Biking Because

"Bikes are the cars of the future" – Sean O'Neill.

Tag: dalton highway

Over, for now…

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Beginning the Dalton Highway, Alaska

Being able to ride the entire Sea to Sky highway on a bicycle is a privilege, the road is nothing short of a scenic paradise. Anyone who lives in Vancouver has probably driven to Whistler, but if you haven’t continued past Whistler, on through Pemberton and up to at least Lillooet you are missing something really special. It’s a totally separate microclimate within the same relatively small region. From Cache Creek to just south of Lillooet is dry, desert-like landscape complete with cougars, rattlesnakes and very little rain. Small pockets of cultivated green pastures seem out of place and stand out literally, like an oasis in the desert.

Sea to Sky

North of Lillooet

North of Lillooet

North of Lillooet

The highway approaches Lillooet from the north, high above the town with a great view of the valley below. I camped in Seton Lake campground, just south of Lillooet. Close by is a park with breathtaking views of the lake itself. The terrain through the mountains and into Pemberton is winding steep climbs followed by huge downhills. Clocked 72km/h on one of those descents, not bad for a fully loaded steel touring bike. The road was quiet compared with the previous weeks, mostly tourist traffic. Trying to get to Vancouver before some predicted heavy rain, maybe I wasn’t as aware of my surroundings as usual but the journey from Pemberton to Vancouver was fairly uneventful. I arrived back in Vancouver accompanied by my own private internal fanfare, the best kind. I decided I should probably digest what I’ve experienced on this trip and condense it into some tangible conclusions.

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Seton Lake

Firstly from my limited exposure, doing solo travel of this nature has reminded me of one thing: that people are inherently good. I experienced enough acts of kindness to absolutely reinforce that statement. I’ll jot down a few examples. Setting up camp in Mt Shadow park, the owner offered me a cabin for nothing. A bear had been around all day and he didn’t want me sleeping outside. People I didn’t know welcomed me into their houses. Strangers I met along the road offered me meals, water, cooking fuel, beer, fruit, etc. …. I was often offered lifts, tempting as it was I never accepted. The second blatantly apparent observation is not so positive. The total distance tracked from my bike GPS was 4561Km (about 2800 miles). I witnessed more traffic and development than I’d ever imagined, the impact of human activities on almost every inch of the most remote piece of wilderness is disturbing. The scale at which mining, logging and construction is progressing in northern BC is staggering. I won’t get into a rant about pipelines, cars, pollution, etc. What I will say is that change is going to happen for better or worse. And much thanks to anyone who took the time to read this. Here are some photos…….

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Bridge over a creek, BC

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Sea to Sky Hwy, BC.

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Chilcotin sky, BC.

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The Dalton Hwy, Alaska

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Lillooet, BC

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Alaskan Hwy, Yukon

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Tetlin Refuge, Alaska

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Gas Station outside Tok, Akaska

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Cassiar Hwy, BC.

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The Christians, Everywhere.

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Cassiar Hwy, BC.

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Crystal clear lake, BC.

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The Hazelton Ranges, BC.

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Dalton Highway, Alaska

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Meziadin Lake, BC.

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Kluane, Yukon.

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Atigun Pass, Alaska

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Dot Lake, Alaska

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Sandhill Cranes near Anchorage, Alaska

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Coastal Mountains, BC

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Delta Junction, Alaska

The Arctic and Me

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    (Warning : this is going to sound melodramatic but I’m sensitive so shut up)

     One of the most grueling journeys I have or will ever undertake. It’s remarkable how windburn, sunburn, exhaustion, torrential rain, snow, sub zero temps, freezing fog, unrelenting biting insects  and 500 miles of climb after unforgiving climb (27,000ft) can all make you quickly forget about bears and wolves. Have mercy on the ill prepared, I was not one of them. Thanks to my mosquito suit I only got about 50 bites, there is just no escape. You had me question my sanity and my decision to come here many times.

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Those black dots are Musk Ox

     Prudhoe bay is a fly in/ fly out oil field on the Arctic ocean. It is a desolate barren place with freezing fog and bitterly cold winds, it resembles what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like. But…. there is also incredible beauty here. The vast open expanse of the Arctic tundra is an awesome sight to behold. Atigun pass and the Brooks range are spectacular and awe inspiring. North of the Brooks is Arctic tundra as far as the eye can see and almost magically once over the pass is the beginning of forest. The slow trickle of sparsely growing trees pockmarked here and there quickly flows into a full forest.

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Atigun Pass

     There is a discernible difference in the wildlife from other places that I have been, it must be from the little exposure they have to people. I got to within 15ft of a bear and he didnt seem to know what I was. I saw herds of migrating caribou being stalked by hunters , even got chased by one (not a hunter). I also saw Musk Ox.

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     Once over the Brooks the climbs become more and more arduous. Common tactics such as switchbacks and winding roads around mountains are not employed here, straight up and over. The Dalton “Highway” (mostly gravel/dirt road) was built as the most direct route from Fairbanks to Prudhoe. It’s featured on the TV show Ice Truckers.

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     Trundling down the final descent, with my hands clamped on both brake levers as usual I did not feel as though I had just conquered something, but more a feeling of respect, of thanks, for letting me pass through because you could have shut me down at any time..

I’m in Fairbanks now for a day or two of rest, bike repairs and to get new panniers. The old ones were chewed up on the road. Then on to Whitehorse.