438 km to Watson Lake


After five luxurious rest days in Whitehorse our friend Pam practically had to kick us out of her home. During our stay Brian obsessively played video games while I desperately tried to finish reading his latest literary suggestion Stephan King’s The Stand. While King’s epic tale of good vs evil was a great read I was more than happy offload the heavy piece of literature from my luggage. Besides, Brian had three fantasy novels stowed away for me in his front pannier.

Admittedly, Brian and I were very lazy and accomplished very little during our stay in Whitehorse. Looking back we probably should have spent more time stocking up on groceries and spare bicycle parts as we now know that services in the Yukon and Northern British Columbia are few and far between. As I write this I am hoping that Fort Nelson, some 188 km away will provide us with a bike shop. We could really use a tune up, some new tubes, and Brian is in desperate need of a new front tire.

1 pm, August 3rd

Brian and I inch up 2 mile hill on our heavily loaded bikes. After six km I’m exhausted, it seems my body is depleted of nutrients and unhappy with me. I’ve just spent the last five days drinking large quantities of coca cola and eating junk food and it’s no one’s fault but my own. Brian on the other hand is happily racing ahead, why is this so easy for him?? After 12 km we decide to take a break. As we pull into a gas station Brian’s bike skids out from under him, he breaks quickly putting all of his weight on his front tire. Flat!!  Ughh!!!  Ooops.. we forgot to buy more spare tubes… and Brian’s front tire is ripped. I suggest we head back into town to restock at the bike store, but it’s already late in the day. Against our better judgement we patch Brian’s tube, change his tire and continue cycling towards Marsh Lake. Once we get past the roaring traffic we enjoy having the road to ourselves again. We cycle side by side chattering away. At one point I steer my bike to close to Brian’s and catch my front pannier onto his back pannier veering off the road into the ditch. Shaken, but impressed that I haven’t fallen off my bike I dismount and push the heavy thing out of the ditch. As we continue south the scenery improves. We descend into a valley, surrounded by mountains, dotted with marshland and lakes. We spot a beaver dam and some pretty black birds with blue underbelly and white-tipped wings. We arrive in Marsh Lake around 8 pm, have a late dinner and hit the sack. The next morning our camp host Michael offers me a free can of bear spray some German travellers gave him. He doesn’t need it, he’s got a big gun! I chat with Michael for an hour, and he tells me unbelievable tales of his time in the north. He’s worked as a commercial pilot, a tour guide and one time he’s even been chased by a mama grizzly while on horseback! 2:30 pm It’s getting late and Michael’s detailing a list of the best thrift stores in the Alaska/Yukon area, we’ve really got to get going. Back on the Alaska hwy we cycle into another headwind. My legs, still tired from the day before struggle to keep up with Brian who comfortably cycles a kilimetre ahead of me. He’s having a great day! By 7 pm we reach Jakes Corner. I beg Brian to stop for dinner. They’ve got an awesome menu at Jake’s! The list of burgers is long and varied! I’m a happy camper! At 9 pm Brian convinces me to get back on my bike again.We’ve got 20 km to go before we reach our campsite on Squanga Lake and I’m already exhausted. Cycling beside me on the empty highway Brian patiently encourages me to cycle the next 20 km. I’m a brat, I’m tired, as little miss grouchy pants I complain for the next two hours begging Brian to let me set up camp in the woods. As the sun begins to set behind the mountains my mood improoves. We haven’t seen a sunset in over a month and its beautiful! We finally pull into Squanga Lake at 12:00 am. Some Yukon University students near our campsite are busy capturing and tagging bats for a study. We fall asleep to the sound of sqeaking bats.

Sunset on Squanga Lake

August 5th- Rest day, for some reason both Brian and I feel headachy and nauseous. We spend the morning resting on the dock, reading our books and watching swallows dance in the air above. Later we cook dinner on the woodstove and bask in it’s warmth.

August 6th – We share a bowl of hot oatmeal and get back on to our bikes. After an easy 20 km we arrive in Johnson’s Crossing, eat a quick-lunch, and enjoy free wi-fi. Just before we get back on our bikes I spot another female cycle tourist as racing by. Later Brian and I catch up with Monica and her husband Robert. These swiss cyclists have been touring the world for seven years! Their mountain bikes are loaded so heavily with food, clothing etc… that they make ours look light! We spend the next two days cycling alongside this wonderful couple. They’ve sacrificed a lot to afford this life style and they live on very little. I’m impressed to say the least. After leaving Telsin we follow Monica and Robert  up the what seems to be the worlds longest uphill. Cars are beeping in encouragement as we make our way to the top. Sometimes drivers can be really cool! The hills keep on coming for the next 40 km and by the time we reach camp my legs are wasted!

August 7th- Finally a tailwind! I’m happy, we enter “Super, Natural, British Columbia” as it snakes along the Yukon border. Despite the tailwind I’m still  cycling at a snail’s pace. My legs are tired!! Concerned, and not wanting to get to far ahead of me Brian continually looks back to make sure I’m in sight. On one of these instances Brian looks back towards me, sees that I am nowhere in sight, loses controll of his bike and skids sideways, flying over his handle bars and landing in the middle of the road. By the time I catch up to Brian I ask him “oh…why did you stop? Is it break time?”. Angrily Brian responds “I fell!” and shows me his bleeding arm. I take a good look at his arm and fear it might need stitches. He also complains that his head hurts after having banged it on the ground. I clean him up as best I can and suggest we camp for the night. I’m concerned about his head and we both fear he might have a concussion, but he says he’s fine and wants to carry on. This is going to be a long day! We’ve barely travelled 20 km, Brian is injured and we still have to travel another 70 km before we reach our campsite at Continental Divide. It’s a rough day and we end up taking plenty of breaks. First to chat with cyclist, Craig, who has cycled up from Florida. Craig tells us stories of cycling through herds of buffalo, starving up in the mountains and bear encounters. Just before he reached Fort Nelson Craig spent an evening camped near a river and a bear was lured to his tent by the smell of weed…which I mistook for wheat. Later I said to Brian “why would a bear be attracted to the scent of wheat?? Why was Craig carrying wheat?? Did he mean bread?” laughing Brian says “weed Liz! weed!”  LOL “o00h…now I get it!”.  During our ride I make Brian stop numerous times so that I can eat. Our meager breakfast consisted of 4 fig newtons and a fruit cup.  By 4 pm I’ve eaten all of my snacks and I’m still starving, Brian’s headache is worse and he also realizes that he hasn’t eaten enough.  We continue to cycle another 50 km up and down hills and eventually stop for supper. Brian cooks up a pot of spaghetti and finally we are fueled for the day. It’s after 8 pm, and getting dark, we’ve got another 20 km to go before we reach camp. Just 5 km before we reach camp we cycle up the longest, steepest hill I’ve ever seen a 9 % grade that stretched for over 1.5 km. We cycled all the way to the top, taking no breaks. It felt awesome!!! After that our legs we’re dead. We began to walk up the tiniest of hills. By the time we rolled into Continental Divide it was 11:30 pm and pitch black. The camp guard dog followed us around barking as we looked for  a place to pitch our tent. The next morning we awoke to hot food, hot showers, wifi and laundry services! Woohoo! Let’s take a rest day!

I didn’t sleep so well that night, and campers beside us set their car alarm off at 6 am. I was obviously over tired and very whiney. Brian insisted we take another rest day. We enjoyed the company of the staff at Continental Divide very much. Family run, they treated us very well and feed us wonderful homemade food. That evening we ended up playing cribbage and rumi with the owners parents Bill and Mildred. The next morning the owners of the Continental Divide Campground offer us a complementary breakfast!

 

 

 

 

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2 responses to “438 km to Watson Lake

  1. i am pretty sure trish is going to be worried about brians fall…i am glad he is okay…but maybe you should have left that out of the story…lol..glad you guys are still enjoying the trip though..

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