September 21, 2013, Category: Alaska, Travel

The ride from Haines, AK to Haines Junction, Canada is rougher than expected. I see a wolverine up close at the Kroschel Wildlife Center. Later, haphazard conditions make riding almost impossible.

Day 5: Haines to Haines Junction

Check out the novel: Trudge On, Soul

The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.
The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.

The Adventure Continues...

IMG_1005-001We didn’t cover a lot of ground today in terms of miles (Haines to Haines Junction, 160 miles) but the day was still packed with awesomeness and adventure. We woke up, Mike fired up the stove and made oatmeal, and then we cleaned and packed up camp. As we loaded gear on the bikes I started thinking. From wake up to ride out was taking about 90 minutes. The night before I had spent a lot of time organizing, but we hadn’t even had to make dinner. We could easily spend three hours a day doing the basics. That’s a lot of time! But this was the first day, hopefully we’d get more efficient. I wondered how quick we’d zip through it by end of the trip. DSCN0220We ran a few errands, to the salmon cannery and an auto parts store. I was sure the battery was the problem with my bike but it tested out fine. Maybe it was related to my PDM60, a fuse control unit I had installed. When I shut off my bike, this keeps devices on for several minutes before it powers them down. Maybe I had to wait until it shut down first. I tested out this theory and it seemed to hold. Whether it was the PDM60 or that my battery couldn’t hold a full load, I’m not sure. But as long as I waited until my GPS powered down it seemed to start just fine (I also tried it with my devices off which didn’t seem to make a difference). This was a workable solution, but also a real pain at times. DSCN0228I had come across a wildlife center that we wanted to visit about 30 miles up the road and we had made reservations for 2:00. I had read that the drive north was full of wildlife; bears, moose, eagles. In fact, the river we were following hosts the highest number of eagles in North America! We had several hours to cover to enjoy the 30 miles of thick wildlife-filled Alaskan forest as we drove through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. I was stoked. I mean, ten minutes off the ferry and we saw two grizzly bears. I was sure we’d have wildlife up the wazoo all day long. EVRVideoHandler 9202013 73418 PMWe saw 5 eagles, maybe. And from a distance. Turns out they don’t show up in masses until October. No bears. No moose. Not even chipmunks. Was I disappointed? Strangely, no. The drive was gorgeous and the weather was perfect (it wasn’t raining). At one point we saw an old bridge and wanted to drive across it. We did that and just kept on driving. The road turned to dirt and we followed it along the side of a mountain. My GPS said we would join up again with the main road, but eventually the road ended. So after 45 minutes of driving, we had to backtrack. The whole time we anxiously scanned for a bear to lumber out of the woods. It was a blast riding through the trees knowing we were surrounded by so much nature…even if we didn’t see any wildlife.

Kroschel Wildlife Center

IMG_1150 IMG_1158    IMG_1227  IMG_1062 The wildlife center was fascinating. The two guys that ran the tour, Steve and Mario were hilarious. They are both so passionate about wildlife, nature, and their research that you might initially mistake it for ADHD. Steve talks a mile a minute, jumping from topic to topic and animal to animal just like his little martin zipped around in it’s den. Mario was more like Grizzly Adams, easy going and full of stories. The two of them make a great pair and were entertaining on so many levels. Humorous, fascinating, top notch story tellers, and full of awesome facts about their animals. IMG_1030They are filmmakers and have been involved in training animals and assisting in many movies, including a few of their own. They are passionate about the earth and doing whatever it takes to save it from the negative impacts of man. I agree with a lot of their points for the most part. I also tend to be quite skeptical of some of the stories they told relating to Bigfoot and the healing powers of animals and nature, but that doesn’t mean I dismiss everything. Not only do I enjoy hearing their perspective and stories, I do actually think about them. My ideas aren’t set in stone…but they are in some pretty firm mud. IMG_1166The highlight for me was Banff, their pet wolverine. Yes, a pet wolverine. The legendary animal that can chase away bears and hunts moose looked more like a happy puppy (sniffing crotches and all). Steve had him on a leash that looked as thin as dental floss and I’m guessing that was only to conform to some sort of business regulation. It is obvious the connection and trust between Steve and Banff is solid. I’ve always been fascinated by wolverines, one of my dreams is to get a picture of one in the wild. This may be as close as I ever come. I could have sat and listened to them all day long…or two days for that matter. They didn’t seem to follow a script, I’m sure their tours are as unpredictable and dynamic as they are. They have done and seen some amazing things all over the world. As much as Mike and I loved it we both had to agree, our wives would have loved it even more (because their own passions and beliefs are a bit more congruent with Steve and Mario. This video is three clips: Banff the wolverine, Mario talking about Wolverines, and Steve telling a story about a wolverine.

WP_20130820_005Knowing the bulk of our drive was yet ahead of us and it was late in the day, we busted out of there as soon as the tour was over. I’m sure you are getting tired of me rambling on about the scenery, but man, sharp peaks all along the horizon and the valleys in between them full of thick blue ice. As we hit the timberline it leveled out and huge fields tundra and shrubs were starting to change color. This ride is not one to be missed if you are in the area. On the top of the pass it got super windy. And cold. We had to stop and I put on my heated gear (and turned it all the way up). DSCN0277We had to lean into the wind in order to stay upright. Riding straight but leaning like we were turning. Not only that, but there were strong gusts that required constant adjustments. A quick jostle on the handlebar here, a shift in body weight there…all just to keep from falling sideways onto the road. My mind and body were focused, tense and tight. Like riding a tough stretch on my dirt bike, rock climbing, or playing an immersive video game. Everything becomes about the moment and I had to let go of fear, stress, the past, the future, and focus on the challenge at hand. I did wonder at times if we should stop, when it almost became outright dangerous (like the wind suddenly threw my back end a good six inches to the right). But I didn’t think it would get better or that waiting it out would help us. A dark storm was approaching and camping on the open plains in a fierce storm sounded worse and riskier than forging ahead. WP_20130820_006 When we started dropping down the backside of the mountain, the winds began to subside. To say I was relieved is a major understatement. Riding in that wind was intense and scary. We rolled into Haines Junction and found a gas station, luckily. My gas light had been on for a while. We asked about camping spots and were told to “take the Alcan, you’ll see an RV park a few miles down the road.” This made me grin, “Mike, lets go ride the Alcan!” Sure, it looked like just another road. But turning onto the Alcan highway made me feel like a million bucks. I was a part of something that I never really expected to be a part of as a kid. The Alcan was for explorers and adventurers. I had glamorized it my entire life. So even though it is just another slab of tar in appearance, to me it was so much more. And here I was, riding the Alcan Highway on my motorcycle. I suppose you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. And if you don’t, I don’t think there is any way I can explain it. The RV campground was nice. Plus we had escaped the wind and it wasn’t cold. We set up camp and cooked dinner (I had Mac ‘n Cheese) and hung out for a while in the laundry room where there was power and WiFi. We chatted with a young couple that were riding bicycles to Arizona. They had decided they’d had enough of Anchorage and were several weeks into the trip. Wow, now that sounds like an adventure!

I went to bed exhausted. When I thought back on the day it seemed like morning was forever ago. Striking camp, running errands, riding, the wildlife park, the wind, setting up camp…it felt like a week packed into one day. It’s hard to explain, but even though I was having a great time I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about the next three weeks. It was going to be a lot of work and there was a part of me that wished we were a bit closer to the back side. One day at a time, I thought. Don’t look at it all at once. Just focus on tomorrow. And with that, I dozed off. Click here to Continue to Day 6

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2 thoughts on “Day 5: Haines to Haines Junction

  • By Bob - Reply

    What dates were you traveling during. Me and my wife went out from Wasilla Ak. down to Prince of Wales Island we were out 22 days on the road. Interested to get your feeling on the trip to Alaska

    • By Warren - Reply

      We left on Aug 9th and returned Sept 6th. Day 5 was on Tuesday, Aug 13th. Was an incredible trip! If there weren’t so many other places I wanted to ride to (Costa Rica), I’d be lining up another Alaska trip (this time up the Dempster Highway).

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