An accident of a truck brings us together. Quentin, Austin and me watch the efforts to get the huge lorry with trailer back on the road. The driver fortunatly is more or less unhurt. To beat more of the time we ask each other the what and where. It turns out that they are on a hunting trip, Quentin as guide, Austin as the camp-cook. In other trailers are the horses with which they are driving further up the Dalton Highway, camp at an airfield and take off with the horses a long days ride east to their hunting camps. Since the waiting time of the rescue operation takes longer and longer, they have to let the horses out for a while, about eight of them are in one trailer, and after they confirmed with one of the police officers, I see the beautiful horses and how Quentin handels them as if he didnt do anything else in his life, which is almost true, since he grew up on a farm where his mother didnt allow him to have a horse when he was abut 4 years old, so he saddled the cows.
Austin is the first time with the outfit. He just finished his lawyers degree at university and was asked on short notice to jump in for someone else. Before he gets a serious job as a lawyer, he takes the chance for a little adventure.
Quentin was 16 when he did that job for the first time, each year since then, now he is 21.
Immediatly I catch fire and try to find out whether I could go with them, which seems not very possible, they dont need another hand, already some people joined them just to ride out the horses and equipment to the hunting camp, the "ride-out".
But I can join them for the evening at the airbase before they go and I get to know the boss of the outfit, Jim, who is a pilot as well. That fact is very needed, since he has to fly out more equipment and the paying hunters to the improvised landing field somewhere out there at the main camp.
Everybody is very friendly and I keep trying to convince Jim about the necessity that I join the outfit. I could make a professional video clip about them, or help the cook, ... . Nothing works. Everybody is very busy with all the equipment and the horses.
I help Quentin to water the horses, which means to bring each one to the creek and back. Not a very challenging task for people who grew up with horses, but it can be scary for someone who didnt. I just try to be blunt honest and calm and get it across to them. I realize that they also want to check me out, how they watch and listen to all I do and say. The curiosity is always a good base to get along with each other.
I am very surprised how well I handle the horses and that they are also easy with me and they give their best to behave.
That was very promising. Even Quentin notices that I can do the horses and he gives affirming looks.
But ok, next morning I take off north the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, while they prepare to ride east. By by hunters, maybe another time ... .
Not really a place you have to be a second time. North Norway is much more scenic and even further up north.
An oil town is booming again and again, big machines everywhere, all and everybody is set up for work. In that sense interesting, but not what I am looking for. So I left the same day back to the airfiled where we were camping the night before with the horses.
The next morning I meet Jim, the trailboss of the hunters again. He lands his small aircraft to fly out more supplies to the camp out there. We both are happy to see each other back and he is respectfully astonished that I made it in one day to Deadhorse and back. We have more chats about the beauty of flying, the single members of the group, how this and that works, what I do on my tour, and, I help him loading the aircraft.
He understands that I really want to come with them. One day. Maybe next season and he gives me his card: "The guy who is cook now will not be able to do it next year. Lets stay in touch!"
Sure I will!
"Calcium" the road?
I was told that after I was off the Dalton Highway already: they dont only water the dirtroad to make it tighter while drying and being ridden over, but they add calcium for the hardening process. That mud sticks to the vehicles in big chunks and is apperently eating all plastics, paint and rubber away. Unfortunatly there is not much of a special warning for motorcylists at these places where dry dirt changes suddenly into mud. With the semi offroad tires, me and most others ride there, it is manageble, but the sudden change from dry to wet is a trap for street tires, like all the Harley guys ride up and down there.
On one strech of the Dalton Highway I saw the working signs and since the road goes steep uphill you need a firm speed to reach the hilltop. Excactly on the other side, rigt after this hilltop, that described mud starts, the motorcycle still has the speed AND the hill is going steeper down as it was going up!
Barely I managed to slow down enough and roll through while the front wheel makes all kinds of movements to the sides.
And now I see that at the bottom a bike lays down and the ambulance just arrived.
It must have just happened, noone did anything jet. The crashed bike is on its side, someone lays next to it screaming, two other biker walk around, one is under big shock, parts and luggage is disributed everywhere. It takes me a while until I understand the situation because noone is able to give clear information. Two people on the crashed bike, the passenger, the son of the rider broke a leg. Good that each active road work site has a ready ambulance car for the case! But where was the sign for the road work site that right behind the hilltop on a steep down angle is suddenly 20 centimeters deep mud?
I help the ambuance guy to get the boy on the stretcher and in the car.
Luckily he could feel and move his other leg so no spine injury seems to have happened. Bad enough one leg is busted. He was flown out with the helicopter.
His father, still in shock tries to find excuses for the crash, but I only can see the street tires f his huge and heavy Harley ... .
I can not recommend to go up and down the Dalton without appropriate tires. And we all were lucky these days that it didnt rain. If all is muddy, I think I dont want to do that trip. Road surface turns into soap.
And all that with the trucks which cannot just stop or change a lane so quickly. But they take care as much as they can. I always greet them, they greet back, they take as much distance when they pass(!) or come from the opposite direction as possible not to throw stones on you, I always make space as much as possible on these roads without shoulder as well and even indicate when its good for them to pass and show them that I see them coming from the back. The professionals on the road appreciate these little communications.
When its dry on the gravel road there is something you cannot do anything against: when they pass you, you sink in a cloud of dust for a minute so that you cant see anything anymore where you are and where the road is, where you go and if the road turns left or right. Rarely my bike and me were ever so dirty when I came from the Dalton back.