Dawson City was the perfect place to take care of both the bike and the body after the Dempster experience. I spent all my money on food, especially on icecream. After two days resting, I went for an unloaded dayride on the so-called Top Of the World Highway and started my journey South again on the fourth morning.
It felt awesome in many ways. The legs were fresh, the chain was not grinding sand, the weather was perfect, the terrain was easy, I had a tailwind and I was now flying on the pavement. The scenery was not as stunning as the last days on the Dempster but still offered some epic views.
After only a few hours, I saw a big cloud rising from the horizon and knew what it was ; a forest fire. I was not expecting to get any as so far North and early in the season but so it started. What I did not know was that it was the start of multiple days of smoky conditions. I first went through a very, very dense area with an apocalypse-like atmosphere. It was pitch dark and you could not see 20 m away. I was worrying about my lungs but it was too late, I was in it and just had to get out of it. I put on the breathing face-mask I had brought for the dust on the gravel road thinking it would do the trick for the smoke. I rode this dark scene looking like a dark lord.
When it started to lift up a little bit, I found a charming roadside lodge, an old log cabin I could not resist entering. Here started the trip’s biggest battle against myself: it is not because there is a restaurant or bakery or any kind of food that YOU HAVE TO get something, because you already carry food. I lost the battle that time, and I’m still losing it almost everyday, especially when I found a 1kg freshly baked cinnamon bun.
I decided to do side-trips and explore as much of Yukon as I could on my scheduled way to Jasper and the Great Divide Trail. Half-way up the one-way road to Keno, a tiny historical community with an identically named peak granted with 360 view, I had to turn around because the smoke was getting too thick again. But I found a nice little spot with a clear creek not far from the road to camp. Not all my bush-camps were that bucolic!
The trip ended up being divided into three sections. The first took me from Dawson City to Whitehorse with the aborted side-trip to Keno in 5 days. The second turned into a relaxed 4 days resupplying in Whitehorse plus riding, camping and hiking in the Carcross area with freshly made friends. It was truly amazing to be able to put the trip aside and spend some quality time with nice people. Our plans kept changing because of the thick smoke but we finally ended up hiking and scrambling one of the local peaks. It was such a great experience, untouched landscape with no-one else around. The legs appreciated the change of discipline and were fresher than ever when I started the third and last section from Carcross to Watson Lake in 2.5 days. This section on the Alaska Highway made me meet more cyclists in one day than over the two prior weeks.
The road was mostly flat, I mean no major elevation, and cut as long straight lines which allowed me to often get down on the aero-bars. Days were hot and nights fairly chilly so I decided to start late (9.30 to 10am) when it was not freezing, stop for a long lunch break in the roosting afternoon (2 to 4pm) and ride into the evening breeze (8.30 to 9pm) because there was so much daylight anyway. It was cool to observe the darkness slightly conquering time on the light as I was riding South. I left Dawson with 24h daylight and got to Watson Lake with a few hours of dusk-like twilight.
Being back on the pavement not only impacted my average speed but also my nose. Because of the hot weather, the typical smell of the warm asphalt bathing all day in the sun was ever present. Depending on the breeze, it was dominant or a subtle background flavour mixed with the creeks, the flowers and the forest breath. The cars, RVs and trucks passing by would add a more or less pronounced exhaust smell to this fine blend. Most of the drivers were nice and left some room when passing me but I always needed to be ready to be hit by the odd loose gravel sprinkled on the Northern roads, especially over the multiple construction sections. For dozens of kilometers I would have fine sand crushing in my teeth, making my mouth even drier than the smoke already made it. From time to time it would get so drained out that I would not have any saliva left and be unable to swallow. But maybe it was because I could not close my mouth, amazed by the surrounding wildlife, scenery, lakes, mountains, flowers and trees exploding all around me. My skin was fondled by the wind, which made me forget the sticky mix of sweat, dust, repellent and sunscreen layered on it. When stopping for lunch or in the evening, I loved to listen in the silence to the breeze in the trees, the many birdsongs and the insects humming. Such peaceful music after hours of wind harping on my ears because of the speed and all the super loud engines.
All this might not sound like a dreamable and idyllic journey but all my senses were stimulated and excited by the discoveries. It made me feel more alive than ever. I did not just see Yukon, I truly experienced it in all ways, and it was wonderful.
Tramping, cycling, running, skiing, travelling, I keep exploring this amazing planet we live on. The following texts give an insight of my various wanderings. From poetry to trip reports or thoughts on particular subjects, this pages try to reflect how I travel through this modern world.