Rocky Mountain House – Dawson City – Inuvik – and return, 2015.
I had wanted for a while to attempt riding the length of the Dempster Highway by motorcycle and committed myself to the trip in 2015. Sometime in June or July seemed the best bet for conditions on the road.
After researching and doing some rough planning, I decided I could attend the Dust to Dawson 2015 event in Dawson City and follow that with a run to Inuvik.
The Dempster is a reasonably well maintained but desolate gravel, shale and dirt road that is the only route between the Klondike Highway south of Dawson City in the Yukon and Inuvik in the far north of the Northwest Territories. It is also the only highway in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle as it follows an old dog sled route north over the spectacular Ogilvie and Richardson mountain ranges and across the Peel and Mackenzie rivers to the town of Inuvik in the vast Mackenzie Delta.
Having traveled to the Yukon in 2012 via Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek then via the Alaska Highway I also decided that I would follow the Stewart-Cassiar Highway through BC even though it would be a slightly longer route.
I prepared a route plan which allowed for delays on the Dempster Highway if I encountered bad weather and also began to assemble the equipment I would require. With my bike fully loaded I had a day riding the gravel roads in the Alberta foothills to ensure I was reasonably well prepared, especially for 3 or 4 days on the Dempster.
Before departing the odometer on my bike registered 33,442 kms.
This is my daily diary.
Day 1 Sunday 14 Jun 2015
RMH – Jasper – McBride – Prince George
I left home at 10:00 am approximately. As it had been raining throughout the morning I was wearing my over pants, heated gloves and heated vest. It was around 10c and cloudy and I was expecting more rain sooner or later. I left with my gloves turned on and as expected the rain came about 40 km west of Rocky Mountain House. I rode through heavy rain and even some hail before I got to Nordegg. After Nordegg, I pulled over at Abraham Lake.
I plugged in my heated vest and switched it on. Awesome – I was toasty!
There were showers on and off and the temperature dropped to a low of 7c in the hail and 8c at the summit along the Icefields Parkway near the Columbia Icefield Glacier. At Athabasca Falls, my low fuel warning came on but I reached the gas station in Jasper okay and stopped for fuel. I had lunch at A&W and phoned Jen. She confirmed that my Spot tracker was working and she had been monitoring my progress. After a short break I continued west along the Yellowhead Highway. There were showers just west of Jasper and the temperature had increased to around 15c. By the time I reached McBride it was 23c and sunny but there were still ominous dark clouds around. I filled up with gas as a whitetail deer watched me from a nearby mound where it was laid sunning itself.
There was also a whitetail doe suckling a cute fawn nearby. I chatted to a couple in a Mustang as they took pictures of the deer. As an adventure rider you soon get used to being approached by interested people who ask where you’re from and where you’re heading to, whenever you stop and I always enjoy these interactions.
By the time I was about 150kms from Prince George the temperature was hovering around 19c / 20c and it was sunny with very few clouds. After a bit of a detour around Prince George and the help of my GPS I soon found my bearings and the Blue Cedars campground where I planned to camp. At the Kimball Road turn off I gassed up at the Esso station and then followed Kimball road to the campground and booked in.
I phoned home right away and Jen told me she would be taking our dog Sam to the vets in the morning. He had been a bit quiet for a few days and she had noticed he had a swelling on his jaw earlier in the day. After chatting for a while, I put up my tent and packed away my gear.
I heated an MRE ‘Meat in Cabernet sauce’ meal and had that for dinner. It was a warm sunny and pleasant evening with a cool breeze and I settled in for an early night ready for an early start in the morning.
Google maps kilometers for the day were 702 and my bike recorded 730. For day two, I planned to ride to Meziadin Lake on the Stewart-Cassiar highway and camp there. Google maps had this as 639 kms, so I expected it to be a shorter day. There was rain in the forecast but I’d rather have rain on the Cassiar than later on on the Dempster, so I was fine with that. After changing my watch back an hour to BC time it was only 8:00 pm but I was soon in bed; too tired to even attempt to read my book.
Bike odometer 34,152 kms
Trip 730 kms
Kms today 730 kms
Day 2 Monday 15 Jun 2015
Prince George – Burns Lake – New Hazleton – Kitwanga – Meziadin Lake
The Blue Cedars campground is very nice but it is near the highway and the highway traffic never seemed to stop. I don’t think it woke me but whenever I woke through the night I could hear it despite having my ear plugs in place. I was up at 6:00 am after a reasonable nights sleep and my breakfast was instant coffee and oatmeal.
After my quick breakfast I packed up and set off. It was sunny and 13c.
I stopped in Vanderhoof at Tim Horton’s where I had coffee and a bacon biscuit to supplement the oatmeal I’d had earlier. I was able to use their Wi-fi to check for emails and this brought bad news about Sam as the swelling turned out to be serious tumour on his jaw.
Just before I left, a Triumph America parked next to my bike. The rider had gone in to Tim’s but we didn’t get a chance to talk although I would meet him again later.
I carried on to Burns Lake in glorious sunshine with the temperature around 20c. The road makes it’s way down the lush green valley with beautiful views of the tree covered hills. There were numerous logging trucks and it seemed obvious that logging is the main industry in this part of BC.
Next stop was for gas and a late lunch in Burns Lake. I pulled in to the Rexall drug store parking lot and purchased a throat spray as I had a slightly sore throat. I phoned Jen and we talked for a while about poor old Sam. The Triumph America went past while I was on the phone. Lunch was a sandwich and coffee at the Husky gas station and I sat in the shade at the side of the building. I was soon back on the bike and heading west in wall to wall sunshine as the temperature gradually increased to 28c / 29c. I stopped at a turn out near Babine Lake and stripped off my sweater and opened a few vents on my jacket and pants.
I got talking to an older gentleman who arrived in an RV and asked me about my bike and my plans. He talked about his many trips on a Goldwing when he had been younger. I pressed on planning to fuel up at New Hazleton as I wanted to have plenty of fuel for the first leg of the Cassiar. At the Chevron gas station in New Hazleton I had another coffee break and while I was outside drinking my coffee, the Triumph America pulled in for fuel. I talked to the rider, a guy from Toronto who was heading for the ferry at Prince Rupert to go on to Haines. We had past each other back and forth throughout the day.
After New Hazleton I was stuck behind a BC Sheriffs SUV that kept to the slow speed limits; down to 50 kph at times. He eventually seemingly got bored and sped off into the distance. I kept my speed down and never saw him again. Later I pulled in to the service station at the start of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway at Kitwanga and took a picture of my bike by the highway sign there.
A V-Strom pulled up and the driver chatted to me. He was interested in my plans and said he would try to get to Dawson City for the Dust To Dawson event. We took off north together but I pulled in to the village to get some photo’s of the Haida totem poles. I had been there 20 years earlier.
Just north of the Totem poles, I spotted my first black bear of the trip. I thought it was a large dog at first as it was sauntering down the driveway of a house just off the highway. I caught up with the V-Strom at the single lane wooden planked bridge over the Nass river and I followed him until I turned off at Meziadin Lake campground. I didn’t see this bike again, so I don’t think he got to Dawson for D2D.
The campground at Meziadin Lake is a true gem. As I sat writing my diary I was thinking “Wow” what a beautiful spot.
I was sat at a picnic table under the group shelter overlooking the lake with my camp spot behind me and a tree covered mountain range the other side of the lake. The tops of the snow covered range behind were also clearly visible.
Mosquitoes however were very bad and I had to use my net and a liberal amount of deet. There was a nice breeze at times which was very pleasant. It had been extremely hot while I set up my tent an hour or so earlier.
I had MRE chicken for dinner followed by instant coffee and a muffin I had bought in New Hazleton. I drank my coffee and ate the muffin sat overlooking the lake. Once again it would be an early night and I still had the sore throat, so my newly acquired antiseptic spray was on standby. At 8:15 pm, I blew up my air bed, spread out my sleeping bag and tidied my things.
For the first time my bear bangers and bear spray were kept handy by the entrance to my tent. I was soon in bed and read my book for a while before going to sleep. I did wake up a few times in the night but still had a fairly good sleep.
Bike odometer 34,787 kms
Trip 1,365 kms
Kms today 635 kms
Day 3 Tuesday 16 Jun 2015
Meziandin Lake – Dease Lake – Junction 37 – Rancheria
My original plan was to camp near Junction 37 Services, where the Stewart-Cassiar meets the Alaska Highway just west of Watson Lake and I packed early at Meziadin lake with this in mind. I again had instant coffee and oatmeal for breakfast while fighting off the bugs. The campground has a beautiful location but they need to do something about the mosquitoes!
Anyway, I set off about 7:30 / 45 am after packing up and I was hot and sweaty in my bike jacket and t-shirt. I had kept my jacket on as I loaded the bike just for bug protection – both mosquitoes and black flies. It didn’t help that there was no breeze at all. However, once out on the open road, I soon cooled down as it was about 13c and that’s where the temperature stayed for most of the morning. I stopped 95 km north at the Bell 2 lodge for gas and took the opportunity to put on a sweater having stopped earlier to swap my summer gloves for my regular Alpinestars.
I paid for my gas and bought a cup of coffee and an expensive $2 cookie. While I sat at a table in the coffee area, numerous bikes arrived at the pumps just outside, filled up and left. I think most if not all were ridden by folk who had stayed at the lodge overnight. Some of the riders spoke to me when they came inside to pay. I spoke to two riders from Orange County California, and two others from Vancouver. They were all heading for D2D and the two from Vancouver were also intending to ride on to Inuvik, although I didn’t see them anywhere north of Dease Lake. They all left shortly before me but I passed them near Dease Lake later on.
The ride to Dease Lake was cool at times never getting above 17c and it was 13c as I rode over the summit south of Dease Lake. It had been cloudy all morning and I had ridden through light rain showers at times. The scenery however, was spectacular and the road from Meziandin Junction almost to Dease Lake was newly resurfaced and excellent riding. Nearer Dease Lake the road condition deteriorated and I had a few stops for roadworks, a short one lane section and a gravel stretch just north of Dease Lake on a steep downhill section where I passed two BMW’s just before a sharp hairpin. I saw two black bears on the roadside south of Dease Lake and two more just north of town later on. The lady who served me at the gas station in town said there had been bears just across the road and she had been watching them just before I arrived.
Both the BMW bikes I had seen south of Dease Lake had Alberta plates and I expected them to pull in to the gas station in Dease Lake or at least ride by soon after I arrived there, but I never saw them again and I assumed they must have stopped to admire the view or just for a break. Soon I was getting ready to leave the Petro-Canada and some of the riders I had seen at the Bell 2 Lodge pulled in. A father and son on a V-Strom and a Super Tenere, who I would see again in Dawson and the other two riders I had talked to earlier, both from Vancouver with a 1200GS and a KLR. North of Dease Lake the road conditions gradually deteriorated and had become frost heaved with numerous patches and potholes by the time I reached the Yukon Territorial border.
From the border to the Alaska Highway at Junction 37, the road is gravel and it was quite dusty – especially when a logging truck blasted past me heading south. I stopped at Junction 37 Services for gas.
Although I had planned to stop at the nearby campground for the night, I decided it was early enough to ride on to Rancheria, so I just had a coffee and a stretch and a ½ hour break.
I rode in to Rancheria (Ranch-a-rea not Ran-chair-ea) with my low fuel warning flashing as it had in fact been doing for about 35 kms before then. I had my 3 gallon Rotopax, so I wasn’t concerned about fuel.
At the Rancheria pumps I filled up with expensive regular fuel for $28 and paid for a night of cheap camping for $10. After setting up my tent, I headed back to the restaurant and had a very nice beef sandwich with fries and zucchini.
I was also able to us their very slow wi-fi to check for emails but there was no cell phone service, so no phone calls. I exchanged emails with Jen at home and later I chatted to a South Africa guy who stopped for a meal. I then headed back to my tent by the river.
When I arrived it had been cool and cloudy, threatening rain, but later in the evening it cleared up and was warm and sunny as I sat at a picnic table by the river writing my diary entry. I had been wearing my sweater and jacket since I had arrived but while writing, I removed my jacket and could easily have done without the sweater.
Like Meziadin Lake, Rancheria is also a beautiful spot although on the river rather than the lake. But in contrast there were no mosquitoes, so it was very pleasant. On the other hand, the campground itself was in need of a considerable amount of work as it is was very run down and messy. The spot I picked near the river was well away from the gas pumps and buildings, which include a motel, so I was hopeful that I would get a good nights sleep and save some time in the morning by buying coffee at the restaurant.
I spent some time in the sunshine planning my ride for the following day as I was already ahead of my original schedule. I would be riding on the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse and then continue north on the Klondike Highway and I intended camping north of Whitehorse near Carmacks.
Canadian camping essentials at the ready!
Once again I crawled into my sleeping bag quite early.
Bike odometer 35,456 kms
Trip 2,034 kms
Kms today 669 kms
Day 4 Wednesday 17 Jun 2015
Rancheria – Teslin – Whitehorse – Braeburn – Carmacks – Yukon Crossing – Pelly Crossing
I had pitched my tent at a spot by the river and the mist was heavy and damp in the morning, so everything was wet. At the Rancheria restaurant I checked for emails while I had morning coffee and hoped my tent was drying out. I looked out the window of the restaurant and saw a thermometer that indicated the temperature to be just above zero.
I don’t think it had got down to zero overnight but it had been close and I had woken up and put on extra clothes in the night and even pulled my survival blanket over me for extra insulation. Unfortunately that just trapped moisture and by the morning the outside of my sleeping bag was damp. But I was dry inside and at least it had kept me warm enough to sleep. I was concerned that it would be even colder as I rode north especially as my sleeping bag is only rated down to +5c. As it turned out, that was by far the coolest night I would experience. After coffee and a protein bar for breakfast the sun had warmed things up a little and the mist had subsided. Nevertheless, everything was still quite damp when I packed up and rode out to the highway.
Soon I was back on the road and it was a very pleasant ride as the day warmed up. There was very little traffic, the sun was shining and the scenery was captivating. I stopped at Johnson Crossing near where the Canol Road intersects with the Alaska Highway and stopped for gas. As I rode in toward the pumps I could see some bikes already there. A Triumph Explorer, an older BMW GS boxer and a V-Strom. I chatted to the owners for a few minutes. They had stayed at Johnson’s Crossing the night before but over done the whisky, so were having a late start. Two of them left to get photo’s on the Canol Road, but the V-Strom rider chatted a bit longer and said he would wait for them to pick him up on the way back. Another group of three riders arrived just as I was leaving. A 650GS, a Super Tenere and another older GS.
One of the riders at Johnson’s Crossing spoke to me again later in Dawson just before the D2D barbeque. He was heading to Inuvik the next day early but I didn’t see him again after that. My memory is hazy, but I think he was the guy on the Triumph Explorer. His two buddies arrived while Chuck & I were taking photo’s at the start of the Dempster and one of them told me he had indeed left early for Inuvik. They were only going as far as Eagle Plains and the Arctic Circle if I remember correctly.
I carried on and rode through the outskirts of Whitehorse without going down into the town and then on to the Klondike Highway, continuing north toward Fox Lake. I had originally planned to camp there but as I was well ahead of my schedule I carried on. Just before Fox Lake there were extensive roadworks and I had to wait in the traffic line up. The flag man waived me to the front of the line and we chatted about the road conditions and various other things including my trip and plans. He had moved to the Yukon in the 80’s when he was laid off from his job in Alberta and had stayed there since. He told me that the Braeburn lodge ahead was a good place to stop for gas and coffee, so after riding through the roadworks that included some very rough sections I carried on to Braeburn. My laden bike had handled the roadworks and fresh deep gravel with no problems, which was reassuring.
At Braeburn, I pulled up at the gas pump which was padlocked – not a good sign. As I rode around to the other side of the pump I realized a girl had shouted and was running over from the lodge and she unlocked the pump for me. I asked if they had problems with gas being stolen and she said they had to keep the pumps locked when they’re not manned due to thefts. It was hot by now and she was sheltering in the shade of the lodge entrance and only coming over to the pumps if someone drove up for gas. She said she should put on her shorts as it was so nice in the sun and next time I saw her as I was leaving she was wearing her shorts.
After getting gas I drove over to the lodge and parked, then in the lodge, I bought coffee and a slice of cake and looked around.
There were lots of pictures of the Yukon Quest dog sled race as Braeburn is one of the checkpoints on the route.
I went back out to my bike for my camera and while I was outside a 5th wheel pulled in. The driver was an older guy with his wife and he asked me about my bike as he approached the lodge, so we chatted both outside and as I went back in to finish my coffee. They were traveling from Sherwood Park and aiming for Inuvik. He was an 80 year old retired farmer and quite a character. At the counter he asked about the Braeburn cinnamon buns and that’s how I found out that they are famous for their dinner plate sized cinnamon buns.
Riding on toward Carmacks it was very windy and there were a few rain showers but nothing serious. It was enjoyable although the scenery is quite bleak in places. As I thought I might camp near Carmacks or just a few kilometers further on at Pelly Crossing, I pulled in at a Yukon tourist information hut just south of Carmacks.
Two young guys in a Jeep also pulled in and one took a picture of me and my bike by the Carmacks sign.
They went inside for information and I followed. They were also heading up the Dempster and they decided to aim for Tombstone campground that night.
I asked about camping at Pelly Crossing and the lady told me there was no campground there but advised me to camp at Tatchum Creek just after Carmacks. I carried on in to the village and stopped briefly at the general store then rode on to Tatchum Creek. By the time I got there along another stretch of gravel highway it was still quite early. I pulled in to the campground and rode around but only stopped long enough to take off my vest liner and use the washroom before carrying on. 80 kms or so further on I rode into Pelly Crossing where there is a free campground right in the town just across the road from the general store and gas station.
The campground was nothing special but good enough for me for the night. There was no water except the adjacent river but I bought two bottles of water at the store along with some bagels. I considered buying some wine but Pelly Crossing is a dry community. It was warm and dry so I set up a line with some rope and hung up my tent, etc. to dry in the warm sun. It only took a few minutes for my tent to dry and while I set it up a helicopter was taking off and landing just across the river.
My first thought was that I hoped they wouldn’t be doing any night flying, but quickly realized there would be no night as I was now far enough north that it would not get dark. Fortunately, after a few more flights it didn’t come back until the morning.
When I went back to the store to get water another rider on a V-Strom was sat outside. Travis was aiming to stop in Whitehorse and having a break. He was from New York and of course also heading to D2D where I met him later. He mentioned that he had used his cell phone which surprised me and I told him I’d have to try phoning home from the campground. In the morning I noticed the cell tower right behind the store! Back at my tent I tried to phone Jen and left a message. ½ hr later I left another message and had my meal. I had to heat water in the vestibule of my tent as the wind had really sprung up and I thought we were in for really bad storm. It soon settled down though.
Around this time three other bikes arrived and rode around looking for a good spot to camp. There were a couple of RV’s and a group of tents in addition to me and the bikes pulled in across the track from me not too far away. Two BMW 1200GS’ and an 800GS. When I crawled out of my tent I said hello and we chatted. More D2D riders – a father and son and his friend – all from California. I was offered a drink of Jack Daniels whisky and had a sip with them while we talked bikes and bears. The older guy had a brand new water cooled GS that he had bought just before the trip. A beautiful bike.
Soon after, I managed to get through to Jen and found out that our home phone and internet had been out of service for most of the day. After catching up with Jen I helped the older guy to haul his ruck-sac up on a rope between two trees as he said he had candies in it and wanted it out of the way of any bears. We had been talking about bears earlier and I must have impressed on him how dangerous grizzlies can be. I assured him that my bear bangers and bear spray would be handy at all times!
Finally I tidied up my stuff and wrote up my diary. I wanted to take a couple of photo’s once my camera had been charged and then I would have a wash before crawling into my sleeping bag.
I had a walk around the campground and on to the bridge over the river, took some pictures and was in bed early with a leisurely start to look forward to in the morning as I had less than 200 kms to go to Dawson City.
Bike odometer 36,121 kms
Trip 2,699.3 kms
Kms today 665 kms
Day 5 Thursday 18 Jun 2015
Pelly Crossing – Stewart Crossing – Dawson City
Dawson City is a short ride of 197km from Pelly Crossing, so as expected I had a more leisurely start to the day and also a leisurely ride compared to the previous days.
I had breakfast of bagels and thought I would get a coffee at the gas station across the road. I knew from checking the previous evening that the store and gas station opened at 9:00 am but I was packed and ready to head out before then. There was no sign of movement from the Californians near to me, so I packed quietly and rolled my bike down the track away from them. As I was just about to start up, one of the guys appeared and waved. I waved back then started my bike and rode out to the road. I would have to wait another 5 minutes or so for the store to open and I thought if I did that I’d likely have to wait another 15 mins for coffee to brew. As I didn’t even know if they actually sold fresh coffee, I decided I’d ride on to Stewart Crossing and get a coffee there. Once over the river Pelly, the road climbed steeply to the right and I stopped at a pull out part way up to the ridge where I took a selfie.
I admired the panoramic view southwards and took a picture looking back toward the Pelly river and the town.
It didn’t take long to get to Stewart Crossing and discover that there is very little there. An unmanned cardlock gas station and a few buildings, then the bridge over the Stewart river to the intersection of the Klondike Highway with the Silver Trail that goes east to Mayo and Keno City. There was no sign of life except a gravel truck stopped near the bridge and certainly no obvious place to buy a coffee.
I stopped on the north end of the bridge and took a picture of my bike and headed on toward Dawson. It was more than warm enough for my lightweight gloves and continued to gradually warm up throughout the morning.
I eventually stopped for coffee and a break at Moose Creek Lodge.
When I arrived a Ducati and a Transalp were parked outside. The owners were just coming out of the lodge and I quickly realized the Transalp rider was a guy I had met a few weeks earlier at the Alberta DualSport barbeque in Red Deer. We chatted for a while and Rande said he was also going on to Inuvik after D2D. They headed north and I went in for coffee.
When I was outside drinking my coffee and eating carrot cake a tour bus pulled in and numerous travelers asked me about my bike and my trip and one of the ladies offered to take my picture.
A nice group of people who were taking a tour while sailing up the Inside Passage to Alaska.
The coffee at Moose Creek was excellent and the staff very friendly. I had a second cup and wandered around the site to look at the old trappers cabin behind the lodge.
I saw that they also had cabins to rent and a group fire pit and thought it would be a great place to stop some time.
I stopped a couple more times as I headed north, first at Gravel Lake for a stretch.
And later at the Tintina Trench viewpoint.
The driver of a pick up hauling a 5th wheel came up to me and we talked for quite a long time. He was also on the way to Inuvik with his wife to visit a friend who lives there. He was wearing a US Veterans ball cap and I mentioned he must be a veteran. He told me he had served in Vietnam as a comms specialist and later became a teacher. He took a picture of me with my bike on my camera and insisted on taking one on his camera for himself as a reminder of our meeting.
The view was spectacular but I don’t think photographs ever really capture the full impact in the same way as being there does.
As I approached Dawson I rode through some stretches of the highway in poor condition and there were roadworks at numerous places, the worst being a long wet muddy section just south of the city, made worse by the amount of calcium chlorate solution that had been used that turned the road into a slippery, mushy, rutted trail.
At about 1:00 pm, I arrived in Dawson and soon found the Triple-J motel where I had a reservation. It was also the official motel of the Dust To Dawson event and where the D2D registration tent was located.
I signed in and checked out the t-shirts and the information boards. They were only taking cash for t-shirts and for tickets to the barbeque, so leaving my bike and gear in the parking lot, I went to reception to check in.
I was too early and was told my room wouldn’t be ready until about 3:00 pm. I said I’d leave it until nearer 4:00pm and went back to the parking lot where I quickly changed into my zip off pants and shoes. Leaving by gear and bike, I walked down to the bank and withdrew some cash, then went back to buy a D2D t-shirt and pay for a barbeque ticket. I spent a few minutes looking at the two t-shirts hung up as I tried to decide which design I preferred between the two. That is, until I realized there was only one design and the two shirts were hung to show the design on the front and on the back!
More bikes were arriving all the time and the parking lot was filling up quickly.
While I waited for my room, I chatted with some of the other riders and handed out some Alberta Dualsport stickers that proved very popular. Many of the riders were people I had met en-route.
Eventually, well after 4:00 pm I was able to get in to my room.
Although it was still being cleaned, at least I was able to unload my bike. As soon as I could, I had a shower and changed, then phoned home. After chatting for a while, I took a walk around the town and down along the Klondike river bank.
Outside the General Store, I chatted to a rider from Argentina. He was heading north to Prudhoe Bay and would then turn around and ride back to Argentina. A fantastic undertaking, especially as he was riding a 125cc Honda!
I eventually went into Klondike Kate’s restaurant where I had a cheeseburger. While I was there I chatted to two guys from the UK who were riding on a Nick Sanders guided tour from Miami to Prudhoe Bay. I saw the group preparing to ride out of Dawson the following morning and chatted briefly to the lady who was organizing them as I sought out breakfast.
Back at the Triple-J, I finished up the evening watching some TV while sorting out and re-packing my things, then went to bed.
Bike odometer 36,318 kms
Trip 2,896.5 kms
Kms today 197.2 kms
Day 6 Friday 19 Jun 2015
Dust To Dawson 2015 event day.
This turned out to be a great day, which started with breakfast at the Riverwest Bistro on Front Street opposite the Yukon river.
After a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with coffee, I walked back to the hotel. I had been undecided whether or or not I would take part in the D2D poker run, but by the time I got back to the Triple-J, I decided it would be a good way to take in some of the obvious sights of Dawson.
I registered at the D2D tent and then sorted my bike out and filled up at the gas station nearby. Soon after noon, I set out on my own for the first stop at the Dredge No 4 historical site.
There were a few bikes already there and after I chose my poker card, I set off for the next stop. Although I had a route card and map I kept right at a Y intersection when I should have kept left, so I made a slight detour before realizing and stopping to turn around. A KTM zoomed passed me and carried on up the rough track. Maybe he was nothing to do with the poker run.
Back at the intersection another rider was looking perplexed and I indicated the correct route then followed along. We soon met and passed numerous adventure bikes along the very dry gravel and sand road. It was a good opportunity to tune back in to riding gravel even though my bike was not fully loaded. As I climbed up toward the ridge I caught up with a group of riders stopped at the side of the road and at first I thought it might be the next card stop, but they were just consulting their sketch maps and instructions and trying to decide if they were on the right route or not. We all decided that we were indeed in the right place and when a couple of bikes rode off, I followed a few minutes later. I soon passed them as I continued up around a sweeping bend toward the summit. Near the top I passed a narrow track on the left that went up to some towers and I wondered if I should be going that way, but carried on to the next ridge where there was a viewpoint with a map mounted on a board. It was obvious then that I should have taken that track to the summit, so I back I went.
The track led up to Dome summit and there were already a bunch of riders there.
After I parked my bike I talked to a rider from California who I had also spoken to the previous day at the motel parking lot. His name was Greg and he was riding a Triumph Tiger. We were joined by a couple more riders who Greg obviously knew and it turned out that they were both RCMP officers – Jacques and Chuck. Greg himself is a Deputy Sheriff from California. My wife, Jenny and I had ridden though California last year on our trip down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Both of the RCMP officers were riding Super Tenere’s and it turned out that Jacques had also been at the Whitehorse Super Tenere gathering in 2012. Jenny and I were the only two-up couple that attended that gathering. So, Greg, Chuck, Jaques and I talked bikes and riding for a while and I mentioned I was going to Inuvik, setting out the next day. Greg from Terrace, who was riding with Jacques, said he also wanted to ride the Dempster but Jacques didn’t have enough time off work, so he would have to ride alone or find another partner and wondered if he could ride along with me if he decided to go. I was happy for him to do that as it made sense to have company and he said he’d let me know later and we left it at that.
The view was spectacular!
And the weather was just perfect!
Greg had talked about not being comfortable or confident enough to stand up on his Tiger and we discussed the advantages of the technique. I’m no expert by any means but I encouraged him to try standing and even to consider getting a set of risers for his bike. After some discussion I said I’d ride along with him for the rest of the poker run and he could try out standing, weighting the pegs and shifting body position for balance and conditions. I kept an eye on him in my mirrors but he took to it easily and when I got a bit ahead I’d slow down or stop and wait. The road had dry hard packed and loose gravel as well as sandy stretches and dust filled potholes. Trucks and Jeeps churned up the dust and reduced he visibility to zero at times. It was good fun though and a great ride and we eventually finished up at the last stop of the poker run at the top of the Midnight Dome overlooking Dawson City.
Although it was quite hazy, it was a good photo op.
I went back to the hotel from there and Greg went back to his campground.
It was well after 4:30 pm but I had time to shower and change before going to the barbeque at the Palace Grand Theatre a couple of blocks away. As I entered, Greg from Bonnyville and Don from Rocky invited me to sit with them and their wives and made room for me at their table. I had a couple of beers and enjoyed the evening. There were numerous raffle prizes although I didn’t win anything. Don bought a Wolfman tank bag in the silent auction.
The meal was barbequed steak which was very good. At 9:00 pm the biker games were taking place at the Triple-J, so I headed back to the motel to phone Jen before the games started. On the way out of the Theatre, Twisted Throttle were giving away their D2D t-shirts.
The games were to take place until midnight and I thought I’d watch for a while then go pack my stuff for the morning and watch the final few games until around midnight when Dust to Dawson 2015 stickers would be handed out. But the games were good fun to watch, so I stayed the whole time.
Some of the people competing were riders I’d had met en-route which I suppose added an extra level of interest. This is Travis who I met on the way north at Pelly Crossing taking part in the slow ride.
Chuck, the Terrace RCMP office tracked me down soon after the games started and said he’d decided he would like to ride with me to Inuvik, so we talked about that and agreed he would call me in the morning when he’s ready and we’d aim to leave between 10:00 am and noon.
The guys who camped near me at Pelly Crossing also enthusiastically took part in the games. A shortage of female passengers led to some improvisation! I’m sorry I don’t remember their names but number 19 represented California in style!
I’m not sure how, but some competitors even managed to find real women to ride in the contests.
After a while I spotted ‘Troll’ from the ADV and Super Tenere forum (Karl). I had talked to him the previous day and we reminisced about the 2012 Super Tenere gathering that we had both attended. Karl lives near Whitehorse and had been one of the organizers although he no longer has his Super Tenere and was riding an FJ-09 which he found better suited his stature. We watched the rest of the games together as we chatted and then he went to line up his bike for the final photo taken just after midnight.
That’s also when they handed out the D2D 2015 bike stickers.
Back in my room I packed most of my gear and checked for emails. At 1:30 am in broad daylight I checked my tire pressures and re-inflated both tires a little. By 2:00 am I was in bed after a long and very enjoyable day.
D2D 2015 was a great time.
Bike odometer 36,445 kms
Trip 3,023.2 kms
Kms today 127 kms
Day 7 Saturday 20 Jun 2015
Dawson City – Eagle Plains – Arctic Circle – Rock River
I was awake early and up at 7:00 am despite my late night and loaded by bike as much as possible before walking down to the Riverwest Bistro for another awesome breakfast.
I even ordered the exact same breakfast of two eggs on toast, hash browns and a side of bacon , which I washed down with two cups of their glorious coffee. After breakfast I made my way back to the hotel and cleared up my room. I then finished loading my bike and rode around to the hotel main entrance to check out. After that I had a ride around the downtown area while taking some video on my bike camera, then headed back to the bistro for another coffee. I phoned Jen while stood outside and she told me the latest weather forecast for the Dempster Highway, which included rain later in the day on the southern end. I told her I would be riding with Chuck and she was pleased that I would not be riding alone and amused that I would be having a police escort.
Because of the weather forecast, I phoned Chuck and suggested we should probably depart earlier rather than later and hopefully avoid the worst of any rain. He said he was just finishing packing and would be another ½ hour or so. I told him I’d have a leisurely coffee then ride down to the RCMP detachment where he had stayed overnight with Jacques. While having coffee, Richard who I knew through mutual friends and his riding buddy, along with Greg the Deputy Sheriff pulled up on their bikes. At almost the same time and as I was talking to people at the next table outside the Bistro, another guy asked if he could join me. It was the Triumph America rider I had met back in New Hazleton. We chatted for a while and then when the other guys came out with their breakfasts, I also talked to them. I took a picture of Greg’s Deputy Sheriffs badge as I thought it was really nice.
After a short while I made my departure and rode to the RCMP detachment a few blocks east. I met up with Chuck and Jacques and another officer and after a quick photo or two, we set out.
It was hot and sunny and we were soon on the Dempster Highway where we pulled in at the Dempster sign and took a few more photo’s.
While we were there two other bikes pulled up. They were the two riders that I had originally met at Johnson’s Crossing. The other member of their group had already left for Inuvik they told me, but they were only going as far as the Arctic Circle, I believe. We would see these guys again later at Eagle Plains.
Soon Chuck and I were heading north in glorious weather on hard packed gravel enjoying the fantastic scenery on the way north toward Tombstone. Further north, we rode slowly past Dahl’s sheep on the road.
The highway continued to be dry and dusty for a while but the weather deteriorated as it gradually became cloudy and we experienced a few showers of rain. Soon we pulled in and I zipped up my vents and changed my gloves. We rode on through a thunderstorm without getting too wet but slowed down for the potentially slick road. Thunder clouds were all around us but we were lucky to avoid most of the rain. At Two Moose lake I pulled in to the parking area and we had a snack and took photo’s of the two moose in the aptly named lake.
We had our first taste of what the mosquitoes would be like later on as they swarmed around us.
The views were always spectacular although we did have to keep a wary eye on the ever changing road surface. Photographs never do the scenery justice, especially when it is cloudy and hazy.
Nearer to Eagle Plains on a straight wide section of highway, where I thought it would be safe to stop, I pulled over to the edge and topped up my tank from my 3 gallon Rotopax fuel container. Chuck topped up at the same time. Soon after, we came upon a stranded Smart car that had a shredded rear tire. The lady driver, who later told me her name was Fuzzy, had a full size spare wheel as well as a donut spare but she didn’t have the right size lug nut wrench. I pulled out my tools but didn’t have the necessary 15mm wrench or socket for the odd size wheel bolts used on Smart cars. Neither did Chuck, or a BMW rider who stopped a while later.
I tried my adjustable crescent wrench but that was just going to round off the bolt heads. Fortunately a semi-trailer heading south was able to help and first I tried his large crescent wrench, but then he found a 15mm ring wrench and using this wrench and my camp axe as a hammer along with a liberal spray of Chuck’s WD40, I eventually loosened the bolts and prepared to remove the wheel.
It was very hot and I was sweating profusely by then, but chose not to remove my jacket because of the mosquitoes. They were voracious and I was grateful for the deet spray the BMW rider provided while I was working. The car was already partially jacked up but I moved the jack to the correct hard point and as there was nothing to chock the wheel, I jacked it up assuming the parking break was on. Of course never assume – check! Anyway the car rolled back and fell off the jack. Apparently the brake was set but seemingly not very effective. On the second try with the others leaning on the back of the car, which obviously isn’t very heavy, we got the shredded wheel off and the spare wheel bolted on. Fuzzy was very grateful and I remember her saying to the semi driver that not all bikers are bad people after all. I offered to help her load her car back up but she said the three dogs in the back wouldn’t let me but she would be okay on her own. I advised her to get the bolts torqued up at Eagle Plains and we all left.
Soon after we were all eating an extremely late lunch at the Eagle Plains lodge restaurant. Chuck and I topped up our tanks and fuel cans.
A number of other bikes were at Eagle Plains. Some riders were camping there for the night, others staying in the motel, or hoping to stay there and the remainder were planning to go on at least as far as the Rock River campground 80kms further north. That was also where Chuck and I intended to camp.
About 35 kms north of Eagle Plains we stopped at the Arctic Circle sign, where there is a large rest area with picnic tables. We took photo’s and while we were there another group of riders arrived and we all helped each other out with photo’s.
We met these guys again at Rock River. A short while later Chuck and I were at the campground.
We rode around a couple of times and picked a spot where Chuck would be able to sling his hammock and started setting up camp.
The mosquitoes were bad!
I had my ancient pup tent which does take longer to set up than a modern tent but is compact and has the advantage of a spacious vestibule that is handy for helmet and boot storage.
There were probably 10 or 12 other adventure riders camping at Rock River that night.
Three of the riders who had been at the Arctic Circle sign had set up their tents inside the group hut as protection from the mosquitoes. I thought that was a good idea but it wouldn’t have worked for Chuck’s hammock or my pup tent that needs pegs in the ground. The three guys were BMW riders from California and as we chatted, we were joined by a Versys rider who had tagged along with the Californians and was camped just across the track.
After we chatted with this group for a while, we headed off to get some sleep. I had a cup of tea and Chuck climbed in to his hammock after stowing some of his gear in my vestibule. I killed at least a dozen mosquitoes before deeming it safe to remove my head net and write my diary before reading some of my book. We were now far enough north for it to be light throughout the night. I had my ear plugs in to deaden the sound of the mosquitoes and my tube scarf rolled up and wrapped around my eyes as a blindfold.
Did I tell you about the mosquitoes?
It had been dry when we set up camp but had been gently raining for a while by the time I crawled in to my sleeping bag with my bear spray and bear bangers nearby!
It stopped raining around midnight as I settled down for the night and about then I heard Chuck moving about and he got his jacket from my vestibule. He said he couldn’t sleep and was going to have a walk around. I remember hearing talking in the distance and later Chuck told me he had been chatting with some of the other riders. I didn’t hear him come back as I had already fallen asleep.
Bike odometer 36,938 kms
Trip 3,516 kms
Kms today 493 kms
Day 8 Sunday 21 Jun 2015
Rock River – Fort McPherson – Inuvik – Nitainlaii
We were awake early and both Chuck and I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. Chuck gave me one of his Starbucks instant coffee sachets and I have to admit it was much better than the instant coffee I had been using. We soon broke camp and loaded up the bikes. I rode out as far as the entrance to the Rock River campground as Chuck was finalizing his packing, mainly to get away from the incessant mosquitoes that were getting into my helmet under the chin. I took a couple of photo’s as I waited at the entrance then pulled out on to the deserted highway to get a shot of my bike there with the Dempster Highway heading north as a backdrop.
I also played around with my bike cam, which is tricky to set up, frustrating and not really reliable (it will have to be replaced, I think).
Chuck rode out to the exit and I took a picture of him as he made some final adjustments.
Then as we dithered for a few minutes, a semi-trailer went by in a cloud of dust and when we set off, we soon caught up with it. There was virtually no wind, so the dust cloud the semi produced just streamed behind it along the highway making it impossible too get close enough to even think about passing. On a straight section of highway with beautiful views, I pulled over and suggested we just wait a while for the semi to get further ahead and for the dust to settle. So we took photo’s of each other in the middle of nowhere.
Me, with my Super Tenere;
and Chuck with his;
Ironically, when we set off and climbed up to the next ridge, the semi was parked at the top of the hill alongside the Yukon/NWT border sign at Wright Pass. Chuck was leading and rode on down the into the next valley, but I pulled over just long enough to get a photo of the Territorial border sign.
The trucker looked like he was preparing to drive on, so I didn’t hang about.
As it was Sunday, the traffic was light and the highway continued to be dry and dusty. We made good progress, only slowing down for a clearly marked soft stretch of the highway. I stopped to warn Chuck and I also got a photo of him as he waved a quick “Thanks”!
We stopped at a viewpoint over looking the McKenzie river delta and admired the extensive view in all directions.
It was beautiful but hazy toward the distant horizon.
As we were leaving a car transporter went south streaming dust and we continued north toward Fort McPherson and the ferry across the Peel River.
At the river, the ferry was docked and we only waited a few minutes before we were waived forward.
The sandy dirt bank of the river was steep and rutted but riding carefully onto the ferry was uneventful.
Chuck had warned me that the deck could be very slippery if it was wet as he had experienced that during his ride up through BC earlier, so we were careful as the deck was indeed slippery. We took photo’s during the crossing and the lady operator allowed me to go up to the bridge and take some photo’s from there.
After disembarking onto the sandy rutted north bank, we rode up the hill past the Nitainlaii campground and on northwards.
Fort McPherson is about 120 km south of Inuvik on the northern bank of the Peel River a few kilometres from the ferry crossing. It’s not directly on the highway and as we didn’t need gas we didn’t go into the town.
Soon we reached the Mackenzie River and crossed on the ferry at Tsiigehtchic (Mouth of the Iron river).
As we neared Inuvik, I was leading and watching Chuck in the dust behind me. He was being followed by a pickup that had crossed on the ferry with us. I thought Chuck was still behind me but then realized the headlight pattern in the dust cloud didn’t look right and I slowed enough to see it was the pickup, so I pulled over and waited for Chuck to appear. After a few minutes I turned around and headed back toward the ridge. I was a bit concerned as there was no sign of him even though the dust had settled. A bike careening off the road into the stunted trees would be very difficult to spot from the elevated road along most of the northern part of the Dempster where the highway passes through tundra. Near the top of the ridge, Chuck and his bike were pulled over at the entrance to the Gwichin Territorial Park campground where he was topping up his fuel. He told me he had flashed, indicated and waved before pulling in to the campground but I had seen none of this due to the dust. While watching him follow behind me all I had seen was the periodic weak light of his headlights and spotlights in the dust plume. Without his spotlights I would barely have seen him at all. We had stopped often during the day as a south bound semi-trailer or RV enveloped the road with an impenetrable cloud of dust that would take a few minutes to dissipate.
We carried on with Chuck leading the way. Just outside Inuvik the highway meets an intersection and the road turns to asphalt. Left is to the airport and we turned right toward the town. I remember feeling extremely happy as we rode the last few kilometres to our destination and soon Chuck indicated right and we stopped at the ‘End of the Dempster’ sign.
We had ridden for 292 kms to get to Inuvik from Rock River, often up on the pegs. At the Dempster sign, we took lots of photo’s and while we were doing that a V-Strom and a GS arrived. As we all took photo’s we found out they were from Kelowna and had also been in Dawson City for D2D.
Chuck phoned his cousin who lives in Inuvik and she drove out to the sign as we waited. He was going to stay for a night or two but I intended getting gas and lunch and heading back south. However, his cousin insisted I also go for a late lunch, a shower and beers on the patio at her house. I declined the beer and shower but agreed to have some lunch. After visiting with Chuck’s cousin and her husband, I filled my water bottles and camelbak and asked where I might get a t-shirt and an Inuvik or Dempster Highway sticker. As it was Sunday and also National Aboriginal Day most of the stores were closed but I did get a t-shirt at the North Mart supermarket.
Despite the limited choice of styles and sizes I was pleased with my purchase. There were no stickers, but I did buy one later in Dawson City and Chuck very kindly sent me another one later in the mail. I would be riding solo on the return trip and had originally planned to do the entire trip solo, but I had enjoyed Chuck’s company and riding with him.
Outside the North Mart, I phoned Jenny and of course she knew exactly where I was from my Spot tracking. I told her I would likely camp at Nitainlaii on the way south.
Next I had to get gas and remembered seeing an Esso sign as we approached Inuvik, so I knew there was an Esso station somewhere and expected it would be easy to find as Inuvik is quite a small place. I rode down main street back toward the highway but as there was no sign of the gas station I stopped and asked a guy who was walking along with his girlfriend. He said it was his first day in town but that he had seen the Esso gas station along a side road and pointed me in the right direction. I followed the road and as it seemed to peter out, I turned right at the Home Hardware store and made my way back to main street where I asked a native for directions to the Esso. I had been on the right road but should have carried on down the hill to the left instead of turning right at Home Hardware.
I spent a few minutes getting expensive gas, chips and Gatorade and chatting to the friendly native clerk who knew Alberta well as he had previously worked in Edmonton.
I set off aiming for the Nitainlaii campground near the Peel river ferry.
Somewhere in the tundra south of Inuvik I pulled over yet again to let a semi-trailer thunder by in a cloud of dust.
Once the dust had settled, I was able to continue.
For some reason I thought the campground would be at the first ferry crossing but when I got there realized this was the Mackenzie and I had a little bit further to go to the Peel river.
As I waited in line for the ferry, I heard two other bikes arrive and they were alongside me when we rode onto the ferry soon after. One of the bikes was an Aprilia Caponord that had been parked next to me at the D2D games and the other, a KTM 1190. I had talked to the Aprilia rider in Dawson and I talked briefly with the KTM rider on the ferry and took a picture of them and their bikes.
They were heading back to Eagle Plains to stay the night in the motel and I told them I was likely going to camp at the Peel river. I followed these bikes off the ferry and rode along behind them with the Aprilia leading the way, then the KTM, and me. The ride on to the Nitainlaii campground was uneventful except where a grader was working on a section of road on the northward side. Visibility was poor due to the extreme dust as all the cars, RVs and trucks had been allowed off the ferry first followed by our bikes. The Aprilia had passed an RV as we climbed up on a curve to the right. As I followed the KTM I saw him go into a tank slapper. I could not see what caused it and moved over to the left nearer the centre of the road. If it had simply been a pothole, this would have been a good move but I soon realized it would have been better to have gone right. He had ridden in to the berm of gravel the grader had left in the road. Neither of us had seen it due to the dust cloud and the dust clinging to the inside and outside of our visors. I hit the same berm but had already lost speed and stood on my pegs, so I was able to ride my bike through the berm, then navigate the curve while riding back through the berm to the right side of the road. I thought the KTM was going down but the rider held on and we both continued unscathed. We had both been quite fortunate.
Soon we reached the Perry river and I turned into the campground as the other two bikes rode on toward the ferry.
The campground operator was just leaving but stopped to talk to me and I was able to pay him for a night at the campground. I rode around and ended up next to the three Californians we had talked to in the group hut at Rock River. The Versys rider from Kelowna had separated from them and I found out later that he had crashed earlier in the day while enveloped in the dust of a semi-trailer. He had been shaken up but not injured and although he rode his bike home, it was subsequently written off.
This was the only time I was unable to get any pegs in to the rock hard ground, so my tent was held up by ropes strung to the trees and bushes around the edge of the camp site and to the picnic bench, so it look me a little while longer to get set up.
By now my bike was filthy!
I chatted to one of the other riders about the condition of the road, the bikes and so on and then had a late dinner of soup and a protein bar followed by coffee. I was in bed quite early hoping for a good nights sleep and planned to be on the first ferry at 9:00 am in the morning. I assumed that the other three riders camping near me would be doing the same thing.
I planned to stop at Eagle Plains in the morning, then ride on to camp at Tombstone.
Bike odometer 37,437 kms
Trip 4,015.2 kms
Kms today 499 kms
Day 9 Monday 22 Jun 2015
Nitainlaii – Eagle Plains – Tombstone
I had a great nights sleep and awoke only when the Californians next door started moving around. I quickly had breakfast and packed up my tent, then had time to relax as I had an hour to wait for the first ferry crossing over the Peel river. In NWT the clocks were on Mountain Time but later in the day we would be back on Pacific time in the Yukon.
The Nitainlaii campground is completely off grid and the one washroom block is run by a generator that automatically shuts down over night and doesn’t start up until 9:00 am. I planned on waiting just long enough to use the washroom before leaving – even if that meant getting a later ferry.
It was another beautiful morning in mosquito heaven as I whiled away the time. I sat at the picnic bench with my riding gloves and head net on, listening to the constant buzz of my personal mosquito cloud. I thought about the ride ahead that would take me back into the Yukon, over the Arctic Circle and on to Eagle Plains for an essential gas stop around lunch time. As I waited, campers and motor homes revved up and left the campground and I assumed they were all heading for the ferry and I expected a significant line up.
I arrived at the ferry shortly after 9:00 expecting to wait for the next sailing and surprisingly there was no line up! Just the three BMW bikes.
Had the ferry made a trip but refused the bikes for some reason, I wondered? I pulled up behind the bikes and asked why they hadn’t got on the ferry, but it was simply because it had not yet sailed. I commented that I was surprised not to see a line of trucks and RVs, rather than just the three bikes and they agreed that they were also surprised. As we waited and chatted, Rande on his Transalp (who I’d seen first at Moose Creek Lodge) rode up. He had left early from Inuvik after staying there for the night.
Minutes later the ferry was ready and we were waived on. As before, great care had to be exercised while entering and exiting the ferries using their ramps due to the loose, rutted and steep river banks. We all negotiated the ramps successfully and pulled up at the front of the ferry. The three BMW’s were lined up in front with me and Rande behind. Once successfully docked and the ramps lowered, we were given the go-ahead to ride off. The BMW’s went first and I waived Rande on before bringing up the rear. We rode up out of the river valley and then as the BMW’s strung out line astern on a straight stretch of highway, Rande set off like a bat out of hell passing the other bikes one at a time. I assumed he was just trying to get ahead of their dust cloud so I followed him, passing the last of the BMW’s just before an upward sweeping right hand bend that turned quickly back to the left. I had turned my bike camera on while on the ferry and taken a video of us all departing. After I passed the last OF the BMW’s I was leaning forward concentrating on turning off my camera when the highway swung to the left. I went a little bit fast into that second corner and took a wide line through the loose gravel. A warning to be more careful as the Dempster bites back at the unwary!
We rode on past the lookout where Chuck and I had stopped on the way north. I continued to dog Rande’s tail as we went past Middle Lake and climbed toward the territorial border.
It was very windy up on the ridges and we rode at speed around sweeping curves with a constant lean into the wind which continued to blow hard from the west. The loose gravel sections on the NWT side of the border were a nuisance at times and demanded our respect. Just before the border at Wright Pass, Rande slowed and pulled over to the side of the highway. As I passed him I could see he was getting his gas can off the back off his bike and knew he was just topping up his fuel, so I continued on toward Eagle Plains, passing the territorial border at White Pass. This is a very desolate part of the Dempster but the scenery looking south from White Pass is spectacular.
I continued on toward the Arctic Circle and Rock River campground.
About 20 kms north of Eagle Plains where the highway clings to the ridge line, I pulled over for a fuel top up. As I continued on south I came to a section of roadworks where I had to slow to around 40 kph and tip toe through the freshly sprayed and churned up road surface. It was like riding through muskeg.
Just short of Eagle Plains I noticed a bright Kawasaki green KLR parked alongside a tent a few hundred yards off the road in an open area. The rider and I waved at each other and it was obvious he didn’t need any help, so I didn’t stop. I spoke to him later near Two Moose Lake and he told me he had run out of gas the previous night and been forced to make camp. A passing motorist had given him a couple of litres of gas so he would be able to get to Eagle Plains.
Soon I was pulling in to Eagle Plains where I re-filled my Rotopax and my bike.
I went to the restaurant and as there was no sign of any staff, I helped myself to a sandwich, some cookies and a coffee and sat down. It was 10 or 15 minutes before a lady arrived to operate the till and I was able to pay for my lunch. As I headed out toward the entrance Rande was coming in and we chatted for a few minutes. He told me he would be going back to Dawson for the night. Outside the KTM I had followed the night before was parked next to my bike with the Aprilia alongside. The rider and I talked about his tank slapper and the relative merits of our bikes and I left the two guys packing their bikes. On the way out I parked in front of the entrance for a photo and another traveler offered to take my photo before I rode back out to the highway.
South of Eagle Plains the road was dry and hard packed making rapid progress possible, but it was obvious that heavy rain could easily turn this part of the Dempster in to a quagmire.
I swept along absorbing the spectacular views as the highway wound and twisted its way along the ridge line. Then I stopped at the Ogilvie Range viewpoint for a few pictures.
I wish I could do justice to the spectacular vista with my amateur photography.
Nearer the Tombstone Interpretive centre I saw Dahl’s sheep at the same place we’d seen sheep when Chuck and I were heading north.
Later I stopped at Chapman Lake and absorbed the scenery for a few minutes.
I took a picture looking north across Chapman Lake,
and a nearby peak.
Soon I entered the Tombstone Provincial Park having left the tundra and scrub far behind me.
My next stop was at the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Lost Patrol monument.
From December 1910 until February 1911, Royal Northwest Mounted Police commander, Francis Joseph Fitzgerald, led a mail patrol from Fort McPherson south to Dawson City. When the patrol did not arrive in time, a search party led by Inspector William John Duncan Dempster, was sent from Dawson City and found the bodies of Fitzgerald and the other three patrol members on a few miles from Fort McPherson, where there graves can be found.
Further south in the Tombstone Park, I was lucky to see a grey wolf that crossed the highway in from of me. I stopped and just managed to snap a blurred picture before it disappeared into the scrub.
Soon after, I pulled into the Tombstone viewing area and took pictures before I headed off to the campground. The Tombstone area has some spectacular scenery and is worth a trip in its own right.
After riding around a couple of times I could see the campground was full and it seemed I would have to continue in to Dawson City to camp, but I rode to the nearby Interpretive Centre and asked if there was overflow camping anywhere. There isn’t an overflow area but the ranger told me there were walk in tent sites that I hadn’t seen.
I went back and got the choice from the two remaining sites, so I picked the one nearest to the track as that meant I would not have to haul my gear too far and would be able to keep an eye on my bike. As I started to unload, another ranger came along and I said to her that I assumed I wouldn’t be allowed to ride my bike in to the walk in area. She surprised me by saying if I could ride it in I was welcome do so. I don’t know if that is official policy or not, but I was happy to park right by my tent.
The campground is in a beautiful setting by the river and the mosquitoes were bearable.
My neighbours in the other walk in sites were all friendly and I chatted to many of them throughout the evening and the next morning.
I had soup and a protein bar for dinner and was in bed quite early after a fairly tiring day.
Bike odometer 37,917 kms
Trip 4,495.5 kms
Kms today 480 kms
Day 10 Tuesday 23 Jun 2015
Tombstone – Dawson – Carmacks – Faro.
I woke up feeling cold about 5:00 am and fired up a body warmer – basically a large heat pad. As I warmed up I quickly dropped off back to sleep and only woke again when I heard movement around 6:30 am. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and packed up without preparing any breakfast as I decided to head into Dawson for brunch.
In my original route plan I had not intended going back to Dawson but as most of the shops in Inuvik were closed when I was there, I decided to go and pick up a Dempster Highway sticker from Maximilians in Dawson, where I had seen them a few days earlier
I was soon enjoying another awesome breakfast at the Riverwest Bistro on Front Street in Dawson. While I had a second coffee sat outside in the sunshine, I phoned Jenny. I also chatted to a guy with a DixieDualsport t-shirt about bikes and my trip. He was with his family on a cruise up the Inside Passage. As I was leaving the bistro, I noticed a sign for a jade and gold jewelry store nearby, so I decided to look there for a gift for Jenny. I chatted to the lady there whose husband is the jeweler. She told me they live in Vancouver during the winter but have two stores in Dawson that they operate in the summer.
After chatting and looking at various options, I decided to buy Jen a Pandora style Sterling silver charm embedded with Yukon gold nuggets which I’m sure she enjoy having on her Pandora bracelet. After that I went to Maximilians, the gift shop next door to the bistro, and bought a couple of ‘I survived the Dempster Highway’ stickers.
I then rode around the town taking a video and stopped at the general store where I bought meal bars, caned chilli and a can of peaches. My bike was covered in mud and dust and I’d been told where to find a jet-wash when I was at the bistro earlier, so that was going to be my next stop. Outside the store a KTM was parked next to my bike and I talked to the owner. He was heading up the Dempster with his wife who was riding a CB500X. We talked about the road conditions and wished each other safe rides. I headed for the gas station just south of the bridge at the east end of town and filled up my bike and Rotopax. When I went in to pay I chatted to the girl in line ahead of me and it turned out her husband was the KTM rider I just been talking to at the general store.
Outside there was a BMW and a KLR waiting for the jet-wash, so rather than wait I washed the dirt off my lights, the rear of my panniers and registration plate and headed south.
Somewhere between Dawson and Carmacks those two bikes past me even though I was cruising at 125kph. Soon after that we were all stopped at the front of the line at roadworks and the BMW rider and I chatted. He told me they had had a grizzly bear encounter near Eagle Plains and showed me a couple of pictures. I told them about the warning I had seen posted at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, which advised a bear was chasing bikers near Eagle Plains.
We came to the conclusion that it was their encounter that had prompted the warning as they had told the ranger about it. We traveled together through the roadworks and on to the turn off for Stewart Crossing where I turned south and they headed on toward Mayo. That surprised me and I wondered if they had missed the turn as I knew they were trying to get back to Saskatchewan as quickly as possible to get back to work.
Soon I stopped for gas at Pelly Crossing where I had camped on the way north. It was a complete gong show there as only one pump was working and there was a line up of cars, motor-homes and bikes. I was second in line and while I waited at the pump the other two bikes arrived. They had missed the turn as I had suspected. I chatted to the KLR rider while I waited inside to pay for my gas and asked him if he had the 685 or 705 kit on his bike but he said it was just the standard 650. I said I was surprised judging on the speed he had been traveling and he told me it was rented, so he was flat out most of the time.
The gas station payment system was a mess as well and I could have ridden away without paying as they had no record on their till of my transaction, but accepted my word for the amount of fuel I had pumped. The other bikes both got out before me as I was talking to a truck driver who was very interested in dualsport and adventure riding. As I left it was raining, so I zipped up my vents and swapped from my lightweight gloves to my waterproof Alpinestars. However, the rain soon abated and I was getting overheated, so I had to pull over at the roadside and reverse the entire process. As I was doing this another dualsport bike roared past me and I pulled away and followed it for a while. I puzzled over what type of bike it was but due to the two Rotopax fuel containers mounted at the back on either side, I was confident it was a Moto-Guzzi Stelvio I had seen at the Tombstone campground.
The rider pulled in to a rest area just north of Carmacks and I could see then that it was a Stelvio, so decided it was the same bike. Later I pulled in to the RV campground at the Faro turn off as I had seen a restaurant there and stopped for a coffee. The Stelvio went past heading toward Whitehorse a few minutes later and we waved at each other. After coffee I headed toward Faro on the Campbell Highway.
This is a beautiful gem of a road that sweeps through the mountains and along the shores of Little Salmon Lake. Throughout the day I had ridden through showers at times but as I reached the east end of the lake it became cool and cloudy and the rain became constant and heavy. I again swapped gloves and zipped up my vents and began to think a night at a motel would be a good idea! Along the way I saw a brown coloured black bear and a mother moose with two calves crossed the road in front of me near the east end of the lake.
I turned off the Campbell Highway down the winding road and across the Pelly river then up into Faro; the former location of the largest open pit lead/zinc mine in the world.
I drove around the town and could see no obvious sign of a gas station. The motel looked dodgy at best and the B&B no better. By then the rain had stopped and I rode around the RV park which looked promising. After a ride around and back out onto the road I followed a sign to a store. It was closed according to the sign outside but as I turned around I could see a guy sat outside drinking beer from a can and another guy came out of the doorway. I stopped and asked if the store was open and the guy who had come out said he can be open anytime and told me to come on in. I asked where the gas station was and he directed me to a fuel tank across the road and explained it was an unmanned cardlock system. I then asked if he sold liquor. He didn’t, but he directed me to the motel where he told me they do off sales. I thanked him and apologized for not buying anything, then went and filled up with gas and purchased a bottle of wine at the motel restaurant. It really was more like a work camp accommodation block and canteen than a motel with a restaurant, so I was quite happy to go back to the RV campground. I picked a site and put up my tent and ate my dinner of chilli and Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by peaches. When I checked my phone I was pleasantly surprised to find Faro has cell service, so I was able to chat to Jen and we talked for over an hour, although it didn’t seem that long. After clearing up and writing my diary, I decanted the remainder of the wine into a spare water bottle and had a walk around the campground and along an adjacent road.
The rain had stopped and the clouds were moving away, so it was a nice evening.
Back at my tent, I was soon in bed and fast asleep.
Bike odometer 38,575 kms
Trip 5,153.2 kms
Kms today 658 kms
Day 11 Wednesday 24 Jun 2015
Faro – Watson Lake – Liard Provincial Park
I was awake early and up at 6:30 am. The campground in Faro turned out to be a gem in an otherwise run-down town but in a beautiful setting nevertheless. The campground had a laundry, hot showers and flush toilets. Even full RV hook ups for those that like the convenience of power, water on tap and sewers. There was everything from small tents to motor coach style motor-homes staying in the small campground.
I enjoyed an overdue hot shower and followed it with breakfast of canned peaches and a trail mix bar with coffee. I was packed and ready to roll by about 8:30 am and after a final pit stop I headed out leaving the town of Faro behind. I descended back down into the river valley and crossed back over the Pelly river at almost exactly 9:00 am. South of the river, I rode up the winding road back toward the main highway and turned left turn onto the Campbell Highway heading toward Ross River and ultimately, back on to the Alaska Highway at Watson Lake. The Campbell Highway from Faro is almost all gravel but there were some short stretches of asphalt. I stopped after a short while and took some pictures on the deserted road with my bike parked sideways in the middle of the highway.
There was zero traffic, so I did the same thing again later on.
The scenery was awesome despite the haze and I enjoyed riding on the hard packed gravel.
Somewhere, I stopped at an unnamed tributary of the Pelly River.
Further on I turned a corner on to a straight where a motor-home was stopped in the road. The occupants were looking at a grouse on the roadside. The grouse walked off the highway in to the bush as I approached but the motor-home made no signs of moving on. I was completely blocked from passing it on the left and I thought there would be a risk of the driver pulling to the right suddenly, so I didn’t want to pass on that side. I peeped my horn a couple of time to no avail before giving him an extended blast. At least that got the driver’s attention and the motor-home moved over for me to pass by in a cloud of dust.
My next stop was at a pull out overlooking Findlayson Lake.
I took a few scenic photo’s and then played around taking some video on my rugged Nikon camera. I set it in my bar mounted phone holder but foolishly I omitted to tie it on as a precaution. So at fairly high speed, it flipped out and bounced off my left leg then disappeared behind me out of sight. I stopped quickly and turned around expecting it to be on the road somewhere. No such luck. I walked back and forth bear banger at the ready, cursing my stupidity and decided I would allow myself an hour of searching. It was bad enough that it seemed I’d lost an expensive and almost new camera, but worse to lose the SD card with all my trip photo’s. Anyway, after 20 minutes or so I spotted the camera about 6 feet off in the bush on the opposite side of the road to where I expected it to be. It seemed okay and worked fine although the video that I was filming at the time didn’t get recorded. On closer inspection later in the day I found that a plastic panel and the map button on one side had both become detached. Whenever I used it for video or pictures after that, I made sure it was securely tethered either to the bike or to me. Ironically, a few minutes after finding the camera and after I had put it safely away in my tank bag, I spotted a wolverine in the road. Before I had a chance to get the camera out and turn it on, the wolverine shuffled off into the thick bush at the side of the road. About a kilometre further on I was not surprised when I passed a sign indicating the turn off to the Wolverine Mine.
Nearer to Watson Lake the road was in total chaos as it had been stripped out and was in the process of being rebuilt. After a short wait at the roadworks flag, I was allowed to proceed on my own and the badly rutted surface, loose sand and gravel gave me a work out and tested my off-road skills as I picked my way through the construction traffic and workers. After leaving that mess behind me I came to a new section of sweeping tightly packed gravel road that cut a wide swathe through the countryside and was spectacular to ride on. Then suddenly and almost without warning the road narrowed dramatically and reduced to a rocky pot-holed track. It was in total contrast to the earlier new surface and I assumed the work crews were rebuilding the entire road in sections. Soon after at about 350kms from Faro, I stopped to top up my fuel. It was gradually getting hotter and hotter and as the temperature was by now close to 30c, and I was starting to feel tired. The break for fuel had been very welcome and I was soon riding into Watson Lake, where I stopped at the Visitor Centre next to the famous Signpost Forest. I took some photo’s and paid a quick visit to the Visitor Centre. Someone else was responsible for the Alberta Dualsport sticker on one of the signs.
Then at the gas station and general store across the road, I refueled and bought supplies. I had an ice-cream sat outside in the shade and phoned Jen. She didn’t answer, so I had to leave a message but then she phoned back a few minutes later and I told her I would ride on to camp at Liard Hot Springs. After chatting with Jen, I was soon on the Alaska Highway again heading east.
There were bison and black bears grazing along the roadside.
I was still feeling the heat and pulled over at an unmarked turn out about 20km from Coal River, for a stretch and some air.
I walked to the edge of the gravel and looked over the berm to make sure there were no bears lurking there and then I saw a crashed pick up down the bank in the trees.
From where I was standing it was impossible to see what the condition of the truck was and how long it might have been there, so I decided I should go down and check. I took my bear bangers with me and picked my way carefully down the steep gravel bank to the truck which was 75 to 100 feet down the slope, all the time cautiously shouting ‘Go away bears’ loudly.
It occurred to me there might be a partly eaten person in the truck and even a bear having a snack, but when I got close I could see it seemed to have been there a while and there was no sign of anyone in the trash strewn cab.
I was sure it had most likely been abandoned some time earlier but then I’ve seen trucks in worse condition on the road.
I climbed back up to the highway now totally refreshed and wide awake and continued my journey. About 15 kilometers further on, I saw the Fireside RV park so I pulled in there and asked if anyone knew about the wrecked pick up. The owner knew about it and told me it had been abandoned there 2 – 3 years earlier.
I pressed on stopping for gas and a coffee at Coal River.
In the restaurant, I chatted to two Harley riders whose bikes were parked outside.
One was from Texas and the other rider from Missouri. They were friends who were riding together and heading back home after being up in Alaska. A couple of nice friendly guys.
There was also an older couple there and we all talked with each other about our trips and experiences. The older guy, whose family name was Jones, told me about his Grandfather emigrating from Wales years ago. After my coffee break I was soon back on the highway and seemed to be at Liard Provincial Park in no time.
At the entrance to the campground a sign said ‘Campground Full’ but I called in anyway and stopped at the booth where the Park Ranger told me I could camp in the day use area which is also used for overflow camping. I set up my tent at the back of the group shelter as that was the only place where it looked like I’d be able to get my tent pegs in to the ground.
While I was setting up, I chatted to two cyclists from the US who were sat at one of the picnic tables. One was riding all the way to Argentina and the other to Wisconsin. Before I had finished setting up, the BMW and KLR riders I seen the day before rode by. I was surprised that I had arrived at least an hour before them despite taking the long way round on 400 kms of gravel on the Campbell Highway. Later I could see a couple of bikes at the far end of the day use area and assumed it was them. They came over for a chat and then a walk around the campground and said they were going to try out the hot springs later in the evening. I said I’d most likely do the same myself.
Soon I had my dinner of Chef Boyardee hash and followed it with fruit jam and a bread roll. A Dutch accented camper wandered over to me and asked me as he put it ‘So, what’s your story then’. He was traveling with his wife back to Ontario and had just driven down from Whitehorse and were sleeping in the back of their SUV. He told me the smoke from fires further north had been very bad near Whitehorse. Maybe my route had been a better choice as although I could smell smoke near Faro and it had been hazy in the distance most of the time, there had been no significant impact on me. After chatting I cleared away my pans and gear and went to the hot springs for a relax and a swim.
There were some people there as I arrived and I decided I would just wear my zip off shorts as I didn’t have any swimming trunks, but when I came out of the changing room, the pool was deserted, so rather than have wet shorts to contend with I just went in wearing my underwear. I was perfectly presentable by the way! If necessary I would have waited to get out when there was nobody there but I was on my own for all the time except for a few minutes when a family came up from the stream below and were in the hot pool for a few minutes. I dried and dressed and wandered back down the boardwalk where a couple of girls heading to the hot pool were watching a moose off in the bush. I watched with them for a few minutes and then headed back to my tent. After settling in to bed I read my book for a while and could here noisy campers at the other end of the day use area. I though that would be annoying for the people trying to get to sleep but it soon went quiet and I laid down for the night.
Bike odometer 39,217 kms
Trip 5,795.5 kms
Kms today 642 kms
Day 12 Thursday 25 Jun 2015
Liard Provincial Park – Ft. Nelson – Dawson Creek
It had rained heavily during the night and I had to pack everything wet in the morning. But I had enjoyed a solid night’s sleep and felt refreshed. I walked over to the lodge on the other side of the highway past bison grazing at the side of the road, and bought a cup of coffee there.
I took my coffee back to my tent and sat at a picnic table to enjoy a breakfast of coffee and jam covered bread rolls that I had bought in Watson Lake. At 8:00 am I heard a bear banger being fired off and when a ranger walked past I asked if they’d been scaring off a bear. He told me it had been to scare off a bison that was intent on getting it to the campground. I wondered if it was the one I had seen earlier. At this time in the morning the mosquitoes were quite bad although I’d not been bothered by them at all the previous evening.
I filled up my camelbak on the way out of the campground and turned left on to the highway at 8:55 am. The scenery south and east of Liard Hot Springs past Muncho Lake through Stone Mountain Provincial Park and on almost all the way to Ft. Nelson is unbelievably beautiful.
This area is great for wildlife, especially near Muncho Lake and Stone Mountain and there were many Bison along the side of the road.
As I climbed toward Summit Lake the temperature dropped and eventually I pulled over and zipped up my vents. I did a lot of unziping and zipping throughout the day as the temperature varied from 28c in sunshine to cool air in torrential rain and back again numerous times. I dogged back and forth with other bikes as I made my way to Ft. Nelson.
Roadworks were a common feature of the morning ride that day. This was west of Stone Mountain.
A V-Strom and a BMW that I had seen parked at the Lodge where I had bought my breakfast coffee caught up with me at some roadworks along with another V-Strom 1000 two-up. I had passed the V-Strom 1000 earlier and it had passed me while I was stopped at the Rocky Mountain Lodge getting fuel. Now all four bikes and five people were together at the roadworks where we chatted and I shared my cookies.
I had not seen the couple on the V-Strom before that day and they were heading back to Chicago after riding up to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The other riders had both been at the Dempster Highway sign in Inuvik with Chuck and I and I believe they were from Kelowna. When we were cleared to continue, I left first and didn’t see the other bikes again until they pulled in to A&W in Ft. Nelson while I was getting gas across the road at the Petro-Canada and having a protein bar for lunch. Just down the road I noticed there is now a Tim Horton’s next to the Esso station. I didn’t think that had been there three years earlier when I had been through. A KLR pulled in while I was preparing to leave the gas station and I wondered if it was the KLR rider I’d seen at Liard and first met at the roadworks north of Stewart Crossing, but as there was no sign of his buddy on the GS1200 then I assumed it was most likely someone else.
I think I traveled through three or four major sections of roadworks during the day, including one on the southern outskirts of Ft. Nelson.
Just before Ft. Nelson the mountain scenery changes to low brush and then farm land and south of Ft. Nelson near Prophet River the long dead straight highway becomes quite boring. I took some pictures.
Further south it became extremely windy and stormy and I rode through two or three showers of rain and continued the process of zipping up against the rain and unzipping in the sunshine. In Dawson Creek, I stopped at the Petro-Canada to fill up and due to the rain overnight that had left me with wet gear and the continuing rain showers, I decided to pull across the road and check in at the Super 8 motel. I had a room at the front of the motel and was able to park my bike outside the window where I could keep an eye on it. I spread my tent and all my wet gear out to dry in the room and called Jen. She already knew I was at the Super 8 as she had checked my spot tracking earlier. After chatting for a while I went to the motel lounge and restaurant and had fish & chips and an accompanying beer or two. I planned on having a good night’s sleep and pack my stuff in the morning by which time I expected it would all be dry.
Bike odometer 39,984 kms
Trip 6,562 kms
Kms today 767 kms
Day 13 Friday 26 Jun 2015
Dawson Creek – Grande Prairie – Grande Cache – Jasper
This proved to be a long and tiring day for no good reason other than it was hot and I had probably been building up a deficit in sleep over the entire trip. I had been hoping to have a good sleep and a leisurely start, so I had not bothered to set an alarm. But even though I had settled down in to my sleeping bag after midnight, I still woke up at 6:00 am and although I didn’t rush to get up, nor did I drop off back to sleep. So at 6:30 am I crawled out of bed and went for breakfast at the Super 8 breakfast bar. Cereal and yoghurt for a change and nice freshly brewed coffee. After breakfast I asked one of the motel staff for directions to a jet-wash where I would be able to wash the mud off my bike and I was given directions. It was still early though, so I started packing up my now dry tent and other gear. I went out to my bike and noticed an industrial hose curled up nearby, next to an outside tap.
I went back inside to reception and asked if they minded me using it to hose off my bike. There was a moments deliberation before the lady agreed that it would be okay.
I then spent quite a bit of time with the hose and a cloth, cleaning off the dirt, insects, and bird parts that were adorning my bike.
Not a perfect job to be honest but more than good enough to last until I got home and would be able to use my own pressure washer. Leaving my bike to dry, I decided I should wash the mud and dirt off my panniers in the bath in my room. I did clean the filthy bath afterwards!
I also re-visited the breakfast room and acquired some snacks for lunch. As the motel wasn’t exactly cheap, I figured complimentary lunch and pannier washing to be included.
I was soon packed and loaded and after I checked out of the Super 8, I rode down to the Alaska Highway visitor centre for a quick visit. I took a couple of photo’s at the Mile Zero sign. A German tourist took my photo and looked in the art gallery and gift shop.
I didn’t stop long but I did look around the museum and bought a couple of souvenirs in the shop.
The road south out of Dawson Creek is long, straight and boring and the weather was still stormy with very blustery conditions. As I rode in to Grand Prairie and stopped at a red light, I decided to use my GPS to find a Tim Horton’s for lunch and it offered me a Tim’s 3.7 kms away after a left turn. Just as I was thinking that would work for me, I looked up and saw a Tim Horton’s just across the intersection. All I had to do was make a quick lane change before the traffic moved off. In Tim’s, I bought a cheese panini, which I regretted later as it gave me indigestion. I filled up at the gas station alongside Tim Horton’s and rode south out of Grande Prairie on Highway 40. This is a fairly boring road as far as Beaver Lodge but then becomes more interesting. Just south of Beaver Lodge I had to stop at more roadworks and chatted to the flagman while I waited at the front of the line. After the roadworks the road soon started to wind its way up into the mountains where the scenery is spectacular in places. It should have been more enjoyable and interesting but it was hot, humid and oppressive. I was getting tired and stopped at a pull out north of Grande Cache near the coal mine and pulled out a can of Red Bull I had bought in Grande Prairie. As I walked about I cooled down and caffeinated myself. There was a motor home also stopped and I talked to the young Mum who was there with her family.
She told me they were waiting there for friends and were going on to camp together near Grand Cache. Her friends arrived soon after and they all set off. I saw them again later parked off in the bush.
In Grande Cache I stopped at the Fas Gas which has a spectacular view.
As I was getting fuel, I noticed the Toyota Prius at the pump in front of me had US registration and I got talking to the driver. Amazingly he had met the lady whose Smart Car had had the flat tire near Eagle Plains and new the whole story of the friendly biker who had changed her wheel for her. He was amazed that it was me. Quite a coincidence.
I stopped again later near Hinton and sat cooling down in the shade of a sign describing the local fish species. From then on I managed to keep going all the way to the Wapiti campground south of Jasper where I paid to camp for the night.
I partially set up my camp and rode back in to Jasper to eat at A&W. While sat on the wall outside drinking my coffee, I phoned Jen and we chatted. Soon, I was back at Wapiti and ate the yogurt I had brought from the Super 8. I had a muffin and an apple which I decided to keep for breakfast. Knowing that I could buy coffee at Sunwapta Falls, I thought I would head there in the morning and stop there for breakfast. I crawled in to bed and was soon fast asleep after a tiring day.
Bike odometer 40,533 kms
Trip 7,111.5 kms
Kms today 549 kms
Day 14 Saturday 27 Jun 2015
Jasper – Rocky Mountain House
The last day of my trip was a half day ride home from Jasper. I had indeed had a good nights sleep and soon packed up my tent. I ate my muffin and apple and loaded up my bike. It was 9:20 am as I turned on to the highway and aimed my bike toward Sunwapta.
At the Sunwapta Falls Resort, I pulled in and parked opposite the restaurant and went in for coffee. I talked to a couple who were riding a new BMW1200GS. They were on their way from Edmonton to Banff and had stopped for the night in Jasper. They left a few minutes before me and I passed them later on as I climbed up toward the Columbia Icefield. It was a glorious sunny day and getting warmer as the time went on. I took a few photo’s as I rode south on the Icefields Parkway.
And a few more photo’s when I stopped at the turn off to Rocky Mountain House near North Saskatchewan River Crossing, aka ‘The Crossing’.
While I was stopped near the intersection, I topped up my tank with fuel from my Rotopax.
By Nordegg I needed another coffee and bought one at the gas station. It was hot and I sat outside in the shade. I spoke to Jen and then chatted to a guy with a Triumph Scrambler who had parked next to me. I didn’t buy gas but the pumps were busy with a few cars and RV’s and numerous bikes – mostly Harley’s.
About an hour later I turned in to my driveway. After two weeks and nearly 7½ thousand kilometers, I had arrived home, dusty, dirty and extremely tired but exceedingly pleased that I had made it to the Yukon and back and ridden my Super Tenere the entire length of the Dempster Highway to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories and returned home safely.
My bike had performed perfectly throughout and it had been a successful and thankfully, disaster free adventure.
Bike odometer 40,874 kms
Trip 7,452.3 kms
Kms today 341 kms
START ODO; 33,442 Kms
END ODO; 40,874 Kms
Trip Total; 7,432 Kms