Fine! We Admit it, We’re Tired!
Route: Dawson City > Stewart Crossing > Pelly Crossing > Carmacks
Drive Quality: 7/10
Road Quality: Varies between 6.5/10; potholes, short, unannounced sections of gravel, construction
Wildlife seen: Fox, ducklings, ravens
In other seasons, Dawson City may have scared us away. There were rumors of block-long lines to access bars, busloads of travelers, and shops running out of food, but the Dawson we experienced was quaint, available, and welcoming. We wandered the streets in the midnight-light, gambled, panned for gold.
We allowed ourselves a day of rest to revisit those places after conquering the Dempster. The following morning, we resigned to turn the bikes back South, knowing our long road had reached its Northern end. We had plans to make it past Whitehorse to Teslin, knocking quite a few kilometers off in the first day.
The first leg was the 172 kilometers to Stewart Crossing. The clouds hung low, obscuring most of our view, and the scrubby bushes and trees encroached on the road, hugging it tight. Stewart Crossing is nothing more than a small gas station, and the inside is currently closed. After a five-minute stop, we pressed on the short distance to Pelly Crossing, which has a grocery store and gas station, and offers free coffee with gas fill-up. We hugged our cups as the skies began to sprinkle before we pressed on.
From there, a mammoth black cloud hugged the skyline. A black, clearly identifiable front pressed itself to the mountaintops directly west of us. We seemed to be keeping pace with it for the next 107km, the rain always just a hair behind us, the threat of it everywhere. As we rolled into Carmacks, it was clear we were about to be assaulted. The sky turned black, heavy. The silence that hangs over a place before a storm muted the landscape. We rushed into a small restaurant as the sky split open and dumped torrents on the road.
I’d love to say that, inspired by our day of rest, we persevered. But, I admit it, we were tired. Necks and back sore of the Dempster, willpowers sagging after seemingly endless rain, we were unenthusiastic to continue despite the early hour. After six cups of coffee and a solid 90 minutes of downpour, the unchanging weather forecast which reported ‘rain’ for the next 24-hours swayed us. We decided to pack in.
Carmacks is a great stop, and under other conditions we would have been enthusiastic to stay. They have 2 gas stations, a town restaurant, and cheap cabins directly on the Yukon River. We snagged one and sat on the porch for the afternoon, watching the rain soak the sprawl of forest and fill the already-rushing river.