Whitehorse to Haines by Bike and Boat

After three days in Whitehorse, we have sorted everything out. Tyndall has a new hub that works and doesn’t wobble.

We head south on the Klondike Highway, aiming for Carcross. It sounds like an interesting place and we want to check it out. A few days off the bike make the legs sluggish, but soon my pedals spin with relative ease.

Carcross has the smallest desert in the world, ice cream, small houses, a beach and singletrack.

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We continue south to find a good camping spot for the night.

Rain showers, and a desire to catch a 2:00 pm ferry in Skagway have us on the road in the very early hours of the morning. We wind our way through White Pass to the Canada and US border. White Pass is stunning. The wind whips clouds by as I gaze at the view. This scenic vista might be the best I have seen in awhile, I think. The water is blue blue blue and the land is many shades of green.

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Then, we’re going down. Cars pass us with burning brakes. I stop to put on layers. Rain drops pelt my face. Rigid fingers grip handlebars. I pass the train filled with warm, dry tourists and just keep on going.

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A quick stop at US customs, and we’re back in Alaska. It’s hard to leave this state. We seem to keep finding our way back.

In Skagway the wind blows. It would be more productive to walk. We shovel down food, then inquire about ferry tickets. We have made it with an hour to spare.

In Haines, we search out Leah and Nick. We’ll be here for a few days.

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Putting on some miles: From Dawson to Whitehorse

We leave the colorful, eclectic buildings of Dawson behind.

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The road out of town is a straight shot. The roadsides are lined with tailing piles and dredge ponds.

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It’s a long ways to Whitehorse, so we put some miles behind us. Tyndall wants to do 120k. It is early in the day and I am unwilling to commit to that just yet. Soon, a tailwind kicks up and we are cruising. It’s hard to stop.

This is empty country, and the towns are few and far between.

We’re nearing the end of our second long day and I pause to look back. Smoke is billowing into the sky, somewhere around Stewart’s Crossing. I think of friends in Anchorage. From what I can tell, it’s been a smokey hot summer there.

We spend the night at Pelly Crossing. Helicopters shuttle firefighters back and forth well into the evening. There’s a community garden with an herb spiral. Someone must know a little bit about Permaculture, I think.

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It’s a hot day. The sun beats down. We want to get to Carmacks, but can’t take the heat. A dirt road leads down to a fish camp on the Yukon. No one is fishing today, so we take advantage of the spot and spend the night. There’s a small stream that empties into the Yukon that King salmon travel up.

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Tomorrow we say we’ll get an early start to beat the sun, and I have heard there are cinnamon buns at the Braeburn Lodge.

An early start means we get to share the road with wildlife. There’s a brown bear up the road behind us, and a black bear down the road in front of us. Bunnies hop across the road, unconcerned. We take their cue and sneak by.

We race thunder clouds and horse flies to the Braeburn Lodge, and eat on the porch as the wind kicks up. The storm passes us by, and the sun comes back out. The next day, we intend to get to Whitehorse.

In the morning, we pedal out under smokey skies. Ground squirrels stand at attention along the road. I scare up two elk.

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Three miles from the intersection with the Alcan, hot springs distract us. A hot soak melts away five days of accumulated road dust.

We arrive in Whitehorse and follow neighborhood streets to dirt trails.

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Trail maps showing miles of singletrack entice us. Tomorrow is for exploring.

Up up up, down down down on the Taylor and Top of the World Highways

We break camp and head two more miles down the Alaska Highway. Here’s our turn for the Taylor Highway. The road starts climbing and doesn’t quit. We’re out of water and everything is dry.

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There’s a sign for Four Mile Lake, off road down a 4×4 trail. We take it. Off roading! This is fun. This is why I have been pushing knobby tires around for the last 10 days, just so I can ride this short 4×4 trail.

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We’re rehydrated and back on the road. We go up, and we go down. Rain clouds chase us. Logic says I should be tired, but I’m not. These hills are much more fun than grinding on a flat road. They are less intimidating than everyone said they’d be.

We camp 49 miles in on the West Fork of the Fortymile River. The Bugs find us.

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A short climb and then a long downhill into Chicken. We find showers and a place to pitch our tent, near two German cyclists. They plan to ride to Dawson, then paddle a canoe down the Yukon to Circle.

Chickenstock is on Friday. A man offers me ten Canadian dollars to speak to his tour group from New Mexico. It will buy me a burger in Dawson, I think.

Friends from Anchorage arrive. We pass two days in Chicken, listening to music and throwing rocks down by the river.

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Sunday’s here and we are ready to leave town. We fill our frame bags with homemade baked goods and leave.

We share the narrow road with RVs the size of buses. They have names like Adventurer, Ultralight, Bounder, Sunchaser.

We’re pedaling up up up.

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The border is open until 8:00 pm. We make it.

Where are you headed? Whitehorse, then Skagway and Haines. South America eventually.

How long will you be in Canada? 10 or so more days.

Do you have any weapons, tobacco or alcohol? Only bear spray.

Enjoy your stay.

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There’s still more up. Then we are zooming down down down. Looking for water and a campsite. Water is a puddle in a parking lot. Camping is in the same parking lot. Lentils for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies from Chicken.

The sun is out. We’re moving again, heading for Dawson.

I put my head down and pedal up the hills. Sunscreen and sweat drip in my eyes. Banana Boat is not sweatproof, I guess.

Tyndall stops to write at the top of each hill. He tells me his brain is on fire. That’s great, I think. My legs are on fire.

I’m screaming down hill, squinting through the dust with one eye open and hanging on.

There’s a sign. It says 6% downhill grade for the next 14km.

We arrive in Dawson and search out burgers.

Figuring it out: From Fairbanks to Tok

Our days take on a structure that has nothing to do with alarm clocks and meetings. We take care of the basics and everything else takes care of itself. Mostly. What gets done gets done. What doesn’t, doesn’t. It’s a different sort of life than the one we left, but it has a good rhythm to it. We are figuring it out.

The miles in the morning come easy. After lunch, they are a bit harder to earn. Mostly, I just want to nap away the afternoon.

We stop at Hot Licks for ice cream then pedal out of Fairbanks during Friday afternoon “rush hour.” We need to get better with our timing.

We camp on Chena Lake with the tundra swans and sandhill cranes.

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In the morning, more pavement pedaling.

An army convoy passes us. A dog chases us. We pedal on. Camp for the night is in the woods with The Bugs.

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Delta Junction has an actual grocery store. Plums. Avacados. Barley tea. Yogurt. Fresh bread. Pickles. Don’t get distracted. Focus. All I need is HEET, mouth wash and peanuts.

I come out with HEET, mouthwash, dark chocolate peanut m&ms, yogurt, plums and an apple. The plums are surprisingly juicy. The apple is crunchy.

We race rain clouds out of town, pushed playfully along by the wind. 10 miles. 20 miles. Stop and camp at the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge.

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We move on in the morning under a grey sky. A day later, we’re in Tok.

Denali to Fairbanks

We take the bus into Denali as far as we can, then start zipping downhill towards Wonder Lake. What’s that up ahead? A moose? No, bear. A brown bear ambles up the road in our direction. We stand our ground on the right side of the road and act big and scary. He passes on the left, peering up at us as he goes. No big deal.

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We reach Wonder Lake and take a snooze. Later, we pedal back out of the park in the midnight sun.

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We deviate from our original plan and head north to Fairbanks, instead of East to Paxson.

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Usibelli coal train

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Wind turbines north of Healy

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We make it to Fairbanks.

Time to take care of some business and continue on to Tok.