An 81, no 95, no 110 Mile Great, no Terrible, no Great DayDan | August 14, 2008
Today we had a lovely 81 95 110 mile day over no one two passes. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The day started with a sketchy water collection at Million Dollar Falls (if you know that this stream is teeming with giardia, please don’t tell us). Taking our first sheepish sips, we could only think of what the next 6 days would hold, where we would either be fine or have explosive diarrhea. We shall see!
We proceeded along a beautifully smooth new paved road and were riding in the sunshine again. A black bear was eating by the side of the road and was totally unresponsive to our calls and the songs we sang at him.
Then, all of a sudden, we saw a pack of people on long roller blades riding in a line out literally in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Yukon. It turns out this was the Yukon National Cross-Country Ski Team, and they were out practicing on the newly paved road. Talking to them later, they pronounced us “hardcore,” but ’scuse me, who’re the ones roller-blading in the middle of nowhere? That, my friends, is hardcore!
As they passed us one by one, each of the team of about 15 warned us, in succession, of a gigantic grizzly bear around the corner. Aaron and I eagerly rode around, hoping to see the first grizzly of the trip. To our dismay, a team of german what looked like telescopers had already arrived on the scene, whipping out their telephone pole sized camera lenses and scaring away (or potentially poking) any wildlife for miles. Disappointed, Aaron and I rode on. Fortunately the scenery was breathtaking. At one point, in an attempt to take a picture Aaron dismounted, and tripped over his top tube. His bike fell to the ground, landing on his mirror, breaking it completely off. This was merely the beginning of this stellar day.
Staum thankfully left us his notepad, which contained all the towns and services along the way. These generally helped us out immensely, but for whatever reason, his mileages were about 15 miles off this time. We pulled into Haines Junction and ate at the bakery while consulting our maps. As it dawned on us we had many more miles on the day than we had anticipated, we readied ourselves for another 95 mile day. To make matters worse, there were two passes in the way.
Here we made some decisions that would haunt us later. We chose not to fill up completely on food at the junction supermarket, since on our maps and by all accounts there were plenty of services on the road ahead. (It turned out there wasn’t another place to get food for about 300 miles.) We also chose to head to our intended campground at around mile 95, Kluane Base Camp, without calling first.
As we took off from Haines, a nice tail-wind carried us over the passes and at one point we also took off our layers and rode in purely shorts…and sweat! WOAH! The riding was spectacular, with stunning mountain peaks that kept us company all the way to Kluane Lake. Along the way, we hit 3000 miles on the trip odometer. Singing at the top of our lungs to celebrate, we were in high spirits as we descended into Kluane lake, taking a dirt road a couple km off the road towards Kluane Base Camp.
When we arrived, it looked like a ghost-campsite. There were signs all along the way down the hill saying “Open” and “Tent Camping,” but when we knocked on the door, a guy came out in his sweatpants and told us that they were no longer allowing tent camping (we would find out why later) and to stay we’d have to pay around 50-60 bucks. Screw that! We turned around, disappointed. I was particularly in a bad mood, since I was both hungry and totally ready to stop riding for the day.
When we reached the road again, we stopped to eat. After our meal, my heart sank as I realized that instead of having two sandals strapped to the top of my bags, there was only one lonely sandal on my bike. I had lost a shoe. It could have happened anywhere, and having already biked almost a hundred miles that day, I was in no mood to retrace my steps and try to find it. Thankfully Aaron kept his spirits up, and within an hour or so, I was back to enjoying the beautiful scenery of Kluane Lake. We criss crossed the lake on a long bridge and finally arrived at our destination, clocking in the day at about 110 miles. We pulled into a really nice campsite called Cottonwood RV Park, with a great view of the lake and a really well-taken-care-of campground.
Tent camping was “at your own risk,” because Kluane Lake is apparently a grizzly bear epicenter. The day before we had spoken to a motorist who had seen “a million brown bear” up around this area. There had been some bear-tent incidents, so places like Kluane Base Camp had decided to prohibit tent camping. Thankfully Cottonwood still allowed tent camping, but there was no shortage of signs that warned against bears.
When we pulled up to camp, we said hi to a couple who were walking around the lake area. Then, as we were setting up camp, one of the two, Bob, came up to us and said “I know you guys are tough, but how about having a beer?” With that, he invited us into he and his wife’s fifth wheel. Aaron and I could barely hide our excitement, having had a particularly trying day. Bob and Kathy were amazing to us, they gave us beers, made us soup, and we talked for several hours. I had never been inside a fifth wheel before. (A fifth wheel is one of those huge RV trailers that trails behind a big pickup. Inside, it was like stepping into someone’s home. There was wood cabinetry everywhere, a couch, kitchen, two lazy-boys, and a separate bedroom. It was HUGE. It was hard to imagine that all of that was in there looking at it from the outside.
Bob and Kathy were so generous, and it turns out their son Arend was also a bicycle tourist and he had told them of stories of kind people along the way. They gave us soup, which saved us some food from our panniers (we didn’t realize at this point how crucial this was). Warm from the cold by soup and beer, we retired to our tents tired but happy. Thank you Bob and Kathy!