North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 15: Watson Lake, YT to Telegraph Creek, BC


So KTM, would now be a good time to mention that my off-road history could be measured in quantities prefixed with “mili”?  Likely not, because the ride from Dease Lake to Telegraph has me debating subtleties of throttle control like never before.  By the way KTM, the fuel injection is a tad jerky at low speed isn’t it?  Give there’s a billion-foot drop to the left I’m all about control. Built in 1922 the road to Telegraph Creek redefines vertigo as it traces the course of the Tanzilla River.  A bit of British Columbia pride here, but this is the most awe-inspiring scenery of the trip.  This bit of grandeur, pillars of basalt plunging to the river below, has been labeled the “Grand Canyon of the Stikine”.  It certainly matches Yellow Stone for spectacle at least.  Add a good does of terror thanks to the road in and the experience is complete.

I’ve managed to hook up with two other riders.  Grant is astride a BMW R1200GS Adventure and Rob, from, is on a Kawasaki KLR 650, so my KTM 990 Adventure is keeping good company.

The problem is I’m struggling today. It’s a rough ride day, the type where no movement flows as easy and clean as it should.  Since deciding against doing the Dempster I’ve been plagued with self-doubt.

There’s a comfort in the safety of companionship and that is making up for my lack of confidence in the Pirelli Scorpion AT tires.  The start of the ride is muddy, and that seems to be Pirelli’s Achilles heal.  Exceptional at road work for a mixed use tire, the Pirellis don’t evacuate the mud effectively, and just become increasingly slippery.

Where the others are following the tracks left by proceeding vehicles, I end up aiming for patches of gravel, which are offering better bite and stability.  At first I’m pressing on.  Then I’m feel enthusiasm’s tingle; the weather is clearing, the road drying, and the scenery increasing in magnificence exponentially.

The turning point is running a backbone of rock where the Tuya and the Stikine Rivers merge.  There are massive plunges on either side, dramatic edifices of volcanic rock lacerating the sky, strata of basalt eroded in layers creating trail-like ledges leading to empty air and 1000-ft drops to shredding volcanic scree below.

Grant has stopped to take pictures as I round the corner.  I recon it’s a mean feat to stop this Colorado rancher in his tracks given his state’s own brand of natural beauty.  This was a man who two stops earlier was all about getting going – that’s fallen by the wayside.  I’m happy to take it all in.

Heading down a grade marked 20%, I’m finding first gears compression braking insufficient and praying there’s no sharp turn at the bottom.

There’s a sharp turn at the bottom, onto wood-decked a bridge.  Not one of those times when the “more throttle” mantra seems an option.  I wonder how many calories are burned by the repetition of “Oh, my gawd! Oh, my gawd! Oh, my gawd!”

Across the bridge and played out across a wall of rock overlooking the river is a mosaic, a natural radiating pattern star-bursting around a central cave sculpted of volcanic rock.  It is unlike any natural formation I’ve ever encountered, a portrait of the area’s essence – a delicate, web-work, hewn in the roughest of basalt.  Surely this must qualify as a natural wonder?

The pay-off for this sort of ride is multifold.  There is accomplishment of facing the roads challenges.  There is beauty to be seen.  There is also a sense of privilege.

Grant commented that, back in Dease Lake, he was talking with locals who’d never made this trip.

The previous evening, Rob mentioned he was riding to Telegraph Creek while chatting with a truck driver and his wife the response was a joking, “I hate you.”  The driver always wanted to do this trip.

The end of the road, for us at least, is the Stikine River Song, a lodge, general store, restaurant and café rolled into one.  Built in 1898, the lodge was originally a Hudson Bay Company outpost, but originally was located approximately 10kms down stream.  The outpost was later relocated to its current location.

Driving home the River Song’s heritage site status is that everything creaks.  No motion is unaccompanied by a wood on wood sound.  There is no stealth here and trying to move quietly only makes it worse.  Simply accept that you’re going to sound like a moose tromping though a field of toothpicks and enjoy the stay.
Thanks to:
Tourism Yukon:

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