Alaska

Arctic Adventure Day #13

Today we embarked on the final northbound leg of our trip – the new road up to the Hamlet of Tuktoyktuk. The weather has been dry for several days, so the road was in very good shape. There were still a few long stretches of soft gravel and a construction zone for the last 20km or so before town. We could tell that the road would get pretty sloppy if it was wet.

As you come into town, you get to their brand new sign.

One thing you can’t see in the pictures are all the mosquitos. They were big and everywhere. It was a bit windy which helped.

Here is a 360 view at the Tuk sign.

Next, we drove to the end of the road to see if we could find Tundra’s family. Alas, they were not around, so I guess we’ll have to permanently adopt her.

Selfie at the sign.

Jeep at the sign.

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Had to dip our toes in the Arctic Ocean!

While we were on the beach, a couple of locals just finished up filleting their “fish” on the beach… It was a beluga whale. They leave the fillets covered on the beach and any of the townspeople can come grab a piece.

Here is a close up of a filet… Nothing for scale in the picture, but it is probably eight inches thick.

Then it was back down to Inuvik and or hotel room. I realized that I did not post a picture yesterday, so here it is.

No watch picture today, it is the same as yesterday.

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Starting a new adventure!

This time up is an epic Arctic adventure. We’ve put a tent on up of our Jeep, and the goal is to take the new road up to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT and camp on the shore of the Arctic ocean…. Maybe even take a quick swim :).

This post is going to be a quick description of our route. We will be using an inReach to track our location – you can follow along at https://tinyurl.com/ybtpeqmk. I’ve preloaded our route on spotwalla (the link) and you can go there to drill into the route in detail. I’ve included some screenshots so you don’t have to jump back and forth.

Section 1: Reservations

This first section I am calling Reservations because it is happening during the first week of July and we made lots of reservations due to Canada Day and 4th of July… We figure it might be tough to get campsites or hotel rooms.

We’ll start off at our house and take the two Columbia River ferries to a campground in Eastern Washington. From there we’ll head over to Flathead Lake to hang out with relatives for the 4th. Then it will be north to Banff and Jasper.

Section 2: Head North!

At this point all of our reservations will be done… So, we’ll see how long we stick to our plan. From Jasper, we’ll head up to Dawson Creek (milepost 0 of the Alaska highway) and jump on the Alaska highway. We’ll follow until Watson Lake and turn onto the Campbell highway. At the end of the Campbell highway, we’ll head north on the Klondike loop toward the Dempster where we’ll head to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic ocean (maybe the swimming should be skinny dipping).

Section 3: Time to go see the bears.

Once we’ve camped on the Arctic ocean, we’ll head back down the Dempster to Dawson City. From there, jump on the ferry across the Yukon River and on the Top of the World Highway to Alaska. Eventually that will intersect with the Alaska highway where we’ll head back to Watson Lake. At Watson Lake it will be time to head south on the Cassier highway down to Stewart/Hyder where we hope to see a couple of cool glaciers and watch the bears.

Section 4: Heading Home

We will do some fairly long days heading home from Stewart. We’ll drive through Prince George and then South through the Frasier River valley and on to home.

Full Route

I really only expect this plan to stay in tact through our reservations, after that we’ll play it by ear. The Dempster can get pretty nasty when it gets wet, so we may have to wait for a break in the weather, which will add time to our trip our make up shorten up the end of the drive.

Hopefully I’ll be writing from a campsite tomorrow!

Alaska Ride – June 29th, 30th – Days #35, #36

Ok, It’s been a couple of days since I finished the trip and haven’t updated the blog for completeness. We cruised home on the last couple of days and really didn’t spend much time sightseeing. The “take a break every hour” method of riding helped make the longer days go by much faster.

We decided to spend the last night camping so we could have one last campfire on the trip. We initially stopped at Goldpan Provincial Park. The sites were right on the Thompson River, but were sandwiched between two sets of railroad tracks. We opted to move on to the campground – Skihist Provincial Park. This was a much nicer campground – it was set back from the highway quite a bit. The railroad tracks were far away. The sites were a good size with a good amount of space between them.

I’m not used to many things back at home. There is night here! After having no darkness for so long, night seems a bit strange. There is way more traffic. We probably saw more cars between the border and Seattle than we did the rest of the trip, and we weren’t even riding through at rush hour.

I got exactly one night in my bed before heading out on the road again. Our hardwood floors are being refinished and several of our carpets are being replaced. So it is off to Montana for a week or so in the RV – normally, I would blog the trip, but I’m just going to relax on this one.

Once I get home, I’ll start processing pictures and videos. I’ll make some new posts with all of the good ones (and maybe some not so good ones).

Alaska Ride – June 28th – Day #34

Did not get much sleep last night. I set my alarm for 4a, and then crawled in bed. Then I realized that 4a Alaska time is 5a BC time, which was our arrival time in Prince Rupert. I wasn’t going to get up in time! Turns out, they came on the loudspeaker 45 minutes before our arrival time and woke everyone up. Plus we were late getting into port, so my alarm would have been ok anyhow.

Getting off the ferry was not a big deal, except for the loser who would not merge lanes with me while going into customs (3 lanes merged down to 2). I finally yelled at the guy and he let me in. The customs officer actually asked to see my bear spray – fortunately it was pretty easy to reach.

Today was a long day of riding, about half of which was in the rain. Our goal was to get to Vanderhoof (about 360 miles). We ended up getting all the way to Prince George (about 450 miles). We were taking short breaks every 60 minutes, which really helped us stretch the miles. We should be able to make it home on the 30th.

The ride itself wasn’t super exciting, we’ve covered most of this ground before and it isn’t the greatest scenery to begin with. We did see our first deer of the trip (if you don’t count Caribou) and we saw another black bear.

Didn’t take any pictures today – we were in cover lots of ground mode. We’ll see if I get any tomorrow.

Alaska Ride – June 27th – Day #33

We are still on a boat! Slept pretty well last night – I cheated and took a couple of Advil PM to make sure. Rolled out of bed and went upstairs to the cafeteria for some breakfast. French toast, sausage, apple turnover and a root beer (everyone needs root beer at breakfast).

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The boat ride today was a bit less interesting than yesterday. Not as many mountain views, with the weather deteriorating as the day progressed. Yesterday the views were spectacular and different. Today was like cruising around the San Juan Islands all day – probably cool and unique for many people, but sorta ho-hum for me. We did stop at several ports, but we were behind schedule so they strongly encouraged people to stay on the boat, so we did.

Between eating at the cafe’, getting healthy food from the vending machine, and soda from the pop machine, I managed to get some quality nap time in. Also spent a good amount of time reading on the Kindle. I had a good enough data connection to connect to my slingbox while in Ketchikan – got to see the last out of the Mariner’s game. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to sleep at a decent hour tonight as we have an early start tomorrow.

Assuming the boat gets back on schedule, we’ll be landing at Prince Rupert at 5 in the morning. We are organizing our things so we can make a fast getaway when the time comes. We only have access to the bikes while the ship is docked. We are at Ketchikan right now and my dad is frantically figuring out what he needs to bring down with him. I’ve got it a bit easier – I have my small pannier and tank bag in the room. I can fit all my crap in those and bring them down in the morning.

Alaska Ride – June 26th – Day#32

Today is the day to get on the ferry down to Prince Rupert. Apparently my dad was really excited to go – he woke up half the campground breaking camp at 5:30a. Too bad the ferry doesn’t leave until noon and is only a 5 minute drive from our camp.

I got out of bed at a more reasonable hour (7a) and packed things up to go. We made the quick ride over to the ferry terminal and started our wait there.IMG_0526

Eventually our ferry showed up and we got to go aboard! Did I mention that it was low tide and we had to go down a steep metal grate platform to get on the boat? Also, you load into the side of the boat, and the opposite door is open, so if you don’t make your left turn, things will get wet very quickly.

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View out the front of the boat

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We spent most of the ferry ride watching the scenery go by. There were lots of waterfalls, mountains and glaciers.

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Eagle Glacier

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Herbert Glacier, just to the south.

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Mendenhall Glacier overlooks Juneau.

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As we were coming into port a Juneau, these guys were tossing something to the eagles while they were fishing. There were a couple of them that kept buzzing around the boat.

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That’s about it so far. We are sitting in Juneau waiting for the boat to leave. Figure I’d get a blog entry published while I had a good data connection!

Alaska Ride – June 25th – Day #31

Clearly I am zipper challenged. I now have imminent zipper failure on the tent door. The zipper seems to zip fine, and then it just comes apart in places. Only a few more camping nights left before we get home, hopefully it will be good enough to last.

The wind blew like crazy last night. I’m glad they had a sheltered area for the tents, otherwise we may have been lifted up and taken to Oz. Don’t think my tent is sturdy enough to squish a witch…

After consulting we several of “the guys” here at the RV park, we decide to walk about a mile or so to a bakery for breakfast. Ended up getting a yummy sticky bun, sausage, and some hot chocolate. I needed all the extra calories to recover from the walk 🙂

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On the way back, we stopped at a sportsman store and lucked into some earplugs in the shooting section. I’ve been using disposable earplugs since I lost my reusable ones early in the trip, and I’m almost out. They actually had the same brand that I was using before! Hopefully I can keep track of them for the 3-4 days of riding we have left (after a couple of days on the ferry).

After dropping off the earplugs in the tent, we decided to walk around the waterfront and take a few pictures. There is a cruise ship in town today…

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and they had a big totem pole on the waterfront.

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We looped back through town again and stopped at an outdoor recreation store. I bought a big sheet of mosquito netting for $9. I figure that if the zipper on the tent door fails, I can duct tape up some bug netting to keep from being eaten alive in the tent (If there happen to be bugs around).

Another trip back to the tent to drop things off, and then time for lunch! Halibut and Chips today!

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Again it was back to the campground. We spent a good chunk of the afternoon planning our route from Prince Rupert to home. It really looks like we’ll be able to do it in 3 days, which will put us home late in the day on June 30th (there was a nice lady who insisted that we would have no problem making it in 3 days, she’s done it lots of times). So, unless we get tired and stop early on one of the days, we’ve got a solid plan.

The halibut that I caught and had shipped home arrived today. The only problem – it was supposed to arrive yesterday. About half of the shipment had thawed. Fortunately I had insured it, so I called up FedEx. They said I have to call the shippers (the fish processing company) and they have to file a claim. I talked to the processing company and they said they would take care of it and send me out some more fish. I’m still waiting for a call back, but keeping my fingers crossed.

We walked to the Lighthouse Restaurant next door and grabbed dinner. Look! I had something healthy! (if you ignore the fact that the fish was soaked with garlic butter).

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Spending the rest of the evening getting organized for the ferry tomorrow – we don’t have access to the bikes while the boat is underway. I’m trying to figure out how I can most efficiently get my stuff from the bike to the cabin. Then it is off to bed.

Alaska Ride – June 24th – Day #30

One month on the road! I think the hardest part of this trip has been the length of time away from my family. I arranged for some roses to be sent to my wife tomorrow. Hopefully she likes them!

Today started out cloudy, but dry. We had a short ride from Haines Junction to Haines…only about 150 miles. Along the way we saw a grizzly bear running away from the road – really only just got a glimpse of him.

The weather changed and it dumped on us – the temperature stayed fairly warm though. You go over a small pass to get into Haines, and as we approached the top, the visibility dropped. We had to slow way down to travel safely, and hoped that those following us did the same.

We cleared customs with no issues, and cruised on into town. After a brief stop at the visitor center, we decided to hit The Rusty Compass for some lunchtime pizza and wifi. Then it was down to check into the RV park.

The park has a sheltered area for tents, although it is on a gravel bed. We set our tents and then hung out with “the guys” – campground host “Buffalo” and Clyde (a camper on a KLR). We had leftover pizza for dinner, and then it was off to bed.

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Alaska Ride – June 23rd – Day #29

Where did the good weather go? It was raining when I woke up this morning, so I decided to stay in my nice warm sleeping bag while waiting for it to stop. After about an hour, it finally let up and I went outside to break camp.

Today’s ride is entirely on the Alaska Highway and we’ve done the entire section before, so what new things could I possibly blog about? Fortunately, I’m riding with my dad and he always will provide something entertaining…

We arrive at customs and get in a fairly short line of vehicles waiting to pass inspection. We sit there and sit there and sit there. Apparently they are doing a full body cavity search on the guy at the front of the line (actually when we made it to the front they were unloading a car). After waiting for about 15 minutes, the old man just decides to “gently lay” his bike down on the road. Don’t know why he didn’t have the sidestand down. Fortunately there were plenty of people to watch him, laugh at him, and then help him lift the bike up. Eventually the line started moving and we didn’t have any more incidents before clearing customs.

We stopped at Beaver Creek for fuel and lunch. Can’t remember the name of the lunch place, but there was one guy working there that took your order and cooked your food and everything. Fortunately we were the only customers there, otherwise we’d probably still be waiting for our food.

As the day went on, the weather improved… IMG_0521

Now that it was sunny, the wind started to blow – HARD. We slowed way down to minimize the amount we were pushed around. As we neared Kluane Lake, the wind slowly started to die down. We pulled over at a rest area to figure out our options for the night.

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There is a campground near the “middle” of Kluane Lake (not in the water, next to the road!). We make the decision to camp there for the night, it isn’t too far away and puts us within striking distance of Haines the next day. As we continue down the road, there is a van pulled over – he’s watching a grizzly bear. Kinda cool – unless you are about to camp in the area. Now, we keep on going and there is bear scat all over the side of the road. We come upon two more cars pulled over…they are watching a grizzly sitting and eating flowers right next to the road. Now we are really worried! We pull into the campground and there are signs all over “No Tent Camping, Bears in Area”. There is an RV park a couple of miles down the road, but that isn’t enough distance between my tent and the bears. We decide to go to Haines Junction and get a hotel room.

We get to Haines Junction, get some fuel, and then go to the nicest hotel in town. They are sold out. We go to the next hotel. Sold Out. There is some kind of conference going on and no rooms available in town. We end up staying at an RV park near the actual “Junction”, and it had a very nice tenting area. It is like camping in an actual campground and not a gravel parking lot.

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Tomorrow down to Haines, then we kill a day before jumping on the ferry.

Alaska Ride – June 22nd – Day #28

We woke up to another bright sunny Alaska morning today. Don’t know why we thought it was going to rain every day. We packed up and were pulling out of the site when the old man freaks out and rips his gloves off. Apparently something had made it’s way into his gloves overnight and was now using the back of his hand for breakfast. We never found the bug…I think he just made it up.

Now, his gloves are inside out. He wrestles with them for about 10 minutes and we hit the road again. He goes about 10 feet and decides that the gloves still weren’t fixed, and were impeding his riding. So we pull over in a nice safe spot – or so we thought. The ground was sloped the wrong way and over my bike went…thought I had finally gotten all of those out of my system. My pannier came off again and was all dented up, I managed to jam it back on and we were on our way.

We rode the Glenn Highway today. By far the best “motorcycle road” of the trip. Lots of twists and turns and some spectacular views. We lucked out and caught up to very few cars. We took a quick rest break at the parking lot for an ATV area.

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We were off, and then it happened! Remember the pannier that came off? Well it decided to come off again while I was going 60mph down the road. The Zega Pro 2 has this spring mechanism that you use to detach the pannier from your bike. Well, I think I neglected to lock it when I put it back on in the morning, so it launched off the side of my bike. I was fortunate to hear it go because the bike did not perform any differently, and I could have gone a long ways before I figured it out. Well, it was my right pannier, so it launched itself toward the shoulder and skidded to a stop. I found a parking pull out about 100 yards down the road and then walked back to pick up the pannier. The pannier itself is in great shape. I had a water bladder on top that had sprung a leak, but other than that everything was ok. When I get home, I’m going to design a safety strap to prevent this from happening in the future.

Spent the next little bit, banging my pannier straight again (from the fall this morning) and reattaching it to the bike. I added a couple of zip ties as a fail safe – you can’t get the pannier off without scissors now. The view from the repair site was pretty sweet!

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We cruised along for a bit and a moose ran out in front of me! The shoulders of the road were cut back pretty far, so I had plenty of warning, but I still had to put on the brakes a bit. I was a little worried that it was going to stop in the middle of the road. I wouldn’t have hit it, but I don’t think I want to be stopped on my motorcycle that close to a moose.

Shortly afterwards we stopped for a quick rest break and my dad took the time to clean up his windscreen and lights.

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We finally got to the gas station at Glennallen and it was a total zoo. There is an intersection of two major highways there and it was a Sunday afternoon. Cars coming into the station lined up in both directions. I thought a brawl was going to break out at any time. We decided to grab some lunch to see if the lines would get a bit shorter. They did, but not by much.

Next was a little zigzag up to the Tok cutoff road. Not quite as interesting as Glenn Highway, but still not a bad road. We stopped at a campground just before Tok, and decided to keep going a bit farther. We ended up staying at Tok River Recreation Area right near the river.