While checking my messages I’ve noticed that Toby and his girlfriend managed to spend a night at Kicking Horse and have dinner at Chris’ restaurant in Golden – Firepit BBQ.
Toby is a young adventure traveler from Denmark that I met in Hazelton, BC ten days ago. I love when everything comes together.
Right now I am sitting in the Burnt Toast Café in Whitehorse with truffle fries and a glass of red wine – thinking and writing about the last three days. I didn’t have much of a chance to do so until now.
Just before leaving Anchorage, I had a service appointment for my bike to change the oil and put on more aggressive tires. Denali Highway is unpaved and regular street tires just won’t do the job. While waiting for the service I went for lunch to this cute Mexican restaurant across the street. The Buritos were delicious.
New shoes are on 🙂
Back on the road again – destination Cantwell. The plan is to attack the Denali highway first thing in the morning. The road to Cantwell is filled with spectacular scenery including Mt McKinley.
The scenery was changing quickly as did the weather. Within a few seconds the sunny 29C day turned into a thunder storm with hail and 14C temperature. It was fun watching the lightening while finding comfort in the laws of physics when it comes to how electrical discharging works, … as long as there are tall trees beside me I am good, … I think.
The moments after the storm look amazing.
No vacancy in Cantwell!?! How’s that possible?!
It is past 8:00pm and my only option is to continue along the Denali Highway. Denali is some 200km unpaved road and there are a couple of lodges somewhere in the middle. One of them seems to have a room available. Right at the very beginning of the road the paved section ends and the dirt begins, …. as well as the rain.
In the first 30 minutes the road is in great shape for riding. The rain didn’t have enough time to turn it into mud. I was able to hold the speed between 50-80km/h and enjoy the great scenery in the dusk.
Then it turned into a full repertoire of obstacles. From potholes turning into bathtub holes, from nicely hard packed soil to freshly spread, pee-size wet gravel and then the tennis ball size rocks started appearing. To top it all off, certain sections were freshly covered with calcium-chloride which is supposed to help contain the spreading of the dust but when wet it turns into a slippery gooey substance that makes it difficult to control the direction of the bike.
No more enjoying the nature – all energy went into avoiding the obstacles and staying vertical – it would be hard to find any (two-legged) help to pick up the bike if it goes down :-). After a while this beautiful bridge across the Sustina River appeared – a nice opportunity for a few pictures and a break.
The obstacles continued and full concentration was on again. After awhile, the Alpine Creek Lodge appeared on the horizon – that was a big relief because at this point I had been riding the dirt for two hours and I was hungry, as well as, mentally and physically exhausted.
My bunk-bed room with a shared bathroom felt like a Ritz-Carlton. The endless view of the valley from the lodge and from my room were worth the effort.
Just before going to sleep, Claude (the owner) and I made a plan to wake up tomorrow early and explore the area north of the road. Practically untouched by people. I went to sleep feeling excited about the adventure tomorrow.
After a quick breakfast we were on our way in Claude’s Jeep. The travel involved driving on a very narrow mining road, through mud, crossing creeks and a few times driving down the creek itself. It felt awesome as all the four wheels of Claude’s Jeep were working hard to keep us going.
Often, Claude would stop, pull out his binoculars and patiently look for the wildlife. He knows what animals prefer what parts of the valley.
My favourite was the beaver dam that he took me to see. It was massive and so meticulously built with an engineering mind. Claude says we don’t give beavers enough credit for their intelligence and capability.
While observing the beavers, Claude noticed a number of Arctic Graylings catching flies on the surface of the water. He said Grayling is a great fish to eat, but must be prepared the same day.
Bob, Claude’s son, and Claude often go fishing here together. Bob caught a really big one recently, only 1.5 inches short of the world record. They are very proud of that achievement and they have that fish now hanging on the wall in the lodge.
While talking about fishing, Claude picked up a big rock from the ground and said “see, there is copper around here. See how green this rock is – that’s how copper oxidates”
Further driving opens up even more stunning scenery.
As Claude explains, the valley was formed by a very young glacier – only 10,000 years ago and because of that there is only a few inches of soil, which is not enough for the trees to grow. That’s why there is only grass and bushes in the valley.
At one point Claude jumped from his seat and he pointed in the direction where the Reindeer was. It was a beautiful scene with the Reindeer running through the bushes. And, as usual, I was too slow to take a good picture. Here is the best shot I got 😦
While we were looking at the Reindeer a Golden Eagle appeared in the sky.
And soon after, two military fighter jets practicing.
The whole adventure took almost five hours and was an unforgettable experience.
Now, let me introduce you to Claude. Claude is an oil professional, specializing in resolving oil spills emergencies. He was involved in both major spills: Valdez and New Orleans. He said they call him usually only for the real tough ones. In 2008 he saw this lodge for sale. He bought it and opened it up in 2009. Now he lives there all year around with his wife Jennifer and son Bob.
They generate their own power. They drink, as Claude says, the cleanest water on the earth and they enjoy being self-sufficient in a sustainable way.
In the early afternoon I was back on my bike on the dirt road. After an hour and a half I was back on the paved road again – it felt great! The beautiful suroundings continue.
And some sonstruction ….
I crossed the Canadian border after 10:00pm at Beaver Creek. I was very tired but feeling great.
I was hoping to write this earlier but had to give my priority to work when I woke up. Now, as I said at the beginning, I am in Whitehorse and catching up.
There is only one more adventure left, it’s on Saturday and it is weather dependent – Telegraph Creek. If the weather doesn’t cooperate I will be heading straight home.