Prince George, Yukon Territory, And Fairbanks
The ride from Clinton to Prince George went as expected, considering the circumstances. I found a forest fire roadblock about 50 miles into the ride and was sent on a 200-mile circuitous route to my destination. I reached Prince George by 9:00 PM and after briefly meeting my hosts I was shown to my quarters. While unloading my bike I got to talking with my host, Alec, and found him to be a fascinating individual. We stayed up until 3:00 AM sharing adventure stories. Alec is passionate about skiing and works seasonally on either ski search and rescue or ski instruction. He has tons of experience and all the certifications you can possibly get, so anyone relying on Alec is in very good hands.
The following morning Alec and I headed into town for breakfast and a driving tour of Prince George. I told Alec about my upcoming adventure to Prudhoe Bay and he saw right through me — I’m terrified of bears. “I’m going to give you a primer on camping in bear territory,” he said, and took me for a hike. He told me all about the trees, the vegetation, and, most importantly, how to determine whether I was infringing on a bear’s food cache or territory. “See that nice berry patch? Ok, I know it’ll look tempting to pitch your tent right underneath because the ground is so nice and smooth. Don’t do it! Bears love these berries.” On and on the instructions went and I wished I had brought my notebook. Alec is like a walking encyclopedia and can tell you all about the terrain, the trees, its history, and even make economic projections based on the current political climate.
I learned from Alec that Prince George is the Northern Capital and the largest city in northern British Columbia with 74,000 people. The city is situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako rivers, and at the crossroads of highway 16 and highway 97, making it the service and supply hub for one of the fastest growing regions in Canada, playing an important role in the province’s economy and culture. The city was established in the centuries-old homeland of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, whose very name means “people of the confluence of two rivers.”
Later that evening Alec, his daughter Julia, and I went to dinner. I learned that Julia is preparing for an adventure of her own. She’s leaving at the end of July 2017 for a trip to Ireland and from there will continue onto Eastern Europe. She struck me as a smart and adventurous young woman, probably following in the footsteps of her father. After dinner Alec asked if I could take Julia for a ride on my motorcycle — Julia was too shy to ask herself — and I gladly did. We went on a ride of a highway loop that goes around and then bisects Prince George. When we finally got home Julia said that it had been decided — she’s getting a motorcycle.
The morning of my departure, Alec made breakfast — the world famous Alec Berry Pancakes. After enjoying a hearty breakfast, I was once again treated to Alec’s kindness. “I’m worried about you going up north,” he said, and made sure I had all the appropriate gear. He gave me a sweater and two additional pairs of gloves that will keep me warm as I make my way to Prudhoe Bay. Alec has impressed me as an extremely kind and caring individual. He opened his home to a total stranger and made me feel like family. For that I’ll be always in his debt. He also impressed me as an incredibly resilient individual, as he has endured the most excruciating pain a human can imagine — the untimely death of a child. Alec honored me by sharing anecdotes about his daughter’s life and eventual passing. Alec is a remarkable individual and I consider myself lucky to have met him.
Later that morning I made my way to Fort Saint John via Dawson Creek, starting point of the world famous Alaskan Highway. I rented a room in Fort Saint John and my stay there was decisively different. The owner of the home sent me a message to let me know she wouldn’t be there when I arrived, but to walk right in. The home was so dirty that it looked like the lair of a deranged person. Although there was only one little pug, the entire house smelled like an animal shelter — one that’s particularly poorly managed. The bedroom I was assigned showed signs that not only it had been recently slept in, but also that whomever had previously stayed here had climbed through a window without anyone knowing. Or perhaps it hadn’t even been a person as it could just as well have been a wild animal. I was leaving civilization behind by this point, so trying to make new arrangements was out of the question. So I asked myself one question: what would Russ do? I laid my sleeping bag on top of the bed and made the best of the situation.
The following morning I got up at 3:00 AM and was on the road by 4:00 AM, on my way to my next stop — Liard River Hot Springs. I arrived by 1:00 PM and found a great camping spot. After setting up my tent and paying my fees, I went to the hot springs and soaked the entire afternoon. It had been a cold and rainy ride, so the hot water was soothing to my aching bones. It continued to rain for the entire afternoon and, I assume, the night. Exhausted by the ride and sleepy from the hot water, I climbed into my sleeping bag by 6:30 PM. I used one of my bags as a pillow and closed my eyes, but after a few moments I thought, this is not going to work, so I went to reposition when I noticed that it was 6:30 AM and time to get up. I had slept about 12 hours.
After breakfast I started making my way to Watson Lake. My original plan was to spend the night there and then continue on to Whitehorse, but I made such good time that I decided to go straight through. I sent Russ a text to let him know I’d be in Whitehorse a day earlier than planned and, as my luck would have it, he was already there. He sent me directions to his campground. I arrived at the Campground by 5:00 PM and setup my tent before heading into town to meet up with Russ. That night Russ and I stayed up past midnight talking about our adventures. Russ and I stayed in Whitehorse a couple more nights before making our way to the town of Tok, Alaska. Tok turned out to be a smaller town than I anticipated and we found our campground without trouble. Right after we setup our tents it started to rain, so we headed into town for a quick dinner before turning in for the night.
From Tok we started our ride to Fairbanks, from where we’ll go our separate ways. Russ will ride south to Denali National Park, where he’ll camp for four nights before heading to Anchorage and beyond. My plan is to ride north, toward Prudhoe Bay. I will camp at the halfway point — Coldfoot — before reaching Prudhoe Bay the following day. I’ll spend the night in Prudhoe Bay and take a tour of the Arctic Ocean shore before heading back to Coldfoot and, eventually Fairbanks. This portion of the adventure — the Dalton Highway — is what has kept me up at night since we got to Fairbanks. It’s the most treacherous and unserviced section of road I’ll travel during this adventure, with rainy weather in the forecast for the duration of my trip. Upon my return I’ll rest in Fairbanks for a night before heading south to Anchorage. For now, though, I’m keeping my eyes on the road ahead in preparation for my adventures north.