Into the Arctic on the Dalton
I cycled away from Mike’s house, turned left onto Sheeps Creek Rd and after only one mile the first road works was approaching. This was not the way I wanted to start my day, but then someone caught my eye on the right hand of the road. I pulled over, talked a bit and then she said… “I don’t think your wheel should look like that”. I have to say, I was about to have the best puncture I had on the adventure!!
Crossing into the Arctic Circle has always been a big dream and after almost 100 weeks on the Around 7 Continents adventure, I was about to make this dream a reality. I have bigger ambitions for the Arctic Circle in the future, but this is definitely one small step towards future expeditions. The Dalton highway was up for a few surprises as this short 800 km, I was about to face more fires, rain, roller-coaster hills, mountains, warm temps, cold temps, tons of headwinds, bears and many more.
The break between the Asian continent and North America would play a big role on this ride. I was joking that all the weight I planned to gain on my off-time would help as I could burn off the extra reserves, but it became a hard reality that this stretch will smack me back into shape and routines. The road was about to get though.
My ride started kind of weird, with a puncture only 1 mile from where I stayed, but I have to say… it was the best puncture I had in my life! I stopped at roadworks and already had a big smile on my face when this sexy girl was standing at the stop, controlling the traffic. We chatted away and before I took off she pointed to my wheel and said “That shouldn’t be like that should it?” I had a puncture. I slowly started to unpack all my gear, started to repair the puncture, but taking all the time I need for this very complicated task I had on my hands 🙂 We chatted about traveling while I slowly repaired my tyre. After about an hour I cycled off, hoping that she would email me (after I gave her my email). Time will tell…
Even though the climbs never exceeded 1 444m (and this was only one pass) it felt like one big hill from the beginning to end. You would climb for 40minutes and go down for 3minutes… climb for an hour and down for 5 minutes. This continued and again, I think being a bit out of shape made it worse than it actually was.
The daily climbs were between 1 200m and 2 000m in altitude. The first part of the road was again a little disappointed with tons of smoke, with fires close to the road, but even fires further away effected the views. The head winds were blowing straight in my face and these carried the thick smoke from afar towards the gravel roads I was on. Being in Alaska and not being able to see further than a few hundred meters was frustrating. You know the wild beauty is all around you, but cant experience it.
The frustrating smoke filled days lasted until I reached Coldfoot. The roads was not the best, but after Asia it was not a big problem. The steep climbs and smoke was the big challenge.
I met up with a friend I met back in Tajikistan (during Asian continent crossing) and we both took off a day catching up and enjoying the surroundings. We actually met up by accident. Just before I reached the Arctic Cirle (1 mile), I saw a perfect camping spot next to Fish Creek, walked down to get water and decided to stay. After pitching my tent and ate some of my daily ratio sweet packs, I decided to take a short stroll along the creek and after only 100m saw a tent next to the creek. I walked up to it and Dennis was laying in the tent (looking totally different without his beard). I could not believed it… we both decided that this was the creek to camp and basically walked into each other.
We enjoyed the time off walking down the creek taking photos, fishing and looking for some wildlife… or should I rather say bears. We were not so lucky in spotting animals, but there were tracks everywhere in the mud next to the creek. There was all kind of tracks of bears, moose and other animals. The fishing on the other hand was much easier tough, catching one Grayling after another. They don’t get especially big, but its fun to catch. I love fishing and have not had the opportunity in a long while.
I caught three nice size grayling and made a delicious lunch with some rice. That night both Dennis and myself made big dinners and the cause was, attracting bears. Just before falling asleep, I heard a dog growling at a camper-van close to us. I know that sound of a dog and kind of knew what was coming. I just stayed put and after a while I hear a guy screaming (bear in the camp… bear in the camp). Half-naked emerging from the tent and saw Dennis was also getting out. We walked over to the camper-van and the guy told us about the bear that was kind off very close and he screamed and threw rocks at it. The bear ran away.
Later that night I got one hell of a scare when I woke up, hearing branches breaking VERY close to the tent and screamed. I heard massive strides by something running away into the bushes. I expect it was another bear, but shortly after the incident fell asleep,waking up the next morning with somebody screaming next to the road, slamming something against metal, yet again chasing away a bear.
When Dennis and I went different directions that morning (I’m heading north and he south) I had a gut feeling that I’m going to see my first bear later in the day and that is exactly what happened. But first I finally crossed into the Arctic Circle. I took a few touristic pictures and continued toward Coldfoot. I encountered a massive steep climb and looked down as I pushed forward. The next moment I looked up there was a bear standing quite close to me in the road. He looked at me and after only a few seconds took off into the bushes. It was cool to see my first bear, but it was a pity it was so quick.
I reached Coldfoot that night and spoiled myself at a road-stop restaurant buffet. I stuffed myself and found a place to camp. Then the rain started and decided to wait it out (which took longer than I thought). The rain continued a day and a half, so I finally got a chance to finish a book I was reading about North Korea (Nothing to Envy). Once the rain stopped I left Coldfoot at 16:00 in the afternoon. The nice thing about Alaska is that it does not get dark in the summer, so you can basically cycle whenever you want. After making good progress for around 40km another cyclist (Ben) caught me and we talked a little as we cycled. We ended up cycling together for two days as the views got better and better. Finally Alaska has arrived!
It was nice meeting Ben, a very cool guy from somewhere north of New York. I think both of us enjoyed the company after some though days on the road. He is doing his trip up to Deadhorse and then down towards Seattle. I stared at his setup (which I loved), as he is travelling extremely light. We had a good time cycling together and had two awesome days of beautiful weather. We made it over Atigun Pass (Brooks Range) and camped after the declines and some new climbs (some of the last big ones to Deadhorse). Ben took off an hour before me the next morning and I was yet again cruising on my own.
The last two days was cold with rain and strong headwinds until I reached Deadhorse. I have to be honest, I was glad to finish this leg of the adventure (Fairbanks to Deadhorse). On my way back I was still thinking about Karen, the girl I met at the road-stop and if she decided to send me an email.
When I got back to Fairbanks, I was extremely happy to see my passport with the beautiful Canadian visa inside!! Its been more than 60 days since I stated the process. I unpacked everything off the bike, took out my iPad and connected it to the wifi. Like always, a hundred pop-ups appeared, but was focussing on only one to pop up… a certain email. One pop-up after another appeared, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, 500px, LinkedIn, Youtube and then…. the emails. One email pop-up after another and then one caught my eye… “”Karin Simmons – A flat tyre and the Fairbanks flagger””. The adventure was yet again to through another curveball!
It was much harder to leave Fairbanks than originally expected, but the adventure needs to continue.
I was now facing the last 400km in Alaska and its time to enter Canada. I have been waiting a long time to visit this beautiful country 🙂
Now Im really starting to make my way South!!
Cheers for now,