RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Friday, May 17, 2019

GrizzLee Stories From the North: The Haul Road

I got up early and left Fairbanks heading to the Dalton Highway. I made pretty good time, even with a stop for coffee and some breakfast.

 At the start of the Dalton Hwy is an elevated sign signifying the start of the road. The elevated sign
was presumably to keep folks from plastering stickers all over it and defacing it. Somehow, many travelers are undaunted as the sign is still plastered with stickers from folks of all walks of life. The town of “Livengood”, yes, you read that correctly. There is such a place.

From there the weather was ok. The road was in excellent condition. I endured a few sprinkles here and there all the way up to the Yukon Crossing at Mile Post 57. I stopped at the visitor’s center and spent some time looking around and even going to the beach to dip my toe into the Yukon River.
Yukon River... Beeeutiful

Yukon River Crossing
Afterwards I headed north to get gas in Coldfoot. Along the way I would cross the Arctic Circle and so forth. The weather gods were being nice and in fact, I got a nice break in the weather as I came upon finger rock at MP 98. Finger rock sits upon a high plateau above the tundra. It is rather unique as the ground is not soft and spongy. Lots of granite rocks lie scattered about for miles and miles. The rocks are pushed up as water freezes and expands underneath them in a process known as frost heaving. One of the biggest and most unique of these rocks is Finger Rock. It stands like a beacon on the plateau and can be seen from many miles away.
Finger Rock... A beacon on the Tundra

Looking North

Climbing some rocks


From there, it seemed like a short ride and I arrived at the Arctic Circle (MP 115). The weather gods were being nice to me. Sunshine mixed with filtered sunshine was the weather menu for this evening.

From the Arctic Circle, it didn’t take long and I found myself in Coldfoot another 70 miles or so north. It is here, north of pump station number 5, where I refueled. I was able to slip in and get in on the all-you-can-eat buffet. Coldfoot is an oasis out here in the wilderness. I met a few folks, including some riders coming back from Prudhoe Bay. They said the ride was wet, cold and rainy.  In fact, they stated that it was snowing at Atigun Pass. I decided then and there that I’d only go as far Atigun Pass and then turn around. It was now about 8:00 in the evening. I left Coldfoot thinking I would ride as far as I could into the evening sun and then turn around and camp at Marion Creek, a designated campground about 10 miles or so north of Coldfoot.
Arctic Inter agency Visitors Center at Coldfoot

Stuffed animals

Marion Creeak
As I made my way north, the sun was shining and the skies were clear. It was GORGEOUS. I kept riding in the magical light with very little traffic. I think I saw only 2 trucks for the rest of the evening.  The sunlight was splendid. A few miles before milepost 204 I could see Sukapak Mtn and it was a religious experience that I will take to my grave. I made several stops and had a hard time pulling away from its beauty. The warm sunshine and the total stillness of the air was incredible.

Incredible Evening Light

Sukapak Mtn
I slowly made my way to the Deitrich camp and bridge. Lots and lot so of beauty here in the mountains. Mountains formed of limestone, pushed up from the ocean to form the Brooks Range. Absolutely stunning. To my dismay, it looks like they are paving this section of the road. Interesting to see if it can be maintained with all the frost heaves and such.

I saw a few moose, and before I climbed up to the Chandalar Shelf, I witnessed 100s of hares on the road. As a result, the birds of prey were swarming in near locust like fashion. I was wondering if I was to camp here if I would see wolves coming to feast. I have never personally seen so many long eared hoppers gathered in such density at one place.

As I rose in elevation, it started to get cold and I could see dark clouds dissipating. I was told that it was snowing earlier in this area. Sure enough,  the road became a bit squirrely the higher up I went and fresh snow began appearing. The area just got a fresh dusting form what I could tell.  

At the top of Atigun Pass I had a small celebration and victory dance. It was now near midnight and I had sunshine missed with dark clouds. It was quiet and beautiful. My adrenaline was pumping as I hopped on my bike and went down to the valley on the other side. For a few brief moments I gave thought to making a run out to Prudhoe bay, or at the very least pulling in at Galbraith Lake (MP275) and spending the night. However, with the threat of snow and the greasy road, I turned around and went back to Marion Creek, about 10 miles north of Coldfoot. I was exhausted but was filled with giddiness beyond belief on my experience. I believe I made a good choice, as I encountered bits of drizzle on the way back and the sun gave way to overcast and clouds. The temperature dropped and I setup camp well past 1:00 am.

Fresh snow
Looking south of Atigun Pass
Twin Peaks rising off the Chandalar Shelf

All tucked into my tent and sleeping bag, I was awakened by 2 motorcyclist pulling in around 4:00 am.  I would find out more about these folks tomorrow…

Friday, May 10, 2019

Grizzlee Stories From the North: Beyond Dawson City

So I left Dawson City in the afternoon after checking out Gold Bottom, Solomon’s Dome and the Midnight Dome. All great places to ride to with history and scenery to keep it interesting.

Top Of the World views

I once again, took the ferry across the Yukon River at Dawson to tackle the Top of the World Highway. Weather started out pretty good and I was thinking that hey, maybe, just maybe, I can escape the rain for a day. And I did initially. However, Mother Nature wasn’t going to let me off cheap today. She decided that while I was riding the nice compacted dirt road of calcite, that it was time to fool with me. And so the skies opened up again for another spanking of rain. She let me have it. I had to eventually pull over to a pullout and wait it out as the road got greasy and worse yet, the high humidity wouldn’t allow for my helmet to be fog free.  I was essentially riding blindly through the greasy mess.
Wet, but not beaten at Poker Creek Alaska. Population 3.
I waited it out for about ½ hour and the elusive sun appeared long enough for me to grab a snack.
Form there I was able to witness the 1st Nations folks harvesting a Caribou. From the distance, I saw a herd upon the ridge, when I got below them, I could see the natives had shot one and were loading it into their truck.

I made my way to the Yukon/Alaska Border crossing, known as Poker Creek and the rain gods pissed on me some more. I then followed the US side of the border for about 18 miles or so of new pavement. WOW, I thought, this wasn’t here last time. I was riding along at a decent clip when I had to brake abruptly. Another herd of Caribou had decided to blindly cross the road in front of me. They seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Form thee, I had a wet ride all the way to Chicken Alaska. I pulled in and got some of their free coffee and mingled with a couple of other riders. A father/son team that just got off the Dempster. They had an interesting riding up to Tuk. It seems they rode up to Inuvik in one day. Spent the night there and made a run out to Tuk and then came back to Dawson city in one day!! They stated that ti was so wet and miserable, that they just wanted off the road. This gave me good confirmation that I had made the right decision by waiting.

From Chicken I rode to Tok. While the road was paved, it was very rainy and lots of sunken grades. I almost got clobbered on more than one occasion by big semi trucks cutting the corners in the turns to avoid the sinking grade of the road. It was actually pretty dangerous. I approached each corner with the utmost caution. When I finally hopped on the Alcan Hwy to head for Tok (~12 miles or so I believe), I got dosed with a continuous cold down pour. My plan was to camp in the Eagle Claw campground, but I was shivering and soaked to the bone when I arrived at Fast Eddies in Tok. I checked on the availability of a room at Youngs Motel (owned by the same folks) and got the last one. I happily paid $100 to get out of the cold and take a warm shower. Afterwards I made my way to the restaurant and had the all-you-could eat salad bar and a beer. The father/son team pulled in on their KLRs and we had a nice visit.

The next day was still wet. I made my way toward Fairbanks in mixed weather. My goal for the day was to end up at the University of Alaksa Fairbanks and claim a dorm room. Along the way, in North Pole Alaska (yes, this is a real town up there outside of Fairbanks), I met up with another group of riders that had come off the Dempster. They made it as far as Inuvik … barely they stated and turned around the next day because the conditions were so awful. Their story included staying in a maintenance camp after experiencing many falls/crashes from fatigue. They stated that folks are not normally allowed to stay at the camps, buts the crew opened their garage and let them spend the night in it. The gov’t workers, brought them pizza and fired up the stove. They said it was downright cozy and a godsend for them. A pretty miserable experience for sure.

I arrived in Fairbanks still concerned about the weather. I was able to get a dorm room at the University  for $40 for the night. This is a bargain and I loved staying there. They have free internet and laundry included with your stay. The best part is, it is a mecca for other like minded riders of my ilk.  I met up with a guy from Texas, riding a GSA like me and we went to dinner at the Pump House Restaurant on the Chena River. We got a table outside and basked in the rare evening sunshine with a local brew and a steak. It was the best meal of the entire trip and well deserved.

My Dorm Room
Back at the Dorm, I checked the weather conditions on the Haul Road (AKA The Dalton Highway) going north toward Prudhoe Bay. The weather seemed OK. Nothing out the ordinary. But the word on the street was, that they have been experiencing very wet conditions up there as all summer.

So, the next day, I packed up my bike and headed out towards Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway.