I decided to take a day off at Liard Hot Springs after six days on the road. It was proving harder to put kilometers under the wheels of the Dummy than earlier in the trip. Hills, icy roads, colder temps, and headwinds were taking their toll on daily distances.
I started out down the highway when I noticed that the drive train was making a strange noise. I looked down and saw that I had broken one side of another link on my chain. I turned around and headed back the two km to the lodge at Liard Hot Springs. This time I decided to replace the entire chain (I picked one up in Fort Nelson).
I had been hearing about the Liard Buffalo for weeks: “They are monsters, some weighing 2,000 pounds.” “They hang around on the road cause they like the salt.” “they will not move for anything. You just have to wait for them to leave the road.” How would they react to a lone cyclist when a 50 ton semi does not phase them? Needless to say, I left Liard with a great deal of apprehension.
I was not 10 km down the road when a guy I met at the lodge drove back to warn me of a herd on the road 5 km ahead. He offered to put the bike in the back of the truck and give me a ride through the danger. I told him of the importance, to me, of riding every meter under my own power and I asked if he had some time and if he would wait where they were for me. He agreed and I met up with him 5 km ahead. He would drive along side me and at any sign of danger I could jump in the truck.
It turned out that bicycle is much more scary to a bison than a semi and the sight of me sent them running for the ditch. Thank goodness the instinct of flight is much stronger in herbivores than the instinct to fight.
For the next 200 km I encountered bison. They would run along side the road at approximately the same speed as me until they found a clearing in the woods to run into. At one point I “chased” three for a couple of kilometers until I hit a down hill stretch where I could out run (ride) them. This was somewhat disconcerting as I wondered if eventually they would decide they could not out run me and turn to confront me. I slowly passed them. A couple of kms further up the road I looked back. Now the the three were on the road and still running, towards me. Had the chaser become the chased? The hill ahead meant that they could catch me if that was their intent. I struggled up the hill looking back every minute. Eventually they gave up their pursuit, or whatever it was that led them to continue running.
At times I was startled when a lump of snow in the ditch started to move then got up and ran into the bush. The guy below barely acknowledged my presence as I stopped to take his picture.
I was treated to a colourful display as the sun slowly descended the evening I left Liard. Colours here contrast sharply against what is a very black and white world.
As I have made my way north the increasing snow cover has made camping in the woods a difficult prospect (dragging my gear through waist deep snow is no fun). I have therefore had to find alternative camping sites. Mostly that has meant camping in rest stops, but these offer little protection from the wind. In Coal River I camped behind a lodge that was closed for the season.
In Contact Creek I camped near a gas station. It was nice to get out of a cold tent and warm up in the store straight away.
From Contact Creek I made my way to Watson Lake and my Couch Surfing hosts Barry and Sue, and their dog Robie.
When I took off my socks, I suddenly realized that I had been careless with my feet. They had been numb for days. I managed to get frostbite on three toes without feeling a thing.
Spent the next few days in Watson Lake worrying about my toes, preparing for the next leg of the trip, and seeing the sights. The most famous of the sights is the Signpost Forest. The guy at the Northern Lights Centre said it is the largest collection of stolen public property in the world.
I was also treated to a winter storm. Love them.
Before I left for my next leg of the journey I made sure to stock up on 7 days of food and extra treats, as the snacks on my way to Watson Lake had run out, and during the day I was munching on dry pasta.
For the next stretch of the road I will be heading to Whitehorse, passing through Rancheria, Teslin & Marsh Lake.