|Bridge over Canyon Creek, YT|
I find it somewhat shameful that more people don't have the means or inclination to wander through these parts - but I am also grateful. Nothing spoils a moment in nature like a bunch of babbling tourists.
I was just starting to get used to the solitude when I heard that fellow corporate drop-out and wandering nomad Smilin' Joe, of the New Dirt Road, was in the area. Since it wasn't too far out of my way, I agreed to meet up and show him around.
Joe has an odd sense of planning. We'd exchanged some emails where I suggested we have a time and place to meet. He figured we should just aim for the Yukon and figure it out from there.
Neither of our cell phones were working so we communicated by voicemail. Despite common sense, we both arrived in the same Yukon town at the same time. We ate at some snazzy grill in town, picked up some beer and headed out in search of a place to camp.
With nightfall approaching and no recommendations to guide us, we went to the first spot we came across - the provincial park at Marsh Lake. It was, of course, deserted. No noise, a choice spot on the lake and plenty of wet firewood.
I personally am opposed to the use of accelerants when building a campfire but after witnessing Joe's clumsy attempts at wasting matches I decided to take over. With skill and aplomb, I chopping the wood down to appropriate sizes, delicately drizzled one of the larger logs with vegetable oil, and successfully built a life-sustaining campfire to ensure our survival. The next priority was consumption of pricey middling Canadian beer, which we accomplished by sunset.
The next morning I showed Joe how to make a proper cup of coffee using an aeropress, rather than the cowboy swill he'd been brewing. As for plans, both of us had some sort of vague desire for hiking up into the mountains somewhere. The Yukon Territory is so big, however, that getting anywhere takes hours. Our staunch opposition to planning left us momentarily stymied. I then suggested a jaunt to Atlin. Once I told him about the shithouse and other amenities, he was sold.
I set out in my stout and capable 4x4, leaving Smilin' Joe to follow my trail in his little Honda. Fortunately I was there to set the pace.
|Smilin' Joe Fission verifies Warm Bay's namesake|
We pulled in to Atlin by early afternoon. In an effort to try something different, we headed out to Surprise Lake. I was impressed to see the little Honda follow me down the trail.
At the lake we found a deserted scrubby campground with a lot of torn up earth nearby. It was not exactly scenic, so we retraced my previous steps and set up at at the pull-off on Warm Bay Road, a deserted wooded campground with a view of the western sky, the snowy mountains and the lake's bobbing surface.
I spent the rest of the afternoon making camp while Joe played on his bicycle. I didn't mind his impertinent screwing off though. I find that camp-craft really is it's own reward.
The day's hike turned out to be a few hundred meter walk up the road to the public warm springs. Joe reveled in the sulphurous muck for a bit before we headed back to camp for beer and whatever concoction we devised from our combined food boxes for dinner.
Today we woke still deluding ourselves that we would find a place to go for a proper hike and arrive there with enough to time to make it. We set off from Atlin back towards the Alaska Highway with Watson Lake in mind.
The first fifty miles were a wet muddy slog through the rain. Joe's Honda was fishtailing like mad, so I pulled over to lock my front hubs and wait for him to catch up. The rain & mud obscured windshields, reduced traction and overall made for a great drive.
Joe got his revenge, however, by passing RVs and trucks on the paved roads with ease, while I had to plan any passing maneuver, using inertia to my advantage. It was slow going overall and we didn't arrive in Watson Lake until after 6PM. Since Joe is enamored with simple, kitschy things I had to show him the signpost forest first off.
Afterwards, we stopped for dinner at Kathy's, where I had a horrid clam chowder that may have just been vegetable soup with some canned clams stirred in. Joe fared much better. I don't mind eating simple, bland or even somewhat distasteful things when I make them myself. It's insult added to injury, however, when paying someone to do it for me.
To sleep, we drove out to the campground at Watson Lake. We weren't the only ones camping here tonight but it was still mostly empty. We couldn't find a good lakeside spot so we pulled the vehicles together and rigged up a tarp over a seating area and a campfire. We each took our ration of pricey Canadian beer, burned stuff and eventually retired. I slept on the memory-foam mattress on the bed I built into the back of the Landcruiser. Joe crawled into a meager tent and slept on the ground.