North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 13: Whitehorse to Watson Lake, YT

The 990 Adventure and I skulked from the Dempster like a rebuffed dog.  The weather drove us forward, but eventually the Yukon took over pulling us along.  Backtracking in the sunshine, the road to Whitehorse was represented and replenished by a more moderate pace and sunny breaks. Untethered from a single destination, the ride began to find its own pace.  Not immediately though.

At Stewarts Crossing, I should turn up the road to Keno, but defer. The Dempster has stolen some of my confidence, and builds a list of regrets – the Arctic Circle, Keno Hill, Keno City, the Silver Trail…  You can define a trip by the lost and missed, or a catalogue of future destinations.  The Adventure and I have become a scouting party for the next trip, one that will come prepared.  It’s a freeing thought as the ride escapes scheduling, destinations, or even being a review.

The view overlooking Pelly Crossing sweeps across the glistening river below and the Yukon rolling off into the distance conveying an enormity of scale.  Driving that home is a mocha craving and the next Startbucks is 400kms ahead. 

Heading out of Whitehorse, the Zumo sends me on the scenic way out of town setting the tone.  A function of random chance and my inattention to its directions take me to Miles Canyon and what remains of the White Horse Rapids, named for their resemblance of a charging white horse’s mane.  During the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush this section of the Yukon was the most dangerous part of the river, sinking hundreds of boats.  The basalt canyons still are a spectacle, but the rapids have been lost to the Whitehorse dam.

The sights continue to pile up.  Emerald Lake’s palette lives up to its name. Carcross features the remains of a glacial lake dubbed “smallest desert in the world”.  It takes only a few moments to determine a fully loaded 990 Adventure is a handful in the deeper sand.

The continental divide closes in, the peaks bracketing Yukon Highway 1.  Crossing this divisor there’s an instantaneous change in climate. Till now the day’s been cool and damp, suddenly the air warms.  The heated vest can be switched off.

A quick stop at Rancheria reveals accommodations that are the latest in abandoned logging camp squalor.  There are two familiar bikes here, an R1200GS Adventure and Kawasaki KLR, but the riders aren’t in sight.  Despite the chance to share some bike-chat I press on into the evening.

Long straight-aways, clearing skies and a warm evening carry me to Watson Lake and the last room at the Air Force Lodge.
Thanks to:
Tourism Yukon:


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Payeur says:

    Too bad you are such a snob. You missed a great place at the Rancheria Lodge. If you knew any history of the highway you would know that it is one of the very few original lodges, built for the first civilian travellers on the route, that is still in operation (not an abandoned logging camp!)

    The buildings are beautiful when looked at from a historical perspective. They supply their own hydro…. completely off the grid! Have the largest, cleanest, most private RV park I have ever seen. They provide the best food I have eaten along the highway and certainly are the kindest, nicest, most helpful people along the journey. The owner of the lodge has been known to drive motorcyclists to Whitehorse for parts and even took one fellow to Edmonton, AB…. thats 1400 MILES not kilometers! If you are having problems believing this check out some other travel blogs.

    Like I said at the beginning… too bad your such a snob, you missed a great place, and Denis and Linda are so kind that even after your unkind words, should you have bike trouble on your next trip, they would still drop everthing to help you.
    Sorry I am not that kind. You wont be getting any monetary tips from me. Just a common sense one. Open your mind!


    1. Edited for typos and should have been redacted for personal insults, they were not necessary to your point.
      I’m sure the owners are great folks, but I stand by my assessment of the room. This opinion was seconded by the riders mentioned in the post whom I later caught up with.

      For the record, I’m not a snob. I even drink Malbec.


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