|04-07-2007, 11:12 AM||#1|
Joined: Sep 2003
Location: Just over the rear wheel
First (and Perhaps Last) Annual April Fool's Arctic Circle Ride
The original purpose of the ride that had been planned for over a month was to evaluate the performance of the present tire selection on the Wing for use on the Dalton Hwy/Haul Road when it is snow covered. Alas, spring weather arrived sooner than anticipated and the road was dry for the most part. Prior to reaching the Haul Road, where snowpack and ice were expected to be the norm, the Arctic Circle was the hoped-for turn-around point. As it turned out, given sufficient time, Coldfoot would have been a mere hour farther along, Atigun Pass would have been investigated, and had that potential obstacle proven surmountable, Deadhorse would have been the turn-around point. But for once this rider gave desire over to responsibility (in order to earn a living, one must occasionally be present at work), and a retreat was made from the Arctic Circle back to Fairbanks and points south.
The Ride, as it manifested itself:
Those of you who have an aversion to prolonged periods of below-zero temperatures may not look upon Alaskans' proximity to the Arctic Circle as an advantage, but it certainly makes travel to that location simpler for those of us who have that distinction. Having business to attend to in Fairbanks, a city a mere 200 road miles from the aforementioned imaginary line around the globe, it only made sense (at least to an ADVRider) to take the GL1800 and go on up the Haul Road as far as possible after responsibilities were met.
Saturday was the appointed day for business, so Sunday was looked upon as a "free" day, to do as one pleased. And one was pleased to head northward out of the city on the Chena. However, in order to do this ride report justice, a bit of the preliminary trip to Fairbanks should be included, at least visually, as the beauty is too great not to share.
From my home in Glennallen one has but to get onto the Richardson Hwy. (AK-4, I think. We don't attempt to remember the numeric designation of our highways, as they all have names that have been around longer than the numbers, and are more descriptive.), and it was first necessary to negotiate a very scenic section of the Richardson -
The highway begins climbing almost immediately as the terrain gains elevation toward the peaks of the Alaska Range. The high spot on the Richardson is Isabel Pass, the summit of which is 3000' above sea level, but from about Paxson at Mile 186 to Donnelly Dome at Mile 248 you can consider yourself to be in Isabel Pass. On the south side of the summit the Gulkana River flows down through a canyon into Paxson Lake -
Flowing north out of the mountains the Delta River follows a serpentine course through some of the most rugged scenery to grace a highway in Alaska.
This time of year water is just beginning to flow, and thousand of acres of ice many feet thick still await the warm days of late April and early May to turn liquid once again. -
Spring also brings with it the annual migration of caribou back to their summer grazing areas, and in their trek across hundreds of miles of wilderness, they have to cross the rare manmade structure, which is no impediment to them but a cause for occasional distress to unwary motorists -
Thanks to continued cold weather in Fairbanks, several ice sculptures were still visible in front of businesses -
From Fairbanks, a route involving first the Steese Hwy. (AK-6) and then the Elliott Hwy. (AK-2) - (and yep, I had to look both of them up ) - takes traffic to the beginning of the Dalton Hwy., also known by many as the "Haul Road", with the number - that I remembered this time - of AK-11.
The sloping line in the distance (approximately 2 miles as the raven flies, 3.5 miles by road) is the first hill on the Haul Road, and in heavy rain, a source of terror to inexperienced motorcycle riders -
This sign appears about 1/2 mile from the beginning of the Dalton Hwy. Nearly 50 miles of the distance to the Yukon River is gravel, with another 34 miles on the north side before pavement can be enjoyed once again.
A view of the mighty Yukon River in its winter plumage. Hardly looks like a river from this vantage point. -
And a look back at the bridge from the north bank. The wood plank deck was bone dry today, but in the rain it
demands a measure of caution. -
Some of the bleak topography between the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle. This shot from about Mile 99, just
past Finger Mountain (the outline of which should be a favorite with ADVRiders ) -
Primary objective achieved! -
The daytime temperatures have been steadily climbing in Interior Alaska with the much longer daylight, and it was
a comparatively balmy 9 above Sunday morning, with the mercury hitting 37°F before I returned to Alaska's second largest city.
As I was pulling back onto the highway from the Arctic Circle viewpoint, a driver in a pickup pulled up and flagged
me down. He immediately paid me the one of the highest compliments an Advrider can receive: "You're nuts!"
On his way to a job at Pump Station 4, he had been monitoring truck traffic on his CB, and informed me that "the motorcycle" was the major topic of conversation all the way up the Haul Road.
It's springtime in Alaska! Time to ride... more.
Heading back south, Beaver Slide appears as a long climb at the end of the level portion of highway -
A closer look at Beaver Slide. This hill is unpaved, and the surface is crushed gravel, causing grief to some
Once again at the north bank of the Yukon River, a last look under the nearby Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the BLM Information Cabin, a good place to stop for the latest government publications regarding the Dalton Hwy -
After stopping in North Pole to grab a bite to eat at the Wendy's there, I pulled out onto the highway to see the full moon rising above the mountains to the east. Within minutes I spotted twin beams of the Aurora Borealis bracketing the moon, like huge heavenly parentheses.
Normally, the Northern Lights are difficult to see with bright moonlight unless they are unusually bright themselves, but these were extremely bright! So all the way down the Richardson, into the Alaska Range, and on to the valley below, the Lights were flashing ahead, above, to both sides, and (I presume) behind me.
With a full moon providing near-daylight illumination levels through the virtually treeless areas of the pass, the trip south through the night was a visual feast. A few hours could have been easily spent just shooting time exposures of the shadowed mountains and valleys.
Finally, needing to stretch my legs anyway, I grabbed the tripod and camera and stood in the 6° chill to snap a few time exposures before they disappeared. Didn't get the best ones, but a couple turned out passable -
Most of you prefer riding where heated gear isn't a requirement, but when it comes to natural beauty, it just don't get much better than this!
"I am in the prime of senility." Ben Franklin
I'm so old I remember when the gallons rose faster than the dollars on gas pumps.
The Lure of the Dalton, The Lure of the Dempster, Haul Road Chronicles, My Evening Rides, Alaska Primer
Haul Road Primer
Alcan Rider screwed with this post 08-29-2008 at 01:49 PM
|04-07-2007, 11:40 AM||#3|
Alaska Born Ducatisti
Joined: Apr 2006
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Great write-up and wonderful photos!
Having grown up here I don't know the Hwy numbers either.
Thank you for taking the time to share all this with us. Again, great ride. Great report.
My Ride Reports of Alaska & The Yukon
|04-07-2007, 12:17 PM||#6|
Joined: Sep 2003
Well done ALRider.
Very enjoyable so keep em coming. Fite
Go long... go fast... take no prisoners.
Ride hard or stay home!
Team Pterodactyl Northern Command
|04-07-2007, 02:24 PM||#7|
Joined: Sep 2006
Location: South-Central Ontario, Canada
Absolutely amazing - and on a GW no less.
First of all - thanks for sharing some incredible views.
Second - what kind of tires are you running on? I imagine that's part of the reason you can get a GW down those kinds of roads - that and a healthy dose of intestinal fortitude.
|04-07-2007, 03:30 PM||#8|
Joined: Aug 2005
Location: the end of the rainbow
Nice shots and narrative Jack! Thanks for sharing.
"Fate will inevitably catch up with those who run away from it." Kai-'Jade Warrior'
Pancreatic cancer stinks
|04-07-2007, 07:08 PM||#9|
Joined: Apr 2003
Location: Anchorage, Ak
You da MAN
Your nuts man
great ride and great report.
To someone with only a hammer - all problems appear to be nails.
Ignoranus-def: someone who is stupid and an asshole.
|04-08-2007, 12:30 AM||#12|
Bald is beautiful
Joined: Apr 2006
Location: Houston, Texas
Damn, now I want to plan a spring trip to Alaska! I hate the Texas heat. At least it is in the 30s here now!
|04-08-2007, 12:34 AM||#13|
Don't taze me bro.
Joined: Mar 2007
Location: In a VAN.., down by the river -- ABQ, NM
If some crazy truckers think you're nuts, that's sayin' something. I think you're nuts too. My God though, that place is beautiful. Something about snowy mountains... They're just staggering.
Thanks for posting. It rawked.
A sense of humor...is superior to any religion so far devised.
- Tom Robbins
|04-08-2007, 02:10 AM||#14|
Joined: Aug 2004
Outstanding! You sir, have my respect.
"it's easier than just waiting around to die"
Townes Van Zandt
|04-08-2007, 02:21 AM||#15|
Fair / Balanced
Joined: Jun 2002
Outstanding report, just wonderful. Beautiful photography.
And, from a Wing rider (same color), you're nuts!
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