1 cylinder, 13,000 kms

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by squonker, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    This is the story of a wee trip I made this summer. Ostensibly it's a trip up the Dempster to Inuvik, then to D2D (although I then went on to Vancouver Island), and because it isn't exactly an original trip I wasn't going to do a RR, but as Hecktoglider mentioned in his recent report we all get so much out of this site that it's only fair to put something back in. So here goes (and you can blame Hecko if this is a lousy ride report!)

    In all likelihood it's going to take a while to do this report 'cos I took so many pics and made so many notes...not only that but I'm fairly busy in general right now but I'll make a special effort to do this in as short a time as I can.

    So, I spent the winter working on the bike in my buddy Larry's shop. Many evenings we spent there with him working on his plane (he's building one from scratch) and me working on the bike until we'd drunk so much beer that we had stop work and just continue drinking for the rest of the evening. It was fun. He has a wonderfully equipped shop, and a big beer fridge. Perfect. Once the bike was ready and the snow and ice had gone from the roads I got the bike out and put it in my living room for a few weeks until the off.

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    The off came on May 31st, when I left Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (which is where I'd been living for the previous 2 years) and rode the 300 kms to Hay River, NWT. It was a shitty ride, with a strong cold wind, and rain. I'd bought an electric vest and put it on just a couple of hours out of my door. And the bike began acting up - I'd be cruising at 100 km/h when suddenly it would start to cough and splutter as though it had ran out of gas. I'd let off the throttle for a second or two, change down if neccessary, wind the throttle open again and the bike would take off as if nothing had ever happened. Although this problem persisted for the entire trip, it came and went in stages and I never have been able to find out the source of the problem. I do have an idea, though - I just can't be arsed to look into it.

    I spent the weekend in Hay River with my friends Ash and Steve. We went to Lobsterfest and had a riot, staying up far too late and drinking far too much, which are generally ingredients for a good time. Plus I'd never eaten a whole lobster before - usually I find the shells pretty hard on my teeth. They ribbed me mercilessly for having an electric vest but man, it saved my butt on more than one occasion, turning a thoroughly unpleasant ride into a moderately comfortable one.

    I didn't take many pics until I'd left the NWT because to me it's nothing new - I've lived there for 7 years - but I did snap a couple of the ice retreating on Great Slave Lake.

    [​IMG]
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    On the Monday morning I set out on what I considered to be the real beginning of the trip, in perfect conditions. My next destination was Fort Simpson, NWT, where Larry was teaching a course that week but I would have had to go there anyway for gas. The highways up there look like this:

    [​IMG]

    and you can go for a long way without seeing...well, anything at all. Having gassed up before I left Hay River, I topped up at Enterprise 40 km up the road, and even took a 25ish km detour into Kakisa to do the same again. I knew that the one stop along the 'Simpson Highway' no longer had gas, and had I not gone into Kakisa I'd have had to use my spare gas before reaching Simpson.

    Although I'd planned on making Simpson that night, I was tired and, quite frankly, bored - the roads in that part of the world aren't very scenic once you've travelled them over and over again, on bikes, in cars and big rigs as I have. So I stopped in for the night at the Sombe Ke campground.
    #1
  2. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    Fantastic pictures....please continue your RR. Planning on the same route next year. :lurk
    #2
  3. obsidian

    obsidian Scared of the dark..

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    I love seeing loaded up KLR's! Keep it coming!
    #3
  4. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Thanks guys! I'm happy to help anyone who is travelling the same route - particularly the NWT 'cos that's the area I know the best - and don't worry, there are plenty (and I mean plenty!) of pics of the KLR loaded to the balls.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I was just checking my journal and another reason that I pulled into the Sombe Ke campground is that they were grading the road and had wetted it down, making it a little unpleasant to ride on. All through the trip, (a fair amount of which was off road) when talking to non-riders they'd talk about roads being graded being a good thing and I'd have to put them right. If you're in a four wheeler, sure, graders are a good thing, but on a bike they're a bitch and I learned to dread them. One more pic of the highway up there.

    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    The next morning I woke up listening to the squirrells chirping, and one of them just kept jabbering away for about a minute straight. I figured he was trying to tell me something so I got up, and sure enough just then felt the first few drops of rain. Not wanting to pack up in the wet I forwent breakfast and loaded the bike asap. As it turns out it didn't really rain and I was only a couple of hours from Simpson anyway. The road between Checkpoint and Simpson was quite pretty, and on the ferry across the Liard River I spoke to a Scottish engineer who told me that the only good thing to come out of England was the road to Scotland - that had me chuckling to myself for several days afterwards. Lousy northern bastard!<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I guess it's here that I should introduce the Liard Highway, which runs from Checkpoint on the Simpson Highway to Fort Liard, NWT and across the B.C. border to the Alaska Highway about 20 kms north of Fort Nelson, B.C. I had been hearing reports for the previous few days that the highway was closed, but had checked the GNWT (Govt of the NWT) website the morning I left Hay River, and it said that the road was indeed open. Not only that, the previous week I'd driven from Fort Smith to Yellowknife in my car, and at that time there had been signs at the beginning of the Simpson Highway saying that it was closed. When I went past on the bike, those signs were gone. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    But the woman at the Sombe Ke campground also said that it was closed, and told me some horror stories about 4WD trucks being axle deep in mud - and she showed me the pics in the paper. Yikes. When I rode 'through' Checkoint there were indeed barriers up across the entrance to the Liard Hwy, and I was confused. There is another way around, but it would have been a 4 day detour on the Grande Prairie road, which is just about the most boring country I've ever driven through. Dead straight roads, nothing to look at other than fields for 1500 kms or so. I have a farming background, but that area just kills me. More on the Liard Hwy soon...<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Anyway, so I wasn't happy about the possibility of having to turn around and retrace my steps as far as Enterprise, but at this stage I needed to get to Simpson anyway for gas, and Larry would have been expecting me the previous day so I hoped he wasn't concerned.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    No need to worry, I grabbed a spot at the Campground, called Larry and spent the day sightseeing in Simpson, a place I hadn't been before. Ten minutes later I was done (!), and that evening Larry took me out for Chinese food, then pinned me to the floor and forced beer down my throat, despite my pleading for compassion and mercy. Heartless, Larry persisted and it's fair to say that that night, back in my tent, I slept pretty damn well.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Earlier in the day I'd gone to the RCMP station in Simpson to try and find out whether this damn Liard Hwy was open or not. The cops said that no, it wasn't, but they also said that they thought it was likely going to do so the following morning, that they'd be getting a fax on it's status from Highways at 9am, and I should check back then. In hindsight, that would have been a sensible thing to do...<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    You'll have noticed that I took very few pics to this point, and that doesn't bother me 'cos I know only too well what it looks like. But I do regret not having taken a pic of my bike on the other side of the 'Road Closed' barriers at the start of the Liard Hwy. I knew the problem had been a drainage one - all the snow had for some reason drained into, rather than to the side of, the road during break up, and this being a dirt road that caused problems. On a bike, I thought, I don't have to worry.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    And so I didn't. I rode the first 100 kms wondering what all the fuss was about and congratulating myself on taking the chance. The road was great, the weather was great, my mood was great...all systems peachy. I stopped for lunch at the beautiful Blackstone Park where I lay in the grass in the sun and snoozed, as well as meditating for a while.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Blackstone Park:

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    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    #4
  5. Moraflex

    Moraflex Banned

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    :lurk
    Wanting more please.
    #5
  6. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Fantastic ride, report and pics! You've gotta the first rider from the North West Territories to post a report on here! :clap :clap

    :lurk
    #6
  7. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Well, I took off again after maybe an hour at Blackstone, and within 10 kms had begun to come across little bogs in the road. They weren't bad at first, but they started to get bigger and more numerous, and before I knew it the road just disappeared. I'm not kidding, the road just ceased to exist, and in its place was mud. Nothing but mud.

    There was a dozer working there, and a dump truck. The truck was stopped and the driver was waiting on the dozer operator, so he came to talk to me. Yes, the road was closed he said. Had I seen the signs? "Oh yeah!" I told him! But he was a nice guy and this is the NWT after all. How casual is the NWT? Well, I've lived there for 7 years and never worn a suit once. I did wear a tie one day at work just to see if I still remembered how to tie one. Everyone made fun of me for it (I was a substitute teacher that particular day so it wasn't exactly unsuitable attire). It's a pretty casual place and I knew no-one would mind my being there.

    The mud was so bad that I wasn't going to make it through until the dozer made a pass for me, and I was scared. I had never ridden my bike all loaded up like this before other than a one night test run a week or so before-hand, where the biggest threat was the buffalo grazing the same patch of grass I was tenting on, and now I wasn't sure whether or not I'd make it through. Only one thing to do...I wanted to get into 2nd for some speed but the goo was so sticky that that wasn't going to happen, so first gear it was. Stand on the pegs, clench butt cheeks tightly together, pick your line and hang on for dear life. Approaching the other side of the bog (which was about 0.5 kms long) I couldn't even risk taking a hand off the bars to wave a 'thank you' to the dozer guy who was...dozing...no, watching me with a look of amusement on his face.

    The road didn't get a whole lot better for the next 10 km or so, but at least it was a road. And then I came across the next non-road section. No dozer here, and no way of seeing how long this shitty bit lasted. To turn around would mean looking pretty pathetic to the big burly truck driver and dozer dude, so I really had no choice but to carry on. This next section lasted about a kilometer, and the road was so bad for the next hour that I knew if I stopped I'd either drop the bike or never get moving again. I hated it! Man, I was cursing myself for having taken that road, but at the same time was already writing the story I'd tell my friends in my head. (The story was in my head, not the friends...)

    Man, I was miserable and the road didn't actually improve much for quite a while. At last I managed to stop somewhere where I could stay standing and be assured of getting going again, and then it began to rain! Not badly at first, but by the time I got to Fort Liard it was just pissing down. The 300 kms from Fort Simpson had taken six hours and I was tired and wet. Glad to have made it through, but buggered if I was going to go any further that day. As it happens, just inside town there is the Hay Lake campground. It's free and they supply drinking water, outhouses and firewood. There's even a shelter with a wood stove in it. Throughout the trip, which lasted about 6 weeks, I spent a total of two nights in motels (but i did spend time at friends' houses) and I soon discovered that the less you are charged for camping, the nicer the spot will be.

    There is a Fort Liard story in my 'Yellowknife Ice Trucking' thread in the Canada regional forum if you're interested in finding more out about it. I didn't take any pics of the road that day 'cos I was pissed off, but I did snap some shots of Hay Lake the following morning.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. Chanderjeet

    Chanderjeet IndiYeah !!

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    :clap, Thats a very long distance and im sure your enjoyed every minute of it. I have never seen snowed out lakes but the pics tell me it must be quite a view.
    #8
  9. olebiker

    olebiker Old buzzard bait

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    To run through a bog with. Great pics and report. Look forward to the rest.:clap
    #9
  10. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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    right here on my thermarest
    Great pictures, and it sounds like a real adventure ride.


    :lurk
    #10
  11. Spicy McHaggis

    Spicy McHaggis Darth Peach's cracker...

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    Allright Ben, it's about darn time!!! :lol3:beer
    #11
  12. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    You're right, it is - and thanks everyone for your kind words. Chanderjeet, it's especially cool to have you post in this thread, 'cos your ride report pics are the kind of thing that inspires me. Thanks, man.

    My boss isn't in today so I'll try and post another installment up later....
    #12
  13. Bigger Al

    Bigger Al Still a stupid tire guy

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    :lurk :thumb
    #13
  14. numbernine

    numbernine Adventurer

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    indiana
    :lurk

    Thanks for the awesome pics and description.
    #14
  15. gsd4me

    gsd4me 90% bluff

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    I`m along for the ride on this one as well mate. I can tell already that it will be up to your usual standard.
    #15
  16. Advdave

    Advdave jubilado

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    Ben,

    Great pics and report, keep it going. The Boss is probably at home reading ride reports on advrider.........
    #16
  17. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Good on ya, sport! Glad to have you along again. Now fasten your safety belt as the ride may get bumpy....

    I sure hope not, I have work to do!

    Once in Fort Liard I went into town to ask the RCMP about the road conditions ahead. It was about 38 kms to the BC border and I hoped it wasn't going to be 38 kms of the same thing. They said it was rough, but nothing like what I'd just come though, and that once over the border things would be much better. Funny when talking to the two RCMP officers there. One of them had been stationed in Fort Smith and we knew some of the same people - this guy was cool and just happy to chat. But his buddy just couldn't stop himself from walking to the back of my bike and checking out the plate. I don't know whether he wanted to check that I really did come from where I said I had, or maybe he wanted to check my tags weren't out of date - I dunno but I thought he was a prick for doing it. All I was doing was chatting to them in their parking lot, it wasn't as if they'd pulled me over for something.

    Later that evening a group of maybe 4 or 5 younger kids in their early twenties came back to their tents, which had been set up in the campground when I got there. They were nice kids, all Uni students doing small mammal research out in the bush, and we had a good time shooting the shit around the wood stove. They even offered me beer and whiskey which I'd loved to have taken them up on, but felt a bit bad about not being able to pay them back, and I knew I was going to be relying on people's generosity a great deal before the trip was done. Plus, that bastard Larry would force me to drink beer at gunpoint in his shop a couple of nights a week and my belly was starting to show the effects, so I was hoping to cut down on my beer consumption. Ha - what a dumb idea that was! (Saw a T-shirt the other day: 'It's not a beer belly it's a fuel tank for a sex machine').

    Next morning I gassed up and hit the road. Jeez, that cop wasn't joking when he said it'd be rough until the border. I couldn't get above 50 km/h and spent a lot of time well below that. It was so bumpy my water jug came off the back of the bike and I had to go back into Liard to get a new one. A couple of hours later when I finally made it to some smoother road I stopped for a rest and noticed that my new water jug (1 gall container) had a bit of a hole in it. Actually, if the truth be known it was a whole hole :evil.

    I took it fairly steady from then on because although the road was much better there'd still be the odd rough bit and they always jumped out in front of me at the last minute. I made it to the Alaska Hwy and turned left to go to Ft. Nelson for some gas, and spent a while pootling around town checking things out as it had been a few years since I was last there, and I'd been thinking for a while about going to work in the oil patch. It's a small place, but friendly, and I did notice a fair amount of eye candy which of course only helped me like the place more!

    It was maybe mid afternoon and I didn't feel like pushing much farther up the road plus there was a freaking huge thunder cloud in the sky (duh - where else would it be?!) over the road in the direction I'd be riding so I went to the campground, which was a really dumb idea for several reasons. Firstly there was a perfectly good free camping spot across the highway which I could have got to on my bike and hidden in the trees, and secondly it was a shitty campground. The tent spots are a joke. But the guy next to me and his family were very nice. They were driving from Alaska to Oklahoma, where he was being transferred in the milltary. He'd seen active service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The former, he said, was a piece of piss because the Americans had better weapons and better training. But Iraq was not fun due to the roadside bombs which made any trip by road outside the city a risky business. He said he'd gone there as one of a contigent of 4500 troops. By the time he left 14 months later they had lost 53, only ten of whom had been killed by bullets. Mike and his wife Kim were travelling with their infant son Winston in an SE7 Discovery. Landrovers are cool, but Discoverys are not!

    The rain never materialized, and it actually turned out to be a beautiful evening. I had also forgotten that I'd changed time zones when I crossed the BC border, so it was an hour earlier than I'd thought it was and I really should have pressed on that day. Well, 'should have' might be a bit strong - my only deadline was D2D. I walked in to town for a bite to eat and stopped at a museum that had loads of old equipment that had been used during the building of the original Alaska Hwy (many people don't realize that for the most part, the present day hwy is a completely new road).

    I think that this
    [​IMG]
    Goes with this:
    [​IMG]
    That's a self portrait, by the way (in case you thought Brad Pitt happened to be in Ft. Nelson that day....)

    And that this:
    [​IMG]
    Goes with this:
    [​IMG]

    The RD6 particularly interested me because an old boss of mine in BC had been bought up in Yellowknife in the 1930s. His dad had had a couple of old RD4 tractors which he used to haul freight across Great Slave Lake for the army, between Grimshaw in Alberta and Yellowknife. I think I went on about this in the Yellowknife Ice Trucking thread, but anyone who knows the area and the size of the land up there will have some appreciation for what this job would have entailed. Back then, tractors had no blades (and no cabs), and if they came across an obstacle such as a pressure ridge they had to get across or around it without any means of pushing snow infront of them. And there was no road at all, you just set a course and went for it (no GPS either, of course), and that simply amazes me. You may think Ice Road Trucking is difficult or dangerous, but it's like a snooze infront of the TV compared to what these pioneers did. Imagine a trip like that (several days long in each direction) on a Cat with no cab? Doug (my old boss) says that a few people did build makeshift cabs on their machines, but then couldn't get out in time when they went through the ice, and were lost. Doug's dad built a half cab out of plywood always leaving the side away from the wind open for a quick escape, and he'd duck down behind it just popping his head up every now and then to see what was ahead. Sorry to go on, but it's the sort of thing my dreams are made of. Well, that and Jessica Alba.

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    This:
    [​IMG]

    is a Cooper Bessemer engine that would have been used to drive generators for Fort Nelson's power. I used to be pretty good with diesels, and I reckon it probably puts out around 4200hp. It's a 16 cyl lump with...oh, I don't know, something like a 15 1/2 in. bore and a 22 in. stroke? Yeah, looks about right.

    [​IMG]


    Frikkin' genius, I tell you!!
    #17
  18. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Dave, I just noticed...you wrote 'The Boss' with each word capitalized. Are you talking about Bruce Springsteen??!!!
    #18
  19. Hektoglider

    Hektoglider One with Life

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    thanks for taking the time......

    Its a coincidence. I left on my journey the exact same day. May 31.

    I am still amazed from my ride up there.........please continue.
    #19
  20. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Another thing about the campground at Ft. Nelson (which, by the way is ideally set up for RVers and that's why it sucks so much for bikes)...is that late afternoon three big, loud bikes of a particular make rode in. All three with loud pipes, they were...well, noticeable. At first they parked in the spot next to mine and I exchanged pleasantries with at least of the riders (who was a nice enough guy) but within a couple of minutes they'd moved on to another spot somewhere behind me.

    At supper time, all three bikes roared back to life and headed down the highway, presumably into town for some chow. I don't really know what do make about loud pipes. Do they really save lives? Yes, they probably have done that in the past, but in general I think that they're just ridden by really insecure people with an inferiority complex. I may be wrong. I don't have a problem with the pipes as such, but when these three rode back into the campground at about 11pm they undoubtedly woke every single person up, and at that point it just seemed really selfish. I used to have a Virago with slightly louder than stock pipes, and when I had to leave to work really early in the morning I'd push it a little way away from my neighbour's before I hit the starter the button, and was quite open with them about the fact that the noise concerned me ( I was milking cows at the time and leaving for work at 2:45am) and i didn't want to piss them off. Because I mentioned it, they knew I wasn't comletely selfish, and anyway other people told me that the pipes really weren't that loud. (They were on the bike when I bought it).

    So, on with the story. Nice weather the next day, and also the prettiest part of the highway. I'm going to upset some people by saying this, but the Alaska Highway really isn't that spectacular. It's pretty, but it ain't world class. On my way back down south again after D2D I took the Cassiar, and that is what a highway should be like. Blows the Alcan right out of the water.

    Muncho Lake is beautiful, though, there's no denying that.

    [​IMG]

    I first drove the Alcan about 4 years ago in my cage. Everyone had told me to stop in at the Liard Hotsprings, and of course I did. I'd grabbed my towel and walked into the springs where I was confronted by a sign extolling the virtues of the new self-composting toilet they'd recently installed. All the sewage just goes into a deep hole in the ground and breaks down naturally. Neat idea, but I don't like the idea of sitting in a pool of water which is fed by a spring in the ground and comes up anywhere near a cess pool. So I didn't go in, and have been very anti-Liard Hotsprings ever since. Everyone I met on this trip was also telling me that I had to stop in there. Well pooh pooh to you, 'cos I just sailed right on past, and will continue to do so every time I travel that road. Ha. No soaking in sewage infested pools of warm water for me - not my idea of a good time.

    A random pic from somewhere along the Alcan
    [​IMG]

    I rode as far as Waton Lake that day, and all day long played tag at various gas stations with three older guys who'd ridden their bikes up from Iowa. One was on a trike Goldwing, one a regular Goldwing and one a Harley. Nice guys. There was also a couple who were more my age in a '63 437 cu. in. Cobra, which they were driving from Illinois to Eagle, Alaska. They were nice folks, too, and all of us would have small chats at various gas stations and food outlets along the way.

    At Watson Lake I stopped for gas and to check my messages and ran into the Cobra couple again. They had got a hotel room there for the night and invited me to join them for a beer, but I'm too much of a lush and I can never have just one beer. I knew that if I stopped then that'd be where I ended up for the night, and I planned on going a few kms further and camping in the bush. So I did.

    At the gas station in Watson Lake a 6 or 7 yr old native kid comes in with his mom. He looks at me and says, "You have a cool bike". "Thanks!" I said. "I think so too". Obviously a very smart kid, this chap. His mom said that they lived at the Bell two resort (where she worked) and that I should stop in there. At the time I didn't know what the Bell 2 resort was, but I did actually camp there a few weeks later on my way south again.

    Two more loaded KLR pics.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I went about 50 kms past Watson Lake and took a track off into the bush which seemed to go on for ever. In the end I rode back to within about 5 km of the highway and camped there - there weren't any signs of bears and the track didn't look like it had been used in the past few days. I was far enough out of town that I didn't think drunken Friday night revellers would be bothering me.

    I know that some people think you should go as far as changing out of the clothes you cooked supper in before camping in bear country, and they probably even stick corks up their arses at night so that their farts don't attract bears too, but I think that's going a little far. I've lived in bear country for 10 of the past 15 years, seen hundreds and come far closer to a few than I ever wanted to, and have never had a problem. I take precautions, and most importantly use my head. Cook away from where you'll be sleeping, store your food and cooking gear (as well as your spare gas - bears are attracted to gasoline) away too and you should be fine. I've also been trained in what to do when you encounter a bear (black and grizzly in various situations and at various distances). I slept with my bear spray and a loaded bear banger beside my sleeping bag, and that tactic served me well throughout the trip. (I was mauled twice and eaten three other times, but those are just minor details...:D)

    Next, Watson Lk to Whitehorse.
    #20