After a really crappy week in Alberta/Northwest Territories, on roads that were even worse then the streets in Chicago, the Alcan seemed like absolute luxury. It sounds weird as hell, but just being around other traffic was sort of comforting. Not in the ARG FUCKING OLD PEOPLE IN THEIR R/VS sort of way, more in the "If something goes wrong, at least someone will hopefully see it so they can tell the police where to pull my mangled body out of the trees". That, and knowing that gas was available fairly regularly, and it wasn't going to be 300 miles in between fuel stops.
Of course, being that this was northern British Columbia, the gas that I did find was all in the area of $1.50 a liter, or around $5.60/gal. Once place I stopped in was selling it for $1.82, which ended up being the highest that I saw on the entire trip. I didn't buy any there; that was too high for my blood, so I rode another ten miles down the road, stopping at a campground/RV park/bakery which was selling for $1.45. Slightly more tolerable.
I ended up spending the night at this place, even though I'd intended on just getting gas, then continuing on. When I went inside to pay, I saw that they had a bakery, with soup and rolls. I was goddamn hungry, and this food was so good that I decided to spend the $15 for a campsite for the night. Seriously, these were the best cinnamon buns I've ever had. I'm sort of pissed at myself for not remembering the name of the place, or even taking a picture of the buildings.
I know it looks really gross colored, but that's because it's a shitty cheap camera under florescent light and . . . okay yeah the soup was actually pretty gross looking. But it tasted good! Cream of Veggie, made from scratch, and then a roll to go with it.
But oh god, the cinnamon buns. I ended up having three of them over the course of my time there.
This being mountains, the weather was STILL rainy, but in a very unpredictable way. It would be bright, happy sunshine one minute, then a downpour the next time you looked up, and then back to sunlight a few minutes later. I took advantage of one of the non-raining times to pack the tent and gear onto the bike, and kept going west.
Most of the Alcan is well-paved, but the road crews are fighting a never-ending and losing battle against the elements. There's a lot of perpetual construction along the route, with the occasional few miles of gravel, or mud. That's not usually too big of a deal, but this particular section was very loose, and it was/had recently rained heavily. I poked along at perhaps 15mph, and tried to ignore the assholes in cages tailgating me and honking.
I'm not sure if that's a semi-active volcano, or just the clouds getting trapped in a weird way. But I did mention at some point that Northern British Columbia is FUCKING GORGEOUS, right?
Now, despite the name that is possibly very slightly dirty (Haha. Muncho.), or just funny-sounding, Munhco Lake is pretty epic.
(For scale, that little white dash on the right edge is a semi-truck trailer)
The road winds it's way along the northeastern shore of the lake, chiseled right into the rock face on the very edge. There's no guard rails or anything, and there's a lot of sections with some absolutely delicious rapid switchbacks. Supposedly, some SCUBA divers went down there a few years ago and found all sorts of cars with bodies still inside them, people that had accidentally driven off the road and were never found. Unless someone actually saw you go in the water, if you did fly off the road, there's not really any way to tell, no broken guardrail or anything to give a clue as to what happened. I'm told that they found cars all the way back to the 50s and 60s.
Once you pass Muncho Lake,the road turns north to head to the Yukon, following various rivers and streams. None of it was really aggressive stuff, but it was still some epically beautiful stuff to ride through (When it wasn't pouring rain or hail).
The day had started off with intermittent but very heavy rain/hail/cats/dogs, but the day gradually cleared up, and that evening I pulled into the Liard Hot Springs.
Now this place was your fairly standard state-park-type campground, pit toilets and basic tent sites, for a fee of like $12 or something. It's a cash-only system, and as I was poor and had only plastic, I was sitting on the bike trying to figure out what to do. Just as I was about to turn around and leave, a park ranger rode over on an ATV. We exchanged pleasantries, and I inquired if there was an ATM around where I could get some cash.
"No, there isn't really. I think the hotel down the road will give cashback on purchases, but only for guests." He paused to look me over. "Well, how about I just pretend that I never saw you? All of the tent sites are full tonight, but if you head over do the day use area, a bunch of other bikers have taken over of the amphitheaters and are camped there"
True to his word, this place was packed well beyond capacity. All of the actual camp sites had two or three tents in them, and the Day Use parking lot was filled with RVs and people pitching tents wherever they could. Despite how bright it still was, it was actually quite late by the time I pulled in, so I killed the bike's engine when I entered the area and coasted to a spot (near the back on the left).
Two or three days ago had been the emotional low point of the trip for me. Being stuck in the NWT on horrible roads, with horrible weather and epic bugs had brought my spirits way, way down. And this place brought them all the way back up, and then some. I don't think I'd felt as good as I'd felt on this entire trip when I was set up here.
Part of it was being in proximity to other cool bikers again; I bullshitted with a couple guys on KLRs and 650GSs for a while, they were impressed/amazed that I'd made it through the NWT on an old Virago. Part of it was the weather; it was dry, 75f or so, very little breeze, and hardly any bugs. But most of it was the naturally occurring hot springs, located down a boardwalk about half a mile from the campground.
The hot springs feed into two pools that have been developed for people to use. The lower pool is shallower, and much more popular. when I walked by, there were a good number of people in it, including some families with children, and everyone was splashing around and generally being loud and boisterous. This was not what I needed, so I kept walking.
Another half-mile or so up the path, far away from the groups of people splashing each other, there is a second, deeper pool, designated as "Adults Only". While it still fucks with my head a little bit that I'm allowed in places designated "Adults Only", this was so, so much better then the first pool. Largely because I was the only one there.
These was like sitting on a hot tub. They advertise the water as being 120f, and while I don't think it's that high, I'd put it at least at 105 or 110. Hot enough that after a few minutes, you need to lift yourself back up out of the water to cool off. And it was mine, all mine.
I don't know exactly how long I was there, alternating between floating around on my back, and then sitting on the steps to radiate heat. It was so tranquil, so quiet and warm and peaceful. After my ride through the NWT, I needed this so very, very badly.
After I was thoroughly prune-ifieid, I walked back to my tent, ate some mashed potatoes, and went to sleep, warm and dry.
That's all for this update, but I'm working on a post that I meant to do ages ago, but never got around to. It's not a liner update at all, but it something I experienced while in Alabama. I should have it online by tonight, but just to give a clue as to what's coming . . .