Cathedral Mountain and Mount Stephen are twin 10,500-foot peaks seen from Kicking Horse Cross on the sting of Banff Nationwide Park. Pictures by the writer.
“So, what’s in Yellowknife?” requested my physician whereas he examined me after I knowledgeable him about my upcoming plans.
“Well,” I responded, “it’s an isolated city on the Canadian Shield in the Northwest Territories overlooking the Great Slave Lake. It’s also far enough north for excellent viewing of the aurora borealis.”
“But what else is there?” he emphatically demanded.
Fearing that he was lacking the purpose I responded, “As a touring motorcyclist I look forward to the trek to a distant place at the end of the road,” and let it go at that.
And so I set forth to uncover what, certainly, there was of observe in Yellowknife. My quite a few rides west from Albany, New York, comply with a well-known itinerary: Albany to Conneaut, Ohio, the primary day for 466 miles. Thereafter, I flip north out of Toledo, Ohio, to Bay Metropolis, Michigan; then Bemidji, Minnesota; Williston, North Dakota; and Shelby, Montana. From there I head north into the Canadian Rockies.
Sunwapta Cross on the Icefields Parkway marks the boundary between Banff and Jasper nationwide parks.
In Mackinaw Metropolis, although, I picked up a driving companion throughout a lunch cease at a scorching canine stand that appeared a convergence for motorcyclists. Gene is from Windsor, Ontario, aboard a Suzuki Bandit sure for Edmonton, Alberta, to go to household. He was content material to comply with my tempo and schedule as we adopted U.S. Route 2 west. I’ve all the time been a lone wolf throughout my 53 years of touring, as a result of seldom do I encounter a extra suitable driving companion. It definitely made the lengthy slog westward extra tolerable.
In Williston, North Dakota, we met two Honda ST1300 riders returning to their houses in Edmonton after a go to to the Black Hills. We have been invited to tag alongside getting into Montana, however their tempo left us a diminishing view of their rearview mirrors. “Albertans seem always in a hurry,” Gene would later inform me. He and I separated outdoors Calgary. He directed me to Alberta Freeway 22 via the picturesque Turner Valley. Many motorcyclists have been having fun with the route, and every waved, together with the high-riser Harleyists.
Bow Valley Parkway marks the start of the Banff to Jasper route by means of the Canadian Rockies.
Driving the Banff-Jasper route on the best way to Canada’s Northern Territories is an crucial. Throughout my final tour by way of right here on my means to Alaska three years in the past it was wet and 48 levels. This time across the Canadian Rockies unwound like a Technicolor movie reel. Kicking Horse Cross led me into the guts of them, and a dangling waterfall plunging 1,250 ft. The Icefields Parkway passed by ragged peaks lapped by glacial tongues.
Takakkaw Falls is a two-stage plummet of 1,250 ft, reached by way of a steep, dead-end, 12-mile climb up Yoho Valley Street close to Kicking Horse Cross, in British Columbia’s Yoho Nationwide Park.
Alberta Freeway 40 out of Hinton is billed because the scenic route to Alaska. It plows via a big watershed for a lonely 325 kilometers to Grande Prairie. Indicators warn of probably harmful encounters with caribou. Grande Prairie itself is a crossroads the place one splits northwest to Alaska, east towards Edmonton, or due north for the Territories, as I do. The colorfully putting suspension bridge over the Peace River all of a sudden looms towards a backdrop of calendar artwork. Inside an hour I arrive at floor zero in Grimshaw.
Indigenous wildlife to look ahead to in these northern Canadian wilds.
The granite mile-zero marker of the Mackenzie Freeway in Grimshaw will not be as well-known as Mile zero of the Alaskan Freeway 125 miles due west of right here, however the city makes probably the most of it by offering an in depth park with numerous informative signage. The freeway is known as after Alexander Mackenzie, a Scottish fur dealer who explored the Northwest Territories and traveled the complete course of his namesake river, roughly 2,550 miles. I solely have 600 miles now to Yellowknife, in accordance to the marker.
Reaching the 60th parallel on the border with the Northwest Territories now means I’m midway to Yellowknife alongside the Mackenzie Freeway. There’s a really good customer middle right here with a campground. However it’s raining, and I wouldn’t camp anyway as a result of it seems the Northwest Territories is prime bug-breeding floor. They swarm me at each cease, a phalanx of horseflies, blackflies, dragonflies, yellowjackets, mosquitoes and midges. Sometimes at velocity a fats one would ricochet off my helmet like a pistol shot. Flagmen at street development websites put on mesh hoods. Alaska was by no means this dangerous.
This part of the Mackenzie passes by way of an in depth Bison Administration Zone, and they’re given free vary, which suggests they sometimes amble onto the street. At one level I encounter a whole herd alongside the freeway. They show their indifference at my passing. I check the antilock brakes on the BMW once I see a child bison leaping throughout the street forward like a deer. Stay alert, I remind myself.
Hay River Gorge under the torrent of Alexandra Falls (under) close to Enterprise, NWT.Alexandra Falls above the Hay River Gorge.
Close to Enterprise, Alexandra Falls thunders into the Hay River Gorge, and kayakers have risked their lives plunging into its raging torrent, so says my whitewater-running eldest son, who assures me he has no notions himself of trying the feat. One other low octane refill at Enterprise, all that’s obtainable up right here. However I study to prime off the place I can as a result of gasoline will not be obtainable on the subsequent cease.
Accomplished in 2012, after 4 years of development, the Deh Cho Bridge crosses the mighty Mackenzie River at Fort Windfall.
The Deh Cho Bridge frames the horizon on my strategy to the mighty Mackenzie River, Canada’s largest watercourse and the second largest river system in North America. Thought-about an engineering marvel that took 4 years to assemble due to excessive climate, the Deh Cho (indigenous time period for the Mackenzie River) was accomplished in 2012. Beforehand, ferry service was offered and an ice street was maintained in the course of the winter. I thread its intimidating isosceles pylons over the Mackenzie and into Fort Windfall, the place I refill for the subsequent 200 miles into Yellowknife.
Pylons of the Deh Cho Bridge pierce the sky on my strategy to its highest arc above the large Mackenzie River.
The final 60 miles of street into Yellowknife are the worst I encounter. I’m rigorously negotiating quite a few gravel sections, bouncing over buckled pavement and dipping into whoop-de-dos. Seeing the “Welcome to Yellowknife” signal is a aid, nevertheless it’s elevated on a hillside, making getting the bike into the image a precarious enterprise.
I find my B&B, the Bayside, in Previous City. That is the place Yellowknife was initially settled when gold was found within the 1930s. Diamond mining is the brand new gold normal for this metropolis of 20,000 and capital of the Northwest Territories. To realize a perspective of the town I climb the steep, zigzag staircase to the highest of Pilot Hill, in any other case often known as “The Rock,” an escarpment of bedrock forming the Canadian Defend.
This view from Pilot Hill in Yellowknife’s Previous City exhibits an inlet of the Nice Slave Lake and the uncovered bedrock of the Canadian Defend within the foreground.
An obelisk monument right here pays tribute to the bush pilots who mapped the world and introduced provides to the fledgling settlement. Colourful houseboats cluster within the bay, whereas seaplanes skim the water like dragonflies, leaving broad wakes as they take off and land. Nice Slave Lake sparkles in cyan radiance to the horizon, maybe as a result of it’s the deepest lake in North America.
Situated in a restored heritage constructing, Yellowknife’s oldest restaurant is famous for serving bison burgers and bison poutine.
My B&B supplies a scrumptious breakfast, and has its personal restaurant referred to as the Dancing Moose that serves gourmand fare. However to expertise an Previous City custom I’m directed to the Wildcat Café, Yellowknife’s oldest restaurant situated in a log heritage constructing. Bison burgers are on the menu, and so is a variation of a Canadian normal, bison poutine. Simply up the street is quirky Bullock’s Bistro, providing wild recreation and the “freshest fish in the Territory.” However you’ll pay handsomely for it. I’ve my greatest repast on my remaining day on the Woodyard Brewhouse–a decadent charcuterie and cheese board washed down with a flight of NWT suds.
The quirky Bullocks Bistro in Yellowknife has a popularity for the perfect and freshest seafood within the Territories.
Driving out of Previous City towards downtown I squirm over Ragged Ass Street. This lane is so-named by the gold-rush period prospectors who had gone stone broke (ragged ass), and so constructed their ramshackle cabins right here. The street is in no higher form now, as famous. Close by is a rock face carved and painted with cultural symbols representing the indigenous Inuit, Métis and Inuvialuit.
This nameplate appropriately describes each the street and the Yellowknife neighborhood of former gold-rush prospectors.
In downtown Yellowknife I find a mural that depicts Northwest Territories themes, together with a colourful aurora borealis. Given the almost 24-hour daylight I used to be not going to truly see them on this journey. I had discovered the perfect time to view the northern lights was earlier than the spring equinox, or within the lifeless of winter. Hmm, the primary time interval was too early to danger a motorbike journey, and overlook the latter choice. Regardless, there are numerous variables that have an effect on the viewing of northern lights. The aurora is a magnetic storm brought on by the capricious photo voltaic winds, so predicting and timing their ephemeral nature is a veritable crapshoot.
Whatever the disappointment, I used to be content material to experience this deep into the Territories, particularly feeling smug having discovered there’s not a single street between right here and the Arctic Ocean but to problem. I had seen few touring motorcyclists, and maybe solely two native riders. I acquired to considering, the Mackenzie and Alaska highways each have deep territorial attain, however the Mackenzie is half the size of the Alaska. Why aren’t there extra brethren exploring its terminus? Organizers of the Iron Butt Rally ought to take notice.
Perhaps I discovered nothing too distinctive in Yellowknife, and the northern lights didn’t show themselves, however I return residence with the satisfaction of attaining yet one more distant horizon, which must be the objective of any adventurous touring motorcyclist.
A map of the route taken, by Invoice Tipton/compartmaps.com.