Great Alaska Adventure: Backtracking
Today’s ride from Buckshot Betty’s in Beaver Creek to the Klondike Inn in Whitehorse, YT, reminded me that second chances often yield rewarding results. On the way to Alaska we passed but did not stop at several potential sites that looked interesting. Today we stopped at one with edifying returns. More on this great “find” later in the blog.
Last night we decided six days of travel without cleaning the bikes was enough and spent more than an hour relieving the Harleys of thick grime, mud, bugs dust and assorted crap that accumulates on a ride like this one. Now, they weren’t pristine by any stretch, but they looked a lot better after 60 minutes of suds and rinse and the worst of the dirt and detritus were gone. That clean condition lasted about two hours into today’s ride when we drove through the first of two long construction stretches marked with less-than-helpful “Extremely dusty conditions likely” signs. Oh yeah. They were extremely dusty. The two sections combined probably went for about 10 miles and every time a car or a truck or especially an RV passed, a dust cloud enveloped bikes and riders, befouling our clean machines and making seeing more than three feet next to impossible for three or four seconds. Then we would bump along at a safe 25 miles an hour until a recreational behemoth would roar by again on its way to warp speed. I haven’t decided if I’ll spend any of my down time tomorrow in Whitehorse trying to reclaim shiny paint and sparkling chrome. Even if I do, the next day and the next construction zone would tarnish my resplendent ride. It’s a dusty dilemma.
The highway war zone was only a small part of the scenery, and a long part of the ride had towering white-frosted peaks on one side of the road and the cerulean waters of beautiful glacier-fed Kluane Lake on the other. And no wilderness palette would be complete without a rainbow of color provided by millions of wildflowers taking advantage of a short growing season to all grow at once. I stopped several times for photo ops but I’m a miserable failure trying to digitally ensnare what nature wrought all around us. I’ll included a couple of the shots I took, though, so you can see some of the sensual beauty we had to endure on our ride south on the Alaska Highway.
Now to return to my comments in the first paragraph. On the way through Haines Junction, YT, two weeks ago, I noticed a sign for a “Visitor and Cultural Center” but sped by without giving it much thought. Today after lunching on a tasty spanakopita (Greek spinach/feta pie made with phyllo) while Marilyn devoured a pureed vegetable soup with roasted yam chunks at a wonderful bakery/cafe, I decided to stop at the “visitor center” to see what local information I could learn. It would only take a few minutes and then we’d be back to business on the road. Two hours after we entered the Kluane National Park and Preserve Visitor Center and Da Ku Cultural Center for the Southern Tuchone First Nations, Marilyn had to drag me out, reminding me that we had to go to Whitehorse.
The facility is brand new and serves a dual purpose of explaining the park and presenting artistic and cultural works of some of Canada’s native people. Gorgeous facility, great exhibits and a tremendously knowledgeable and helpful staff of curators and Parks Canada ranger/interpreters. I knew I was in or near a national park but had no idea of the extent of the park and all that it offered. In addition to learning more about the history of the First Nations, including being removed from their land in a similar way to the treatment of Native Americans in the United States, I also discovered much about the geography encompassed by Kluane National Park and three adjacent provincial and national parks that together form the largest protected geographic area in the world (almost 38,000 square miles or the size of Indiana). Kluane NP contains Canada’s highest mountain (Mt. Logan) at 19,500+ feet, which makes it second only to Denali in North America in height, but it’s number in total mass. It also contains part of the largest non-arctic ice field in the world and that ice field, including nearly 2000 glaciers, covers 80% of the park.
As a result of this “brief” stop at the visitor center I may have added another item to my bucket list. A helpful ranger told me that a river that begins near Haines Junction (Alsek River) goes through Kluane National Park, a British Columbia provincial park, and a U.S. National Park in Alaska before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. And you can ride that river in a raft for two weeks though canyons with class 5-6 rapids, camp in prime grizzly bear country, and visit several massive glaciers. Sounds good to me. Just need to add a couple weeks to my next journey north. Marilyn said she’d pass on that adventure
There was so much to see and learn in the National Park side of the visitor center that I didn’t get a chance to look long at the art and cultural side of the building. But I’ll be back.
Made it to Whitehorse in good order (with filthy bikes again) and will take tomorrow off to see more of Yukon Territory’s capital city.