Biking the Golden Highway

It has been on my “Alaska Bucket List” to ride the Golden Highway (Haines to Skagway) by bicycle for awhile now.  All spring and summer I have been searching, coaxing, begging for someone to ride with me.  Finally one night a friend and co-worker Beth asked me if I was interested and I replied “Absolutely!”  We set a date for the middle of August and requested the dates off.  Before we knew it June and July had flown by and it was now August … and the trip was only days away.

I quickly started to prepare meals and got out my camping stuff.  It was going to be chilly at night in the Yukon and I was very relieved when my new 50% off North Face Snow Leopard sleeping bag arrived in the mail just 2 days before we left!  I also got a lesson in Bike Mechanics 101, including how to repair a flat tire, from my dear fellow biker friend Kevin.

Wednesday morning I met Beth at the ferry at 0545 and we headed for Haines to start our trip.  We were both coming off a stretch of night shifts so we slept the whole ferry ride!   In Haines, we finished packing up at her house and I set off on the first leg of our ride for Mosquito Lake where a friend of hers lived and where we would camp the first night, 30 miles outside of town.

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Since there was only 2 of us and both of us novices, we decided to take her car which was loaded with food and camping gear and Neka, then we would alternate biking and driving every 10-15 miles.  She took the next leg in the morning and rode to the Alaska-Canadian border, then I hopped on the bike and rode 10 miles and switched out again.   Neither of us knew how long this 350 mile ride would take but we were prepared to be riding/camping for 6 days.

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*** Neka wished she could help drive, but she is just too young even though you can drive at age 14 in Alaska! ***

WELL … we made it 125 miles from Mosquito Lake to Haines Junction on Thursday, 100 miles to Whitehorse on Friday and finally we pooped out about 35 miles shy of Skagway  … My knee was killing me, felt like a knife grinding in the joint and Beth’s bum was so sore and numb she could not sit on the seat!  A bit of sadistic humor was the thought that I thought I was in good enough shape to just hop on a bike and ride that kind of distance in just 3 days without getting injured?  Hah! Lesson learned and we will be MUCH more prepared for the next trip!  All total up, I estimate that I rode 150 miles total in those 3 days … not too shabby for a novice distance biker!

Day #1 – camped out at Mosquito Lake:

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Go Beth!

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Haines Junction!  Whoo-hoo!  155 miles down!

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Whitehorse (the steamboat ‘Klondike’ in the background) … 250 miles down!

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In Whitehorse we got a hotel room that was pet-friendly … I realized then that we were raising a princess … Neka was SO THANKFUL to not be camping!  I even brought her a thermarest of her very own and yet she loved that real bed just like the rest of us!  🙂

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On the road again …

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50 more miles down …

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Only 50 miles to go!

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After we decided to bag the rest of the trip by bike, we packed both bikes into her Honda Element along with the rest of the gear and drove to Skagway.   Never was I so glad of any other decision in my life!  The roads kept getting crappier, it got colder, started to rain harder and the fog rolled in causing visibility to be like pea soup.  At the border, we handed over our passports and while waiting for confirmation I suddenly heard my name called out.  I looked around and through the pea soup fog I saw this guy standing beside his bike and he was drenched wet and shivering … “Steve?!?!  What in the world!  Did you bike the whole thing?  You are amazing and you are my hero!”  Steve is one of the Guardian Flight nurses that we frequently see in the ER that whisks away our critical patients to larger hopsitals!  He is a great guy but he just got a whole lot more awesome in our minds!

After yelling back and forth to each other through the car windows, the border patrol agent sternly recommended that we take this conversation to the parking lot!  After hugs and excited conversation we decided to meet up in Skagway.  Steve rode the last 7 miles down the steep mountain side and into Skagway and we met up with him there.  He hooked us up with a place to spend the night with a local EMT and fire chief Colin and we all went out to an incredible dinner at Starfire, a local Thai restaurant.  It was a great way to end this crazy trip on a bicycle!

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One Response to Biking the Golden Highway

  1. Diane says:

    Wow, Rachel, you never stop to amaze me! You are an adventuresome person, for sure!

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