GRMA Day 22: The Yukon and the Northern End of the Rockies
In 1942 American engineers and servicemen worked under brutal conditions to construct a highway to Alaska so supplies and war materiel could be transported there for shipment to our Russian ally. The U.S. also built a series of landing strips for the Army Air Force to use in its shuttle efforts. Today I rode on the the Alaska Highway which they built and will sleep in a building constructed as barracks for a dozen Army Air Corps officers to use as they shuttled planes and supplies from the the lower 48 to Alaska. It’s the oldest building in Watson Lake and my room is 9×14 with a single twin bed, a small desk and a small TV on a shelf in one corner (an upgrade since 1942). I will share showers with other men staying here tonight just as the pilots did 73 years ago. Women who stay here also have to share their own showers. And all this for only $82.95. It’s all part of the adventure.
The ride from Dease Lake was pleasant and not very long. Under blue skies, at least for the first hour, I motored north on the Cassiar Highway (Highway 37). About 15 minutes into the ride a small black fox crossed in front of me and ran into the brush. I determined to slow down a little and if I saw any more critters to try to get a picture. An hour or so later, I saw a second black fox standing on the edge of the road. I stopped as quickly as I could, about 75 yards from the fox, and shut the motor off. He sat down, cocked his head, perked up his oversized ears and tried to figure out what I was. I dismounted and opened the tour pack for the camera. He remained seated and I fired off a couple shots with my lens fully extended to 1000 mm. I decided to move as close as I could and started walking slowly up the road. He stood and unhurriedly began to saunter back across the road. When I stopped, he stopped. I got to within 50 yards when two cars came up behind me and I had to wave them through. As they went by me, the fox left the road and disappeared noiselessly into the thick woods. But it was a nice encounter while it lasted.
When I got to my room (cell?) I looked for my furry friend on the (slow WiFi) Internet. Turns out he’s not a black fox but a Silver Fox, some of whom, apparently, can have significant black coloring. I think this one was a youngster because he wasn’t very big. If you’ll notice in the picture, the tip of the tail is white and there is some silver visible on his tail fur. The photo would have been better if I had been able to use a tripod; you can’t hold a 1000 mm lens still enough in your hands, especially if it’s overcast and the shutter speed is slow. But, anyway, that was my Wild Kingdom encounter for the day. Pretty cool, eh?
As I drove southeast on the Alaska Highway and crossed the Liard River, I realized that half my Rocky Mountain loop has been completed. I’ve gone from south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Yukon Territory of Canada along the great Rocky Mountain range. I’ve ridden for hours in some of the most scenic country North America has to offer and met some fine people along the way. I’ve seen animals I haven’t seen before up close but not real personal. I have a disgustingly dirty bike with 57,000 miles on it that runs a lot better than it looks.
Retirement is a good thing. I know people get tired of hearing me say that, but I’ve decided to become an evangelist for retirement. It’s my new calling, my new mission. “Hear Me My Brothers and Sisters! Give Up Your Working Ways! Join Me on the Retirement Trip to the Promised Land!” I know I have the advantage of being old which makes retirement easier. But, damn, this is fun.
When in Watson Lake, I think its obligitory to pay homage to the Sign Post Forest, where, since WWII, travelers have been adding their names and their hometowns to what is now a collection of more than 100,000 signs. They’ve quit counting, I think. I still haven’t put one up yet. Maybe the next time through, eh Mark?
This evening, I went for a relaxing hike around a small lake near where I’m staying. The only wildlife I saw were some unidentifiable ducks, but it was pleasant to stretch my motorcycle muscles on an hour-long stroll through the woods and along the shore, watching the clouds change shape and a rainbow form following an earlier afternoon shower. I even found some Arctic Lupine, cousin to the flowers that colored my trip through Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland last year. It was a peaceful way to end the day.
Tomorrow I’ll spend all day motoring southeast on the Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson. Hopefully, there will be more adventures and I’m sure there’s going to be more awesome scenery.