(May 30 – written by Nancy, posted 31 May)
No animal visits overnight (other than some cheeky chipmunks) – that’s a primary factor in a good night’s sleep up here when you are in a tent! At the recommendation of the proprietor last night we put our food bags in one of the little huts on the property so we were taking all precautions. We even put our toothpaste in there with the food…
Unfortunately though, we got a bit of rain overnight and it was raining lightly this morning when the alarm went off at 6:15. It’s never fun getting up in the rain but we forced ourselves to get up in the cold and rain. Well, okay maybe Dave forced me to get up – I could have stayed in the sleeping bag reading my book for a couple of hours until it warmed up. It actually wasn’t raining too hard once we got out of the tent – it always sounds harder from inside the tent.
Chris came out of his cushy room and made several cups of coffee while we made oatmeal for breakfast. Chris and Mark elected to eat breakfast in the bakery but we decided to eat some of the food we are carrying. By the time we set off it had stopped raining – a bit chilly but at least no rain.
We had our first animal encounter before we hit the 10 mile mark. Off from the side of the road popped up what looked like a mix between a coyote and a fox. He came out across the road to see us, and almost seemed to be playing with us. We all stopped to see what he would do, and the coyote started trying to nip at Chris’s bags. It was a bit strange, as he seemed to be wagging his tail a bit, as though he was trying to play. He was not behaving like a coyote normally would though – he was not fearful of us.
We tried to ride on but he continued to come around us and try to bite at our bags (and maybe our legs). We even tried to throw some rocks at him but he seemed to think that was food or something and chased the rocks over the edge of the road. It seemed like he had probably been fed by people and thought that things thrown at him were food. Eventually he seemed to lose interest in us and we made a quick getaway. He chased for a bit but then dropped back to wait for his next victim.
The road was fairly flat, though we did have some rollers. We crossed several rivers – consistent with those we have seen there was not a lot of water in them. What water there was looked pretty cold though! We stopped for lunch at a very nice pullout above the Kluane River. We are now in the Kluane First Nation’s regional area. This group has harvested salmon out of the river for centuries. They travelled down the nearby Duke River, gathering berries and hunting caribou and other animals. It was a very picturesque spot.
The most exciting part of the day came shortly thereafter. As we rode along several trucks pulling trailers slowed down to warn us that there was a grizzly bear on the road ahead. Not surprisingly, the next few miles were pretty nerve-wracking as we searched the side of the road to see if we could spot him. Coming around a corner we saw him – it would be hard to miss him as he was right on the other side of the road, digging in the shoulder. They apparently do this because that’s where it is easier to find grubs and other things to eat. Of course at the time we came upon him there were no other cars around, so we stopped a little way away to see how he would react and what we should do. We made lots of noise but he seemed to take no notice of us. Finally a motor home came from the other direction so we flagged them down to try to get them to stop in front of him so we could ride by on the other side.
The motorhome did stop and then came our way but didn’t really stop in front of the bear but by that time we were riding and just kept going. Mark, Dave and I had our bear spray out though I am not sure I would be able to keep my wits to spray it if the bear actually came at us! He seemed decent size, but I didn’t want to look at him too much while we went past – all I could hope was that he wouldn’t come after us. After all those nerves, he didn’t really seem to care that we were there at all. I am not sure he really ever raised his head from his digging! Sorry, only one picture – we were focused on getting by him and holding the bear spray and not the camera.
We all had a bit of adrenaline going after that and the remainder of the day seemed to go by quickly. It warmed up and the rain stayed away so the conditions were pretty good for riding. The wind was a bit squirrelly but at least it wasn’t too strong when it was in our face. We stopped at a place called Burwash Landing, hoping for a quick bite but it wasn’t really a town and the one cafe we could see turned out to be closed for renovations. There were some folks there moving some things out of it and they took up Chris’s offer to help move a refrigerator out of the shop into the back of a pickup. So Dave, Chris and Mark all parked their bikes and helped to lift a commercial refrigerator up into the truck!
We are now in Destruction Bay, which sits right along Kluane Lake. There is no camping here so we are living high at the Talbot Arms Hotel – a real bed, our own bathroom and a restaurant right here at the hotel. We had a nice late lunch when we arrived and are now off to sample the pie before we head off to bed.
Tomorrow we head to Haines Junction, one of the more ‘major’ towns along the way up here. After that we have two more riding days before we hit the big city of Whitehorse.