Journey America Part 3

Road to the Yukon Border

On our first night out of Tok, Betty drove the 30 kms south to bring us dinner. 

“I hope you two like salmon,” she announced holding two plates in her hands. 

“I love salmon,” Clara responded with a smile on her face. 

We can’t thank Betty enough for all of her help! She donated hay for the horses, didn’t charge us a penny to rest in her B&B with the horses, and fed us two nights… Another saint along our path! 

With our time to legally be in the US with the horses quickly winding down, we had to ride non-stop from Tok to the border. If we did so, we would arrive at the Canadian border on the final day of our in-transit permit—day 20 since leaving Fairbanks. 

It was a stunning ride south that led us through one junction that had a gas station and that was it. The rest of the time we were in no-man’s land. We camped on the side of the Alaska Highway with the horses hi-lined every night. 

“I have no idea how you managed to arrive right on time,” Clara said while I drank a gulp of Pendleton whiskey to celebrate my arrival at the Yukon border. 

“Me neither,” I responded before taking another drink. 

It was day 19 of our ride and we were camping at an old gas station just 1 km from the American border office. I could hardly believe it as well. 

The next morning, day 6 on the road from Tok, I rode the final kilometer to the US border. When I arrived at the large grey building I stepped off of Smokey and tied the grey next to Mac on a metal railing. 

I then walked into the building with my passport and the horses papers in hand. When I handed the American immigration officer the papers he looked up at me with confusion. 

“What do I do with these,” he asked me. 

I couldn’t believe it. I had just ridden 470 kms in 20 days to arrive on the final day of our allowed time to transit though Alaska with the horses and he was asking me what to do with the papers… I was astonished. 

“I don’t know, stamp it and send a copy to your federal vet maybe,” I said in a tone much harsher than I had intended for. 

He did just that and in 5 minutes we were on our way. I was excited to be officially out of the US but in order to actually enter Canada, I still had to ride 30 kms to the Canadian border office. It was bittersweet. 

Halfway into our ride Clara saw our first grizzly. A little adolescent bear walking around a trash can on a rest area. 

We trekked all day and 5 kms before officially entering Canada, I almost fainted. I was exhausted beyond belief, in terrible pain, and to top it off, summer was in full swing now and the sun was cooking my brain. 

“I just need to lay down for a sec,” I said to Clara while she looked at me with worried eyes. 

After 15 minutes resting and a lot of water, I continued on. 

Clara who went ahead of me, parked the motorhome at the wrong spot when she arrived at the border and a loud siren nearly made her have a heart attack. 

“Oh no what did I do,” she thought to herself in the old motorhome while an officer rushed towards her. 

He was super nice and just said she couldn’t park there. She drove up to the window and I arrived shortly. 

“So you’re the horse guy,” the nice officer exclaimed when I showed up to the window with Mac and Smokey. 

We were ordered to wait by the Beaver Creek airport while they looked at our passports and the horses’ papers. Before we walked over to the airport, right across the highway, Mac rolled in the neatly trimmed grass by the window. Making all of the tourists, a line with several cars and motorhomes now sat behind us waiting, take out their phones for a photo. 

“That’s the show for the wait,” I said before we walked off. 

After about 5 minutes, the officer walked over with our stamped passports and the horses’ papers. 

“Welcome to Canada guys,” he said with a big smile. 

“Thank you sir,” I responded. 

After we snapped a selfie with the excited officer, I rode the final kilometers into Beaver Creek. It felt good to be back in Canada. It felt great to be 500 kms south from Fairbanks. But what felt even better was knowing that after crossing 13 international borders on horseback, suffering every time, this was the final one. 

“Now we rest before taking on the land of the midnight sun,” I said to Clara while we ate dinner that night in Beaver Creek.