(May 31 – written by Dave)
We had a great day today. It rained overnight but had stopped by the time we headed over for brekkie. More important, the wind had shifted as per the forecast and we had a tail wind. In fact other than a 10 mile stretch where we turned around the bottom of the Kluane Lake, we had tail winds pretty much all day. Today was the longest mileage day of the trip (so far) and I can honestly say that everyone was pretty fresh even at the end of the day.
Before all that, we had another cafe brekkie at the Talbot Arms hotel. Our new friends from last night (afternoon manager from India and hostess from the Philippines) were replaced by two new workers, both of the same countries. Turns out that foreign workers are good for these remote parts and happy to sign-up even spend the winter. The Indian guys were keen cricket fans so I had a good time with them going over all the latest in world cricket – my travelling companions were bored!
Leaving the hotel we could see that the wind was going to be our friend and we made good time riding along the lake shore. There are a number of hotel or bars that are no longer in business, it’s hard to tell if it’s hard times or they were just bad ideas.
Eventually we arrived at the Tachal Dhal Visitor Centre. This was at the end of the lake, surrounded by massive rocky mountains and hillsides. It was a little clouded in so that we couldn’t see the peaks but we could see a good bit of the surrounding hills. They had spotting scopes trained on several heard of Dall sheep. Once you knew what to look for, you could see quite a few of them way up on the hills. We counted at least 20 and a ranger said that there were 72 visible the day before. The sheep mostly stay up very high, eating a special sage that only grows in the high mountains. It’s a tough place to be a sheep with a third dying in the first year – eagles take many young, as does the snow and cold weather. Sorry, they wouldn’t show up in pictures so you’ll have to use your imagination.
After the visitor center we had to cross an open causeway at the lake’s end where we had the worst (or at least most unfriendly) winds of the day. We had strong cross and head winds just as several cyclists had warned us of a few days back. Once we reached the end of the lake we gradually turned back to the south and nicer direction. We stopped for photos and snack but it was a quick stop as the breeze was chilly. There was another sign explained about how Kluane Lake changed from a south draining lake to a north draining lake some 300-400 years ago when a glacier blocked the original drainage river. Looking at the lake from a topo map view had me really confused so this was good to get the full story. Most lakes only have one outlet and many inlets – Kluane Lake is the opposite.
We had one really good downhill, followed by a massive uphill at Christmas Creek. We were warned about this 4 days ago at the Tetlin Visitor Centre. All four of thought that a hill we did a few days ago was “Chirstmas Hill” – clearly we got the story wrong as today’s hill definitely merited a mention to bicycle travellers.
We had nice views of snow covered mountains on our right all day, the tops of them ducking in and out of clouds. I think I’m slowing on the photo stops, or least I’m trying to. My senior editor may have a different view. Lunch was at a great little bridge crossing Jarvis Creek. Reminded all of us of something you’d see in Montana or thereabouts. From lunch there was some more tailwind climbing and we were starting to get a little tired. Mark and Chris pulled over at a rest stop about 18k from town. Nancy and I rolled on thinking they’d be right behind us. Turns out that they were but with 10-12 miles of screamer downhill and the tailwinds, we blasted all the way to Haines Junction in almost no time – it’s just too hard to stop for photos when hills and wind has you travelling 40+ kph.
We made it to town and decided to head for a highly recommended bakery. On the way there we ran into another world bicycle traveller (Josetxo Valencia). He started a couple of years ago in Patagonia and is heading north further. He told us that we made the right choice going south – reporting that he had 120 kph head winds in Argentina – ouch. And bakery was good as well. We all had our own little treats with Mark even having two pieces of pie. We are definitely heading back there in the AM for brekkie.
We eventually made it to the Wanderers Inn, a highly recommend hostel in town. Chris, Nancy and I are sharing a large family tent in the front lawn. Mark decided that this was too much togetherness and got his own room down the road. I think he may have secretly snuck off to the bakery for another piece of pie from the day-old shelf.
Tomorrow we start the last of our journey to Whitehorse – the final 100 miles. There is no formal place to stay on the way there but the owner of the hostel has given us some tips on where to free camp. It may rain so it could be interesting, trying to hide the tents and setting them up in the wet. We have a plate of day old bakery treats so we won’t starve. We will have to carry enough water to get us through the day and to cover dinner and breakfast the next day, as well as water to get us through to Whitehorse. We are planning on picking up some of the tasty looking jalapeno cheese bread to make toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner so we’ll see how we go. Hopefully our luck will continue and it won’t rain on us.
We won’t have wi-fi tomorrow so the post will need to wait until we reach Whitehorse – perhaps even after a celebratory beer or two.