Touring - Last Wise Date to Leave Alaska....
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05-12-08, 03:10 PM
I enjoyed an awesome tour in Alaska a few years back from Haines to Homer, so I'm familiar with the "situation" there. (spectacular!!!) Now, I'm considering riding from Skagway to the lower 48 at the end of the summer working season. My question is, I know that the weather can turn ugly pretty fast and I'm wondering, being very prepared for the likelihood of a lot of rain/occasional snow, when is it just not a good idea to be riding in those parts? Assuming we can make it in three weeks, which seems fairly doable, is late September going into early October too late in the season to take on such an endeavor?
05-12-08, 04:16 PM
You is from Phoenix, Arizona, eh?
Three things change in Alaska, the Yukon, and Northern BC.
1. The temperatures, 2. The amount of daylight, and 3. Precipitation.
The temps start to drop quickly - more so in the interior -
Highs in the 40s F, lows at or below freezing.
But September is the rainiest month in southeast Alaska - torrential.
Almost 8 inches in Juneau in both Sept and Oct.
Plus you are losing about 5-6 minutes of daylight per day.
I live in the Northern Rockies and have cycled/hiked extensively in Wyo, Mont and southern Canada in the fall - plus up to the Arctic in summer. Fall is a time of great beauty, but also of rapid and dangerous weather changes. My friend who works in search and rescue comments that they always lose a few hunters in the mountains here in fall. It's far more isolated and extreme along in the Yukon and northern BC - plus many of the roadhouses have closed for the season. So what may be 40 miles between help in the summer may be 120 miles by October. Granted that there is a good deal of traffic on the Alaska Highway - far, far less on the Stuart Cassiar.
If you were to do this, I would urge extreme caution and the willingness both to wait a few days here and there - plus the willingness to hop on Greyhound, if necessary. I'm just guessing, but I don't think you have much northern winter experience. Being on a bike in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere is not the way to get it.
Best - J
05-12-08, 04:46 PM
I'm actually from Michigan, so am not a stranger to cold weather. It's not Alaska cold, or Alaska dark, or Alaska mountainous, but I am not pure desert rat, if that is what you were thinking. My riding partner is actually doing search and rescue right now in Alaska (not that that comes in SOOOO handy when you're the one needing to be rescued) and we are both fairly seasoned outdoors people. We know that we are going to be pushing it, weather wise, if we decide to go for it. He is confident in the decision, but I thought I would get on and just see what everyone thought was the cut-off date, so to speak.
I did not know that September was the rainiest season in Alaska. Good to know! I was blessed with some fabulous weather on my tour, though had been told it can go both ways and that some summers it just rains and rains and rains.
05-12-08, 06:34 PM
If you are riding, then it's not the rainy season in Alaska that you have to worry about, but the inland weather along the Alaska highway. While the coastline tends to be temperate but wet, inland you'll have to cope with a continental climate. In that regard, conditions inland will be closer to what you could expect in Fairbanks, for example.
In a nutshell, if you ride the Alaska highway, you'll get some wet weather, including maybe some torrential rains and maybe snowfalls, but you are also likely to have sunny and maybe warm days. The Cassiar highway (highway 37) will probably be wetter. But while you may find some average data on Environment Canada (http://ec.gc.ca/)'s system (check for Whitehorse, Watson Lake for Yukon, then Fort St. John and Dawson City), the problem is that you'll either have gorgeous weather... or snowstorms. On the plus side, if you stay on the Alaska highway, you might be able to get the forecasts and decide 2-3 days ahead of time if it's wiser to wait or ride.
With all the cautions about averages, I would say that daytime temperatures could be very decent, maybe even warm, but nights will get cool if not cold. This means you need to get ready for serious-weather camping.
Daylight-wise, when I travelled there many many ears ago (by car), I felt that August was the worst month for travelling. People have been abusing all the daylight available and drove like zombies. As days shorten in August (to a nice 16 hours/day in mid August), people start sleeping again at night and they drive much better by the end of August and in September. Of course, when it's Sept. 21st, there is 12 hours of daylight, typically from about 8:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m.
05-14-08, 02:53 PM
I count on first snowfall right around Oct 25-Nov 1. I commute to work untill then, and it gets light here ( Anchorage) by 7:00 AM. That far South and east it should be earlier. Night fall would be by 5:30 -6:00. Stay inland that time of year, right on the coast ie Prince Rupert it might be VERY wet
05-14-08, 10:22 PM
I drove along the Alcan in the second half of September and already there was plenty of snow and my 20 degree sleeping bag wasn't cutting it. I wouldn't push it past end of August.
I would say yes, just bring some warm clothes (wool) and good rain gear! What route are you planning to take? The southeast is generally warmer, but gets more rain that snow that time of year. If you are heading up into the interior like others said be ready for snow or sunshine....
05-16-08, 10:55 AM
Hey Dave, Did you do the ride to work thing on Thur? THe Eagle River bike trail was at least a few extra riders
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