July 20, 2003 GMT
Vancouver, The Yukon and Alaska

We flew into Vancouver on Monday 2 June with a set of throw over panniers, some tools, clothes and Tourist Visa´s for the USA. We had a wonderful start to our trip by staying with some friends while we bought bikes and insurance. We hadn´t done a lot of research so were a bit surprised on Tuesday morning when we walked into the Honda Shop and asked for “Two Transalps please”, only to be informed that Honda don´t sell Transalps in North America. Thus we embarked on 3 days of catching buses all over Vancouver to find the right bikes and so it was on the Friday that we picked up 2 brand new Kawasaki KLR650 on/off road bikes.

Departing Vancouver we headed to Whistler for a couple of days with Doug where we went for a wonderful cycle and swim.

The next week was taken up riding through Beautiful British Columbia. We rode to Prince George then headed west and north up the Cassier Hwy. What amazing scenery – snow capped mountains, glaciers, bears, wolves, moose, coyote, caribou and squirrel..

We entered the Yukon Territory and headed west on the Alaska Hwy (The Alcan) to Whitehorse then went north again to Dawson City which is an old Gold Mining Town. On the way we met two guys also on KLR's. Rusty and Tim soon became known as "The Dudes" and we had a great time riding with them. From Dawson City we took the Top of the World Hwy to Alaska. What an amazing road. About 200mile of gravel road along which you look down on the mountains around you. Apart from not being able to get Karen Carpenter out of my head the whole way, it was just magnificent. The border crossing into Alaska (USA) was pretty unique/remote. When Tim (one of the Dudes) declared he was carrying a shotgun (in case of a bear attack) the border guard said "Hey man, that's cool - We like guns here!" I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. The first town over the border - "Chicken" is also a little odd (special) with its population of 16 and cafe/souveneir/pub and no flushing toilet in the whole town.

Next stop was Anchorage where we spent a wonderful weekend with Ann and her gorgeous dog, Penny.

Denali National Park was just beautiful and we saw Mt McKinley (Highest mountain in North America) and 3 Grizzley bears.

Then we undertook our biggest biking challenge yet - The 1000mile return journey from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle and on to Prudhoe bay. The road, known as "The Haul Road" was built to facilitate the construction of the remote section of the Trans Alaska Pipeline and varies in quality from tarmac to mud. The countryside in the Arctic is incredible. As we went further north we rode over the Brooks Mountain Range at the magnificent Atigun Pass which (even in summer) was covered in snow, then on to rolling
hills covered in tundra (a small shrub that survives in the frozen artic swamp lands). Prudhoe bay wasn't much but there were about a 100 caribou just outside town and it was pretty amazing to see most of the bay covered in ice. The ride was challenging and great fun. And the pipeline gets my engineering side very excited!

The next highlight was Clearwater campground just outside Delta Junction where we spent 2 days relaxing next to a beautiful river and meeting lots of wonderful people at the Clearwater Lodge. Sherrie from Clearwater then invited us to Chitna with her family and friends to camp for a few days. They have a salmon wheel which is this fabulous contraption used to scoop salmon out of the river when they are
sporning. We spent the 4thJuly with the gang and once again we're made incredibly welcome.

From Chitna, we went to Valdez and spent a wonderful day viewing glaciers, icebergs, whales, sealions, porpioses and puffins from a boat on Prince William sound.

After a couple of days traveling back through Canada we rode from Whitehorse into Skagway along the wonderful Chilkoot Pass.

From Skagway, we caught the Alaska Marine Hwy down the Inside Passage. It was like being in a massive fjord for 2 days. On board the ferry, we sat and slept on the top deck in the solarium on these wonderful sun lounges. From here we not only saw the snow capped mountains but also whales, dolphins, dozens of Bald Eagles and hundreds of salmon jumping. They allowed us to take 1 bike off the
ferry at Sitka (where we saw totem poles and the Russian Orthodox Church) and Ketchican. From Prince Rupert, we caught the BC (British Columbia) ferry to Vancouver Island , upon which we saw a pod of Orca's (Killer Whales) along with more amazing scenery.

Posted by Leah Chapman at 09:38 AM GMT
 


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