I felt very lucky this morning when I looked out on a bright sunny day. Maybe, I thought, I would have good weather all the way to Deadhorse. Yeh, right. But I was not to know the truth for a while. North from Coldfoot the road is paved for about 35 miles and one starts to get views of the Brooks Range even before the pavement ends. So note to future travelers. Go North of Coldfoot a bit as the road is paved for a while and the views are good (provided the weather is OK).
Eventually the pavement ended, blue skies departed, light rain started and the mud arrived. Now deep in the southern side of the Brooks Range a large turnout appeared where a sign announced that the forest officially ends. Once there was a pine tree next to this turn out that was considered the "last pine tree", but it disappeared some years back. Note the mud on this turnout.
Atigun Pass (the transition from the south side of the Brooks Range to the north side) arrived shortly after the forest ended and it was a real struggle. Motorcycle helmets do not have wipers so the heavy rain meant that I really could not see very much of anything. The rain also meant that the climb to the summit of the pass was covered with water and a bit slippery. The descent was even worse with 3-4 inches of mud covering the road and so I crept down from the pass in 2nd gear at 10-15 mph. The thick mud continued for about 10 miles after the summit and so did my white knuckle crawl.
The mud and slow progress after Atigun was more than a bit dispiriting as, in my planning, I had not really thought about the fact that Atigun Pass was only 70 miles from Coldfoot and that after the pass there was still 170 miles to Deadhorse. But now while I crawled along at 10 mph I contemplated the possibility that I would have to travel the entire 170 mile at a crawl.
Fortunately as I departed the Brooks out onto the rolling hills of the tundra the weather and roads improved (or at least they dried out a bit). About 60 miles from Deadhorse at the end of what was already a long, tiring and testing day a 20 mile section of roadwork provided another test of my riding skills. It seems this section of road flooded earlier in the year, the first time it has ever flooded. So the roadway was being raised, which required that a base of stone be put down. When I got to this section the road was covered with a generous layer of stones of 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Just marvelous for motorcycle riding. Though I must admit that marbles on concrete would have been worse.
Needless to say I arrived in Deadhorse wrung out and tired. So I picked the first hotel I could find and got a room. It turned out to be Deadhorse Camp. A somewhat spartan establishment, but it provided a bed, warmth, and communal bath facilities for $219 per night. Breakfast and dinner was extra but available.
Overnight I stressed somewhat about the return journey. Today tested my riding skills to the limit. A bit more rain particularly around Atigun Pass and tomorrow might be beyond my skills.