GrizzLee Stories from the North

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by GrizzLee, Mar 9, 2019.

  1. MotoRojo

    MotoRojo Adventurer

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    Totally in! Always enjoy your photos, stories and videos but mostly, the genuine enthusiasm and joy you readily share with us about all mother nature reveals to you on your wonderful adventures.

    Looking forward to your report!:-)
    #21
  2. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Thanks..

    Working on Episode 3. I love re telling the story and the videos bring the tale to life. They also provide a record for me to reflect upon as I grow older.

    I'm glad you enjoy them. Makes it that much more worthwhile and time well spent by me.

    I do wish, that I had videod more of the day I had the flat and could have captured all the people that offered help and went out of their way. They were amazing. Locals, natives, truckers and fellow bikers... all stopping to offer help. Some gave me tire plugs and advice and even offered food and water. They all deserve credit for their kindness and humanity. Something I find absent in the big city. I can see that it would be so easy to scoff at the American and his overloaded/expensive bmw crawling down the road in the rain.
    #22
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  3. tommybelvedere

    tommybelvedere Adv alacarte'

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    Looking forward to more of your report Grizzlee, I have been thinking about a trip to the north as well! Man I can't believe you went that far on a flat. You always meet the nicest people riding, willing to give you about anything you need. That's the spirit you get from riding and encountering people. Ride On!
    TB
    #23
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  4. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Go north.. go as soon as you can. You won't regret it.

    I have found the people out in the remote places to be the most kind. Also the people of little means seem to offer the most help. Maybe its because they can relate to the suffering.
    #24
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  5. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    The Salmon Glacier and Beyond

    I finally made it out of Smithers after a day layover to re-tool and clean up. Having spent 2 nights of my allotted motel budget and a new tire, my wallet was a bit lighter. The Smithers Harley Davidson/Powersports store installed a Shinko 705 dual sport tire on the rear. I was so disappointed because I left home 5 days earlier on a set of brand new Heidenau K60s. In fact, I had an extra K60 waiting for my return trip home in Whitehorse. All-in-all my spirits were in good order. I did manage to encounter a huge amount of construction on this day and it was taking me forever to make my way to the Cassiar Highway. And even once I got on the Cassiar, the construction seemed to be every few miles all the way up to the Nass River. It seems that development of this part of the world is finally catching up.

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    The Cassiar used to be a true wilderness road with partial gravel and partial unmarked pavement. It's too bad that they paved this remarkable road. Time is catching up here. The sides of the road have been cleared and huge power lines now line the highway. Mining and other resource extraction are in full swing. For those who have never experienced in it’s previous glory, too bad for you. This was once "the road" to travel north on as an alternative to the fully developed Alaska Highway. Before the Cassiar was paved, it gave travelers a taste of what travel was like on the AlCan.

    I eventually made my way to Meziadan Junction, riding through little spits of rain and lots of construction. The junction is now a busy place. A log cabin grocery store and gas can be found here. Not too long ago, this was a lonely intersection, now, I suspect, it will be one of the major hubs along the Cassiar road. It is here where the traveler can take a 40 mile spur road out to Stewart, BC and then on into Alaska, going through Hyder and up to some spectacular glaciers. At the junction, is where I first met Chip Nelson. A fellow rider who was completing his south-to-north quest (South Americas farthest most point to the farthest most point north). Chip is an amazing soul. In his 50s, he quit his job and decided to travel the world by motorcycle. He has some great stories to tell. I was fortunate to travel with Chip off and on during my northern odyssey.
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    Chip, had reservations at a BnB in Stewart, whereas, being the seat-of-the-pants traveler I am, I did not. It looked like rain going towards the coast, but Chip and I dove in head first. What looked like rain, never fully developed and soon we were at the Bear Glacier. From there it was a stupendous ride into Stewart BC. We rode though a narrow canyon along a beautiful river with glaciers hanging overhead. Long mystical waterfalls fell from the tops of the mountain down the cliffs to the valley floor. An amazing ride for sure.

    We arrived at Stewart and got some lunch at the King Edward Hotel. From there, I was able to talk Chip into going further into Hyder and beyond up to the Slamon Glacier. Being a Rain forest, I told him that the window of opportunity can be quite narrow and this may be the only chance he gets. So of we went crossing the border into Hyder, Alaska. We took a detour out to the pier sitting at the end of the Portland Canal, a looong deep fjord coming in from the Pacific.

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    We passed though Hyder and made our way up the gravel road past many mining operations and eventually made our way to splendid views of the Salmon Glacier just across the border and back into Canada. The glacier is huge. It is one of the few places in the north where one can drive up nearly to the toe of the glacier look into the depths of the mountains from which it flows. The scale of the glacier is hard to imagine and it is such a dominant “in-your-face” ice sheet, against the backdrop of the mountains. From there, we rode further, back into Canada towards the Granduc mine. We were fortunate, in that, the road to the mine was not gated. In my experience, this is highly unusual. We made our way deeper into the mountain valley riding among glaciers, waterfalls and rivers. It really is a magical place.

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    Eventually we came to the mine and another arm of the Salmon Glacier was there. The mining operations looked like they had been abandoned. From there we rode towards the airstrip in the valley. We turned around at the bridge just before the airstrip as our maps and GPS now longer showed any viable roads.

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    We made our way back to the Salmon Glacier overlook and to our surprise, there were three R1200GSA motorcycles sitting there. Three couples from Mexico were on their way up to ride to Tuktoyuktuk… just like me. After visiting a bit, both Chip and I made our way back into Stewart where we parted ways for the night. It was now pretty late and I grabbed a room the King Edward Hotel (cheap… $79 Canadian).

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    The next day, I left a bit early and saw Chips' bike parked out by the BnB he was staying at as I made my way toward the Cassiar Highway. I was lazy and slow, enjoying the many sights along the way. I pulled into Bell2 and met up with Chip again. From there we rode together to Dease Lake. It was at Dease Lake where we met up with another fellow rider from the Seattle area, Joe Martin, for dinner.

    After dinner, Chip and I camped at the Dease Lake Community College grounds, which consisted of a small parking lot and 2 buildings. Not much of a place to camp, but it did have a picnic table and water.

    The next day we parted ways as, both Chip and Joe took off to ride the Stikine Canyon. Me, I had other plans. I had unfinished business from another solo trip north. I wanted to tackle the North Canol Road. Due to weather and its remoteness, it was an experience I was denied 3 years earlier.

    Video episode of this leg coming soon.
    #25
  6. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    New episode posted.


    Episode 3: Salmon Glacier and Beyond

    I finally made it out of Smithers after a day layover to re-tool and clean up. I manage to encounter a huge amount of construction on this day and it was taking me forever to make my way to the Cassiar Highway. And even once I got on the Cassiar, the construction seemed to be every few miles all the way up to the Nass River. It seems that development of this part of the word is finally catching up. At the Meziadin jct I take a 40 mile spur road out to Stewart, BC and then on into Alaska, going through Hyder and up to some spectacular glaciers. I meet Chip Nelson, a fellow adventure rider, along the way. What experienced next is spectacular to say the least. We rode through the small towns of Stewart and Hyder and then up to the Salmon Glacier and beyond. It is a remarkable ride and experience. The video doesn’t do it justice. The next day Chip and I parted ways. Me, I had other plans. I wanted to tackle the North Canol Road (see the next episode). I hope you enjoy the ride,


    #26
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  7. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile Supporter

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    Thanks again Grizz!! Very inspiring for sure! Gotta really make plans for the trip North this summer. Seems I'm always heading South earlier in the season then to the Rockies when the weather allows.
    Looking forward to more of your videos!
    #27
  8. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Thanks guy. keep that GSA going man. It's a gem.

    In Episode 4 I go Waaay north. Up the Cassiar. .. and not in ideal conditions.
    #28
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  9. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Thanks Lee. Waiting for the next episode.
    #29
  10. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    GrizzLee Stories From the North : Episode 4 - Good Times, Good Friends, and Good Roads (Part1)


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    After the spiritual experience at the Salmon Glacier, the weather really turned for the best. I left Joe and Chip at Dease Lake. They were taking a side trip down the Stikine Canton to Telegraph Creek. I can personally testify that this is a great ride and personal favorite of mine. However, this time, I wanted to make time to tackle the Canol Road and wrap up some unfinished business up north.

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    I left Dease Lake heading for Watson Lake, Yukon and points north. Along the way, I would pass by several scenic lakes and rivers.

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    A stop at Jade City is also a must. In my many years of traveling North, Jade city has always been a favorite. Free coffee and hot cocoa has been a blessing for those times when I pulled off the Cassiar in adverse weather. The Jade City region is home to 92% of the world's nephrite jade. The grounds around the store are interesting to tour with its antique dozers, excavators, dump trucks, mining cars as well as big samples of Jade rock being cut up on diamond saws. Inside the store, you may meet the owners and see beautiful carvings of jade figurines (bears, moose, goats, etc..) as well as jewelry. If you are lucky, you may appear the reality TV series being filmed there known as Jade Fever. Jade Fever documents the mining efforts of the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store and the Bunce family. They mine hard rock deposits and placer deposits left by glaciers for over the past 40 years.

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    From there I made my way up past Good Hope Lake and then up to the Yukon Border. Beyond Good Hope Lake, the trees and terrain take on another look that is more akin the Yukon. The trees, flora and fauna stay consistent from this point on until one reaches the arctic area. Before leaving the far northern border of British Columbia into the Yukon, I was greeted by a friendly black bear. This was but one of the numerous bears I saw along the Cassiar Hwy.
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    Once in the Yukon, I made my way over to Watson Lake. I stopped in at Kathy’s Kitchen, which is the best restaurant in Watson Lake. Watson Lake isn’t all the big, so there isn’t much to choose from. I had a burger and fries along with some good company. I met two fellas from Germany who were touring a big chunk of Canada on a budget!! We chatted a bit and they wished me luck.

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    It was now mid afternoon… or maybe later… time becomes somewhat irrelevant in these northern climates with long summer days full of sunshine. However, I noticed a humongous column of smoke in the direction I was heading, up the Robert Campbell Highway.

    I took a quick ride through the Sign Post Forest to the visitor Center. The Sign Post Forest is a collection of signs at Watson Lake. It is one of the most famous of the landmarks along the Alaska Highway started by homesick GIs in 1942 whom erected the signposts for their hometown usually 1000s of miles away. Visitors have added their own signs to “forest”. Current count has the number of signs approaching 100000.

    Now, back to that fire I was witnessing. It was huge. I inquired at the visitor center about the road conditions and was told that the Robert Campbell highway was still open, but that I would be passing through a very heavy cloud of smoke… eeek!! IT was all caused by lightening. I managed to get some video of the event as I rode through it. Day became night and the sun was blocked out. From there I made my way to Simpson Lake and then up to the Nahanni Range Road junction. (Side note, the Nahanni Range Road is a road that I rode up three years previously. It is an amazing ride into the heart of some of the loneliest lands I have ever experienced. I rode it solo and there are no facilities (400 mile round trip without fuel stations). I plan to go again, but next time with a buddy for safety reasons (it’s remote and full of grizzlies) and more than 2 days to explore.).

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    It was now getting into the evening and maybe even a bit later. I was hoping to make my way to Frances Lake for the night. However, I was continuously distracted by the beauty of the mountains, ponds, lakes, rivers and the wildlife I saw along the way. The Robert Campbell Hwy is a highway by name only. Rest assured, it is a wilderness gravel road and it became quite narrow at times and I noted more than 5 bear sightings along the way. I was having a great time soaking up the sun, the warm weather from the seat of my bike. It was a great day.

    I eventually pulled into Frances Lake Campground. I was able to snag a lakeside campsite next to a Dutch couple who live in the Yukon during the summer months. The lake itself, is the largest lake in Southeast Yukon. Several rivers and creeks flow into Frances Lake, forming extensive deltas. It was stunningly beautiful in the evening sun. The evening was surreal as I cooked my meal and enjoyed a cigar, sharing a beer while sitting around a campfire looking down the big lake. It was a big day of riding, my spirits were high and I looked forward to an even bigger day tomorrow.

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    The next day started out fantastic. The warm sun coddled me as I lay in my tent with my tent door open to full views down the lake. PERFECT! I made some breakfast, packed and said goodbye to my Dutch Campmates.



    Stay tuned for Part 2 of GrizzLee Stories From the North : Episode 4 - Good Times, Good Friends, and Good Roads
    #30
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  11. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks

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    Great stories and pictures. thanks
    #31
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  12. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Part II Episode 4: Good Times, Good Friends, and Good Roads

    Back out on the Robert Campbell Hwy, I picked up where I left off. As I headed further northwest, I could see rain clouds forming. I was hoping that they wouldn’t amount to anything of significance.

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    I was really enjoying the ride. But as I feared, about an hour out of camp, I lost my sunshine and it started getting cold and windy. In fact, I got a few sprinkles. I stopped for a bit at Finlayson Lake to put on my warmer gear. I was beginning to have second thoughts about riding farther north again up the Canol Road. Three years earlier, I tried in the same type of weather and had a miserable time up that way. Rain, hail, bits of snow, high winds and a long night huddled in a wet tent… an experience that dampened my spirits back then. Now all those memories were coming back. I didn’t want to re-live the same pain as before. After all, I’m on vacation…

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    One of numerous vintage WW II Trucks I saw on the North Canol

    I arrived at Ross River to get gas and groceries. The little hamlet store was crowded. I got a couple of burritos and some cheese, trail mix and an ice cream sandwich. All that was a bit expensive and to top it off, I had to wait in line. I soon learned that the reason for the crowds, was the store was just restocked with fresh goods and the locals are always aware of the day when the delivery truck arrives.

    Back outside I noticed a young man working on his bicycle ... fully loaded with expeditionary gear. We chatted a bit and it turns out he just returned from riding up to the NWT border on the north Canol. Actually, he rode up and got a ride bike. He told me he was excited for a little bit of rain, because the road was super dusty. I told him about my previous experience and preferred dry weather.

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    We parted ways and I crossed Ross River on the cable ferry. Soon I found myself on my way into a lonesome land. The road wasn’t really wet yet and there was enough rain spritz to keep the road dust down and make for good traction, but not enough to make the ride uncomfortable. I had 150 miles or so to go to the NWT border. I needed to keep an eye on my fuel as I was not carrying any extra. If careful, I know I can go nearly 400 miles on a tankful. This should get me there and back with little to no side trips. Too make things interesting, the fuel strip on my bike is absolute garbage, a known problem that BMW refuses to address. As a result, I was going solely by my trip meter. I hope that was all in working order.

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    Unlike last time, I came this way, I didn’t see one bear on my way up. Lots of porcupines though. The weather began to deteriorate ever so slowly the farther north I got and it started getting cold. At one point the road was elevated going through some muskeg. I stopped to get some water and shoot some video. I was startled a bit by rustling in the bush. It sounded like a sizeable creature crashing through it, but further investigation revealed nothing.

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    I tootled along and came upon really muddy conditions. I could tell a road crew had recently been working the road. I saw a grader and a couple of trucks parked off the road in various spots. While the road was muddy, it wasn’t really hard to manage. However, there is no gravel put down and the road graders had made a mess of the road by upturning fist size and even larger rocks at random on the road.

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    Finally at mile 94 or so, along the Canol road north, I came across some WWII vintage construction equipment that had been left abandoned from the construction of the Canada Oil pipeline project. Three years earlier, this was as far as I made it, as the rain, wind and hail was too much for me to handle back then. Even though it was now raining, the conditions were nowhere like my previous trip. I stopped and got some video. The trees and bush were reclaiming the historical “junk” left behind by the failed project.

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    Awesome view of the MacMillan River. A true wilderness river that is untouched

    From there, it wasn’t too far where I got my first views of the MacMillan river. The views of the river running through the pristine valley will be forever etched upon my memories. From here on the scenery changed dramatically and the land opened up.. the trees where smaller and the mountains rose out of the horizon. The sun was making a feeble attempt to come out, but failing miserably. It was now 8:30 or so in the evening, but being near the summer solstice I had daylight to spare.

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    I made my way deeper into the northern Yukon, pressing my way towards the NWT border. There were many streams crossings to be done, many of which had swelled to small rivers. A few times I got of my bike to scout the crossings, but nothing I couldn’t handle on the big bike with all my gear. The trees began to get smaller and in fact really only grew in places where the permafrost had melted away along creeks, streams and rivers. The road wound its way through the muskeg towards the border mountains. The mountains were beautiful with views of glaciers beginning to appear. One particular mountain stood out more than the rest, that being Itsa mountain. I managed to get some nice footage and photos of it. I even crossed Itsa creek a few times.

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    Itsa Mountain with glaciers in the background

    For a brief period, the sun came out as I got swallowed by the mountains at the border. I am sad to report that my videos and photos cannot do it justice. It was an amazing experience with green and gold colors painting the mountain sides with hints of red ore adding highlights. I was now crossing and re-crossing the MacMillan river in the narrow valley. It’s size and girth began to dwindle and the mountains rose up on either side of me. I was getting near MacMillan pass.

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    The sun was out... Yeah baby!!

    Just before the the NWT/Yukon border there is an airstrip, and just before that is another conglomerate of WWII vintage trucks and road building equipment. However, just before that I came across a bridge with a sharp turn where I met some miners loading gear and supplies on a flatbed trailer. It seems that a truck and failed to make the turn and rolled off the road here. Now, 9:30 at night, they were working to get it all cleaned up.

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    At MacMillan Pass there is another cache of vintage WW II Trucks

    Just down the road, I stopped and looked at the vintage WWII “junk” lining the side of the road. It was a surreal scene and absolutely dead quiet. The old fenders and the large headlights on the trucks gave them a personality and they even seem to come to life. They had stories to tell, I was certain of that. I was trying to imagine what life was like out here during WWII as they cut a road through the virgin wilderness in the long days of summer and the bitter cold of the winter. Romantic vision for me, but I can only imagine the urgency and such that came with the fear and preparing infrastructure to defend a continent from invasion in such a foreign and hostile environment.


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    Eventually, I made my way to the NWT border at Mac pass and the tundra opened up even more so into a maze of brush. I went about 10 Km farther down the road beyond the border. But several factors played in my decision to turn around. (1) The road conditions were deteriorating quickly with potholes big enough to swallow my bike ; (2) The road was littered with bear scat likened to a walking in a cow pasture of well fed cattle; (3) It was now 10:30 at night; (4) I could see a wall of rain coming towards me from the Yukon border where I just came; (5) I had gone over 160 miles and I knew my bike had a safe range of about 340 miles before I needed to worry about fuel (I carried no extra fuel with me on my GSA); (6) There was really no “safe” camping spots out here. The tundra was a maze of brush and muskeg, and I would be hard pressed to see any wildlife, especially bears that would want to make a surprise visit.

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    With all this in mind, I turned around and headed back to towards the valley where the airstrip at the pass was in hopes of finding a suitable camping spot and some good drinking water in the area. I failed to mention this, but the water in the MacMillan river and many of the side streams at the pass appeared nasty as it was a reddish-orange color and didn’t look to inviting to drink. It was another reason why I had no desire to camp up by the pass as the water was not looking good. I found a good stream of clean water coming off the mountainside and filtered it. In the time it took me to find water and filter, I was now in the midst of a rain storm that was frigidly cold and it was mixed with snow. Brrrr…

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    The Yukon/NorthWest Territories Border... Fantastic!!!

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    In mere minutes, it began to snow. I decided that I didn’t want to deal with setting up my tent in such wet conditions and that I definitely wanted to head for the airstrip and make some sort of makeshift lean-to to setup my tent. There were, after all, tarps and lumber stacked out there with generators, digging tools and machine parts all sitting on the edge of the runway like a backcountry hardware store. All brought in to support the exploratory mining going on in these parts, I’m sure.

    I arrived at the airstrip and found the folks whom I met earlier loading a flatbed trailer onto another flatbed trailer to haul it out. It was indeed the trailer that had spilled its goods. The truck, was still down of the side of the road… presumably, it may join the countless other vintage trucks I saw from WW II. I hope not. While some consider that stuff historical artifacts, the fact of the matter is, it’s all garbage left by man and should be cleaned up. We have no business tainting such country with our trash.

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    In any event, there was a sign at the airstrip that stated one needed permission to enter the airstrip area. So I asked about camping there. They stated that I could stay at a shack at the end of the runway. I found this shack, and while it wasn’t a Holiday Inn or even a Motel 6, but….. it may as well have been for me. I was so thankful to pull in and get out of the rain. It wasn’t much more than a plywood shed, with an interior hollow door that wouldn’t latch, 2 plywood bunks and an outdoor shower. But, it was dry and I could hang my wet gear inside and even think about making dinner. It was now 11:00 pm at night. Although, it was still very much light out I was tired, spent and ready to hit the sack big time. It was a huge day of riding for me or anybody else for that matter. I was out of adrenaline, cold, hungry, and just plain worn to a frazzle as I had to stay on “my game” for most of the day to keep the bike upright in this beautifully hostile country.

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    Some of the planet's finest places ever... I camped just below this mountain

    I eventually made it to bed and one would have thought that I would have slept through the night like a log, but around 1:30 am, I was awakened by the most horrible sound imaginable. The plywood walls were being pushed in as I heard the sounds of loud scratching outside…. OMG!! Was this a bear trying to get in? A million thoughts were going through my head.

    Stay tuned for the rest of this story...
    #32
  13. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile Supporter

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    Now there's a cliffhanger if I ever saw one! LOL. I was getting a bit anxious there for awhile until you found the shack. Now what! Thanks Grizz!
    #33
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  14. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    I have never experienced fear like that in all my travels. Not to give anything away, but I can tell you I looked at the hollow core door being held shut with a wire and began to panic. I did make a small dinner before turning in and my garbage was in the shack with me... all that was racing through my mind.

    I can say this, ATGATT can double as semi bear proof body armour... At least that was my thinking :eek7


    Thanks for riding along.
    #34
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  15. Mercenary

    Mercenary Mindless Savage

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    :lurk

    I am so in....
    #35
  16. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Ok gang... you read the story... Now see the video.

    GrizzLee Stories From The North: Ep4 -Good Weather, Good Roads, Good Friends, Good Times
    #36
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  17. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great video! Congrats on reaching your goal on the Canol Rd!! Thank you!
    #37
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  18. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    I am already formulating plans to go back. Would like to travel with a buddy. I think I can make arrangements to have fuel dropped off at the airstrip and alleviate some of those concerns . I have since learned of cabins one can rent up that way in the Dechinla area run by the Kaska 1st nations people.

    It is an amazing place up there, more so when the sun shines. I would almost say it's my favorite place in the Yukon, but then Tombstone Park off the Dempster Hwy is pretty amazing as well.

    Thanks.
    #38
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  19. gtcoop

    gtcoop Adventurer

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    Thanks grizz, really enjoy your videos and ride reports! Been through that area twice but not the canol road. :clap
    #39
  20. GrizzLee

    GrizzLee RubiKon Adventures

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    Location:
    Pacific NorthWest
    The north and south Canol Roads are real gems. Most folks are in a hurry to get to Alaska, Skagway and such that they miss out on some true treasures. If you are ever up there again, you owe it to your soul to ride the south Canol. If you want to preview heaven then ride the north canol.

    Btw, the Nahanni Range Road is also pretty awesome. But it requires a bit more logistics. 400 miles without refueling. I saw a pack of 5 white wolves out there. A wonderful memory that I will take to my grave.
    #40
    eemsreno likes this.