August 14, 2009 – Day 19: Tok to Whitehorse – 387.28 Miles
- Break in Pavement, Northway Junction, a bit nicer than on the way up
I needed to get an early start, the roads in had been horrendous and I just wanted to get through them as soon as possible. I left Tok at 4:30am and headed towards the road to hell. As I reached the first “Break in Pavement” I noticed that I had beaten the crews to the site. As I passed over the dirt and rock road I realized it was a bit easier since it had been able to dry out a bit. Turns out Tok hadn’t had much rain the past four days. I made it through without much trouble and was on my way to the next “break in pavement.”
At the next break there was a signal woman with a stop sign in her hand. As I pulled up to the woman she said it would be about five minutes for the pilot truck. As we waited for the truck I recited my story of the last time I had passed through. To my surprise, she explained that it should be a bit easier this time through. She said that most of the rock had been crushed and tamped into the base and that some of the road was ready for oil. Bottom line, I should make better time and have an easier go of it.
- Construction North of Destruction Bay, what a difference a week makes
The pilot truck arrived and I followed after it as it turned and sped off to the east. I couldn’t really keep up with the pilot truck but I stayed close and as I passed by him at the end of the section he gave me the now familiar nod and a double tap. I tapped back with the now familiar dead duck call. The rest of the breaks were true to the signal woman’s words. Before I knew it I was hitting the permafrost ruts just west of the US/Canadian border.
The guys at the border were their usual professional non-smiling selves. After the usual questions, they let me proceed and I found myself stopping frequently for those shots I had passed up on the way up.
- Construction South of Destruction Bay, ready for oil?
I saw the flashing lights up ahead. I slowed down considerably as I began to pass the first RCMP vehicle parked on the narrow pullout. There was an officer standing close to the rear of the second RCMP vehicle. As I pulled up alongside of the officer I realized he was actually relieving himself behind the vehicle. I stopped and reached for my camera but before I could get it out the officer made a very pronounced jester for me to move on. I smiled and passed to the next vehicle in line. This vehicle was a civilian vehicle with local plates. Three officers were speaking with a man next to the vehicle. As I passed with caution I smiled and then accelerated back to the speed limit of 90kph approximately 55mph.
- Destruction Bay
I was cruising along scouting for my next shot when I noticed a vehicle approaching from behind at an extremely high rate of speed. The wind of the passing vehicles hit me before I knew it. I held course, mumbled a few choice words to the vehicles that were already out of sight beyond the next curve. The first was one of the RCMP vehicles followed by the civilian vehicle with the other RCMP vehicle holding the rear. It was a strange sight, all three looked like they were drafting for the lead in the Daytona 500. I wondered what might be going on, but didn’t linger on the subject long, as I was approaching the permafrost ruts just north of Destruction Bay.
As I pulled up to the signal woman north of Destruction Bay she just waved me through and I fell onto a freshly oiled road. The trip through the construction zone went quick, the next thing you know I’m pulling up to the fuel pump at the Destruction Bay General Store. I noticed the two RCMP vehicles parked on the side of the gravel lot with the civilian vehicle parked just in front of them. I went inside the store to pay for the fuel and as I looked into the attached restaurant, I saw the four officers and the civilian eating breakfast at one of the tables. From the way those guys passed me they must have been really late for their reservation. The officer that was relieving himself on the side of the road gave me a sullen stare and the other four broke out in gentle laughs. I smiled back and finished paying for my fuel. I went out, mounted the bike and proceeded to leave in a responsible fashion. Didn’t want any trouble from those guys later on down the road. After all, I knew they could catch me if they wanted to.
- Ice Fields Range, Kluane N.P.
The road from Destruction Bay on to Haines Junction parallels the beautiful mountains of the Kluane National Park and Reserve. I couldn’t see much of these mountains on the way over but I could sure see them now. The weather was holding well and I was pulling over to shoot every chance I got. Even with all the stops I found myself pulling into Haines Junction before noon. What a difference a week makes.
I filled up in Haines Junction and pulled out on the final leg of the day’s journey. I stopped to shoot at several areas I never realized I’d passed on the way up and when I finally pulled into Whitehorse I felt both fulfilled and relieved. I was through the toughest leg of the trip and I actually enjoyed the ride. Time to celebrate!
- Upper Kluane Range
After I checked in at the Edgewater, I walked down the street and purchased a couple of Cubans, $30 Bolivars, I know, and headed back to the bar for a well deserved beer, or two. After a couple of beers I decided to walk over to the river and fire up one of the Bolie’s, this time remembering to take care of business before I left the bar. As I approached the river I noticed the local fire department doing something just downstream, I decided to investigate further. It turns out they were training on a new water rig. I stood there watching the show for a while, grabbing a few shots, and then continued on my smoke & stroll, eventually ending up back at the room.
- Lower Kluane Range
I headed back down to the bar for dinner and a drink and as I was sitting there talking with the bartender, the same young woman that had served me on the way up, a man I guessed to be in his early thirties sat on the stool next to me. As he ordered his drink he turned toward me and introduced himself as Dan. Turns out Dan had come up here from Calgary to hunt Big Horn Sheep. Said he had spent a week up in a primitive hunting camp and never even saw a sheep. He was catching a flight out in the morning. Dan and I sat there sharing stories and drinking beers until closing. He took off for his room and I walked across the street to my smoking bench next to the river. I fired up the other bolie and let my mind ponder over the day’s ride. I took care of one last issue and drifted off to sleep.
- The Road North of Haines Junction
- Whitehorse Fire Department, Training