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  1. #1
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    Anchorage to Seattle in September

    A friend and myself are going to be touring from Anchorage to Seattle this fall and I was hoping to draw on some of this forums knowledge to better prepare ourselves. I know that many people may say that that is too late in the year to tour that far north, but we are absolutely expecting to get snowed on at least once or twice on this trip, but this time frame was when we could make this trip work. Our route is to head north from anchorage to Tok where we will follow the Alcan to the Cassiar Hwy (Dease Lake). We'll follow this south to Yellowhead Hwy to Prince George at which point we will turn south on Cariboo Hwy. At this point we aren't sure if we'll ride the sea to sky hwy through whistler or stay on the east side of the coast range ( this way is a little shorter with less climbing) it will most likely depend on whether or not we're ahead or behind itinerary. We are planning on this taking 35 days and averaging ~70 miles per day. This will be a lot of new territory for both of us so I'm just looking for any info that you all have.

    P.S. A little more info is that I have already found the milepost and plan on getting a copy to supplement our maps. I am a outdoor guide by profession and my friend is a competent outdoorsman so we are planning to camp most of the time with the potential to couchsurf in larger towns. We will be able to be fully self supported for upwards of 5-6 days, but I would like information on what the frequency of resupplies will be, no use carrying more food than necessary. I would also be interested to know info on road conditions and any other information that you all see as pertinent.

    Thanks,
    Dusty

  2. #2
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    I haven't biked that route, but I have driven more or less that exact route in mid-September (driving back from Glennallen, Alaska, down to Seattle). Mid-September you might be looking at lows in the teens or 20s at night in the interior, and yes, the possibility of snow. It's a pretty time of year, though, with fall foliage and the like. Bears may be more active since they are frantically bulking up for winter, so be extra-extra bear safe (which I guess doesn't make sense, as you are either bear safe or not). 70 miles per day might be optimistic, especially if you run into any construction zones. On a plus note, you'll still have 12-14 hours of daylight in Alaska in min-September, so you have good time to bike.

    The bigger concern is that in September a lot of travel-oriented businesses start shutting down, so you can't always count on a business noted in the Milepost being open.

    Here's a CGOAB journal from some folks who biked in the Yukon and BC in the fall. Might be useful: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...id=12974&v=1Gu

    By the way, from Anchorage you'll ride more east/NE to Tok than north ;-)

  3. #3
    Hooked on Touring
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    I've biked up to Alaska, the Yukon, and the NWT a half-dozen times. I am familiar with all the routes you have mentioned. September can be pretty wet. Since temps are declining it can make for tough riding. Nothing quite like day after day of cold & wet. Then again, you may have simply beautiful weather. The past few years have been bizarre. Like right now - heavy rains in mid-summer in California during the middle of a prolonged drought.

    With the advent of RVs and more self-contained units, the number of roadhouses on the Alaska Highway has been declining. When I first rode up to Alaska almost 25 years ago, there were roadhouses every 20 or 25 miles. A lot of the smaller ones are gone now - which makes it tougher for the cyclist. Plus many of them shut down soon after Labor Day - Labour Day in Canada. You are never more than a day or two's riding from some service - even on the Stuart-Cassiar Highway, but that day or two can be pretty darn cold and wet.

    And black spruce offers scant cover from the rain. I can say from experience. They are the scrawniest little trees. They get a little bigger as you head south. I'm from Wyoming - probably the closest thing to Alaska in the lower 48 - but it doesn't necessarily prepare you for Alaska and the Yukon. One of the things that might prove unexpected is the difficulty in finding a campsite. The ground is often muskeg and/or with significant downed trees. One possibility - esp. on the Stuart-Cassiar is to use the apron of BC provincial rest areas. Although signs say "No Camping" they are often the best choice for miles - usually dry ground, mowed once or twice a season, and with an outhouse. Sand/gravel bars on streams are another possibility. Heavy runoff in spring produces wide, braided stream beds that are well-exposed by fall. Plus, there is usually lots of driftwood for fires.

    Safe trip - - J

  4. #4
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Cold, dark, and wet...sounds like fun. I've gone up the the Cassiar & Alcan (Seattle to Deadhorse) but it was in May/June/July. Roads are mixed surface. It's really all about the weather and your Karma. Enjoy.

    My day-off at Dease Lake in June (cool, light, and mostly dry):

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    Should be a beautiful trip. It will be an awesome trip if you prepare for the cold and wet. Services are very limited on the Cassiar, and expensive when they can be found. Pretty much from White Horse in the north to Smithers on the south of the Cassiar you won't find many stores to restock on food. There's plenty of gas stations but I can't imagine eating out of a gas station's pantry (especially these gas stations...) for too long.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    I've biked up to Alaska, the Yukon, and the NWT a half-dozen times. September can be pretty wet. Since temps are declining it can make for tough riding. Nothing quite like day after day of cold & wet.

    Safe trip - - J
    Exactly my thoughts. May weather can be surprisingly beautiful, so can some Fall days. But most definitely (mid Sept on), there will be extremely windy, cold and wet days mixed in. Snow to me is less dampening than cold and wet.

  7. #7
    Senior Member kenmcchord's Avatar
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    I would suggest checking out this blog. Alaska to Mexico

    A couple young men did a tour, as the web address says, from Alaska to Mexico. Good stories in there to get you in the mood.

  8. #8
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    I'm bound for Alaska again within a year, and in fact will be doing something along the same lines as what you are thinking of, this time.

    That CGOAB journal is a nice read since they were there in the fall as well. Doesn't matter when you go the great north, you'll likely be wet often. Remember in your gear decisions that staying dry is nearly impossible when you are riding all day in pouring rain; staying warm will be the important part. Enjoy your trip planning!
    Last edited by Miles2go; 08-05-14 at 04:41 PM.
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    Thanks for the input everyone, I've spent some time in AK but only in the winter so I'm sure this is going to be a totally different experience than that, although it sounds like the wind is there all year round. Does anyone that has traveled in the area know of the quality of the resupplies in the larger towns like Whitehorse and Smithers? I know that the gas stations in between will most likely have a poor selection of food, but I'm not sure what to expect in the larger towns.

    Thanks,
    Dusty

  10. #10
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teleman73 View Post
    Thanks for the input everyone, I've spent some time in AK but only in the winter so I'm sure this is going to be a totally different experience than that, although it sounds like the wind is there all year round. Does anyone that has traveled in the area know of the quality of the resupplies in the larger towns like Whitehorse and Smithers? I know that the gas stations in between will most likely have a poor selection of food, but I'm not sure what to expect in the larger towns.

    Thanks,
    Dusty
    The larger the town the more resupply options. I didn't plan but would always buy more staples when in larger towns and a few items in little towns and Inuit outposts. I don't remember ever seriously worrying about food till I was on the Dalton Highway (north of Fairbanks). I always tried to carry at least an extra day of food.

    Whitehorse has a walmart , enough said.

  11. #11
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    Surprisingly, good clean water also can be scarce as well. Planning on 70 miles a day is doable. I rode from Fairbanks along the AlCan to Dawson Creek, and then down through BC, (in 3 trips) and they all averaged 75 miles a day. Bears can be a concern along the northern part of BC.

  12. #12
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Yeah, and filters can really get clogged up in those rivers, depending on how it's running. I've relied mostly on carrying what I need for a couple of days and have been alright getting to the next source, during summer. That's the difference. Not sure what wouldn't have been open if I was there in the fall.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I'm one who would say it's too late to leave. We have had full on snow-never-leaves serious winter in the first week of Sept. It's not normal but at the very least I would suggest you consider how you're going to bail out if it doesn't work. If winter hits you won't be concerned with a day or two of snow. You could find yourself in serious, continuous winter conditions. We do a race in late June that goes from Haines Jct to Haines and two summers ago the leg at the top of the pass was almost called for snow. I would hope that you would be able to hitchhike over some mountain passes and such but one of the things you might consider is a box with extra winter clothing in the event you need some gear beyond what you brought. I would, for instance, bring insulated over booties at the very least. No...I would probably bring boots of some sort and use spd pedals that flip to provide a flat side when it's too cold for clipless. From Anchorage to Fairbanks (using either highway direction) takes you over some passes that could very easily have snow in Sept. By the time you get into Canada it's a very high likelihood that you will indeed hit snow. I'm not sure that you will find -any- groceries from Tok to Haines Jct. Actually, now that I think about it, the grocery store in Haines Jct. is no longer open at all. Tok to Whitehorse will be at least one stretch where you'll most likely need to be almost entirely self contained. I would expect gas station food and a restaurant or two to be open in Haines and the restaurant in Destruction Bay may still be open with gas station food for sale. Best of luck and I have to close with the comment that as an Alaskan with a fat tire bike that rides occasionally down to -30F, I would never even consider leaving Anchorage at that time of year simply because I would not want to take all the clothing and gear needed to ensure a safe, trouble free trip. But that's just me and adventures are all about facing potential adversity so again, best of luck and drop a big note to the forums with your results.
    Alaskans for global warming.

  14. #14
    Dreaming of Touring tonytwotimes's Avatar
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    Hi Teleman,

    Exciting trip you are planning, I just came back a week ago from Victoria --> Inuvik on many of the roads you are taking. Here is some info to add:

    1) Yukon Campgrounds will be your savior. They have recreation/cook houses at each campground with a fireplace and wood. Check online for how long these campgrounds will be running. When it is wet you can use the recreation houses to do laundry, cook, and warm yourself up after a creek shower. Furthermore, you can set up in them when it is raining, although I don't think this is technically allowed. They are amazing and in my opinion a necessity if you are going to be bike touring at that time of the year. If the campgrounds are closed you should still be able to get in, but you may have to source your own wood.

    Once you hit BC you won't have these rec houses anymore

    2) Roads from Whitehorse to Kitwanga (End of the Cassiar highway) are mostly good. I encountered about 30km of gravel at most on this 1300-1400 stretch.

    3) Agreed about being EXTRA bear cautious during this time of year. Bears are especially numerous around Bell II area on the Cassiar highway.

    4) Grocery places in order from Whitehorse. Stock up as much as you can in Whitehorse if you want to save money. By good margin, cheapest place until Prince George:

    -(Cafe) Johnson's crossing
    -Teslin: Small Grocery
    -(Restaurant) Rancheria
    -(Gas Station) HWY 37 JNT - limited junk food
    -(Gas Station) Jade City
    -Dease Lake: Small-Mid Grocery
    -Iskut: Small-Mid Grocery
    -Bell II: Lodge and small store
    -Meziadin Lake: Small Store at campground
    -Kitwanga: A couple small grocery stores/gas stations. Best one is 5km before the junction. Inquire locals about this one

    5) I would likely want to go with a synthetic sleeping bag during this time of year

    6) Agreed about the extra warmth in boots and gloves. My hands and feet were going numb during portions of cold and wet on my trip.

    7) No problems accessing creek water along the entire stretch

    8) One final thing I would recommend AGAINST doing the Yellowhead highway from Kitwanga to Prince George. Every cyclist I have talked to did not enjoy the highway. Although you should have a tailwind headed in the direction of prince George. Shoulders are narrow and cracked, and the traffic, especially from Rupert eastbound is heavy.

    I recommend heading west at Kitwanga, taking the ferry from Rupert to Port Hardy and doing 5-6 days down Vancouver Island to Victoria from which you can take the ferry straight to the states or over to the mainland.

    That is what I would do


    Any other questions feel free to shoot me a PM. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
    www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/northtoinuvik [Victoria --> Inuvik; Summer '14]

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    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Great recent data there Tony.
    Ron - Washington
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonytwotimes View Post
    Hi Teleman,

    Exciting trip you are planning, I just came back a week ago from Victoria --> Inuvik on many of the roads you are taking. Here is some info to add:

    1) Yukon Campgrounds will be your savior. They have recreation/cook houses at each campground with a fireplace and wood. Check online for how long these campgrounds will be running. When it is wet you can use the recreation houses to do laundry, cook, and warm yourself up after a creek shower. Furthermore, you can set up in them when it is raining, although I don't think this is technically allowed. They are amazing and in my opinion a necessity if you are going to be bike touring at that time of the year. If the campgrounds are closed you should still be able to get in, but you may have to source your own wood.

    Once you hit BC you won't have these rec houses anymore

    2) Roads from Whitehorse to Kitwanga (End of the Cassiar highway) are mostly good. I encountered about 30km of gravel at most on this 1300-1400 stretch.

    3) Agreed about being EXTRA bear cautious during this time of year. Bears are especially numerous around Bell II area on the Cassiar highway.

    4) Grocery places in order from Whitehorse. Stock up as much as you can in Whitehorse if you want to save money. By good margin, cheapest place until Prince George:

    -(Cafe) Johnson's crossing
    -Teslin: Small Grocery
    -(Restaurant) Rancheria
    -(Gas Station) HWY 37 JNT - limited junk food
    -(Gas Station) Jade City
    -Dease Lake: Small-Mid Grocery
    -Iskut: Small-Mid Grocery
    -Bell II: Lodge and small store
    -Meziadin Lake: Small Store at campground
    -Kitwanga: A couple small grocery stores/gas stations. Best one is 5km before the junction. Inquire locals about this one

    5) I would likely want to go with a synthetic sleeping bag during this time of year

    6) Agreed about the extra warmth in boots and gloves. My hands and feet were going numb during portions of cold and wet on my trip.

    7) No problems accessing creek water along the entire stretch

    8) One final thing I would recommend AGAINST doing the Yellowhead highway from Kitwanga to Prince George. Every cyclist I have talked to did not enjoy the highway. Although you should have a tailwind headed in the direction of prince George. Shoulders are narrow and cracked, and the traffic, especially from Rupert eastbound is heavy.

    I recommend heading west at Kitwanga, taking the ferry from Rupert to Port Hardy and doing 5-6 days down Vancouver Island to Victoria from which you can take the ferry straight to the states or over to the mainland.

    That is what I would do


    Any other questions feel free to shoot me a PM. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
    But you just eliminated 800 KMs of the bike trip... Everything else I agree with...
    He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts...for support rather than illumination. I do like my beer, so sometimes I do end up leaning on the lamp-post...

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the info Tony, I appreciate it a lot and that'll be a great help in terms of food planning. As for contingencies If we needed to due to weather we could cut to Haines and catch the ferry to Juneau and then to Prince Rupert. That would bump us considerably south to hopefully warmer temps. I have looked at the Prince Rupert To Port Hardy route, that would take about 200 miles off the route and is something we would consider if we were running late or just decided that it would serve our purposes better. At this time though we are still planning on heading through Prince George, in part because the ferry to Port Hardy only leaves on fridays so that could be a limiting factor.

  18. #18
    Hooked on Touring
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    In addition to heading north, I've taken the Yellowhead Highway a number of times.
    Although the scenery is not spectacular, it was usually fine.
    Plenty of services at Hazelton, Smithers, Houston, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof.
    (Plus a couple of spots in between)

    The worst stretch is approaching Prince George, but you will have a long downhill into town.
    Old Hazelton off the highway has a fabulous campground at the junction of the rivers.
    Plus there is the historic K'san village.
    Campgrounds in most of the above towns - although they may be closed by then.

    Highway 97 is another story. It has a good deal of traffic,
    but has shoulders in many places as the highway is improved.
    Still, I don't remember it fondly.

    Best - J
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  19. #19
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I've ridden from Prince Rupert to Prince George twice and agree that the traffic is heavy, especially chip trucks, but I had no problems. I wore a high visibility vest and would move off the road to allow them to pass if there was oncoming traffic along the shoulder-less sections. In return, they would give me ample riding room otherwise. I actually talked to a couple of the drivers and they appreciated me giving them room as well. They kept track of me by cb radio. I also got pulled over for speeding on the long hill into Prince George, so be warned!

  20. #20
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    The latests version of what I'm planning will have me cycling up across the Canadian border rather than taking a ferry up and biking down.

    Wondering if anyone tuned in has biked north across the border with bear spray, declared it, and was able to keep it. Did it work for you or did it not, when heading north? Should work for me, I bought the stuff up there a little more than a year ago.

    Sounds like a mirror will be a must given the chip trucks and thanks for the insight on being pulled over for speeding Big Lew. Good to keep in mind. Did that just turn out to be a nice conversation…or worse?
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  21. #21
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles2go View Post
    The latests version of what I'm planning will have me cycling up across the Canadian border rather than taking a ferry up and biking down.

    Wondering if anyone tuned in has biked north across the border with bear spray, declared it, and was able to keep it. Did it work for you or did it not, when heading north? Should work for me, I bought the stuff up there a little more than a year ago.

    Sounds like a mirror will be a must given the chip trucks and thanks for the insight on being pulled over for speeding Big Lew. Good to keep in mind. Did that just turn out to be a nice conversation…or worse?
    When I heard his siren and then saw his flashing lights, I removed my speedometer and stuck it in my pants. I said that I really didn't know how fast I was going but he noticed the empty bracket and stared at me for awhile. He then said that if there was even one child near the road I would be receiving at least one ticket, possibly 2, (speeding and undue care ) and at my age I should have known better. I thanked him for his descretion and he then asked me all about my journey. (I think he was a rider as well, lucky for me)

  22. #22
    Senior Member kenmcchord's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Lew View Post
    When I heard his siren and then saw his flashing lights, I removed my speedometer and stuck it in my pants. I said that I really didn't know how fast I was going but he noticed the empty bracket and stared at me for awhile. He then said that if there was even one child near the road I would be receiving at least one ticket, possibly 2, (speeding and undue care ) and at my age I should have known better. I thanked him for his descretion and he then asked me all about my journey. (I think he was a rider as well, lucky for me)
    How fast were you going?

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