Yukon, larger than Life


We stay at Dawson City 5 days in a campground 3km (1,8m) out of the town. Dawson is the second big city of Yukon just after Whitehorse. Before the construction of Alaska Highway, it was the Yukon’s Capital. Two thousands of people live here. All the streets are in gravel except the main Street. We take advantage of the Aborigen Day to visit that city and listen to some musical shows. The tourists (camping cars, cyclists…) are all over the place; everybody wants to be in the Gold Rush’s mood. The atmosphere here is cool.

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The French community is important here, makes up especially by tourist and mine workers from Quebec. All around the city, the mine companies are present. Since we left Montreal, we never hear French language so much. It is surprising and so comforting.
We meet again Gilles and Janet, our Australians friends. They are washing their Land Cruiser in the campground’s carwash. They decide to have a site close to us for the night. We have a very nice evening with us. We get on well with our others neighbors: two Saskatchewan women. Kayla will spend the evening between both of them. One give her cookies and the other one some grapes. The Australians cook dinner for us and we bring the tea. Everybody will leave tomorrow morning for Whitehorse. They will be there in one day. Us, we think taking 2 weeks for the same distance. Kayla cries when they go away.
We want to stay here 4 days but we have a problem with our tent’s zipper. We go at the Tourist Information trying to find somebody to repair that zipper or to put a new one. Marie-Claude, a Quebecker, working for Canada Park, try by phone to find that people. It is Sunday; she can’t find anybody so we decide to stay one more day. Unfortunately, nobody have the material we need. So we’ll do what we can until we reach Whitehorse. Meanwhile, we contact the company; our tent has a life warranty, we hope they will be able to fix it. But we’ll have to pay for a new interior tent liner.
We bought that tent because we thought that it was a good stuff for our kind of trip. It is always frustrating to buy something very expensive thinking it will be the good one and discover it was not. And the company’s customer service is as bad as their equipment.
Very soon, Kayla is well known. The lady at the reception desk calls her “our little baby”. In the campground, everybody is amazing to see Kayla with her smile.
So we go away the day after for Whitehorse. The next grocery will be at 250 km (155m) ahead, so we take food for 5 days. The weather is now warmer. A big rain in the middle of the afternoon will get us cooler. It rains all night and in the morning it was still raining…So we feel that we’ll be better in the sleeping bag. We will leave late this morning. We ride 9 km (5,5m) and we stop for lunch. We are all wet. We install our tarpaulin between the 2 toilet rooms at the rest area. We can eat without getting wet. But the rain is still there, so we decide to dress the tent to warm up in our sleeping bag. Finally, we will stay there for the night. It will be our smallest day on bikes. During the night, the rain stop and we can see the blue sky. We let dry our things and we have dinner without getting wet. Later during the night we had a big storm and we find that Kayla is not afraid of the thunder… Good thing!
We realize the next morning that this rest area is a place where all the tourists’ busses from or to Dawson City stop. We eat our breakfast in front of all theses tourists. They ask us a lot of questions and take many pictures. We leave on a clear sky and we try to catch up our lost time because the day before. We still have 3 days of food and 190 km (118m) to the next grocery at Pelly Crossing. We have to ride without delay. More than 60 km (37m) a day is still a lot for us. We ride around 40 and 60 km (25 and 35 m) a day and each week we do a little bit more.

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The day after, we see our first bear along the road. At least! After 2 months, it was time! Before we leave, we think that the bears will be there every day and make us very hard to find a place to sleep. We must be in the spot for the bears because the same night, during our dinner and the tent was up, a car stop to tell us that there are 2 big bears 200m (500’) from us. Stay here for the night is not the thing we want. So we eat very fast, take out the tent and go away to Stewart Crossing where we camp in an old campground place. That same day, at the rest area, we met David and Margaret from Toronto. They are with another couple. The 2 men were here to participate in the Yukon River Quest, a Kayak course on Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. It is a 700 km (435 m) long ride. They were disqualified the first day as almost the third of the competitors because big winds make them capsize. They were Ok but they arrive too late to the control point. So they suggest giving us the rest of the food they bring for that course. We set off with 2 big plastic bags full of energetic bars, chocolate, dry fruits, bread and humus. So to get the next city for the grocery is not now a must.

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When we stop, the next day for our lunch, we meet Norbert, a German cyclist traveler and sometimes later, another German cyclist couple. They all leave Alaska and they are going in South America also. All the bike travelers, who make the same trip than us, leave Alaska in June, one month after us, and they already with us… and this is just a beginning. They all of them be at Pelly Crossing tonight.
Meet them and also a good shower motivates us to go all the way without stopping. Lucky we have the backwind with us! After a very long day, we were very happy to meet our friends but no shower at the campground! The next city is around 100km (60 m) away, the shower can wait…We wash Kayla (who needs that so much) in the bowl.
The morning after, we go get food for just 2 days. It is new… a short distance for a change, we will be so light…. At Carmacks, we find a very nice campground, a nice site along the Yukon River. At least, we can take a shower…a good one especially after 7 days… So we take one day off. It will be a real break because not a lot thing to do here. In the afternoon, we meet Tim, an English cyclist. He is on the road since 15 months. We go to the grocery together and we share our dinner.

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We still have 180 km (112m) for Whitehorse, the Yukon Capital. Before leaving, we make our inevitable stop to the grocery. In these small communities along the road, the grocery is also the service station and a meeting place where the resident or the tourist people get together. We talk always to a lot of people and sometimes our stops are very long but always interesting. Some people heard about us by other travelers we met before.
The campgrounds are also a good meeting place. Tonight, after Carmacks, we decide to stop in a Yukon government campground because we see the rain coming. We meet there Heidi, a French speaking person from Croatia who lives at Whitehorse. During her days off, she camps around to see all these nice landscapes in that wild country. She talks to us about a place 30 km (18m) away, Beaburn Lodge, where we have to make a lunch stop, she said. We meet her there and we eat big hamburgers but especially the best cinnamon bun we never ate. Heidi is also a movie director; she will take some pictures of us on the road. Some days later, we see her again at Whitehorse.

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We will stop one night at another Yukon Government Campground, 75 km (46m) from Whitehorse. It was raining all night long but in the morning, the day looks better. Now, it is 17C (62F), the sun try to appear and the wind is in the good direction…May be, we will be at Whitehorse tonight and we can sleep in a real good bed. We contact a French family from the Warmshower community. This is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. We just have to sign up on the Internet site and ask for hospitality on our route when it is available.
The weather won’t be good very long. A few hours later, the weather is 9C (48F), the rain begins, the wind turn over. We still have 20km (12m)to ride. We are in a Service Station, we are cold, a big storm is coming… We don’t know what to do. Keep on the road or ask to camp here? We drink a hot tea and think about it. Finally, we decide to call Jerome and Nelly our Warmshower hosts. We were supposed to be there tomorrow but we ask them if we can arrive today. They accept. So 2 hours later, we are there and they welcome us with a pleasant pancake smell.
We will stay 3 days with them. Kayla will meet Josephine, their 4 year old daughter. Very fast, they will become good friends and will play together many times. We don’t know why, but she is very excited and she shouts very loud. Is it because Kayla plays with another child or because she is inside a house, a very rare thing for her, we have to calm her down during these 3 days. Jerome and Nelly give us a tour guide. Better than if we did that alone. We meet many people almost all French speaking people. We live here in French and we almost forget that we are in West part of Canada. Whitehorse is a cosmopolitan city. A lot of people come here from all part of the world. They are here for the landscape, the wild country and also for the grant the government give to the people to populate the North. It is a very nice town to live. We can imagine to live here ourselves. Who knows? May be one day…
For now, it is time to leave. We say Good Bye to Jerome, Nelly and Josephine. It is hard to quit a place that we were so well welcome. It is harder for Kayla and Josephine who cry when it is time to leave. It’s the way it is. It won’t be the last time during this trip.

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We are on our way to Watson Lake, last stop in Yukon before British Columbia. If we look on the map, we will have bigger distances between the groceries. We will have to take bigger load. But for now, we have to ride 180km (112m.) before Teslin, the next city. We travel again the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse and we’ll follow that road until the end 1500km (932 m) away. Many lakes are along this road, that’s a good thing to cool down. We have a nice and warm weather. We just put our feet in the water because the lake is too cold to swim. We also see some moose to graze along the shore.
When we arrive at Teslin, we already ride 2000km (1242m). We left since 2 months. We aren’t very fast but we enjoy every moment. We realize that we won’t be in United States before mid-September; the winter will be there very soon at that time, may be we’ll have to change our itinerary. Anyway, we’ll see when the time came.
We are at the Teslin’s campground early. We take a rest at the grocery during a shower. We meet a lot of people and one of them tells us that we are well known on Facebook. Yukon Territory is a small community. Everybody knows everybody. Someone must talk about us on his Facebook.
The map is right; we still have 300km (186m) before Watson Lake without a grocery, just some restaurants. The headwind will overcome us. We just ride 40km (25m). Luckily, we have more food than we need. If we think we will ride 300km in 6 days, we will bring food for 8 days. We never know.
The next days will be better and our daily average will be 60 to 80km (40 to 50m) until we get Watson Lake. We took only 5 days to get there. On this road, we meet a lot of bike travelers, people coming from everywhere and going everywhere. We also heard more and more about bears and we see some as we come close to the city.

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Watson Lake is not an easy place to find a place to camp. One campground is too far for us and the other one in the city didn’t accept the tent. So we stop at the Tourist information and ask for a place to put our tent in the city. The lady at the desk offers us to use a ground she owns. It is perfect, everything is close. We even take our shower to the public pool and even go swimming. At the end of the evening, we just remember, here, in Watson Lake, there is a host from Warmshower. We write to them and ask if they can take us.
The day after, we are going to the grocery to buy something for lunch. We don’t have time to buy something; Barry, the Warmshower host we wrote yesterday, talks to us. He saw our bikes outside and tells us that we can go to his home. His wife is there and she waits for us. So, we take our lunch with Susan. She gives us a warm welcome. We feel like we are home. They use to have people. They are host for Warmshower since 9 years. They have 2 rooms free and another traveler couple will come to join us at the end of the afternoon. Barry will cook us a delicious dinner. We pass 2 nights at their place. We take a rest and visit the only attraction of this city: The Sigh Post Forest. There are 78 000 posts: matriculation plates, city plates, business cards, all kind from all around the world. So, it is our turn to put our card.

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Une réponse à Yukon, larger than Life

  1. Ann Usher says:

    I met you in the City Market parking lot in Moab. So much fun meeting you! All the best of luck on your journey. If you need a good shower I think you can go to the Moab Fitness and swim center. If you can’t get in there you are welcome to come to my house south of town. Kayla would have a bath tub to play in !

    Ann 262-215-4280. You can reach me via FB too.

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