Alaska

Summary: Starting at 70 deg Northern latitude at the Arctic Ocean in Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay I cycled down the Dalton Highway, which follows the Alaska oil pipeline. It’s a road with considerable truck traffic – also known as the haul road – which supplies Deadhorse with everything required to subsist up there in the Northern tundra. The road is about 1/3 gravel, 2/3 paved (as of 2009). The biggest challenges for me were the incessant hills, followed by the mosquitoes and the dry, hot, dusty conditions during this first week of July 2009. There are only two service stations over the course of nearly 800km (Coldfoot and Yukon Bridge), so one needs to be somewhat prepared. Other than a badly punctured tube on the front tire I didn’t have any problems.

Camping with midnight sun North of the Brooks Range

After a much needed rest day in Fairbanks I continued via two very long, but flat days to Tok near the Yukon border. In Tok I spent another rest day, taking advantage of the still working cell phone to call my family and also feasting on some of the best buffet food I had anywhere on this entire trip. After just 9 days of riding and some 1215km after my start I reached the border to Canada.

Video: Dalton Highway Ride (Prudhoe Bay – Fairbanks)

Daily Stops during ride across Alaska

Back to Rides page.

Detailed Notes

Wednesday – July 1

Prudhoe Bay to Happy Valley Camp

131km / 131km; 9h / 9h; 950m

11:30 – 23:30; dinner from 20:00-21:00;
First 90km gravel, at times very difficult and deep, once I pushed my bike in muddy conditions for 2km. Great help by pumpstation 2 guard Jason Shea (who also sends me hi-res photos), the German couple Markus and Jutta, as well as Jim Colleen ( at overlook during dinner).
I pitch my tent along the river and prepare for the first night. There are so many mosquitoes; it’s hard to prepare dinner and to eat it without being bitten. I meet two other riders Matt and Batiste who are also doing the Panam Hwy. Matt Kelly – who I will stay in touch with throughout the entire trip – has his own website: pedalpanam.com.

Thursday – July 2

Happy Valley to Galbraith Lake turnout.

99km / 230km; 7h / 16h; 1860m

Sore throat upon awakening at 7:00am. Breakfast cereal with milk courtesy the folks at Happy Valley! Tough first 30km with gravel and lots of hills; 2 hrs sleep at 40km pumpstation 3 (again very friendly folks similar to Jason Shea who gave me water) and Aspirin.
Matt and Batiste ride by and I pack my stuff and catch up to them.
Lots of hills; some so steep that we have to push. Batiste’s dérailleur breaks so he can’t continue; however he hitches a truck ride within 1/2 hrs!
Very scenic landscape in evening with Brooks Range close by.

Friday – July 3

Galbraith Lake turnout to Coldfoot

176km / 406km; 10h / 25h; 1925m

6:20am – 19:10pm; my first marathon day.
50km to Atigun Pass (1410m); last 2km too steep for me (pushing was hard work). Beautiful summer day, perfect weather, except early morning very warm.

After Atigun Pass nice downhill sections; I wanted to reach Coldfoot for the dinner buffet, showers and nice campground. I put myself under time pressure to reach camp before the buffet closes at 20:00 – so the afternoon was very hard with only two short breaks to filter river water (turned into deliciously tasting Gatorade!). Unfortunately my throat still hurts and every now and then I’m coughing on the bike :-
I am completely exhausted by the time I get to camp. Soup and Salad buffet, then setup tent, then hot shower, then meet & chat with Markus and Jutta one more time :-) in sleeping bag by midnight, nice cool air to sleep.

Saturday – July 4

Coldfoot to Arctic Circle

101km / 507km; 7h / 32h; 1660m

Very relaxing start in the morning, breakfast at restaurant, visit to Visitor Center; gave a 15-20 pound bag to Joe the van driver to bring back to Fairbanks. This made climbing somewhat easier today. Also entire section of road is paved :-) rest at Grayling Lake and in evening at Gobblers Knob (after long climb). Got water from truck convoy, but unfortunately my fuel pump didn’t work :-(
Beautiful evening sun, purple fireweed flower meadows, arrive at Arctic Circle camp at 11:30pm

Sunday – July 5

Arctic Circle to Hot Spot Cafe (near Yukon Bridge)
93km / 600km; 6h / 38h; 1720m

Start at 9:10am; chilly downhill, but soon very warm on the many steep hills. 2hrs rest at noon at Finger Mountain after long climb. Very tiring hills, also end of pavement, but gravel comparatively good.
Filtered water twice, then got water from Jitka, the Czech lady who drove up North to see the midnight sun… (had seen her at Gobblers Knob yesterday)
Arrive at Hot Spot around 7:45pm and have Mushroom Burger and Milkshake for dinner :-) Met Josh and Rene who bike from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay and were on day 11 of their tour.
Tent on undeveloped campground, but great water from well right next to it.

Monday – July 6

Hot Spot camp (Yukon bridge) to Livengood (end Dalton Hwy, Elliott Hwy

107km / 707km; 8h / 46h; 2330m

Start at 7:30am, short 8km ride to Yukon River Bridge / Camp for breakfast. Need to pass time (45min) as they only open up at 9:00am! Walk to Yukon river and to Alaska Pipeline display / interpretive center.

After 4 pancakes with lots of butter & sirup I start a long uphill over the Yukon bridge and into the hills at 9:45. Plenty of hills, first 40km still paved; great mood, almost philosophical thoughts, thinking about opening chapter of book and about Jill and the “celebration of life” … Very nice long descent on great paved road, slow uphill… I get water from some motorcycle riders at a great overlook on a ridge. When I tell them about my project they take a picture of me and say: “One day you’ll be famous!”
The km are ticking by, I almost see myself at the end of gravel and finishing the Dalton when 20km before I get a flat front tire at 30km/h downhill! Luckily I can stop without crash, but the front tube got punctured many times after the initial flat! My repair kit doesn’t have enough rubber cement, so I can fix only 5 of the 6 holes :-( waited for 1 hour, then motorcycle driver stopped and gave my supplies, thankfully I could continue!
Reached end of Dalton around 8pm. After a few km on the paved road I see a campground sign; turns out this is only a normal parking lot, but at least we’ve got flat ground. Nearby I find water from a creek to wash off the dust and sweat, as well as to filter drinking water.
Then I meet & greet with John – 79 yr old widower on fishing trip in camper mobil – he gives me hot water for my freeze dried food and invites me to sit in his camper for dinner, where we chat for about 1 hour.

Tuesday – July 7

Livengood to Fairbanks

131km / 838km; 8h / 54h; 2105m

I wake up when John starts his camper bus right next to my tent; it’s 6:30am and the tent is getting hot from the sun already. I pack my stuff and hit the road shortly after 7:00am. Every 15km there is a big hill – 200-300m up and down. Soon the cool morning air gives way to heat under a perfectly blue sky. I stop at Joy, Arctic Circle Trading Post for coffee and muffins at 40km. More hills and heat, just grinding up those slopes and shooting down the descents; beautiful vistas from the ridge-tops. Eventually I reach the suburbs and cell phone signal at the Hilltop truck stop. Phone call with Jill, who follows my SPOT signals along on the computer and can tell the details of the gas-station building from where I’m calling! Almost scary the precision with which she can follow along. Then I rush downhill and over one last hill to Fairbanks and Tanana Valley campground as their office closes at 20:00. I get there with 10 minutes to spare…

End of Dalton Hwy and Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks section. See also the Blog post on the Dalton Highway stretch with some nice photos.

Friday – July 8

27km / 865km;

Restday in Fairbanks.

It is a beautiful and unexpectedly hot summer day; at 32C according to the news the hottest day in Fairbanks since 15 years! I spend the day resting, cleaning and buying spare bike tubes and repair kit, getting my hair cut, emailing and eating. For the evening a cold front is forecast to move over with some rain and cooler weather following behind it. I meet the Brown family on the camp spot right next to mine. They are excited about my trip and invite me to stop by and visit them near San Diego later when I’ll be in that area. (Turns out I will do so two months later in mid September.)

Thursday – July 9

Fairbanks to Delta Junction

170km / 1035km, 7.5hr / 62 hrs;

After some badly needed rain overnight I pack my stuff and get ready to leave the Tanana Valley campground in Fairbanks. I stop at the sports shop to check my tire pressure. It’s almost 11:00am by the time I head East. I stop at a little place called North Pole for brunch.

Nice views along the river landscape created by the Tanana river!

Arrive in Delta Jct at 9:10p, the diner closed kitchen at 9:00p :-( I go to Alaskan Steakhouse instead, but likewise they have reduced cooking (only burgers).

I stay at local state park campground (no-frills). Sleep from 11:00p to 8:20a next day!

Friday, July 10

Delta Junction to Tok

180km / 1215km; 9hr / 71hrs;

Leave late due to extended breakfast (9:00 – 10:30) and visitor center (10:30-11:00). Superlong straight road for first 60km! Then few hills; slight tailwind. At 100km (after seeing Bobby from Alaska Direct) I stop at Dot Lake post office / private residence. Jim lives here and kindly refills my water bottle, offers me a soda and we chat for 30-45min. It is here that I had my rental car crash 10 years ago! (still some of the Moose antlers here)
Further towards Tok I meet Tien, who rides from Toronto to Prudhoe Bay. We exchange Snickers and Bananas as well as some stories of the road.

Arrive in Tok at 8:20p ahead of schedule, so there is still plenty of time for dinner at Fast Eddies, the most popular place in town.

Saturday, July 11

Restday in Tok

Sunday, July 12

Tok to Canada border and on to Beaver Creek.

See also the related Blog post “Goodbye Alaska – Hello Yukon” with some nice photos.

180km / 1380km; 9h / 80h;

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