10-day bike trip to Denali National Park

Well, well, 2 seasons later and 1 year older (on paper!) and I am back in the Anchorage public library typing away the details of my previous week. I left on Wednesday the 17th and was away for 10 days with my mountain bike, bob trailer and plenty of warm clothing. I spent two days riding in some light snow showers and a day (my birthday!) riding in pouring rain, and two days pedaling at 6 miles an hour into strong head winds. When I left it was officially still summer, but I have to say that I experienced summer, fall and winter within a week.

I came here with the idea that I wanted to see the state and test out doing some cold weather riding/camping. I got what I was looking for. I was only at 2000-2300 ft, but I was also within 300 or so miles of the Arctic Circle. As I rode north each night got colder. First there was ice in my water bottle, then ice in my nalgene in my tent. At my furthest point north I had my nalgene freeze SOLID inside my tent. My sleeping bag kept me warm despite the layer of ice that formed on the top where the moisture in my breath had frozen. I paid to camp twice; despite every night sleeping at an established campground. Most were state run and completely empty. One nights I woke up in time to look out of my tent and see the northern lights. Another night I had a view of Mt. Denali (the LARGEST mountain in the world, it stands at only 20,000 ft, but is 18,000 ft above the range level. Everest, for example, is 29,000 ft high, but only 11,000 ft higher than the range it is in.) from my tent door. I didn’t do any long hikes, but had ample opportunity to hike around the trails at the campsites, if I wasn’t too cold. My morning off in the national park I was eating cereal with water and powdered soymilk and the liquid was freezing as I ate it-I realized it when I was chewing on ice crystals. I decided to hang out in my tent for awhile until it warmed up a little. Vegan food was difficult to find outside of Anchorage, but I was able to make due because of all the food I had brought with me (mostly dehydrated refried beans, hummous, and curry lentil soup; chocolate; almonds; ramen noodles; and tvp).

I met some interesting locals, chatted with some rangers, and hung out with some other travelers. In the national park one night a French guy in his early 30’s invited me for tea in his family’s RV. Him, his wife and two kids (2.5 and 4 yrs old) had rented an RV in Montréal months ago and have just ended up in Alaska. Amazing. This is after them spending a couple months in southern Africa. They shared many travel stories from Africa and together we knocked Americans for their ignorance of US foreign policy. That night I thought a lot about where I might be when I am 33; will I be traveling in an RV with a wife and kids? Will I have been to Africa and lived all over the world as they have?

The next day I left to complete my round trip to Anchorage; I layered my miles so that I could stay at different campsites then on my way North. Why the same route? I had intended on taking the Denali Hwy East for its 135 gravel miles with no towns, and then looping back to Anchorage on different hwys. But after crossing a pass on my way North (in snow) I talked to a state trooper who made me decide otherwise. “All the hunters are getting out of there because of the weather. If it snows hard no one goes back there. Bring a lot of food and do not expect to see any other people. Prepare to be snowed in for a week, plus however long it will take to ride.” A bit more than I was looking for this trip.

I have other stories, but I have to keep this at a readable length. Back in Anchorage we went hiking up to Exit Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula the day after I got back. Amazing. Today (Monday the 29th) it is raining and unfortunately it is suppose to rain all week. This gives me time to prepare for my trip to the Vancouver area. Apparently it is really a hot spot for Mnt biking. Anyone know anyone there? I still haven’t worked out a place to stay or an itinerary. I’ll keep this posted. Thanks to everyone who sent me a b-day message.

One last thing: Everyone should check out this webpage for amazing pictures of an amazing bicycle journey from Alaska to the tip of South America: The Road South

Leaving Anchorage

Okay. So I bought a BOB trailer (tax free- thank you Alaskan oil) and I love it. Am thinking about selling it before I leave or just taking it with me and using it. It is something I will definitely use in the future. We’ll see.

I should be leaving tomorrow and heading north from Anchorage towards Denali National Park, stopping along the way at smaller state parks. From there I hope to take the 135 mile unpaved Denali Hwy East, and then circle down and back towards Anchorage. Weather will be cold with possible snow accumulation, tourists will be minimal, and scenery should be splendid. I will try to update from the road, but you never know if that is a possibility.

I’ve got plenty of vegan chocolate and dehydrated beans so don’t worry about my eating. ha. My time is up at the library, so this is it for this entry. I miss everyone!

Yo from Alaska!

Leaving LA was drama, of course. Despite a guaranteed delivery day the BOB trailer I was borrowing did not arrive before I left. I (actually a ‘we’) were up until 3am packing my bike into 2 boxes in order to skirt the $80 bike charge. It ended up working, but sometimes, when you have had that little sleep, $80 seems like a small price to pay for a couple hours extra sleep.

Anyway, I finally arrive to Anchorage and am lucky to have my friend from Loma Linda picked me up at the airport. We had to kill time to wait for my luggage to arrive on the next flight and drove out past the water planes and saw a giant male moose! After an expensive meal I settled in for my first night of this long journey in the comfort of Marc’s living room.

Without a BOB trailer my options are limited: I can buy one and continue as planned or I can take the expensive buses and just backpack around. But 5 days later I am still in Anchorage! Amazingly Marc and his friends have kept me super busy’ I have been mountain biking and/or hiking every single day since I have been here.

The scenery has been superb. Within 45 minutes of the city is everything from beautiful mountains and glaciers to forests and lakes. All very accessible through parks and trails. One day we rode single track up through a ski resort and then hiked to a 4150 ft summit before blasting back down on our bikes. Saturday we did some of Johnson Pass Trail, a slightly technical trail with only moderate elevation gain that passes through spectacular scenery. Some parts were wooded with huge trees keeping out direct light and others parts were full of ferns and other plants that reminded me of central America. The trail was complete with wooded bridges and waterfalls. Yesterday we went to the hippy-ish town of Girdwood and rode some trails in search of a ‘mountain bike park’. We never found it but had some fun times exploring.

Later in the day we met some kids on crazy downhill bikes (they look motorcycles with 7 inches of suspension on the front and back) who gave us the heads up on some trails. Turns out one kid is from Pennsylvania and used to ride BMX. We knew a bunch of the same kids. Finally we spent some time at the public sk8 park and I had a blast flying through it on my mountain bike, though being clipped in was kind of scary.

So what’s on my agenda now? Today is the first time I have been able to think about it. I heard that the only road into Denali is closed due to snow. That is surprising because the weather in Anchorage is at a comfortable 45-60 degrees everyday. If I want to get a BOB trailer I will have to buy one; which would not be a bad investment and there is no sales tax in Alaska. My options are limited because with only two weeks or so left I don’t have much time to cover a lot of miles (especially if I am riding through snow!). I might go backpacking for a week and then spend another week in Anchorage exploring on day trips or get a trailer and head south through the Kenia peninsula where the weather is warmer. Today I am going to get some better info on Denali.

Some quick bits: Food is expensive when eating out, but very reasonable at grocery stores. I got tofutti ice cream sandwiches 2 boxes for $5! Also organic broccoli and chocolate bars (the important things) are cheap.

Anchorage is a great city with all of the resources anyone needs for a trip at good prices. The REI here has the same prices as the online store.

Anchorage also has a system of parks with bike trails running through the city.

I have been making use of my zero degree sleeping bag by sleeping with the window open in the living room. bbbrrrrrr.

My cell phone works here and is not roaming!

I will try to update with what my plans are before I leave.

Thank you everyone for all the kind emails!

Off to Alaska!

Much time and energy went into this upcoming trip. It started as going to Ecuador for 3 months to work. Slowly the career/intellectual oriented trip motivation faded and the explore/adventure part of me took over. The original plan was to fly to Alaska and bike to Los Angeles-4000 miles solo-but time/weather were not permitting.

The rough, and I do mean rough, itinerary for this trip is 3.5 weeks in Alaska with my mountain bike and a BOB trailer with all my hiking gear. I will ride to national parks throughout the state and do some overnight hiking loops back to my bike. I will probably be sleeping outside 90% of the time I am in the state. Will it be cold? The weather is starting to cool this time of year; I am sure to have some below freezing nights. I have wisely upgraded some gear for this trip including a zero degree sleeping bag and an actual sleeping pad (as opposed to the 2ft x 2ft foam pad I have used for two previous trips).

What have not changed are my preparation methods. I leave in less than 48 hours and am still waiting to get the BOB trailer in the mail. I haven’t packed yet. My seatpost is bent and the local shop doesn’t have the right size. Those who know me well would not expect anything better! ha. As usual though many of my friends have come through to help me out in many ways; I am extremely lucky to have the friends I have and am looking forward to reciprocating soon.

I don’t know what else to say. I am so excited to explore new terrain with a different bike and a whole different mentality. This trip is less about the destination; I have no real schedule except to get back on the plane on October 3rd. Until then it is just my bike, some hiking gear, and me.