Alaska Bike Trip: Discovering America’s Final Frontier


Alaska Motorcycle Ride Dalton Highway
On the Dalton Freeway, Sukakpak Mountain rises 4,390 toes and displays within the Koyukuk River. Sukakpak is an Iñupiat phrase which means “marten deadfall” as a result of, seen from the north, the height resembles a fastidiously balanced log used to lure marten. (Images by the creator)

It wasn’t that she was a princess. She had lived and taught on a reservation in northern Ontario the place she gutted geese, chopped down bushes, and drove on the ice roads. However by her personal admission, my companion, Steph, was a solar ‘n’ sand sort of vacationer. Driving and wild tenting with no electrical energy was not her concept of an excellent time. And a hostel? Overlook it. So when the chance arose for an Alaska motorbike journey – taking my Suzuki V‑Strom 650 from Niagara Falls to America’s final frontier – my suggestion that she fly to Anchorage and meet me…properly, it wasn’t flying. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Alaska Highway
Constructed by the U.S. Military for protection from the Japanese in WWII, the Alaska Freeway opened the secluded northwest to journey and commerce. Within the background, the one wood grain elevator remaining in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, reopened in 1983 as an artwork gallery.

However over the weeks – and from over my shoulder – the extra she noticed of my studying and planning and YouTube movies, the extra curious she turned.

Associated: An Alaskan Motorcycle Adventure How-To


My late June journey throughout the Canadian prairies and into northern British Columbia had been an adventurous mixture of wind and rain and warmth so insufferable that I spent a full day in a rundown Saskatchewan lodge to get better in air‑conditioned bliss. But it surely wasn’t till I reached the Alaska Freeway west of Haines Junction, Yukon, that I started to surprise if my using expertise can be as much as the duty. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride

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Your entire 200 miles to the Alaskan border was a continually altering mixture of gravel, chipseal, and potholes, with simply sufficient pavement to encourage complacency. Most disconcerting have been the unannounced depressions brought on by permafrost. With out warning, the bike would merely drop away beneath me, solely to return pounding again like an unbroken bronco. Twice I used to be sure I used to be going over the handlebars. Virtually as unnerving have been the lengthwise ridges that tried to seize my tires and toss me off the street. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Alaska Highway
The Alaska Freeway threads its approach between Kluane Lake and the Kluane Mountains close to Destruction Bay, Yukon. Your entire 200 miles from Haines Junction to the Alaska border was an journey in itself.

Between the irregular street floor and the wildlife, I used to be in no hazard of nodding off. At one level, I used to be negotiating a nook on the free floor when a big moose bolted into my path from the alders on my proper. Brakes have been virtually ineffective within the gravel. She was so startled that she was nonetheless peeing as she charged in entrance of me, and I admit I checked myself for a similar as soon as she had disappeared into the comb. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than I encountered a grizzly after which a caribou on the shoulder, however they a minimum of appeared content material to remain put.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Top of the World Highway
Wild tenting on the High of the World Freeway close to Poker Creek, Alaska.

The pavement improved measurably close to Tok. In Yukon River Camp, the place I fueled up for the lengthy journey on the Dalton Freeway to Prudhoe Bay – one of many “most harmful roads in America” – I partnered up with one other solo rider for mutual assist ought to the journey go (fairly actually) sideways. With no shoulder and with roadsides that always plummet 50 toes to the soggy tundra, one of many best risks of the Dalton is unexpectedly turning into the main target of a search celebration. However the climate gods smiled on us. A sprinkling of rain the day earlier than had dampened the notoriously blinding mud with out creating the slippery, muddy mess I had feared. And I marveled on the midnight solar, which saved temperatures between 35 and 60 levels. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Porcupine caribou
Whereas tenting on the High of the World Freeway close to Poker Creek, Alaska, the creator was woke up by an unlimited herd of Porcupine caribou passing by.

After an evening of primitive tenting – and a surprisingly good meal – in Coldfoot, my using companion and I spent a full day navigating the filth and ogling the views: from the omnipresent Trans Alaskan Pipeline to the enormity of the Brooks Mountain Vary and Atigun Cross, to the countless sweep of tundra on the North Slope towards the Arctic Ocean. And naturally, the muskoxen we encountered as they munched on moss and lichens. Evidently, excessive‑fives and a toast have been so as two days later after we efficiently returned to Fairbanks. This was journey on a brand new scale.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride muskoxen
Simply east of the Dalton Freeway (aka the “Haul Street,” which runs from simply north of Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay), muskoxen roamed the windy tundra of the North Slope close to the Sagavanirktok River. They stay naturally solely within the Canadian arctic tundra, Alaska, and Greenland. Members of the goat household, their underwool is eight instances hotter than sheep’s wool but surprisingly gentle.

Rolling into Anchorage, alternatively, I used to be struck by how a lot town was like some other. In actual fact, locals joke that the very best half about Anchorage is that in underneath an hour, you’ll be able to drive to Alaska. I searched out the Home of Harley‑Davidson, which affords riders free tenting (together with restrooms and showers), and awaited Steph’s arrival.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Trans Alaska Pipeline
The Trans Alaska Pipeline runs 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, a port close to the Gulf of Alaska, and was engineered to shift with the permafrost, stand up to forest fires (because it has carried out right here), and adapt to temperature adjustments of 180 levels F (the pipeline lengthens by virtually 6 toes in summer season warmth).

It was somewhat discouraging the following morning when her flight introduced with it a chilly entrance filled with clouds and rain. However I used to be grateful she had come and decided to profit from our 10 days collectively. On the best way to Flat High Mountain for a panorama of town, we rolled alongside Cange Avenue, which doubled as an airport runway. Every residence had its personal hooked up hangar, and prop planes have been parked on a number of entrance lawns. On one other metropolis nook, we encountered a moose that casually browsed a willow earlier than sauntering throughout a driveway and right into a yard.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Dalton Highway
Staring down the Dalton: Is {that a} smile or grimace?

South of city, the Seward Freeway hugged the slender shore between the steep Chugach Mountains and the churning waters of Turnagain Arm. At Beluga Level, we paused to observe the tidal bore, a each day surge of seawater that may be over 3 toes excessive and seems like a freight prepare. The tides themselves, rising to 35 toes, rival these of the East Coast’s Bay of Fundy. Naturally, we needed to go to the close by Alaska Wildlife Conservation Middle the place injured animals are rehabilitated. It was one place the place we have been assured to see most of Alaska’s wildlife up shut.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Seward Boat Harbor
Seward Boat Harbor, on Resurrection Bay, is merely an introduction to the wonder in retailer on the Kenai Peninsula.

Believing that my intrepid companion deserved a minimum of one good lodge, I had booked a “glacier view” suite within the port of Whittier. This got here with the bonus of using via North America’s longest tunnel, a single‑lane route that runs 2.5 miles underneath a complete mountain. Apart from a fish-processing plant, nevertheless, Whittier has solely two giant buildings, each of that are remnants of World Conflict II: an deserted navy provide publish and an house constructing that homes almost the complete city’s inhabitants. With out even a pretense of renovations, the highest ground now serves as a lodge.

Our house, whereas clear, was clad in Nineteen Sixties paneling, and the toilet was adorned ground‑to‑ceiling in pink tile. Most weird was the multitude of security bars (I counted 10) fixed to the wall within the bathe. Steph had began calling it the “Bates Motel,” and I recommended the handles have been for grabbing when Norman dropped by. On prime of that, not solely was the rain incessant and obscured the view of the harbor from our window, however after we requested concerning the glacier, we have been instructed we’d need to sail 6 miles out of port and round a mountain to get a glimpse. Alaskans additionally joke that “All the pieces is sh*ttier in Whittier,” and we simply needed to chuckle. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Prudhoe Bay
Wading into the icy waters of Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean.

Nonetheless, if our night time had been a low level, the following morning was a determined excessive. Carrying our raingear and carrying a set of climbing poles, we got down to discover Byron Glacier. Dense forests gave solution to alder thickets that quickly opened to lichen‑dotted boulders. Underneath a gradual rain, we climbed the rugged higher valley the place ice lay lined in black silt. Towering excessive above, the jagged peaks have been trimmed in white fondant whereas sinuous waterfalls tumbled from the sheer cliffs. Forward, shining and immobile, the brilliant blue glacier stood earlier than us, a frozen river imperceptibly carving out the valley ground. Dwarfed on this huge, timeless amphitheater, we appeared not more than fleeting specks, and tears welled up in Steph’s eyes. This was journey on a brand new scale.

After a comfortable night time in a heat log cabin, we continued to Seward the place we joined a day‑lengthy boat tour of Kenai Fjords Nationwide Park and Resurrection Bay, a wealthy marine ecosystem with craggy coves, deep fjords, and tiny treed islands. Each wildlife sighting introduced a brand new gasp: Sea lions, otters, puffins, murres, and mountain goats have been however a prelude to the humpbacks, fin whales, and orcas. Bald eagles watched us from branches alongside the shore. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Atigun Pass
Approaching Atigun Cross from the north on the Dalton Freeway, the creator pauses beside the Sagavanirktok River.

Most gorgeous of all was Northwestern Glacier on the head of the fjord. As one million tiny ice chunks bobbed round our boat like warning buoys, we drew ever nearer and have been overwhelmed by its measurement and the thunderous calving. The splitting columns despatched booming explosions reverberating off the cliffs, adopted by nice partitions of ice crashing into the frigid water. We stood gripped in a hallowed silence.

Arriving in Palmer the next day, we explored the Matanuska Valley, a area with a shocking declare to fame. Significantly fertile soils and summer season days with 22 hours of daylight produce file‑setting greens: cabbages greater than seashore balls, carrots the dimensions of small logs, and pumpkins that should be lifted by crane. As one resident instructed me, “We get simply as a lot daylight as wherever else – we simply get it .”

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Byron Glacier
The creator and his companion, Steph, climbing Byron Glacier.

Alongside the Knik River, we have been launched to glamping in an enormous canvas tent with a queen‑sized mattress, an upholstered chair, and extra pillows than a palace. It was a far cry from my bivy sack – and simply what Steph had needed.

Morning was somewhat brighter as we set off for Homer, a small city on the southwest aspect of the Kenai Peninsula. Twisting via wooded Cooper Touchdown and Soldotna, the Sterling Freeway turned south and adopted the coast alongside Cook dinner Inlet. From Clam Gulch, we skirted the sting of the cliffs all the best way to our vacation spot. When maintaining my eyes on the street turned not possible, we pulled over and tramped via a subject to the precipice, the place we might see Sadie Peak throughout glowing Kachemak Bay standing in snow‑lined glory excessive within the equally superb Chugach Mountains.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Northwestern Glacier
Northwestern Glacier is one in every of many picture ops at each flip in Kenai Fjords Nationwide Park.

The one factor I knew about Homer was that the Salty Dawg Saloon was perched on the top of a spit. As previous because the city itself, the diminutive constructing has served as a faculty, publish workplace, railway station, and grocery retailer. In 1957, it turned a saloon, and shortly thereafter, because the story goes, a patron who’d grown bored with ready for his buddy caught a greenback invoice to the wall for him to purchase a drink if he ever confirmed up. The following custom has resulted in each floor being utterly papered in greenback payments. Unable to seek out room for my very own invoice, I wedged a Loonie (a Canadian greenback coin) into an image body and apologized (equally Canadian) to the bartender for my 76‑cent contribution.

Thirty minutes east of Homer, we bounced down a rutted filth street to our lodging on the Kilcher Household Homestead. Within the early Nineteen Forties, professor Xmas Kilcher left struggle‑torn Switzerland to seek out peace within the wilds of Alaska, the place he and his spouse constructed a log cabin and raised eight kids. Residing a subsistence way of life and clearing fields, the household ultimately acquired 600 acres, the place they proceed to stay off the land. 

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Stellavera Kilcher
Stellavera’s garden-shed-turned-lodging on the Kilcher Household Homestead.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the music of Jewel, one of many Kilcher grandchildren, and will even have seen episodes of their Discovery Channel collection, Alaska: The Final Frontier. One daughter, Stellavera, lives off‑grid in a yurt close to the cliffs and transformed a backyard shed right into a surprisingly enchanting Airbnb. Enclosed in clear corrugated roof panels and furnished with a queen mattress, heater, and many books, the construction – and the outside bathe – gave us stellar views of Kachemak Bay and the ice‑glazed mountains past. It was spectacular.

Earlier than we knew it, we needed to return to Anchorage, the place I wanted to do some scheduled bike upkeep and Steph caught a flight residence. The climate had deteriorated the day she arrived, and though it by no means saved us from the numerous actions we had deliberate, we joked that the solar would return the day she left. That’s precisely what occurred. Underneath a transparent blue sky, I rolled out my bivy once more, anticipating the following leg of the journey and glad to have spent 10 days with Steph in a land not like something we had ever recognized. She nonetheless loves the seashore, after all, however now all she will be able to discuss is after we can return to Alaska, the place surprise is on a brand new scale.

Alaska Motorcycle Ride Kachemak Bay
Fireweed provides vibrant colour to the cliffs dealing with Sadie Peak on the far aspect of Kachemak Bay close to Homer.

Alaska Bike Trip Sources

See all of Rider‘s touring stories (organized by region and state) here.


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