First Nation culture, remote views, wildlife, fellow cyclists, and good music were plentiful. Get a glimpse of what it’s like to bicycle through Canada!
The people, many locals of ‘Van Isle’, we met briefly shared their little secrets, the special places we should visit. I got a sense these people looked at us not as tourists, but someone who would actually go to these places and respect them as they do.
Bare in mind this is mostly Northern Van Isle life, not much to do with the southern bit. Here there is a very strong sense of community, pride, hard work, and a lot of ‘Island Time’, or relaxation and fun. The culture, a diversity of Indigenous Nations is pronounced and well respected. The northern coastal people know deep secrets they share with few and, if you’re fortunate you’ll be invited.
It’s been too long since the last post and I apologize for that. So forgive this lengthy update. Some stats to begin with. Back on the road with 23 days of cycling and 19 days off. In 23 days I have pedaled 1336 miles through Alaska, Yukon and upper British Columbia. And, I have burned 60,042 calories, that’s an average of 2,611 calories a day. My farthest distance was 100 miles – the beautiful day into Whitehorse, which by the way made me think this, as well as many other stretches, is what the Rockies in the lower 48 must have looked like 175 years ago. Obvious how we can really over love places. The day with the most ascent was from Coldfoot, AK to the Arctic Circle at 4389.8 ft. Surprising, being that this section of road in lower Yukon to Liard Hot Springs feels like a constant up and down for miles, and miles.
The 19 days off have been well spent. The first day I had arrived back (3:30 am) was to Sunny Spruce Homestead, north of Fairbanks, the homestead Alexia was working at for 2+ weeks. There, we became part of the family. Not only did we help with chores, but also made dinners, went to one son’s baseball game, and the other son’s BMX race, of which I also competed in my age group. Second place ain’t bad for not racing in 34 years. We took a weekend off to take Alexia to Palmer, AK to recert her WFR, only to blow out our CV joints on the van putting us down to Anchorage to get them replaced. Needless to say she missed her course. The sense of homesteading appeals greatly to us. Andrew and Tracyann George are not only a wealth of very useful and practical information, they live a very simple and healthy life, from the land with respect to all they take or grow, in a very open and loving environment. Itadakimasu!
Alexia and I had agreed to hopscotch from Fairbanks to Tok. She would drive ahead, explore areas, set up camp, and I would meet her later that day. This was very helpful, and enjoyable to be able to still bike then see her and Fitzroy at the end of the day. It also gave me another opportunity to product test the Highway 61 panniers Frost River had donated for the ride and feedback of the product. Sorry, no feedback on the site at the moment. Let’s just say they have a specific use.
June 23 was an emotionally difficult day; we separated from Tok River campsite. Neither of us wanted to leave the other but knew I had to bike on and she needed to get to Pelly River Ranch, five hours north of Whitehorse, Yukon to start her next WWOOFing experience. I began thinking more of having her bike with me and asking to join me on this ride, but thought she was happy doing what she was doing. I know it was hurting her deeply to have Shelton gone but not realizing she was really becoming depressed. This didn’t really hit me for another two weeks. I had made it to Whitehorse and instantly fell in love with this small city. The people, culture, sense of community, everything you want and nothing you don’t. Alexia had been able to email and ask me to contact Sue, the owner of the Ranch who worked in Whitehorse during the week. we had connected and I found myself getting a ride that Friday to the Ranch for a three day stay. While waiting for Friday, Catherine, an interested local had emailed me weeks before asking when I would be in town. She wanted to help me, show me around, introduce me to elders and other important people in town, and ask me about the whole ride. She is planning on doing this ride next year and wanted my perspective.
While in town I had met with Sean Smith, Counsel member of the Kwanlin Dun. He had shared his thoughts on where his People were, where they had been, what they experienced, experiencing, and vision for the future. He is a force for alternative energy, both for the town and his People. And carries great hope for the future of his people to become self-reliant, free-thinking, and de-colonized. Our meeting was voice recorded and will be transcribed and uploaded on the interview section of this site in the near future.
Through Catherine I met Joe Tetlichi, an elder of the Ft. McPherson Gwich’in First Nation, also, the Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB). He was roasting Caribou heads as part of the Adäka Cultural Festival going on for over a week. Offering me a piece of the cheek, I couldn’t resist, and felt a unique connection as others weren’t openly offered. We met for a more formal meeting after my return from the Ranch. Joe shared what the PCMB does, concerns they have for the herd, as well as his People who rely on the caribou for subsistence. This meeting was video recorded and will be uploaded after editing. Thanks for your patience!
Friday came and I met Ken, Sue’s son. He picked me up then we picked up Sue to head north. We also stopped at the Dempster Junction to pick up James, a young Scottish WWOOFer. Two hundred miles north on the Dempster and 33 mile west sits one of the most beautifully remote cattle ranches. Since the ’50’s this has been in the same family and run as a cattle ranch. It sits along the Pelly River, 3 miles north of the confluence of the Yukon river. Dale and Sue started hosting WWOOfer’s a few years ago in order to help them but also share and pass on their vast knowledge of this type of homesteading. It reminded me of the times I spent on my stepfathers family cattle ranch in Stockton, MO but so much more vast and serene. Alexia and I had canoed to Fort Selkirk, an old outpost for traders, trappers, prospectors, and the Anglicans. Dale picked us up and ferried us to Stepping Stone, their closest neighbor, and layover for the Yukon Quest Dog Sled race. Here, the family had made pizzas in the stone oven, and opened up a jam session with banjo, guitar, ukulele, and violin. Quite the evening along the Pelly. The days spent at the Ranch were long mixed with gardening, weeding, mowing, implement maintenance, cooking, and some exploring. The realization of Alexia’s sadness and depression hit me early on the day I was to leave. It was July 4th, her Mothers birthday as well as the day she proposed to me a year before. I knew she wanted me to stay until the weekend so we could take off together, but I really felt an urgency to go and get biking again. She understood. Even though it appears to make it easier, in reality it was tearing both of us up inside. As Sue and I were heading out I had thought many times to tell her to let me out. She even said “what’s your hurry, this is your trip and you can do whatever you want.”
Back in Whitehorse, I resupplied groceries and got to Wolf Creek camp where Catherine and her friend showed up for dinner, beer, and convo around the fire. I left Wednesday morning for the road again. It was a late start, my legs were heavy and the headwind to Carcross was not one bit enjoyable. It was a 37 mile day which felt like 100. Getting back in the groove of cycling after days off is not as easy as when I was 20 years younger. Those are just numbers and I could care less what they mean. I have SISU, and am determined to live out my 40 yr dream.
It was the sixth of July and I had made it to Squanga Lake, a beautiful Yukon Campsite. I had set up camp, walked to the lake to freshen up and then eased into a relaxing evening. It was only a 50 mile day and I was feeling good about the progress through the hills. Another cyclist came rolling in later in the evening. He was Richard from Yorkshire, England and also was cycling to Ushuaia, by another route though. Being that I get up and out early I didn’t think we would see, let alone ride with each other. Later that day after a suggested stop at Johnson Crossing for the cinnamon bun, here comes the Brit. At 55, he has power and stamina as long as the weather is faire. We rode together, although not starting out together, for seven days. Making it to Liard Hot Springs from Coal River was a glorious day for me. It was raining, cool, and only 36 miles. It was also the day Alexia was going to arrive from the farm. The funny thing about riding with Richard was the day before was a warm and sunny 94 mile day, I was struggling, he reveled in it. Alexia came in that evening and we decide to stay an extra day to take advantage of wifi and the Hotsprings. All things are good again in the Universe. Except for the 300 wildfires in south and central BC closing all roads on my route.