Our experience of adventure riding in the Yukon …
Waking up after the D2D feeling a lot better than we thought we would, we met up with the boys and headed south from Dawson down the Klondike Hwy towards Carmacks.
Paved all the way down we chewed up some kms heading south to try and get to the point where we could get back on the dirt. The road we were aiming for was the Robert Campbell Hwy, which heads south east from Carmacks and is quite the road less travelled for those heading south. It starts just north of Carmacks so when we arrived in town we got some supplies and headed back out to the start of the road to camp. Carmacks is an interesting little place.
We had quite a laugh when we went in to the dinky little pub for some take-aways and were harassed by some local women, who insisted we really should stay. We offered up Jock as a sacrifice and jumped straight back on our bikes to escape to the comfort of the mosquitoes and the wilderness.
Breaking camp the next morning we headed up a fun dirt road that joins the Klondike Hwy and the Campbell Hwy, past some really nice lakes, before pushing on down the Campbell Hwy. Nice enough road and much better than the bigger highway, but after the fun little dirt bit at the start their wasn’t much that stood out about this road, apart from the little ghost towns along the route. One that we stopped in was called Faro and used to be a mining town of 4000 (and had the buildings to house/service them) but now only has 400, including some very friendly mounties (cops) that just wanted to chat about our travels and gave us the ‘heads up’ that the traffic cops in Whitehorse (the capital where the guys were headed for parts) were off duty today, but you didn’t hear it from them.
Just south of Faro the Campbell Hwy does turn to dirt, but we were more interested in a little road called the South Canol road. In our quest for a road that is a bit more challenging this road had come up a couple of times with people we had spoken to and even the Milepost (Alaska’s highway guide) warned that this road should not be attempted in the wet. We were nearly stopped in our tracks before we could even give it a go, with CJ’s two-wheel drive KTM 950 Adventure having some issues with its front wheels bearings and not letting him turn right. He managed to fix it up again and with the help of some trust old grease we were on our way again.
Keen to push on and get some kms down we said farewell to the boys, who were just poking along, nursing CJs bike and pushed on down the South Canol road, back down to the Alcan. We didn’t find the road too challenging but it was definitely worth the ride. It was one of the most engaging roads we had ridden so far and offers some really cool scenery of rivers, lakes and mountains – pretty typical of the Yukon I know – but really good fun.
By the time we came out again onto the Alcan Hwy, it was pretty late, but keen to push on south we had some dinner and hit the road again. It was getting late (but still not dark!) so we decided to find a campsite on the side of the road near Teslin. Scenic part of the world but not a place you could ever spend more than 5 mins due to the swarms of mosquitoes, as we found out when we tried to put our tents up! I’ve never experienced such intense mosquitoes. We had to put our tents up in full riding gear (including helmets) and even then we were still getting bitten on our foreheads, around our eyes and anywhere else that wasn’t covered in thick material. I just couldn’t believe how bad they were.
o get into my tent without letting too many in I had to do a furious little dance to wave them away before quickly unzipping the tent and diving in fully clothed (boots and all) and shutting the fly behind me as fast as possible. Even then I still had to sort out a few that had managed to get in but I didn’t do too badly. That night they just congregated all over our tents awaiting our inevitable exit. The noise of those on our tent and in the forest around was quite something to hear as well!
We managed to escape in the morning, hurriedly packing up our tents, sweating in all our gear, before jumping on our bikes and heading off on our way down the Cassier Hwy.
So far on this trip we have seen a whole heap of wildlife, except for bears (which everyone had been warning us about). We’d even gone out and bought some bear spray to help us out when we are camping in the middle of nowhere, but we’d never even seen one (I saw a glimpse of a brown bear in the Kenai Peninsula, but that’s it). As soon as we turned onto the Cassier Hwy, there was our first black bear. He was just hanging out by the side of the road munching on the plants on the cleared land. He wasn’t fussed by us at all so we hang out for a few minutes just watching him go.
Over the course of the day we ended up seeing about 10 black bears, including one that ran out in front of Jock at probably over 80m/h as he just spotted it on the side of the road. We didn’t have any idea they could move that quick. I can tell you the adrenaline was pumping as I watched Jock lock up his rear and get all loose in a big puff of smoke at 80km/h, and I wasn’t even the one it ran out in front of!
Jock did really well to control the slide though and missed the bear by a centimetre. He stopped in the road just still for a few seconds, visibly shaken up but fine. We now have a signal (raised fist) for any wildlife we see that could cause us dramas on the road and we slow right down when we go near them.
The Cassier Highway itself was quite a nice ride. I can’t compare it to the Alcan, but the scenery, wildlife and lack of traffic make it really interesting. We road the whole thing (from Teslin to Kitwanga) in a day comfortably and would have liked to make the detour out to Stewart/Hyder, but wanted to keep moving south to keep up the progress.