Now that i'd tackled the Dempster I was feeling better about the thought of crossing back over into Alaska via the Top of the World Highway.
The subtle tell tail signs you've just crossed back into Alaska...
Again I was fortunate to only catch a total of 20 mins rain on this stretch. Not a lot but just enough to illustrate how things can get pretty sloppy out here when it wants to. Clearly I was continuing to luck out with the road conditions.
Range roving under a saturated sky.
Met Russ, a marine biologist who also happened to be riding that same mountain ridge. We took the opportunity to take the stock vanity shots of each other and then he invited me to visit Seward for a behind the scenes tour of the sealife research center.
I ended up going and as direct result of riding that mountain ridge I was able to spend an hour of my life watching puffins fly underwater ó couldn't have predicted that even with a million monkeys typing for eternity. I'm convinced serendipity is the tetrahydrocannabinol of travel.
Life cannot be considered complete until you've visited the only settlement in the world with the name "Chicken" I say!
Apparently the original miners wanted to name their town "Ptarmigan" after the local bird but couldnít spell it and so they went with "chicken" instead.
After Chicken I followed the narrow winding Taylor Hwy towards Tok. Little did I know that seven days later a man riding his BMW would be killed on this road which would set forth a series of events that would connect with me hundreds of miles later. These events would go on to form one of my most important and treasured life memories.
I rolled into Tok, AK and decided to pull my trusty MSR tent out of its dirty yellow drybag and set up at Young's campground. Turned out to be a really nice place to stay with excellent (free) showers. The best thing of all is you can wander next door to fast Eddy's restaurant which serves great roadside food for the area. By this stage I was craving something green and they definitely came through with their all you can eat salad bar.
The next day as I was heading out I crossed paths with a really nice couple on a pair of TransAlps. It's uncommon to see just one of these lovely bikes on the road these days so to see two like this was a rare treat.
Unfortunately we couldn't chat long because they had places to get to and I wanted to take advantage of the fantastic sunny day to ride across the Denali Highway.
Dear Alaskan Pipeline Company,
Sorry 'bout that.
Closing in on the Denali
It's like the opposite of a Barcelona beach holiday!
Lovely ride down the Richardson Hwy around the edges of Summit lake.
As I rolled into Paxon, AK and stopped to ponder the next 134 miles of dirt I noticed the wonderfully sunny day had clouded over and it was starting to spit with rain. At this point all I could remember about the Denali from the descriptions I'd read was the line "Treacherous when wet". I laughed to myself nervously said thought "Perfect!"
A few moments later a couple who'd just completed the road from the opposite direction pulled in next to me. They had this really hardcore battle scarred Jeep kitted out with massive off road tyres, jerry cans, shovels and a laptop mounted between the seats in police cruiser fashion. I wandered over and as I saw the guy fiddling with some high end sat nav app on the laptop and thought to myself "ok these guys will be able to give me an accurate, unbiased description of the road conditions ahead"
I asked the woman sitting next to him "How was the road?" to which she responded "Oh it's pretty bad"
Excellent, just what I was hoping to hear.
My declaration of independence is written with a TKC80 rear tyreóMake sure you know what yours is written with.
So long story short I spent several glorious hours riding the Denali and soaking in its absolutely stunning surroundings. The Dempster's beauty lies in its brutal remoteness, The Denali has both remoteness and wall to wall mountains. Big Mountains.
That night I camped just off the intersection of the George Parks and Denali Hwys. Rode into Cantwell for a drink at really nice bar equipped with an eclectic mix of sofas, wifi, and good food. Perfect!
While I was in the bar a guy who was about to ride the Denali the next day came over and asked if I'd just ridden it and "How was the road?"
I responded "Oh, It wasn't that bad at all!"