(June 12 – written by Dave)
First a report on last night – we had no further bear sightings – yeah. I’m not sure Nancy slept that great, something about the bump under pillow caused by the bear spray. It was very cool overnight and there were a few showers. In the morning it was cloudy, cold and windy but we had good visibility. Unfortunately, there were no sightings of moose on the river. Sarah sent Popeye (the dog) out to help us look. Though being only about 12kg and missing one eye, Popeye is a tough dog and a good spotter. He takes on moose, bear and even the odd chipmunk. He used all his sniffing power but could not find any moose for us.
We had a nice chat with Sarah in the morning. She works at the medical clinic in Dease Lake and knows a lot of folks there. We reviewed lodging options with her and took her up on connecting with The Arctic Divide hotel to hold a room for us. It was going to be our 8th day on the road and we needed a good rest, and a rest day.
Riding was nearly a cool as it was three weeks ago when we started in Fairbanks. Nancy’s bike computer didn’t get into double digits C for several hours – 9 degrees C is only 48 in F, wow that’s cold. It was also quite overcast and we never really got a good look at any of the mountains we were riding through. We sort of just put our heads down and rode all day.
The last 2/3s of the ride were along Dease Lake but it was far from a gentle lakeshore ride. In fact, we had two 300 metre climbs as we rode the last 50k. We were both feeling the last 8 days and the uphills were all taken slowly.
Somewhere near the top of the first hill we ran into 3 cyclists coming the other way. First meet Brandon and Kara – from Calgary to Alaska to Russia to Mongolia to Japan. Next meet Antonio from Spain. He calls himself El Supertramp de le Ribera – from Ushuaia, the bottom of South America to Fairbanks. Antonio has already covered some 33,000 kilometres – taking a somewhat circuitous route. As a threesome, they’d been travelling for about 4 days, camping rough even with the bears. Kara and Brandon are hoping to hook up ski jobs in Japan – we’ll see if we can pass on some contacts we know. You can follow Kara and Brandon’s journey at www.karafolkerts.com and www.brandonhartwig.com. Antonio is documenting his journey on Facebook here .
It is always good to meet folks going the other way – for short-term info and a moral boost. Antonio really liked our bright panniers. This was kind of funny in that when I first saw them from a distance, all three of them were wearing dark clothes and their gear was all dark, I thought that they might be bears. We are perhaps overly bear sensitive but I left the encounter feeling really good about our bags and bright clothes for at least the vehicle drivers.
Speaking of bears, we spotted one today. We were again warned by an approaching camper. Before we reached the bear, a camper going our way passed the bear, stopped and started backing up. We were thankful for the “protection”. We passed the bear before the camper reached it, only to see the camper keep backing up and stopping. The whole stop thing was probably more about them getting photos than it was protecting us. We waved them a hearty thanks all the same – every bear encounter that we ride through is a good one. This bear was a large black bear. We are up to 8 blacks and 2 browns, so far.
Later another motor home pulled up in the oncoming lane with high beams on. We stopped thinking another bear warning was coming, only to find an enthusiastic German couple who simply wanted to talk to us about our trip. Nice folks for sure, but a strange interaction in the middle of nowhere on the Cassiar highway.
The last climb about did us in but at least it meant that we would finish with a downhill into Dease Lake. Dease Lake is very small, with one store/servo, a takeaway shack and a couple hotels. The store is very well stocked however and we’ll be stocking up here for the week ahead. It’s the last store for some 400 miles or so. We rolled through town – in minutes – and found The Arctic Divide Hotel, with Sophia out front working in the garden. The message from Sarah had gotten through and Sophia set-up with a rate for two nights in a nice room with a kitchenette. (Editor’s note – hard to describe the feeling of relief when she said she had set aside a room for us – yeah!!) I unloaded my bike and rode to the only ‘restaurant’ in town – the Shack – for Arctic burgers and fries as we were both starving. It was a nice finish to the day.
We are taking a day off here tomorrow to rest, restock and do some preventative maintenance. We’ve ridden over 1,000 miles now and are feeling in a rhythm but also tired after 8 days of riding and being on bear watch.
We’ve had a little re-think on our route further south and will give a full update on that tomorrow, once we revalidate the plans…