Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Day 8 - Saturday, 5/28

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Mark (L) &
Dave (R)
Another great day! This is the first day on the trip that was solely for sightseeing, not to "get somewhere." This morning my new friends Dave and Mark and I had a simple breakfast, then headed down the road to Skagway. I really didn't have any preconceived ideas of what we'd find; I only knew that it was someplace I should visit.

The weather has been so nice that none of us had put on any warm clothes. We were all tooling down the road with no jacket liners, overpants, warm gloves, etc. The temperature was perfect- pleasantly cool. One thing I didn't ask, and soon wish I had, was whether the road was paved. After a couple of kilometers we saw the dreaded sign: "Extreme Dust Area" which meant a gravel road.

Gravel road
End of the
gravel
Now, don't get me wrong- I don't mind them as a general rule. In fact, I even enjoy riding in the dirt. It's one of the reasons I have the KLR- It's made for that sort of thing. But on this trip, it was mostly about getting somewhere, and speed is generally greatly reduced when riding on dirt. And while the bike handles dirt well, the cleaning of the chain is a pain. (I much prefer the zero-maintenance of a shaft-drive bike!)

The sign didn't say how LONG the unpaved portion was. Besides, turning a short ride into four hours each way would take up most of the day. Uh oh. After a kilometer, two, four, eight, I was beginning to wonder. Fortunately after nine kilometers, the pavement resumed.

Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake
A nice day
(for now)
Stunning
vistas
The road became really fun after that, and got really pretty. Did I say that the Yukon Territory wasn't as scenic as British Columbia? Clearly that doesn't hold true for ALL of the Yukon. The vistas were amazing. We came upon Lake Emerald, which is purportedly the most photographed lake in the Yukon. I can see why! The colors were amazing.

Never
gets old
Wow.
Road to
Skagway
Still
chilly

Beautiful
ride

Tyrolean
mountains


     
     
     
     


Along the way we stopped and took photos of the beautiful snow-capped craggy mountains. Have you been to the Swiss Alps? They look like this. It was positively Tyrolean. I'd have sworn I could almost hear Julie Andrews singing.
Carcross, BC
A little further down we stopped at the small town of Carcross (which is short for caribou crossing, though none made their presence known). It's an old frontier town that's been made into a tourist stop, much like Virginia City, NV, or Old Sacramento, CA. It was interesting, and had more panoramic views.

Kelly in
paradise
On the last portion of the drive, the road crossed into B.C., and then into Alaska. I didn't realize that Skagway was a U.S. town. So that was an unexpected milestone prize, one that I'd expected to happen tomorrow. I've now visited and ridden a motorcycle in all 50 states! :-)

What took the glow off this prize at the time was the fact that we had to cross Chillicoot Pass on the way into Skagway. It was around 4000 feet elevation. And it was cold. No, I mean COLD! We were all regretting not having worn our warmer gear. But wait, it got worse. MUCH worse. As we climbed higher and higher, we moved into a cloud. It was effectively very dense fog. Uh oh...

Brake
light
Socked In
     
The visibility was probably somewhere around 15-20 feet / 4-6 metres. At some points, I couldn't see ANYTHING except Mark's taillight (It got worse than the photo shown, but the water on the lens obscured the shots). Now, I had a tinted faceshield on my helmet, and sunglasses on too, but I don't think they made it any worse. Just darker. It was like riding inside a bottle of milk. As we climbed, the roads got wetter and wetter, as did our faceshields and windshields. We were all concerned about it starting to freeze. Fortunately that didn't happen, and we made it through without incident. I'd have posted more pics from the helmet cam, but the droplets collected on the lens.

Arriving
Skagway
Skagway, AK
Back to
Whitehorse
Picturesque
     
Once through customs and into the town, we enjoyed wandering around, seeing the little hamlet, cruise ships and port, etc.

After a little lunch, Mark picking up a T-shirt at the local Harley-Davidson store (not a real dealer, it had no bikes nor service), and my getting a fridge magnet we headed back. Not before putting on our warmer duds, and my switching to a clear helmet faceshield.

Waterfalls
everywhere
All
over
'You may
pass'

Customs
back into
the Yukon
As luck would have it, the clouds on the pass burned off a bit as the day warmed. The ride back was MUCH safer, as well as enjoyable.

Oddly, no animal sightings today at all. But the sun is marching towards its never setting- Sunrise is at 4:48am, and sunset is at 11:03pm. Wow.

Tomorrow I'm back in the U.S., and that means I'll have an easier time responding to email.

Total riding distance today: 400 mi / 644 km   Running total: 3100 mi / 4989 km

Stay tuned...

-K

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