Thursday, July 27, 2017

Denali Park Road

Finally, I got to bikepack the Denali Park road! And it was effing magnificent. I mean the weather was just perfect, the company as well and the road was not as much of a suffer fest as i expected.
I already bikepack the Denali Highway last year and had this trip on my mind to do before we leave Alaska and here it is an open weekend when J has a tennis tournament down in Oregon. The decision was quick, called couple friends to do this with me and off we go on the way to Denali National Park.

Yes this time the Denali park road is actually the road in Denali National Park ( as oppose to Denali Highway). It spam 92miles from the Parks highway to Kantishna and all of it is national park. We bikepack from Savage river to Wonder lake, which is about 74 miles.

On Our way to Wonder Lake we had to go through about 5 mountain passes so this ride on the gravel road can take a good toll but the landscape is just spectacular. Huge mountains, big rivers and valleys along with crap load of wildlife. And yes bears a lot of bears! The Denali park grizzlies are huge. We saw couple of them along with bunch of caribous, ptarmigans, hares, goats and moose.
The weekend went as follow: We drove to Savage river (13 miles into the park) after work on Friday and camped over night. We start biking Saturday morning and got to Wander lake (mile 85 of the park road) at about 7 pm. Camped over night and took bus back next day morning.

If i would need to sum this weekend up into one word that it would be "Views".
Views are just ridiculous, well as long as its clear, The Denali ( the tallest mountain in North America) is just smacked down into your face just towering over everything. The  Wonder Lake campground has the private view of Denali so just sitting at your campground having couple beers and watching sunset reflecting on the mountain is breathtaking. Anyhow, if anyone want to do one bike ride in Alaska than this would be it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Road Trip

 Yay! Road Trip!

I had a high school friend to visit me here in Anchorage and I decided to take him for a road trip!
The goal was to give him the taste of the Alaska. I mean not only the touristy stuff which visitors usually do here in Alaska but also to show him how locals play in the backyard of this beautiful state.

My rules for this trip were simple: sleep either under the stars, in the tent or in the log cabin, show off the interior of Alaska as well as the coast, see a lot of wildlife, taste as many local beers as possible and eat a lot of fish.

We started by hiking the Flat Top right after his arrival. Flat Top is one of the most popular hikes here in Anchorage. It is not necessary hard hike but you get amazing views of the Anchorage Bowl and  mountain ranges in the area. The weather was great and the hike build up a thirst for some local brews so the visit to 49Th state Brewery was in order. Couple beer flights and we were set for the good start into this trip.

However, the weather had a different idea, the first day was pretty much the last day of this trip when we saw a sun. So the plan for next couple days was to visit Denali Natl Park. I planned to stay at Byers Lake cabin on the way to Denali as a little warm up before we start camping outside. It was raining whole day but we enjoyed chopping wood and catching up on past 15 years of life.  I booked a camping site at the Savage River campsite which is the last point on the Denali Natl Park Park road accessible by own vehicle. It is 13 miles into the park out of probably 90 miles. The rest of the road is only accessible by tour bus. We went to check out all the hikes in the area but all of them were close due to the bear threat so we pretty much just walked from the trail head to the trail head and hope that we will see the bears.
Next day morning we woke up and there was about 1-2 inches of snow on our tent. No wonder that it was freezing as shit over the night. We slowly unfroze and got ourselves on the road to drive the Denali Highway. Let's not confuse Denali Highway with Denali Park road .

Denali highway is a gravel road which is connecting Cantwell and Paxson and it was used as a main road to get to Denali Natl Park before the highway was built. Denali Park road is the road in the Denali Natl Park. Denali highway is pretty remote part of the Alaska and you definitely do not want to get a flat on that road without a spare as there are only 3 lodges along this135 miles long gravel road. Yes you guessed correctly we got flat! Lucky for us we had a spare tire (doughnut) and also the first lodge was repairing tires.
Susitna River crossing on Denali highway
 Gold mine
Matanuska Glacier

We checked out the Matanuska Glacier on the way back to Anchorage. Next day we went to Girdwood and Whittier. The weather was rainy so not much to do so we checked out local breweries, bore tide (tidal wave) and a gold mine. We also went to check out Wildlife conservation center and town of Hope next day before we headed down to Seward for some Whale watching and Exit glacier viewing. We stayed in a cabin at Miller's landing which is mile south of Seward. The whale watching tour was perfect finish to this trip as the weather clear up and the sun came out. Also there were bunch of whales and Orcas to see.
Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier
Surfing Bore Tide
 Kenai Lake
Here are breweries which we visited:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

White Mountains 100

I got into the WM100 race this year. It is open to about 65 bikers, 10 skiers and 10 runners due to capacity restriction of the checkpoints. So there is a lottery for all the interested racers every year and if you lucky enough you will get in. I was couple places under the cut off, but i got in because some people canceled.

The race is held about 35 miles north of Fairbanks in White Mountains. It is definitely colder up there than here in Anchorage so i was pretty worried what the temperature is going to be like. I mean how cold it is going to get. On the way up to Fairbanks i stop at the Denali viewpoints and snap couple pics.
Denali South Viewpoint
Denali North Viewpoint
The race actually starts on Sunday, but there is a mandatory meeting on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere of the event was really cool from beginning. Everybody is really talkative and sharing the info from the past races along with some advises.

Preparation for the race

 The Race itself is held on the snow machine trails and there are about 5 checkpoints evenly spread out over the course. You have to climb over the Cache Mountain Pass which everyone call The Divide. The Divide is half point of the way and it is the highest elevation on the course. The first half of the race is all up and down and along with the above mentioned climb to conquer the Divide make up the most of the about 8000 feet of descent of the race. Once you get over the divide you will be flying down until about mile 90 where you hit so called The Wall! The Wall is a very steep climb which I believe gain about 800 feet over 1 mile. You just want to shoot yourself by that time and not to be climbing the Wall!

Start of the Race
Sunrise at the Start of the Race

Anyhow, I really enjoy the bike ride. I mean it was not without the pain, but man it is beautiful up there! The temperature at the start was about 0 Fahrenheit, but it went down to -15 on the first part of the course and that is when i made a fatal mistake and unzipped my jacket! Part of my camel-back tube got exposed and froze. Well,I did not drink a drop of water for the first 39miles (4 hours). So here I'm at mile 30 and cramps are starting taking the fun out of the race. I made it to the second checkpoint and chug a liter of coke and water, recoup and went to conquer the divide. I did not get rid of the cramps for the rest of the race, but it was manageable.

Race map
 Race profile


The Wall was a treat, as i mentioned previously, but other than that the rest of the ride was pretty mellow. I crossed the finish line somewhere under 11h, which i was happy with as my plan was either under the 12 hours or finish before dark. Every finisher got the buckle, which i think is really cool prize. I love my Buckle!!

Finisher Buckle

However, my adventure was not over yet. I crossed the finish line, but i still had a 7hours drive to Anchorage. So I chow down a hotdog chug 3 beers, just kidding i actually chug 3 sparkling waters or whatever that was, and went on my merry way. I was lucky enough that almost entire way home there were norther lights out! Pretty awesome views.

Northern Lights-It is hard to get good pic

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rush to the Knik

There is several glaciers around Anchorage which can be access by fatbike over the winter. The key word is "winter". This is the first year since we arrived to Alaska when we have real winter, which opened up all these possibilities to pedal to and on the glaciers. My crush is on two of the staples around here, Knik and Spencer glaciers. I still have to find a time to go to Spencer, but I went to Knik week ago and it was pretty sweet.

We started our adventure just of the Old Glenn Highway at Jim Creek parking lot. The weather was perfect between 10 to 25 F despite my initial worry when i saw the temperature in my car -4F when we were crossing Knik bridge which is about mile away from the parking lot. Anyhow, the plan was take it easy to the glacier and hammer on the way back with some necessary photo time spent at the face of glacier.

The trail was in the perfect condition, hard packed and wind swept so we were flying about 14 miles per hour. Oh, the distance to the glacier from Jim Creek is about 21 miles. There is couple parts where you are biking on the glare ice and i can tell you that you better have studded tires or you will pay with some bruises as i did. I wiped out about four times, but luckily no injury. So we made it to the glacier in about hour and fifty minutes as the last 7 miles were through the snow drifts which slow you down to crawl.

I don't even need to mention this but the glacier is just spectacular. Blue ice, ice caves, frozen icebergs in the lake and sunshine were the highlights of the day. We took little loop around the lake and headed back by different rout which was more eastward located to connect back to the original path 5 miles down the road. At this point we were flying 15-16 miles per hour and  about 7 miles from the finish i was getting pretty tired, but still had some legs to do extra little 5 mile loop by the parking lot to check out the playground for the local off-roaders.

It is a great way to go see a glacier, if the condition are solid, its pretty smooth riding despite the longer distance. Also it helps that the total elevation gain is under 800 feet so pretty much flat course as it is mostly on the riverbed.