The Icefield Parkway running North-south from Jasper to Banff in Alberta is a magnificent road that takes me through a few hundred kilometres of World Heritage listed national parks. This stretch would have been a photographer’s delight had it not been raining or overcast every day pretty well all of the way down the road. Therefore, not a great number of photographs in this posting but to compensate for this lack I have provided some video (set to a marvelous Spanish song) for your listening and viewing pleasure.
*I included the video of the Giant Beaver from Beaverlodge which is in-fact up the road a bit on Route 40, mostly on the justification that it is a giant beaver.
The camper drivers achieve new levels of ineptitude and stupidity, stopping in the middle of the wild at the slightest sniff of an opportunity to photograph a bear or squirrel.
So I join the throng of Helly Hansen designer-gear clad smurfs strolling around trying to find the most convenient place to have their wallets fleeced. On the positive side there is coffee. There is beer, pizza and a shop to get the bike some love and attention.
Banff also has a lovely Arts Centre and it is there that your correspondent paid a visit to see what was going on and talk to the friendly folk who run theatre programmes there.
*If you are easily offended, stop reading now. You have been warned!
Just been riding through seemingly endless rain for the last couple of weeks. Every day rain but we forge on southwards beyond the Alcan and into the western part of Alberta.
What a sight! A hotdog van with a shelter out in the middle of nowhere between Grande Prairie and Grande Cache was a very welcome site during yet another rain storm. Lovely.
Happy that the steam hid the crime of this particular meal in the photo. Reconstituted potato, fish stuff and devon sausage bits. Utter merde!
LNG and pipelines are touchy subjects up here. However, you just have to admire the sheer exuberance (and rendering) of the ‘bird’.
Should have dropped in for some bargains. Silver-linings?
Here at Buff3ysbicycling blog we are great lovers of road signs. That is, unless they are like the huge stupid sign outside Grande Cache in Alberta that states it is 1km to town, when it is actually 5.6km of 7%-10% gradient rise! Just how does anyone put one of those things up?! Love Canadians and Canadia of course, but the kilometre signage here is just all over the place.
I particularly liked the Trudeau bird sign (above). We are sure that Mr Trudeau is a very nice man but really don’t care. The joyous expression of abuse is to be applauded.
Such sentiments are increasingly rare in Australia, which is a matter of some regret. An Australian considering such a sign would pause and fall into a fit of hand-wringing (or out-source their political bravado to ‘egg-boy’). Not sure how it happened but over the last twenty or thirty years the laid back approach that prompted us to just do things, regardless of how stupid and futile, and by which we seemed to define ourselves, is now just not what it was. It has been replaced by endless by-laws, fear of consequence and collection of parking, speeding fines and council notices to remove what-ever-the-hell weed. It is more than mere modernisation making things this way. When you have visiting Europeans bemoaning the fact that Australia has too many rules, you know there is a problem. It’s almost like in response to some subliminal message embedded in a New Price is Right TV telecast, the population of Australia fronted up to local post offices where an officer reached into the chest cavities and extracted the ‘screw-it’ genes and mojo glands from each unsuspecting fop with a staple remover. All then settled into an era of disconcerting and debilitating dread of what might happen; in place of the previous ‘screw-it’ ethos an insidious reticence.
Stan, a crusty old drunk propping up the bar at a lodge way back up the road in Yukon, on learning that I was from Australia, had no hesitation in making his assessment, “Australians are pussies!”. Really? “We should be brothers – Australians and Canadians – but when I went there and they were all pussies”. Confronting assessment, I’ll grant you. Taken aback, the only retort I could muster was, “All the hardcore Aussies are here in Canada right now”, which did the trick. But he is right. Australia used to be the land of ‘No Worries’ but has now somehow morphed into the land of, ‘I’m sufficiently concerned as to the possible adverse consequences of your proposal that I will now don my safety high-vis vest and consult the risk reduction manualprior to making an assessment as to whether any worry is justified’.
Buff3ysbicyclingblog will start the fight back right here! In celebration of and homage to the effort of the artist who created such a lovely ‘bird’ for Mr. Trudeau, we echo the sentiment and lustily proclaim for no readily apparent reason: Fuck you Trudeau!! Up yours you bastard!!
Just to be even-handed, we also send a hearty ‘Fuck you!’ to his political opponents (whoever the hell they are).
To the drivers of the massive RVs who don’t cross to the other side of the road when passing hard-core adventure cyclists: SCREW YOU!! (I actually meant that one)
To the people who don’t like Buff3ysbicyclingblog: BITE ME!!
To the people who made the road sign ‘Grande Cache 1km‘ and put it 5.6km from Grande Cache: YOU ARE DICKHEADS!!
Feel better for that. We now waft down into the national parks of Jasper and Banff and join the mobs of well-heeled designer trekkers who are heading out on North-face sponsored walks along with their hotel associates holding their carefully calibrated trail-mix combo bars. On-on!
Well, years ago the Alcan Highway might have been a romantic route with wild and wonderful obstacles for the traveler. Now, however, it is a modern road in a seemingly endless tunnel of trees. There is an echo of the gold rush era with the plethora of land leases on the lower reaches of the road inviting a new invasion of gas companies that are fracking away madly in an attempt to release north America from dependence of middle-eastern energy. I blast through the hastily cobbled together mining settlement of Wonowon and dodge the ubiquitous Ford F350s on my way through to the end of the highway at Dawson Creek.
All of the cheese here is orange here for some reason and no one seems to know what Tabasco sauce is. While these are minor concerns in the larger canvas of international bicycle touring they are disconcerting none-the-less. So British Colombia is now bicycled and the road south leads into Alberta.
The ride out of Yukon into British Colombia puts me onto the Alcan Highway, a significant upgrade from the logging roads that I’ve been on recently. The road south now cuts across the north-eastern part of British Colombia towards Alberta. This road opened up the way from the lower 48 to Alaska in 1942 and is now a modern road along which at this time of year armies of RAM1500 utes and massive camper vans now plough. The ride to Fort Nelson is punctuated by sightings of the odd bison or bear and unfortunately not insignificant amounts of rain.
Running the gauntlet of a wild and dangerous bison near the Liard Hot Springs.
After a little pit stop in the charming and kitsch Dawson City the road turns south-east down the Klondike Loop following the Yukon River. The loop runs south towards the city of Whitehorse and this was the direction in which I traveled in 2011. But this time after visiting a little cabin at the Moose Creek Lodge two days ride south of Dawson, I turn left onto a 51km forest track to the Campbell Highway (past Tetchin Lake) which turns out to be a 500km avenue of trees and a very low traffic road that runs along some pretty lakes. Highly recommended ride and the camping is great which at the end of a day’s ride helps you forget the nasty little gradient climbs that these logging roads throw at you. 12 days later I’m in Watson Lake and the bottom of the Yukon ride: 1,800km from the start at the top of the Dempster Highway.
The Moose Creek Lodge. The last time I stayed in this cabin I was nine years younger. A lovely little restaurant out along the Klondike Loop.
Would have been the perfect stop to camp if it were not for the mosquitoes.
At last a moose.
93km Dawson City to Camping
65km Camping to Moose Creek Cabin
95km Moose Creek Cabin to Pelly Crossing
89km Pelly Crossing to Tatchun Lake camping
37km Tatchun Lake to Frenchman’s Lake Camping on backroad
82km Frenchman’s Lake Camping to Drury Creek Camping
The ride through the lower half of the highway was very pretty if a little more trafficked than the rest of the ride as the river ferry started operating and some of the spring camper and truck traffic started making its way up the highway. From Eagle Plains there were five days of riding through the mountains and the biking-legs kicked in a tad and I rediscovered just a little bit of the long-lost touring stamina.
63km: From Eagle Plains along the top of the range.
73km: Roller-coaster over the Ogilvie Range.
85km: Gradual up long-side the Peel River then up a pass.
77km: Up the long final pass all day.
112km: Down the last 72km of the Dempster Hwy then along the North Klondike Hwy to Dawson City.
Found this photo on the wall of the Eagle Plains restaurant. This is how they used to bike the Dempster. Truly hardcore! That tent would be 10kg.
The beautiful road through the shallow valley on the way up to the final pass of the Dempster.
The lovely Co-Motion near the Tombstone Mountain campsite about one day’s ride (75km) from the bottom of the highway.
Sometimes you just get really really lucky with a hotel (as I did at he lovely Downtown Hotel in Dawson City). Leg Heaven feels a little bit like this.
Dawson City is a cute gold-rush nostalgia town in northern Yukon; with great pizza, lashings of beer and a large spa bath.
After a little pit-stop in Inuvik am onto the Dempster Highway proper, the northern road to Tuktoyaktuk only having opened as an adjunct to the Dempster in 2018. The first part of the highway south is a flattish undulating forest road down to the two river crossings 61km apart at Mackenzie River and Peel River. It is Spring so the thaw is on and the vehicle transport ferries are not operating due to the ice flowing down into the delta, draining a fifth of Canada the guide tells me.
Having jumped in a little boat with one of the local trappers to cross the Peel River, your correspondent heads up into the mountains. [below is a link to a video from the first part of the highway].
The first of the mountain legs beyond the Peel River crossing. Lovely barren hills of the Richardson Mountain Range. Gradients not pleasant on the legs though. Absolutely no polka-dot jerseys to be seen here. The mountains are hellish for this out-of-condition rider and the gradients are truly debilitating in places. But southwards we forge.
The barren snow strewn Richardson Mountains in Northwest Territories. Vry beautiful but his was an ugly little pass.
Crossing out of The Northwest Territories into Yukon with a stunned selfie.
The road continues to be a joy as the ferries that cross the Mackenzie and Peel rivers have not started operating for the summer season yet due to ‘the thaw’. As a consequence there is no vehicle traffic at all apart from locals and the occasional territorial truck; maybe half a dozen a day. So I pretty well have the road to myself every day! Perfect timing. Above is the (mandatory) photo at the marker for the crossing southwards over the Arctic Circle (‘pink-nosing’ as opposed to the ‘blue-nosing’ of naval parlance I suggest).
Rarely in the history of international bicycle touring has a sign-post been greeted with more joy and unbridled relief than this sign 2km out from the lovely Eagle Plains restaurant and lodge (170km south of Peel River crossing).
Here at Buff3ysbicycling blog as key influencers in matters culinary, we like to keep our fingers on the collective pulse of food fashion. On our left we have a rich concoction of deb instant potato with delicate shards of spam. This is beautifully complimented with Nescafe. Add some butter and salt to the potato to taste, particularly if you feel any compulsion to gag or throw-up.
Stage One of the ride runs across a road from the Arctic coast that has only been open since 2018. It runs for 148km southwards to Inuvic and offers up short yet horrid little climbs every 500metres or so. Up a nasty little gradient for a few hundred metres, then down again…all day. No land-speed records broken here I’m afraid as the legs are pretty well toasted after sadly pathetic distances each day (50km+60km+38km). But no matter, will enjoy the gob-smacking scenery and just churn out the 50km days across the tundra until some semblance of condition returns to the legs .
My camp out on the tundra south of Tuk. Quite a challenge to find a place that is not soggy. The Nemo2P tent is smaller than the MSR HubbaHubba and heaven knows how two people might fit into this thing. But the star is the EXPED mattress (very comfortable). Great to be sleeping each day after giving it a bit out on the road, only interrupted by the occasional distant shotgun pop while people blast away at the odd duck.
The midnight sun over the Arctic Ocean at Toktoyaktuk
And so it begins. This crisp clear day in late May finds Buff3y the Hardcore Adventure Cyclist at the top of the Dempster Highway, at the top of the continent of North America. I had a bit of a test ride with the fully packed bike on the way up here to Tuktoyaktuk and regret to inform of a decidedly softish core to the legs. It has been seven years since I last headed out on the long-road and can unhappily report here that the concept of muscle memory is completely bogus; the sweet memory of plowing up Andean switch-backs sadly a very distant one.
The Bear Deterrent (which cost freakin’ C$75) has to be sprayed directly into the grizzly’s eyes or a scene from Revenant will most likely ensue.
The hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk is nestled up against a still-frozen Arctic Ocean in far-northern Canada (refer video of idiot trying to dip wheels in the ocean). It plays host to the early warning station for tracking in-coming military hardware that might lob in from Russia and land on Canada or the USA. It is also strewn with the remnant tanks and other infrastructure from the 1970’s oil boom. The simple wooden houses are super-insulated and one is a guest house that not only accommodates but serves up a bowl of beef stew to a tired cyclist.
I caught a ride up here after the experimental 50km test ride on the loaded bike out of the town of Inuvik, 148km to the south. The legs go to complete jello after a depressingly short distance along the gently rolling dirt road so am delighted to see John and his magnificently warm Ford something-or-other truck arrive. John is a Tuk local who points out every type of bird and squirrel he somehow manages to see from hundreds of yards away, while we trundle over the smooth dirt highway that will be my route southwards in a day’s time. The tundra is still covered with snow and the sea is frozen in many places and the whole vista is dazzlingly clear and incredibly beautiful.
The ride south will start with the 148km leg back down to Inuvik. Just south of Inuvik there are two river crossings by ferry. It is mid-May so ‘the thaw’ is on and these ferries only start operating after this thaw has done its thing, allowing me further south. The Dempster then crosses southwards over the Arctic Circle and into Yukon finishing just 40km short of Dawson City (a town I remember fondly from previous travels in this part of the world).
After that the plan is to follow the line of the Rockies south-eastwards into Montana and points south.
Buff3y the Hardcore Solo Adventure Cyclist is heading out on the long road again. Yes, against the clear, repeated and quite sound advice of his cardiologist and bank manager, Buff3y is heading to South Africa after April and will be heading north. Stay tuned.