The morning dew blanketed the Alaska Highway with dense fog as I departed that morning riding my beloved Triumph Bonneville motorcycle (Bonnie). The true beauty of the mountain snow peaks (Glaciers) embracing the snake like highway covered with potholes, fresh clean cool crisp air, sand and roller coaster permafrost damaged straightaways kept my senses alert.
My Bonnie's suspension screamed in horror during every bounce on the meandering permafrost bitten highway covered with potholes. Local construction truck crews commented when asked about the road ahead, "oh, you will have to ride through the Destruction Bay area!!". I asked what was special about that area, the look on their faces said it all..... Words and photos does not do justice to the area, only riding it on a motorcycle can you truly appreciate the splendor of this back-country odyssey.
The glorious asphalt disappeared into a highway covered with moon like craters. The cool mountain fog was overtaken by the intensity of the sun. The layers of clothing that sheltered my tender skin from the cool mountain fog quickly felt like I was wrapped in plastic sheeting inside a microwave. Could not stop to remove layers as there were no safe sections of road to do so. Hundreds of miles/kilometers with very little water --- dehydration was taking a toll. Finally, a gift falls upon me and my bike, glorious asphalt is back. Hunger, heat, exhaustion, dehydration were all prevalent while a little voice of wisdom said, "look Madeleine, there is a campground on the left, stop before this road kills you". Sure enough, the advice from those words were accepted.
A sanctuary, a campground, Discovery Yukon Lodgings. I pull into the RV campground park, no one in sight to check in. A girl rides up on a 4 wheeler, an old grumpy camper attendant man comes out of the office, then the woman owner. Their offering of a cabin was way too expensive ($160 a night), a tent site was more appealing. They were reluctant as though they did not want me to stay in a tent. No other tents in sight, only cabins and RV's. The entrance to the office read, "if you are being chased by a bear, do not run inside". While being escorted to the tent site, heavy rain dropped suddenly within a matter of minutes. The owner points to the white canvas tents hidden in the back of the campground, she noted the beds in them with no need to pitch my own tent in the rain, for a few dollars more, why not, very appealing. Yes, a bed, so needed. My body could not sleep in an air mattress another night.
The excitement of being in a canvas tent was overwhelming because there was a little bed to sleep on. A quick power bar snack provided energy while setting up camp. Still inside the tent eating, the smell of peanut butter snack bar was quite intriguing to any large hungry bear in the neighborhood, let's not mention the sweet smell of my perfume. Suddenly, the sound of thunder was prevalent while I was inside the canvas tent -- "the canvas wall moves". Indeed, a hungry bear smelled the food inside the tent, it was very curious and on route to the wild berries on the other side of the park. Its large black beautiful shiny nails covered at the top with fur break the inside of the bug netting window revealing itself, "A BLACK BEAR". The nose was forcing itself into the window. Heavy breathing from the bear two feet away from me. The only thing separating me from the bear was the protection from the thick white plastic canvas. Those few moments felt like an eternity. My heart was beating like a stop watch on steroids, it felt as if it was going to pop out of my chest. I stood still, quiet. Moments later, silence. My mind was going crazy, did the bear walk away? Should I open the canvas door and look? Waited a few minutes, opened the door and no bear. Survived the bear. My heart continued to race, I noticed another camper on the other side of the campground with a zoom lens taking photos of the incident. She was shocked that she saw the bear trying to get into the tent while I was in it. The owner offered the expensive cabin if I was too scared. I decided to stay in my little canvas tent and fight the fear demons because I could not afford the expensive luxurious cabin; beautiful cabin by the way, she manually irons the sheets. Could not sleep that night as it was daylight the entire night until 3 or 4 am when daylight sort of dulled itself for an hour, but still quite bright, it was brighter inside a white tent.
The next day, rested a little longer, the owner of the campground made a delicious vegetarian breakfast for me. Fully charged with the meal, I set north on the desolate highway that had been recently scorched by wildfires. Suddenly I look to my left and notice a large grizzly running alongside the road in the opposite direction I was riding. I slow down with intentions to snap a photo, the bear stopped, looked at me, I open the throttle and leave the area, it was a beautiful clear sunny day. Another 75 miles or so, I spot a large black wolf crossing the road about 200 yards in front of me, between Beaver Creek and Snag Junction on the Alaska Highway. Sighting those two wild magnificent creatures will be embedded in my mind forever since a photo opportunity was not possible. The up close encounter with the black bear has taught me the lesson of not having food near the tent and leaving my perfume at home. In addition, listening to its gentle curious heavy breathing sound was spectacular, just happy it was just curious and not willing to enter the tent....... Still feeling blessed by the opportunity to have been able to ride my motorcycle in this majestic part of the world, Kluane National Park, Canada.