Arctic Ocean

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DAY 161- MURPHY DOME TO OLNES POND

START: 9:30 – FINISH: 17:00 (12/08/15)

DISTANCE: 51 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 16

Robert has kindly offered to cycle out to the highway with me this morning.

It was a very interesting 36 km dirt road. Very up and down, some parts were quite muddy. It was slow going. 3 hours = only 30 km.

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The hills are so steep that they just sap your energy. Before we made it to the highway, the rain came. I said goodbye to Robert at the highway and started heading North. At least the first 100 km of the road is sealed. Since I was a little damp I stopped at the Hilltop truck stop to warm up for a few hours before heading 10 km down the road to Chatanika river to camp for the night.

DAY 162 – OLNES POND TO KM1 DALTON HIGHWAY

START: 9:15 – FINISH: 18:00 (13/08/15)

DISTANCE: 98 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 02

It took 100 km today just to get to the start of the Dalton highway.

At least I got to enjoy a sealed highway for one more day. It was a tough day. I am thankful it didn’t rain. I am so overloaded with food I am really struggling with the hills.

DALTON HIGHWAY ELEVATION

They are so steep and there is so many of them. It is slow going. It is such a bad road. I passed a truck crash where a truck had gone through a barrier and down a bank. I heard the driver survived. I had a real treat this morning when I saw 3 wolves on the road. It was pretty neat They were curious and watched me as I cycled up the road towards them.

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I stopped and we watched each other. Then I cycled on and they disappeared into the bush. 400 meters up the road they reappeared again. They waited till I got too close and then again disappeared before appearing again further up the road. The highway runs parallel with the Alaskan Pipeline.

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The Dalton Highway was built primarily for the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline. The pipeline is fire proof and just as well because there were signs where wild fires have come through. When I passed the Arctic Trading Post, it was the last shop for 130 km. I appreciated the free coffee. I was determined to push on to reach the start of the Dalton Highway this evening. I went less than a km on the Dalton and took the first service road for the pipeline and I ended up camping on top of a buried section of the pipeline.

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During dinner I realised I had a flat back tyre. A thin bit of wire from a shredded truck tyre was the culprit.

DAY 163 – KM1 DALTON TO 60 MILE

START: 9:15 – FINISH: 19:10 (14/08/15)

DISTANCE: 98 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 53

I woke up and it was a cold morning. There was the smell of smoke from the wild fires in the air. I cooked a hearty oatmeal breakfast and then headed back down to the highway. A tourist van had stopped at the Dalton Highway sign. I stopped and talked to them. The tour guide Hannah gave me some chocolates, then another couple from Pennsylvania gave me an energy bar and another couple a tin of Pringles. I’m grateful for any food I am given.

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Getting on to the dirt highway was brutal. The trucks were throwing up huge amounts of dust. I would disappear every time a truck passed. Some of them were carrying big oversized loads and were traveling with an escort. The road was also rough and your day is spent concentrating as you navigate around the pot holes.

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It makes for a slow old day. You just don’t go anywhere fast. The really steep hills really slow you down as well. On one of the steep hills the police stopped and asked if I was okay. Again later in the day a couple of motor bikes stopped and asked if I needed anything. I took some water and a chocolate bar from them. You never know when you will be able to find water.

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I am having a good long break in Fairbanks before I start heading South for the winter. I went back out to Janet and Robert’s cabin for 5 nights. Really enjoyed being able to chill in their guest house.Use the Sauna,

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Catch up writing the blog, cleaning the bike and just having the time to get back on top of everything. In return I helped fill the wood shed. We had a little bit of snow while I was out there.
I had the added chore of cleaning the bike. Didn’t really feel like doing it. If you don’t, you can get a calcium build up which effects the performance of the bike.

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I didn’t realise how hilly it was going to be. At the end of the day I was just exhausted. Mentally it is tough because I am thinking I have to do it all again on the way back which is playing on my mind a lot. After crossing the Yukon river which was last seen thousands of km ago back in Whitehorse I went and camped at Mile 60. This is the first one of the 4 Bml primitive camp sites on the Dalton. There was only one other camper van there. It was previously the site of a pipeline construction camp. Perhaps it was built here because there was an artesian well nearby to fill the water bottles.

On this rare occasion it was a super evening with the sun coming out.

DAY 164 – 60 MILE TO ARCTIC CIRCLE

START: 9:05 – FINISH: 19:00 (15/08/15)

DISTANCE: 90 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 01

It is such a struggle to get out of the tent in the morning. I am so tired. I figure it is important to get as much rest as possible. It was another cold morning. Having the sun shining on the tent was nice. I couldn’t remember the last time that happened.

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30 km up the road the couple from 60 mile camp came past and said they were going to pull over where it was safe and that they had some lunch for me. When I got there Jan and his wife had set up some chairs on the side of the road and had a bowl of soup and sandwiches for me. I really enjoyed the ice cold coke which made a change from water.

After lunch it was a climb up to Finger mountain. Some interesting rock formations and nice views down to the wetlands.

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Right at the end of the day I crossed the Arctic circle. So I guess now I am officially in the Arctic. The 2nd Bml camp site is here. Popular with tourists because you can then say you camped on the Arctic circle.

There was no water here, so I had to go and ask a German couple if they could spare any. I enjoyed talking to them. They fed me up on nuts. They had shipped their camper van on a ship from Hamburg to Halifax in Canada.

Signs in the camp site warned of bears in the area. So I did the usual of storing my food in the back of the bear-proof rubbish bins. It was another really tough day cycling. Some parts of the road were so steep I had to get off and push. I was thankful the sun was out and one notable thing is the lack of wind for days on end.

DAY 165 – ARCTIC CIRCLE TO COLDFOOT

START: 8:50 – FINISH: 17:45 (16/08/15)

DISTANCE: 97 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 35

DAY 166 – COLDFOOT (REST DAY)

I knew it was too good to last. It was raining this morning when I got up and it continued all day. It would have actually been a really nice part of the Dalton to cycle if it wasn’t for the rain because there were far fewer steep parts and more rolling through valleys. The rain was really getting me down. I have decided I am over the novelty of seeing the pipeline and would prefer it was replaced by a more interesting railway line.

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At this point of time being wet and cold I am over this Highway. I don’t mind tough roads………..but they need to give me something in return and at present this road is not delivering. I hear the road is only going to get tougher and I am now thinking of hitching back from Deadhorse. I don’t need to put myself through this hell again.

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I was feeling even more peeved when I got another bloody flat tyre in the afternoon. 30 km out I tried to pump it back up and keep going. That didn’t last long and I had to stop and change it in the rain. At 6 p.m. I was so happy to arrive in Coldfoot feeling both physically and emotionally drained and stressed.

The day got better. I changed on the covered deck out on the front of the trucker’s restaurant into some dry clothes. I then cheekily set up my tent on the deck and hung all my wet clothes out to dry. Some hunters saw this and offered to take my wet clothes over to the lodge to dry my clothes in the dryer. I then booked myself in for the $22 3-hour eat as much as you can buffet and I did. Hannah, a young woman who is interested in touring joined me for dinner. She is up visiting a friend for a week. After Hannah had gone the barman brought over a beer she had kindly left for me.

After 4 very tough days I have decided to have a rest day here in Coldfoot to help recharge the batteries before the last 400 km push up and over the Artican pass to Deadhorse.

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In the morning I saw the hunters, Jack and Phil, and they very kindly invited me for breakfast. I am always astounded by the generosity I receive.

Afterwards they let me use their room so I could have a shower.

DAY 167 – COLDFOOT TO FURTHEST NORTHERN SPRUCE

START: 9:15 – FINISH: 18:50 (18/08/15)

DISTANCE: 110 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 06

RAIN – DAY 168

It’s not very encouraging, when all I hear is………oh………the roads are going to get a lot worse. I have had enough of hearing that. Usually reply………….what it is, is what it is. With a rest day to recharge and the sun being out, I was in better spirits this morning when I left. Being nice and flat also helped. The cycling has been so hard, that I have had little time to stop and see things along the way. So this morning I made the effort to do a 5 km detour to Wisemen a small, old Gold mining town.

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Established in 1907, itt currently has 12 residents and is made up of log cabins that used to be the post office, trading post, and residents. Scattered around was all the old machinery from the mining days.

Today was turning out to be the most enjoyable day on the Dalton.

Gradual climbs to flat was making the cycling easy compared to the previous days of climbing hills. It is only August and already the leaves are turning. Autumn colours are appearing. The road spent a good amount of time down level with the river that was spread far and wide.

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I got to the Furthest most Northern Spruce tree. From here on there are no more trees. It is a bit of a truckers’ rest area. I camped below the road amongst the bush. I put my bike in the outhouse out of the way of any bears. It was a lovely evening. Things were looking promising for a good crossing of the pass tomorrow.

So I thought. I woke up the next morning to find it raining and a sprinkle of snow on all the surrounding mountains. I am not normally a fair weather cyclist.

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It was also freezing cold. I wasn’t keen at all to start heading up the pass because I knew it would be snowing and I didn’t fancy getting stuck up there. So I decided to stay in my tent for a few hours and reassess the situation then. At 8 a.m. I heard a commotion and looked out of the tent back up towards the road to see a bear on two feet shaking violently from side to side. I thought he had got hold of one of my panniers and was trying to get in. I popped my head back into my tent to get my bear spray and having woken up a bit more soon realised it was only a hunter with his hands up taking off his camouflage gear.

At 10:30 a.m. I was getting hungry and ventured out in to the sub-zero temperatures to cook some breakfast. I set up the stove out of the rain in the little in the alcove of the pit toilet. While I was there a hunter called in and asked what I had for bear protection. Bear spray………..oh I wouldn’t trust that. They all talk as though it doesn’t work and try to scare the £$% out of you. I’m actually well at ease with the bear situation. The hunter, to enforce his point, picked up a pistol that was lying on his seat.

After breakfast I went back to the tent for 3 hours to listen to the rain. Then back up at 1.30 p.m. to cook lunch. I then made the decision that I would call it a day and stay another night.

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I went down for a great afternoon sleep. I woke up at 4:30 p.m. with bright sunshine warming the tent. The weather changes so quickly.

All the cloud had gone and it was clear blue sky. I thought about taking advantage with the weather break…………..then thought it was probably a bit late in the day to attempt the pass. The rain might have stopped. The road was a complete muddy mess.

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At 8 p.m. I got a bit of a fright. I only ventured 10 metres from my tent and found a pile meat lying in the grass. It looked very fresh. I guess it was some hunter’s idea of a joke. I didn’t think it had been left by bears because it was too neat. It was late in the day and I wasn’t keen to move my tent. So I just left it and went to bed.

DAY 169 – FURTHEST NORTHERN SPRUCE TO GALBRAITH LAKE

START: 10:10 – FINISH: 19:20 (20/08/15)

DISTANCE: 87 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 30

I am having a bad run with the weather. So much for a nice day to cross the pass, the weather changes so quick. It was worse than yesterday. More rain and the cloud was down to the road.

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I couldn’t afford to sit around for another day. I spoke to some truck drivers who said it was snowing on top of the pass and lots of rain on the other side but I would be able to get over. So at 10 a.m. I decided to go for it. I quickly packed up and headed up the pass.

After about only 4 km the chain and gears were covered in mud. The chain would keep jamming and I had to stop and wash it the best I could with water and a small brush. As I got higher up the pass It was easier just getting off and pushing the bike through the mud and driving rain.

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Further up the pass the rain turned to snow and it was freezing cold. My feet and hands were numb when I reached the top of the pass. At 1477 meters the highest road pass in Alaska it was just white at the top. Snow everywhere I didn’t hang around long before I started my descent.

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Getting down the North side of the pass we escaped the storm and came out into a very welcoming sunny valley. It was very pretty with the snow on the mountains, lakes and tundra.

 

High up in the mountains I could see Dall sheep, grazing on the slopes.

Late in the day a Ute stopped and offered me a ride. John and Vicky were from New Zealand. I declined the ride, but arranged to join them for a drink and ended up having dinner as well. When I arrived at the camp site, I first had to strip and clean my bike which was a muddy mess.

DAY 170 – GALBRAITH LAKE TO ICE CUT

START: 10:00 – FINISH: 18:00 (21/08/15)

DISTANCE: 87 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 30

It is currently the hunting season and there are a lot of hunters around. They are hunting Caribou with bows. I saw a few Caribou around. The hunters have been finding it tough.

For the first time on the Dalton I saw two Grizzly bears this afternoon. Before I came across them a few truck drivers and a Park Ranger had already stopped and warned me of their presence. When I passed them they were happily lounging in the grass about 100 meters off the road.

At the end of the day I was looking for somewhere safe to camp.

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I was warned that there was a Grizzly in the area…………..great! But I wasn’t keen on cycling much further so I called into a hunter’s camp next to the Sag river.

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They were great and were very welcoming. It wasn’t a problem to camp with them. They fed me and set up a camp shower. They mentioned that they had seen the bear when it had come through their camp earlier in the day. There were 9 hunters. They had a good set up with a large sleep tent, dining and cooking tent, shower and an outhouse.

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They had so much food. They cooked me up some fresh Caribou steak which was very nice.

DAY 171 – ICE CUT TO FRANKLIN BLUFFS

START: 10:20 – FINISH: 17:40 (22/08/15)

DISTANCE: 85 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 33

It was an interesting morning in the hunter’s camp.

The grizzly bear turned up during breakfast. The hunters shooed it away and the Grizzly went down to the river. It reappeared on the boat ramp and it was all panic when it tried to get into the hunter’s inflatable boat.

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Ice Cut is a very steep road that takes you away from the river and up onto the top of the Bluffs, which made for a very nice view. The pipeline disappeared for a while. Large sections were buried under ground.

When we returned back to the river we got to see 20-30 Musk oxen grazing by the river’s edge. They are like a long-haired buffalo.

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Loads of birds were on the Tundra. Canada Grease, Tarragon and lots of birds I didn’t recognise.

Lots of people are still stopping to give me bear warning for Mile 93&95. Also I had a pipeline worker stop and give me a bunch of energy bars, some hunters beer and water and some archaeologists some fruit.

Getting closer to the Arctic Ocean and there is now a real cold Arctic chill to the wind. It makes things a bit uncomfortable. Tomorrow will be my last day on the Dalton. That’s how close I am.

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It is more difficult to find somewhere to camp because the Tundra is so damp. There was a large man camp for some Seismic. I ended up camping on the edge of the camp behind a rock pile so I was a little out of the way. I must have put my tent up under the flight path because I had 3 helicopters working out of the camp constantly flying over.

DAY 172 – FRANKLIN BLUFFS TO DEADHORSE

START: 8:50 – FINISH: 13:40 (23/08/15)

DISTANCE: 72 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 38

I can’t believe this will be my last day on the Dalton Highway.

800 km later. The first half was brutal and I didn’t think I would ever make it. But the last days have been more enjoyable. I am still looking forward to finishing this leg of the trip.

I first had to cycle through 25 km of road works. Last year large parts of the road were washed away.

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Just after 1 p.m. I cycled into Deadhorse. It is not even a town. It is just a massive oil camp for the 3-6 000 workers working on the oil field. It is very industrial. I stopped at Deadhorse camp. To visit the Arctic ocean tomorrow I need to book a tour here because the Arctic Ocean is a restricted area as it is on the oil field.

I turned up at the right time because lunch had just finished and they had some soup left over which hit the spot. It is only 2 degrees outside.

I am planning to treat myself to 1 night in a hotel. But at $200 a night it won’t be in Deadhorse camp. I was getting very comfortable sitting in the restaurant. I still had one more thing to do which was to cycle up to the gate of the oil field. This is as far as it is allowed. As I cycled through Deadhorse I went past the airport and yards and yards of oilfield equipment. There are a couple of lakes the camp has been built around. As I approached the security gate, the security guard came out in a panic.

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He didn’t want me any where near the entrance. Having just finished cycling 10 000 km from Wellington to Deadhorse Alaska. It was a bit of low key finish. I took a few photos from a distance and then headed off to cheek another of the hotels in town.

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There are about 4 hotels here, a post office and that is about it. No supermarket or shops. I went and checked out the Prudhoe Bay hotel…………they have rooms $135 a night including all meals. They are fully booked to Friday. So the only option is to camp out. After taking advantage of their free Wifi I went and set up my tent on the Sag river near the end of the Runway. Close enough so I could cycle down to Deadhorse camp hotel for a $20 buffet. I over-endulged. After I finished, they said I could even take a take away box with me. The staff were really friendly here and I built up a really good rapport.

 

 

DAY 173 DEADHORSE-ARCTIC OCEAN-DEADHORSE

I am really excited today because this afternoon I am heading out to the Arctic Ocean and I will be able to bring to an end this leg of my trip with a symbolic dip in the Arctic Ocean. Sadly because it is part of the oil field it is a restricted area and I am unable to cycle out on my own. The next best……….and actually only option is to pay $60 and go on a tour. At least by the afternoon the freezing fog had lifted. It was still very cold. Wind chill factor minus zero.

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I took the front wheel off my bike, so at least part of my bike got to the Arctic ocean with me.

From the gate it was about a 10 km drive to the ocean. It really was bitterly cold when we got there. I stripped off and with my wheel we both went for a quick dip. It was nice to be cheered on by the other tourists on the tour as I entered the water.

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It was a very surreal feeling completing such a milestone. It definitely was very satisfying to have made it and I am feeling proud with what I have done. What seemed like a very long journey is over. But really I am now only just about to embark on a much longer journey.

DAY 174,175 &176 DEADHORSE AND HITCHING TO FAIRBANKS

After what turned out to be a very tough 12 days cycling up the Dalton Highway. There is no way I am cycling back.

So this morning I went over after breakfast to the Deadhorse camp

for the left overs they kindly let me have after each meal time.

I then went out to the main road to hitch a ride. I was there from 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. with no luck. Then the rain came and I called it a day.

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There is a shuttle bus back to Fairbanks tomorrow (Wed) and Sun. After calling them…………no service this week. So I could be stuck. The staff at the DHC have been trying to help. They have said turn up at meal time try and hitch a ride with a tourist. So at 7 a.m. the following morning I went on the road for 30 mins and then went in for breakfast to ask around. Not much luck. So I got the razor out and put on some clean clothes. It did the trick because when the morning tour came back I was able to convince a couple to give me a 400 km lift which would be half- way. I very quickly had to dismantle my bike so I could get it on the roof rack.

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I was very grateful to Ernie and Darlene for the lift. Even in a SUV it was a very slow and rough ride back. Late in the afternoon Ernie and Darlene invited me to continue with them tomorrow which was really nice of them. We stopped in Coldfoot for the night. So I didn’t have to put up my tent they let me sleep in the car. They slept in their motor home. So the following day they hooked up the SUV and we moved into the motor home. It was huge and nice and comfortable.

When we got to Fairbanks I again slept in the car which was parked in the Walmart car park.

DAY 177 – 184 – FAIRBANKS (REST DAYS)

 

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2 responses to “Arctic Ocean

  1. Katrina Willoughby

    Sometimes I am really glad I only hear of your tribulations when it is all over – and you are doing triumphant Arctic dip. But with somewhat more clothes than your previous Antarctic swim. Keep on travelling happily, and hopefully, and safely; love you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Congratulation for your ride.
    I’m planning this trip (Dalton Highway) on this next may in the same way as you’ve done, south to north. Your description of steep hills scares me. I’ve read that the most difficult have 12% of declination. I need to better train myself on this kinda road.
    Did you find water easily?
    What was your bike weight (will full equipment and food) ?
    Why didn’t you flew back from Deadhorse to Fairbanks?
    How many days of cycling did it really took ?
    Thanks
    Nicolas

    Liked by 1 person

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