Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Beauty and the Beast of the Dempster

The Dempster Highway is the Northernmost all-season road in Canada.  It runs about 800km North from Dawson City, Yukon all the way up to Inuvik, NWT.  In that 800km, there are two service stops: the Eagle Plains hotel and restaurant at 400km, and the small town of Fort McPherson at 600km.

This road was the main attraction of our trip up North.  It’s a real beauty; barely any traffic at all, wide open landscapes, camping anywhere … it’s a cyclist's dream.  But it’s not easy.  In fact, it’s a beast of a ride.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Aged to Perfection

Before arriving in Dawson, we had no idea what to expect aside from the fact that in its heyday, during the Klondike Gold Rush, it was one of the most advanced cities in the Americas and the largest one east of Winnipeg and North of Seattle.  We also heard something about a cocktail with a human toe in it.  More on that to come.

We've been sorely disappointed in the past when arriving in mining ghost towns to find the only general store is closed, the motel is missing its roof and all the residents look like they haven’t seen newcomers in years.

Luckily I didn’t actually need to drink my sorrows away

Well Dawson was a wonderful surprise.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

No Country for Soft Men

Our trip from Tok, AK to Dawson City, YT took us on the hilly Top of the World Highway.  The road runs up, down, and along ridge tops with over 4700m of elevation gain in less than 300 km!  The route made for a hard, but rewarding bike ride.

Powering through another steep hill.

Aside from the name, the road is actually quite old.  It follows many of the original trails used by prospectors before and during the gold rush.  There was the gruelling trail from Dawson City to 60 Mile, the 425 mile trail from Valdez to Eagle (downstream from Dawson), and trails from Dawson to the town of 40 Mile.
“A forty mile walk over a rough wintry trail, in forty below zero weather, with a forty-pound pack on his back, left the prospector without poetry in his soul, but with a keen appreciation of the distance travelled…”

Reading the stories of early journeys through this area made us think, “Man, these were hard people.”  Does adventure like this even exist anymore?  Their stories made climbing steep hills on the bicycles seem like a stroll in the park.  This post includes anecdotes about some of the people and places we learned about in the region and some of the these old routes.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Striking it Rich

The stampeders came to Alaska for gold and the better life it promised.  Unfortunately, most of them never found it.  But maybe they found a different sort of richness in these hills; something people still come searching for today.

Most of the Alaskans we’ve met were not born here.  Although their origins vary greatly, what seems to draw people to Alaska are a few  basic human desires.  Whether it’s a better life, the need for adventure, a fresh start, or just to get away.  Many have found it in “The Last Frontier”.

So what drew us to Alaska?  The adventure and the wild, open space.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Screamed the banner headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on July 17, 1897. This was after the S.S. Portland had arrived from St. Michael, Alaska, carrying 68 prospectors and what newspapers said was "a ton of gold."  Two days earlier a similarly laden ship had arrived in San Francisco from Alaska.  As newspapers spread the word that a great quantity of gold had been found along the Klondike River, a tributary of the Yukon, thousands of prospectors, in the midst of a depression, began to flock North to seek their fortune...  And so started the Klondike gold rush...

We boarded the Oosterdam in Vancouver on June 21, not knowing what lay ahead of us in this upcoming adventure.