Lonely Road

I said my goodbyes in Fort Nelson after a few days with some great people.

Saying goodbye to Richy

The weather had taken a turn for the colder since arriving in Fort Nelson.

Leaving Fort Nelson

Thirty kilometers into the ride the road split into two.  My road would would take me to Whitehorse, the other turned north toward oil and gas country. I took the road less traveled and less “looked after”: bare pavement was replaced by icy patches and I felt more alone with the much reduced traffic.  I also started the slow climb to Steamboat.  I was leaving the foothills behind and heading back into the Rockies.  That night I found a spot to camp in the woods, which was harder than before as there was a lot more snow and the trees were closer together.

The next day I headed towards Steamboat mountain.  I was sure that I was at the top four or five times before I actually was.  The weather was nice, providing the opportunity to take some short breaks basking in the sun (an opportunity that has been all to rare on this trip).

Climbing up Steamboat Mountain

Climbing up Steamboat Mountain

When I finally reached to top, I pulled into the brake check area and asked a truck driver if he had any water that he could give me.  Sure enough my thermoses were filled and I was ready to coast down from the pass.  The weather (temperature) does interesting stuff in this area.  Instead of getting colder as you climb, it warms up.  On either side of Steamboat the temperature was -15 to -20, whereas at the top it was -5.  I was told by locals that this is normal (always warmer at the top).  The raising temps and the steep inclines meant I was wet when I got to the top and as a result, cold during the descent.

A couple of hours after dark I was at Tetsa River Services: a camp ground with cabins but mostly just gas in the winter.  I asked the owner, Ben, about a place to stay.  He immediately went and turned on the heat in a cabin, cooked me dinner (mmm ribs), then made me breakfast in the morning, and gave me one of his world famous cinnamon buns (I had heard about them a few times earlier on the road from various people). One of the many benefits of cycle touring is that you can enjoy billion calorie treats with no regrets.   He would not accept any money for the above, including three root beers and a bag of chips.

The next day I was on my way up to Summit Pass, which at 1,267 meters, is the highest point on the Alaska highway.  Summit is meant to be easier than than Steamboat, but with a monster headwind it wasn’t.  During my many shorts breaks I headed into the bush to get out of the wind.

Seeking Refuge from Headwinds

Seeking Refuge from Headwinds

I was most decidedly back in the Rocky Mountains.  However, they look quite different than when I emerged from them heading out of Jasper.  Not sure if it is the northern latitudes or simply a lack of a medium to grow in on these mountains, but few trees grow above a certain level on the mountains here.   And some have geometric lines that look suspiciously like the hands of people were involved (did the ancient Egyptians get this far north?).

Pyramid (?) Mountain

Pyramid (?) Mountain

A tree line of sorts

A tree line of sorts

The descent from Summit was nice. After the initial steep inclines it leveled out to a slow decline over many kilometers.

Descending from Summit Pass

Descending from Summit Pass

I spent that night at Toad River Lodge, home to a massive hat collection nailed to the ceiling.  The sign reads: “hat count: 8075”.

Hats in Toad River Lodge

Hats in Toad River Lodge

The next day I started out with the ambitious plan that I would ring in the new year relaxing in the Liard River hot springs.  Headwinds and lots of hills derailed those plans.

World of black & white along way to Liard

A world of black & white

It was not till New Year’s day that I was in Liard.  When I got there it was dark and there were only three other people at the springs: the guys from the band that played the New Year’s bash the night before. I was hesitant to get in as it would mean getting my swim trunks wet and then having to figure out how to dry them at -20. So ‘au naturel’ was the solution.  I think it was as nice alternative to the traditional new years polar bear swim. The guys offered beer and the water felt divine after days of biking.

Camping at Liard Hot Springs

Camping at Liard Hot Springs

The next morning the guys from the band were back and I set up for another day in Liard before heading back on the road toward Watson Lake.

Fresh out of Liard Hot Springs

Fresh out of Liard Hot Springs

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6 thoughts on “Lonely Road

  1. Congratulations Brek on finding Yukon soil. Sorry to hear about the frostbite. I was wondering how the feet were doing. I have difficulty with wet commutes at 0 Celcius forget Minus 20. It’s been unseasonably warm in BC, but I hear that colder weather is comming. I guess it won’t make much difference since you will be in Whitehorse region. Damn those winds eh ?! Evil.
    Stay strong. One pedal rotation after another…

  2. Hey Brek! What an amazing adventure you’re having. I’ve driven the entire Alaska highway, so it’s been wonderful reading about your journey through that familiar landscape. Your travels are also a thought provoking and inspiring reminder of the importance of following one’s dreams. Thank you for that.

    Wishing you safe, wind free travels. Keep those toes warm!! Looking forward to your future installments.

  3. it was 30 below Celsius the morning of December 28 when Brek cycled north from Fort Nelson with nothing but 3 bags of Miss Vickies salt & vinegar potatoe chips to see him through to the top of Steamboat Mountain. He pulled out of the Vector Geomatics parking lot into a 40 km headwind with his axles frozen and shifting gears with a willow branch. The whole Town was wondering if he made it over the Misty Mountains to the lee of the Fort Liard Hotsprings and now we know. Way to go Brek. Keep’er between the snowbanks . . .

  4. i am really impressed by what you are doing. biking in minus 20 with big head winds. reminds me of Colin Angus biking in Siberia. \i have biked that route in the summer, but i know i couldnt do it the winter. i think it would be as much a mental challenge as a physical one. you ‘re doing great, Breck, i hope you enjoyed the hot springs.

  5. It seems like you are going well and are going to make it. You are averaging about 60km per day since mid December, which means you will be in Tuk in mid February. I’m curious about what gear you have not yet used and might consider dropping to up your mileage.

    Keep it up!

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