55-57: Whitehorse to Haines -42, 45, and 26 miles
55: If one needed more data to be convinced I am not a morning person, today provided. I didn’t want to get out of bed because it was a drizzly grey outside. Even oatmeal and tea didn’t perk me up. I dragged my heels, knowing at some point I would have to leave the warm comfort of Whitehorse. With ferry ticket booked for next Thursday and a 2-day weekend weather window to get over the passes on the Haines road, it saddened me to know more rest days weren’t really an option. Still, it took me till 10am to get out of the house, after numerous scrambles for forgotten items.
The drizzle began to let up on the far side of town. As I climbed the last hill out of the valley, 5 miles from home, I made mental note of a person standing in a rather strange spot on the side of the road near the top. Sure enough as I approached it turned out MaryAnn waving my travel mug at me, which I’d left on the counter TWICE while packing up this morning. It was lovely to see the familiar face again (if briefly) and my heart filled with the warmth of her kindness to drive out and bring it to me. However, it made continuing on that much more lonely.
I soon traded precipitation for headwinds and found myself plodding, not cruising, along the Takhini River. Finally I pulled in to a rest area (the first of the potential camping spots, and met Chuck from Juneau in the Westfalia sag-wagoning for his wife, Rebecca, and her friend, Brittany, a few miles back. They are also bound for Haines, and he offered for me to tag along or ask them for help should I need it. He parked the van and rode back to meet them while I waited, watching foul weather blow across the highway to the west but completely miss me.
There being relatively little on the highway from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, and a campground on the river 8 miles down a dirt road, we loaded the bikes on the rear rack and piled in to the Westy. It began raining shortly after pulling in to camp, so we sat in the van and played cards for a while. When the weather cleared up, chuck made a campfire and we spent the evening relaxing and socializing. Amid our conversation, I realized just how done with this trip I feel, and decided it might make sense to get off the ferry in Juneau and fly home from there. Just before bed/sunset, a magnificent rainbow came out on the peaks beyond the river.
56: I have run out of motivation. I slept terribly again, having forgotten to try to locate the leakin my air mattress while I had access to a bathtub in Whitehorse. We didn’t get out of camp until 10, and on the 20 minute drive back to the highway Rebecca encouraged me to really consider the reasons why I embarked on this adventure as a guide to my decision making in my next steps from Haines Junction.
I got to leave most of my gear in the car and cruise with no weight, meeting back up with the car every 10 miles or so. I thought hard and concluded that cycle touring is really only fun anymore when the weather is nice and the scenery good. As soon as I vocalized this to Rebecca,, it began raining.
At HJ, we stopped in for ice cream, and I went up to the visitors center to use the wifi. My heart settled, I chose to continue south towards the ferry to the airport in Juneau. It was my intention to ride to the campground, but post ice cream I was feeling exceptionally lazy and unmotivated and stayed in the car.The first campground, Kathleen lake, was full, so we ended up at Dezadeash Lake 25 miles down the Haines Road. This was cheating (not that I believe in EFI!) but gave me a good enough head start on the pass to make it a 2-day ride to Haines.
57:I slept even more terribly than usual. The wind picked up and howled most of the night, rattling my tent and filling me with dread: I knew it was coming out of the south, likely bringing cold and moisture with it.
When it was finally a reasonable hour, I staggered out of my tent and packed up, intent to hit the road early and put away some miles to end my trip strongly. I filtered water from the lake and cooked breakfast. My oatmeal tasted funny but I thought nothing of it until I took a swig of water from the bottle I’d used to cook and immediately spat it out- definitely contaminated with a chemical taste that would not wash out of my mouth. My stomach curled with the anxiety of having just eaten oatmeal cooked from bad water.
I finished packing and as I was loading my bike I discovered my rear tire was flatter than a pancake. I had a bit of a melt-down: all I wanted was to be done suffering with my bike. No more flats, no more wind, no more rain, no more nights tossing and turning on a deflating air mattress. I just want to be home, in my own bed, doing other things (climbing, hiking, sleeping) in the Colorado sun.
I cried at my flat tire and went for a walk on the beach, waiting for it to fix itself. When I finally had the composure to deal with it, I got stuck trying to pop the bead back on to the rim- a task made especially challenging with cold fingers. I gave up, again, and cried some more, and waited for Chuck and Rebecca and Brittany to get up – which didn’t happen until 10. They were surprised to see me: I was supposed to be 20 miles up the road already. Chuck fixed my flat.
I cried at Rebecca some more, and she fed me hot cocoa and bacon and we loaded the car and climbed southward. The clouds were hanging too low to really see much of the spectacular scenery, and as soon as we crossed into the strip of BC the pavement condition deteriorated to a point where I was really glad I wasn’t riding. The wind continued to bend the aspens over.
As we pulled up to the tundra, the mountains — the kind that make the spirit soar — were wild and majestic and mostly imaginary, given the frequent mist, occasional drizzle, and pervasive cloud cover. There weren’t a lot of trees up high, but the fireweed was bent sideways in the wind. Even in the van, wearing wool and my puffy, I was cold.
Despite that, I asked to get out and ride just past the top of the pass. It was all downhill to Haines, and it seemed important to me that I actually ride my bike across the border and in to Alaska. It was wet, the van met me 15 miles past the border and we drove in to town. They were able to change their ferry ticket and get home toJuneau tonight; I opted to stayin Haines for another day or two before following.
I checked in at the hostel on the outskirts of town and spent the evening catching up on phone calls, booking plane tickets, etc. I’m excited to announce ill be home on Friday!