Sometimes things don’t go as planned. After Beaver Creek, we saw that there was a Creperie up ahead. The milepost description was something to the effect of:
Pine Valley Bakery & Crepery is a historic Alaska Highway Lodge lovingly resurrected by your hosts Olivier and Mylene, who invite you to enjoy real French pastries and baking. Their specialty is fresh made crepes and their crusty cinnamon rolls! Cabin/hostel with full bathroom facilities available. Campground.
The plan was to go all the way to Pine Valley on Thursday, the 26th of July, and then take Friday as a rest day. About 6 miles out we saw an amazing campsite by a river and decided to stay there so we would just have a short ride to breakfast and take the rest of Friday off. We slept in Friday morning. Along the way we talked about the different types of crepes we hoped they would have and what we planned to do with the day off.
As we pulled into the parking lot I noticed a short wooden fence in front of the building that said “No picnic” on the main horizontal beam. I leaned my bike against it. Then I noticed a number of metal signs on the front of the building that said “Gun lover clinging to bible inside,” and “If you’re found here at night your body will be left here in the morning.” I found it a bit strange considering the place was owned by two Frenchies in Canada.
It was well put together and very clean when we walked in. We said hello to the woman behind the counter and she greeted us with a heavy French accent. Soph checked out the menu on the board and I scoured the place for an outlet to charge my phone. All appeared to be used except one that had a piece of tape over it. I checked the bathroom and found one in there. After plugging it in I joined Soph and we ordered ham crepes.
The food was amazing. Best crepe ever, not kidding. I don’t know how they did it. I had been stymied at every turn trying to find something to eat in the Yukon other than spam and Kraft macaroni and cheese and somehow these two are pulling off incredible French pastries. The downside was that they were $14 and not very filling. I noticed they sold milk and cereal so I bought a box of Honey Nut Cherios and reminisced about breakfast as a kid. I asked for a bowl and got a mean look so I grabbed my own and sat at the table and ate. Soph asked about camping. A bear had recently broken into the restaurant, evidenced by the board over the window with bear prints drawn on it. No more camping. Olivier came out and saw my phone plugged in.
“You ask before you do!”
He unplugged it and dropped it on the table in front of me.
We decided this was not a place for a rest day and our 6 mile rest day became a 73 mile suffer fest to destruction bay. Camped in a little gazebo by the water, a number of people dropped by to tell us that there was a lot of bear activity in the area. The bay is home to an annual fishing derby after which the remains of hundreds of fish are left on the beach. This does not appear to strike anybody else as bad form. There were prints all around.
We took most of the day off in Destruction Bay on Saturday, but rode to Congdon Campground later on. Due to high bear activity, the park service had installed an electric fence around a small area to keep campers safe. I wasn’t convinced that it would be of any value. We were learning that government campgrounds in the Yukon are all beautiful. I suppose it is not that hard when the entire province is basically an Ansel Adams portfolio. I love getting into these places early. From 2-5 they are always so quiet that you can hear a leaf breaking away from a tree in the breeze. Unfortunately at Congdon there was a young lad doing his best to let the entire campground know that he was talking. I made a point to walk through near his campsite knowing that he could not resist a hearty “Hello.”
“Oh hey there. How are you?”
“I’m great,” almost whispering, “I just love how quiet and peaceful this place is don’t you?” He gave me a funny look. Apparently Soph had just worked the same trick and he seemed to quiet down.
I went to procure some butter. The RV crowd is generally overstocked and excited to help cyclists. We can’t fit things like bottles of cooking oil in our bear can and often try to buy some from them but they never take our money. I approached a French Canadian couple at their site and as I said, “Any chance you have a little…..” her face turned red, “butter,” I finished.
“Ohhhh butter yes,” she looked relieved. “I thought you were going to ask for….. How do you say it?”
“Cannibis,” a slightly less accented voice yelled from inside the RV.
“Yes, Cannibis. Last night a man came and asked for Cannibis.”
“Do I look like somebody that would have Cannibis?”
“Hey you never know,” still laughing. Then I felt a little offended. “Do I look like somebody that would ask a complete stranger for cannabis?”
“Well you have your funny hat and dirty shorts.”
The next day we rode through Haines Junction and the first grocery store in Canada. The day after that was hard. With how spaced out the stores are, I usually have close to thirty pounds of food when we leave a place where we can resupply. It was hot and mostly uphill. We misjudged our water consumption and found ourselves getting low late in the day. We were looking for a good water source to filter from and camp nearby.
“Stoney Creek. Is this it?”
“No, I think it was Annie’s Creek or something like that. This looks good though,” I replied.
“I say we keep moving.”
Stoney Creek was an almost perfect spot. Deep and fast with plenty of flat areas that were out of site from the road. There was even a large site that may have been cleared for a small development nearby. It was dotted with small plateaus of gravel that would make it easy to spot a bear from. Given that there was no vegetation on or around the mounds, it was pretty unlikely that a bear would even bother walking through.
About six kilometers further I saw a sign that said “Annie Ned Creek.”
“That’s it!” I shouted. As I got closer I didn’t need to see the bottom to know the situation. After a thousand miles of tributaries and glacial runoff you start to get a feel for these things. Soph was ahead of me and slowing down at the center of the bridge. “Empty isn’t it?”
“Yep.” She sounded a bit defeated.
Upon closer inspection there was actually a tiny bit of water running. I was almost tempted to filter from it, but as I looked around the area I noticed that it had seen recent construction and there was fresh grass seed. That almost certainly meant fertilizer. Not drinkable. It was 4:00. I had half a bottle left and Soph had about the same. We were already dehydrated. A flat tire (first of the trip) had set us back an hour and forced us to do more riding in the heat of the day than expected. The next spot for water was the Tahkini River. I had seen one picture of it on a sign at a rest area. It appeared to be a very typical glacial river for the area. Cutting through soft sand and gravel made for a wide and shallow bed, but the flow was immense and the current strong. The silt carried down from the glacier reflects sunlight to give a turquoise appearance during certain times of day. Other times it looks like a cauldron of chocolate milk churning up the occasional tree branch or even trunk. I preferred the turquoise look. Regardless of color, it wreaks havoc on a water filter and judging by the length of the bridge it would probably not be easy to reach.
“Now what?” Soph asked. These moments are almost heart breaking. You need water to rehydrate and cook dinner and breakfast and you need to stop for the day. You just passed a perfect place with everything you need and now the spot that you thought would have all those things has nothing.
“We can either turn back to where we know there is water and camping, or take our chances with the bridge.”
“I say we go for the bridge”
“You also said we should skip Stoney Creek…..”
I had a feeling we could make the bridge work, but I also didn’t feel like riding for another hour and then have to drag my bike down a one hundred foot gravel hill to the banks. “There is a house over there. Let’s ask them for water and then we just need to find a place to camp.” We went up the little gravel driveway and through a short tunnel of trees. Had it been the US and not Canada, there would have been a sign to kindly explain that the owner of the premises was a strict introvert and extremely passionate about his or her second amendment rights and not afraid to put one between the eyes of anybody that was deemed to be lacking in red white and blue credentials. Instead we were greeted by 3 dogs. One of them appeared to be carrying the entrails of what I found out later was a possum. Not too far behind was a confused looking French woman.
“Hi, my name is Chris.”
“Oh I am sorry, I do not speak much English.”
I made a bunch of erratic hand movements. I swept them across my bike almost like a magician does after making an assistant disappear. Her eyes got a bit wide when I said “….from Alaska,” and she almost choked when I added, “to Argentina!”
“Yeah, and we don’t have any water. Could you help?”
Isabell showed us to the hose and we chatted in front of a beautiful log cabin as we refilled and rehydrated. “It is my son’s house. I come for two months in the summers.”
A red truck pulled up. A young man, probably early 30’s, got out and he and Isabella spoke in French. I could make out “Alaska” and “Argentina.” The man looked at us and said, “Looks like it.” He went inside. We topped off and began to pack up the bikes. The man, Xavier, came back out to get something from the truck. “You can camp here if you want. There is a fenced in area that does a pretty good job of keeping the bears out.” I raised an eyebrow to Soph and she smiled a little. We took him up on the offer.
As we set things up Isabel came out and gave us a half dozen fresh chicken eggs. They had 40 birds on the property. Xavier yelled from the window of the cabin. I couldn’t hear him at first, but saw that he was waving two beers. Then he said we could use the shower.
Inside, the place was everything a log home should be. Rocking chair in front of wood burning stove. Ten by ten beams across the ceiling. Antlers, feathers, books on foraging, guns, knives, fishing equipment, water color paintings of local mountains and rivers….. We sat and had a drink after getting cleaned up. I was curious to know how a young French guy ended up in the Yukon. Unfortunately both mine and Soph’s brains were a bit bleached from the sun and neither of us felt like we were offering much. After one beer we retreated to our little camp and turned what was planned as a bland blending of canned tuna and pasta into a meal of fresh eggs, cheese sauce, pasta, and fresh broccoli and squash from the garden. Feeling cocky with our fenced in area, we ignored all Yukon wilderness etiquette and cooked next to our tent in hopes that we could coerce a bear with the scent. None came.