Tennessee to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by tellicotom, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    The next stop I have marked is at Dease Lake...and I kick my self for not having photos of this....! Well, we pulled into the Dease Lake truck stop to get gas in later afternoon/early evening... At the next pump over were 2 other "Adventure Riders" and as Kim knows....I just gotta go over and say "Hi!"

    Well it turned out to be a guy named Tom and I think his friend's name was Mark. Tom was on a WR25R with Dunlop 606s and Mark was on a KLR with basically street tires....talked about a pair...! Anyway, they were from Minnesota and newly retired. Tom was 68 at the time...and they had a problem...

    They went down Telegraph Creek Road and met some natives fishing for Sockeye Salmon. They ended up trading a few packs of oatmeal for a fresh caught Sockeye....but they didn't know how to cook it...?
    "No worries, I can help you out"...I say... "What do you say we go back south a few miles to that campground by the river and I'll cook it up?"

    They said that sounded good so we bought a six pack and headed back south!!

    There was a beautiful streamside (riverside really) campground where we camped and cooked the fresh Sockeye... Man was it good and in a beautiful setting with new friends...! As we chatted through the evening, we learned that they wanted to head south a bit to explore another "railroad right of way type thing" before continuing north. We slept in and when we awoke, they were already gone... We had a great breakfast of the left over salmon that was kept cool in a ziplock bag n the river.... This was the only day we missed being on the road by the "Crack of Noon"!!

    We wished we would have had a chance to talk again before they left ....but we were getting used to "friends" coming into and out of our lives....

    We packed up and continued north, hoping we might see them again along the way....

    It was a beautiful summer day....as we pushed north...we were starting to feel a sense of "urgency" in reaching Alaska and have enough time to see it before the snows chased us south.... but we still had to enjoy the journey....!

    We went past beautiful mountains and expansive wilderness.

    When we came to this beautiful lake at Boya Lake Provincial Park, we couldn't help but stop in for a swim...!

    We went past areas with beautiful fireweed blooming..


    And we crossed into our next Province!



    and still..no Tom and Mark....

    We junctioned into the ALCAN and headed north!!
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  2. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    We rode long and hard that day and were convinced we must be well ahead of Tom and Mark and would most likely, never see them again... Surely that little WR250R couldn't be maintaining the 75 mph pace of the mighty VSTROMS...!

    We went over the long bridge at Teslin...


    Just past the bridge was a small touristy place with log cabins and such and we considered staying, but since we didn't start till after noon and the days were getting very long...we decided to push on...!

    We stopped at a number of campsites over the next few hours, but none caught our eye....

    Until, under the setting sun of a far north twilight...we came to the perfect spot


    We spent a long time on the dock below, in the late hours of the northern twilight...talking of life and love, of journeys taken, the grand journey that we were on and dreams and journeys still to be come!!!

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  3. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    We camped just south of the he turn-off to Skagway via Carcross, or Caribou Crossing, as it was known back in the day... after a light breakfast and coffee we continued on and turned toward Carcross... Yea, yea, we knew the shortest route to Alaska was to keep going straight into Whitehorse... but we were on the scenic route...right?

    Plus, I wanted to do at least one ferry ride along the way and it seemed that the ferry from Skagway to Haines was about as short and affordable as they got...Remember, I was released from work (on good behavior!) and we were on a budget!!

    The ride from Jake's Corner to Carcross was pleasant, far north country scenery, nothing spectacular as I recall.

    Carcross was (is?) a budding tourist town at the end of the White Pass Railroad that is bringing in tourists from the cruise ships that come into Skagway. This was on the famous Klondike route over Chilkoot or White Pass for the gold rush of 1896... As I understand...many a man died along this route...Thankfully, we had much easier travels.

    They were building new facilities in Carcross....Build it and they will come...right?


    At least the White Pass train came....


    Probably a lot different than back in the day...


    There was even a desert there!! Who knew???


    We continued towards Skagway.....

    What a spectacular ride....





    And we made it back to the US of A !!!


    Along the way, as we were taking silly pictures ..some old friends caught up to us...! There might be a party in Skagway tonight!!!
  4. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    The scenery stayed amazing all the way into Skagway, similar to dropping into Stewart/Hyder.

    Can you make out the tracks for the White Pass Railroad i this photo? For anyone that might take a cruise into Skagway, I think that train ride would be pretty awesome!



    ....and we made it down to sea level!


    We setup camp right near to the ferry landing....


    and walked into town to sight see and get dinner and drinks with our salmon sharing friends from Minnesota!!

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    It was a great night!!


    They grow'em big in Skagway!


    The next morning we looked around Skagway a bit more, as I think we had the 12:00 ferry..

    Here's our ferry coming in


    Loading up!


    Though the ferry ride from Skagway to Haines was pretty short, it was very well worth doing I think. It gave a totally different perspective and enabled a nice loop ride through some spectacular scenery.
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  5. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    When we reached Haines, our friends were turning left, to continue on to Haines Junction the ALCAN, and Alaska proper...We turned right to go to a camp spot that was supposed to have a lot of salmon and eagles to see.


    Notice the difference in their tire selection!!

    Well, our eagle spotting was a bust...I think we saw 1 or 2 but at a distance, but we did have a pretty nice camp.

    I'm going to re-boot the little Chromebook ...having trouble uploading pics.
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  6. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Well the ride to Haines Junction the net day was drastically different than the ride into Skagway. Coming into Skagway, the mountains were dramatic and waterfalls were cascading off the ridges. On the ride out of Haines, the mountains were much more gentle and rounded. I do recall thinking that at 3,000 feet it was like being above tree-line in Colorado at like 12,500 feet due to the high latitude.


    Still having trouble...TBC...!

    Attached Files:

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  7. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Here's a view looking down into the Kluane National Park, Yukon, location of the famed Alsek River. It adjoins the Wrangell St-Elias NP in Alaska to form a huge wilderness area.



    You can see in the last pic that roads were wet, but raingear wasn't on yet. The light drizzle turned into an afternoon long drenching rain as we pushed on toward Haines Junction. Of course, we stopped for fuel and a warm drink at the Junction and considered our options...as the rain lightened up temporarily, we decided to continue to Destruction Bay. The rain soon returned in earnest and we became pretty well soaked and chilled...Should have had better raingrear..but remember, we were on budget.....! Standing water filled the fields and roadsides it seemed and setting up the tent was not very appealing. When we came to the Bay, there were some small cabins and I went in to see how much.. The nice lady said "we have 1 left and it's $100 with propane heat and hot water!" "I'll take it!" I replied and proudly returned to tell Kim the good news that we had a warm and dry place to stay. She asked, "How much was it?" I told her and she replied .."that sure is expensive" and my reply was "I thought it was Great deal!!"

    That hot shower sure felt good...along with a warm dry bed....we didn't leave early the next day!!!

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  8. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    The nearby mountains seemed to have gotten a fresh dusting of snow overnight and it was still heavy clouds and drizzle as we packed up to leave. Not many photos between there and the Alaska border at Beaver Creek. Notice raingear, helmet liner, and electric gear was the order of the day....



    We stopped at a visitor center just past the border.


    Then we continued on to Tok and Thompson's Eagleclaw Campground.

    Thankfully, this was the only ambulance we were in on trip! Much nicer than the tent given the damp/cold conditions....


    Thompson's was a really cool place to stay, not only the ambulance for lodging, they also had a wood fired sauna, and a neat outdoor kitchen area.

    We really enjoyed our stay there and I would highly recommend staying there if you are passing through Tok...
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  9. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    After a very restful stay at the Eagleclaw, we awoke to a very nice Alaskan day! Our plan for the day was to continue to Delta Junction and take the Richardson Highway south all the way to Valdez.

    We passed a huge glacial river.


    We passed the Alaskan Pipeline... It seems that the cylinders on top are to dissipate heat and keep the permafrost from melting


    Informative displays....


    Then we turned south on the Richardson Highway...it was a beautiful day...with top notch scenery and riding companion!!!


    We saw our first Alaskan moose...


    Aren't they cute....?

    We took a ride out a dirt road to try and get near this glacier...


    We couldn't get close though the road deteriorated to much for us o the loaded V-Stroms...At one point we seemed to pass through an area that had some debris from a previous building.... Back to the road and continuing south...

    We just passed the turnoff for the Denali Highway at Paxon ...when it seemed that my bike was feeling a little funny......We better stop to investigate!!

    Yep...feeling funny....here's the reason......


    We backtrack to Paxon where there was a restaurant/bar type place..and a better parking area...

    Then I got to try out my tire plug kit and practice my skills!


    It worked well enough to get us to the Glennallen area where we went to a truck garage where they put in an industrial strength plug!!

    We made it as far as the Squirrel Creek Campground for the evening .... the weather and scenery couldn't have been better!


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  10. Macho Man2

    Macho Man2 Long timer Supporter

    Aug 19, 2009
    I'm so enjoying your narrative and the pictures are just Amazing! I'm so envious of you and your wife's adventure as it's something I've wanted to do for a long time.
    LewisNClark and Oldschoolrocker like this.
  11. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    The next day we continued our journey south...

    We stopped at some establishment and met this guy that made some kind of awesome trade it seems that he traded one of his bikes for the establishment...and he had a cool one left too!!


    The weather and scenery never gets old on days like this!! Traffic was pretty light too...!



    We stopped at the top of the pass before Valdez, at the Worthington Glacier and did a walk amongst and UNDER the glacier!!




    Pretty cool!!

    When we came back to the bikes to continue to Valdez, Kim said.."my chain seems to be making some noise." I replied "go ahead and ride past me and let me see how it looks.." I had adjusted it a number of times on the trip and it was getting that tell tale of loose...very tight when I rotated the wheel...sure signs of a worn out chain...

    Well, when she rode past me in that parking lot...my heart just sank as I knew that chain was toast by the way it flopped and I could only hope we made it into Valdez...........At least it was pretty much all down hill from there!!
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  12. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Well, we made it into Valdez...and while they didn't have a motorcycle shop, they did have a car shop. Now some of you are probably wondering about the chain... how many miles were on it? At that point there was about 27,000. Perhaps I should have replaced the chain prior to leaving home with about 20,000 on it, but I had gotten 37,000 miles on my chain...so I thought she was good to go...

    Of course I didn't have an extra chain and there wasn't one in Valdez either....but ....the car garage got air deliveries from Anchorage every day! Problem was, no place in Anchorage had a good O-Ring chain and sprockets...But they did have a cheap roller chain that would work...send us the roller chain!

    While we waited, we camped right down by the harbor and made some new friends that took us to see the moma grizz with 4 cubs fishing for salmon..




    While we were in Valdez, we also contacted Dan at Adventure Cycleworks in Fairbanks to arrange for new rear tires and he also had the O-ring chain and sprockets that we would need fr Kim's bike to get back to Tennessee. He had more supplies than the shops in Anchorage did it seemed.

    Well, after a couple days in Valdez, the chain arrived and was installed and we were ready to head back north....

    This time though, we planned a diversion to McCarthy-Kennicott!!
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  13. jathkajoe

    jathkajoe Been here awhile

    Aug 12, 2009
    E WA
    Chitina, McCarthy, Kennecott will not disappoint.
  14. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Now if you EVER get the chance to go to McCarthy-Kennicott.....DO IT!!

    It was one of the most scenic and memorable stops on the trip. The Wrangell-St Elias and Kluane National Parks form the largest protected wilderness area in the WORLD! The Wrangells, which is 6 times the size of Yellowstone, also have the largest concentration of peaks over 14,00 feet in Alaska. I think Mt Blackburn is the peak that was visible from over our camp on the banks of the Kennicott River, which was right at the pedestrian (and motorcycle!) bridge across the river to McCarthy! According to Google, the mines and mill produced over 19 million tons of copper! Can't even imagine how much that is.....

    Anyway, it is well worth seeing and the ride to get there was pretty darn good too...Here's some pics...

    The Chitina River I believe.


    Whenever Kim gives me that little head tilt...I know she is getting tired of me stopping to take pics....and I need to start being selective!!


    But how can a fellow pass up these shots...?!!





    The next 2 pics are the views from our riverside camp...Spectacular!


    We lingered and talked for hours that evening.... just enthralled with the magnificent country that we were soooo lucky to get to visit!!

    The next pic was taken about 11:30 at night, looking downstream, away from the mountain.. I just love that purple-hued alpine-glow..! Always have, ever since I was 18 and set back in the mountains of Pennsylvania on a pleasant November evening after harvesting a day's limit of rabbits and just marveled at how the mountains turned purple for a few precious moments under just the right conditions!!


    It was easy to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the river after a long ride......

    Sunrise the next morning was pretty special too!!


    Then we headed out of camp to explore McCarthy-Kennicott !! Just incredible!!! I don't know what else to say!!

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  15. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    First we rode across the pedestrian/motorcycle bridge...


    We stopped in front of the Kennicott sign for the obligatory picture!


    We saw vast moraine fields from the Kennicott Glacier...under beautiful sunny skies..! We couldn't have been any luckier!!


    We saw many informative displays....


    We saw massive old buildings falling to disrepair....


    We saw our Government's efforts to stabilize and preserve a select few...


    We saw the bike that started it all for me back in 1970 something!


    We walked a beautiful trail up the valley from the mill site on a fine summer day with wildflowers blooming purple.....Kim's favorite color!


    We came to grand mountain views.......


    And we walked on the glacier... not too far though, as we really needed crampons.....!


    We spent the better part of this very special day between the mill and the valley/glacier........Then we returned to McCarthy, just in time for Happy Hour!
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  16. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Thanks Macho Man2...! Yes, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do this ride with Kim...We really made that summer special...it was the only one I had off since 1970 something! As I do this report and relive the memories...I'm really coming to appreciate how special of an experience it was and how lucky we were and are......
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  17. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    After a full day up valley, we returned to find McCarthy a-buzz with activity. It must have been getting toward the end of July and the peak of tourist season.

    Some of the young folk had a pack-raft race and were just returning to town for Aspre-race festivities! As the name implies, folks use the pack-rafts to either hike in or helicopter in to a remote river and be able to paddle out. One of my friend's sons did a 30 mile pack in to the Flathead River in Montana last summer and then paddled out over 3 days....ahhh...to be young and strong... Here's some pics of McCarthy...



    I think the saloon in this next pic was owned by "Neil" that was later featured on the "Edge of Alaska"..


    After dinner and refreshments, we walked around "town" a bit, picked up some supplies for the evening.....and then rode back across the pedestrian bridge to our camp...


    Here's a pic of our camp....no lush grass like we had back in Iowa and South Dakota...but the views more than made up for the lack of grass!!


    Notice we still have one chair left at this point and it is purple...as is the towel... Kim's favorite color!!

    Well, after a second pleasant evening along the Kennicott River, it was time to pack it up and head north...we still had A LOT to see! We really were just getting started with our exploration of Alaska proper....

    The next destination was the Denali Highway, east to west, as I understood that we might see Denali in the distance.. if the weather is clear enough..

    So we returned back the way we had came and headed for Paxon....

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  18. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    We made it to Tanglewood Lakes Campground for the evening...it had pleasant lake/mountain views and ample short hiking opportunities for me the next morning while Kim slumbered in her cozy down bag..




    We still had about 100 miles of dirt on the Denali Highway and then the 125 miles to Fairbanks and Dan's shop....I hope Kim's tire makes it!!

    The mountains along the Denali were much more gentle and rounded than down at McCarthy...but the sheer vastness of the area was now the incredible aspect...

    We rode on toward the "Sluice Box"....


    Lookin good Kim...!

    Another beautiful Alaskan Day.....and more purple flowers !


    We crossed the Susitna River.. or some other creek, on this cool bridge.


    The rivers were as big as the country through which they flowed...


    ...and we arrived at the "Sluice Box"!

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  19. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    When traveling through this vast country, establishments are obviously very few and far between, so most folks probably stop at most of them...and they are all unique, eclectic as the people that run them and are quite interesting...

    We had the fried bologna sandwich and a bag of chips, just as the "book" recommended...Here's some pics of the "lawn art"...



    I thought I had more pics of the Sluice Box...oh well...time to move on anyway...Denali is calling and it looked like rain was starting to close in on us from behind!!



    We made it to Parks Highway just as it started a light rain...we turned north and headed toward McKinley Park and access to Denali!! We wanted to see Denali from the closet we could and be relatively easily get to, which we found out was from the campground at Wonder Lake, which is about 75 miles west, just short of the end of the road at Kantishna. The only way to get there was to ride the Park bus...as the road was not open to public travel. I hear they have (had?) a lottery system to award a lucky few the opportunity to take their personal vehicles to the end of the road 1 or 2 times per year.

    Once again, we were lucky enough to find a camp spot at the front country campground near the Park office and bus loading area.

    So the next morning, we got our camping supplies into our dry bags, covered the bikes in the parking lot and boarded the bus for Wonder Lake for up to 3 days and nights..


    We'd need to refine our packing if we were backpacking.....ehhh?

    It was another sunny and warm (hot?) Alaskan day as the temps pushed into the 90s.... Even the caribou were seeking shade..and water...


    The bus ride was quite enjoyable...It was very interesting how wide, braided and shallow the glacial rivers were...the bus driver said they are hardly ever bank full...


    Around every turn we were craning our necks...trying to get a glimpse of Denali...


    There was a nice visitor center about 1/2 to wonder lake that had nice exhibits, overlooks, and hiking trails...but those pics seemed to have escaped also....

    We continued on to Wonder Lake Campground....!

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  20. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    After setting up camp and storing our food, we took a walk down to Wonder Lake....

    and of course went swimming! It was a very nice day and the "bath" felt really good . At that point, I can't recall the last bath we had...we definitely didn't swim in the glacial melt of the Kennicott River or at Valdez....it must have been the wood fired sauna about a week before at Thompson's Eagleclaw Campground...??


    We did some short walks, but the country was so vast, we felt like hitchhikers on the interstate...where we going to walk to ?? Be still and let it happen!!

    We did see a sage grouse and just lounged about camp that evening and the next day while Denali remained hidden in the clouds......


    We also picked fresh blueberries as I recall...sweet!

    Then...on our second evening...about 11:00 in the evening...under alpine-glow...the clouds parted and revealed the majesty of Denali!!! What a sight!! It was a magical time for sure...!!



    Since we saw what we came to see, hiking opportunities were of little appeal, and the fireweed was bloomed nearly all the way to the tips..a sign that summer is about to come to a close in the far north as we were told, we decided to leave Wonder Lake on the morning bus.

    Of course we boarded the bus for the 2 mile or so ride to the end of the road at Kantishna.

    As we rounded a bend, the bus drivers said "get your cameras ready." He was right on..!


    Kantishna had an interesting story of a strong, pioneering couple....


    Their small building still remained...


    On the bus ride back, we got to see a number of Denali's critters...


    A silvery grizz on a distant mountainside...


    and this guy that walked past the bus soo close that the driver said..."everyone, put the windows up NOW!"


    When we got back to the Parks Highway, the temp on a sign read 93 deg F! We went to a nearby restaurant for cold drinks and burgers and pointed the wheels north to Fairbanks!!!
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