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Old 09-16-2011, 10:38 AM   #1
lakecntyrider OP
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Mountains Are Calling - Father and Son Trip to Alaska

"The mountains are calling and I must go" - John Muir

It's summer, so it must be time for another ride. This year will be the third year in a row taking a trip with my Dad. Two years ago, we did our first ride together in the Oregon backcountry, and then last year, we did a trip from Oregon to Glacier National Park. Both trips were fantastic, and not long after each, I started thinking about the next one.

For this year's ride, we decided that we would do a ride to Alaska. My Dad did a month long ride with another group a couple of years ago, and wanted to go back. There was no way I could get that much time off, so we planned a more modest two week ride.

It was challenging planning this ride, because of the time constraints. I was hoping to get further west into Alaska, but it was too many miles, and it wasn't practical covering that much country in the timeframe. That would have to wait for another trip.

The general plan was to go as far west into Alaska as time permitted, and then loop-back through Haines. In the end, it turned out to be a terrific route.



We didn't want to ride freeways to the Candadian border, so the plan was to trailer my bike from the San Francisco Bay Area to my Dad's house in Grants Pass, Oregon, and then trailer both bikes to a friend's house in Lynden, Washington. That would be where we would start.

Bikes loaded on the trailer in Grants Pass.



I didn't expect the adventure to start until we were on our bikes, but when we loaded the bikes on the outside rails of my trailer, it didn't have enough tongue weight. When we hit rough spots in the road, or even had strong crosswinds, the trailer would begin to fish-tail. It was manageable, but looking in the mirror for eight hours was tiring. We drove into Lynden exhausted, but full of anticipation for the trip ahead.
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:07 AM   #2
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Day 1

We woke-up in Lynden to a perfect day.



My Dad's friends made us a terrific breakfast, and we began to get the bikes ready for the trip. After two days of driving, it was great to be out of the car. Hard to believe it was about to begin. We're ready to go.



A couple of miles up the road, and we're finally in Canada.



Vast country, open roads, majestic mountains, and ...



... a terrible traffic jam, because of an overturned truck. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic in the heat was not how we wanted things to start, but what can you do. Eventually, we got by this, and began driving along the Fraser River.

It was a terrific drive, along a ridge with the river below, but difficult to get pictures, as the views were primarily on the other side of the road. No worries, as I originally planned to return on this road, so we would take pictures on the way back. As it turned out, we decided to return a different way, so I never did get pictures. Just a pedestrian shot, as we rested.



Our first of many waits on the trip for road work.





We would sit there waiting while a helicopter flew back and forth with nets for securing falling debris on the roadside.



It was around here that a bee stung me when I had my visor up. Now, this happened to me last year, and I can't believe it happened again. It's not the initial pain from the sting that is so bad, but the swelling afterward. My Dad rides with his visor up all the time and never gets stung. I had mine up for a mile ride up the road to go to lunch, and it flew underneath the visor and stung me in the temple. What are the chances this happens two years in a row ... oh well.

Just another rest stop along the way ... beautiful!



Decided to camp at Kokanee Trailer Park along Lac La Hache.





Nice campground along the lake. The low sun against the lake was stunning.



It was great to finally be on the bikes. I've been looking forward to this all winter. Time to settle into the ride.
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10 RR: Glacier National Park
11 RR: Alaska
14 RR: Rockies

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Old 09-16-2011, 11:56 AM   #3
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Great to read another trip - hope to do the same thing with my son one day (he's 8 now...)

Wondering if you looking into the ferry from Bellingham to Skagway, or even from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert as a way of bypassing some of the more mundane highway roads. Reason for asking is that I'm planning a similar trip (with a similar 15 day +/- timeline) and have begun looking into the ferries. Would be interested in your perpsective.

I think the route you've chosen if very similar to ours, except we're heading for the Dempster. Cassiar and Top of the World are apparently great riding roads, so looking forward to reading more...

Great inspiration

Matthew.
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Old 09-16-2011, 07:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mroddis View Post

Wondering if you looking into the ferry from Bellingham to Skagway, or even from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert as a way of bypassing some of the more mundane highway roads. Reason for asking is that I'm planning a similar trip (with a similar 15 day +/- timeline) and have begun looking into the ferries. Would be interested in your perpsective.

Matthew.
We considered taking the ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert on the way back, but we didn't want to be bound to a rigid schedule (ferry only comes once a week). We decided to take a short ferry ride from Haines to Skagway to help create a loop, but that's all we did. If it were a longer ride, I would consider a longer ferry ride, but for two weeks, we didn't want to spend too much time on the boat.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:46 PM   #5
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Days 2 & 3

Another great day for a ride. Sunny morning, and perfect riding temperatures, ~65 degrees F. Began the ride into Prince George. Stopped at McLeese Lake to take in the views.





Rode through Quesnel on the way to Prince George.



Arrived in Prince George and grabbed a bite to eat.





The waitress at the cafe said that this was the first sunny day in over 30 days. Our timing for the weather was turning out pretty good. You can see my left eye beginning to close from the bee sting. I think that wearing the helmet all day made it worse, because it restricted the fluid from dispersing. When I took the helmet off, I could feel some of the pressure subside.

From Prince George, we would be making our way to the Cassiar Highway, so we proceeded down Highway 16.

It was getting later in the day when we finally encountered our first rain of the trip. It started coming down pretty good, and it wasn't clear where we would stop for camp. Luckily, we came across an RV park in Houston. We were expecting to setup in the rain, but didn't need to, as the camp had covered campgrounds. That wasn't planned, but it was great that it worked out that way.





Met a nice young couple from the Netherlands in the campground next to us. They rented a camper to travel around Canada for a couple of weeks with a newborn. Now, that's a real adventure

Next morning, I woke-up and tried to open my left eye, but I couldn't. The swelling was getting worse from the bee sting. Looking good ...



I kept working it open with my fingers throughout the morning, and I could get it open if I strained, but it was going to be interesting to drive without much use of one of my eyes. I figured if I really needed depth perception, I could strain to open it. After awhile, it began to open-up, so it wasn't too much of a problem.

Another beautiful morning. Rained during the night, but the sunshine broke-out quickly after we were on the road.





On Highway 16, along the Bulkley River, we came across this terrific spot. Quite a view, as the river narrows down into this gorge. Along the side of the gorge, people were using dip-nets to catch salmon.





I didn't get pictures, but the mountains began to get more dramatic as we approached the Cassiar. We finally reached the junction for the Cassiar Highway.



Long, straight roads ...



... and some traffic



One of the many picturesque scenes along the way.



Came upon Bell 2 Lodge. Stopped for gas and a bite to eat.



We met-up with another rider on a KTM 690 Enduro heading to Alaska, pictured on the left.



Greg had ridden up from the San Francisco Bay Area and was planning on going to Deadhorse. We would meet-up with him throughout the ride until we broke-off our routes in Whitehorse.

More great scenery along the Cassiar.











We eventually made it to Dease Lake and decided to stop and setup camp there. While getting gas, I talked briefly to dwj-Donnie. He was on his way back to Mississippi. At the time, I didn't know much about his story, and unfortunately, didn't get time to talk too long, but he took quite a trip. I read his ride report after I returned. It can be found here.

http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=708584

We met-up with Greg again in Dease Lake. We all stopped there and setup camp along the lake. The tents were setup on a ridge overlooking the lake.



Great view from the tent.



The campground host had a generator, but no electricity or cell reception in the camp itself. However, it did have Wi-Fi. Surprising how much connectivity there was in remote areas throughout the ride. After a long ride, my Dad and I turned in early. No problem sleeping, even with the longer days up north.
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Ride Reports:
09 RR: Oregon
10 RR: Glacier National Park
11 RR: Alaska
14 RR: Rockies

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Old 09-19-2011, 01:32 PM   #6
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Old 09-20-2011, 07:49 AM   #8
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Day 4

We woke-up to a brisk morning. This is the first trip I've had to use my heated gloves. Didn't need the vest, but the gloves were a lifesaver. We continued down the Cassiar. The scenery down the Cassiar was terrific. I could stop every few miles and take pictures. Here are some on our way into Watson Lake.









Finally made it to the Yukon.



Drove into Watson Lake to see the Sign Post Forest. I've seen pictures of it on advrider, but there were a lot more signs than I realized.



We were surprised to see my Dad's home town hanging on one of the posts. Red Bluff is a small town in Northern California.



After lunch in Watson Lake, we headed down the Alaska Highway towards Whitehorse. The drive out of Watson Lake consisted of long straight-aways with trees covering the rolling terrain as far as you can see. Eventually, the scenery began to change.





At this rest stop, we met a bicyclist with his dog. The dog would ride in a trailer or run alongside the bike. That dog has a tough life. I don't know how cyclists cover all this ground on a bike.

More pictures along the Alaska Highway.







By the end of the day, we had covered close to 400 miles. A couple of miles south of Whitehorse, we camped at an RV Park.



Adjacent to the park was a restaurant, and given all of the riding, it was time to go out to dinner. No camp food on this night. We walked next door to the Wolf's Den restaurant and ordered the Jagerschnitzel (schnitzel with a mushroom sauce) and a couple of Yukon Red beers. The food was terrific. It was great to sit down and relax after such a long day of riding.

We turned in at 10:00 p.m. Not used to it being so light outside, but again, no trouble sleeping.
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10 RR: Glacier National Park
11 RR: Alaska
14 RR: Rockies

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Old 09-20-2011, 08:04 AM   #9
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I'm in!

We just ran the Dempster, but missed most of the pretty stuff along the Cassiar due to insane rain and fog - thanks for showing me what it looks like!
Hope you and your dad have a blast - looks like you are already though!
Happy travels..... we'll all be watching!
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Old 09-23-2011, 05:31 PM   #10
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Day 5

We were making good progress, so no hurry the next morning.



We headed into Whitehorse to pick up some supplies and make some calls. While in the Walmart parking lot, we met-up with Greg again. Talked a little in the parking lot before heading up Highway 2 to Dawson City. He was headed in the same direction.

Trusty steeds on Highway 2.



We met-up with Greg once again at a gas station on Highway 2. I finally took a picture (and actually asked his name, believe it or not). This would be the last we see of him. I hope he had a safe and enjoyable trip.


.

You needed to get gas when you could, because it wasn't always easy to know when the next station would come. I was getting about 40 miles to the gallon, and I carried an extra gallon in a Rotopax gas can mounted on the back. That gave me a range of about 240 miles. My Dad's VStrom can go forever without a fill up, so I was the constraining factor with gas.

We would see the "Motorcycle Friendly" signs throughout the trip. However, this almost seemed redundant, given how well BC, the Yukon, and Alaska are setup for motorcyclists.



Along Highway 2, we came across an RV that apparently went up the Dempster.



It was around here that I saw my first bald eagle. It was quite a sight, as he swooped low over the highway right above my head. At this point, we had not seen too much wildlife. A couple of small bears, and some deer, and that was about it.

Like gas, it wasn't always clear where to stop to eat either. You can go for miles without anyplace to eat, and then you come across a restaurant in the middle of nowhere -- like the Moose Creek Lodge, where we stopped for lunch.





We were the only ones there when we drove-up, and even wondered if it was open. Inside, there were a number of tourist knick-knacks, and fresh pastries and coffee. I thought that was strange, given how remote we were, but while we were enjoying our split-pea soup special, a bus tour from a cruise ship drove-up. Evidently, this is a regular stop for them.

Great scenery along the North Klondike.



Stopped at the entrance to the Dempster to take pictures. My Dad rode this on his previous trip, but we wouldn't be doing the 450 mile trip to Inuvik on this trip.





Later, riders told us it was a muddy mess from the rains. One rider said he turned around after muscling his GS through a few miles of it.

Finally, made our way into Dawson City.



It was a warm day in town.





The Yukon river running along town.





Relaxing day walking the streets of Dawson City.







We decided to stay in the campground across the river. Short wait for the ferry ...



... but not for the RV's on the other side. Only one RV on the ferry per crossing.



In camp, it was time to breakout the "bangers and mash" from Packit Gourmet. Hmmm, it was a little more involved than I expected.



Maybe my Dad's meal was a better way to go.



Nah, it was worth the effort. Highly recommend these meals, http://www.packitgourmet.com/.



After dinner, I walked down to the river. Occasionally, a jet boat would pass. Great setting for boating.



The next morning, we would be in Alaska!
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11 RR: Alaska
14 RR: Rockies
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Old 09-23-2011, 06:59 PM   #11
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Thumb Great report..

Great report,, Keep it coming.

I met Greg in Terrace and had a coffee with him and his friends. He was looking for a back tire and headed off to PG after finding nothing. He was doing well.
Ride Safe,
Rick

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Old 09-28-2011, 02:08 PM   #12
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Day 6

Next morning, we rode the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border. On the way out of camp, we stopped to take a picture of Dawson City from above.





The sign into Dawson City, as we left.



Last time my Dad rode this, it was socked in, and little visibility. Not on this day. The views were spectacular!













Right before the border, a herd of caribou were grazing. I tried to get my camera out, but missed them.

Finally, in Alaska.



Down the road, we stopped in Boundary, Alaska.









Love the sign, considering it's the only coffee in Boundary



Right out of Boundary, we had stopped at the intersection that takes you into Eagle. My Dad went there on his previous trip, and really enjoyed it, but it was about a 60 mile dirt diversion with only one way in and out. We decided to press-on to Chicken.

While stopped at the intersection, we met a solo rider on a KTM 990 and talked to her a little. It amazes me how many solo riders there were on the road. When we asked her about riding solo, her response was that you were never alone when riding in Alaska. I understood what she was saying, given all the riders we met on the ride, but still, it would make me a little nervous, given all that could go wrong.

The beautiful views continued as we headed for Chicken.







We made our way into "town".







Great sign.



The weather was warm, so we ate lunch in the picnic area outside.



Somebody else was enjoying the warm weather.



We continued our way down Highway 5 to the Alaska Highway. For the first time, I had to use my extra gas, as it was quite a trek to Tok, and we had not filled-up since Dawson City. I knew I had the extra gas, so didn't worry too much about the distance. Later, that same thinking would lead to some challenges.

Continued back to the Canadian border. View of the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.



My gas challenges would begin when we crossed the Canadian border into Beaver Creek, and decided to wait on a fill-up. The GPS indicated that there were a couple of stations coming-up within range, so I felt we were okay. We continued down Highway 1.





The road along this stretch was pretty bad. It was paved, but had edges from roadwork that would cause the bike to shiver when you hit them. Most of the dirt roads were better.

When we drove by the first gas station, we saw that it went out of business. Okay, the next gas station was supposed to be in range, but I would have to use my auxiliary gas to make it there. Poured in the gas and continued down the road. As we came upon the next gas station, we found out that it went out of business too.

We had no idea where the next gas would be. I was getting very low, and it was getting late. We slowed things down and hoped to run into a gas station that wasn't on the GPS. Long drive, thinking you can run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. We eventually did find gas in Burwash Landing. I had a couple of tenths left when we drove-in. Lesson learned. I need to be more conservative on the fill-ups in the future.

Behind the station was the Burwash Landing Resort along Kluane Lake. We decided to camp there.





There was a creek that ran along the campground, which produced quite a few mosquitoes, but some great views along the lake.





Outside of the little scare at the end of the day, it was our best day of riding. Our next destination would be Haines to catch the ferry to Skagway.
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10 RR: Glacier National Park
11 RR: Alaska
14 RR: Rockies

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Old 09-28-2011, 07:31 PM   #13
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Gotta go back!!

I rode to Hyder this summer. Been thinking I want to go back. After reading your report
I KNOW I do!!! Safe trip home...
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Old 10-04-2011, 04:33 PM   #14
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Day 7

Another cool, beautiful morning. The plan was to have a leisurely day of riding down to Haines, and then take the ferry to Skagway. Out of Burwash Landing, more terrific views along the lake.





Love the colors along this stretch.





Scenery on our way into Haines Junction.





Continuing from Haines Junction, we make our way to the Alaska border. I believe these are a couple of shots along Dezadeash Lake.





This part of the ride was incredible. Terrific views.





I was a little disappointed that I didn't have more pictures along this part of the ride. It's always a tough call to just enjoy the ride and scenery, or keep stopping to take pictures. My Dad and I chose the former.

We finally reached the border.



From the border, we drove down the highway into Haines. Pictures of the Chilkat River on our way into Haines.





At this rest stop, you can view Bald Eagles in the trees when the salmon are running. I'll need to come back and see that some time.



We finally made our way into Haines. We relaxed outside the harbor and had some lunch.



We met a couple in Burwash Landing, who had come from Haines, and they told us that if we had the time, we should go out of town to check-out the bears along the river. We had some time before we had to catch the ferry, so we drove out of town to check it out.

We came across a tour bus stopped on the side of the road, and this is why they were stopped.



A grizzly and her two cubs were just off the road. We stuck around for a little while to watch them, but decided to head-up the road. Another mile up the road, we came across some more activity. A number of people were fishing along the river.



... and doing pretty well too.



However, about 500 feet away, another grizzly and her two cubs were playing in the grass. I guess the fishermen were used to it, but the park ranger said that the bears have been charging them. I prefer my fishing a little more sedate.

The grizzlies that were down the road began to come up the river.



My Dad and I moved to a little bridge, and they walked under us.







That was very cool. The fishermen were still fishing, even with the bears coming up the river.



After the bears passed, we went further up the river. The pink salmon run had just started. They were catching them about every fourth cast. What a great site.



At the end of the road was a great scene.



It was time to get back to the ferry. The plan was to take the ferry into Skagway and spend the night. While waiting, we talked to a couple that rode from South Carolina to Deadhorse, and were on their way back to South Carolina. Those are some big distances.



Loaded up the bikes, and we were ready for the short boat ride to Skagway.





This parking lot was full a few minutes before.



Great views from the boat.















The cruise ships passed us on their way out of Skagway.



Love the waterfalls along the way.



It was dark when we docked in Skagway. We were told there was a hotel in town, but we might want to go outside of town to look for a place -- bad idea.

By the time we realized that there weren't many places to stay, we were pretty far out of town. We had to decide to drive back or continue. Up to that point, we had a lot of good fortune at finding places to stay, so we decided to keep going -- another bad idea.

When we reached the Canadian border, we talked to the border patrol, and he painted a pretty bleak picture. We'll probably have to go all the way into Whitehorse to find a place. That was still a couple of hours away. It was cold, dark, and we were both concerned about animals on the road. No good alternatives, so we pressed on.

We both had our eyes focused on the road looking for wildlife, but luckily we didn't encounter any along the way. We drove into Whitehorse about 2 a.m. Found the first available hotel and called it a night.

We were thankful that we made it okay, but disappointed that we didn't get to ride Highway 2 into Whitehorse during the day. Later, a rider would tell us it was his favorite part of his ride. Oh well, you can look at what you missed, or what you've seen, and we certainly had seen a lot on this trip.
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Old 10-04-2011, 07:38 PM   #15
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Thumb Alaska Ride

Wow, a ride like this is one of my bucket list items.
Next thing on the list would be finding the right bike...
Thanks a million for the great ride report.
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