Bear Country: Haines & Alaska Highway


It got a bit wilder and more more adventures, finally.

Haines Highway: Haines – Haines Junction
We were told, that there aren’t any reasonable shops for the next few hundred miles (which was not really true). We bought food for the next 7+ days therefor and our bikes were very heavy when we left Haines. It was cloudy but it was still partly sunny, when we drove along the Chilkat River. It went only slightly uphill, which was good after several days of ferry traveling. The “problem” in this region is to find a place for staying over night. There are only a few campgrounds and we didn’t want to camp wild because of the bears. We were already checking possible sleeping spots in advance. One was the 33 Miles Roadhouse, which was close to the border. They have a cabin there but it was with more than 100 Dollar too expensive for us. Another option would have been a very simple cabin. However, this one was with 50 Dollar still too expensive for what you get. However, when we told them, that we are planning on having dinner and breakfast at their place, they gave it to us for free (we slept on the floor), which was a fair deal. We prefer to pay for good food instead of simple lodging ;-).
We crossed the border the next morning without any problems and without a lot of questioning. And then it went pretty hefty uphill. As this wouldn’t have been enough, it started to rain heavily as well. It took us quite a while to get up this 3’000 feet. But we were very happy, when we found the little green cabin a few miles after the summit. We were told about it by other cyclist but didn’t really know where it was. And it’s the only possible accommodation for cyclists and hikers in this region (car driver: please don’t use it. You can easily keep going to another spot. Cyclists can’t and are dependent on it). We started a fire to dry our very wet clothes and cooked our diner. It was great; almost as in paradise.
The weather got a bit better over night and we kept going. The landscape was similar to Iceland and Scandinavia; only the RVs were much bigger… We reached the Million Dollar Falls campground in the evening and first had to filter water. There was no tap water anymore and also no showers. We kept cycling on the Haines Highway the next day. And there was a lot of construction going on on the road. Opposite to cars, we were not allowed to cross those construction sites ourselves. We had to get our bikes and all of our luggage on the Pilot car and had to pass the site on it. I didn’t like that because it was a lot of work for us and the U.S./Canada were the only place I had to do something like that so far. But here, it was for our safety… Oh well. And during one of those transportations we were told, that there is kind of a strange grizzly around on the next few miles and then they put us back on the road. We had a three level plan in case of bad bear contact: 1. Make noise. If that does not help 2. Use bear bangers (some kind of firework which is very loud) and 3. use bear spray against their eyes and nose. However, we hoped that it would never go further than 1 because the bear would already have to be very close (less than 30 feet) to use the bear spray… So far we did not even have to make noise. The black bears run away as soon as they saw us. However, we were still pretty nervous, when were cycling further. After some time, one of the guys of the construction site before stopped his car next to me and asked, if I would miss a bear spray. I already wanted to say no as I recognized, that the bear spray on my front pannier was gone. It would have been very bad if we had contact with that strange grizzly from before…
Newly armed, we kept cycling on the highway till Haines Junction and stayed there in a Motel. Finally a normal bed again. However, there was so much to do, that we could hardly use it… The supermarket in Haines Junction was closed (it’s supposed to reopen soon) but the local bakery sold some food additional to their great sweets and breads and we got some spaghetti and eggs.

Alaska Highway: Haines Junction – Toc – Delta Junction – Fairbanks
The Haines Highway ends in Haines Junction and we continued on the Alaska Highway (also called Alcan Highway). There were again some construction sites but we had to use the Pilot car only at one. After we saw three black bears on the Haines Highway, it was only one at the Alaska Highway. We were several times warned of big grizzlies ahead of us but we never saw them luckily. It was almost a bit boring. Only the RVs and trucks made sure, that we stayed very much awake. Some of them should loose their driving permit…
North of Beaver Creek, we had to say good bye to Canada and hello again USA. And we were very much looking forward to this border crossing again… We were honest and told the woman in charge, that we have a few apples (bought in Canada) with us, which we would need for breakfast. She didn’t care and told us, that we have to leave them there. We didn’t want to throw them away and ate it right away therefor… However, we had to leave the leftovers… Luckily this was the last border crossing into the U.S. during this journey.
We kept cycling on the Alaska Highway but also the next few days weren’t that interesting except that we met Billy Lavelle in Tok. He started cycling in Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) and wants to go all the way down to Ushuaia in Argentina. So he still has some miles to go but who knows, maybe I will meet him later again. He kept cycling south and we north. During the next few days, we more or less only saw forest. That was pretty boring and we were happy to have taken the ferry some way up. But we also saw a nice sunset at the Birch Lake. North of Delta Junction, we took pictures of the Alaska Pipeline and got questioned by the security therefor. Somehow paranoid…
After around 3’000 miles, we finally reached Fairbanks: the most northern point of our journey. From here, we are going south through the Denali National Park to Anchorage. This part should get more interesting again (there should be ears and moose) and we hope, that also the weather will be good. One guy here told us, that the winter is already arriving in September. It’s hard to believe with day temperature of almost 80º Fahrenheit. However, the goose are really going south already and the leaves are changing color as well… We will see :-).

All the best from Fairbanks,

Stefan

PS: Pictures can be found in the Gallery.


About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my girlfriend Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website www.biketravel.net. Stefan, Switzerland

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