Taking in the nature and the weather of the far Northwest.
As they trekked through the Alaskan wilderness of the late 1800s, John Burroughs, a companion of naturalist John Muir wrote, “Things are on a new scale.” It was a moment of supreme understatement. Alaska could fit 19 of the lower states within its borders and its shores account for 50 per cent of the entire U.S. coastline. As residents like to point out: if you cut Alaska in half, Texas would be the third-largest state. After thousands of kilometres and one unsurpassed experience after another, I could only imagine how Alaska might continue besting itself.
Riding south out of Fairbanks on Suzi Blue, my trusty 2022 Suzuki V-Strom DL650XA, I found the highway was an uneventful corridor of trees until just
north of Healy where, along the boundary of Denali National Park, I was thrust into the Alaska Mountains. Steep ravines fell away on either side, and sharp, towering peaks rose into the clouds gathering overhead. The weather was turning. Since my partner, Steph, was flying into Anchorage to join me in a few days, and since Denali was on our itinerary, I rode by the gate. I hoped the view of North America’s highest peak would be better on our return.
Camping or No Camping
As temperatures and precipitation fell, my bones grew increasingly resistant to my intended camping in Talkeetna, and began lobbying for a warm, dry motel. I soon discovered, however, that there was no vacancy anywhere from here to Anchorage — more than two hours away. So camping it would be.
Talkeetna turned out to be a charming place that maintained its air as a rustic gold mining centre. Of course, it now offered gourmet coffee, gifts, and helicopter tours over nearby glaciers. I also discovered that the main street was the inspiration for the old TV series Northern Exposure, so Talkeetna is what most visitors expect of Alaska.
Riding into Anchorage, on the other hand, I was struck by how much the city was like any other. In fact, locals joke that the best part of Anchorage
is that in under an hour you can drive to Alaska. I searched out the House of Harley-Davidson, which offers free camping (including bathroom and shower) to riders of all makes and models.
Just Park Anywhere
As a beach-loving sun worshipper, Steph’s journey to Anchorage did not top her bucket list. I was grateful and determined to make the most of our 10 days. (Little did we know the leaden clouds and cold drizzle would be our almost-daily…