As I may have mentioned before, when I decided to pack up the truck and head out on an approximately 4,000 mile journey to Alaska and back, my primary objective was to spend the time I had never taken before to explore the country between the PNW and everything that lies north on the way to my home state. I had a pretty good plan laid down. And as I’ve also mentioned in previous posts, my plans almost always change once I get a good head of steam and set out on the road. Sometimes suddenly and with specific intention. And other times, not so much. The second half of this trip would be no different.
After leaving Williams Lake, BC I set my sights further north and headed for the area surrounding Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. On past trips through the region I almost always seemed to blow through in the dark hours of early morning or late night. Battling aggressive truckers and pre-occupied with keeping my eyes open just a little bit longer. Praying a moose, bear or caribou didn’t materialize out of the shadows from the side of the road and end up plastered across the front of my truck. I made it a point this time to move slowly. To stop when the darkness came and to wake up and start moving again when the light peaked out the next morning. The experience I had during my three days in the area on my way through was enough for me to postpone any updates and forgo any conclusionary posts until I could return sometime in the weeks to follow. I could have easily spewed and gushed my new found love for the region and its absolutely insane mountain biking terrain. Carcross, just south and then a little west of the city of Whitehorse, is a historic native village turned historic mining town turned tourist hot spot. Hovering next to it is Montana Mountain. If I were pressed to use just one word to describe the system of mountain bike trails on said mountain it would be “Perfection”. Hands down, no debate. The trails were largely built using existing historic mining trails combined with ancient worn out game trails. And they go on forever. Perfect, flow-y, mostly manicured, giggle-inducing, full-body-engaging, sweaty perfection. On top of that, there’s another factor that makes the developed trails on Montana Mountain special – the outreach programs that engage youth in the Carcross / Tagish First Nation community to help build, restore and maintain the area. Not only encouraging a strong work ethic and appreciation for their community, but also an appreciation for the outdoors and a life enjoyed in it. I may have gone on further to gush over Cadence Cycle in Whitehorse and their cozy yet very cool neighborhood bike shop. A smallish visible bike inventory and an open shop that looks thoroughly loved and abused by the small staff that obviously rides as often as possible. I was also very happy to have met one of their female employees that looked like she could kick the shit out of any trail in the area during the day and still have energy to kick your ass after she was finished. After years of involvement in the outdoor industry it gives me the warm fuzzies to meet women in the industry holding it down in shops or out on the trails, whether it be snowboarding, biking, fishing, backpacking or otherwise, that have taken the very male-centric norm and turned it on its head. I just hope that someday the companies perpetuating the male-centric standard get their shit figured out, sooner rather than later, to include all of the women I know that make grown men with inflated egos look like whiny little turds. And while I’m on it, a lot of these women go about it quietly. Almost like they don’t have to prove shit to anybody, despite the sausage – fest that is the outdoor industry. It’s awesome. And deserves recognition. Just sayin’ is all.
I may have focused more on those things, but I didn’t. Because after spending 3 days riding the trails at Carcross and farting around on the banks of the Yukon River in Whitehorse, I moved on. My intention was to stop somewhere along the way, maybe Fairbanks if I could manage to sit in the truck that long, and put the experience up here on the ol’ blog before moving on to the next official stop on my itinerary. But it didn’t work out that way.
Not far from Whitehorse on the way to the border of Alaska and Canada is Kluane Lake and the Kluane National Park. Unlike other places on this trip, when I had passed through the area previously, I was struck with something so heavy and emotional, for absolutely no discernible reason at all, that it nearly brought me to my knees. Each time before I had been forced to pull over to regroup both emotionally and physically. The overwhelming sense of familiarity and sudden unexplainable emotional baggage was haunting and a little troubling. Each experience in the past being so confusing and disorienting that I had forced myself to explain it away (magnetism, cosmic vortex, sleep deprivation, sex mad, dehydration, too many movies, etc.) and move on as quickly as possible. Not this time. This time I would stop and scout out an area to explore and confront whatever it was that was inside of me that was somehow attached to this place. The challenge – To indulge in such a sensation without allowing myself to become crazed during the experience and disappear into the wilderness. Only to be remembered, or not, as another one of those goofy, underprepared modern wanderers. The idea may be romantic in one format or another, but the reality seems far less appealing. So as I passed through each truck stop and town on my way I made it a point to stop and ask around about any cabins or shelters in the area that may either be for rent or open to those that pass through. Most of the people I asked looked at me as if I was a pain in their ass and dismissed me in some fashion or just flat out ignored me, which I half expected anyways since I know I was just another face passing through during the busy summer months on the AlCan Highway. But eventually I met a middle-aged German man who had moved to the area twenty something years ago and started building “dry” (no crapper or running water) trapper cabins specifically to accommodate those that wanted to escape both the elements as well as life “outside” (outside in this case meaning the “outside world”). We exchanged information and he inspected my truck and the tools I had in it to make sure I and the vehicle were “Skookum” enough to handle the journey out to the cabin we had decided would work best for me. After passing inspection we sat down for a cup of coffee and traded a few stories from the road. As it turns out, this guy wasn’t so different from myself. He had lived a fairly benign life dictated by the actions of those around him up until his mid-twenties. Then one day he just sort of snapped. Not like nervous breakdown or throw you in an asylum snapped, but “I gotta get the hell outta here and do something. Turns out, I actually don’t give two shits for the life you want me to live.”, snapped. We both agreed that the sudden shift in accepting that life can be lived in a myriad of ways to provide happiness and satisfaction beyond anything else we may have ever even considered was both liberating, and quite frankly, frightening. But we both also agreed that once you get a taste for the nomadic life and you realize it suits you, you’re basically fucked. Life will never be the same. And that’s a truly beautiful thing. So long as we weren’t hurting anyone, how could that be wrong? Like so many other things during this trip, I’ll go into that in more detail later. I realize this is a terrible time to stop and you’re probably half a cheek off of the edge of your seat with anticipation, but right now I’ve got a trout fishing trip to pack for. Go do something!
To be continued . . .