Blogging by headlamp on the Denali Highway

(a post-trip blog)
The Denali Highway was the first road access to Denali National Park and opened in 1957. Less than 15 years later, a major paved highway would eliminate the need for this 135 mile dirt road. Today, it serves as access to valleys and mountains along with three large river drainage points. The road has very little traffic and minimal services are available. It tends to be washboard and dusty, forcing speed limits down to about 35 mph.

Diane, a friend, was joining us on her Suzuki V-Strom, while we were on Kawasaki KLRs. Labor Day weekend is hunting season in Alaska, and this area is prime hunters’ heaven. We were hoping to ride through the area, explore mining roads, and camp without getting shot or running into snow. There are limited services and the weather report was calling for rain the entire weekend. But, we knew our riding days in Alaska were winding down before winter officially hit. Finally, I wanted to check out the zip line in Talkeetna – nine zips and a three hour experience; one never knows how long you will be around. With winter looming, there was a sense of acceptance for the bad weather; it will soon get worse.

We packed like we would be freezing: heated gear, winter hats for camp, and lots of beer in bubble wrap. Bubble-wrapped beer is critical on washboard rut roads; trust us, we know. Because I knew it was going to be extra cold, wet, and miserable on this trip, I opted to toss in a flask of Schnapps to help blur the edge at camp.*

Image of several bottle of beer covered in bubble wrap

Bubble-wrapped beer is essential for camping in remote places in Alaska!

We rolled out of Anchorage and made it as far as Sheep Mountain Lodge before the first issue occurred. I was dismounting from my motorcycle with hot chili and bread rolls (their bread rolls are a must if you ever visit this way) on my mind, when I see a flash of yellow from the corner of my eyes. I look over and see Michael in a “tuck-n-roll” flying away from his motorcycle; his bike lying on the ground. Michael’s bike was so fully loaded and with the ground uneven, he tipped the bike too far over to pop the kickstand down and the weight took him over. He and his bike were okay, but if he had parked ten feet more forward, he would have been trapped between a large log and his bike. Not life threatening, but he probably would have gotten banged up. In the process of the tuck-n-roll, he shredded the Bose headphone wires he was wearing.

Image of Michael and Diane in full motorcycle attire standing next to their bikes

Diane (left) and Michael (right) enjoying the rain on the Denali Highway, Alaska

I purchased a new iPod for the trip. I tend to use my iPhone for music most of the time, but it can drain the battery. Since I wanted to conserve battery for picture taking, I purchased a backup for music. I can charge the devices while riding, but sitting around in camp not on the bike drains the batteries. I pulled out my new iPod (since I had to get a backup set of headphones for Michael), and turned it on. I must have clicked one button too many, because before I knew it my iPod was in Russian! Damn it! Since it was a new device, I was not familiar with all the screens and such. We all stared at my Russian iPod, which was listing Brandie Carlile songs in such a manner I have never seen. Hmmm… It took a bit to figure out what “reset” looks like in Russian and symbols, but luckily we fixed it.

Tummies filled with chili, we rolled out into the RAIN RAIN RAIN. Destination: mosquito capital of the Alaska – Paxson Lake Campground (according to the milepost). This is also the campsite where my life-long hate of squirrels was born. I was on the look-out for the furry vermin. We made it to the campground and quickly set up the tents. Diane picked some lovely wild blueberries and Michael found the Schnapps.*

Image of Michael at a campsite drinking a bottle of Schnapps

*Funny, Michael found the Schnapps within minutes of reaching Paxson Lake Campground.

We proceeded to put our tents up in the most miserable downpour possible. And because the trees were so sparse and far apart, setting up any sort of tarp to gather under for shelter and enjoy each others’ company was made impossible. On top of that, it was a brand new tent – one we were not all the familiar with in setting up. We actually ended up reading the instructions in a down pour. We called it early and crawled into the tent just to stay dry. This became blogging by headlamp.

Image of the shadow of a person wearing a headlamp against a tent wall

Blogging by headlamp really meant pencil, light, and Write/Rain notebook.

The trail of tipped bikes
Do I look that old?
About Maya

My name is Maya, and I wander.


  1. Oh gawd, camping in the rain sucks so bad. If I never do it again that will be alright with me. I know the Denali Highway well and think it's one of the most beautiful road trips in all of Alaska but my camping days are over. I'd do it with a pickup camper. But tenting? No way.

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