A rainbow of raincoats flashing between the spruce was a hint that something was amiss. It was a rainy late afternoon on the Yukon’s Canol Road and I was the tail guide on a 10-day cycle tour through the Yukon backcountry. By this point in the day, my clients should have all reached our camp, 10 kilometers down the road, and be warming up with biscuits and a cup of tea.
This was my third time guiding a cycle tour in the territory. On previous trips, I’d been cooped up in the support truck while one of my co-guides rode behind the group with a satellite phone and a first aid kit to help straggling clients. Now, that was my job. I rode at the back while my co-guide, Fabrice, drove ahead in the truck to set up camp before the cyclists arrived. As the most experienced guide on the trip, I was ultimately responsible for the group’s safety.
It had been a quiet week. We’d been mostly alone, having seen fewer than 10 other travellers. There was a Swiss couple living in a tiny cabin nestled in the mountains between Ross River and Johnson’s Crossing. We met two families from Ross River heading out to their camps. There was a roaming Alaskan who lived in the leaky bed of his Ford Ranger and talked ceaselessly about his rifle. And two Vancouverites on their dream road trip in a rickety van that smelled like weed.
‘Maybe, there’s another group of cyclists on this remote road,’ I thought, projecting optimism. I was wrong.
Cresting the hill, I saw our support truck—a Ford Econoline 4×4 from the late 70s—hanging between the road’s gravel embankment and two black spruce. Below it, the hillside dropped 30 feet into a dark, grey lake. Mist trickled through the smashed windshield. A German all-terrain camper was tied to our truck’s hitch.