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  1. #1
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Touring: Wasington State to Ketchikan, AK

    I'm looking for folks who have toured through the Yukon up to Ketchikan, AK within the last 3 years. Especially, if you have toured independently, versus touring with an outiftter. It's my desire to follow maps, and be guided by my daily experiences, rather than following someone's canned itinerary. So if you have free-spiritedly toured the Yukon, fire away your experiences. What do I need to know? Special tires, do I need to take an extra 'everything' in my parts and tools box?
    It would be so wonderful to learn from your experiences.
    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    You don't tell us what touring experience you have. This is a pretty major objective, and not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, there is a rare true adventurer spirit, and they like to dive in and figure it all out on the way.

    A cyclist who road accross Canada said, "After you've gone the first 500 miles, the rest are just more days at the office." I wouldn't know. My longest tours have been 6 or 7 days.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    I haven't made any especially long tours, but by the time I reach the Yukon, I'll have been touring for over 3 months.

  4. #4
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    You do know that there's no road to Ketchikan?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Check out crazyguyonabike for several write ups on tours of the Yukon. As for Ketchikan, I believe what kdiehl said is correct, but one could always take the Alaska Marine Highway system

  6. #6
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kdiehl View Post
    You do know that there's no road to Ketchikan?
    Yes, but when people drive up from the US, they take the ferry also. If Ketchikan is just too muddy, or the route to the ferry is just too muddy, what is the most practical Alaska city/town to cycle to, if my desire it simply to cycle from East to West coast, up to Alaska, and then down the west coast, and back across?
    Juneau? or is that inaccessible by bike?

  7. #7
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    No roads to Juneau either! In Alaska, Haines and Skagway are the only panhandle towns with mainland road access. Further south, You can catch the Marine Highway ferry in Prince Rupert or Bellingham. See http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/index.shtml

    This is THE book for information about roads and services along the way. http://milepost.com/

    I think you need to spend a little time studying your Rand McNally road atlas of the USA and Canada! Or download this http://www.dot.state.ak.us/pop_request_map.shtml
    Last edited by kdiehl; 08-31-10 at 03:13 PM. Reason: I wish I could spell

  8. #8
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Thank you Kdiehl. I've been trying to do it from online maps is the problem. If i'm zoomed in enough to make out roads, I can't see from one place to another. It's a HUGE expanse of land;0) I'll get the book, and yes, pick up a hard copy of an atlas.
    C.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    My bike is a Bianchi Axis, which is a cyclo-cross bike. I'm very comfortable on her, and consider her my cycling partner. Despite this, friends are really counseling me to get a Surly LHT. Because of the comfort of the ride, and the stability of the lower bottom bracket, as well as the durability of the frame. Many cross-country cyclists use this bike, but many folks for decades have used whatever they have. It would be very helpful to know what other touring cyclists feel about this. AND, whether the novara randonee is comparable.
    One friend, in particular, said the Randonee is a wonderful bike, well priced, but the gearing isn't a suitable for a true cross-country touring bike. That I would need to get more of a climbing set-up. Whatcha think?

  10. #10
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    do you mean you want to tour to a place like Haines and then take the ferry? Otherwise the most important piece of equipment would be a saw to use to cut the trees down to make the road to get there...

    on a more serious note...one thing you need is a water filter...schwalbe marathon would be good tires...the stretch of highway after Whitehorse can be very dry...load up on water there...you'll need to learn about camping in grizzly country...get a Milepost book for Alaska if you want to learn mile by mile interesting things along the way as part of your planning
    I wouldn't consider using any bike that didn't have braze-ons for racks, front and rear. You're going to go over a lot of rough road here and there and you'll be loaded with tent, cooking gear, and considerable food since you will be days without food at a time. A broken rack is really a problem. You can play the odds if you want...but if 100 people ride it with a LHT and another 100 ride it with your bike, there will be more problems with your bike. But it could work. If you do take your bike, learn how to adjust your BB and headset. The headset is a likely candidate for requiring adjustment. Carry a tire boot for sure although with Schwalbe's it's not likely you'll need it. Be preapared for days of rain at a time. You could spend a month in Ketchikan and never see the sun. Make sure your rain gear is top notch and if it's GoreTex, keep it clean.

  11. #11
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    +1^^ on the weather in Ketchikan. I grew up there and recall a few summers where there was less than 12 days when some form of moisture wasn't falling from the sky. It can be very wet.

    Coming down from the Yukon, you'll have to hop the ferry at Haines. If you come north then you'll catch it at Prince Rupert.

    As digibud described, the country can be sparsely populated with modern conveniences. I'm glad to hear you will have 3 months experience before you get too far North. It is still wild country in a lot of places, even right off the highway.

    Good luck. I hope to be in your shoes and engaging that kind of trip within the next 3 years.

  12. #12
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I agree, potable water is scarce, especially once heading north along the Alaskan hwy. I used a hybrid devinci and it seemed to handle all my gear and my 190 ibs. without any issues. The only unpaved sections are construction areas. There are several long grades throughout British Columbia, the worst are between Fort Nelson and the Laird Hot Springs. Steamboat Mountian is real nasty, and then crossing the Cascade divide (it can snow etc. at any time here) I've ridden the Pacific Coast which is a great ride, but I rate my ride from Fairbanks south to Vancouver as the most challenging and satisfing accomplishment. Saw a tremendous amount of wildlife between Prince George and Fairbanks. ( several grizzlies in the Cascades, so camp accordingly) Would recommend this ride to anyone in reasonable shape who is looking for a great wilderness adventure.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    OH, I just mentioned that my husband went to UAF. I'm not headed to Fairbanks. As a matter of fact, after the information you have all given, I'm thinking it might just be best to cycle to Prince Rupert, and take the ferry up to whatever point in AK I decide to go to. Do you think that's more doable?

  14. #14
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    I bought a Surly LHT for the trip. Bought the Nice Rack for the front, but still have the Transit rack on the back. I'll have to replace it, and think Tubus is the way to go. Have sold some of the studio equipment to fund this, and am anxious to get more $ together to "breathe" easier. The plan is to do the trip on $10/day. This would be easier with other cyclists, as I'd like to stay in a motel from time to time, and sharing groceries would make the $ go further.
    Looking for companions and have advertised. Several responses have lead nowhere.
    April is looming, and I'm anxious.
    The route is taking shape. It turns out I'll take US bike route 1 up to the C&O passage, then the Allegheny passage, Then I'll pick up the Northern Tier route to Oregon. From Oregon, I'll fly home in mid July for a month. I have good work! and it will help fund more touring. Aug 18, I'll fly back to Oregon, and resume the tour by taking a ferry up to AK. cycle around AK with my husband who will meet me there, then ferry back to Oregon together. I'll then begin my tour of the Pacific Coast, then the southern Tier to New Orleans. At New Orleans, or near there, I'll head north to Tenn, and hitch a ride home for Christmas with my daughter in Memphis, and get a ride back with her after Christmas. Complete the tour from Memphis to Georgia, or virginia, or somewhere in between. This part doesn't need to be decided until I begin looking for companions to ride that portion.
    It feels good to have this decided, and to be actively working on the tour preparations. This weekend, I'll order maps of the Northern Tier. I'm getting a double A operated GPS for Christmas. I don't need the heart rate monitor and all those bells and whistles, but the step-by-step directions would be good.
    my budget is $10/day. So I'll definitely be doing free camping. Any suggestions are appreciated. I was told NY had free camping along the Erie Canal Pathway at the lockes. I've also been told churches and rescue squads are good about allowing people to camp, as are Ruritans. How can I stretch this $? Our local grocery has half price groceries first thing in the morning for the previous days fresh cooked items. Do any of you know if this is typical? Any suggestions on choosing companions, and making that the most successful endeavor? I prefer to ride with history buffs, even though I don't like history. They like to share the info, and it's good white noise, rather than religion or politics;0)
    I miss hearing from anyone on the board, and hope you will offer me some advice, and that some of you are still going to cycle with me when I get into your area.

  15. #15
    Hooked on Touring
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    Spokie -

    I've toured solo up to Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories a half dozen times - although not in the past three years. (Why you have that qualifier - and not your own parameters is baffling.)

    It seems that you have only the faintest idea of the geography and roads since you say "to the Yukon and Ketchikan" when a person heading north from Washington would first get to Ketch - THEN continue on to the Yukon. One piece of advice if you plan to solo - - you had better know where you are going. And know the climate.

    You do not indicate whether you will do a grand loop or bike one way. Roadwise, there are two basic options north of the Yellowhead Highway - - the Alaska Highway and the Stuart-Cassiar. These meet at Watson Lake, YT. You have another option in the Yukon via Dawson City or Kluane. These meet at Tok, AK. Then you can opt for Fairbanks or head southwest towards Anchorage/Valdez.

    Many people choose to use the Alaska Marine Highway as part of the trip. The ride from Skagway/Haines into the interior is steep, remote, and beautiful. Also, an option is to ride up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy then take the BS Ferry to Prince Rupert. This is a popular option for those doing the Stuart-Cassiar.

    Bells Alaska Guide online has detailed mile by mile logs for all of these highways.
    It's not a good idea for a beginning tourer - but possible.
    PROVIDED you are prepared and careful.
    ABSOLUTELY KNOW BEAR PRECAUTIONS.

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    This does have a sort of Into the Wild flavor, doesn't it? Much better to go to Alaska after freeze-up, with dogs. That's the tradition. Very hard to travel in summer. Very beautiful in winter.

  17. #17
    mev
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    Browse a copy of The Milepost at your local book store and see if it gives you interesting road information.

    In the past, I've found The Milepost helpful in my tours through BC/YT/NWT/AK.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Geography is not my strength, but when I try to use maps on the comp, the area is so large that if I want any details on town/city names, I can't see what territories I'm in... have to zoom way out.
    Thanks for the suggestions on a good guide, and information about the ferry to Prince Rupert. I'll be cycling from Virginia to Washington from April through July, so by the time I fly back out in August to pick up the journey and do AK, my experience will be increased by leaps and bounds, as this is my first long tour. It will give me an idea of what my pace is, and what option I should choose in cycling to AK, which is my true desire.
    I'd been told that I should be "out" of AK, and dashing through Washington, and Oregon by the end of Sept, in order to avoid freezing weather and snow. This is why I chose the season I chose. To avoid harsh winter weather in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and even Southern CA.
    I'll look into Bells Alaska guide online also.
    There are months to research and prepare for this, or to recognize that I can only ferry up to AK, and cycle in AK, then finish the 2011 tour and plan another tour to just cycle up to AK with a longer time-frame, more experience, and perhaps some other touring cyclists.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    I'm re-visiting this thread, because I don't see why I can't cycle from Anacortes, WA up the Inland Island highway, to Prince Rupert, and ferry to Ketchikan. Is that not possible? I mean, if I drove that, nobody would say,"you didn't DRIVE to AK." what's the deal guys?

  20. #20
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    That would be a nice trip. You actually also first need a ferry from Anacortes to Victoria, however.

    I'd probably say you didn't drive to AK. You covered more miles on water than on 4 wheels. Still an awesome trip.

    I guess if you're looking for some good braggin' words, you could go with "I rode my bike the length of Vancouver Island, then took the ferry to Ketchikan.

    Oh, and the Vancouver Island bike ride would end at Port Hardy, which is near Fort Rupert. Prince Rupert is further up on the mainland.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 01-22-11 at 09:44 PM.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member skyzo's Avatar
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    Sounds like a fun trip, about the budget, there is actually another conversation about this going on in a thread called "how much does a tour cost" right now.

    Try looking up the individual state's maps, and sometimes they will have a key with all the available free/nearly free campgrounds. I know this is true for states such as oregon and washington, but I'm not so sure about the midwest states.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Lester,
    I know what you are talking about. That would be cycling to Canada, and taking the ferry to AK. If you googlemap the trip by bike it shows a ferry up the Pacific ocean. If you request to do it by car, it shows a ferry that goes through a network of islands in a narrow waterway that looked like it was inland to me. You are right.
    Thanks,
    Cherri


    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    That would be a nice trip. You actually also first need a ferry from Anacortes to Victoria, however.

    I'd probably say you didn't drive to AK. You covered more miles on water than on 4 wheels. Still an awesome trip.

    I guess if you're looking for some good braggin' words, you could go with "I rode my bike the length of Vancouver Island, then took the ferry to Ketchikan.

    Oh, and the Vancouver Island bike ride would end at Port Hardy, which is near Fort Rupert. Prince Rupert is further up on the mainland.
    Last edited by Spokie; 01-24-11 at 08:34 PM. Reason: Mispelled Canada

  23. #23
    Godfather of Soul SBRDude's Avatar
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    One thing to keep in mind about your budget in AK is that food and supplies are probably more expensive than in the lower 48.

  24. #24
    Senior Member dogontour's Avatar
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    I have nothing to add to this since I've never been to Alaska but I just wanted to say that it sounds like a great adventure! Are you going to blog it?

  25. #25
    Senior Member Spokie's Avatar
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    Haha. I'm thinking there won't be much reception for about 900 miles;^D

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