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
    On the way to the Steese Highway, this place caught our eye and we just had to stop in....While I really enjoy the wildlands and Kim enjoys them too...she also just loves to browse interesting and quaint shops...and I find interesting stuff in a lot of them too.. This was one of those places!!


    Interesting old cars...perhaps old river vehicles looking at the roof racks...!!


    Old buses...this one reminded me of the buses in Pittsburgh, PA in the mid-1960s...My Mom and Aunts used to drag me away from my country playground into the city to go shopping...YUKKKK! Those darn old diesel buses had the low exhaust pipe that seemed to blow the fumes straight into my 8 year old face...! I'm probably scarred for life by those experiences and why I dislike cities to this day...


    Interesting, hardy folks...


    This fine lady drove her own bulldozer, used a chainsaw and was working to build more log yurts...


    Then we continued on....

    Next stop....an old gold mining dredge !


    As we continued toward Circle, the smoke from wildfires started getting pretty bad....so we decided to stop and camp along this beautiful river...and see if the wind changed directions the next morning...


    Well...the next morning...the smoke was still pretty bad...as you can see Kim rubbing her eyes when we stop at the Long Creek General Store...


    The nice folks there tell us that the fire is out by Circle and that the smoke gets worse the further you go....

    Therefore, we decided to do an about face and head to Chena Hot Springs....Kim's birthday was coming up and I wanted to be sure and spend it in a Special Place!!

    When we got to Chena, there wasn't any rooms available for that night, but there was for the next night...We went and camped by this pretty little pond with lush grass just a couple of miles from Chena until we could get a room at the Inn... IMGP8360.JPG

    See the moose in the pond...?

    Well...shortly after we (or at least I) fell asleep, I'm awakened by an elbow in the back and Kim whispering frantically ..."listened to that! I think it's a bear coming across the pond...! Go out and see what it is!!"

    Well my mind immediately flashed back to when Kim and I had backpacked to the top of a mountain in northern PA to go spring turkey hunting...It was one of those nights where a cold front just passed through and there was the lingering wind rustling the leaves and branches. We took proper bear precautions, no food in the tent, etc. Even so, I felt that same elbow in my back a few times and was awakened by the same frantic whispering...:wake up...I think I hear a bear!!" I tell her..."It's just the wind...go back to sleep..."

    Well, come daylight we go just a short ways and do the turkey call..."Yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp......" Immediately...there is rustling in the leaves and I tell Kim to "get down...it might be a gobbler coming in!" Well, instead of a gobbler, this big old bear stands up...looking and sniffling for his next meal..!!! He quickly figures out that we aren't it and turns tail and takes off... Of course I felt that same elbow in my back and Kim telling me..."See!! I told you it was a bear last night...and you didn't believe me!"

    Therefore, when she tells beside this Alaskan pond, .."it might be a bear" I'm obligated to get the bear spray and go out to see what it is. No time for pants...or shirt... ...just go...!!! As soon as I exit the tent, they're on me!!! ...not the bear...but those legendary Alaskan mosquitoes!!! I quickly discern that the "bear" is really just the cow moose and dive back into the tent before I lose any more blood!

    Ohhh.....Chena is going to feel sooooo good!
    smilin jack, CoopsDL, moment and 12 others like this.
  2. mntman

    mntman Adventurer

    Sep 23, 2010
    Great report. Brings back a lot of memories when I was up there and rode some of the same roads.
  3. bomose

    bomose Long timer Supporter

    Jul 22, 2007
    Really enjoying your report. I've got a friend who was a guide on the Chattooga River. He managed Southeast Expeditions for many years.
    smilin jack likes this.
  4. eemsreno

    eemsreno Super Tenere Rider.

    Nov 21, 2010
    On your way to everywhere, IA.
    That Wildwood General Store "Arctic Circle Trading Post" That you two stopped at has a very interesting story.

    This is Nancy Carlson the owner.
    They raised 23 kids there with no electricity or running water.
  5. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Thanks...I'll have to read up on it....We only spent about maybe an hour there so we didn't hear the whole story...

    Chena was written up very well in "The Book" and we definitely looked forward to a little R &R and a real bed... Welcome to Chena Hot Springs!


    They had a lot to offer...we only partook in the soaking and bed!!

    The grounds were very nicely landscaped....and I think we must have hit it in the peak of bloom in mid-August...


    Interesting lawn art....


    Live Scottish music....


    Friendly Staff...


    a few geese.....


    and of course.....some Great soaking and R&R !!!


    We really enjoyed our 2 day/1 night visit....and hope to go back for their Northern Lights and Snowmobile Specials......!

    After the Hot Springs, some might think we headed to Fairbanks, Tok, and points south....but Noooo...we hadn't seen the Kenai Peninsula YET...!

    So we did head south to Fairbanks, stayed for a night or 2 at a very busy campground while we did laundry and other maintenance.....

    Then we picked up the Parks Highway again and rode south back past Denali..

    We stopped at anyplace that caught our eye on the way south......Here's such a place with a catchy name...


    We stopped to pick more blueberries....


    and we stopped for the night at ........!


    I think we actually stayed there 2 nights....we had a nice riverside camp for like $5.....and easy access to town.....
  6. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    We could almost see Denali across the Sustina River from our camp..if only the clouds would have cleared......Big rivers....


    The next day we just browsed around town...and had a cold beer!


    Saw old trucks and chatted with other visitors..


    Saw a pic of Crazy kayaker....talk about a tough put-in... !


    Then we headed south to the Wasilla/Palmer Area...

    They had a large village garden there...


    I read about how back in the 1930s I believe, they had a program where they encouraged farmers from Oklahoma and other mid-western dust-bowl states to make the trek to Palmer to take up farming....


    After visiting town we headed up Hatcher Pass to visit the old mines and camp for the night. Somehow, the pics of the mine and Hatcher Pass escaped...but I'll post you a picture from "The Book" that enticed us to visit... TBC....
    CoopsDL, rauchman, B10Dave and 10 others like this.
  7. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    This picture is from the Adventurous Motorcyclists Guide to Alaska..


    That place looked so awesome...I just had to see it in person! Well...the mountains and overall scene was the same...but the bright red paint had aged and faded to just a dull reddish gray....oh well. We had a nice camp near a small river and visited some old mines that reminded us of the Silverton, Colorado area...

    The next morning, we left the mountains continued on to sea level on the Kenai Peninsula!!


    As you can see...a light rain and misty conditions welcomed us to the Kenai!

    First stop....Hippey Hope, Alaska! Where we had a nice sea-view camp for like nearly nothing...actually...it may have been free...!


    The neighbors weren't too close plus they were very friendly..


    We went for a walk in the temperate rain forest...


    and we partied and danced into the night at the Sea-Side Tavern...!


    I think that was a Friday night and the Band said they were back Saturday night for another show. Since we didn't have anywhere else to be and had a beautiful campsite, we decided to stick around town and come back for the next show on Saturday night.

    That's where it may have been the farthest north live singing of the Tennessee Anthem...Rocky Top.!! and I had my BIG chance to break into singing and show biz...

    See, as the lead singer was introducing the band during a break...he said he was from Nashville... Immediately Kim jumps up and says "We're from Tennessee too and my husband WANTS to come up and sing Rocky Top!" Well, one second I'm standing back peacefully having my beer and enjoying the show and the NEXT second I'm being whooshed onto the stage to sing Rocky Top...."geeeee THANKS DEEEAAR!"

    Well...I did the best I could given the spontaneity of the moment...everyone enjoyed Rocky Top and I even got a hug from a new "fan" as I made my way off the stage...!! What an awesome night!!

    The next day we packed up slowly in a light rain...actually......it had rained the entire weekend, but it was about 60 degrees and nobody seemed to care.......


    .actually some of the young folk embraced the rain and mud..!

    As we made our way out of town, we stopped at the only restaurant for a late breakfast. The place was extremely crowded with a lot of folks from the show the night before..including some band members that we were lucky enough to sit beside and talk with....... What a special end to a great weekend!!!

    Then we made our way to our next stop, in what became a veryyyyy heavy rain and fog as we crossed the mountain to drop into the town of Seward........
  8. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

    Feb 8, 2015
    East Tennessee
    We really enjoyed Talkeetna and Hatcher Pass on an Alaska trip in 2015 with our kids and their spouses.
    Macho Man2 likes this.
  9. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    The ride over the top of the mountain was a little dicey with the rain, fog, and a bit of wind....As we got closer to Seward, the rain let up a little and it had just about quit for the time-being as w setup camp at the City Park. It was bay-front, had bathrooms with flush toilets and I think showers, PLUS a huge pavilion where we could relax and cook in the dry! All for $5/night!

    ....and we could watch container ships pass in front of snow-draped mountains! Notice that we put our tarp over the tent because the drizzle to light rain was relentless...We were there from Sunday evening through Friday morning and it rained 90% of the time it seemed...When it wasn't raining, it was getting ready to rain! That was in mid-late August and when we talked to locals about the weather they said, "You should have been here in June, it didn't rain a day in June....and there wasn't a day in August that it didn't rain.." Who knew?? At least it was warm ~ 55 degrees F.


    Well...what did we do in town for 4 days you might ask?

    First we looked around town and saw the start place of the Iditarod Trail.


    Then we booked a boat tour to Kenai Fjords National Park..for a couple of days later when the weather was supposed to be better.

    As we were waiting for our tour, I did a hike up the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park just outside of Seward to see the Harding Icefield, which is over 700 square miles of ice and spawns up to 40 glaciers.....Impressive!! That's Exit Glacier in the background. It is named for a group of explorers that in 1968 were the first to cross the Harding Icefield and you guessed it, got off the Icefield via Exit Glacier...


    The hike up was very strenuous with many thigh-high step-ups. I had to constantly be aware of my footing and could only look around when I stopped.. The view down the valley and across the Seward fjord was quite nice.


    I walked along side Exit Glacier...you can just start to see the edge of the Harding Icefield in the upper right of the photo..


    I saw more mountain goats....


    ...and I made it to the Harding Icefields viewpoint...


    The views could have been better....I guess we need to go back in June! But, I was still happy with what I saw and my accomplishment of making it there..


    Seward is where we needed a hot springs..... as we awaited our boat tour...!!
  10. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    Now the one reason Kim wanted to do the boat tour was to see the Puffins...I wanted to see the glacier calving into the sea..luckily, we got to see both plus a lot more... We really enjoyed the ride and would recommend it to anyone visiting Seward...I would lie to go back and do a several day sea-kayaking tour where they ferry you and the kayaks out to the good stuff...which is about an hour boat ride away as I recall and then spend several days paddling, camping and enjoying this incredible area...

    Here's some pics from the boat...

    First, make sure you have warm clothes and raingear...that way you can stay topside and see the better views rather than through steamed up windows..


    We saw seals almost immediately as left Seward


    We saw interesting seascapes...


    We saw pods of Killer whales...



    We saw rafts of sea otters...


    We saw the Puffins...the feeding was so good in the area that it seemed that some were "too fat to fly!"


    We saw the toe of the glacier....


    We saw waterfalls from the sea...


    ...and as we returned to Seward...we saw picturesque setting of a fishing boat on a milky flat sea.......


    Hummmmmm....a good day, for sure.....!
  11. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    After camping in soggy Seward for 4 days, come Friday morning we were greeted with beautiful sunshine to ride out of town...o Exit

    Since Kim hadn't been to Exit Glacier...we decided to at least stop at the Visitor Center and see it under bright blue....that would have been the day to hike!!


    Then we continued back to Rt 1 and headed south....past beautiful sea and mountains view for the folks lucky enough to live there...


    We headed south until we came to.......


    At Halibut Bay, across the Homer Spit from Homer, Alaska...

    We stopped here for a cold beer....


    We say the monument for the Lost Fisherman...


    We got a nice, seaside camp on the Homer Spit...again...$5 / night! Notice we still have one of our chairs.....


    The next day we looked around the harbor at the fishing boats and onto the farmers market in Homer...saw some nice rides in the parking lots...



    As you can see, it was a beautiful Day...no hint of rain. While we were at the Market, we noticed a BMW F800 in the parking lot....hmmm that bike looked familiar.
    At that time, 3 years earlier in May of 2010, Kim and I were camped at Gooseberry on the White Rim Road in Canyon Lands National Park. We had just weathered a dust storm when in relatively late evening this young man comes up the road on a bike that looked like this one. He junps off the bike in spry fashion and says, "Hi!! I;m Kipp from Alaska!!" I said "Hi" back, "I'm Tom from Tennessee"...We chat briefly about the winds and he comments, "yeah, they are really bad, I got blew over when I was stopped at a red light in Nevada yesterday!. We asked him if he wanted to camp with us, but he declined as he said "I have miles to make before I stop for the night..."

    Well as we are fixing to leave the market the owner of the BMW shows up wearing these knee high rubber boots... I just gotta go over and ask. "How are those boots working out for you on this sunny day..?" He replies, "They're working great..." and we start discussing rides we have done....As you may have guessed...it was "Kipp, from Alaska!" ...Small world.....ehhh???

    We scored some fresh salmon at the market and returned to camp to prepare the evening feast...


    ....and we had a Beautiful, Alaskan Sunset....!!

  12. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    After a couple of nights on the Spit...we pointed the wheels back north to head back up the Kenai... It was a Sunday and as we rode along the Kenai River, I noticed a lot of folks fishing. We decided to stop at a little campground right along the river just downstream of Cooper's Landing, make camp for the night and go into town and try and find a fishing trip for the next day... I was able to line up a trip and he would even pick me up and drop me back off in camp...sweet! He said over a million salmon migrated up the Kenai River that year according to the Alaskan Fisheries and he told me "it isn't just fishing season, it's Catching Season!" and assured me we would have a great day!

    After looking around town for a little longer we return to camp.. which was right on the bank of the river, had thick brush and almost literally smelled of bears....and I was a little concerned, as we were the only ones staying there on that Sunday night.. So, when a park volunteer drove around camp, I went up to ask him "How's the bear activity here?" He replied.."well, I wasn't going to tell you...but since you asked.... A few weeks ago there was a guy in his tent when a grizz collapsed the tent on him...the guy started screaming and thankfully the bear ran off...then just a day or so later..there was a nice family setting up their tent and they came over just like you did to ask the same thing...I said...as a matter of fact, there's a bear knocking your tent down right now! They just got into the car and left all their gear behind!! We haven't seen him for about 2 weeks now, so I think he went upstream feeding on salmon!"

    Well....that was more of a story than I bargained for! I considered moving somewhere else, but the fishing guide was coming here to pick me up in the morning, plus it was getting kind of late... I decided to go ahead and stay ...but didn't tell Kim about what I has just heard....I of
    course slept with one eye open and bear spray in hand all night it seemed......

    Morning came after a peaceful night and the guide showed up right on time!! Our main quarry of the day was rainbow trout that were feeding on the salmon eggs...To catch them, we used a single plastic bead that looked like a salmon egg, with a single, barbless hook since it was "catch and release" of the rainbow.

    It was a beautiful, fall-like morning on the Kenai River..


    The guide was actually from Nashville, TN and in addition to fishing, he also worked Construction on the North Slope when summer ended...


    I caught many, fat and strong wild rainbows..


    I caught Dolly Varden or Bull Trout, which is actually a member of the char family.


    and I caught sockeye salmon... all of which were quickly released...


    Then, we went fishing for coho or silver salmon, that I could keep and eat..as I was allowed 2 per day. Instead of using a bead for them, I used a fly rod with a larger streamer that I had to cast as far as I could into an eddy where we had spotted a silver swirling..almost like a big carp. it was everything I could do to cast that big, heavy fly that far...then, as the guide said..."point the rod straight at the fly and start stripping line i fast to make the fly swim. Then, when you get a hit set the hook hard because you have about 50 feet of line out!" Wowww...that isn't East Tennessee fishing that I've done!

    Well, I missed a few and lost one and we were running out of eddies before the takeout...!

  13. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    In one of the last eddies...we spotted a large silver swirling and the guide kept the boat pretty far away so as not to spook him... "You have to reach him from here...we can't get any closer !" the guide said.. Well it took every once of strength for me to cast that far...the whole time being keenly aware that if I slapped the water with a poor cast I would put him down and one of my last chances for dinner would be lost!!

    Thankfully, I was able to make a clean cast and started stripping line in. I could see him swirl to take the fly, but didn't feel anything yet because of the length of line that I had out, but I raised the massive fly rode with all my strength to set the hook as the guide shouted "Now!!!" ...and the fight was on!!! I guess it was similar to tarpon fishing (that I had never done..) The silver was incredibly strong and put up a good fight that lasted ~ 10-15 minutes before I could bring him to net and dinner was caught!!


    Look at the size of that reel....

    The guide filleted him for me as we finished the day...and then he dropped my back at camp in early evening and dinner was prepared...


    Notice all the makings of a fine Alaskan dinner, beautify stream view, and bear spray!


    Since we were the only ones in camp again, we chose to cook at the farthest downstream site, well away from our camp...

    Well..just before dark...in rides a Frenchman on a bicycle...We of course chat for a bit about our adventures and he says that he recently came off a solo trip down the length of the Yukon River....Wow! Now he was riding around the state on his bicycle... He liked his space and the nice stream view of the farthest downstream campsite...and I just didn't have the heart to tell him that is where we just cooked salmon!!

    We also had a lot of salmon left...Hmmm? I can't remember if they had food storage containers there or if we just left it in our side case....but we made it through the night without event, had more salmon for breakfast, and then continued north!!

    Attached Files:

  14. jathkajoe

    jathkajoe Been here awhile

    Aug 12, 2009
    E WA
    Tasty fish, salmon, tasty indeed.

    Great adventure, well written and grand pictures. Thanks for sharing.
  15. Oldschoolrocker

    Oldschoolrocker a.k.a. EZE Supporter

    Sep 14, 2017
    Reardan, WA
    This has been such a pleasure to read. What a great no stress trip with both of your mellow attitudes..digging life. Thanks for keeping it going and taking the effort. Awesome! Cheers!
  16. lonestarmikeb

    lonestarmikeb n00b

    Apr 9, 2021
    Really enjoying this and dreaming of doing my own adventure someday.
  17. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

    Jan 24, 2008
    East TN Mountains
    I'm going to continue the story...but it's go time!!!..rivers are running, trout are biting, dualsporting is great, and ramps are ripe for the digging...oh plus the grass seems to need cut at least once a week...

    20210418_142356.jpg 20210418_144613.jpg

    Pan fried trout and taters with ramps, streamside on a glorious April afternoon in the southern Appalachians....does it get any better???
  18. timc.

    timc. What? Where?

    Sep 2, 2012
    It does not
  19. Old Codger

    Old Codger Been here awhile Supporter

    Jan 11, 2006
    Ventura County Ca.
    Wow great ride report and pictures :clap:-)
  20. Firenailer

    Firenailer Still Ridin'

    Mar 30, 2010
    You are living life my friend! Great RR too