Good collection of pics to summarize the trip. Also I have provided the full Spot GPS dump (in GPX format) of the trip here: Full-Tuk-Trip
Relaxing out at the cabin was great, I spotted one last mangy wild animal.
When I got home Ash pressure washed me down, everything I had was covered in dust. Its going to get some getting use to being back in civilization. I have to go to sleep at a certain time now, I cant just stop and take a pee on the side of any road, but I’m going to enjoy not having to setup a tent every night.
The Heidenau K60 tires lasted well considering the conditions I rode on. I figure I will get around 12,000KM out of the back and double from the front. The Dempster gravel really wears them down.
Overall the trip was great, the gear was perfect and the bike performed flawlessly. One thing I regret taking was my SLR camera, it was just too bulky and I found I didn’t take it out much. Other than that there were a few things on the bike I would have changed, but nothing major. My immediate thoughts looking back include:
- Prepare for cold and rain
- Stick to campgrounds for camping, they are plentiful and cheap
- Invest in some good tires that will make the distance, consider riding road tires up to Whitehorse then swapping out
- Bring extra gas, you never know when you are going to run out
- SPOT GPS was a great way to let people know you are ok, there is no cell phone coverage up north
- Its easy to do laundry, so don’t take too many clothes, they are bulky
I never realized just how great this corner of Alberta is, it feels like Switzerland with the rolling green hills and majestic mountain peaks. Its often overshadowed by the tourist traps of Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper on the other side of this range.
The sheep were everywhere and looked shaggy as they were loosing their winter coats.
Some friends of mine in the power trading industry wanted me to stop by Nordegg and ‘send a few thousand extra BTUs of natural gas down the Nordegg line’ – huh? I did get a picture.
I couldn’t pass this area without a stop at Ram Falls.
The best roads are those with little maintenance, this stretch of the Forestry Trunk road has narrow winding sections up and down the side of the mountain, not great for making distance, but perfect for dual sport riding. The weekend party-ers were starting to arrive, by the time I hit Caroline I was navigating pickup trucks with drivers of questionable sobriety piled full of people flying down the road. In these areas its best to stay off the roads during long weekends.
Arrived at the lake after 6 hours of riding the Forestry roads.
I planned on staying the night at my parents cabin, Ash and everyone had driven out in the morning and was meeting me there for some long weekend festivities.
Ash surprised me with a Welcome Home cake, it was amazing how much detail was put into it. You can even see my rain gear strapped to the back tail bag. This was made off of pictures I had sent out during my trip, really cool.
It was nice to be off my bike and truly relax with the family for a few days.
Up early in the rain, I slept great after a long soak and was getting excited about meeting Ash at my parents Cabin. Ed was planning on heading down to the US so we were parting ways and both had a lot of miles ahead of us.
When riding so many hours you think about all sorts of things. This afternoon I started noticing the style of each caravan/RV that would drive by. Most are generic white with one or two stripes down the side. However, Puma 5th wheels have stepped up their game. Depending on the model you get an airbrushed picture of a Puma on the front. The deluxe model, have a bad ass looking Puma ripping up the brand logo. I’m not sure who they are marketing to, but I suppose someone in product development has a love of airbrushed predators on the front of trucks. It may not be ok to airbrush a wolf on the side of your mobile home, but if you get a Puma 5th wheel you can show everyone you pass how bad ass your Puma RV is. Before my next trip I’m going to get a spider monkey airbrushed on the front of my helmet.
Aside from airbushed Pumas, there were a lot of other animals throughout the day including Reindeer, Bears and Mountain Goats.
I stopped for coffee and to wait for Ed to catch up, I never saw him pass, I stayed and ate a big lunch and had another coffee, still I did not see him come by. We had planned on going separate ways today, so I thought he may have blasted by me. I didnt want to backtrack as I didnt know if he was behind or in front of me at this point so after another coffee I decided to continue forward, hopefully meeting him in Dawson Creek before he heads east and I head west.
Getting this far south I knew I was bound to hit darkness for the first time in week. I crossed into the Alberta border past Dawson Creek the sky was Alberta blue. I never bumped into Ed again and was hoping everything was fine with him.
I love small towns that try to play off their name (like Vulcan) or have the ‘biggest something’. Beaver Lodge is no different, they have, well, a giant Beaver:
As darkness settles in I found myself in unfamiliar territory. It was the long weekend and most rivers and campsites were full of people out having a good time. I was tempted to stop and pitch my tent, but I wasnt tired and wanted to make some miles. Unlike the north you cant keep taking photos at 1am:
Getting into Grande Cache I pulled into a camp ground. It was dark, cold and quiet. I was just too tired and didnt feel like setting up my wet camping gear so I decided to splurge and find a motel in town. Most places were closed, and I didnt want to lug my stuff up to a hotel room, so I settled on the luxurious cinderblock suites of Grande Cache.
Woke up early today looking forward to finishing off the dirt road and getting to Watson Lake. The weather was perfect again, and we rode past many huge lakes, felt like riding in the Okanagan without any towns or lakefront cabins.
There was little traffic on the #4 and was stopped by a family in a huge RV asking where they were. I guess they figured after driving for hours and seeing nobody, they must be lost. After talking with the RV driver a guy in an old KLR pulled up. He was from Arkansas, his riding partner that was going to be joining him had passed away a month prior to leaving, he was riding with his buddy’s ashes hanging from his handlebars.
We hit Watson Lake and checked out the Signpost Forest, people bring signposts from all over the world and nail them up here. No surprise there are a ton of signs from Germany. I even found a replacement GS fender.
After leaving Watson Lake we headed for Laird Hotsprings, along this stretch of road he ran into 12 black bears, 3 Grizzly Bears, 20+ Bison, 3 Moose, 3 Deer and a Fox. I couldnt believe how many Bears were hanging out along the road, its not wonder we were camping within this area on the way up when the bear walked up to us. The best animal to run across is a Moose, they are terrified of humans and tend to run back into the forest, not like deer that will dart back into traffic. Moose seem clumsy and goofy and always make me laugh as they scramble to get away from you. This large male was swimming in the ditch when I pulled up. He just scrambled to get away, except he was in the middle of a swamp, was hilarious to watch him stumble through the marsh to get away.
We stumbled on a mother Grizzly and her cubs playing along the side of the road, watched them for close to an hour, its rare to get so see so many animals up close, but I didnt want to get too close not being in a car. The little cubs were very curious and ran up to any car that stopped, finally he sat on the side of the road watching us and watching the odd car that passed.
Finally we arrived at Laird Hotsprings. Its one of the largest natural hotsprings in Canada and well worth the stop. Aside from the deck and stairs in, its all natural. The source is a pile of rocks and it gets progressively hotter the closer you get upstream to them, makes it easy to find the perfect temperature. I stayed there until 2am, perfect way to end the day.
Moose like to hang out around the hotsprings to eat the vegetation, on the walk back I was startled by a large moose hiding in the bushes, they stay still until they think you’ve spotted them, and then just take off. Still makes me laugh.
We got back into the Dawson junction by noon, I had a huge breakfast and checked the coolant levels on my bike. After the oil leak caused by Blackfoot, and the coolant leak caused by the rock, I wanted to check all pertinent fluid levels. Both were perfect. Before heading up the Dempster I had stashed some supplies under an old abandoned bus. I thought they may come in handy if I need a coolant top-up on my return trip. Since everything was looking good I donated the supplies to the local shop that had given me the epoxy I used to fix my radiator a few days ago.
From this point there was no backtracking on the way back to Calgary. I had mapped out a route that would take us on different roads, the frist section was from Flat Creek to Carmacks. From here we would take a gravel road for 2 days to Watson Lake. In Carmacks we met a German guy and girl from Schwerin who were spending the next few months exploring the north, would be nice to get that much time off.
The road from Carmacks was a great mix of gravel, dirt, and rough pavement. We camped at Ross River that had a nice site overlooking the canyon. I thought it would be a good idea to hike down a steep hill to the river to replenish our water reserves. The hill was mossy and damp and I lost my footing tossing my filter and bottle in the air and tumbling down. I couldnt help but laugh as the hill was soft and mossy, but could have done without the laughing and heckling from Ed who after seeing how I got down was curious how I was going to get back up.