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Yukon: Into the North

Mile 2440 to 2990

Tuesday was just about as gloomy as the end of Monday. Clouds threatened to soak the V-Strom and I was still debating the next waypoint. I had originally wanted to tackle 200 miles or so and reach Carmacks, YT (it was 400 miles to Dawson City). My debate centered on the wet weather for camping and Carmacks lodging options seemed unreasonably expensive ($126 for a room online).

The couple running the Wanderers Inn brought up that there was a new hostel just North of Whitehorse (about 98 miles away). The winning bonus on a day like this was that it had its own hot springs (Takhini hot springs). I figured I could hit Whitehorse first to do the laundry, grab lunch, and pick of the last of the essentials before heading North. Then bunk down at the hostel for a bed and a soak.

Just as I was walking out the door however, Gary (with the ‘Shrek’ from the ferry) texted me that he had an extra bed and was bunking down at the 202 Motor Inn in Whitehorse due to the weather. Which won out over the hot springs since it sounded great to catch another motorcyclist heading on up to Dust to Dawson. The ride was a little wet and cold, but not nearly as bad as the prior evening. It even cleared by the time I reached Whitehorse - I still connected with Gary and had an excellent evening around the town. We hit up the Klondike Rib & Salmon restaurant before readying the next morning for the ride North.

We set out North on the Klondike Highway 2 – it is completely paved to Dawson City and combined with the scenery made for a great day of riding. Only scattered stops along the way. One of the first was Braeburn Lodge at mile marker 55. A well known on the road for massive cinnamon buns that they sell by the dozens to tourists. The shot below doesn’t even do justice to how big they really are. We rolled in shortly after a group of 40 from tour busses rolled out, so the girl taking our orders was happy for a little bit of calm.

Further North the bike is treated to great views of the Klondike River. This was the main route during the Gold Rush for steamboats and supplies to Dawson City. We stopped along one of its stunning turns through the Yukon, and then continued to ride.

We were going to have plenty of sunlight (the summer solstice was a couple days away) and certainly could make it all the way to Dawson City that day. But, it felt a little more relaxed to lay down the tents around 4pm and enjoy the weather, which was sunny the entire ride. Stopping at the Stewart Crossing visitors center after a tank of gas, we ran into a couple locals with their dog who mentioned the Moose Creek campground at mile 226 (about 20 klicks down the highway) was ideal for camping. They even claimed there was nothing to worry about from the grizzlies since they were all getting tripped out on this yellow flower seen throughout the roadsides. I guess a type of veggie narcotic for the beers during summer season.

The Moose Creek campground was great. It also offered free wood for campfires. We joined Pete, a BMW rider from Florida around the fire (he was headed up to Dust 2 Dawson as well) and chatted well into the evening. Which was had to tell since literally the sun was not going to completely set where we were at in the world. There were a few other D2D riders, including this couple with a Ural + sidecar painted like an old army bike.

In the morning we hit up breakfast across the road at the Moose Creek Lodge. Once again the Alaskan ferry karma played out and as we were wrapping up two more couples from the boat ride from Bellingham arrived – the California couple with the Ducati and the couple with the Spyder. They had taken the opposite way around the far North, riding up to Tok, Alaska first and then across the Top of the World Highway. They stopped in Dawson City the prior night and were now headed South. We talked for a bit and they said the road was generally good condition, so with that and the 80 degree/sunny weather it sounded like the next few days of riding will be promising for the bike.

After our morning breakfast Gary and I started to head West to Dawson City. Gary went ahead since there was some uncertainty to his reservation at the Triple-J Hotel. I was pretty set for my campsite reservation in Dawson City so I stopped at a couple points along the way, including the Tintina lookout (pictured here) where I met Al and another bicyclist from Canada on their own two-wheel adventure across the north.

One might picture the road through the Yukon as barren. No amenities. Yet, anywhere there is a road these days, there are services for sale to all who pass. Even back in the Klondike days 120 years ago this very road had the assorted outpost selling breakfast and beans - now that has just been replaced by cell towers and 24-hr gas stations powered by Visa.

It requires a little extra diversion for even those services to disappear. Nearing Dawson City, I diverted North off the Klondike Highway onto the Dempster Highway. It is a rough gravel road traveling hundreds of kilometers North into the Arctic Circle.

No cell towers, no gas stations- just crisp views of the Tombstone Mountains before even they turn into the rolling tundra of the Arctic. I made a stop at the very well-designed visitors center near where the Dempster transitioned to Tombstone park. Then carried on another 20 klicks until the fringes of the frozen tundra came into view.

There may be no logical reason to divert this far from the comforts of society, but it is nice to know you can still journey to some places on Earth away from it all. Some adventurous riders who have slightly more suitable bikes for this road than a V-Strom continue to weather the bumps and gravel for hundreds of miles until they reach Inuvik, Northwest Territories. North of the Arctic Circle. My bike and body told me it was time to simply turn back around...and by dinner I was in Dawson City for the 2016 Dust 2 Dawson motorcycle gathering.

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