As much as I like road biking, in Whitehorse there are two things that are almost impossible to avoid: wind and (sigh) hills. It can be discouraging.
Despite the fact that the Kluane Chilkat International Road Relay was looming and I have committed to Leg 6 and the big hill it ends with, we decided to ditch the wind for the trees on a recent ride, and tasked our friend Dave with leading us on a mountain bike ride with only one criteria: no hills.
It is Whitehorse and, to be honest, I didn’t really believe he’d be able to pull it off and still deliver a quality ride.
I was wrong.
We met Dave at his place at the base of the Grey Mountain Road. Our friend is super fit, and when he said we’d just start out the back, I fully believed that meant just going up the road and heading onto the ski trails — a hill leading to more hills.
I have such little faith.
Instead, we took off through his backyard into the trees, took a right and started weaving our way along the path that circles Riverdale.
The first half of the trail, I knew. It’s straightforward, and always full of walkers and runners. One runner ahead of us was starting to annoy me by the fact that we hardly seemed to be gaining on him, but the day was so perfect, warm and sunny that I forgave him.
When we finally did get close to the runner, to the point where I was wondering what appropriate trail etiquette for the situation was, our leader veered off onto a small, twisty single track that was way more fun and avoided the need for any decision making.
The passages through trees that I was sure were going to take the skin off of my baby fingers had me calling back to the big guy behind me on the Kona Big Kahuna, to see if his monster bike was actually making it through.
The Big Kahuna is aptly named. It has 29-inch wheels, and handlebars just a half-inch shorter at 28.5 inches. I look like a 10-year-old standing beside that bike. He was getting, through, though — barely.
We came out at the Millennium Bridge and, as we took a short break, I found out our guide had been one of the construction crew that had erected the bridge.
Standing in the sun, above the rushing water, I heard the story of how section after section was connected from one side, the whole assembly moving out further with each addition, and held in place with big machines until the other side could be similarly pushed out to meet it.
Part 2 of our ride that day took us up just the teeniest bit of the South Access to Schwatka Lake Road, where we were on the flat again, enjoying the views of the mountains and the lake.
At the bottom of the Miles Canyon Road, before the hill, of course, we turned around and headed back to Dave’s, to kick back in his lawn chairs and drink his beer.
It was a perfect ride with great company on a spectacular Yukon summer day.
Unfortunately, after the beer, we had to ride up the Two Mile Hill to get home. I wondered about available real estate in Riverdale the whole way.