This weekend, Yukon was lucky to have two new female fat bikers in town. Jill Homer – hereinafter known as Dr. Jill – is a famous endurance athlete who’s biked the Great Divide and the Iditarod. She’s also a friend who’s visited Whitehorse for a couple of local events, as well as just to hang out. For the last couple weeks Jill’s been in Alaska, running in the Susitna 100, and watching her boyfriend Beat run the Iditarod Invitaitonal. Jill Missal – hereinafter known as Hunter Missal – is GearGals, a female gear blogger who I’ve only met through the twitterverse. In 140 characters or less, the two Alaskan Jills, Bike-wife and I have been plotting a fat bike weekend.
The Jills arrived on Friday night after a long car ride in from Anchorage. Yukon and Alaska may be close on a map, but without an airline to connect them, they tend to involve long drives. On Saturday, we spent the day exploring Yukon single track – double riding so that we could check out Quickie and Boogaloo in the same day.
Sunday was the main event – an overnight snowbike ride along the Dawson Overland trail. The trail, formerly a winter mail route from Whitehorse to Dawson City, is a well traveled snowmobile route and part of the Yukon Quest. Our trip would take us from Braeburn Lodge to Takhini River Road – 100 km split evenly between two days.
This trip was a multi-biketual adventure. I was on Wednesday, my titanium Fatback. Hunter Missal rode a titanium 9:zero:7, similar to my bike, but even lighter thanks to the absence of a front brake. Bike-wife was on her Salsa Mukluk; and Dr. Jill rode a borrowed Surly Pugsley. We were successfully representing all major fat bike brands.
The Mr. drove us out to Braeburn Lodge, gave us a quick summary of the trail and off we rode. Day 1 was warm – within the first half hour I’d abandoned my hat and was riding bare headed. The highlight for me, was a small snowmobile trail that Hunter Missal discovered when trying to find the facilities. Halfway down the trail, the silence of the forest was interrupted by the sound of a rushing river – right underneath your feet. Hunter Missal and I were mesmerized, the other two girls were not as keen on standing on top of the frozen river.
Overall, the trail was nice and firm, with enough room to ride side by side with plenty of opportunity to chat and visit. Although we’d left Whitehorse in blue skies, most of our ride was spent in soft snow with hazy skies.
The one break in the weather was accompanied by the most colorful sundog I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, my skills at capturing the moment on megabytes are lacking.
After 40 km of riding, we finally met up with our Cabin Boy – the incredibly kind Sky Hunter who had kindly volunteered to bring our food out to the cabin. While the use of a Cabin Boy may spoil the purity of a hut to hut – it turned out to be a brilliant decision. Sky Hunter had come upon our planned Klondike Snowmobile Association cabin, only to discover it was occupied by a couple of bison hunters. While we were out the trail, he found us a Trapper’s cabin that we could use for the night to stay warm and dry. He was able to direct us to our new accommodations before nightfall – and even got the stove going for us.
The cabin was probably the best part of our trip. Despite the snowmobile for transportation, we only brought the essentials: wine, cheese, chocolate, beer, pasta, eggs, bacon, pancakes, syrup and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.
After a long day of exercise, we started our cabin time huddled close to the woodstove, desperate to get every joule of heat energy. With each passing hour our chairs moved back, widening the semi-circle as the stove got warmer and warmer. By half way through the night, Dr. Jill was singing Ne-Yo’s “It’s Getting Hot in Here” as we changed into tank tops and rolled up our pants. Finally, the beer was done, the wine-skins were empty and it was time to climb into our sleeping bags and rest up for the morning.
At 6:30 am, the sauna cabin was back to needing a wood fire; and I had the coldest sleeping bag. By the time I gathered more wood, it was time to start on breakfast anyway. We had convinced our Cabin Boy to stay the evening, instead of travelling back to town in the dark. After water was boiled for coffee, bacon cooked in the fire, and pancakes slowly baked, we loaded the snowmobile with garbage and our sleeping bags and sent Sky Hunter on his way.
After leaving a nice message for the cabin owner, we packed our own bikes up and started down the trail. Despite a snowy evening, the route was still packed well, and we were able to make good time. We even started our ride in blue skies with a big, bright sun. Unfortunately, within the first 10 km, the temperature started to drop and stopping to eat was made more difficult by the chilly weather.
The trail is not incredibly exciting, or particularly challenging – but is consistent and dotted with interesting historical artifacts. There were some fun, long descents; a long section of climbing and plenty of fast, flat sections. It was also a great way to try out an overnight bike trip – leaving me more confident in joining the Mr. for some of his longer adventures.
By the time we pulled up to the car at 3:30 pm, we’d ridden for almost 10 hours in total. Seems like a long time on bikes, but thanks to good conversation, and wicked 80s ballads, the time flew by. It was fun to see the surprised expressions on the snowmobilers faces as they came across a group of women, riding bikes, in the middle of winter. I’m hoping this becomes an annual adventure – perhaps next time we’ll trek up to Alaska.
Same trip, different blogs:
For more information on the historical elements of the trail, see Jennoit’s post: http://jennoit.blogspot.com/2012/03/741-1842-sunset-ya-know-if-this-was.html
For an awesome Robert Service inspired poem, see Dr. Jill’s post: http://arcticglass.blogspot.com/2012/03/there-are-strange-things-done.html