Journey America Part 3

Otter Falls 

Before crossing Kluane Lake, during a foggy morning, a young man riding his bicycle from the lower 48 to Alaska stopped me with an interesting question.

“Are you the Brazilian who is traveling on horseback?” the dark skinned man in his early 20’s asked. 

A bit confused at the question, literally in the middle of nowhere, I answered him, “yes I am, why?” 

“Okay, beyond Haines Junction there is an RV park and campground called Otter Falls… the manager heard about your trip and wants you to stay there,” he said before pedaling off north. 

A few weeks after this meeting next to the Alaska Highway, I rode into Otter Falls. I tied the horses to two trees and went about locating the manager. It didn’t take long to find Wally Bootsma.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome… let me show you where you can camp with your ponies,” Wally said in his energy filled voice.

In a few minutes Clara and I had built our portable corral, fed Mac and Smokey and were now on a tour of the park in Wally’s Side by Side ATV. 

“I hope you can hit a golf ball,” he said on top of a mountain pulling out clubs and golf balls from the back of his cart. 

After showing us a stunning log cabin, an old corral that was used to reintroduce buffalo in this area during the 80’s and his beloved RV Park, Wally gave us a bunch of food. 

“You will need food to get to Whitehorse,” he said before snapping photos of the horses and us. 

The following day we rested the horses and got to know Wally better! We learned that he lives in Oliver, British Columbia, only a few kilometers from Osoyoos. And that he comes to work the summer season here in the Yukon. 

Before we left, Wally made us a map with contacts all the way to Teslin.

“Anything you need, just send me an email,” Wally said before we bid him farewell. 

Two mornings after leaving Otter Falls, I was riding atop a section of the Alaska highway with a ditch on both sides and swampy terrain beyond. It was at that moment that three loud motorcycles startled us. Because of the strong head wind blowing that day, we never heard the roar of the engines until they were about to pass us. As the front wheel of the first motorcycle, traveling at about 100 kilometers per hour screamed by, my mustangs took flight.

Riding Smokey and with Mac galloping past me, his lead rope dragging on the ground, the other two motorcycles were closing fast. 

“Wow, we must be going quick,” I remember thinking to myself as my cowboy hat flew off my head.

I fought to stop Smokey, pulling back on the reins hard, but he just kept running like we were on the final stretch of the Queen’s Plate. It took me one kilometer to finally stop my out of control mustangs. When I saw an opening on the side of the road, I turned Smokey towards it and eventually ran him into some small trees.

The irony of it all is that when the last bike finally overtook us, a small, tattered Brazilian flag swayed in the wind. When the horses were tied up and my hands finally stopped shaking, Clara and I laughed at the thought: in Canada’s north some crazy Brazilians on motorcycles nearly killed us.