After Midnight in Denali

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It was just a matter of time before the subject of riding a motorcycle to Alaska came up for consideration. For those of us who do motorcycle touring, it’s the equivalent of climbing Mt. Rainier due to the distances involved, the poor road conditions on the Alaska Highway, the remoteness, the weather, the mosquitoes, etc. I think few people call climbing Rainier fun. They do it for the experience, the adventure, the sense of accomplishment and the stories they get to tell afterwards. If they have fun along the way, that’s icing on the cake. Riding to Alaska is much the same. You have to have a high adventure drive, a good sense of humor and the ability to be flexible. So after months of research and planning with my brother, Paul, we pack up and take off with two of our riding buddies, Jeff and Trevor.

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Instead of riding the 1,500 mile Alaska Highway there and back, we opt to take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Haines, Alaska up the Inside Passage along the British Columbia and Alaska coastlines. Our 3 days and 3 nights, 900 mile journey turns out to be an amazingly delightful way to start the trip. For starters, the scenery is superb: the ocean water, the fir forests, the mountains, the glaciers, the skies, the sunsets, the whales, the bald eagles. Then add the novelty of the ship itself. This is a true working vessel transporting people home or to new jobs or to vacations. The hold is packed with semi trucks, cars, campers, SUVs and motorbikes. But there are enough amenities and activities to make the trip comfortable and enjoyable. Add a real cast of characters, with a capital C, consisting of passengers, crew, and yours truly for a semi-wacky and cheerful atmosphere. One motorcyclist has a Buddha glued to his front fender and never leaves home without it. A lumberjack named Chain Saw Chuck skillfully plays “Locomotive Breath” and other rock tunes on an acoustic guitar in the ferry cocktail lounge. Some early twenty-somethings from New Jersey are gleefully roaming the streets of Ketchikan, Alaska during a port stop looking to buy some legendary, homegrown, Alaskan agricultural products. But, best of all, is the dawning realization that there is nothing to really do but relax and enjoy the ride. Yes, this is rather novel for me since my vacations always involve lots of effort, schedules, a high degree of concentration and skill, organization, teamwork…..hey, wait a minute! That sounds exactly like work! Doh!

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To make a long story short, we emerge from the ferry’s belly on our bikes, thoroughly rested and smiling, ready to ride. We’ve made new friends, traded stories and concocted new ones, taken lots of naps and slowed down enough to marvel at the world we live in as we sailed through it. Over the next ten days, we will ride 3,700 miles through Alaska, the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, and traverse the entire length of the Alaska Highway before returning to Seattle. We will ride through one rainstorm after the next, every day, during the ten day ride. We will ride through gravel, mud, dust, hail and fog. We will see mountains and glacier on a scale that boggles the mind. (I always thought Mt Rainier was mighty impressive until I saw three such volcanoes side by side!) We’ll meet other intrepid adventurers along the way including a guy from Japan who was riding a Honda Super Cub 50 scooter from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic Ocean. (And we thought we were rugged he-man motorcyclists!)

As many of you have read over the years, my prior motorcycling adventures have had a strong vision quest component to them and usually involved a fair amount of pain, discomfort and healing. This trip, on the other hand, turns out to be very gentle; no scarred up chakras or past life wounds to heal. That’s okay with me and I just focus on soaking up the natural beauty all around me. By the time we reach Denali National Park, I’m ready for some quiet interaction with the Elementals.

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My fellow riders have gone to bed. It’s midnight but due to being so far North, the sky doesn’t darken. I go for a walk around the campground as is my “nightly” ritual. I notice a trail heading off through the forest toward the sound of running water. We’ve been warned about bears, wolves and moose. I stop and ask my heart if it is safe. I see that no harm will befall me so I step into the woods and after a short walk, I reach a river. The light in the sky is lovely. The sound of the water is music. I sit on a large boulder in the river and let the energy of the place flow through me. My great affection for Mother Earth and all of her non-human inhabitants wells up in me. I reflect on the Shaman path I’ve been walking these past few years and I reaffirm my dedication to it.

I lie down and put my cheek on the rock’s surface. The rock is absolutely alive. It feels like I’m riding on the back of a whale. I marvel at the bond we are sharing. As a physical creature, I’m a mere 46 years old while the rock is ancient. I’m so temporary in this world and my new friend here will be here long after I’m gone. I feel honored and blessed to be a part of the sacred portal that has formed around this rock, in this place, at this time. Adding my mortal intent completes the alignment of body, mind, Spirit, Earth and Universe. I’m asked if I am willing to leave something in this magical place. I am. I take off my silver Kokopelli ring and flood it with the energy that is flowing through me. As I drop it into the milky, glacial silt laden water, I see the ring of the many spirits surrounding me and feel their loving energy. This place will now always be a part of me on many levels.

I take one last look upstream and I become deeply aware of my profound, deeply spiritual link with Inga and Freya, our beloved German Shepherd. Their higher selves are always with me but I can’t help but miss their physical contact, their friendship, and the wonderful, brief, mortal lifetime we are sharing. I’m so ready to go home and tomorrow, we head for the Alaska Highway to do just that. Perfect. — Scott Bruce Duncan */:-)

Click here to read about our entire Alaska trip.

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