The Epic

4 Sep

Cottonwood Valley descent

I do not use the term epic loosely.  If you are riding an epic, it should mean something.  Preferably, it should involve wars, demons, multiple affairs, and at least a couple of Gods and Goddesses; when riding a bike it should take at least 10 hours and you should think about eating your riding partners at least once.  It should definitely mean something more than having a great time.  If Odysseus had gone for a nice little sail around Ithaca before returning home for a beer and pizza with Penelope – it wouldn’t have been much of a poem, now would it.

The Cottonwood trail is one of the few Yukon epics – 84 km of riding through alpine passes, glacier fed creeks and finishing with a 5 km hike-a-bike up rock scree and down rooty hiking trails.  It took our band of brave bikers 11 hours and 10000 calories to get it done.

The Cottonwood starts on the Mush Lake Road, on the outer edge of the Kluane National Park.   We started on the trail early Sunday morning, after breakfast at the Kathleen Lake Lodge.  To send us off, Paul unleashed a can of bear spray so that our lungs could fill with cayenne…you don’t want to make this kind of trip any easier than necessary and risk its epic status.  It only took us about 20 km to ascend into the alpine; August colors in the Yukon are phenomenal.

Fireweed on the Cottonwood


The riding was beautiful, but the weather was less than cooperative.  Light rain, and close to zero temperatures made the glacial river crossings particularly frigid.  Soon my feet were blocks of concrete – the only comfort was that if I lost a toe, it would increase the epic factor 10 fold.

Cottonwood Creek Crossing


Riding with Monika is always a treat – mostly because Monika is a fabulous rider who for some reason can not consume solid food while on her bicycle.  This tends to result in hours of entertainment, while Monika floats in and out of bonkdom – temporarily regaining her sanity by forcing extra calorie Boost down her throat.   Not even the heli-drop of beer that Paul secretly flew in was enough to make her enjoy the consumption of calories.  P.S – heli-dropping beer definitely increases the epic quotient.


At the end of 80 km of riding, the Universe seemed to think that the ride wasn’t quite hard enough…so onto our backs the bikes went, while we climbed up the side of a mountain.  I have to admit that while my legs are trained for riding, my shoulders/back are out of practice when it comes to hauling bikes over mountainsides.  Monika upped her personal epic status by falling twice on the hiking portion of the trip.

Cottonwood Hike-a-bike

We knew we were racing against the Frosty Freeze clock, but we managed to get ourselves off the trail and into Haines Junction with 10 minutes to spare.  Although poutine and pepsi probably decreases the overall epicness of the ride…