Inuvik

Arctic Adventure Day #14

Today was supposed to be a boring day, heading almost 500 miles down a road we just drove up a couple of days ago… By the end of the day, it was probably the most exciting day of the entire trip.

We got an early start out of Inuvik – the weather was supposed to turn soon, so we wanted to get as far down the Dempster as we could while it was still dry.

The road was in great shape, we did get a little bit of rain between the two ferries, but it didn’t slow is that much.

When we were in Montana, we borrowed forks from Kim’s sister and told her we’d take some pictures with them, so we stopped at the Arctic Circle sign.

After lunch at the restaurant at Eagle Plains, we continued South on good roads. We were commenting on how we hadn’t seen any big animals in a few days when we see a fox on the side of the road… Ok, not exactly big. Then just north of Engineer Creek, I catch something out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes, and backed up 50 yards to get a picture.

We never did see Mom around. Probably hung out for 10 minutes or so before he took off.

There is a lake called Two Moose Lake on the north end of tombstone park… We joked that it was called no-moose lake because there was nothing in it on our way north. We wondered if there would be something on the way back. As we approached we were looking at a big rock in the middle of the lake and it lifted it’s head up! We pulled over to a viewing platform to get some good pictures.

It was interesting, the birds were following it around… We watched the for a bit and then went back to the car to get the 360 camera – we were parked back away from the viewing platform because we didn’t want to spook him. Kim stayed at the car while I grabbed a 360 shot from the platform.

While I was getting this picture, a cow and a calf ran into the lake. The cow was looking at the shore and there were noises coming from the bushes. I ran back to the car to get my camera before a second calf came out. Kim tells me to stay near the car… You should ALWAYS listen to your wife (my mother needs to stop reading here). Of course I ignored her and went back to the viewing platform because it was a better camera angle.

(Really mom, stop reading, this is your last chance) Then I heard some huffing noises back towards the Jeep… Apparently the noises in the bushes were not from a second calf… This guy was barrelling down the road as fast as he could.

Kind of a blurry picture, but can you blame me, he was between me and the car (did I mention the bear spray is in the car?)… This is where I stop taking pictures for a bit because there is a very large grizzly bear running towards me (did I ever mention grizzly bears are fast). Well, I start waving my arms and speaking to him as calmly as I could. He decides I am interesting and slows down to check me out, walks up to the entrance of the viewing platform less than ten feet away, and stands up on his hind legs and decides to talk back to me. He was very tall, 7′ maybe. I think he would have been able to stick his nose in the door of the tent on top of my Jeep.

After I thought our conversation was over, he takes a couple of steps away and then stands up to check me out again.

All this time, he keeps looking over at the moose calf, which fortunately for me seems to be good preferred choice for dinner.

After what seems like forever, but probably has only been a minute, he walks down the road away from the Jeep and into the brush. With the best out of sight, I slowly back up towards the Jeep and then do a mad dash for the last 10 feet.

Well, it turns out he was not done checking us out… He had looped around the lake side of the viewing platform and did a lap around the Jeep… Which allowed me to take some more photos from the safety of my car.

All the while he kept his eye on the moose calf. Eventually he started running again, and we watched him run all the way to the other side of the lake.

This was all about a half hour from our campsite. We’re debated driving all the way to Dawson City since I was all amped up on adrenaline at this point. We decided to stick to our original plan of the Tombstone campground. Once we were in a spot, I grabbed a ranger as he was walking by to let him know about the bear in the area.

Here is our hopefully bear free campsite.

We have been in the road for two weeks at this point, and we both have the “getting home disease”. We are going to hot the sights at Dawson City tomorrow and then probably start to push hard for home.

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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.

Arctic Ocean 360

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.

Arctic Adventure Day #12

Lots of milestones today. We made it to the Arctic Circle, Northwest Territories, and Inuvik. It is really hard to describe the landscape up here, particularly when we were in the mountains. You could see forever – the landscape seems larger than life.

The road was fairly mucky up to the Arctic circle, and slowly improved as we moved north. The last 100 miles, dist was more of an issue than the mucky roads. And the last few miles into Inuvik are actually paved!

Here is the Arctic circle sign.

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We really haven’t seen too many animals the last few days. On this leg of the trip we saw a bunch of rabbits, a grouse (or some kind of game bird on the road), and tons of Ravens (they are really loud). We also saw this guy begging for food at the Arctic circle.

360 at the Arctic circle

Northwest Territories

Selfie

360 view

Peel River ferry

Fort MacPherson visitor center

MacKenzie River ferry

Dirty Jeep in Inuvik

(Mostly) clean Jeep in Inuvik

There is either 12 hours or an instant of darkness here… My bet is that it just stays light all the time. Don’t think I’ll stay up all night to verify.

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 7th – Day #13

Never, ever, ever take two Advil PM at midnight if you want to get up at reasonable hour the next day. I learned that from experience when I didn’t wake up till 11a this morning. While I was sleeping away, my dad went over to the shop and fixed his dented up pannier. Almost as good as new!

We arranged for a late checkout since checkout time was 11a, and loaded up the bikes. The old man is in good spirits after his crash yesterday, but his ribs are really bugging him. The plan for today is to slowly head north and see how it goes. One of the major goals for the trip is to get to the arctic circle and we are soooo close.

We checked out of the hotel and topped of our tanks. I aired down my tires a bit – my front didn’t grip as well as I would have liked in the mud yesterday. Then we were off!

This section of road had tons of very loose gravel on it…they either just added some or recently graded the road. Airing down my tires didn’t seem to help any here, it felt like I was going down a loose gravel road. Nothing too scary. I let my dad set the pace, and we went pretty slow. He was riding way too tentatively and I was worried about another crash. We finally made it to the Arctic Circle without incident.

A picture with the bike…

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A picture with the me…

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Panorama of the landscape…

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I took a picture of my GPS with the Sunrise and Sunset time since this was the farthest north we’ll be coming. Not quite sunny 24hrs a day…only happens here on the longest day of the year.IMG_0406

The weather at the Arctic Circle was starting to worsen, particularly to the north (we saw some lightning on the ride up). My dad is riding too tentatively and I think he may have cracked a rib in the fall yesterday. I’m worried if he takes another spill on that rib, something very bad could happen. So, I made the call that we would not be going any further north – time to get him back to some pavement. At this point, I’m assuming we are done with unpaved roads for the trip. We’ll see how much confidence he gets on the way back to Dawson City…

We made our way back to Eagle Plains to get another hotel room for the night. They give people this nifty little certificate if they make it to the Arctic Circle.

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Now we get to the part of the blog where young children need to look away – it is time to have a discussion about my motorcycle boots. At one point in time, very long ago, my motorcycle boots were waterproof. They are no longer. In fact, they have been waterlogged many times. On top of that, I have pretty sweaty feet. The net result – my boots smell really, really bad. So bad, that you really don’t want them in the hotel room because the room is filled with the smell. I’ve been shutting them in the bathroom and turning the fan on. Now, my feet have been in these boots for the majority of the day for the last two weeks. I feel like the smell has been permanently infused into my feet. They now feel like the smell smells (does that make sense?). So I decided to soak in the bathtub. I’m not normally a bath kinda guy, but it was really worth it this time around. Unfortunately I have to stick my feet back into those boots tomorrow…

Once I was all clean and my feet don’t stink anymore (at least to me). We head of to the lounge for some dinner. We grab a couple of beers and order a plate of nachos. After another beer we decide that the nachos were enough for dinner.

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There have been a few bikers coming through. I spoke with a couple of guys yesterday that were returning from Inuvik and were on their way to Deadhorse before heading to South America. Makes my little adventure seem, well, little. He fell at 100kph (so he claimed), and just slid with the bike for a long ways. There is another nice couple who rode up on BMWs with street tires on them – they barely made it here the day my dad crashed, and are waiting for a truck to haul their bikes back. This is not the easiest of roads to ride.

We are going to try for an early start tomorrow. The rain seems to develop in the afternoons, and the road isn’t bad while it is dry. I’ll let my dad lead the way again, so we can go at comfortable pace for him. We also may stop and fish along the way, so it could be a couple of days before we get back to Dawson City.

Alaska Ride – June 4th – Day #10

WooHoo! We made it to double digit days! Although I’ve got to say the last day or so has been tough because I keep breaking and losing things. The zipper on my sleeping bag broke in the middle of the “night” (it was still light at 12:30a) last night. Tried to fix it while laying there, but gave up, fortunately it wasn’t too cold. Then I couldn’t find the cover for my chair when we broke camp. My best guess is that it blew away in the wind while we set up camp the night before and neither of us noticed. On top of all that, I lost the lens cap to my camera at some point. Oh well.

We were off at 8:45a today…Based on the recommendation of a person at camp last night, our first stop was at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site. It was a neat little spot that educates about the steamers going up and down the Yukon river during the gold rush, and how they ended up blasting out one of the rapids to make it safer. There was a staircase going down toward the river but we elected to skip it.

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At Stewart Crossing, we stopped for gas and a snack. We went across the street to the visitor center where the lady tried really hard to get us to drive out to Mayo. Not today, we are on our way to Dawson City! We still haven’t seen a live moose, so I took a picture of the wall at our stop. I think this one might be a moose/elk cross-breed 🙂

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The old man was feeling a bit groggy, so we stopped at a rest area at Gravel Lake. There are tons of nutrients in the lake and lots of waterfowl use it as a resting spot during migration (both directions). Sure enough, there were a bunch of birds there :).

A quick pic of the bikes at the lake, and the old man playing dead.IMG_0330

Dawson City is a gold mining town (they still actively mine up here). It looks like something right out of an old western. I need to take more pictures, this is the only one I took today…

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We stopped by the Yukon and Northwest Territory visitor centers to get an update on the Dempster Highway. The ferries have only been running for about a week. The road conditions are good, and all the campgrounds are open (ie no bear issues yet). There are showers in the forecast for tomorrow and Friday – enough wet to keep the dust down, but not enough to turn it into a muddy mess. Right now, we are planning on taking a rest day tomorrow and then start the trek to Inuvik on Friday.

The Yukon visitor center had a cool display of two moose racks that were locked together. Apparently they were battling it out during mating season, and there best guess is the smaller moose was killed instantly and the larger one either starved to death or got taken down by a predator.

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Based on the recommendation of the lady at the NWT visitor center, we walked over to The Drunken Goat for some dinner. We split one of their sampler plates that had lamb, shrimp, ribs, and chicken. Also tossed back a couple of beers. Good thing I am on a diet.

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Back at camp I still needed to figure out the sleeping bag zipper issue. I’m not a tailor, so please forgive my non-technical zipper jargon. The “slider” had come off one side of the “teeth”. My plan was to bend open the gap wide enough to slide the teeth back in, and then clamp it down. It worked…almost I was fine tuning the fix and busted the slider.

The zipper was the kind with two sliders facing opposite directions. So, I removed the other slider and reversed it’s direction. Then I started zipping up the sleeping bag, and taped the bottom together to act as a stopper. Seems to be working for now!

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Alaska – Following Along

Internet access is going to be sporadic on my upcoming trip, so while I plan on writing my blog daily, there may be big gaps of time between individual entries being published. I’ll also try not to flood everyone with updates, so a bit of lag will naturally be introduced into the posts.

For people who’d like to be more up to date on my position, I will be using an InReach SE to track my location(as well as giving me a big red emergency button if I need to use it). The best site to view this data is spotwalla:

https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=9c8c537a897e9a1b1

The site will not show any updates until I leave tomorrow afternoon. Not all web browsers play nicely with spotwalla, so you are welcome to try the Delorme site as well:

https://share.delorme.com/ScottSkorupa

Another cool thing about the InReach SE is the ability to update Twitter via satellite – So, the most frequent up to date text updates will come via Twitter. You can follow me @adv_guy.

One final place I’ll be updating status is on advrider:

http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=979458

Alaska – The Motorcycle

Ok, I’m riding my motorcycle to Alaska…I need to show it off a bit before I go! My previous bike was a Kawasaki KLR 650. It was a fine bike that would take me anywhere, but it was a bit lacking when riding on the highway. This trip is going to be a ton of highway miles, so I used it as an excuse to upgrade.

I was about to go down and write a check to buy a new BMW F800 GS Adventure, but just to be thorough, I went for a test ride on a KTM 1190 Adventure. As soon as I was done, I left a deposit for the “R” version. (this was in November). 2014 is the first year that these bikes are being imported to the US, so supply was (and still is) low, and demand was high. When the first round of bikes came through, I didn’t make the cut. However, one of my buddies found a new KTM dealer that had a bike that hadn’t been claimed! After a quick phone call, it was mine.

One thing about the “R” – it is tall. In fact, I am barely tall enough to ride it, and I’ve already dropped it a couple of times due to it’s “tallness”. I contemplated having custom springs put in which would lower the bike by 1 1/4” (and cost ~$1k). As I’ve ridden the bike more, I’ve become used to the height, so I’m going to Alaska with the stock springs.

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This is how the bike will look while I’m on the trip…Almost (there will be two small gas cans mounted on the top case). Some of the farkles:

  • Touratech Zega Pro top box
  • Touratech Zega Pro 2 side panniers – these just arrived last week, almost didn’t make it for the trip!
  • Touratech Skid Plate.
  • Touratech Upper Crashbar.
  • Ortlieb Dry Bag

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From the front:

  • Puig Touring Screen
  • Touratech Light Guard
  • Rigid Dually Driving Light.
  • VIRB Elite mounted to the upper crash bar (right side of the bike, left side of the picture)

 

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Cockpit:

  • KTM Tank bag
  • Delorme InReach SE
  • Garmin Montana GPS
  • Touratech GPS mount

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For water, I’ve got two 2 liter MSR bladders strapped to the top of the side panniers.

Not really pictured anywhere:

  • Radguard Radiator Guard
  • Heated Gear Harness
  • PDM60 for power management
  • KTM Orange bar end caps
  • KTM Orange brake reservoir cap
  • KTM Orange valve stem caps

For tires, I went with the Hidenau K60s. The tend to get mixed reviews, but I don’t want to deal with having to swap out tires in Alaska – the rear tire is a funky size. So, I went for I tire that should last the whole trip (I guess I’ll find out).

I’m sure there are some other small things I forgot, but this is the bulk of them!

Going To Alaska – The Route

One week from today, I start an epic motorcycle ride to Inuvik and Alaska with my dad. We’ve been planning this ride for quite some time, I just haven’t blogged about it to this point. Now it is starting to sink in that we are actually going to do this, I figure it is a good time to get started. This particular entry will go through the route we are planning on using (thus the title).

We’ve divided the route into several stages that don’t totally make sense anymore due to changes in our plans, but I’m going to present them anyhow. We do not have a time limit for the trip, and likely after the first couple of days our plans will change. But at least we can say we thought about it before we left.

Stage 1: Getting There

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When looking at these maps, each color is a riding day. Our goal is to hit 250-300 miles a day, with plenty of stops for pictures, food, and butt rest.

Our original plan for stage 1 was to go to Dawson Creek to take a picture of MP 0 on the Alaska Hwy. Well, we may decide to take the ferry back from Alaska. Should we do this, a couple of our must do sites would be missed, so we re-routed to a western ride. Going this way will let us hit the Frasier River Valley, Bear and Salmon Glaciers near Stewart/Hyder, and the Cassier Hwy.

Stage 2: Staging for Inuvik

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This leg gets us to Dawson City – the location were we get ready to make 500 mile gravel/dirt run up to Inuvik. We’ll stop in Watson Lake to check out the signpost forest. We’ll have a decision on our route – the map above shows us taking the Campbell Highway, which is mostly gravel. We could loop around on the Alaska Highway if we want to keep on the pavement. Once we get to Dawson City, we’ll have to consider the sourtoe cocktail.

Stage 3: Inuvik

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Probably the most adventurous part of the trip. 500ish miles of gravel one way. 260ish mile stretch without fuel. This section of road is the main reason we will be carrying extra fuel containers with us. We will cross the arctic circle during this stage, and the sun will not set while we are up there.

Stage 4: Fairbanks

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This stage will take us over the Top of the World Highway and into Alaska. We will use Fairbanks as a hub for several rides, including a trip to Denali NP. We may decide to head up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse if the weather looks ok. We’ll try staying in the dorms at the college, should be an interesting experience.

Stage 5: Homer

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Going to head down to Homer to see if we can get on a halibut charter. The ride down should be spectacular. We’ll hit the Denali Highway, which used to be the highway into the National Park. Also, the George Parks Highway will take us the rest of the way to Anchorage.

Stage 7: The Glenn Highway

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Those of you paying attention will notice that there is no stage 6…Our original plan had a stage 6 – Kodiak Island. Well, we didn’t want to be gone the entire summer, and due to having to deal with timing the ferries, we cut this from our list. Perhaps in a future trip.

This stage is the start of the trip home, we’ll backtrack over some ground to Anchorage, and then hit the Glenn Highway back to Tok and the Alaska Highway.

Stage 8: Getting back to the beginning

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This leg is entirely on the Alaska Highway, essentially back to Watson Lake and the Signpost Forest that we hit on the way up. Should we decide to take the ferry all the way back, we’ll drop down to Haines and hitch a ride.

Stage 9: Home

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Last stage! We could just repeat stage two in reverse, but more likely we’ll take the ferry from Prince Rupert to the north end of Vancouver Island. Then we are home!

So, this is our plan. Like I said above, it probably won’t survive the first week of the trip, and we may not do large chunks of it. But it should be fun.