Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dempster Highway Part 2 Yukon Territory Canada


So... the Dempster experience continues.  I'm still just doing my little test of the road.. and still have NOT A CLUE why people tell me it's too dangerous!!  This road is, at least this far, one of the nicest easiest dirt roads I have ever been on.. anywhere.. even in the rain!  They certainly look after it and maintain it very well.

The majority of the traffic on the road are truckers who travel back and forth to the mine at Inuvik.. right up at the top of the world.

Once the big pour of rain calmed down I was able to take a somewhat photo.. and have a look!  This road really is as good as any paved road.  I'm always on alert though waiting for this greasy icy part to start.  There were far too many people who told me the horrors and if it was only one, I'd say I found a crazy person. But with many warnings, I'm guessing that I just haven't reached it yet.  So I'm still prepared to check it out and if it gets really bad, I'll turn around.

But I just can't 'bear' to do that yet.. I'm loving it too much.  Those mounds look interesting ahead, more motivation to continue.  


I've honestly never seen a mound of rock like this.. like one big solid rock and smooth.

So I go a bit farther and still the road is good.. but I need to make an important decision whether I like it here or not.  I have to turn around right now to make it back to the fuel station at the beginning of the Dempster Highway.  Or else, I disregard the warnings for good and continue through whatever must be so horrible about this road until I reach Eagle Plains (the only midway stop on this road with fuel).
 

Curiosity got the best of me and I continued on.. Seriously, this road does not give me the slightest reason to give up on it and turn back. I bet you've got that point by now.. hey? ;-)
 

I pulled over here at Ogilvie.. (Gwazhal Kak is the First Nations language) and a trucker was also stopped here at the sign.  He came right over to me and asked what am I doing here - especially alone.


He explains to me how horrible this road is, people on motorcycles die out here often, etc etc.  I look at him and nod... He tells me of a guy he stopped for last year who crashed his bike near where we are standing now.. broke his leg, tore up the bike and had to be airlifted out by helicopter.  This year, the same guy tried again, crashed again closer to Eagle Plains.. didn't get so hurt, but still had to take the bike out by truck due to damage.  After he finishes his rant, I tell him, "Sir, I can't turn back even if I wanted to, I don't have enough fuel".

Then he explains the next 100 km from here to Eagle Plains is the worst part with extremely rough conditions.

He was a nice trucker and asked me to follow him through this.  I agreed. He went quite slowly. It was really nice for the man to care that much about a crazy lady on a motorcycle, and he kept an eye on me for a while.

I was riding standing up as the road was truly rougher in some sections here but still nothing compared to other roads I have been on and I wouldn't put in the "dangerous" category.  And despite this nice mans caring, I would be better to go faster over the bumps.


I went up along side him and waved him on. Truckers here go super fast and I'd rather that he be ahead of me and drive his truck at his normal speed.


The trees are looking a bit funny up this way!




The farther north I go, the trees diminish, shorter.. smaller.. until they are only bushes.  The permafrost doesn't allow them to grow, as well as the very short season.


 100 k's later, on what I considered to be a very fun road and an absolutely great day regardless of all the warnings, I made it to Eagle Plains!!!!!  What a sight!  (especially since I am now running seriously low on fuel).


After 3 nights primitive camping at Tombstone and brushing my teeth in the ice cold creek, I was ready for a real bed and a shower.. and a normal meal.. I got all three!

And most importantly-  fuel!


I can not tell you how thrilled I was to make it here..  This is 300 km from the camp I rode out of this morning which I agonized for 2 1/2 days about whether I should do.. listening to more and more people tell me not to. And then needing to make a decision not to listen to any of them.  I initially decided not to do it, when as I said before, 'I' turned right, but my bike turned left and heading north anyway. And then when my bike took over the decision making process, it chose the worst time of all in heavy pouring rain!

The rain dimished within a 1/2 hour and I just couldn't stop myself.  And then, I had no need to stop. There was nothing to fear!  I wasted so much time listening to people and if I had a road halfway as nice as this one while in Russia,  my Siberian experience would have been a breeze!

 
Eagle Plains sunrise

 Birdy on a bike!  A good sign!

  I learn the weather will be better today, so it was an easy decision to carry on to the north.  From this point I am only 40 km from the Arctic Circle.  I am so excited to get an early start!

Not much different when I was a kid.. always tons happier doing something I am not supposed to do.. ha! (hopefully my nieces and nephews are not reading this.. ;-)



Even though they scare me, the trucks are still rare enough in numbers that it's just good to see SOMEBODY else is out here..


I get right out of the way.. these trucks are on a mission.

Have a look at the slimey road I am riding on this morning.. definitely a big change for the worse.  My excitement bubble was burst right out of Eagle Plains.

This is definitely justified with the "greasey" title I have been warned about.. whew!!  And greasey it is!!  They put down this calcium chloride stuff for the trucks.


It was wet and slimey, and I was only topping 20-30 km/hr.  I know the tough guys on bikes would go faster, but I come up with imaginations on my own and I visualize me falling in the center of the slick stuff, bike pins me down and one of those fast semi trucks runs right over me and squishes me like a bug.  So I go slow.. ;-)

I wouldn't want to ride all day in this.. torture!  But I knew the Arctic Circle was so close and I confirmed with some people in a car that the road is exactly like this all the way to Inuvik, another 300+ km.  There's nothing up there except a goal destination, then you get to turn right around and come back through it again..  I'm quite happy for the Arctic Circle to be my goal destination. This is far more than I expected of myself and where I will actually turn back..  


Can that Arctic land be any more beautiful!!???  It's so peaceful, wild and remote.. totally my cup of tea.


My tires had zero tread as the mud clonked on and stuck to them like slimey glue.  Totally made the road that much harder and slippier to ride.

It's literally like keeping all my weight balanced on two spinning balloons covered in grease. It was really difficult and nerve wracking.  If somebody could have taken a photo of my face while riding, my eyes would have been bugging right out of my head in concentration.  I can only knock on wood that I didn't fall even once.



So.. let's go back!  I know I'm including far too many photos in this post, but I haven't been so in love with a place on the planet since I was in remote Siberia.  So unique and amazing, so few tourists, really special..




I made it past Eagle Plains again on my way back down the Dempster and now I have more little challenges than on the way up.  New calcium laid this morning.  Doesn't seem to effect my ride, but I wonder what it does to the bike.


Next challenge.. new grading!  Should be better, but I have always found newly grated roads to be more slippery.  I was also warned about those dark patches from the grating in the photo below from locals.  They tell me bikers don't expect them to be soft and deep, throwing the bike off which are often the cause of bikes going down.  I avoided most that I could.


I come through these odd "mounds"  I call them..  I'm sure there is a far more technical term. ;-)  They are not really a mountain to me even though they are rock.. they are not really a hill because all the hills I know have dirt and trees or grass.  This is my reasoning anyway.. I clearly didn't go to geology school. ;-)



The mountains return. And do you see what I see on this one?  It looks to me like either a super size alien or a very large aboriginal elder's shadow on a walk.

 


  I also saw another wolf cross the road.  Darn it, I missed it with my camera!  He's gone...





  













Plenty of moose and caribou on the way..


It's only the beginning of September, and those trees are the brightest color of gold.  I have heard about the masses of rain all season long.. so my timing here couldn't be more perfect.. golden even! ;-))


And then back to camp.  It's the end of a very long exciting day and I'm looking forward to my moose steak and a beer!


First thing I do is hear the story of the grizzly bear that JUST WALKED BY!! Geez.. miss the wolf, miss the bear. Not my day for getting the good animal shots.  But Darren video taped the griz as he or she walked around the Tombstone Interpretive center and the rangers cabins just before I arrived back to camp. Darn, I missed it!!  But here is Darren's video anyway taken just shortly before I arrived. 

(video)  Sorry I tried to upload the video many times.  It came in once, but very jumbled, now it uploads and then disappears.  I give up..  It was a big grizzly, very big!!

After I fearfully set up my TENT and hear the worries from the other campers (all of whom have a hard shell camper by the way)..  I go back for the dinner on a campfire. and another surprise!  Darren wrote me a very cool song while I was away.  He sings away while Sniper keeps an eye on me!  Very cool dog, I really enjoyed him.


The Sherri Jo song is fantastic to hear by guitar,  the words are below..   
 

Sherri Jo Road calling
You have traveled the world
But your journey slows here
The rain brings your spirits down so you build a fire to dry your day
You soar on the road made of hell never looking back
Till you see the river with the light at the end of the day
Jelly jam and a fire bug make a good time the coldest nights
Whistling at the dancing lights for the spirit takers
Laughter was heard for miles around
The roar of the road was calling again
Ride with the wind and the rain
The sun comes up and goes, but never dies.
Written by Darren Bullen

Thank you Darren! Besides being a good songwriter, he's an excellent cook!  Great moose, veggies and beer.  I'm so glad I didn't chicken out on the Dempster.

One last thing, a good face wash in that ice cold water (instant head ache!) and a good brush of my teeth.  Then I'm ready to head back to civilization tomorrow.



That nicely concludes my Dempster Highway experience..

Parting shots of fall colors as I come to the end of the road the following morning.



I get back to the cross road of the Klondike and Dempster Highways, which so conveniently is placed a fuel station and a very expensive power wash. Didn't matter, I am so happy it's here.  Can't say it got the bike totally clean,  but much better to get that calcium and mud off as much as possible. 


My sprocket is not looking too flash, actually lost some teeth on it. Hopefully I make it now to Anchorage Alaska.  Why I am talking about that now.. Time to celebrate!! Whew!  What a trip.. What an experience!!  Love Yukon, Canada.. !!

Enhanced by Zemanta

7 comments:

  1. Great report and glad you didn't listen to the nay-sayers. Pic's are absolutely stunning!

    Also glad to see you washed the the calcium off your bike as soon as you could. That calcium is nasty stuff! They spray it on the roads here in the mid-west and it's far more corrosive than road salt.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just stumbled upon your blog through Twitter - great post! I'm planning a roadtrip up to the Dempster Highway from my home in central Alberta next summer - would love to get some tips and advice from you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stunning photos! We rode our bikes up into the area this past July, but bad weather and a tight schedule meant we had to give the Dempster a miss. We did the Dalton instead and it was indeed beautiful as well...can't wait to get back and try the Dempster. You're obviously a skilled and brave rider. I love following your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an experience indeed. You're a trooper. Alaska extreme by Sherri Jo.
    Nice isn't it to gain experience like this and go on.

    Cant wait to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Finally managing to catch up on your blog. Good for you for pressing on and getting to the Arctic Circle. The whole time I was reading these entries, all I could think was, "If you survived the Road of Bones, you can surely ride the Dempster!" I hope some day to do even a fraction of what you've done already. Perhaps when my son gets old enough. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Haha.. thanks Operator7G! I hope you get the opportunity to go!!

    ReplyDelete