On Top of the World

Story by Jeff Davison// Photos by Jeff Davison
March 21 2023

From Whitehorse to Dawson City, the long way round.

You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips have gotta touch the toe.” A dehydrated human toe, that is. In my drink.

It was time to be inducted into the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, a Dawson City tradition since 1973 when Captain Dick Stevenson found a frost-bitten human toe preserved in a jar of alcohol in a nearby cabin. In the Downtown Hotel, he soon began plunking it into the drinks of patrons who were brave enough to meet his challenge. It brought me little comfort to learn that the original toe had been replaced — several times over, due to decay, theft, and yes, being swallowed. But with a resolute gulp of Yukon Jack whisky, I was official, and part-time Captain David entered my name on the roll, which he was confident would reach 100,000 members by summer’s end. I was number 99,109.

New Rubber and Big Animals

Only days before, I had ridden my Suzuki V-Strom DL650XA, Suzi Blue, into Whitehorse, where she was awaiting a Monday morning oil change and new Mitas E09s tires for the northern gravel that lay ahead.

After a night of wild camping in the hills overlooking the city, I awoke to a Saturday morning that was bright and warm. Rolling down Fish Lake Road, I was negotiating a corner on the loose surface when suddenly, from the alders on my right, a large moose bolted into my path. Brakes were useless in the gravel. She was so startled that she was still peeing as she charged across in front of me. And I admit, I checked myself once she had disappeared into the brush.

On the main street, I met a couple on a Harley who were staying at Yukon Motorcycle Park just ten minutes east of town. The mention of hot showers stirred notions of respectability, and since I had been on the road for some time, I decided to get a site and have a low-key day, doing laundry and calling it an early night. Instead, I spent the rest of the day on the restaurant deck in conversation with other riders from all over the world. After a sunny brunch the next morning, I explored city streets and wandered the annual Adäka Cultural Festival of Indigenous artists and performers.

Detour to Dawson

I also discovered that the Klondike Highway to Dawson City had been closed because of an advancing forest fire. Determined to visit the Gold Rush city, I planned my detour: continue up…


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