July 26th: Anchorage to Willow Creek – 330km
After completing my last post in the hotel lobby, I joined Nate for lunch. He has been walking around town since I last saw him on Tuesday. His motorcycle needed quite a bit of work and was still in the shop until later that day. We discussed about our plans for the next month and agreed that it would be a good idea to split up at this point. He wanted to go to Homer and hire a charter to go fishing. Then he had many family members he wanted to visit in the US, so it was the right timing. We made plans to meet up close to the Mexican border about 5 weeks later. I took off around 3pm and rode on a beautiful road towards Glennhallen. There, I stopped at the grocery store for dinner and ran into John sitting outside. He was going to McCarthy and as it was one of my destinations, I decided to go with him and save Valdez for the next day. It was already late and we pitched our tents next to the pipeline somewhere along the way.
July 27th: Willow Creek to McCarthy – 160km
After packing up my stuff, I wanted to get a few pictures of the 800 miles pipeline I have been riding along for so long. Then we started making our way up the dirt road to McCarthy. My uncle Jean told me about that town which was supposed to be filled with hippies and gipsies. He has been told that it was so exclusive; they would pick you up on a shuttle and ask you to leave everything behind in your car. As we arrived in town and chatted with a girl at the visitor information booth, it turned out that the reason why there were shuttles is that the only accessible bridge is a pedestrian bridge. The other bridge requires an annual pass costing 1300$. Good news was that we were allowed to ride our motorcycles on it, so we did. On the other side was the tiny town of McCarthy and 5 miles farther was the old Kennecott mining town. We wanted to take the last mine tour at 3h30 and first got our tickets. Then we took off our gear and got ready for the tour. We had time to order a delicious pizza baked in a bus and off we were on the tour. It was interesting to learn about the history of the mine which took place between 1910 and 1940. I felt like I travelled back in time visiting all the installations. We learned about the basic processes, workers amenities and visited both processing centers and the power house. The 14 story building is actually the tallest wood building in North America; and it was built 100 years ago… Inside that building, there were tie rods used to straighten the building as it was sagging back in the days. I must say that seeing all the potential hazards that existed in there for less than 4$/day made me understand where unions came from… The power station was also very interesting with its steam boilers, generators, energy recovery devices and even belt operated air compressors! After the tour, we pitched our tents in an open space next to McCarthy and ended our day with a couple beers at the local bar.
July 28th: McCarthy to Kenney Lake– 160km
John registered to get dangled into a glacier crevasse in the morning. I was not really interested to do that for 130$ and decided to go for a hike up to one of the mines. It was a good one: 16km round trip with an altitude difference of 5000 feet. It took me a little over 2h to get up to Jumbo mine. On my way up, I saw countless green and blue copper pellets. I was told the colored ones were less than 3% copper concentration and the gunmetal color was over 70% concentration. I had not seen any gunmetal colored rock yet and I was looking for them going up. The last part was very slow as it was fairly steep and I had to climb up a hill made out of small loose rocks. When I reached the top, there was a huge pile of wooden debris. It used to be a small village, but I could only recognise the old bunkhouse. There was a bunch of artifacts found by visitors laying on benches. I particularly liked the old blacksmith’s work space. Then I climbed higher to take a look into one of the tunnels. It has been barricaded to prevent guys like me to go in. Coming down, I saw a stash of 70% copper ore rocks that has just been uncovered as snow melted a few days ago. It was probably showing up at the peak of summer every other year. On the tour I took the day before, our guide told us there was a jewelry store in town where the owner would hike up the mountains and get his own copper ore before making jewelry with it. I thought he would be happy if I brought him some, so I filled my bag with rocks!? Coming down was a lot of fun as I was literally surfing on rocks! 5h30 after leaving in the morning, I was back in town. I ordered another delicious pizza before going up to the jewelry store. I met with Larry who was a really cool guy. I asked a few questions before letting him know I had a few rocks for him if he was interested. As I pulled them out of my bag, I could see his excitement as these gunmetal rocks are getting ever rarer. He offered to trade them for jewelry and I thought it was a cool idea. He also offered to cut one of the rocks and that I keep it as a souvenir, which was awesome. I left his shop an hour later and rode the bike out of that dead end dirt road. I found a campground with showers and called it a day.
Inside the tunnel
July 29th: Kenney Lake to Tok – 550km
It took me a long time to get going in the morning as I did some maintenance on the bike and sorting in my gear. My plan was to go south to Valdez before going back up to Tok at night. Road to Valdez was very scenic. In Thompson Pass, I took the bike on a cliff to a great view. Rivers and waterfalls were on the menu after. Valdez was a cute harbour town where I had lunch in the sun. I got soaked a couple times riding up to Tok. There I stayed at Thompson’s Eagle Claw motorcycle campground where they rent an ambulance for 20$/night. The owner Vanessa really did a good job at making this place unique. I used their sauna and shower before going to bed.
July 30th: Tok, AK to Whitehorse, YT – 650km
It was cloudy out when I woke up and I left short after. I wanted to go to Kluane national park to go hiking at night. Unfortunately, it was cold, rainy and windy when I rode by and decided to keep going to Whitehorse where I knew where to stay. I had to go through many road work sections where I had to wait for a pilot car and follow it. I arrived in Whitehorse at 7pm and met with a couple that had been cycling from Prudhoe Bay. John and Sarah were from England and Australia respectively and were heading to Argentina as well. We had a good time playing cards at night and John told me he was looking to buy a fishing rod the next day. I was planning to ship mine back home the next week so decided to offer it to him as it was small and light. He was very happy as I gave him my lure kit with it.
July 31st: Whitehorse, YT to Skagway, AK – 220km
After helping John with his bike chain and taking a shower, I left the campground around 11am. I had to buy a few things in town including stove gas, batteries and a switch for my lights which broke the day before. After getting that stuff, I looked for a good lunch place. I went around for 5 minutes and ended up at Tim Hortons as the last time I ate there was in Newfoundland. As I entered, I saw a guy I met once in Ottawa: Mark Ferris. Then I remembered that my friend P-A was coming to Yukon for a hike and that Mark must have been one of the 3 other guys. He was definitely surprised to see me (just like I was). He told me P-A was arriving on a plane at 4pm. I decided to stay a little longer and surprise him. After lunch, I went up to the airport and fixed my switch problem. Then we saw a plane coming in and went inside to welcome P-A. He was also surprised to see me standing there. We chatted for a bit and I left towards Skagway. I was meeting Laurence there as she wanted to go hiking the next day. I previously met her over 2 weeks before when staying at the hot springs. The road down to Skagway was nothing short of stunning. Crazy looking landscapes, beautiful lakes and mountains while coming down a giant valley. I arrived before she did. She was out fishing with her friend Blair which was a really cool guy. They caught 3 halibuts that we all ate for dinner. It was so delicious. We went to bed after a few beers around their cool outside bar.
August 1st: Skagway, AK to Teslin, YT – 250km
Blair worked for the train company and was able to get us a pair of tickets to go hiking in the morning. Train left at 8am and it was running along the mountain walls. We got to the start of the trail around 9am and started making our way up to Laughton Glacier. It was fairly easy and we decided to catch the 11am train instead of waiting until 3h30pm. We had 45 minutes to walk 4 miles back and we made it. When we reached town again, a steam engine was taking off. We had lunch in a nice sandwich place. I decided to leave early and take advantage of the beautiful day to ride out of Alaska. I stopped in Teslin to get something to eat when I heard a hissing sound coming out of my front tire. I had a slow flat. I decided to stay at the campground there and take time to fix it. I was proud of myself as it took me 35 minutes to change the flat (as opposed to my first which took 3h). I showered, did laundry, fixed a few things and blogged for 2h before going to bed.