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Old 07-21-2008, 02:20 AM   #1
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Perfect Weather to Deadhorse on the 4th

In the past couple of weeks I've enjoyed reading quite a few ride reports, wishing all the while that I had the time to do some of the same so that I could write one too. It has taken a while for me to come to the realization that, while it wasn't a big deal to me, my ride to Deadhorse on the 4th of July might be of interest to some of the readers out there who are planning to do that trip themselves one day. This one, thanks to fantastic weather, will be accompanied by a qoodly quantity of photos – at least the Haul Road portion.

It had been nearly a month since my last trip to Deadhorse (June 6th) and I was getting antsy to go up again, collecting more photos along the way. After getting photos at the mileposts every ten miles, it was time to add more photos of the scenic delights in between those numbered signs. In addition, the KLR650, which I had purchased and farkled just for this stretch of road, was now sufficiently well equipped to make the trip pretty much an easy one. The final accessory, without which I didn't want to attempt the ride, was the auxiliary fuel tank. Now that it was mounted, the time had come to do a trial run.


While my plans had me leaving home around noonish (the “ish” is a requirement of Alaskans posting times on the forum), I was even later than usual and didn't hit the road until after 5 PM. But for once I was not subjected to rain as I passed through the Alaska Range in beautiful Isabel Pass. In fact, rain might have been welcome as I approached Fairbanks – to cool the temperatures. The 83 that I saw in the area of Salcha was way too hot for an Alaskan who hasn't had the opportunity to acclimate. It was still 81 when I turned off the Mitchell Expressway in Fairbanks to find an inexpensive room at the Golden North Motel next to the Outpost HD/BMW/Polaris/etc. dealership. After checking in and unloading the bike, a quick ride across town to Wally World had me picking up the few supplies I would need for the ride, as well as a couple of headnets – just in case I found myself having to do roadside repairs out on the tundra.


Back to the motel and sleep. Or so I thought. But even being used to sleeping while it's still light outside, I didn't feel like counting sheep just yet. Besides, there were some interesting shows on the idiot tube. Never having enough idle time to waste on TV, I don't have one at home, so having the opportunity to watch one in a hotel room is enough of a novelty that I sometimes succumb to the temptation. Tonight was such a night. Finally, around 1 AM, I dropped a 3mg Melatonin tablet and turned off the tube. Didn't take long to start snoring. But when my cell phone's alarm started making annoying sounds at precisely 5:30 AM I regretted the indulgence of the night before. Nevertheless, at 6 AM I was sitting in the “Farthest North Denny's” waiting for the first cup of coffee to take effect. Finally, at a few minutes after 7, well fed, packed, and the bike fueled, it was onto the Steese Expressway and headed for Deadhorse.


While it is an interesting ride for someone new to the area, after many trips between Fairbanks and Livengood a person begins to take it for granted. Consequently, I have yet to snap more than a couple of photos along that 80 mile stretch. Will make an attempt at correcting that lapse as soon as possible. This is one photo I took in May, that bears being shown again as a warning to other riders -


Once one attains Milepost 0 of the Dalton Highway, it is as though he/she had relinquished control of the ride to whatever power exists here. The vagaries of weather, the unpredictability of the DOT crews maintaining the road, the bike's mechanical gremlins, and one's own susceptibilities, all contribute to the uncertainty of completing the trip unscathed. As the pavement is left farther and farther behind, a rider might quickly wonder what they have let themselves in for.

The first few miles do little to calm the anxious psyche, as the gravel surfaced roadway climbs then descends, curves left then twists right, all the while hemmed in by brush and trees that obstruct views to either side as well as hide any animals that might be waiting in ambush for the unwary motorcyclist.


In addition, it seems DOT has chosen this first 50 miles to spend the most time on, first scraping the gravel to the east, and then, when the alternate crew comes on duty, scraping it back to the west – drenching it with water each time, of course.


Around Mile 20 there used to be some pretty hairy inclines, as well as tight curves and deep ravines with no guard rails. So the state realigned that stretch to go around the worst of it, adding a mere 6/10 of a mile in the process. Each time I have gone by the turn-off to the old highway it has occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to follow that old track. This time I planned to do just that, and being that the weather was favorable, left the asphalt by-pass and took the road less traveled.


NOTE TO SELF: Take the "road less traveled" again, and get a lot more photos, dummy!

There was evidence of someone using a blade to knock down some of the higher ridges left from spring breakup, but it was a far cry from being “maintained”. Just what a dualsport rider likes, however. At the far (north) end, an unlocked gate might discourage the average motorist, but only serves to entice the Adventure rider.


After that pleasant interlude, it was back to covering miles of gravel enroute to more scenic destinations in order to capture the beauty on the memory chip. First there was Hess Creek to cross. The view upstream -


and the view downstream -


Looking back at the valley through which Hess Creek flows, above the signs marking the hazardous 25 Mile corner.


Thirty-seven miles from the beginning of the Dalton Hwy beautiful new pavement appears out of the wilderness, and continues for 12 glorious miles, much to the delight of the northbound rider -


and even moreso to the southbound rider, like this one at Mile 50 -


At Mile 56 the Yukon River forms a geographic boundary that is crossed by descending the wooden deck at a 6% grade to the north side. On the east side BLM maintains a visitors information center, and across the highway Yukon Crossing has food and fuel.



A few short miles farther north, driveways lead to Hot Spot – on the west side of the highway – where the hungry traveler may enjoy a variety of tasty menu items. The BBQ is notably good. Sorry, no food porn – I'd had a good breakfast in Fairbanks.


At about Mile 75 the northbound traveler comes to a wide area at the top of a steep descent. This is where trucks can chain up in the winter northbound, or remove their tire chains when southbound. Continuing on, the road drops down “Roller Coaster Hill”, and it's easy to see how it got its name.

Note: This photo was taken in May; that's why there's still so much snow on the far hills.

In spite of the devastating fires of 2004 and 2005, life goes on in nature. Fireweed now covers hundreds – if not thousands – of acres that were just charred vegetation two years ago – the first step in reclaiming the land.


This is the ubiquitous plant that serves so many purposes here in the Great Land -


A little farther up the highway, at Mile 86.6, a rough gravel road to the west climbs to a combination gravel pit/viewpoint.


At the top placards describe the view.


The view encompasses thousands of acres -


Atop a ridge on the east side of the highway, a rock formation bears a strong resemblance to a medieval castle, as this telephoto shot shows -


Back down on the highway, Mackey Hill appears about a mile away, ready to offer a challenge with a steep grade and a loose gravel surface -


Finger Mountain wayside shows up around Mile 98, with two well-maintained restrooms, and walking paths to several nearby attractions, including the namesake “finger”. One of these days I'll have to get off the bike long enough to walk around and get photos of all the objects, but so far the restrooms are the primary reason I make my infrequent stops there.


This is looking up from near the top of Beaver Slide, a 12% grade surfaced with somewhat loose gravel.

And this is what it looks like toward the bottom, with the Arctic Circle wayside off in the distance, pretty close to where the highway disappears -


And here a pair of riders are ready to breath a sigh of relief at the completion of their climb -


No ride report covering the Dalton Highway would be complete without the obligatory photo at the Arctic Circle sign, so a stop was made to get a portrait of the KLR to add to the collection.

(to be continued)
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The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
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Alcan Rider screwed with this post 07-22-2008 at 12:11 AM
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Old 07-21-2008, 02:45 AM   #2
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At Milepost 120 the first peaks of the Brooks Range are becoming visible over the nearer foothills


The view back south from Mile 131, below Gobbler's Knob


Just before the wayside at Gobbler's Knob, a notch in the hillside allows a better view up the valley, with the highway, Pump Station 5, and a landing strip all visible in the distance. Pump 5 is about 5 miles distant by road.


Just past Milepost 150 there's another parking area with a restroom, and a short distance beyond that is Grayling Lake, with a place to launch a canoe or small boat.


Around Mile 155 there is a wide spot to pull over and look at, or photograph, the valley of the South Fork of the Koyukuk River, along with the pipeline and highway on the north side of the bridge.


Looking north at Mile 160, the road and pipeline both seem to zig and zag in random patterns.
]

The following telephoto shot shows that the pipeline is in a class by itself when it comes to zig-zags.


The last fuel and food stop before Deadhorse, 240 miles farther north, so no one passes Coldfoot by. (Photo taken in May, when there was still snow on the hills.)


First things first. Most riders seem to pull up to the gas pumps first and fill up, then go inside for food and relaxation. Pump #2 is on the near side, and pump #1 on the far side. These riders were on their way back to Fairbanks after riding to Deadhorse the day before. On the 4th of July unleaded was $5.599/gallon. It is undoubtedly higher by now.


For those who have never fueled in Coldfoot, the procedure is fairly simple, but time consuming. Before starting to fuel, you have to go inside and deposit your credit card, drivers license, passport, or cash. Then the person at the counter turns the pump on for you. Back out to the pump, fill your vehicle. Move the vehicle out of the way, then go back in to complete the transaction and get back whatever item you left as security, or your change if you paid cash. The entrance is just past the white Ford pickup and up the stairs.


The sign on the right is getting a bit weather-worn after years of posing for tourists' photos.


The overnight accommodations – the best motel in town (due primarily to being the only one).


The alternative to staying at Coldfoot is to stay at Wiseman, with the turn onto Wiseman Street just across this bridge.


The sunny 4th of July weather saw the Koyukuk River flowing fairly clear and not very deep.


(more to come)
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Old 07-22-2008, 12:28 AM   #3
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Chapter 3

Sukukpak Mountain is such a prominent landmark that it has appeared in literally thousands of photos. Every time I pass it I have to add at least one more to my own collection. It first becomes visible at around Mile 194. This telephoto shot from 194.2 shows it rising above intervening ridges, its bald pate catching the late afternoon sunlight.


Since the primary purpose of this trip was photos, I took the time to pose the KLR in the foreground and snapped a shot with Sukukpak as the backdrop.
On the back side of Sukukpak Mt., the Bettles River flows down out of its valley to join the Dietrich and Hammond Rivers where they combine to form the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River at the west end of Sukukpak. That explains the number of bridges with different rivers flowing beneath them as one travels north past the mountain.


Climbing up to Chandalar Shelf at Mile 237, this stream that is the upper end of Dietrich River flows out of the valley on the west side of the highway.


Still some traces of snow at the top of Atigun Pass, but if the sun continues to shine, and if it doesn't snow again soon – it might disappear briefly before it gets replaced by next winter's supply.


A short distance down the north side, the sun-dappled mountains on the far side of the Atigun River provide a scenic backdrop for the highway. The circular platform on the left is a base for a 75mm avalanche-busting howitzer that DOT uses to keep snow from building up too deep on the slopes above the highway.


Freshly placed chipseal, starting at the bottom of the north side of the pass, provides a welcome change from the potholed gravel that was here a month ago.


The river switches from the west side of the Atigun River to the east side as it crosses the bridge marked “Atigun River #1”, and continues north between the Endicott Mts on the left, and the Philip Smith Mts on the right.


This was probably the first time I had seen these mountains in the sunlight, and I found myself stopping often to take photos of nothing special – just the brightly illuminated mountains.


Around Mile 270 the Atigun River takes a hard right, leaving the highway and pipeline and flowing east through the Atigun Gorge a few miles farther downstream before joining the spread out Sagavanirktok River.


Looking back up the Atigun Valley, with Pump Station 4 residing on its lonely hill.


Prior to this trip I had never noticed the Kuparuk River flowing under the highway and across the tundra. But with the sun shining brightly, and the temperature maintaining a comfortable 72, the area looked more like a park than the desolate landscape visible here most of the year.



Slope Mountain is another one that has a distinctive shape and is easily recognized from a distance. This is what it looks like from Mile 295.


Near the base of the mountain, Mile 297 on the highway, the vastness of the topography makes itself felt. That's Kakuktukruich Bluff in the center of the photo. (That will be on the quiz at the end of the report. )


Looking south once again, this time at Pump 3. With summer weather, this looks like a nice place to spend some time – except for the mosquitoes that swarm everywhere.


And just east of the highway, across from Pump 3, is the Sag River, looking peaceful and inviting. Incidentally – this photo was taken at 9:25PM.


At the top of Ice Cut – Milepost 325 – the highway leaves the Sag River below, and now makes its way across this rolling plateau in company with the pipeline. Once more the vastness of this Arctic area makes itself felt, as seen in this photo taken at Mile 328.


From a distance the vegetation appears to be no more than grassy pasture land, and one could almost expect to see some cattle or horses grazing on this vast acreage. The snow along the bluff on the 4th of July offers a hint that global warming hasn't made inroads this far north just yet.


Near Mile 380 the Franklin Bluffs stand out in this flat terrain, and with the sun in the northwest sky, the shadows give depth and definition to the eroded face.


At 11:00PM, with a blinding sun in my eyes, I stop to clean bug carcasses off my faceshield in order to get an occasional glimpse of the road surface, which is comprised primarily of loose gravel, piled a few inches deep between ruts that match the spread of a semi's wheels.


Just 25 miles from Deadhorse, the land elevation now down to about 240' above sea level, a haze appears on the horizon, probably a product of the proximity to the Arctic Ocean.


(one more chapter in the offing)
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"I am in the prime of senility." Ben Franklin
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The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
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Old 07-22-2008, 01:52 AM   #4
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Great thread and fantastic pics.

Planning a trip up there next summer so really learning from this and can`t wait!

Keep up coming.
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Old 07-22-2008, 05:17 AM   #5
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Fantastic pictures! I don't think I've seen this trip photographed without getting rained on.
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Old 07-22-2008, 07:11 AM   #6
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great photos and write up! What kind of camera do you use?
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Old 07-22-2008, 03:06 PM   #7
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Final Installment

Thanks to a constant northeast wind as I rode from Fairbanks northward, the temperature had remained at 72 all the way to Pump 3. By the time I rode past Pump 2 at around 10:30 it had dropped only to 67. But for the last 20 miles into Deadhorse the digits kept reading lower and lower until they bottomed at 44 - a bit of a change from the 83 I had struggled to adapt to a day earlier. There was a chill wind blowing off the Arctic Ocean as I fueled up at the Colville, Inc. Tesoro station. Unleaded was going for $5.50/gallon that day, but expect it to be even higher now.


Being that it was just midnight, there was virtually no activity in Deadhorse, other than a couple of vehicles shuttling workers hither and yon. But it was a bright, sunny day, judging by appearances.


Another photo of oil wells to the east, and then it was time to head back south toward breakfast at Coldfoot.


Passing by this Doyon Drilling rig, that had not been here on the pad a month earlier, I notice a block moving up and down, indicating work going on around the clock inside its shelter.


A few miles south, fascinated by my shadow stretching out ahead of me (after I've been riding for a few hours, I'm easily entertained ), I just had to stop for this photo – at 1:00 AM Alaska Daylight Time.


Enjoying the southward journey, and no longer keeping track of the location of photo shots, the Brooks Range mountains in the early morning sunlight presented some irresistable images sometime around 2:45 AM.



Although I made a side trip to check out the Galbraith Lake airstrip, I neglected to take any photos there, even though the view back east toward the highway was attractive. Near 4:00 AM, with the monotony of riding, as well as the absolute solitude (hadn't seen another vehicle for over two hours) making me feel a little sleepy, I pulled over and took a brief nap in the saddle.
Awakening after nearly an hour's sleep, I headed south once more, with thoughts now centered on a cup of hot coffee and a delicious breakfast. The sun had soared high enough in the northeast sky to shine over the nearby mountains on the east side of the highway and illuminate the peaks to the west -


while those on the east side remained in the shadows -

as these two photos illustrate.

With that, I put the camera back into the tank bag, gave in to my urgency to find that long-awaited breakfast, and hurried on to Coldfoot. After breakfast, with a little over 500 miles to go to get back home, I left the camera in the bag and gave my full attention to riding, and enjoying the scenery.
Shortly after getting off the Dalton, I had pulled into a large parking area across from the Livengood road to re-inflate my tires, and a rider on a yellow Ducati, loaded with gear for a long road trip, pulled in to chat. Turned out it was Vento, who has posted in several threads in the Alaska/Regionals, headed for the Arctic Circle and points north. Regretfully, I was too involved in hunting for an errant valve cap to think of taking a photo of him there.

A couple of hours later, having stopped to wash most of the mud off the KLR in Fairbanks, I was seated at Harley's Diner in North Pole (good food and very motorcycle-friendly – I'll add some photos of the place after my next trip to the city on the Chena) to enjoy my last meal on the road. Then a continued warm, sunny ride south, until within 30 miles from home I ran under heavy cloud cover and a downpour that had my Roadcrafter soaking through at the front zipper when I pulled into the driveway.

After the beautiful conditions on this ride, I can hardly wait for my next trip to Deadhorse, even though I know it will probably never be that nice again.

Hope you enjoy.

Jack
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Old 07-22-2008, 03:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angus McGee
great photos and write up! What kind of camera do you use?
Thank you, glad you've enjoyed it. The camera is a Sony DSC H7. I'd been using an H1, but decided I wanted a little more optical zoom for both close-ups and macros, plus far off subjects (such as large carnivores ). The H7 has a remote that is reportedly good up to about 15', so it could even be used for action self-portraits, but I have yet to unwrap it.

Surprisingly, this camera manages to take several day's worth of photos on one battery recharge, although I carry a spare. On this trip I took nearly 400 photos, and didn't change batteries until nearly the end of the trip.
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"I am in the prime of senility." Ben Franklin
I'm so old I remember when the gallons rose faster than the dollars on gas pumps.
The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
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Old 07-22-2008, 03:14 PM   #9
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You're really captured the rugged beauty of the ride into Alaska, thanks for the detailed report and stunning pics
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Old 07-22-2008, 08:59 PM   #10
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Dalton ride

Jack, i PM'ed you. Wanna go agoain in early AUgust?
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Old 07-22-2008, 09:40 PM   #11
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Hi Jack


Your report & pic's brought back lots of memories. Wish that I could have caught the Dalton in that good of shape--That road looks like some kind of super slab :-)
The only picture/caption that I noticed didn't look right was the one where you were explaining gassing up at Deadhorse and one of the pictures was of the patio of the restaurant at Coldfoot.
Thanks for taking us along down memory lane.
Next time I'm up, the Halibut sandwich at Glen Allen is on me.

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Old 07-22-2008, 10:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rydnfool

Your report & pic's brought back lots of memories. Wish that I could have caught the Dalton in that good of shape--That road looks like some kind of super slab :-)
For the Dalton, it was beautiful. The newly added chipseal at the bottom of Atigun was frosting on the cake. Too bad it won't still be in good shape by this time next year, but it only takes one breakup to turn that stuff into paved pothholes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rydnfool
The only picture/caption that I noticed didn't look right was the one where you were explaining gassing up at Deadhorse and one of the pictures was of the patio of the restaurant at Coldfoot.
That was a test. You passed.

Okay, I corrected my goof. Guess my mental composing got ahead of my riding by 240 miles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rydnfool
Thanks for taking us along down memory lane.
Next time I'm up, the Halibut sandwich at Glen Allen is on me.

Tim
You've been promising that for two years now. If you don't hurry and get back up here I may have to buy my own sandwich.
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"I am in the prime of senility." Ben Franklin
I'm so old I remember when the gallons rose faster than the dollars on gas pumps.
The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
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Old 07-22-2008, 10:17 PM   #13
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simply the best photos of the dalton highway

I lived in Fairbanks for 10 years and have traveled the haul road several times. your photos are the best I have seen. what a walk down memorie lane for me. Thanks Jack.
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Old 07-23-2008, 02:44 AM   #14
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Great report... and the photo's are superb!! Thanks for sharing..

Pat in NH
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:47 AM   #15
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Haul Road on the 4th

I went up to mp 115 that weekend and might have crossed paths with you guys. I was getting looks on my SV but that one of the most amazing rides I had ever taken

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...d5&id=17111369



I got a late start from wasilla (noon) and didn't make it to the yukon crossing until 10:30 and the pumps were closed so I camped out at 5 mile camp and fueled up in the morning. From there made it up to the circle and back to wasilla by dark.

The only guys I talked to were some fellas on KLRs from brazil.




I can officially say that poor lil SV has taken me from New York to the Arctic Cirlce



EDIT: I had to stop at skinny's to get a shirt to compliment my one from the Bush Co.
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