North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 8: Watson Lake to Whitehorse, YT

I should have just camped.  The Belvedere Hotel has one of the few licensed lounges in Watson Lake, making it the hot spot.  Having a room overlooking the parking lot was good for the bike’s security, but bad for sleep as staggers of drunks exited and then loudly discussed what or who to do next in the parking lot.Midnight, 1:00, 2:30, and 3:00, the successive waves clashed against sleep. Welcome to the Yukon.  How odd though to look out the window, shout at someone for sitting on one of the Goldwings parked below, and see a penumbral mix of dusk and dawn.  Eventually I fall into a fitful sleep.

In 1942 Carl K. Lindley of Danville, Il., became homesick while working on the Alaska Highway, so he erected a sign to his hometown complete with mileage. That’s become a bit of a tradition for travelers coming to Watson Lake growing into the oft-imitated signpost forest.  Snap a few pics and it’s time for the road, Watson Lake’s low-rise impermanence leaves little hint of the Yukon’s prior Gold Rush glories.

_mg_5892Laser straight roads.  Roads built with sheer linear intent.  Roads designed by the kind of person that you fake a seizure to escape at parties.  Oh, yes, come for the scenery, but not for the riding between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.  Well, not for the first few hundred kilometers anyways.

As you move westwards, the scenery regains itself.  Mountains appear on the horizons, the road begins to twist and turn from time to time, but mostly this is just open throttle territory. With enforcement hovering around nonexistence, why not?

Gas isn’t a worry. The Milepost travel guide reveals plenty of well-spaced gas stops, so you may as well get to the scenic bits quickly.  Nature picks up the plot again by Swift River, but this is a subtle thing – a softly arced pallet of textures rather than over the top grandeur.

I should stop for video.  I should stop for photos.  Instead I’m a man on a mission.  Tourism Yukon’s invited me to Whitehorse for tomorrow to poke around, and then to the Dawson City Music Festival.  No complaints there, but now the ride’s about blurring the scenery rather than taking it in.  Suddenly the destination has become more important than the trek, still I make time for a few stops.

The Swan Haven on the shores of Marsh Lake for example.  While the haven itself was closed, the view of the cold grey-blue windswept lake inspired.  You think of the Yukon as empty, 32,000 people spread across a whopping 482,443 square-kms, yet Marsh Lake is rimmed with cottages, houses and development.

What strikes you is the distance between even the most trivial of destinations.  That must lead to a difference sense of space, and more than a little elbow room for most.

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