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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by skierd, May 2, 2013.
love the scenery, great pictures thank you
What a fabulous picture.
My brother has lived in Alaska for over 30 years and I've only managed to visit a few times. But views like this one make me want to go back again.
Thanks for posting up! A great read.... and the pictures even better!
Weather report says 70 and sunny all weekend, the river's have all broken up, and the land is turning green again...
Booked my plane ticket for Saturday night for a long ride home Sunday. Not a bad way to spend a birthday weekend.
Guess who's back... back in Anchorage!
Freed from her cage, and its a beautiful sunny day in Alaska finally!
So since I last saw my Honda, winter had continued for another 3 weeks in the Frozen Frontier. In fact, it was the longest winter on record... we had accumulating snowfall on May 18th, several inches in Fairbanks, and over 2 FEET in the mountains between. Then unfortunately I had started my second job for the summer, so I've been working 70+ hours a week with no real days off to speak of. Checking for flights, I saw a window of opportunity last weekend so I booked a last minute ticket, hopped on the shuttle flight back to Anchorage, and picked up my bike on Sunday morning. Big thanks to my buddy Justin for his hospitality and storage space, greatly appreciated!
There are two ways back to Fairbanks from Anchorage: the Parks Highway, the road I took down, at about 360 miles, and the Glenn to the Richardson Highway, about 450 miles. I woke up and got on the road early enough, so I decided to ride the Glenn and take the long way home.
Anchorage itself is fairly scenic, for a city, but its not worth taking pictures of. Breakfast at Gwennies, then headed north on the Old Glenn Highway towards Palmer. Once on the Glenn, pretty soon you leave the urban trappings of Alaska's only real city and are quickly thrown back into the coastal mountains. The highway followed the Knik River for a couple miles, before crossing it on this cool old bridge.
Lots of people out enjoying the low water and the gravel banks on dirt bikes, cars, and quads...
Hmm... doesn't look that deep... so I took my Honda on its first water crossing to the far bank and parked on the river.
From the Knik its a pretty quick ride to Palmer, where I filled up for the 150ish mile run along the Matanuska River to Glennallen.
75 degrees, sunny, very few bugs, and a wide open highway. Some days I hate living in Alaska.
See way up there, at the end of the valley?
Waaay up there, beyond the horizon, is the Matanuska Glacier. Its the river of ice that feeds the river that rages below with spring runoff.
What a pretty day, what a view...
It would be so easy to stop every 5 minutes and soak up the amazing scenery, the soaring mountains, the warm sun. I wish I had taken more time, I wish I could have spent all day just riding to Glennallen like I had originally planned but alas, time was not on my side this day.
Further up river...
The highway climbs in to the hills as the valley closes in on the river.
Notice the clouds building... There is no such thing as an accurate forecast in Alaska. Best thing to do is dress for 60 degrees, plus or minus 30, and expect it to rain no matter how clear the skies start. Once up in the hills it actually started drizzling, so I stopped to stretch, take a piss, and put my rain suit on. A few miles later the skies opened up, briefly, and for the rest of the ride down the Glenn I rode in and around and between small cells of cold rain surrounded by cells of brilliant warm sunshine. Would have been perfect had I still had my Aerostich, but alas it was long sold and replaced with leather...
Let's play the scale game again... Once of the craziest things about Alaska, and one of the hardest things to come to terms with for me, is how fucking massive everything is. The valley itself is stunning...
And now you give it scale thanks to a 1-ton pickup pulling a 5th wheel RV coming up the road.
... and what's crazier to me is this isn't a 'scenic view' type pullout. Its just a random wide spot on the side of the road. Almost all of it looks this good.
Where the water stops, the ice begins. Unfortunately there wasn't a good place to pull off to see the front face of the glacier without going in to the state park, so I motored up the road a ways...
Just below the ridge, the river of ice turns in to a river of water.
Up the valley further...
Just another sweeper...
And just another nameless string of mountains...
Soon after the road continues to climb, goes over a pass then more or less becomes a straight shot in to Glennallen after 60 or 70 miles. Unfortunately it was during this stretch that I received my first Motorcycle performance award courtesy of the Alaska State Troopers... 70+ in a 55 reduced to 64 in a 55 since it was a dead flat, wide open, empty highway. Glad to feed the state's coffers I guess...
In Glennallen, I was tempted to stay and eat and visit after I got gas, except for the lack of hospitality and mass formation attacks of mosquitos. When I asked at the visitor center where I can find something to eat, the reply was "well maybe the burger place back up the road a ways, but nothings really all that good". So with that winning endorsement I turned left off the Glenn on to the Richardson Highway and headed north towards Delta Junction and Fairbanks. The next town and place I planned to eat was Paxson at the Paxson lodge.
The road rose into the mountains again, and the weather got cooler as I went. Passing Paxson lake, most of the businesses along the way were still closed to due the lake breakup, flooding, and the fact that on June 10th the lake was still frozen over. Thankfully the lodge itself was open
because I was starving by this point.
Looking back south
Good thing I have enough gas range, because there's no gas in Paxson
Shortly out of Paxson, I was stopped by a highway worker... they had closed the road to land a plane that was out stocking the rivers with fish. :laugh1: No pics, didn't feel like digging my camera out, but it was pretty funny to see a small single prop crop duster come in, drop a bunch of stuff (fish?) in the river, then land on the highway.
Summit Lake... still completely frozen.
Will it thaw this year? Maybe... by July... the edges are starting to go, so the ice isn't that thick anymore but it hasn't been that warm up in the mountains either.
The road skirts the edge of the lake, then rises up and over another pass and falls in to the Tanana Valley
Following the melting lake water down the mountains
The clouds were threatening, but the rain held off or stayed up high
Delta Junction is the 'official' end of the Alaska Highway, and is where the Richardson Highway connects all of Alaska to the lower 48. The Parks Highway, between Fairbanks and Anchorage, wasn't built until the 1970's during the pipeline boom, so the Richardson used to be the only real highway in Alaska. It connected Fairbanks to Valdez, and to Anchorage via the Glenn. There is a cutoff highway from Tok to Glennallen called, surprisingly, the Tok Cutoff, and once I ride that I'll have done nearly all of the main highway in Alaska. This little triangle trip itself, from Fairbanks to Anchorage to Homer to Glennallen to Fairbanks is just under 1300 miles. Hopefully before summer's end I'll be able to take the Tok cutoff, then ride down to Valdez and McCarthy in Copper Center and see the last couple bits of the Alaska Highway system. I also need to get out more locally over to Manley Hot Springs and ride more of the Elliott.
After Delta the clouds closed in again, the winds picked up (it's always windy in Delta), and it looked and felt like rain. I didn't want to put my rain suit on... but by Birch Lake (where this pic was taken) I had to stop and think about changing as it started drizzling...
Sorry for the blurriness, the mosquitoes were out and MEAN, even my camera didn't want to be out there. I decided against rain gear, as my jeans and jacket needed a healthy wash by now anyway, plus the bugs were so infuriatingly bad that I'd lose my mind putting the suit on.
Another 60 miles and I rolled in to Fairbanks, happy to be home after 450 miles on the road. Unfortunately Denali was hiding in the clouds, so no shots of her from the Salcha River on this ride...