The last adventure? The last wilderness?
No matter, what you understand under Last Frontier… It’s the dream of many. The big adventure, the big test of endurance and courage. To me, it seems every American must visit at least once in a lifetime – whether with a car, an RV, a bicycle or, like us, on a motorcycle. Those who have the courage to ride/drive the Dalton Highway earn lifelong bragging rights.
Our Alaska Adventure started on the White Pass (Klondike Highway), in direction of Skagway, once again at a border post 😉 The very nice American border agent couldn’t believe that I really don’t have an entry stamp in my passport. So I was, how could it be otherwise, an illegal alien 😀 He was quite embarrassed, when he found my very legal entry into Buffalo, NY, on the computer.
Skagway, a small town with a lot of history, suspended between the then and now. The Klondike Gold Rush is long over, but here it is kept alive. Half the town is a museum (National Park Service) and the other half is happy to follow suite. You see guides and waiters dressed à la mode (1896/97).
A slightly rainy ferry ride brought us, after a hearty breakfast, from the “museum” to Haines.
In town, we found a campsite that offered us a roof for our tent and another for our motorcycles. What a very convenient luxury! We drove the Haines Highway back (into Canada) to the Alaska Highway.
The weather forecast promised us a three days period without rain for the Dalton Highway. A bit short, but we decided to give it a go. Fairbanks was given no chance to offer us anything but a campsite for the night, then the Elliott Highway brought us to the start of the Dalton Highway. The road was supposed to take us 414 miles (662,4 km) north, crossing the Arctic Circle in the process, to Deadhorse. Only two service stations worth mentioning on the way: Yukon River Camp and Coldfoot.
Thousands of travel stories weave a myth around the Dalton. But in my reality (I know there are others, just as true…) the road is in a good condition, just not with a tarmac top. Whether it’s raining or not, doesn’t make much of a difference (unless it has been raining non-stop before and during your drive), the road is wet anyway. If it isn’t raining they water the road to keep the dust down to a minimum. Result: The motorbikes looked as if we were back in Russia (Road of Bones).
On the first day we made camp 90 miles (144 km) south of Deadhorse. Camping beside the road with a legion of mosquitos keeping us company.
Before lunch, on the second day, we had reached our destination. But Deadhorse isn’t really a town, it’s a work camp for the enormous oil fields that justified the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The Arctic Ocean is off limits for normal visitors, unless you book a tour that includes passing through the oil fields. We were happy enough to have earned the bragging rights 😉
So turning around was no hardship, but reaching Coldfoot turned out to be quite some effort. The lodge offered the convenience of free (mosquito-free, too) camping and a licensed restaurant.
Back in Fairbanks top priority was to wash the bikes. Funny enough, most of the campgrounds (ours as well) have a high pressure RV wash 🙂 Our rest day turned out to be really rainy.
In a state, where only four roads are not a Dead End, you have to think real hard about which Dead End you want to ride. But before we had to make any decision like that, we were heading for Denali. And with Denali I mean all of it: the Mountain, the Highway and the National Park. Most people probably still know the mountain as Mount McKinley. Around this time of the year it mostly remains shrouded in clouds. But we were lucky. It was us, who turned Denali Highway into another Dead End.
Kenai Peninsula offers, apart from some remnants of the time when Alaska was part of Russia,
three Dead Ends. Homer Spit is the longest and “funniest”. Here, hundreds of RV’s are camping, using primitive campsites, on a sandy bank that juts out into Kachemak Bay. The surroundings are Las Vegas (or Disney Land) style: shrill, bright and very commercial.
Homer is called Halibut Capital of the World. Of course, we had halibut for dinner: Tacos and Burritos. Seward was our wettest Dead End. It rained so hard, that we paid for a 100 $ roof. It offered us a dry place to sleep and 4 basic beds.
Oil change in Wasilla
Then we followed the Glenn Highway
to the Richardson Highway, where an interesting Dead End was waiting for us. One that tells as much about the exploitation of Alaska as the Dalton Highway: McCarthy Road to the Kennecott Mines. The mines have closed down in 1938, now National Park Service has taken over. Access is across a pedestrian/bicycle/motorcycle bridge. The town of McCarthy, where the sin lived next to the proper mining town, survived.
Worthington Glacier, Thompson Pass
Our friends wanted to visit Valdez, despite the clouds. Therefore, we split up. It turned out to be finally. So, we drove north, turned onto the Tok Cutoff just past Glennallen. The long ride to Tok was supposed to be rewarded with a sunny rest day. As always, since Montana, the sun didn’t keep to the bargain.
brought us to the Canadian border, where our Alaska Adventure ended.
What we had more than enough in Alaska?
What we didn’t have (or very little of it) in Alaska?
- Mosquitoes, whether of the size of a truck or any other
- Hotel rooms, as they were really expensive
Squirrels with titan teeth, that chew through waterproof bags just to get a few peanuts or simply to have a peak inside
Kamikaze furry animals (sort of a groundhog?) scooting across the road right in front of my front wheel
- Dangerous or demanding riding, apart from the long distances and the vast emptiness
Was it worth the miles?
Yes, the land is great
Do I come back in 20 years?
Only if it’s not raining 😉
Without a motorbike, to hike and canoe
What we missed in Alaska?