Ross River until things get sorted out and it is a bit of a challenge to locate the hotel manager. Eventually it gets worked out and I arrange a room for the night. Because of the uncertainty of getting the ferry fixed the hotel guy suggests I might want to book for three or four days and get a multiday discount. ÔÇ£How is anyone going to find a government mechanic on a Canada Day Friday? ÔÇô ferry probably wonÔÇÖt run until Monday.ÔÇØ I book for one night. ItÔÇÖs warm and dry here, IÔÇÖll figure out my next move tomorrow.

    Mid afternoon, I wander down to get a few more things from my bike and as I approach the pedestrian bridge, I see the ferry is running. I am overjoyed! My bike comes across the river at the first opportunity and as it now late in the day and IÔÇÖve paid for the night, I will stay in Ross River and leave in the morning.

    To pass the time, I do a bit of maintenance on my bike and notice, to my horror, the rear brake pad linings are completely used up. From what I can see, any application of the rear brake will result in metal to metal contact. My ride home will be with a broken rear shock absorber and no rear brakes.should be an interesting ride!

    The picture is a typical view of the North Canol Road, this one in particular is near the Sheldon Creek Bridge. More information and pictures available on my website www.road2blue.com
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  10. #25
    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Land of the Big Sky
    Posts
    3,899
    Thanks for taking us along and keep it up!
    Kevin Huddy
    Intrepid Incompetent
    Tm Pterodactyl MT Outpost

  11. #26
    Bo Griffin
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Prosper, Tx
    Posts
    50

    Inuvik

    Nicely written. Thank you for taking the time to share the good notes and photos on your trip. I appreciate it.

    Bo

  12. #27
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    BC Canada
    Posts
    23

    Homeward Bound

    Saturday morning. IÔÇÖm up early, breakfast is at 7 and then I will be wasting no time leaving town. ItÔÇÖs an interesting hotel. Three of us have rented rooms and the management decides when breakfast and supper will be, the restaurant is not open for lunch.

    Im on the road at 7:45. The sun is shining, the roads have actually had about a day to dry out and that is helpful. The Robert Campbell Highway between Ross River and Watson Lake is like the Dempster in some ways. When it is dry, it is okay (but rough) but when it is wet.it is greasy and slippery like ice. Today is a good day and I can cruise at about 80 km/h.

    Im riding toward Watson Lake and have been on the road for about 45 minutes when I notice wobbly tire tracks on the road. I see them intermittently but they have been made since the rain. The tires that made the tracks are narrow tires, looks like a bicycle  but really wobbly. I ride for probably half an hour seeing these tracks until I round a corner, drop down a little incline and there in the valley bottom, I see a young man on a recumbent bicycle. He peddles along, weaving indiscriminately and apparently without pattern across the road  like a wanderer, having the time of his life. I slow as I draw abreast of him, shout a greeting to him about the beautiful day and the accent in his response suggests he is Australian. As I accelerate away, I grin to myself at the perfection of the stereotype: young cheerful curly headed lad, not a care in the world, weaving all over the road on a bicycle, one hundred miles away from civilization.has to be an Aussy!

    Getting closer to Watson Lake the road roughens. There is a lot of traffic from heavy mining traffic in these areas and it takes a toll on the roads. At one point I hit a deep sharp chuckhole so hard that I think it could flatten my tire or bend my rim but the bike continues to run true without any change in handling. The road teases me with a stretch of pavement and then reverts to gravel.twice.before the pavement finally remains and I follow it into Watson Lake.

    I fuel up at the gas station across the road from the sign forest (without taking the obligatory tourist photos) and head west toward Highway 37. I had originally planned on heading south down the Alaska Highway to Fort St John and Dawson Creek but excessive rains in those areas have washed out roads so my route south will mimic my route north.

    I ride until about 11 PM when I pull into Smithers and find a motel with a perfectly adequate room. The next morning, I leave in the rain and carry on in my determined ride. Rolling out of Houston, a car pulls along side honking, waving and pointing - I smile and wave backit is so nice when people have so much fun greeting travellers on the road.

    I have planned stops in Burns Lake, Quesnel and Cache Creek. These fuel breaks are all that stand between me and home and I ride. Steady riding, three stops, I am home by 8 PM.

    8,300 km in 13 days2,000 were on gravel. Ive written quite a bit here about the trip, what I saw, what I rode, what I thought, and what Ive experienced. I think this has been a life changing experience for me but Im not sure a person can be completely confident in a statement like that until some time has passed. Im still processing a lot it all in my mind and will likely write more about that all in a bit of epilogue on my website (www.road2blue.com) ..but I want to digest what Ive written, what Ive thought and what Ive learned before I write more.

    Thanks for reading.

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