I headed out of Dawson Creek fairly early to start the long trek to Alaska. Many people do not realize how far Alaska actually is and how big both BC and the Yukon are… myself included. You can’t just “pop” up to Alaska for a few days 🙂 Driving the Alcan Hwy is like driving from Boston to Orlando… and that’s when you start in Dawson Creek halfway up British Columbia. Driving to Alaska from Seattle, WA is like driving from Boston to Denver! You get the picture… LONG FREAKIN WAY!
Anyway, a bit of construction on the Alcan Hwy had me slowed down and I took the bike to the head of the line of traffic that was stopped. As I pulled around a huge truck to the front, I parked next to another biker on a BMW F800 GS. Nice bike, loaded up and looking like it had traveled a fair ways since the license plate was British. I struck up a conversation and it turned out that Brian from London was on his way around the Americas on a similar trip to mine. He was headed to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska same as I so we rode together for the rest of the day. As the day ended, we pulled into a fairly dodgy looking campground/motel/RV park at Toad Lake. Originally, the area was called “towed” lake because you had to be towed across it at one point but this got changed to its current form. No toads to be found however there were beavers who had built a huge home on the pond right on front of our campsite. Later in the evening, in pulled another rider on a BMW… now we are talking. Martin from Miami was originally from Argentina and was also going to Prudhoe Bay and then down the Baja peninsula to scout some real estate. The three of us camped and swapped war stories but all of us turned in fairly early.
The next day we all set off for Alaska but my mind was running the timing scenarios of me getting to Costa Rica by mid October. Going to Prudhoe Bay would take me another 10 days at least and I wasn’t sure if I had that much time.
The drive up to Watson Lake was very pleasant and I kept seeing signs that said watch out for buffalo. Cool… or so I thought. I was the lead man doing 65-70mph and as I rounded a set of curves I came upon a buffalo right on the opposite shoulder of the road. I braked hard because I wasn’t sure if a buffalo is as dumb as a moose and I wanted to get a picture. As I was braking, I pulled to the side of the road. The issue with the chip sealed roads up here is that sometimes you can’t see where the road ends and the gravel begins. So, I hit the gravel (that was laying nicely on soft sand) while I still had my front brakes applied. Rookie move and I know better but I can assure you I won’t make the same mistake twice. Out slid my front tire and down went me and the bike sliding safely to a stop right in front of the buffalo. The buffalo must have thought “its just a buffalo stupid” because all the commotion didn’t even faze him.
My amigos helped right the bike (after the requisite photo) and all I had to show for it was a dislocated mirror, scuffed head plate and a very bruised shin. The Aerostich Darien riding suit made the blow to my elbow and hip nothing more than a love tap… I didn’t even feel it really. After repairing and dusting off both myself and the bike, I took the lead again and safely guided myself through a sleeping herd of buffalo down the road 🙂
We reached Watson Creek in the early afternoon and stopped at the signpost forest they have there. Weird really… anyone coming through town with a stolen signpost can pin it to a tree there. I should have stolen Dr. Brown’s license plate!
Now it was decision time for me as Watson Lake is near the junction of Route 37 and the Alaska Hwy. so if I was going to stop and turn south this was the only chance I had to do it. I hummed and hawed and thought about those ten days and in the end I had Martin flip a coin. Heads Alaska and tails head south. It came up tails… which on the Canadian two dollar coin that was used is actually a bear. I took this as a “sign from God” since I wanted to head south to Hyder, Alaska to one of the prime bear viewing spots anyway. We said our goodbyes and they headed north while I went to the Northern Lights Centre for an IMAX type presentation on the Northern Lights and something else… I’m a big hazy on this because two minutes in I fell asleep. Best $8 nap I have ever had 🙂
I checked into the Air Force Lodge, a refurbished building that once housed the Air Force pilots during the war. It was a nice, clean, well run hostel type environment and the owner, Micheal, was a first rate guy. I slept well that night.
First curved wooden bridge built in Canada – Alaska Hwy mile 20
Camping at Toad Lake
Show me a sign