July finally came around and I headed home from where I was living in Istanbul to start the trip I was planning for months. We had 14 companies sponsoring us to shoot photos on our trip 4,000 miles from LA to the last road north in Alaska’s Arctic Circle. My bike broke down in Northern Washington 2,000 miles in but the trip ended up being far better than I ever anticipated. I was shattered when I spent 3k on a bike I had to sell for 500$ just shy of Canada. I found myself on the side of the road with my thumb out hoping to get farther north. I still couldn’t believe I was wet on the side of the road freezing when two weeks ago I was in 120 degree heat in California’s desert. After hitching my way up north a ways, I finally rented a shitty car to take me to the Arctic Circle.
I drove through the Sea to Sky Highway through British Columbia fueled by coffee and and the natural beauty surrounding me at all times through The Cassier Highway into Canada’s Yukon territory where all the signs read “don’t pick up hitchhikers” and “have you seen this person?” The Yukon is where you go to escape from your past life. The kind of lawless place where you could probably get away with murdering someone. There are times when you don’t see anyone for hours at a time. The roads are devoid of all life aside from the occasional black bear and moose. Nothing is more terrifying than hearing a car slowly roll by your tent at 3am on the side of the road miles away from any village or other dwelling. Nothing to do but clutch your bear mace and fondle your tent pockets for your pocket knife. The towns don’t have much to do but just pass through the local bar for a beer and a whiskey shot. If you really want to get weird you can drink a glass of whiskey with a dead miner’s toe floating in your glass. True story. Other than that, you thank your lucky stars you don’t live there, drink more coffee, and keep heading north.
I finally crossed the border into Alaska and gunned it to Fairbanks to meet up with my friends. We decided to finish this thing as a team and we all piled into the car. I was warned that the Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska was riddled with basketball sized holes in the road, truckers who run cars off of the road for pure momentum to make it up dangerous mountain hills, bears galore, and whiteout blizzard conditions. That was exactly right in every way. Beyond the Arctic Circle it feels crazier than anywhere else I’d been thus far. That outlaw feeling of The Yukon was multiplied 10 fold on that bumpy mud filled highway of potholes and truck drivers. It was weird leaving the circle and seeing south on the compass, but we left the Brooks Mountains in the rearview and followed the Alaska pipeline back down the Dalton Highway.
Denali was something out of a dream. We waded through small glacial rivers up to our thighs in the coldest water I’ve ever experienced only to discover fields of delicious wild berries and the most insane mountain range we had seen on the trip. We summited a medium sized peak after a hellishly steep climb right up the side of an insanely mind-blowing mountain overlooking snowcapped peaks as far as the eye could see. I spent the next three nights alone drinking whiskey and listening to Cass McCombs and Father John Misty by the fire until 5am hoping to see the northern lights. Finally on the last night I saw green and yellow colors stream across the sky over the trees of our cabin. I tried to wake everyone up, but the lights were gone in less than 5 minutes.
My friends sold their bikes and flew back to the lower 48. I decided that my trip was just starting and went my separate way. I blew through Sarah Palin’s town of Wasilla only to be ticked for going 6mph over the speed limit by some prick cop, made my way to Seward and hiked the Harding Icefield, hopped on a boat to explore orcas, bears, whales, and icebergs in the Kenai Fjords, blew back through the Yukon avoiding bears, moose, buffalo, caribou and cops, across the plains of Alberta and into the rockies of Jasper and Banff, back into the states for camping in Glacier National Park in Montana, passing through Idaho and back to the coast to call it quits with more than 10,000 miles down, 50 rolls of film and two maxed credit cards. I got an email from a photographer from Australia who happened to be in LA and met up for a trip to The Sequoias, Yosemite, and King’s Canyon with our mutual friend and started the whole thing over again.