Dalton Highway

Tuesday we I awoke to rain in Coldfoot.  At the next camp there were five other people riding four bikes that came form the D2D.  Three of them were set on riding to Deadhorse so they were going to wait the day and see how the weather panned out.  I was on the fence since the road reports were a bit concerning.  One of the riders, Aaron was on a KTM500 he shipped to the tip of South America and has been riding since last August up to here.  Nothing is going to stop him from getting to Deadhorse, he is hard core.  The other two are Canadians, Andrew on a new BMW F850 that is a replacement of his F800 from when he hit a moose.  John is on an F650.

Justin and Alla are from Portland on a water cooled R1200GSA and are not going to chance the rest of the Dalton Highway on there street oriented tires.

It rained on and off most of the day Tuesday but started to break around 4pm so we all went ten miles north to Weiseman.  There is a lodge there that is not ever very busy and an old sourdough that has mined in the area since the late 40s.  He was willed the land by the man he mined with and now keeps a bit of a museum that has cool old mining equipment and memorabilia from his years up there.  He has a pile of pay dirt and free panning so a few of us tried and I found a few flakes.  He said that the pile had been gone through with a metal detector so there was nothing big left.

Wednesday dawned clear as a bell.  I was game for the rest of the Dalton but the report on the last 50 miles with construction and softball to helmet sized rocks was not my idea of the way to end a 250 mile day.  The temperature in Deadhorse was also 20F; I don’t think if I wore all of my gear I could manage 20 degrees.  I decided not to go.  Aaron, Andrew and John headed north at 7am.  Justin, Alla and I head back to Fairbanks about 9am.  The ride was one of the best ever.  There are paved sections of the Dalton that range from good road to not so good.  There are dips and heaves and portions where half of the lane is breaking off and trying to fall back into the muskeg.  The dirt sections are gravel to packed clay and offer every kind of surface you can imagine.  It was a blast.  The gravel still makes me a bit nervous when the bike skates around.  The packed clay is almost like pavement but a bit more unpredictable.  For 200 miles the road forced total concentration to watch the surface and scan the edges for animals.  At times i was ripping up to 70 mph on the dirt exploring what the GS could do.  I had the suspension set on ‘large mountains’ (preload all the way up both ends) the suspension and tires soaked up everything and we were setting a great brisk pace.  The day was beautiful with scattered puffy clouds and mid 60s temperatures.  An epic ride.

South of Livengood the paved road offered up about 40 miles of high speed sweepers that were punctuated with some pavement irregularities.  We had a blast.  Back to Fairbanks we stopped for groceries and some IPA and headed to Chena Hot Springs.

The 60 miles there was not a challenging road but it sure is scenic.  We arrived at about 5:30 and set camp in a nice forested area.

I set up my fly rod for the first time and went down to the creek to fish.  At first I was trying to use a dry fly to imitate some of the local insects I saw but there was no surface action at all.  I switched to a Prince nymph and the first drift, bang, a nice 12 inch Grayling.  Another fifteen minutes and I caught two more, the last about 16 inches.  I stopped fishing to go have a soak in the hot spring pool.  Man was that good.  After the hard ride we had of about 350 miles today it was great to relax in the hot water.  There was a hot water jet that was a great back massage.

On the way here I passed the 5000 mile mark.  My new riding friends need to get a rear tire and then we are going to Paxton and ride the Denali Highway into Cantwell and then the park.  The weather looks to be in our favor for the next week of going to Denali.

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