by Sara Dykman
I’ll start this story on a climb. This climb was somewhere between Haines, AK and here. A 290 mile (467 Kilometers for the Canadians) stretch of road. Here, by the way, is a picnic area in the Yukon. We didn’t make it far today as the rain halted us and this picnic area tempted us, but now I have some time to write this. As for the climb, it was rather ordinary. The grade was fair; the distance was short; and the shoulder adequate. The climb is only special because I found a fish hook.
It is not unusual to stop on the road and find a treasure. We have found electric tape, fabric, hats, gloves, etc. Honestly I stopped because it was shiny. I hooked the fishing hook on a break cable and pedaled off. I figured it would come in handy. You just never know what situation you might find yourself in.
Allow me to jump back to just one situation, in Haines, AK.
After biking in the Pacific Northwest for a month it was great to be in new territory. I felt like our adventures were really beginning. We went to the grocery store to stock up on three days of groceries. There we ran into Paul. Paul was a familiar face, an Arcadian bike mechanic up until a year ago. He had moved to Haines and one of his many jobs was leading raft trips through the bald eagle preserve outside of town. Later when he invited us on a tour, we of course said yes!
So down the river we rafted. Of course this was after a pancake breakfast (thanks Paul!) and a mountain hike (thanks Paul!). In our rafts we learned the ways of bracing for bumps and shuffling. We needed to shuffle a lot as this Alaskan river was a braided river. There was not one main channel but dozens of water alleyways. This meant that the river stretch wide and that sometimes the water was shallow. The shuffle was a bouncing dance that helped the dragging float move forward. We rafted past bald eagles, grizzly bear tracks, and assorted shore birds. I’ll admit, biking is fun, but a break from the bike is really fun.
But, let’s go back to the bike. Leaving Haines we crossed into Canada after 44 miles of riding in our 4th state (Alaska). It was straight up from Canada towards a 3,000 ft and something pass. As we climbed, mountains framed our views. The valleys of the mountains were filled with snow, transforming them into striped giants looming with the clouds. Cliché or not, it was breathtaking (ha…pun intended).
We celebrated Aaron’s birthday on the pass. We found the much talked about cabin/shack/cave castle and built a fire in the wood stove. The stove came in handy a few times. We used it to warm up. We used it to cook Aaron’s pineapple-mixed-in cake. AND the stove was a great excuse to split wood. Yes, for the first time in my life, I split wood in the Canadian mountains with an 11pm sun.
And now we are back at fish hook climb, a three day ride from Haines. After hooking my road booty to my bike the road continued to climb and fall; among lakes, past our first black bear, and into the town of Whitehorse.
In Whitehorse we stayed with Megan, Laird, and Chris. We had met Megan and Laird on the road getting ready for their 160 mile bike race. They completed the ride in one day! At their house we chatted (it is nice to talk to people other than bike49ers…no offense), played a world domination board game (world peace ended the game), ate spaghetti, and discussed our upcoming roads.
The next day we were on our upcoming road, and two days later we were in Teslin, YT. This is when the fish hook came in handy.
We were eating a dinner of veggie burritos filled with lentils cooked in pickle juice and couscous, when we waved to Jean-Michel biking by. The wave sparked a conversation and before long our French Canadian friend was inviting us to go canoeing and catch a midnight fish snack. Never turn down an invitation.
After a heated (but fair) round of rock-paper-scissors, it was determined that Matt and I would be canoeing the mighty Teslin River. We paddled across the river to a rocky point and Matt dropped the hook and let out the line. Nothing. Nothing. So we put my roadside fish hook on the line. Nothing. Nothing. BAM! Matt reels in a large Pike with the coaching of Jean-Michel. That was our first pike, but that one was over the legal limit (over 30 inches must be released).
Next it was my turn. I dropped the once successful, roadside hook into the water and Matt and Jean-Michel paddle the canoe. Nothing. Nothing. BAM! Our second pike. This time a keeper. Less than 30 inches; we reeled her in, headed to shore, and before long we were cooking our pike on a fire. Of course catching the fish and the canoeing was only half the fun. The other half was talking with our new friend. Jean-Michel is from Quebec, and traveled to the Yukon for a moose hunt/spontaneous chain of events. I can’t tell you exactly what lead him there, as his story (and most others) was a bit hard to follow. I know for sure that he will be an emperor but doesn’t like slavery, loves fishing, and doesn’t like show offs. He made our Teslin experience unforgettable.
So there you have it. Haines to here (just past Teslin). Approaching Haines, we had no idea that we would raft one river and canoe another. We didn’t know we would meet Paul or Jean-Michel. That is the beauty of this: a reminder to seize opportunities, try something new, and enjoy the spontaneity of travel. So… climb a hill, find a fish hook, and go fishing.