Tennessee to Alaska

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

  1. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the nice replies...it keeps me motivated to continue the story!

    Ok..We left the Kenai under fair skies, but by the time we reached Anchorage, a cool rain started. We stopped at a large box store to stock on on soups, rice, chili and Stove Top Stuffing for our trip south. The rain became intermittent by the time we stopped at the campground at the Matanuska Glacier after passing back through Palmer. This route is know as the Glenn Highway and has some magnificent scenery, though the mountains were pretty shrouded in clouds the afternoon we passed through, adding a rather somber tone to the fact that summer was indeed coming to an end in Alaska.

    Still very nice.....

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    As I recall, we hike, I mean walked, a short distance up from our campsite to an observation platform for the Glacier to cook the last of of salmon. Hard to believe we ate that whole fish between dinner, breakfast, and dinner again... but calories were expensive up north and since we were on a budget...we feasted like bears when we had the chance!

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    It was a cool damp night and we awoke to light drizzle/mist, packed up the soggy tent and we continued toward Glennallen and the Tok Cutoff. We hadn't been on this stretch of road yet and we were pretty excited because it passes adjacent to the Wrangell-St Elias National Park. First though, only a short distance from the Matanuska Glacier we passed Sheep Mountain and were lucky enough to have some blue skies coming through the white , puffy clouds. We stopped to look for sheep briefly, but didn't see any..

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    When we got to Glennallen, we fueled up and turned on our electric gear, as the temp seemed to drop with every passing mile. We had intermittent rain most of the way. I had earlier thought we might check out a little of the Nabensa Road that leads back into the Wrangels, but I had read where it is pretty off-pavement riding and with the wet weather we continued on to Thompson's Eagle Claw for another night. This time we got a small cabin with propane heat to help dry our soggy gear and to warm our bones. Of course, we also had to go to the wood fired sauna...which was their version of showers.....and chatted about doing the Top of the World Highway into Chicken and on to Dawson City the next day!

    I recall the warm bunk feeling awful good that raw night in Tok.....
  2. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    The next morning our stuff was pretty well dried out and the skies were clearing....We made breakfast at the outside kitchen,packed up and head toward Chicken. Of course we hadn't been on the TOW Highway, but from what we had read about it were very excited to see it for ourselves!

    I believe this pic was taken right when we turned onto the TOW.

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    I recall it being paved for quite a few miles, even back then...

    It was definitely a less traveled road than the Dalton, maybe because if it being later in the season.

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    Of course we had to go into Chicken!

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    ...and do a chicken dance!

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    It was an interesting place....but just about ready to close for the season and some of the shop owners spoke of spending the winter season in Hawaii!!

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    After looking around and getting a bite to eat, we continued on toward the border crossing at Boundary. The roads were now unpaved..It felt like big, wild country...for sure...

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    .....we passed small gold mining operations...

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    We came to the turn-off to Eagle...we went straight toward Boundary, the border crossing, and Dawson City.

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    It was about there that Kim asked me, "is it was going to rain?" "No, that just smoke from the fires I think" was my reply. Also, along the way a few cars that were coming toward flashed their lights and stopped and when we stopped, next to them they said, "Ohhhh the road gets really bad further ahead where they are doing road work after a landslide took out a section of the road..you guys be really careful...maybe you should reconsider?"

    Well, to reconsider would mean we would backtrack 80 miles to Tok and we wouldn't do the detour back around to see Dawson City....so....we pushed on....!
  3. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

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    Thanks for doing this report. Wife and I did a motorhome/Jeep trip to Alaska about 10 years ago and I have ridden up there twice in the last 5 years. Had planned last year.....then this year.....maybe next year? I will be 77 next year and who knows what another year will bring.
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  4. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    ....We passed rustic cabins with sodden roofs....
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    Where they had been successful on recent caribou hunts...

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    Then it started drizzling rain and things started to get really interesting...It was big, open country and we could see waves of rain moving across the mountains...The road was getting more rustic with each mile. We knew we were getting close to the border crossing and the road construction was on the Alaskan side...so we figured well...it might be bad but it can't be that long....

    The border crossing sets near the top of a mountain somewhere u head in he swirling clouds, mist/fog and rain......and still the road is "ok"...

    Then we come to slight swale where we descend for maybe a 1/2 mile and then start climbing again....it was in this stretch where we encountered the big loose fist sized gravel that they use for road bases..now remember we had on road biased tires and were packed pretty heavy...it was a bit of a wrestle but we made it through the rocks without issue...we stopped and chatted and said ..."well...that wasn't so bad" as the road improved again for a bit...but the rain picked up....!

    Then we came to the landslide area....I stopped and gulped at I looked at the rutted, muddy mess that stretched up hill and out of sight....and lay between us and the border and Dawson City...!

    Kim pulled along side me as we evaluated the situation...it didn't look undoable and would have been relatively easy with knobbies...but not so easy with these heavy pigs with street tires....!

    We both knew at this point were going to "give'er a go" ...!

    My only advice to Kim was "We should give each other some space...this ain't going to be pretty!"

    I took off first and wrestled to keep the bike moving forward as it fishtailed wildly from side to side searching for traction...! I went probably 300 or 400 yards and stopped at a "dry spot" to catch my breath and see who Kim would do. She waited till I stopped before she started...AS I watched in the mirror my heart was in my throat as I would see her bright headlight...then no headlight as she fishtailed and the light shone to the side ...then headlight again as she straightened it out which repeated multiple times..probably the same as I looked to her a moment earlier !

    Well, she came past me as I was still stopped and yelled.. "get out of my way!!" She made it about another 50 yards and the next really muddy stretch was a bit much...and she went down, full body onto the rood down. I yelled to her "You OK?" to which she replied "Yes"...So I told her "I'm going to give it a go!" I made it about 50 yards past her and went down as well...but I was able to step off the bike that was sliding out from under me.

    This was our first drops of the trip and now it as really starting to rain...The bikes were muddy and slippery and we really struggled trying to put them back on their wheels... we ended up having to take all the gear off to lighten them and also to give us some gripping points. We eventually righted them and decided to look to see how far the muddy mess extended before we put the gear back on. We found that it only went for another couple hundred yards...so we decided to carry the gear to drier roads and then ride the bikes up. As we were carrying the gear a local on a 4 wheeler stopped and offered to shuttle our bags to the top...To show our gratitude...we gave him the purple chair...

    Here's a few pictures...

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    ....and we still had the border in front of us.......
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  5. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    We found the border on a short ways further...and we were the only ones there on that foggy rainy afternoon. We were sweaty and eye wear fogged up...so after processing through the border I asked if we could stop briefly under the meager cover that was available to regroup and put our raingear on...better late than never I guess! He said..."ok...but not for long". "Thanks...we'll make it as quick as we can".

    While we were regrouping a lone rider on a BMW processed through the border and stopped beside us. He had a definite strong German accent as he spoke very broken English. Then....a whole bunch of his buddies came through the border only stopping after the border patrol started drawing their guns! This was getting wild and the border patrol were definitely on edge. The one rider said ...in very broken English..."glasses fogged..not see border"..

    The border patrol said.."This is getting out of control".. pointed at us.."You two have been checked...get out of here!" We didn't need to be told twice and got on our bikes and rode across the alpine tundra toward Dawson!!

    The road on the Yukon side was paved and a joy to ride after wrestling in the mud on the Alaskan side....


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    The tundra was starting to put on her fall colors..

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    There was a nice overlook of Dawson City...but we proceeded past, checked out a wooded campground, and then took the ferry to DC...hoping to find campground on the town side... of the river...

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    We looked around DC briefly that evening, but decided to go back across to the wooded campground when we couldn't find one to our liking on the town side.

    It felt good to get out of wet, muddy clothes!!

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    Attached Files:

  6. JuddS

    JuddS Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great report. A few questions that probably have been answered.

    1. How long is this whole ride taking?
    2. Where did you start, how far did you go and where will you end?


    Great ride report and thank you.
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  7. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    Good questions...

    We started at our place in Tennessee that is 30 miles west of Knoxville on May 31 and returned home on September 19.

    We spent some time in Pennsylvania visiting family and actually started west about June 11. From June 11 to September 19, 100 days, we camped 80 nights...

    Overall, we did about 16,000 miles and spent about $12,000 for the 2 of us...

    It was definitely my best summer so far....
  8. EZ-D

    EZ-D Davidprej Supporter

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    Thanks for the write-up and especially for this trip summary. This is good info and sometimes hard to come by.

    I'm putting a trip to Alaska on my bucket list...on my Weestrom.
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  9. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Finally caught up. Enjoyed every mile and every minute so far. Looking forward to the rest. Thank you for posting this.
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  10. bjor1978

    bjor1978 Adventurer

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    Really enjoying your ride report, appreciate the effort you are putting in to tell a great story of what must have been a great trip. Thanks.
  11. Old Codger

    Old Codger Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great report and pictures one of the best. :clap:ricky
  12. rauchman

    rauchman Long timer

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    Absolutely fantastic trip you've taken us on. Thanks a bunch for doing this thread. Truly inspiring.
  13. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    Thanks guys for the great responses! I really appreciate it..... I hope it inspires others to do trips of their dreams also...

    Ok, we left off in Dawson City at the wooded campground across the river from town. We only stayed their 1 night, as we wanted to camp on the DC side so we could do town without the hassle of the ferry. Before we left that side of the river, we took a ride up to the overlook that we has passed up the day before, as the weather was much better, at least for a little while!

    Views of DC from the overlook..

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    While waiting for the ferry, we met Carl from Alberta...and struck up a friendship....He and his sister were up in DC to visit with some family...

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    We watched the stern wheeler plying the river...

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    Then we crossed the river for a 3rd and final time...at least for that trip...

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    We ended up camping in DC at the city RV park for a couple of nights..on a hard gravel lot, but easy walking distance to town....good thing we were young and strong back then!

    Dawson City had some interesting buildings...

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    The soggy permafrost is about to take these 2...

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    TBC.....
  14. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    We took in an old-time
    dance show...

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    Saw nice jeeps with funky roof racks.
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    ..and saw an interesting inscription on a building....

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    as some may know...this is part of a poem by Robert Service....a very interesting bit of writing that is a good read IMHO...

    While taken out of context with the poem....I ponder on it now in its literal sense, as how of some of us work our youth away..as we save for that far off retirement.......hummmmm??

    We left DC on a sunny, but chilly morning with electric gear plugged in..

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    Seems like it was a pretty uneventful ride to Whitehorse. I remember stopping at the turn-off to the Dempster...and looking at in longingly...but we both knew our time in the far north had came to an end for that trip and we continued south.

    We stopped at a little gold mine/store establishment and had some great blueberry pie as we listened to how they would literally "stake a claim" and then get it registered.....Then we continued on to Whitehorse...

    We had a nice riverside camp in WH and as you may have guessed, stayed for a couple of days!

    We saw the Klondike River Boat up close..

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    A magnificent boat..

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    We saw current day paddlers running the rapids on the Yukon on a beautiful late summer afternoon. As I understand, the undertows are really bad there and unfortunately drownings are quite common...

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    I found the hills around Whitehorse also quite interesting.....

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    Of course we browsed the downtown shops....and then continued south...toward the Teslin Bridge, Watson Lake, and Liard Hot Springs!
  15. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    We left Whitehorse in early afternoon after having pizza downtown and only made it as far as one of our favorite lakeview campground on the Whitehorse side of the Teslin Bridge...as I more recall it was a bit more inclement on this stop with a light misty rain falling....so it wasn't the magical setting that we had on the way north.

    As we continued south, we stopped at Johnson's Crossing and looked at the CANOL Road Junction that leads to the Robert Campbell Highway... Both of these were on my list of possibles...hopefully next time!

    The pic below summarizes the history of the CANOL Road that was built during the frenzy of WWII.

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    After we past the Rt 37 Junction, the Cassiar Highway that we rode on the way north , we stopped briefly at the Watson Lake Sign Forest...which was unique, but not overly impressive and it appears didn't even warrant a picture!

    Just past Watson Lake though, we came to Liard Hot Springs, which was very nice. We stopped in early afternoon, made camp...and made friends with the local wildlife.....

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    ....and met some old friends we had met up at Dawson City....Remember Carl?

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    We saw other travelers, Germans I believe, in a robust overland vehicle that had plans of driving the entire length of the Americas...all the way to Ushuaia...

    Not the most fuel efficient means of travel I would think!

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    ....and we walked the long boardwalk to the Hot Springs......

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    ....TBC......
  16. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    ...and found a true thermal oasis awaiting!! It was nicely appointed with change house and minimal required amenities while retaining the beautiful natural environment...and the water was the perfect temperature!

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    There was even exercise equipment...

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    I highly recommend a stop at the hot springs if you are in the area....

    After a morning soak...we continued south in early afternoon.....

    Not far down the road we came to Muncho Lake Provincial Park ...where we heard there is the woodland caribou and we hoped to get lucky enough to see some!

    ...and we were!

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    The Muncho Lake setting was quite beautiful...

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    ...and we saw some goats.....close-up and personal!


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    Overall, the Muncho Lake area was a very nice surprise....as we felt like we were back in the high Rockies after crossing the more subdued northern landscape that surrounds it...

    We did the required oil change in the parking lot of a parts store in Fort Nelson and found a suitable riverside campsite nearby...as I recall...we were back into fine dry late summer weather after being quite damp and chilled further north...

    Somehow...we passed right through Dawson Creek without stopping for the obligatory picture at the sign for the end (or start) of the Alaskan Highway...I guess we got to go back!!!!

    I chose to stay north of Edmonton to avoid the city traffic and retain the far north feel as long as possible...so from Dawson Creek, we headed east on Rt 49, passed through High Prairie and Slave Lake ...and onto to Lac La Biche where we stayed at Sir Winston Churchill Prov Park. It was a nice park, but as I recall quire expensive at like $35 for a tent site back then...

    We then found our way south to Rt 16, the Yellowhead Highway, east of Edmonton, and continued south and east!
  17. CJSRider

    CJSRider Been here awhile

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    Great report. Really enjoying reading. Thanks for posting
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  18. Wellmanva

    Wellmanva Searchin'

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    What a great report! We were in Alaska 3 years ago for only 8 days but covered a lot of territory. Unfortunately we were in a car. :( Scenery was still fantastic. Really want to go back on bike but finding the time...... Maybe in a few years.
    Really enjoying your post and pics, brings back lots of memories and motivation to plan.
    Thank You!!
  19. U4IC

    U4IC U4IK

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    Tom and Kim, thanks for sharing your spell-binding report! My wife and I foresee making this trip on our horizon. Incredible photos - thanks!
  20. tellicotom

    tellicotom Been here awhile

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    Thanks for all the great replies and I really hope it inspires some folks to go out and make their own memories..It was stories like this that inspired us!!

    I didn't give up on the return trip...but we lost (hopefully misplaced!) the charger to our Chrome book that I was using!

    It'll turn up and hopefully I can get us back to Tennessee before our summer trip of 2021 kicks off next week!
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