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Old 09-08-2009, 07:27 PM   #1
PistonPants OP
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Location: Cantwell, AK
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Labor Day: Balls Deep in the Alaska Range

Hello again. Yesterday the Shutter Monkey and I did a ride into the Alaska Range Backcountry. We'd been planning this one for some time and both had Labor Day off. Naturally the Monkey's Gas-Gas needed repairs the night before to be in shape for a serious adventure. The front wheel bearings were shot and we spent some shop time replacing them. At that point, a massive thunderstorm broke loose and poured about 4" over the course of the next 5 hours. The weather left me wondering if conditions would permit a full day ride into the mountains.

It quit raining after midnight and Monday morning saw clouds breaking up, blue skies and sunshine. Gassed up, oiled and packed we leave home at 10:00.

Fall colors are hitting their peak here in our corner of the Range. Up the road, cross the river and into the woods.

Things were a bit juicy from the rain making the going slick and muddy. Schist creek was deeper than normal, and Shutter missed a shift and had to fill his boot with water to start off with wet feet.

Before paying the price of admission, we rode out to a beach along the Nenana where Shutter emptied out his boot and wrung out his socks.

Incidentallt the yellow plastic is an aftermarket radiator overflow reservior. Gas-Gas OEM is under the seat and holds 6oz tops. The prestone bottle gives Shutter at least 3 overheats before adding more coolant. Spaniards.

Sufficiently dried out, we assault the price of admission hill. It takes me three attempts to get up, but the Monkey styles it first try!

The scenery is just eye-popping! I took over 100 pictures and Shutter Monkey did about 140. But he's a pro and uses FILM!

Always good to bust above tree line and get out of the bottomlands, especially this time since ATV traffic (hunters) made the trail extra squishy.

Up on top the alpine tundra is absolutely electric with fall color!

The clouds from the previous nights storm burning off were nice too.

At this juncture we decide on where to (try to) go. Previous reports that I've posted of this area took us into the third cirque in the Range (heading east), the uppermost at the headwaters of Scist creek, and the easiest to ascend. After surveying the landscape and discussion and debate we decide that the first cirque looks doable.

Out here there is no trail. I've called it omnitracking before (opposite of singletrack) but that's not entirely accurate. While you can see all of the landscape and can tell there is good riding 'over there', that doesn't neccesarily mean you can get there or find a way to get there. Size and distance are deceptive. Hills that seem ridable from a distance turn out to be stoppers when you get close. Thick brush and swamps also lurk out there to stop progress. You develop a knack for this kind of route finding.

Pretty simple: we backtrack to the west find a way to cross Schist Creek and get out of its beaver dam maze, more open country to the foot of the 'ramp'. Ascend the ramp, shoot a short hill, up the ridge and its smooth (boulder studded) alpine omnitrack all the way up to the cirque. Easy.

Well, the drop into the creek to find a crossing took a few tries to do any better than the 'hill of no return' into beaver swamp. but we found success.

Here the Shutter Monkey shows off his bushwhack style.

Park the bikes and scout on foot.

We poke around and find a crossing, not too swampy inspite of numerous beaver dams. make our way out of the creek bottom and approach the ramp that begins the climb.

Time for lunch:

All the calories a growing boy needs to flog a dirtbike up a 1500' trackless alpine climb.

At the top of the ramp, the climb to the next level proved more serious than we thought. I attempted to side-hill around once and a few full frontal assaults and got denied. Finally one more attempt to side hill to a spot where the gradient let up met success. Here the Shutter Monkey pulls the last slope. The Ramp is behind him.

This photo taken on the descent shows the hill up from the ramp.

Bikes up on top, time to climb some more.

Up, Up, Up! Don't let your gaping at the jaw dropping scenery draw your attention away from the boulder in front of your tire.

I'm fairly certain that nobody has ever ridden a motorcycle here before.

Top of the next hill.

Cross the rocky stream and climb higher.

Top of the next hill:

Cross the alpine meadow and climb higher. Addicted to altitude.

Shutter is down there somewhere....

This is as high as I reasonably dare to go. Maybe if I was a factory Beta trials rider I'd get some more....

Caribou come here.

The landscape photographer having his mind blown.

4400' above sea level

An alpine lake sits in the cirque.

The stream that tumbles out from the lake.

Now the sky becomes dark and ominous. The wind picks up. Last nights lightning and thunder makes me paranoid about being high in the mountains. Time to get down. Shutter Monkey descends from the lake.
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Old 09-08-2009, 07:42 PM   #2
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Awesome pictures and nice boondocking!
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Old 09-08-2009, 08:04 PM   #3
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The trip back home...

Shutter Monkey's descent:

Looking back at the cirque:

By now the threat of getting hammered by a storm has passed and the sunshine feels great.

The descent down the ramp:

Back across the creek and on familiar terrain, the first cirque in the background.

Happy Campers!

Now it begins to rain on us. I suggest we stop. The rainbow begins to form.

If it hadn't been sweet enough up til now....

Shutter Monkey, his Gas-Gas and his beloved Nikon F2:

To the south: northern fringe of the Talkeetna Mtns on the other side of the Denali Highway.

At this point Piston gets all misty because the Shutter Monkey has to head south to Arkansas this week and we wont be seeing him again til next May. We wish all the best and a safe trip. Taking a Gas-Gas through BC. Lucky bastard. And for the final icing on the cake the clouds out to the west put on a show suitable for the second coming of Jebus Hisself.

The dark object waaayy back there on the left of the above frame is the South Peak of Denali. The clouds eventually parted to allow a view of both peaks After that, it was time to go. I was channeling David Knight on the way home. Fast is good. Why the hurry to get back home???

We Keeps it REAL! Livin Large


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Old 09-08-2009, 08:41 PM   #4
Bald is beautiful
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Awesome photograpy and ride report! I wish I were there!
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Old 09-08-2009, 10:23 PM   #5
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Great shots .......until the last one with the "hot dogs" boiling in the water , next time a well placed rubber ducky please ..........
***My thoughts go out to KneeDrachen , his family and his beautiful Daughter Juliet who is a fighter ......stay strong
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Old 09-08-2009, 10:33 PM   #6
Stuck in Pindadesh
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Stunning photography!! Thanks for taking us along.
06 F650GS
I wanna ride
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Old 09-08-2009, 10:34 PM   #7
screamin injin
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Originally Posted by BlackHammer
Great shots .......until the last one with the "hot dogs" boiling in the water , next time a well placed rubber ducky please ..........

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Old 09-09-2009, 01:03 AM   #8
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Good onya for including the soak photo.

What a great way to wrap up the day with your buddy!
....every temptation under lights - all the diamonds and the spice - who would take profit from the vice of another man... Neil Finn
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:53 AM   #9
PistonPants OP
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They don't make rubber duckies big enough
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Old 09-09-2009, 08:53 AM   #10
Fe Man
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Awesome pics and
+2 on the twig and berries; kinda; gives "balls deep" a different meaning

Left AK in '99, miss it every day!

Any termination dust yet?
Physics, gravity, and law enforcement are the only things that prevent me from operating at my full potential
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:22 AM   #11
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Great report and shots!
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:32 AM   #12
Buffalo Bill
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Thumb Front Page.....

Unbelievable Landscape and nice job taking the photos.....

Did a ride thru there a few years ago...Awesome..

You guys some lucky MOFOS to have that country to ride in.....

Be nice to see some photos of that landscape in a couple months
from now..

Thanks for posting...

"First In, Last Out, Gods Speed, Scouts Out"

"A Smokin Hole is a cheap price to pay for a Bitchin Manuever" .....Martin Pargee

Buffalo Bill screwed with this post 09-10-2009 at 11:23 AM
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:38 AM   #13
Loco, pero no estúpido!
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You guys are awesome! Great pics...
Carlos locorider
1989 Honda XL600V Transalp, slightly modified!

From Puerto Rico to Georgia and beyond...
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:38 AM   #14
Lucky Intervale
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Off the hizzle!!

So is this why people leave the NJ/PA area? That's some pretty amazing stuff y'all... thanks for the tour! As for the tubbing, you guys are "just that hard core..."

'07 KLX 250S... with mad mods
'08 DL650... party on, Darth
'68 CL90... my first ride!

Straight from here two lanes of Freedom...
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:55 AM   #15
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that's it I quit



Alaska get's way overdone but then YOU guys come along.

There don't seem to be trails on alot of what your riding???

Fresh powder/First tracks kinda stuff

I love these goofy bikes and their "let's go make coffee some place stupid, instead of, a stupid place to buy coffee" mentalities.
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