June 28th-July 11th 2016-500 miles from Deadhorse, AK to Fairbanks, AK
My hands were already shaking as I dragged my gear through the Deadhorse airport and out into the parking lot. I was greeted by what would soon become my constant companion, the Alaskan mosquito. At this point I have been unable to come up with any endearing characteristics of these little bastards. A bumper sticker in 5 Mile said it best “There is not a SINGLE mosquito on the Dalton Highway, they are all MARRIED and have lots of kids.”
Slowly, a bit reluctant of what lie ahead I opened the huge cardboard box that contained my bike and all its pieces, and began to put her back together. I remembered both wheels, the saddle was right where I’d packed it, both pedals were accounted for, and I wasn’t missing any hardware to put it all together. My rig was set up and ready to go.(Still working on a name, add your suggestions to the comments)
Turns out that Deadhorse is a pretty easy town to leave, calling it a town is a bit of a stretch. Really it is a little industrial complex set up to support the oil pipeline that starts in Prudhoe Bay and zig zags 800 miles south to the port of Valdez. I felt oddly as if I was just leaving the house on a day ride, but in actuality I was 500 miles away from the next town that offered a complete resupply opportunity. Fully loaded with two weeks worth of food and gear my bike was sluggish and heavy as I departed Deadhorse.
The first few days were extremely desolate. Aside from me and the constant truck traffic, a herd of musk ox was the only thing around taller than the miles of tussocks in every direction. The wind was calm and if anything I was constantly wishing it would increase in order to drive the mosquitoes away. The real challenge of the North Slope was the constant inescapable sunlight. The pipeline was the only reprieve from the sun for hundreds of miles. It was five days of riding south before I came across the first real tree of the trip.
The only shade for days was under the pipeline.
Typical campsite on the North Slope.
1:05 am and the sun was still beating down on the tent.
My excitement for the ride began to increase as the peaks of the Brooks Range started to show themselves in the distance. Biking up and over Atigun Pass (4,700 ft) turned out to be quite the “chore”. Those were the exact words that a sweet lady from Wisconsin told me at the Galbraith campground. “Honey you’ve got quite the chore ahead of you!” Needless to say she was correct. The downhill south of the pass was a great reward for all the hard work it took to summit.
Arctic Wildlife Refugee on my left, Gates of the Arctic National Park on my right!
One of the switchbacks on Atigun Pass.
Riding up Atigun Pass
On the fifth day I came across the first trees.
Nice to be back in the land of shade.
Camped in Clutch’s backyard.
I received a tip from some locals that Wiseman was the place to be for July 4th festivities. I took the 2 mile detour from the main route and found myself in the middle of a huge party. About 12o people had gathered in Wiseman for the celebration. One of the locals offered up his yard for me to camp in and proceeded to stuff me full of all kinds of bbq and plenty of keg beer.(I’ve heard it is a good after workout drink) Musicians gathered into small groups and played throughout the night. It was really nice to share the holiday with people.
Beaver slide hill.
Often times on the Dalton Highway(Haul Road) the most direct route is the path up and over the hills. Beaver Slide was an example of one of the many hills above 10% grade that challenged the legs to the point of exhaustion. It wasn’t a very long stretch, but the grade of the hill made for multiple sweaty, breath catching breaks.
Even the damn sign is steep.
Late night rock hopping at Finger Mountain
There is actually gold in these hills.
Arriving at the end of the Haul Road I felt a true sense of accomplishment. The celebration was short-lived as I still had two days of riding to get to Fairbanks. The trip has started out really well. After 14 days of riding I’ve made it to Fairbanks for a couple of rest days. The next leg will take me south into Denali National Park.
Big thanks to all the Haul Road truckers and the constant courtesy that they showed me. Not only did they slow down and get over, even when it inconvenienced them, but also multiple drivers stopped and offered me water and snacks. Thank You!