Our experience on the Dalton Highway from Deadhorse to Fairbanks. Battling against hunger, musquitos and fatigue. If you are planning on cycling this awesome peace of pavement and gravel, make sure to read until the end, otherwise just enjoy!
We fly into Deadhorse, already 30 hours "on the road" since we left Belgium. At first we were planning on staying in a hotel for the first night. But since it was only 7AM we decided to just put our bikes together and start cycling. With our sleep deprived minds, the landscapes looked a little bleak. Just empty tundra with some snow, a pipeline in the distance and nothing else... litteraly. Apperantly we looked like two very tired belgians because suddenly a trucker started pulling over slowly towards us. Then he reached his arm outside of his window and handed us two bananas. Thank you awesome trucker guy! With this new energy boost we eventually make it to a spot where we can pitch our tent. Since we're in bear country we cook and put our food at least double the recommended amount of distance from our tent. Yes we were scared.
After a good night sleep (a little less than 14 hours!) we start cycling with renewed energy. We notice that the landscapes are changing. A little over a 100km in, the paved road ends and we continue on gravel. The nothingness becomes more and more beautiful. As we make our way along the Dalton highway we look into our trusty Ortlieb panniers and notice that they aren't that full... We didn't buy enough supplies to last us untill Fairbanks. Than your inner mathematician comes up and you start calculating and rationing. So we end up planning to cycle a bit more than planned with a lot less food than we hoped.
This hungry feeling, however, did not make the scenery any less beautifull. The boring flat tundra evolved to hilly tundra and once we passed over the Atigun Pass (we didn't hike any of it, yay!) it was like a whole new world opened up. So while singing Aladin in the downhills towards the wooded mountainsides of Brooks Range we hit a wall of mosquitos... You might think this is exagerated, but it really isn't. Believe us. You might read or hear about how bad the mosquitos are, but you are never fully prepared.
Ok, back to food. We cycled crazy days (100+ km) on really small meals, for example a lunch would consist of 3 mini donuts and a cup of soup. Not what you should be eating when you burn more than 3000 calories a day. All this to get closer to Coldfoot. To us this was the promised land, because it had a Trucker cafe and we hoped to stock up on some snacks there before continuing on to Fairbanks.
So after a big meal and the snack supplies replenished we continued on. Of course that day we also did way to many kilometers to get to the Arctic Circle Campground. When arriving there, seeing that it looked like the source of all the mosquitos in the world, we quickly hide in our tent and go to sleep. Only to wake up the next day with a pretty low feeling. The sights were still very beautifull, but we just couldnt enjoy them anymore. Thats when we decided to start hitchhiking. With two bikes and four panniers, not every car can take you. But than Barb and Jim came along. Possibly the two most friendly people in existance right now. They were on their way to Fairbanks and offered to take us along for the rest of their trip (a 5 hours drive). They even bought us lunch at the Yukon river! Barb is a tour guide on the Dalton highway, so as an extra to the free ride we get cool stories and fun facts along the way. Jim works at the Forestrie department and knew a lot about the wildfires in the area. Finally arriving in Fairbanks, a warm bed and a shower awaits us at Billies Backpacker Hostel.
So this was our experience on the Dalton Highway. We didnt cycle it all the way, but that OK. We got to see a really cool part of the world already and got to know some interesting people along the way. Now, while writing this blog in Fairbainks, we are making plans to continue our trip. Next stop is Denali national park, afterwards we make our way towards Canada (with a little detour of course).
Pictures can be found on the MEDIA page.
3 Tips for bikepacking the Dalton highway:
- Buy enough food to last from Deadhorse to Coldfoot, at leat for 10 days
- Coldfoot and Yukon river have restaurant where you can buy a hot meal and some small snacks
- Prepare for yourself for mosquitos. A headnet is the bare minimum to take, we recommend to invest a good repellent and maybe some mosquito repellent clothing