Alaska 2014 Trip – Post #2

Once we were in Watson Lake, our hotel was the Big Horn Hotel, which was clean but somewhat dated and eclectic in its furnishings, best described as vintage yard sale. In Watson Lake, the must see is the “Sign Post Forest”. The Sign Post Forest, a collection of signs and other memorabilia is one of the most famous of the landmarks along the Alcan, and came to be when a GI in 1942 was ordered to repair a sign post. Not only did he repair it but also took the opportunity to personalize the sign post with one giving the distance to his hometown. Visitors may add their own signs to the 100,000 already present.

From Watson Lake, we headed north to Whitehorse, the provincial capital of the Yukon Territories. At this juncture, the traveler has the option to either proceed further north to Dawson City or follow the ALCAN to Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, YT and Tok, AK. We, instead of following the ALCAN, decided to leave the other portion for our return trip. We headed north to Carmacks, YT for the evening’s stay at what else but, Hotel Carmacks. As we headed north we began to have the Yukon River as a companion and stopped to see and photograph the Five Finger Rapids, a natural navigation hazard and challenge for the gold rush crowd who had climbed the Chilkoot Pass from Skagway, AK, with a 1,000 lbs. of supplies and built rafts to float themselves and their supplies down the Yukon River to Dawson City.

At Dawson City we boarded the “free” ferry, the Black George, for a ride across the Yukon River. This appeared to be the same vessel I rode across the Yukon River on in 1985. Apparently they take great care of the vessel or since it appears to be primarily for tourists, some degree of care. All kidding aside, the boat operated flawlessly and was much appreciated for being free.

Once on the other side of the Yukon, one is still in the Yukon Territory and travels on 60 miles or so of partial pavement and gravel road to the US border near a place called Boundary, AK. From this point to Tok, AK, we would ride the Top of the World Highway. Although there are substantial portions of pavement, the day we crossed the border, the very helpful woman customs officer at the US Border crossing told us to be careful of the fresh layer of arrowhead rock (sharp edged rock that has been freshly blasted and has gone through minimal crushing) for the next 10-14 miles. The long and short of it was that the 6-8 inches of this freshly laid down and not compacted arrowhead rock just kicked our asses. Fortunately, other than being worn out from the ride across the rock, we and our bikes were unharmed.

Our day ended in TOK, AK, a personification of the term, “crossroad.” We checked into Young’s Motel at Fast Eddy’s restaurant at the same time as we were seated for a good dinner – redefines the term “one stop shopping” , and for us a real oasis after the last six hours of riding. Another very welcome relief was that it was next to a liquor store. It does not get much better than this!!!! Bill and I were truly getting down to the basics: fuel, food and alcohol.