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…

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