After a ½ day spent in Whitehorse getting some supplies, lunch and doing laundry, we were ready to take off again towards Tok. Before we left, a couple of riders stopped by because they “heard” of a father –son team back towards Watson Lake. Additionally some other tourists from Florida in an RV stooped to wish us well and bend our ear to. It seems that word was getting around about out trip. It was great to meet new people on bikes and campers.
We finally got away from everyone and began our trip around 5:00 that evening, leaving Whitehorse towards Kluane Lake. However, a huge dark mass of clouds lay before us and we began to feel rain drops. It didn’t look promising. So, at the Klondike junction, we discussed options. The best option was to turn around and spend the night in Whitehorse in a dry place. We had a friend in Whitehorse, Shawn, who offered us a place to stay whenever we needed. We took him up on his offer and he made us one heck of a great dinner. And he had beer. Shawn is an avid paraglider and watches the weather as close as anyone. He said the forecast wasn’t looking for a while in all directions. Darn it! We made the best of it and had a nice visit, catching up on our adventures and to be quite honest, I was envious of him. The wilderness is not more than 5 minutes from his house and he has great mountain views from his back deck.
The next morning we said our goodbyes and headed out towards Haines Junction and Kluane Lake. Our destination that day was Tok. We had no rain but overcast skies all the way to Destruction Bay at Kluane Lake. In fact, I forget how beautiful that lake can be. Shortly after we hit a wall of rain. It was heavy at times and we began to get a bit chilly. We stopped for gas near Burwash Landing and recanted our 2011 expedition into Kluane park.
That particular expedition, we took off from Burwash Landing by foot and headed straight into the mountains, over the tundra to the Donjek Glacier. We were on foot and had heavy packs with 10 days worth of supplies. No trail marked our way and all we had was map, GPS, compass, a handful of GPS coordinates and a vague description of the route. Truly a wilderness trek of a lifetime. It was both physically and mentally demanding. One of the hardest things both of us had ever done and worth it in every sense. We saw wolves, bears and had Dahl sheep come into our camp. We scaled mountains, waded through thick muskeg swamps and beaver ponds; descended steep, frozen, scree fields that were nearly vertical and dangerous as heck; forded many glacial rivers; bushwhacked through some of the most unforgiving country I have ever touched. And yet, the views, the experience and the wilderness were like nothing we have ever seen before and have yet to be matched. That was a fantastic trip and provided us memories that I will take to my grave.
Read more about that expedition here.
|Ominous clouds in the distance as we leave Whitehorse|
|The young man looking good|
|Unfortunately, the normally fantastic vistas at Haines Jct were obscured|
|Arriving at Destruction Bay and the start of the rain... arrrgggh!|
|Oh no... it had to happen to one of us sooner or later|
|The mud was beginning to stick on the bikes|
|Typical views for us all day (sigh!?!)|
|If the rain stopped, this is what it was like|
|Finally.. good roads in Alaska.. will the rain ease up as well..|
We finally arrived at the Alaska border after what seemed to be hours and hours of riding. Geez it was a looooong day of riding. Tok was about 2 hours away at this point and were wanted to get an Alaskan Burger at Fast Eddies before they closed. So off we went again, but now, the roads were in much better shape… we were able to do more than 35-40 miles on hour…. The pace we had been used to for the last several hours ever since we left Burwash Landing.
|Nope, a storm was heading our way... Darn it!!!|
We arrived in Tok about 9:00. Luckily Fast Eddies was open until 11:00. I think we stayed there until they shut down for the night. We met many nice folks traveling both by RV and motorcycle. It was the motorcycle folks that we could really relate to. Johann was comfortable talking to them. And why not, he relate to the pain and suffering that all of us had just experienced on the road today. I listened closely and he was talking more and more like a true veteran rider now. We had ridden over 2500 miles at this point since leaving home. He has experienced gravel, asphalt, chip seal, calcium chloride soaked dirt, dust, extreme heat and humidity… and now heavy rains. Yes, he was maturing pretty quick as a rider on the road. I was a proud father.
We tucked in for the night at some hotel down the road. For some reason, most of the motels/hotels were nearly full and this was one of the last places we checked. Our room wasn’t very good and cost us $139!! Too much, but we were tired and rain soaked. It felt good to take a warm shower and put dry clothes on and watch some TV as we both faded off into the night, sleeping well.
The next day looked promising. We met the folks from MotoQuest and me the “Chief” who was driving there very cool support vehicle which they named Jethro. I can’t say enough nice things about MotoQuest. I’ve met the owner when he was in Seattle and they answered all my questions I sent them via email during my trip planning stages. Not only did they answer them quickly, they told me to feel free to ask them if I had any more questions and/or call them. The “Chief” let us borrow a rubber mallot. It seems that when Johann dumped his bike, he bent the pannier mounts a bit and we had troubles mounting his pannier back on his bike. We took the panniers off to go to the car wash. Down the road, is a free car wash with every fill-up at the gas station. Even though it was raining, we wanted to get the mud off our bikes… it didn’t really help as it rained pretty hard again on this day.
|Arrival in Delta Junction|
|These mosquitoes are life size|
|They want your blood!!|
When arrived in Delta Junction. We wanted to get lunch, not because we were really that hungry, but mainly to get out of the rain and dry off. Fortunately, there was a grocery store with a small sandwich shop and a fire place. We stripped off our gear off and dried them near the fireplace. To the dismay of other patrons, we dried our boots there as well J
|Wet and cold, but not discouraged|
We left Delta Junction and made it to Fairbanks were the weather began to get much better and the sun even began to appear for a bit. It was warm and muggy though. Having been to Fairbanks before, I knew where to go to find the University of Alaska. We were abel to get a room for the night… $37 night. Very inexpensive. There are community showers and no TV, but hat was alright with us. They had WiFi and we were able to call and email the homeland back in Seattle.
We met several other riders who were either returning form the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay OR heading up the next day like we were. Again, we had a lot in common with the other riders here and we had some great conversation out in the parking lot as everyone prepped their bikes and gear. Not a Harley in sight as all the bikes here were either KLRs or BMW GS’s… locked, cocked, ready and loaded for adventure on the Dalton Hwy. We felt at home. Oh and many of the bikers were from Europe, so that made for some interesting conversation for all of us.
We spent the rest of the evening prepping our gear and packing a couple of bags to leave behind and even a pannier (top case) to lighten our load for the trip north. The University stored our gear for free!! We couldn’t have asked for a better situation to start our trip up to Prudhoe Bay. Checkignthe weather, it was supposed to be sunny and warm for the next 4 days as a strong high pressure system was settling in over the north. AWESOME!!!
|Our Dorm room at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks|
|Front row view to the action and the other bikers who were heading out with us.|
Stay tuned for the next leg of the trip... The Dalton Hay and Prudhoe Bay. Whoohoo.
Until next time....