The lush cedar-hemlock forest of the interior zone transitions to sparse northern boreal white and black spruce, evidence of long, cold winters.
I see a black shape moving by the side of the road up ahead and slow down. A bear? No, too small. Maybe it’s a cub? I come to a full stop. If there’s a baby bear, there’s going to be a mama bear and mama bears are to be avoided.
The shape moves again and flies up into the air. Okay, not a bear. It’s a crow. My mental checklist considers the possibility that crows circling could indicate the presence of an animal carcass which would present a risk of a bear feeding on and defending said carcass. Nope, it’s just one crow. I stand down from red alert.
Later, I see a lone figure approaching. Another cyclist? As he gets closer, I see from his motion that he is riding a longboard. It is Paul Kent. We’ve been messaging since I left Vancouver about the possibility of meeting up on the road but I’ve had no internet for the last few days. I’m glad we didn’t miss each other. Paul is riding his skateboard from Fairbanks, Alaska toward Jasper, Alberta. He’s doing this solo with no support vehicle. He has an impressively small backpack with just the barest of essentials, carrying more camera gear than camping gear.
In Teslin, I meet Cameron who is traveling from Deadhorse, Alaska to South America on a tandem bike. “Where is your riding partner?”
“I currently don’t have one. My plan is to find people along the way to ride with me.”
So far, he has ridden eight days from Deadhorse to Fairbanks with a local with whom he got along so well that he stayed for three weeks. Then, a girl he met agreed to ride with him for nine days but quit after four because it was too hard. She had no previous bike touring experience. (If you’re new to bike touring, it’s best to start with shorter two or three day overnight trips and work your way up.)
He carries a second tent and sleeping bag for his impromptu partners. I imagine the solo segments of his trip will be challenging due to all the extra weight of the bike and gear. An interesting social experiment, to be sure.
Just before the turn-off for an optional detour to Carcross, I meet a German cyclist heading south. He enthusiastically recommends making the side trip so I make a last-minute decision and head in that direction.
The next day, I spend the morning walking around the empty historic district of Carcross. The weather forecast says it’s cloudy but the sun is out and I’m glad for a chance to top up my battery. I linger until the coffee shop opens at 9 AM, enjoy a competently executed cappuccino and head out of town.
In Whitehorse, my hosts offer me the use of their RV. It is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. Being indoors, away from mosquitoes, with WiFi, while planning the next couple of weeks feels like I’m staying in a five star luxury resort.
Myles O’Brien works as an engineer in the control room of the province’s utility company. Earlier in his career, he even worked aboard ships (Star Trek fans will get the reference). He has constructed his own solar bike trailer and we geek out about possible upgrades to the next version.
Between socializing, getting some writing done, enjoying great food, wine, beer and coffee I end up at the end of the day with most of my “rest day to-do” items incomplete. When my hosts insist I stay an extra day. The temptation is irresistible.
One of those items is a longshot “I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask” sort of things. after 5000 km (3000 miles), my custom 3D printed trailer wheel fender snapped. One of my host’s coworkers generously agreed to print a replacement using using my design file.
Back on the road, a couple of days later, I wake up to light rain, as predicted by the weather forecast. I spend the morning in the tent, mostly sleeping. Around 10:30 AM, I am woken by the sound of someone shouting, “Hey, you! In the tent!”
My campsite is half a mile from the road in what appears to be an old gravel pit. I figured there’s a small chance an RV might show up in the evening to park for the night but the timing of this intrusion is unexpected. So much for peace and quiet. I poke my head out and see a white, unmarked van. Nothing suspicious here.“Yes?!”
“We’re going to be shooting some guns over there. Just wanted to let you know so you’re not scared.”
“OK, got it. Thanks for letting me know.”
It’s the middle of hunting season here. I’ve already encountered one person walking back to their truck carrying two rifles and some paper targets so I figure their story checks out.
The next night, I wake up in the middle of the night and hear howling in the distance. Wolves? Reading The Milepost later that morning, I find confirmation that there is a wolf pack in the area.
In Haynes Junction, I pass two Rivian electric trucks, an SUV and a pick-up. One of them waves to me. Could they be the same ones I met in Deese lake nine days ago? At this rate, I will beat them to Alaska.
The last hour to the campground is a grim slog because the terrain is hilly and I didn’t leave enough energy in the battery. Fortunately, I arrive to find that the electric fence area for tents has room for at least 30 tents instead of the “eight spaces” claimed in the guidebook.
The electric fence is a first for me. None of the other campgrounds have had one. I test the fence with a blade of grass and don’t feel anything at all. The control box has a tiny solar panel and is making clicking sounds but I suspect the fence is grounding itself out on the weeds that are touching the lowest wire. I’ve spent enough time weed-whacking and troubleshooting the electric fence on my sister‘s farm to surmise that a bear is likely to get a very mild shock or none at all.
I wake up unmolested by bears. My suspicion that the fence is not be working is overturned by two campers who report that they accidentally touched it while opening the gate and got a nice jolt.
The next “government” campground, as they are called in The Yukon, has only one other resident when I arrive. The sheltered picnic area has a wood stove. I decide to take advantage of the free firewood and make my first fire in the ten weeks since I left San Diego.
I wake up to a 0.1°C thermometer reading. As I’m packing up and putting away the mosquito repellent, I realize that I’ve been using it less and less. The cold and wind over the last few days have really cut down on the mosquitoes.
It’s almost two hours after sunrise but the road is still in the shadow of nearby mountains. I put on Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and check the distance to the US border: 106 km (66 miles). I start calculating how much energy I have for the day and figure I should be able to cross over into Alaska before the end of the day.