Alaska is a place of grand landscapes, dramatic scenery, oversized glaciers, abundant wildlife, immense mountain ranges but especially home to some really nice folks.
They call it the last Frontier but it’s far from being the last place I suggest any adventurer rider to venture into. It’s actually the best place for any adventure rider to experience on-road and off-road riding.
I flew to Alaska in late July 2015 for work. Being in the North American adventure travel business for the last 20 years, I can confirm Alaska should be on any adventurers bucket list. The purpose of my visit was to meet up with some local suppliers and check out some new places making sure we outfit our clients with the best accommodations, meals and activities the Northern State has to offer.
Being a rider, I decided to make this working vacation exciting. I had 5 days to cover 1500 miles. Any rider will say this is not overdoing it, but I had people to meet, places to see, mountains to climb and wildlife to pose. Flying into Anchorage, I rented a BMW GS800, geared up in my riding cloth and rode the Turnagain Arm in direction of Homer. The weather was good, the scenery even better. The sea air filled my helmet and the GS roared into the Kenai Peninsula. The highlight of the morning was witnessing the Aleutian Range across the bay before arriving into Homer. Snow covered mountain tops dominating the dark blue waters just cut my breath. Alaska is big – very big!
Homer is a great place. As far West as you can go on the North American road system, a very big stone throw away from Russia. I had halibut tacos for lunch and rode from place to place to meet with local business owners all greeting me with warm welcomes. Riding onto the Spit at the end of the day, I traded my GS boots for some walking shoes and ventured onto the beach to witness an elusive sea otter actively playing around. Some fishing boats were drifting back to port and I would soon witness the catch of the day: a 250 pound Halibut caught by a British traveller. Next time around I’m staying a couple of days in Homer to experience some boat assisted hiking to Kachemak state park where one can roam the sea shore at low tide and experience the solitude and sheer immensity of the territory. I ended the day with the best Bloody Mary ever at the Salty Dog bar.
The next day I headed for Seward in not so lovely weather. I geared up in rain gear and carefully road to the other part of Kenai to the town of Seward. On route I stopped at Russian River, 5 miles south of Copper Landing to jealously observe fishermen skillfully address the art of fly fishing. The results were amazing. One Sockeye salmon after another. Trust me, I will be back here on a major non work vacation. Arriving in Seward I made it to Kenai national park. Although the clouds were pretty low I got to walk to the glacier and got mesmerized by it’s grandeur and beauty. I rushed back to town to meet with our local sea kayaking outfitter. Being on a business trip (not complaining) I had no time to join him on a paddling tour but got to see the amazing things our clients experience when they venture out into Resurrection Bay and onto Fox Island. Other activities offered are boat tours to discover the non-accessible parts of Kenai Park featuring up close encounters with whales and immense glaciers. My personal favorite is the 9 hour grand tour up Northwestern Fjord. For diner I rode a couple of miles out of town to Exit Glacier Salmon Bake restaurant. I had the King Crab diner. Amazing. Everything looked good.
The next day I made it to Girwood and the Alayeska resort. Although I usually try to avoid these kinds of resorts and prefer focussing on authentic and genuine off the beaten track experiences, I must say I was extremely happy I made it to Alayeska. The resort is awesome and the staff is really helpful and professional. Lots of outdoors to be done here. I’ll be back with the family. My GS 800 broke down close to Anchorage, but I rapidly got a GS1200 as a replacement for the rest of the trip.
Speaking of authentic, genuine off the beaten track places, I then rode to Talkeetna. What an amazing place. Cessna planes will fly you from Talkeetna over Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in Alaska at 6190 M and also the highlight of the national park. Talkeetna is a mixture of outdoor hippie folks stuck in the gold mining years and hipster outdoorsy youngsters. Great coffee shops, restaurants, shops and attractions make this place unique in the whole of the USA.
The apogee of this tour in Alaska was Denali national park.
The end of day offered some better weather and the ride was just fantastic. I was all alone on the highway pushing the GS to the limit surrounded by sheer nature, mountains, chalk colored rivers and wildlife. On that part of the ride I saw 6 mooses and 2 black bears. Arriving late, I made it to my cabin for the night and met up with some local people for an exquisite meal at the Perch Cabins. Please keep this a secret. I want my clients to experience this unique and delicious restaurant, so don’t tell the crowds. As a matter a fact, we had 2 of our groups there that night and they loved it. Sshhhhhhh!
In the morning it was business as usual. Lots of people to see. I was getting eager to make it into the park. At lunchtime I was ready. The park is not accessible by car. Travellers to Denali must use a very reliable bus service that takes you into the depth of the park. This is a full day activity which I had no time to spare for. There is a 17 mile road that takes you to the bus launch and I road this one at very low speed, standing up on the pegs of the GS looking from left to right for some animal spotting. Seems I was pretty lucky as I got to see Caribou, moose and black bear. Don’t be too jealous as Denali didn’t give me Mckinley. I never got the chance to see the mountain. Seems it’s always hit or miss with Denali. I don’t really mind, I’ll be back. Anyway I still have people to meet in Fairbanks, Glennallen, McCharthy, Valdez and Juneau.
The plan for the next riding trip in Alaksa a part from numerous hikes to be done all around and fly fishing the Russian river or sea kayaking Resurrection Bay, would be to go off-road to Prudoe bay. It’s on the bucket list and it will be done! Wanna join, send me an email, I’m all in!
By Charles Frobisher, Windigo founder and presidentRetour au blogue