A Short Trip North

Day 1 Everett, WA to Williams Lake, BC

When some plans fell though on another trip the gang and I settled on plans to head north and see as much as we could in 9-10 days, and boy did we.  We headed out from western Washington mid-day on a Friday, blasted the interstate to the US-Canada border after a quick lunch stop in Bellingham for cash and Port of Subs.  Soon after crossing the boarder the weather turned to stifling as we sweated our way through the city core of Vancouver before heading up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler.  After the fast S turns of the Sea to Sky we stopped for a quick water break in Whistler before setting out sights on Lillooet for the next fuel stop.  Since this was all familiar territory we wanted to make it as far north as possible to keep the future days more manageable.  After fuel in Lillooet we headed north though all the mile houses and ended up camping in Williams Lake, BC for the first night. Since it was well after dark the camping was hit or miss but after 400mi of riding any grassy patch would do.

 

Day 2 Williams Lake, BC to Hyder, AK

In the morning we woke to horses and discovered the RV park was really a horse racing track, we packed up quickly and headed towards the Tim Horton’s in Quesnel for some coffee and Tim Bits.  We donned our heated and rain gear for what appeared to be a decent storm as we headed north.  We never really found the storm that day but it sure looked like the sky could open at any time.  We quickly passed up Prince George and started down what was the beginning of new roads for any of us, the Yellow head Highway.  After a quick stop to buy a headlight for the 700 in Vanderhoof we headed into Fraser Lake for lunch at the Bucket Bistro.  Once you leave Prince George the food options are sparse so we saw bistro and thought we were in for a treat, we were wrong.  We ate what we could, replaced the headlight, swapped stories with a guy from North Carolina that had been on the road a few months named Morgan on a Triumph Explorer and proceeded on towards the start of the Cassiar Highway.  As we approached the turn off the landscapes changed as the fog covered coastal mountain ranges came into view, riding though the valley is pretty impressive.  We stopped for the obligatory photo op at the wooden sign at the Petro-Canada station and then pressed on down the chip seal, no center stripe, no shoulder, bush encroached beautiful highway known as the Cassiar.  We didn’t see too many people for the next few days and it was glorious.  This was the first for me on a motorcycle that I felt if something were to go wrong, there would be no one to call or no one to help for many hours if not days.  While it is still paved and not “Remote” in the Alaska/Yukon since of the word, we only counted a few cars in the several hours spent on the road that day.  After a while of scouring the bushes for wildlife we turned west on the only road into Stewart BC and Hyder AK, 37A.  We stopped at Bear Glacier for some photos and almost immediately were greeted by the first bear of the trip.  He was just passing by and appeared to really care less about the three city slickers on fancy motorcycles, pointing every available option in the arsenal or overpriced prosumer lensed devices.  After he slipped away into the bushes we followed the Glacier River down toward the northern terminus of the Portland Canal and the towns of Stewart BC and Hyder AK.  As it was already after 8PM or 9PM depending on what side of the street you were on we hurried to the hotel in Hyder.  We crossed the border, a sign on the side, and parked in front of the Sealaska Inn, the office door was locked and the closed sign was out, great.  There was a gentleman up on the second floor balcony that was enjoying the scenery and a cigar that said the owner lives in the back, go knock.  As with most, he inquired about where we were headed and where we came from and he would be happy to help any beemer riders find the owner.  I traipsed “around back” and found the cabin he was referring to as well as his K1600, an ally indeed.  Many seasons of Alaska State Troopers prepared me for the door knock on a cabin the “Alaska Bush”, while this was far from the Bush it seemed appropriate.  Having seen some shit on that show, I heavily knocked then immediately stepped back off the porch and made sure I had an exit if shit hit the fan as it often does on TV.  Nothing of the sort happened, a really nice lady came out, greeted me by name and got us checked in.  “Doors unlocked, your upstairs in 3.  If you want to eat the only place open in the area closes in 15 so you better hurry, Want me to call it in for you?”  Being a fat kid and always hungry, the talk of no food for the night it like being told you will never eat again, terrifying.  Yes, I do!  Having absolutely no clue what this place is she speaks of other than the only option, I asked the only question an American knows, “what do they have?”  Of course she had no idea so she called and made sure they were open and Morgan I blasted toward that direction.  But not before being “Hyderized” at the bar, a shot of grain alcohol.  After having my throat burning and brining back memories of college we headed out. Thinking its 2-3mi away we have plenty of time, then we discovered the Canadians take border security seriously at that remote crossing that is only manned on the BC side.  My only though was they saw us ride by 10min ago, where or what could we have done that they need to question us.  After the 20questions we pressed on breaking most of the speed advisements on the way.  Said pizza place was packed and we ordered, sat on the deck enjoyed the Kokannee and set off to find somewhere to acquire more beer.  Nothing, not one place to buy beer in either town after 9…like good Boy scouts we always bring a backup to this problem, Lagavulin or in this case Scapa for some reason.  After almost dumping my bike carrying two pizzas we made it back to the room enjoyed the pie, showered in the somewhat nasty shower and hit the hay.

Day 3 Hyder, AK to Watson Lake, YT

We woke up to a calm southeast Alaska morning, the peaks surrounding the fjord where all fogged in and fog was also lingering in the valley over the water.  We packed up and headed out to the little Marina in Hyder and took some sweet photos and sat in awe for a while.  This little pavement jaunt into the canal was actually pretty epic, it even had a fire pit on the end that would make for some awesome campfires for the locals.  Breakfast was next on the agenda before making the reaching toward the Yukon.  A quick drive through town revealed the only breakfast spot in town, the King Edward hotel which sounds much fancier that it is.  After some weird sausage, eggs and some not so rye rye bread we head out back to the Cassiar.  Riding this northern section of this is pretty similar to the southern but with a few more people.  We saw two bears and a random RCMP speed trap in the middle of nowhere.  They ended up grabbing a couple two up on a KLR fully loaded, that bike must have been hauling ass… (insert KLR joke here). We stopped in Bell II for gas and coffee and ran into three trailer equipped Goldwing trikes headed back home to Florida.  We swapped stories and they were ogling the bikes and we just couldn’t get over why they needed so much shit, a huge Goldwing, trike no less and a trailer? To top it off they were astonished that we were camping, meaning they were hoteling it the whole trip requiring even less stuff.  We pressed on to Dease Lake for a fuel stop and snack before setting the GPS to the mandatory stop at the welcome to the Yukon sign.  The sign itself is up off the road a bit but not out of reach for the GS, I just assumed that was OK being American and all, I rode up for the bike/sign photo op.  Since I am the official pace car as well as keeper of plans and directions I was in front and was waiting for Morgan and Tamara so we could get some good video incase Morgan had his first drop of the super tanker.  Much to my dismay he didn’t and neither did Tamara, a group photo insured and we continued on, next stop sign forest in Watson Lake, YT.  Much has been written about the sign forest in Watson Lake, it is what the photos depict, a place with a bunch of signs, a lot of signs.  We walked around and took pictures for a while before heading off to find something to eat and a place to stay.  Watson Lake is a pretty small town and on a Sunday night seem to close up pretty early.  We ended up splitting up at this point due to the temperature inside the Chinese place was not hospitable for humans.  I went in search of the elusive beer and I sent Tamara on a wild search for a place called the Air Force Lodge and we left Morgan to grab the food and deal with the extreme heat.  Well as you guessed beer after 6pm on a Sunday in a northern town of 1400 people was a no go, a felt like I hit every possible place and was denied time and time again.  I made my way to the Air Force Inn at the east end of town, a nice looking place with two other bikes out front.  As I opened the door to the place I found Tamara who quickly told me to remove my boots and don’t drag anything in, odd but I obeyed.  After removing my riding junk and boots she asked me to go look at the room and see if its ok for the night???  Turns out this place was an old officer bunker during war times that had been renovated by an extremely nice and clean German man.  The thing she questioned was the communal bathroom and showers, which turned out where great, and could possibly be the cleanest shower I have ever used.  We had the Chinese food out on the picnic tables and swapped stories with two other bikers from Quebec that were staying there.  I somehow conned them out of 1 beer, I was happy as a clam in shit as the food was decent too.  I would highly recommend staying here as it is super clean, safe and the guy that owns it has been around and has some stories all for $89 for a double.  Seeing Morgan and Tamara double up in a twin bed was amusing since neither one of them wanted the cot, there was a dispute on who would go ask for another pillow after some debate everyone one was out and only minor disruptions during the night.

Day 4 Watson Lake, YT to Whitehorse YT

Monday started out heading west on Yukon 1 with the destination being Whitehorse, a short day but we wanted to get off the bike and walk about a bit.  We stopped at the Yukon motel for gas and coffee in Teslin where Morgan met a native child he didn’t know he had.  We were sitting on the porch drinking coffee and eating a very dry/old cinnamon roll when a small child sauntered up and with hand motioned wanted to be picked up.  Morgan obliged and picked the small one up and the child immediately went in close for the hug, his child for sure.  Maybe he had been here one drunken night in the past.  After the jokes fizzled out we pressed on and made it to Whitehorse in a short order.  We rode through town and stopped at the gas station so Tamara could pee, since only a grocery store will do.  As they were in the store I stood guard of our junk and some guy wandered up with a Yukon Brewing sweatshirt on, this makes my eyes wide as I might get some of the beer I had been searching off this whole time.  Turns out he was from Issaquah which is pretty close to where we are from, small world.  I got some tips on places to camp and we headed to the Robert Service Campground for the night.  This was another seemingly odd places as it seemed like there was a lot of young teens aloof around the area for some reason.  We set up camp and went into town to have some of the local fare, do some trinket shopping and maybe find a local brew.  We stopped first at the Klondike Rib and Salmon, we split the fish and chips and a Yukon beer.  The beer was good but the “Fish” was more like a tiny fish stick wrapped in a burrito of batter and fried.  Never seen anything like it but as is life.  Morgan and Tamara did some trinket shopping while I attempted to get a handle on the weather and possible accommodations for the following night.  We headed over to the Great Northern Bastard for a beer where we met someone else with a bike that invited us up to his place.  Seemed like a nice town.  We headed back to camp to make a fire and some dinner where we met another couple riding though Canada and AK on two F800s from Germany.  As it turns out that had some great stories and where quite the hoot to talk to.  It always amazes me the people you attract with a motorcycle.  Before we could wrap up dinner another German that was floating the Yukon River the following day came and shared some single malt with us.  It was quite the party in the campsite.  The firewood was free but you had to chop it so the internal firebug inside of me went a little nuts, hints the large load of wood I was carrying.  After dinner and fire building Tamara and I took a stroll to the island in the river to take some photos and talk about Morgan while he entertained the guests.  We got some great shots of the river and met a Jamaican man we thought was a bear indulging on berry from a distance.  He had been out fishing and collecting berries, sounds like bear activity to me.  After too many beers we turned in for the night, a good day.

Day 5 Whitehorse, YT to Skagway, AK

After packing up camp we hit Burnt Toast in town before another short day down to Skagway. Food was pretty good and a cool little breakfast spot in town.  After fueling up we headed down the Klondike Highway which passes though Caracross and then finds its way over White Pass ending in Skagway, AK.  This was the route that the early prospectors used in the gold rush of 1898.  As we were coming into Caracross we ran across some pretty large sand dunes out of nowhere, I stopped and without much hesitation decided a should try my luck at sand riding in a fully loaded GS.  Since boys will be boys Morgan immediately followed suite and had to go just a bit further in an attempt to outdo me.  Then it was almost like someone sent a sign from above and the shiny paint gleaned in such a way I knew what was about to happen, the super tanker goes down.  In a chain of events, laughter ensues, fingers pointed and cameras appear, we stretched this on for quite some time before any help is lent.  Since this is the exact duty they bring me along to preform I guess I should stop laughing long enough to pick the bike up.  It was at this point that I knew my sand riding was not done as I was being challenged to ride far out there to reset the bar of manliness.  Off come the side bags and off we go, with several tank slappers and near falls we headed as far as a slick treaded GS would carry us.  Fully worn out we donned the rain gear for what would be a wet and foggy trip over the pass. As an impatient bastard I seemed to lose them on the ride and ended up waiting at the border shooting the breeze with one of the border patrol guys.  After 30min I deemed it necessary to go fix a tire or some kind of issue that could of arose, as soon as I crossed back over I see them waiting in line, damn it, back through customs I go.  We made our way down into Skagway to be greeted by massive cruise ships towering over the little town and thousands of tourists lining the streets.  Skagway Alaska, I had always imagined something much different, much more raw and less of tourist trap.  We spilt up to look for a hotel and I pulled over to see what I could find online, I was quickly swarmed by old men and their motorcycle stories,  got to love the old man nip that a loaded GS brings.  After some town circling we settled on the Skagway Inn, the only place with a room that night.  After an ice cold shower and new change of clothing we headed out to find the culinary greatness that Skagway could offer.  We walked down to Skagway Fish company and spent way too much money on some pretty below average grub.  Skagway brewing was the next stop, good beer and an empty pool table was just what we needed.  After Morgan and I let Tamara win a few games of pool (or we got our asses handed to us) we headed to the Red Onion Salon.  The Red Onion is the historical Bar/Brothel of the Gold rush that is largely unchanged in the last 100yrs.  Pretty cool feeling to sit and look in the same mirrors behind the bar that prospectors used to look 100 years ago.  We wrapped up at a decent hour that night knowing we had some decent miles the next day.

Day 6 Skagway, AK to Muncho Lake, BC

We loaded up the bikes went to the cruise ship terminal to take some photos and headed out of town at a decent hour and pressed on back toward Watson Lake YT in route to Muncho Lake, BC.  This waypoint was added to the trip from a tip from my neighbor, great call.  Much of this day was back tracking and the weather was somewhat bleak, off and on rain and overcast skies.  As we dropped into BC we found some pretty serious rain and quite a few Bison along the roads.  It stopped raining about 15min before we got to Muncho Lake providing a nice break to find a camp spot.  We ended up at the Rocky Mountain Lodge in a grassy spot amongst several cabins.  We got setup and took some photos by the lake as T made dinner, turned in pretty early due to the rain but no one seemed to mind since it was a pretty lengthy day. Muncho Lake a very remote lake in north central BC that seems to be pretty popular with hunters and fishers, they have several remote cabins that they drop you off at on the seaplane that was floating at their dock.  Seems like a fun trip in its self.

Day 7 Muncho Lake, BC to Grand Prairie, AB

We awoke to the rain storm that blessed us all night, great this will be a wet start to the day.  Luckily the lodge had a Breakfast buffet, giving us an excuse to delay taking down camp.  After putting a sizable dent in the buffet, bacon at a buffet?  Whaaaat I can handle this.  We packed up the soggy gear and headed on into the rain.  Northern BC roads seemed to all be under construction this time of year so it was a rough morning with the downpours and roadwork.  We ended up blasting most of the day to try and make it as far as we could to give us more time in Glacier/Jasper.  We ended up petering out around Grand Prairie and called it a night at a RV park.  We snacked on humus and pita and sipped on the extremely overpriced Kokanee ($30USD for a 12 pack) while waiting on the curry to finish.  We took a few long exposures and hit the sack.  Grand Prairie is not much to talk about, the landscape is pretty prairie like and there is a town.  Best description yet.

Day 8 Grand Prairie, AB to Lake Louise, AB

It was a clear night and nice morning that dried out all the wet gear so we were pretty excited about that over morning coffee.  We headed to out to get breakfast and being the slave driver I am pushed us a good 100mi before breakfast and more coffee.  We came across an A&W which turns out is pretty good in Canada despite the strange names for their burgers.  Morgan expelled “I’ll take two teen burgers and a coffee” …Wot?!?  The apparent naming scheme that is deployed revolves around family member names i.e., Teen, Father and grandfather depending on the size.  Strange.  We pushed on a made it to Banff where the scenery starts to turn back up.  The drive from Jasper to Lake Louise is breathtaking, no need to fill the interwebs with another account but if you are in the area make it a point to be a tourist for the day and enjoy.  Dinner in Lake Louis was terrible but the options were slim, it started pouring rain and we had no camp spot, great.  We drove around the campgrounds and discovered the the fine folks of Alberta really love camping, all spots were full and stealth camping was not an option.  Hotels, no dice. We ended up driving an hour in a downpour to Dead Mans Flats to get the only room I could find.  It wasn’t what I would call nice but it was pissing rain and it made due.

Day 9 Dead Mans Flats AB to Nelson, BC

We left out of the shit box that we found last night and headed to McDonalds for coffee and breakfast, of course it was packed.  The plan was to make it to Nelson BC and find a camp spot for out last night it was a light mile day so I made the call to throw in an off-road section from Kimberley to Crawford Bay via Meachen Creek Forest Service Rd.  It was a nice break from the pavement and was a very pretty road.  It didn’t take too long for me to lose sight of the headlights in the mirrors, either I was hauling ass or Morgan was stuck in Granny gear, I headed back to investigate.  Tamara got a flat.  I whipped out the Safety Seal tire kit and the compressor and it was fixed in no time.  I have quite a bit of experience with tire issues on my own so I have gotten pretty quick at it .  We inflated the tire and thought that the compressor was not filling, keep putting it in… Turns out her TPS don’t work like the 1200 does, after letting out the 54PSI we put in we were on our way.  We raced down the mountain while testing the sub frames on the loaded 1200s over rocks and ledges.  Spending the summer on the 300 2storkes has made Morgan and I sufficiently comfortable on the larger bikes off-road at stupid speeds.  Boys will be boys.  We caught the ferry and headed across Kootenai Lake to Balfour and down 3A to Nelson.  Dinner was had at the Main Street Diner, great burgers and Poutine.   The city campground looked a little skeezy so we headed towards Castlegar where we found a little RV Park with a grassy spot.  Perfect for the last night.

Day 10 Castlegar, BC to Everett, WA

We packed up on the last morning and headed to breakfast a little somber knowing this was the last day of the trip.  Sad day.  We crossed back over the border in Frontier and took Hwy 20 home.  It was terribly hot and Smokey.  Hwy 20 over North Cascades is always fun except when behind a Prius going 25 in a 50 in 30mi no passing zone.  Home though Darrington, past the 530 slide zone and Arlington.  Great trip!

 

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