Alaska as a Vacation Land For the Motorcyclist

From the September 1923 issue of Motorcyclist magazine

They tell a story about a gentleman of Hebraic extraction who, just returned from Paris, was asked, “Did you take your wife along?”

“Vot? Take a ham sandwich to a banquet?” he replied.

That, however, has nothing to do with the fact we took Mrs. Pierce along on a trip to Alaska this Summer. This story had to be started some way and the above seemed as good as any.

The Scout was with us a year ago and proved so handy in getting around that we loaded it aboard the “Alaska” again this year. It cost $34.00 for the round trip which is the reason why we didn’t take the sidecar outfit instead.

There are a number of delightful short tours around Juneau and if some of you want to take a real vacation next Summer we’ll do our best to tell you of one place to go in this and following articles in Western Motorcyclist and Western Sporto-logue, the Motorcyclist’s new brother.

“Well, well, you’re back again and brought it with you?” exclaimed a Juneau friend as we rolled up to the gasoline station. Steamship rules require that the tank be emptied, but there was enough in the bowl of the carburetor to take us a couple of blocks. We loaded two gallons of gasoline aboard at two-bits a gallon and were ready, having previously fortified ourselves with an Alaskan breakfast. They measure all appetites in that country by a miner’s normal food consumption. The result is, you get a plenty of everything with coffee, bread, butter and side dishes thrown in for luck and the prices are reasonable.

We mention this so you’ll know you won’t be held up in the matter of food, nor anything else except freight rates which isn’t the Alaskans’ fault. They don’t make ‘em.

A narrow road runs out from Juneau for a distance of nearly twenty-miles known as the Glacier Highway. The road follows Gastineau Channel, closely hugging the base of the mountains and even the sides, as Juneau and everything else does. As there were streams to cross we tucked the old “Deacon Jones” in our pocket. Besides this was bait (salmon eggs), reel, graflex and 3A with tripod. Having draped the equipment about we loaded Friend Wife on the tandm, whizzed by the Governor’s mansion and across Gold Creek and were soon on the highway proper.

Douglas Island rises abruptly from the deep blue waters of the channel. In the far distance we could see the Chilkoot range, eternally white, and on the other side, close at hand, great peaks amid which were tucked glaciers. The mightiest of all along the Highway is Mendenhall Glacier, a story in itself.

It sure was a fine morning to be alive and it was only a chance glimpse out of one corner of the left eye that made us slam on the brake and skid to a stop.

“What’s the matter now?” queried Friend Wife who had visions of tire or motor trouble.

“Just saw a Siwash snake a salmon out of Salmon Creek!” we replied, “I’d like to get one on this pole for luck and see what happens.”

It was a matter of food with the native and plain sport with us. Here was a stream alive with salmon, plentifully garnished with trout and a fellow could hook something without half trying.

The grass was matted down in one spot and a dozen salmon were scattered about. The native had a gaff hook on the end of a long pole. He’d spot a big salmon in the stream (he ignored the little fellows a foot and a half to two feet long) then wade out, let his pole drift down, then swish! Out would come a salmon!

We proceeded upstream, let the line drift into a pool and then snap it out. The first time we hooked a salmon’s tail and he didn’t stay on long, but the next time snagged him in the jaw and the battle was on. It’s a long story mates, but we landed him with the light pole the Mrs. is holding and the size may be judged by comparing the salmon hanging from the Scout handlebar.

This was a lively incident of the morning tour, but we were just starting. The motor hummed sweetly and once we remembered our early riding days when a lot of fresh gravel was encountered. So much pavement is sure spoiling the old timer and his ability to “ride the rut-wide!” We hadn’t forgotten everything, however, and made it through, safely enough.

The timber along the road reminds one of Washington and Oregon though the trees are not so large. Wild berries were plentiful and the festive blueberry was everywhere. Did you ever try a big wedge of blueberry pie smothered with whipped cream? You can get ‘em at Juneau and it’s worth the trip alone. We ate blueberry pie three times a day, then didn’t get enough.

We followed the main road, leaving the Mendenhall Glacier turnoff for another trip. As short as these Alaskan trips are, you can’t cram them into a single day because there is so much solid beauty to be enjoyed.

Auk Lake was our destination and we had been waiting a year to hear the Mrs. express her appreciation when once she saw it. We have a large picture of the beauty spot over the desk, but it can’t touch the real thing. A gem of blue, fringed by a border of green, with the dazzling white of Mendenhall Glacier in the background and beyond that a mountain with a pair of hanging glaciers clinging to its side. It leaves one speechless and Alaska is the only place in the wide world that can supply such wild beauty. One stands and looks and looks and looks, and the air is so still and silent, the lake so smooth except where a trout breaks water, and the beauty so alluring the spell of it all remains long. Clouds hung over the mountain last yearn and hid much of the beauty. This time we had sunshine and our camera got as much of the effect as it is possible for a camera to get. It has the scene, but not the rustle of the leaves, the color, nor the trout.

This lake is the spawning ground of thousands of red salmon. They come up a stream where a man dips them out with a net and throws them into the lake. The trout, following to eat the salmon eggs, are netted and sold or given away. Later millions of baby salmon, obeying the strange instinct, leave the lake and disappear into the channel.

It was way past lunch hour when we headed back to Juneau, but even so we paused at Salmon Creek to snake a few trout from the water. See ‘em dangling from the handlebars? “Where’s the salmon?” Huh! Knew some cuss would ask that question. Well a white man won’t eat that particular brand of salmon and aside from a coat of tan, we’re white.

The road to Mendenhall Glacier, just off the Glacier Highway near Juneau, Alaska
Auk Lake, a gem of blue, fringed with green and the dazzling white Mendenhall Glacier in the background
A bit of Glacier Highway near Salmon Creek. Also, a string of trout from the aforesaid creek