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Mike and I left our friends in Aberdeen, Washington and the two of us drove north through the rain and traffic in Seattle. We passed the city and by the evening were cruising back roads through the mountainous Skagit Valley. Finally, we crossed into British Colombia, Canada!
Darkness came and we kept driving for a while, until we pulled over and slept in the truck at a pull off in the mountains.
The morning was sublime, I got up at 4AM before the sun rose on the cloud drenched and drizzly day. The faint light of morning lit the mountains, and the clouds swirled around them. I let Mike keep sleeping in the back as I drove.
He woke up eventually, and drove for a while, we passed through an area covered in sagebrush and scrubby trees beneath rocky, colorful mountains. We were in the desert of Canada! Gas sure was expensive, and we kept driving.
After an extremely long way we passed through the “city” of Price George, and turned left towards nowhere. It was a long ride through the countryside and eventually back into the mountains where we slept for the night in the birch woods. We had come a long ways north, and realized the sun was staying out later…
The next day I was driving again as Mike slept, and then I came to a road with no cars for a long way. Enormous snow covered mountains were now visible on all sides of us. That’s when Mike woke up to a fantastic view, and the rest of the driving day would be spent continuously among the huge, snowy peaks.
We saw 6 black bears on the roadsides as we drove along in the morning, and no cars. We got gas at a tiny outpost and kept driving. Pretty soon the road became one lane, and sometimes would turn to gravel. We were on the Cassiar highway, and it was a long way towards Alaska.
The scenery soon became possibly the most impressive roadside scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. We had arrived in the outland, a place so far away from the rest of society it remains completely virgin- untouched by the effects of mankind. I have never been so far away from the rest of the world, I could feel it.
It was an awesome day, but all we did was drive and drive. 12 hours passed without leaving the mountains. In that same amount of time on the east coast you could drive from Massachusetts to North Carolina and pass all those cities like New York, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, where so many millions of people live. Here there was only massive, quiet peaks, and no semblance of society whatsoever save the chewed up, lonely road. At one point there simply was no gas. We drove nearly 300 miles and finally, the gas light came on. We were screwed…
Then as fate would have it we arrived at the tiny town on the border of the Yukon territory. The gas station was closed, and we spent a while wondering what to do, but eventually found a second gas station. A tank of gas cost me 75$.
So we continued on into the Yukon and camped for the night at a roadside pullout. We now were in the epic north, and could feel it. The Yukon was colorful, the seemingly drab maroon and pine green of the trees looked over saturated in the late afternoon light. The sky was as though possessed with its ethereal blue color, what was it about this sky… The clouds almost glowed and they hung around the snow peaks.
Something about this place was different. I felt like all those cities of the lower 48 were far, far below an epic range of mountains, and higher still, in some other world above all of it is where I was driving now. I have never been this far north, and it reminds me of how the tropics of the world are a world apart from the temperate region. Coming here was like discovering a new tropic. You could see it in the sky, something was different about this sky though I couldn’t pinpoint what. Then as 11PM rolled around and the light of day was still persisting, I realized how unusual it felt to be here in this lost place.
We spent the night at a roadside pullout and at 11:30 when we went to sleep, light was still shining in the sky.
The next day we made it to Whitehorse, the only city and capital of the Yukon territory. This is the region I will be living all summer! The way the constant daylight is here… the northern sun is also weak. Clouds roll in, and the light seems to almost shine grey. Whitehorse looked grey, and mostly was a city with nothing in it.
Then we found the downtown which was pretty cool. I liked Whitehorse a lot, we went grocery shopping and bought some bulk groceries to take with us to our small Alaskan town we’d soon see. Then we went to the Canada Game Center! They had a pool, and hot tub and water slide and wave pool. All we needed was a shower for 5$ and we got all this fun! We will definitely come back every time we go to run errands in Whitehorse this summer.
The road is now 110 miles to Skagway, the town where I had a job lined up as a bicycle tour guide. However I had no employee housing to greet me. Neither did Mike, and he had no job either.
We drove the road, first arriving at the town of Carcross. Of all the scenery I had seen through British Colombia, this mountain scenery was the finest! And this is my backyard!! The mountains were white all the way down to the frozen lakes at the bottom of them. The lakes were huge and wrapped around the mountains. I could imagine this place in the summer… Rivers, lakes, mountains, eagles, bears, just endless nature in all it’s glory. This will be a pristine place to live!
We crossed from the Yukon into British Colombia for a moment, and then hit Alaska. The town of Skagway is on the southeast coast, and is one of the few towns of Southeast Alaska to have road access to the rest of the world, although the rest of the world is extremely far away! The USA only has jurisdiction over about 15 miles from the border until the coast. Skagway is really like an island.
We went down the spectacular White Pass which descended into an enormous canyon, and eventually arrived at the bottom. This road I would later be biking every day for work! Never have I had such a cool job.
The town of Skagway was set at the end of what is actually the largest fjord in North America, with a quaint harbor looking out to the huge snowy mountains. The town itself looked a lot like an old fashion, Colorado mining town.
We then looked for a place to camp and drove down a long dirt road to Dyea, a ghost town near Skagway. The road was wildly scenic following the dramatic coastline at the base of huge mountains. Tidal flats teemed with sea life on the side of the road as we made it into the next bay down the coast from Skagway, and then the next. Eventually we found the most incredible spot.
It was on the Taiya river, and I had a good feeling about the spot right away. This is where we will live all summer! And that road can be our commute to Skagway. Mike agreed, it seemed like a good place where I will be able to kind of sneakily hide my truck and camp out, because there were a few different roads winding around in a maze to nowhere. There was also a river beach with a view to glacier crusted mountains, and forests of cottonwoods and birch trees.
There was also an island and we could adventurously drive through the river onto it. I feel like I should be in a commercial for Toyota trucks around here! We named it BBQ island.
We spent the next full day in that spot and Mike setup his tent in a forest clearing on the riverbanks. We cut some of the brush down and had ourselves a nice spot to setup the slackline. We had the best day ever in the sunshine, looking at the mountains, hearing the stream babbling away, and doing laundry in the stream. There actually is mountains we can see on all four sides of our spot, it is incredible and reminds me of Peru.
That night some people showed up at our spot and partied with us and camped there. They told Mike to get a job where they worked. It looked like it might not be too hard for him to find work here. Then as we sat around the fire late, and finally at long last the sky got dark, it lit back up… The northern lights came out! Bands of green poured across the northern horizon, and everyone was in awe.
The next day we went into town and Mike walked into a tour place called Skagway Scooters to ask for work. We had been walking for about 2 minutes through the town. They said all they needed was a motorcycle mechanic. He happens to be one. They hired him on the spot.
Tada! It was also right across the street from where I was working, and I met the Sockeye Cycle team. The next day we both started work! But the day started off a bit crazy…
I woke up to my truck violently shaking at my river beach. I thought it must’ve been a bear trying to get in, but I couldn’t see it. I opened the back window and screamed out at it, I thought it must have been under the truck. It stopped at some point, and I got out of the truck but couldn’t tell what had happened. Then an hour later it happened again, and again, and again, and I had no clue what I was experiencing, eventually deciding it must just be the wind shaking the truck around. But then when I went to go see Mike in his tent he was like, ‘what the hell has been happening’! It was an earthquake! It measured 6.5 on the richter scale. He was terrified, all the trees had been swaying and shaking around him! Then as I sat there on the forest floor I heard a boom coming from the mountains, of rocks tumbling all around, oh god it’s another. Then I felt it like a giant burp under where I sat, and the earth pushed me up for a moment and dropped me back down. It was amazing!
Since then, a week and a half has passed and we’ve started to settle into this sublime life in Skagway. My job is amazing, I actually get paid to bike around all day, which is what I’d be doing in my free time anyway! There’s a lot of extremely musically talented people in this town and last night we went to open mic night, I even played the piano on stage. We have been playing lots of music, and we got gym memberships, so are starting a workout routine. Mike also was given a school bus to live in for free, although he still wants to camp out in his spot, but now has two spots and I have a place to stay in town if I so choose. I also can use the Sockeye house for showers, or shower at the gym, so, far from homeless, we are multi-homed!
We’ve commuted in for work every day from our spot on the Taiya river outside Dyea, until last night which was the first time staying at the bus. We have never seen anyone else camped there except for that one time where people came and threw us a party. On the ride passed the tidal flats every morning and evening, we see seals, and bald eagles, and 18 foot tides which constantly change. Then when I get to work, often times I’m soon driving right back out to Dyea for a bike tour! Sometimes I drive that road 6 times in a day and get paid for it! I am still going through their extensive training process and learning so much.
The weather is gorgeous, it rains less here than anywhere else in Southeast Alaska because we’re in the rain shadow of the dramatic peaks. It’s chilly, often cloudy, but feels so fresh and clean. And sometimes its clear, we wear lots of layers- Alaska style!!! Today I only have to “work” for a couple hours, then we’re going for a hike in our endless afternoon sunlight. I am totally in love with this life here and having an amazing time. I’m sure I could write so much more about this place but I’ll save it for the next post. Alaska, you are my new favorite place of all time, looking forward to what the summer will bring!