Date: March 24th, 2021
Distance: 45 Miles
Song of the Day: On Top of the World - Imagine Dragons
Rode out to the Point Barrow this morning to start the trip. It was about 10 miles outside of town, and in these conditions that isn't an easy trip. The temperature was about -20 and the winds didn't help. I did feel good to be back on the bike again. There is an intoxicating mixture of excitement and trepidation to starting a long journey. You can plan as much as you like, but being there is the only true test. Some experiences will be amazing, and some frustrating. Being successful requires the ability to adapt.
Arriving at the point there is not much to look at. Winter snow covers the land and sea indescriminately. But I had my GPS unit, and that assured me I was the northernmost person in America. I made a short video, took some photos and then rode around on the frozen ocean for a bit. Ive been to the Arctic Ocean twice and each time found it more bikable than swimmable.
By the time I was done getting my pictures I knew it was time to go. My hands were starting to freeze. The bare tundra and pack ice gave no shelter from the winds. Even a modest breeze at those temperatures can quickly lead to frostbite. I headed back to town in order to pick up the rest of my gear.
Once everything was strapped back onto the bike I was ready to leave Utqiagavik on my own. I needed supplies for a journey I wasn't sure how long it would be. I wasn't even sure what the road would be like but I headed south out of town anyway. I didn't ahve much to go on, but I followed any road that looked like it was going my direction and thing seemed to work out. Just south of town is a small road winding its way South. There was even a reasonable amount of traffic on the road. It felt like a truck, car, or snow machine was passing every ten to twenty minutes. The people riding were often amused to see me out there. One gentleman on a snow machine stopped to ask about my travels and we shared a bit of beef jerky.
The compacted snow made for good traveling. Both in being able to maintain a speed and making it easy to navigate. I was never worried about loosing the trail and getting lost in the vast expanse of snowy tundra. The other item that made navigation easy was the gas pipeline. A few hundred yards from the road was a small, above ground, pipeline that takes natural gas to small communities South of Utqiagvik.
I knew this wouldn't last though. I wasn't taking the main road to Wainwright. Instead I was going to try the more arduous crossing to Prudhoe Bay. Soon enough I found the turn off. I was happy to note that it was quite well marked. With the minimal amount of information I could get about the place I wasn't sure what the trail would look like. After the turn east the trail did get smaller, but it was still easy to follow. The track was fairly well compressed too, though not as wide and flat as before. I made another ten or so miles east before the light began to fade. It was not as far as I wanted to go, but a good start.