Dalton Hwy - Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by HayDuchessLives, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. HayDuchessLives

    HayDuchessLives Loquita

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,219
    Location:
    Anchorage
    Several years ago, I&#8217;m not sure exactly when but it may have been when mammoths still roamed the Alaskan tundra, Alcan Rider (AKA the Gregarious Geezer from Glennallen) started a tradition of riding up the Dalton Highway for Memorial Day Weekend. I was allowed to participate in this ride two years in a row and planned to do it again this year. Unfortunately Alcan Rider told me a couple days before my planned start that he had overbooked his schedule and he wouldn&#8217;t be able to do the ride with me. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Well phooey: what to do? It didn&#8217;t take me long at all to decide to go ahead and do the ride by myself and keep this tradition intact. I had not planned on going all the way to Deadhorse this year anyway as I had already &#8220;been there and done that.&#8221; And part of me has really been itching to do some non-motorized exploration in the Brooks Range so I planned to stop at Atigun Pass and hike up a peak that overlooks the pass. <o:p></o:p>
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    When I told my kids I was going by myself they were concerned. Sometimes they question my sanity as I have done some incredible things in the backcountry, albeit normally with a friend or two. But I told them I&#8217;m competent in the backcountry, I would mostly ride conservatively and there would be other people on the highway. <o:p></o:p>
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    I looked forward to five days of freedom exploring the open road, enjoying stunning scenery and spending time alone, which I actually treasure. One of my favorite authors, Edward Abbey, explains the value of solitude and being comfortable with yourself in his famous novel &#8220;Desert Solitaire.&#8221; <o:p></o:p>
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    Ironically Alcan Rider told me he wasn&#8217;t able to go as he &#8220;overbooked&#8221; his schedule, with work and projects at his retirement home. Do you want to hear something funny? (Alcan Rider: you ARE NOT allowed to read the next few sentences.) Alcan Rider asked me to call him when I returned to Fairbanks so he knew I made it safely to that point. When I called him he was VACUUMING. :eek1 I couldn&#8217;t believe it! He could have gone riding on the Haul Road but stayed home to VACUUM? I wonder if he was wearing an apron while doing his annual housework? :lol3<o:p></o:p>
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    I was curious about Alcan Rider&#8217;s &#8220;retirement home&#8221; as he has been spending countless hours remodeling it. Based on a view from this sneaky surveillance camera, I think he&#8217;s turning it into a wild bachelor pad.

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    It looks like Jack took up his passion for vacuuming as a young boy, probably prior to discovering his passion for motorcycles. <o:p></o:p>
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    Back to the trip. I started out in Anchorage on Thursday morning, May 24, 2012, making very few stops for photos as I have been this way so many times before. Here are a few photos taken in Broad Pass, slightly before reaching Cantwell. I saw a couple dozen caribou in this area, close to the road, so I slowed down in through here.

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    I had to ride through a nasty rain storm going through Denali National Park, which thankfully stopped right before Healy where I filled up with gas. I was hungry and wanted to eat a late lunch here, but I could see the nasty clouds following me so I continued riding. This photo was taken at a parking area outside of Nenana. I quickly ate some snacks so I could keep riding to avoid the storm clouds that were pursuing me.

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    I stopped for dinner at Hilltop gas station north of Fairbanks and had plans to camp somewhere along the Elliot Highway, before hitting the Dalton Highway. I was still riding through a pocket of sunshine but kept watching the rain clouds behind me. My determination caused me to eventually decide to take advantage of the good weather and ride all the way to the Hot Spot (Mile 60) to spend my first night. I felt a little safer camping next to other people, instead of out in the boonies by myself. I was also happy to ride through the first stretch of the Dalton Highway after the road crews were done working for the day so I didn&#8217;t have to deal with that mess as they usually spray water on the road and the mud is rather slippery.

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    I woke up to sunshine the next day. Yippeee!!! This is a view from the Finger Mountain rest area, mile 98. This place has a spiritual feeling to it. From here the road is mostly paved all the way to Coldfoot. In places the potholes are terrible.

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    Lookie here &#8211; somebody is happy!

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    A view from Finger Mountain rocky outcropping of the long and lonely highway in front of me, from a ground squirrel&#8217;s perspective. It's always good to get different perspectives as you journey through life.

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    I realize you're not supposed to stop on a bridge, but I couldn't resist. I came up with a good excuse, if necessary.

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    Some nice scenery. I LOVED the blue sky and clouds reflected in both of my rear-view mirrors!

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    Grayling Lake still had snow and ice around the edges. This year it was colder with more snow than the previous two years. I'm carrying an ice ax and ski poles on the outside of my duffle bag, plus crampons on the inside. I knew I would need them for ascending and descending snowfields, if I was able to.

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    Another nice mirror view.

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    I stopped for gas in Coldfoot where I learned Atigun Pass was closed for avalanche control work. I had heard there had been a big avalanche that morning, and I noticed other slides on numerous slopes alongside the highway, so I decided I did not need to go hiking at Atigun Pass that afternoon. I've had plenty of experiences with slides and avalanches and avoid them when possible.

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    On the road north of Coldfoot, returning from riding up to MP 204 to check out conditions at Mount Sukakpak, an alternate hiking destination.

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    Looking south towards the Wiseman area. These mountains received a bunch of snow this past winter and the last of the snow had just recently melted, leaving a sloppy, wet, boggy mess in the tundra, which acts as a sponge. There was water all over and I would have gotten really wet hiking to Mount Sukakpak, so I returned to Wiseman.

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    An interesting sign in Wiseman. I spent two nights at the Boreal Lodge, and am very glad as clouds and rain moved in. It wouldn&#8217;t have been much fun camping.

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    The former post office in Wiseman. Check out the huge gold nugget off to the side!

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    A sign of spring along the road to Wiseman.

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    Two weeks ago there was still 2-1/2&#8217; to 3&#8217; of snow on the ground, so the tundra was really swampy in most areas. This area still had snow, which was kind of strange as most other places had melted out.

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    Snow makes somebody happy!

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    A beautiful camping spot on the road to Wiseman, on the banks of the Middle Fork Koyukuk River.

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    If you like to paddle (rafts or kayaks), you can float the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River (Class I), putting in at the highway turnoff to Wiseman and floating 13 miles to the Coldfoot airport. It takes about 4 hours. I thought it might be fun to float this in my little pack raft someday, so I took a photo of some of the waves. After further contemplation, I decided this river was so fast-flowing and wide that it would be rather intimidating to float in my tiny raft.

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    Wiseman is quaint and provides an interesting juxtaposition of old &#8220;technology&#8221; and new technology. Many residents use renewable energy technology (wind and solar) to generate electricity. One small wind turbine is visible in this photo. I like the relics from the past mining days that are lined up for display. Active mining still takes place in this area.<o:p></o:p>
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    I like to soak up the good vibes of nature and that means sticking my bare feet in various rivers and creeks I encounter. This is Wiseman Creek, which still has snow and ice on portions of its banks. Brrrr!

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    This is a nice resting place to contemplate nature and soak up the spirit of the area. This was a very fitting place to read about John Wesley Powell and his explorations in the Colorado River and Grand Canyon region. Talk about an intrepid ADVenturer! That man could climb mountains (making some first ascents), scale vertical cliffs, and paddle rabid rivers (making first descents) &#8211; with one arm. That&#8217;s incredible! Since inclement weather moved in, I spent a big chunk of one day indoors relaxing, drinking hot tea and reading about Powell&#8217;s river adventures instead of battling blizzard conditions in Atigun Pass.

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    It was so hot my first night there that I was ready to put my shorts and tank top on. :rofl (Of course it wasn&#8217;t anywhere near that hot and when I woke up the next morning it was 39 degrees and raining &#8211; hard.)

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    Food porn.

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    JustInconsistent tried to ride to Deadhorse on Saturday morning, but he got turned back by horrendous blizzard conditions at Atigun Pass. I had thought about accompanying him to the pass as he headed north, but when I woke up it was 40 degrees and raining, so I knew it would most likely be snowing at Atigun Pass. Therefore I decided to stay warm and dry and wait to see if weather conditions improved. Justin took these photos at Atigun Pass. Talk about "yucky poo" and unsafe weather and road conditions! I was glad I stayed cuddled up under a warm blanket, reading and relaxing.

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    The rain didn&#8217;t let up so I eventually decided to walk out to the highway and back to get some exercise. There&#8217;s a fork in the road to Wiseman, with the road to the right leading up a hill to Nolan. I hiked about two miles up this interesting road and it goes almost relentlessly uphill into a beautiful valley, with lots of twists and turns. The road is officially &#8220;curvy&#8221; as it has a road sign denoting curves for the next 1 mile. Check it out sometime! <o:p></o:p>
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    Three men from Eielson in Fairbanks made it to Wiseman on these bikes, fully intending to ride to Prudhoe Bay and back. They ended up spending the night at Boreal Lodge when the inclement weather put a halt to their plans. These guys were really nice and I was surprised they had made it this far on two Harleys and a Kawasaki Versys. Talk about hard-core! The man on the Versys said his bike took a nap in a very muddy, slippery parking lot. The guy on the blue Harley said his bike slid several feet from side to side on the muddy highway, but didn&#8217;t go down. It&#8217;s too bad horrendous blizzard conditions at Atigun Pass stopped motorcycles from getting through as it would have been great for them to ride all the way to Deadhorse and back. (P.S. Thank you to everybody who serves in our armed forces.)
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    On Sunday, after hightailing it out of Coldfoot due to cold temps and rain that was turning to sleet, I ran into an inmate named Brandon, from Ohio, while filling up with gas in Fairbanks. I could tell from the conditions of his dirty BMW that we had both been riding on the Dalton Highway. Check out his milk crates!

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    We chatted awhile and ended up riding south together. We camped at the Savage River campground in Denali National Park and were lucky enough to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) when we woke up the next morning, Memorial Day. Of course we rode off to get a better view.

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    Brandon and I decided to &#8220;take the long way home&#8221; and did an amazing 200+-mile detour on our return to Anchorage, going over the amazingly beautiful Denali Highway (details in a separate ride report: <o:p></o:p>
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    We made an obligatory stop at the Matanuska Glacier rest area on the Glenn Highway to take photos. This glacier is located between Sheep Mountain Lodge and Sutton.

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    I enjoyed my ride and want to express a BIG THANK YOU to Dan with Adventure Cycleworks in Fairbanks, who saved my bacon and fixed a rear bearing that went bad. :clap He is a mechanical genius and tried explaining some mechanical things to me that went right over my head. I&#8217;m glad he had time to get my Lovely DR ready to safely ride home. One of the best parts of the visit is that he sang the praises of DRs, while lots of times my bike gets insulted. She is truly Dependable and Reliable though and hasn&#8217;t given me any problems in over 27,000 miles, and the bearing is a typical maintenance issue I now know more about. Thanks Dan! <o:p></o:p>
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    For more photos and ride reports dedicated to the amazing Haul Road, here&#8217;s a link. Two of the previous rides I did with the Alcan Rider, AKA the Vacuuming Geezer, are included. <o:p></o:p>
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    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=586780<o:p></o:p>
    #1
  2. FLARider1

    FLARider1 Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2009
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    1,559
    Location:
    Homestead, Florida
    I saw this and went hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.............this looks really familiar.
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    <o:p>Looks like I stopped just a little closer to the lone pine on the left!!</o:p>
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    <o:p>Looks like you had a neat little mini-adventure!!</o:p>
    #2
  3. PistonPants

    PistonPants Crankcase Scavenger

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
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    519
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    Cantwell, AK
    Nice report, Amy. I especially like the food art. Looks like it was an epic trip.
    Piston.
    #3
  4. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
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    6,612
    Location:
    tucson, AZ, It's a dry hate.
    Thanks for sharing.
    #4
  5. Notnewchevy

    Notnewchevy Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Alaska the Great Land
    Thank you for the really nce ride report. Someday I hope to make that trip. I only get to do one multi day trip a year and this year it is going to be Dawson. Can't wait. Thanks again I really enjoyed reading about your adventure.
    #5
  6. AirForce

    AirForce Abbey Normal

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    588
    Location:
    Kickin on Rt 66, Waynesville MO
    The weather sure did change from when I went up just 11 days earlier.
    Nice report and glad you're all back safe and sound.
    #6
  7. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
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    Location:
    Over the rear wheel
    :ddog I was vacuuming up sawdust, dammit! And if I had been wearing an apron, it would have been a carpenter's apron. So there! :fitz
    #7
  8. ADVBMR

    ADVBMR Polygamotorcyclist

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    897
    Location:
    Anchorage AK
    "I'm carrying an ice ax and ski poles on the outside of my duffle bag, plus crampons on the inside."

    I'm glad you explained that because it looked like a prosthetic leg with frostbitten toes to me.

    So the DR jinxed Justin's KLR in Atigun Pass? It even controls weather now?
    #8
  9. HayDuchessLives

    HayDuchessLives Loquita

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
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    Hey - you never know when a prosthetic leg with extra toes will come in handy! It would be quite useful for clobbering people who make smart-alec remarks, especially about my bike. :rofl

    Of course my Lovely DR didn't jinx Justin's KLR in Atigun Pass, or on his way up to Fairbanks, when his brand-new tire inexplicably started falling apart on him. We WERE NOT riding together. :ddog I wanted to do some hiking/climbing in Atigun Pass, so I wasn't happy with the weather either.

    Do you believe Alcan Rider's story about using a Shop Vac? I think the saying goes, "if there aren't any photos, it didn't happen," and there is one photo providing definitive proof he was dressed quite dashinglyg, vacuuming his swinging bachelor pad. He definitely needs either a shiny silver or shiny passionate purple helmet to coordinate with his fashion-statement outfit. Hmmm.... I wonder if he dresses like this underneath his one-piece riding suit? :huh


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    #9
  10. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

    Joined:
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    Have you forgotten about the embarrassing photos I have in my collection, Miss Smartypants? This is your last warning! :ddog
    #10
  11. Epictetus70

    Epictetus70 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    116
    Location:
    The desert!
    Great pic's!! :clapLove the outdoors. I'm from southern Nevada. One of my dream rides is Alaska to include the Dalton. On a side note, hilarious sticker, "Save a tree eat a beaver!" :evil
    #11