Alaska (Riding to the North Pole)

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Travel Blog | 0 comments

Alaska (Riding to the North Pole)

One word to describe Alaska……..remote. The scenery is amazing and you really do feel like you are riding into the wild. The border crossing into USA was again a simple and straight forward process. At the time the weather was slightly raining and I dare say for the fear of getting wet, nobody inspected our bikes or gear. We were simply asked what we would do with the bikes after reaching our end destination of Anchorage. I explained that we hope to ship the bikes back to Australia. With our passports stamped we hit the road again. Google maps suggested a few towns along the highway large enough to suggest accommodation options. However this is Alaska and what looks large on a map is in fact small in person. Summer had ended and majority of the hotels had closed for the year.  Our intended destination for the night was Northway Junction and the only hotel in town was empty.  We pressed on to the next town called Tok, as the sun was setting on the horizon. Majority of towns along the highway exist as a rest stop for truckers. The finish destination for our motorbike trip was anchorage which lay 500kms in a south west direction. From here the trip would be over. But we had not had the chance to see Alaska and its wilderness yet. We decided to keep heading in a north west direction  so we could visit the city of Fairbanks and the North Pole. This would be the highest geographical point on our trip.  It was hunting season in Alaska. Americans from the lower 48th state also travel to Alaska to hunt moose, caribou, bears etc. There are currently twice as many caribou as people in Alaska. Empty pickup trucks dot the highway.  Majority of hunters require an ATV to travel deep into the wilderness. The setup is quite a sight as many have completely camouflaged ATV’s and clothes. The further north we headed the colder the weather became. The mountain ranges first had a small amount of snow on the top but by the time we reached Fairbanks snow was covering all of the mountain ranges.  We stopped off at the North Pole. I had always pictured the streets to be covered in snow. However this is not the case. The town did however celebrate Christmas all year round. The light poles that line the main street are candy cane poles coloured in red and white.  The streets and shops have Christmas themed names. I was told from a local shop keeper that mail addressed to the North Pole is actually delivered here and volunteers reply throughout the year. The story of Chris McCandless determination to visit the Alaskan Wilderness and his hunger for adventure had a profound impact on me. This inturn inspired me to finish my motorcycle trip in Alaska. Chris’s body was found by hunters in an old bus in the Denali National Park exactly 20 years ago. The bus was originally dragged into the Park to serve as a camp for a Yutan Construction Company. But when the project was abandoned they left it there to serve as a backcountry shelter for hunters, trappers and ranger patrols. I wanted to visit the bus to better understand his story. I had read the book “Into The Wild”, various reports online and seen the film. The bus is accessible via a 40 mile return hike along the Stampede trail in the Denali National Park. The conditions would be cold at night but bearable. The biggest challenge would be crossing the Teklanika river. It was this same river that prevented Chris from returning to civilization and hence cost him his life as he died from starvation. I planned to ride to the river and depending on depth, leave the bikes at the river’s edge and trek the remaining distance by foot.  I spoke with the park ranger of the Denali National Park and unfortunately the rivers were at a record 11 year high. The rivers are glacier fed so the Indian summer that we had enjoyed riding through Northern Canada would ultimately deny both Dale and I from visiting the real bus 142. We rode to the start of the Stampede trail but the river was un-crossable. Tourists in the past have died attempting to cross the river. I did not want to become a statistic. There are alot of risks in doing a trip like mine. But I like to think my risks are atleast calculated. I had to accept that mother nature had won this time. As a substitute I was able to visit the bus from the film which was located at a brewery, 25 miles south on the main highway. We stayed in the small town of Healy and loaded up of bikes in the morning for the last time. I didn’t know what to expect as we rode into Anchorage. I had no expectations nor a visual image of the city. It had always been the finish point for our motorbike trip. But as they say ‘It’s not the destination but the journey’ because there was nothing overly interesting in Anchorage to see or do in my opinion. I really did enjoyed riding through Alaska. The scenery was amazing.  But Anchorage to me seems like a destination that people fly into to travel elsewhere in Alaska. We checked into our hostel in downtown and visited a family’s house that we had befriended at the Canadian/Alaska border crossing. After they heard about our trip and where we had come from they wanted us to come over for dinner so they could hear about our adventure. It was a very kind gesture and we had a nice home cooked meal. We spent the next 2 days exploring the idea of shipping our motorcycles back home to Australia. We found a company that can store our motorcycles until we are ready to ship. They will also create a wooden shipping box, heated treated for Australian customs and quarantine. I was then happy to leave the motorcycles in storage and organising the best shipping option once I returned home to Sydney. Our flight was at 1.30am so we went out to a fancy restaurant to sample the local delicacy, King Alaskan Crab. Washed down with a few beers to celebrate the completion of our motorcycle trip. We had ridden our reliable 125cc motorcycles for 171 days ridding through 3 continents and 18 countries. We had travelled exactly 36003kms on approximately 1200 litres of fuel.  It was a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget.

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