I think it’s clearing up: Roadtripping Yukon and cycling the Yellowhead Highway

Ramblers, let ramble.

Ramblers, let’s ramble.

Deutsche Version: Roadtrip durch den Yukon und Yellowhead Highway per Fahrrad

Version española: Nuestro gran viaje en carro

I think it’s clearing up: Roadtripping Yukon and cycling the Yellowhead Highway

Country: Canada

From Inuvik to Jasper

Lesson learned: Canada is huge

Laughed about: Mike’s rain spell

Most wonderful miracle: Fishing grizzlies

Greatest challenge: Rain, drizzle and showers

Days on the bike: 9 and two real short days

Kilometers cycled: 923

Average Kilometers per day: 92.3

Total Kilometers cycled till Jasper: 21,996

I think it’s clearing up:  Cycling the Yellowhead Highway from Prince George to Edmonton and back to Jasper and roadtripping Yukon and the NWT from Inuvik to Dawson City, Keno, Mayo, Whitehorse, Steward and Hyder to Prince George.

Luzia in Inuvik

Luzia decided to cook inside today

It was just perfect timing. The day of our arrival to Inuvik was also the opening day of the annual Great Northern Arts Festival. We visited as many of the shows as we could, but unfortunately the pieces of beautiful art and the workshops were just far above our budget.

Celebrating Autonomy

Celebrating Autonomy

We had a few hot and sunny days and chatted with the locals, who explained us why they love Inuvik. But soon the sun turned into cold drizzle and it was time to move on. There was no way we would cycle the Dempster back down, but we were in luck.

The Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik

The Great Northern Arts Festival

Rohan and Heather, whom we met during the signing of an Inuvialuit treaty (long story). It’s their honeymoon and they have rented a big car to ride down to the sea.

Heather y Rohan

Heather and Rohan

There’s space enough for two more people, bikes and heaps of bags and soon after we found ourselves rushing down the Dempster. Everything happened so fast!

Rain in Inuvik

That’s what Inuvik offered us after some nice sunny days

Soon we were far down south and it was about 1.30 am and we were able to watch a spectacular sunset (yes, the sun sets again!). We spent the night back in good old Engineer Creek, where they have now fixed the stovepipe!

Heather an Rohan's wedding picture

The coolest wedding project ever! Rohan and Heather saved the money for a wedding photographer and instead took their wedding clothes on their honeymoon to take very unique pictures themselves

But the place felt quite lonely and silent without the rain team. And believe it or not – after 13 days on riding up the Dempster without seeing a single bear, today we spotted two Grizzlies!

Covered by a thin layer of dirt

Covered by a thin layer of dirt

The original plan was to leave Heather and Rohan at the intersection and hitch another ride towards Whitehorse. But after hours and not a single car, we went for a change of plans, packed those bags back on the bikes and rode the 40 Kilometers back into Dawson City.

North by bike - south a ride

Looking for a ride back down to Dawson City

I was quite surprised to see every single campground sold out, but more often than not as cyclists we get an “Extrawurst”, a special treatment. And in fact we were in luck and got ourselves onto the very last free campspot.

Comfy ride. Took us 13 days to ride up and 2 days for the way back

Comfy ride. Took us 13 days to ride up and 2 days for the way back

In Dawson City it is normal to see extraordinary people. But these days there were far more hippies, musicians and hipsters than usual. And all of them moved on bicycles! It was the annual Dawson City Music Festival!

Camping food

A very late but super delicious dinner on the side of the road

We didn’t feel like spending $148.50 for the ticket or like committing to volunteer schedule, so we just had some beers in the beergarden and listened to the music, without ever entering the music tent. This is where we met Mike, who foolishly asked Roberto to guard his Tacos while he went for some beer.

Our first sunset

Our first sunset

Roberto somehow resisted the urge to eat them all and this was the beginning of a great friendship. Mike is a 35 year old carpenter from Oregon, Canada.

Conocimos A MIke

We first met Mike (the one in red and black) at the Music Festival’s beer garden

His family has moved here from Ireland and Mike is proud of both his heritages. Free from job or girlfriend he grabbed this opportunity to buy himself a little camping van and get to know North America.

Interior del Carro

Road Tripping

And happened that this camping van was rather spacey and headed to Whitehorse. We didn’t hesitate a moment when Mike offered us a ride with him. The 500 Kilometers to Whitehorse were said to be boring, but Mike knew how to spice the ride up.

Keno City's library

Keno City’s library is also its church

We took a left for a 110 kilometer detour into Mayo and Keno. Keno was home to 15-20 people and was founded thanks to the silver mines. Nowadays there’s a three-building museum, a motel, a bar, two restaurants and a campground. Quite some businesses for so few habitants.

Keno's signpost

Up towards Keno’s signpost

After a beer and some Chili we chatted with some of the locals (a third of the population to be exact) who had a cigarette outside the bar. They recommended us to visit “the signpost”.

Keno's signpost

Keno’s signpost

Another 14 very bumpy kilometers later we found ourselves above the timberline, facing “the signpost” (in fact I believe there should be more signposts indicating the way to “the signpost”).

What we were walking on

What we were walking on

Even the rain had stopped! Now we knew exactly how far it was to Moscow, Mexico City, Hamburg and Sydney. But seriously the views alone would have been worth the ride.

Una Parada Estrategica

Woop woooop

It took us another day to reach Whitehorse, where we stayed with warmshowers host Philippe from Québec. Here was where I found out that in order to enter the United States after August 12th, I would have to get myself a new passport.

The five finger rapids

I had read about this place back when I was a little girl and now I was finally there.

So I called the closest consulate and made an appointment in two weeks. But being “the closest” and looking really near on a map doesn’t make it any “close”. Edmonton was 2400 kilometers away. I am still on the way to fully understand how very huge Canada is.

At Philipe's house in Whitehorse

At Philippe’s house in Whitehorse

Mike offered us to continue the journey with him until Prince George, where he would turn south and we would turn east. From Prince George it was no more than 800 kilometers to go, an easy ride you could say. But that meant that we couldn’t cycle the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, also known as “Bear Alley”.

Roadtripping Canada

View from my seat

So we packed our stuff back into the van and got going. As usual it was rainy mixed with drizzle and showers. But as a highlight of the day we saw a very clear rainbow that ended right in front of the car on the road!

Rainbow on the road

Rainbow on the road

Half-Irish Mike was rather disappointed about the lack of a sack of gold. That must have sat on the other end then I suppose. We saw a few moose but no bears at all. Came night we pitched the tent on a pullout and grilled some hotdogs.

Comiendo el Lunch

Lunch Stop

It was probably not the brightest idea to have a BBQ right next to where we would pitch the tent, in an area known for the huge amounts of bears, but we couldn’t be bothered. Seems like we repel bears if even on the bear-alley we didn’t see a single one.

The fox!

The fox!

It was only drizzling when we packed our things. And today finally we saw our first two black bears plus a colorful fox and two moose. We left the bear-alley for a 60-something kilometer detour into Alaska. Yes you read right, Alaska.

Bear viewing in Hyder

On the way to see some bears

We’ve biked and driven more than 3000 kilometers through Canada, only to find ourselves back at the Alaskan border, only a bit further south. It was a ten-minute drive from Stewart, Canada to Hyder, Alaska and all that made the border was a sign “Welcome to Alaska”. I never thought there was such an easy way to enter the United States.

Cazando Salmon

Catching Salmon

Hyder is known as a “ghost town” but with 87 living people inhabiting the town I have a bit of a hard time calling it a ghost town. Just after town there was a bear viewing boardwalk where – with a bit of luck – we could turn $5 into the unique experience of watching a grizzly catch its favorite food: fish salmon.

Enfocando

We just couldn’t stop

And yes, we indeed were in luck! We saw two grizzlies feeding themselves. It was absolutely impressive and one of the big highlights of our time in North America.

And we know that after biking most of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway we would certainly have been too lazy to cycle in and out another one-way street.

Cazando Salmon 1

These fluffy grizzlies are so fast!

So we made our way back and – surprise – on the way back into Canada there was an actual border control. And – double surprise – seems like they hadn’t done enough car searches throughout the day, so we spent quite a while waiting to be allowed to re-enter Canada after 2 ½ hours out of the country.

Big glacier

Awesome views

On the cool side though, if you reach the border between midnight and 8 am, you can just register yourself via phone. Easy as.

We spent the night turning wet logs into a warming fire and turning cool beers into tipsiness.

Foggy morning

Foggy morning

On the way back to the bear-alley we stopped over and over again. These 60 kilometers were the most scenic ones we’ve seen after the Dempster. There were glaciers and mountains to both sides plus many creeks with white water, meadows and trees.

Roberto turned every single rock classic louder than the last one. The Irish leprechaun and the Hawaiian Hula girl on the dashboard danced, we sang. Every now and then a book fell off the shelf into Roberto’s lap and every time Mike opened the window to have a cigarette, the rear part of the bus smelled like sewage. The landscape turned back into the good old Taiga and we just enjoyed our great road trip with Mike.

The good old rambler-mobile

The good old rambler-mobile

After 874 Kilometers we reached the end of the bear-alley and turned left into the Yellowhead Highway (we’d stay on this one for 1220 kilometers). Still, the scenery remained the same with hardly any gas stations or even villages.

How NOT to approach a bear

How NOT to approach a bear

Driving and cycling through is a good way to really grasp the size of this country. I mean, I’ve seen the maps, I’ve done the math, I theoretically knew before I came. But being here and making kilometer after kilometer, that’s a whole different thing.

Eventually we reached the first village and from here on we found our way into actual towns. There were flush toilets, phone reception (but also less public phones), electricity without loud generators, pizza and burgers. It all felt so odd.

Ramblers, let ramble.

Ramblers, let’s ramble.

We got ourselves a Pizza before we pitched the tent on a rest area. From here it wasn’t a long ride to Prince George, where we invited Mike for a last delicious Chinese all-you-can-eat dinner. And we could eat loads.

Bye bye Mike!

Bye bye Mike!

In the morning I was rather surprised to see the sky in a light grey and with no rain at all. “I think it’s clearing up”, was all Mike had to say about this, while he carried the coffee water over to me. Mike usually believes that it is clearing up and he tends to state this several times in a day.

Viewpoint

Viewpoint

Ever since we met him, we’ve now had ten consecutive days with rain. Somehow I believe that “It’s clearing up” is a secret spell for “we need more rain”.

It was 11 am when we had finally hugged and packed and hugged again. But we were sure “the ramblers” would meet again soon.

Teaming up with Wai Hung from Hong Kong

Teaming up with Wai Hung from Hong Kong

We got on the road and biked under the first sunrays since Dawson City. It was a hilly road, but with the great pavement we didn’t mind too much. It rained on us twice but we reached another rest area just before the third big downpour. This was where we met Wai Hung from Hong Kong.

Bear proof food containers on Canada's campgrounds

Bear proof food containers on the campgrounds

He was on his way down to Mexico as well and we had lots of experiences to exchange. We cooked our dinners under the shelter of the toilet building (flush toilets, can you believe that?!) and decided to camp together again by the following day. Wai enjoys getting up very early, so we decided to cycle separately and rather only meet at night.

Typical lunch break

Typical lunch break

It took us a while to get started again in the morning. With the rain outside I’d much rather stay inside the fluffy sleeping bag than put the wet shoes back on and bike. But if we wanted to make it to Edmonton in time for my appointment, we would have to bike an average of 80 kilometers every day.

Roberto enjoys the Jasper National Park

Roberto enjoys the Jasper National Park

It was a particularly hilly ride, but after 20 kilometers the rain stopped and my mind started to wander. I had daydreams of Schnitzel and Kohlrabi. The traffic wasn’t too bad and all logging trucks drove in the opposite direction.

Mount Robson

Mount Robson

We shared a campsite with shower just after McBride. Falling asleep in the rain, waking up with rain, it has all gotten normal. That didn’t make it less annoying though. The higher up into the Rockies we biked, the better the views. In the afternoon it cleared up and when we pitched the tent next to Wai’s at the Mount Robson National Park, we were all dry again.

Nordic Flowers

Nordic Flowers

Now we have certainly left the lonesome North and entered the touristy Rockies. There was a little café but when we saw the prices we decided to just grab a single banana for our oatmeal. If we had known that we’d have to pay $1.75 for it, we would have gone without. Only one day later and 100 Kilometer further, Wai will have bought six bananas for the same price.

With Wai Hung

With Wai Hung

We took our time again because it really seemed to be clearing up now. And we certainly wanted to have a good look at 3,954 meter high Mount Robson. Today we crossed the border from British Columbia to Alberta and from the Mount Robson Provincial Park to the Jasper National Park, where we encountered a gate. Apparently there was a fee to visit the Park, it’s $9.80 per person per day.

Meadows

Meadows

On the way to the supermarket we ran into two very nice Australian couples, had a quick chat and then hurried on – we were really hungry and excited for some grocery shopping. I had an old but reduced loaf of bread in my hand and we were just discussing whether to buy two fresh or six overripe bananas, when the two couples came into the store too.After some more chats, they decided just like that that they would like to support us in some way, so each couple gave us $50. Wow that came completely unexpected. So we thanked them a lot (and thanks so much again if you are reading this!) and filled our basket with (fresh) bread, Nutella, chocolate, peanut butter, jam, chips, trail mix, drink syrup, tuna, cookies and sweet syrup.

Big shopping

Big shopping

Jasper was very touristy, it reminded me a bit of a small Queenstown. There were no campgrounds in town, but three nearby. The closest was only 3 kilometers away and so big that I grabbed the bike to get to the shower building. 26 out of the whopping 781 camspots were “walk in”, mostly for hikers, kayakers and cyclists without vehicles. So even though all three campgrounds were full, we still found ourselves a spot and invited Wai for the night.

Look at all this food!

Look at all this food!

We usually get going late. But today we were extremely late, even for our standarts. Thing is there was a shower building, we had to wait for the tent to dry, and then it took us a full hour to get some methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) for the Trangia stove. They sold 100 things that were kind of similar, but when it’s a question of exploding or not exploding the stove, then I’d rather stay on the safe side. So we got ourselves some fondue liquid, biked back to the campground, picked up our luggage and got going. It was 2 pm and our park permit was valid until 4 pm. But it was more than 50 kilometers to the gate.

Biking through Jasper

Biking through Jasper

We were in luck. Most of the ride was downhill with a light tailwind. The views were so stunning that under normal circumstances we would have taken hours and hours with picture breaks, but now we rushed through in 2 hours and 12 minutes. There were crystal clear lakes and rivers full of glacier water, mountains, rocks and forests and I felt like in the middle of a postcard.

The traffic got worse and the highway wider, but there was always enough space for us on the shoulder. This would not change all the way to Edmonton.

The famous town's grouch

The famous town’s grouch

We spent the first night on a field near the road, the second night in the camping area of a huge rest area and the third one behind a little gas station somewhere far from anywhere else. That day was also our first day without a single raindrop raining down. I think I can say that we very much deserved a dry day.

Cycling Stony Plain

Stony Plain, our last stop before Edmonton

In Edmonton we stayed with Brigit and Gary. Brigit is our friend Kat’s mother who called us all via skype from Christchurch, New Zealand on the very first evening. While we were staying over, Brigit and Gary also hosted exchange student Yukina from Japan and grandchildren Carter and Caris.

Sweet Carter and Caris

Sweet Carter and Caris

Gary and Brigit are very friendly, honest and warm-hearted people and most evenings they had friends and family over for dinner. We also cooked twice (remember the Schnitzel I was daydreaming about?) .

Gary, Brigit, Carter, Caris, Annika and Roberto

We might need some more practice with the “crazy faces” pictures. Gary, Brigit, Carter, Caris, Annika and Roberto

Back in January of 2013 their backyard might have been Edmonton’s most famous one. The reason for that was a handbuilt colorful igloo that Kat’s boyfriend Dan, a civil engineer, constructed with the help of everyone who wanted to help. Brigit was worried that Dan might be bored during his 5-week visit in the icy cold Edmonton and decided to give him a challenge.

Dan and Kat in their Igloo

Dan and Kat in their Igloo

So for days and days everybody kept filling milk boxes with water and food coloring and Dan stacked them on top of each other, using Kat’s “snowcrete” (snow and water mix). The colorful igloo was the neighborhood’s hit and Dan wasn’t bored for a single moment.

 

The passport application was a quick and easy but very costly process. We spent the rest of the day in town and I really don’t understand, why some people mock Edmondon as “Deadmonton”, because there was really so much going on here!

Dan, Kat and Brigit

Dan, Kat and Brigit

Gary gave us and the bikes a ride into one of the suburbs, so that we could avoid going through city traffic again. We wanted to go back to Jasper, but cycling the same four days of boring and busy roads was not too tempting. So we decided to bike until the first gas station on our side and to look for a ride there. Little did we know that the first one on the right was the big rest area we had slept on before, and that it was nearly 130 kilometers till there. I was expecting maybe some 25.

Edmonton's Mall

Edmonton is home to North America’s second biggest Mall. There is a mini-golf course, an ice skating part, a wonderland with roller coaster and a swimming pool

So we spent another night before we ran into a nice couple who gave us a ride to Jasper. Our campspot was available and we shared it with Aaron and Zoe, two nice hikers who were as happy about company and half price camping as we were.

Now we were excited, this is where we’d leave the Yellowhead Highway and head south right through the Rockies, along the famous Icefields Parkway. You can read about that next part of our travel here: Cycling the Icefields Parkway

Nice Camping neighbors

Nice Camping neighbors

 

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