That is it: we are in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada after 2000 miles done! We are enjoying 3 consecutive rest days before cycling to the Great north. We slightly change our plans and we will probably cycle teh “top of the world highway” to reach Fairbanks. Tougher than initially expected as it is mainly gravel but it is worth it and we are feeling good. I have a meeting with Environment Canada tomorrow afternoon, I am really looking forward to it.
23rd July: Smithers-Kitwanga
After having bought some technical equipment (new rope to hang up food) and having eaten a massive breakfast, we hit the road late morning. After a stop in Smithers airport to admire a massive stuffed grizzly shot down in 2001 (after having eaten 300 cattle heads!), we keep going. People start to tell us that highway 37 (Stewart Cassiar) is full of bears. The day ends in the rain: it is cold and we are in a hurry to arrive in Kitwanga. The boss of the campsite is a little bit weird (“no bearproof bins, just put all your food within your tent as long as it is not fresh fish”). That is the very first time we hear this kind of speech!!! We meet Ingrid and Andre, 2 Germans who own a campsite near Vancouver. Bear stories all evening long (one of their friends has been badly injured by a grizzly bear a couple of years ago), we are not 100% confident when going to bed….
24th July: Kitwanga-Bonus Lake
Late start (10 am) and we are soon back to the topic of the moment: we stop at a crossroad to have a bite and a car stops: the driver tells us that there is a big black bear next to the road a couple of hundred of meters far from the corner. It is not our direction but we finish our snack quickly and jump on the bikes. A couple of hours later, at last, a real bear eating next to the paved shoulder: we cycle carefully using air horns. The bear does not move and keeps eating a small piece of wood…So far, they have not been so bad these little beasts. The afternoon is hard going: it is very hilly and we have a strong headwind. We finally stop at Bonus Lake rest area for the night: it is absolutely gorgeous. We set up the camp, enjoy our dinner on a jetee on the lake, hang up the food and go to bed. We have been told it is a bear infested area. Once again, hard to fall asleep. Hope we will see tomorrow……
25th July: Bonus Lake-Meziadin Junction
Probably because of the bears (actually not a single one came around the tent), we are on the bikes at 6:45 for a great ride. The wind is not so strong and the sceneries are very nice. We stop at Meziadin junction for lunch, set up the camp, have a quick nap, remove the pannniers from the bikes and we then cycle to the Bear glacier. On the way, I follow Nico and whereas we are cycling along a small wall between the road and the forest, I see a bear on one side of the wall and Nico on the other side, none of them having obviously seen the other. Too late to say anything. Both of them absolutely jump of surprise, one cycles fast, the other one runs into the woods as fast as he can and I have one of the best laughs so far. Bear glacier is very nice: it used to reach the other side of the lake until the early 70’s but because of global warming, this does not happen anymore. Back to the camp, people tell us there is some serious roadwork further down our way: it is obviously very bad conditions and they doubt we will be able to make it on the bikes. We are very determined and we are looking forward to see how it looks. We should know in less than 2 days…
26th July: Meziadin Junction- Bell II
We start with 20 kilometers uphill, we are not very motivated this morning. We meet people from Quebec on the way who tell us than at the next campsite, there is a couple of cyclists stuck because one of them broke his rim on the roadwork we are going to face. Good to know, we are more careful than usual to avoid potholes. We use the break to produce our first culinary show:
Nothing really interesting during the afternoon to be honest except another bear. We are used to it now, so we wave our arms and talk to him as loud as we can, still alive so far…..We stop in a posh resort which is a heliskiing base during winter. For the youngest ones, heliskiing is when you are dropped off by an helicopter on the top of a mountain to go downhill on your skis fronm there. When we pay the campsite (not so expensive by the way), we are told we can use all the facilities. Result: We have 2 showers in the same evening, one before and one after the SAUNA. Yes! A sauna, we can’t believe it. We are so happy. Then we go to the restaurant whre, for $20 we can have a all you can eat buffet. Not sure they knew what they were doing when telling us about this. We have been asked many times if we were finished to remove our plates and the answer has been the same every time: NO. We had ribs, soup, cafe, straberries, pizza, salad, vegetables. An absolute heaven. We met at this restaurant two American guys from Portland who are cycling up to Whitehorse. We know we will meet each other on the road again.
27th July: Bell II- Iskut
Early start (6:45 am), great riding conditions, we cycle fast and we are enjoying the sceneries. Another bear on the way (same story again and again, we obviously do not look tasty at all). We cycle next to bizarre places (runaway for planes in the middle of nowhere to bring miners for example). After 70 miles, we stop in a campsite next to a lake wondering if we should try to go as far as we can today to go through the first part of the roadworks. We decide to keep going. My tyre has a slow puncture but I can keep going. We meet a couple of Ontario: they say to us that the road has been closed a couple of hours earlier because of a washout: we should better to give up according to them. Thats is not exactly our state of mind. we arrive at the point where the road is closed ans ask to the road maintenance staff if we can go through with our bikes. They say yes. We cycle on a closed road next to an impressive landslide (the road went directly to the lake!). We are so happy. Once the washout behind us, we start the famous roadwork session. It is pretty hard going but we make it to the campsite after 100 miles. When the campsite staff know what we did during the day, we have free cookies, they are so tasty. People on the campground start to know we made it thought he landslide and ask us lots of question about how it looks: we are the guys to talk to have information on the road conditions. That is a pretty funny situation! We make a fire and cook on it, we are the king of the world even if people tell us the conditions we will meet tomorrow will be tough tough tough.
28th July: Bell II- Dease Lake
We are so tired that we can’t wake up before late morning. We hit the road happy and in a good form. We cycle where the roadworks happen and things are going well. We are asked to stop at the beginning of a section where drivers have to wait to be lead by a pilot cat through a 5 miles portion of the construction. Working staff ask us to put our bikes on the pilot car. We try as strong as we can to cycle among the car as we want to cycle every single mile of the way from Vancouver to the Arctic Ocean but there is no way. We jump on the pilot car and make it through the portion, freezing at the back of the pick-up. Funny enough, we will discover later that the guys from Portland reached that point 30 minutes later and when they accept immediately to put their bikes on the pilot car, the working men say they were cool compared to these 2 French guys who really wanted to cycle through…. I think I know who they are talking about. We have the road for ourselves as the road is cloded to all traffic at the washout point, so the only cars we have are the ones leaving Iskut which means 5 cars every 2 hours…. We have to climb a pass on the gravel road section trying to avoid all the massive construction machines. We have the impression to be spies in a bizarre world. Once we hit the paved section, we go fast and enjoy another great day. Just before arriving to our camp, we are cycling pretty fast when I look forward and see Nicolas stopped in the middle of the road (he will tell me later he saw a deer or a bear on the paved shoulder). I did not know he was stopping (he forgot to say which is one of the basic rules of cycling, little brother…. I hit him at the back and fell on the road. My elbow and my leg are bleeding. This is so stupid!!! If i have to give up such a trip on a situation like that…. A guy stops his car and asks us if I need a lift to the hospital, we say no before wondering where the closest hopsital could be, we are absolutely in the middle of nowhere. We make it to Dease Lake, a 200 people town. I ask by phone to the police where I could get some first aid (my wound is too big for the stuffs of our first aid kit!) and he says to me there is a hospital in town!!! We can’t believe it. We go there and discover a high-tech building where my wound is cleant and fixed in 5 minutes for free, we even get some gaze as a gift. When things go well……. We enjoy the evening. We are just woken up in the middle of the night by ragoons trying to steal our food, unsuccesfully.
29th July: Dease Lake- Boya Lake
We will try to reach Boya Lake tonight, it is quite far (100 miles) but obviously awesome and we intend to have a rest day there. Early afternoon, we meet our American friends again and decide to cycle together. That is amazing how time flies when you talk to nice people when cycling. We cycle through weird places, Jade city in particular which is a base for jade mines around, pretty dark place. Moreover, it starts raining and we still have some miles to do. We arrive late and absolutely exhausted at the campsite on Boya lake shores and it is absolutely pouring. We set up the tent as fast as we can in the rain, ask to a camper if we can eat under the shelter of his caravan, he accepts and we enjoy a meal (our usual pasta and soup) in a dry place. We go to bed quickly and the rain will not stop before tomorrow noon. Before going to bed, Nico pays the campsite to the park operator, Sue. She tells us to be careful with the food as there is a black bear wandering around. She offers to take our food in her house which is very handy for us.
30th July: rest day at Boya Lake
In the morning, we hear a gunshot very loudly. Later on, Sue comes to see us and explains she set up a place with plastic covers on it where we can move our tent to be dry. So nice from her. She also says:” Do not worry about the bear, it is …..(silence) gone. As when you are young and you are wondering where the old dog unable to walk in the last 3 years suddenly disappeared and you are told it went to the countryside for some vacancies, we understand the black bear which used to wander around the campsite is dead. That is what the gunshot was. We ask later on to Sue the exact conditions of the incident. She explains she saw it 3 times and this morning it was walking on the driveway, “that was enough”. I can tell you we have been careful not to walk on the driveway the rest of the day, an incident happens so quickly and Sue obviously knows how to use a rifle, that would be a pity to expalin to family and friend that one of us is………gone!
Next to this, we really enjpoed the rest day, in the sun after the rain. We relax and are happy. Great fire in the evening, we do not have to use our stove and it is funnier to cook directly on the flames. Tonight, life is great.
31st July: Boya Lake- Big creek
This monring is the last one on the Cassiar highway, we can’t believe it. This road is one the most amazing pieces of apshalt I have ever seen and that is almost finished! Nothing special to highlight in the morning except a snack stop where a guy stops his car to indicate us that he just saw a bear “whcih was definitely not black”. Another stop which is shorter than expected but we are still alive. We see the signpsot telling us that we are entering the Yukon territory. We are so happy, we knew from the beginning that this moment would be one of the highlights of our trip and it is! We made it, we reached the Yukon by bicycle. A couple of miles later, we are hit by a very heavy storm just as we emter the Alaska highway, mythic road of North America. We stop in a little cafe where we meet a guy from Alaska who just quit his job as leader of a NGO to protectr native forests from Alaska to cycle from Alaska to south Canada. Already so many amazing human encounters on this trip. We are struggling to find food and we need enough supplies for 2 days but the shops are so small. Except if we intend to eat sweeties every day, it is pretty hard to find anything. Luckily enough, we find a petrol station which sells bread and we leave with four pretty big pieces of bread on the bikes: that should be enough until the next town in 2 days. The conditions on the Alaska highway are much better than expected: few traffic, good tarmac and great sceneries. We stop at Big Creek campsite where once again, we enjoy a fire and a great evening.
1st August: Big Creek-Swan Lake
The morning is very hard going: we experience the strongest headwind so far and it is hard to be motivated. Every single mile is so slow to achieve. The recompense is the fact that when we stop for lunch in a petrol station, we meet Alayna and Beth (the 2 Canadian girtls we met 2 weeks earlier on the Yellowhead highway). We spend 2 great hours chatting again again and we leave much happier than when we stopped. We stop at Swan lake in the evening which is absolutely beautiful: amazing colors, horses at large, again cooking on the fire (we are keeping so much petrol like this, this could be useful once in the Arctic…).
2nd August: Swan Lake- Johnson’s Junction
Pretty good day, we reach the 3000 kilometers from the start, we are so happy, they have been done in exactly a month. We stop in Teslin for a break. When doing some shopping in the grocery store, we see a poster warning local people of the presence of a cougar on the road we will cycle from now. Great!!! That is exactly what was missing, a cougar….. What the hell? We stop in a small internet cafe where we meet the owner, Henry, a guy who left Switzerland a long time ago and now lives here. Good chat and he offers us the internet connexion!
We are pretty sure to see him tomorrow as he has to drive to Whitehorse, so he should not miss us on the road. Before reaching the camp, we are asked to go again on a pilot car to cross a bridge on which there is some roadwork going on. We insist strongly and, yes, thius time we get the authorisation to ride behind the car. Just after the bridge is our campground. Ouf! We should reach Whitehorse tomorrow!
3rd August:Johnson crossing- Whitehorse
The day starts with our first encounter with a moose: a mum and a cub. At last, a moose! we meet as expected Henry again and he brings us some luch, we can’t believe it, 2 pizzas each!!! Eaten in a shorter time than needed to blink…
We stop eating again next to Marsh Lake, a 20-mile long lake which has impressive turquoise colors. We reach Whitehorse late in the day after a hard going evening, I do not have legs anymore…. Small thing to mention, we cross for the first time the Yukon river, there will be many others meetings with this river on our way to the Arctic.
4th to 6th August: rest in Whitehorse….