Denali Highway 2018

People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert.  But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.    Steve Alaniz & Francesco Marciuliano. (Sally Forth comics)

 

Denali Highway  three days biking the Denali Highway, one of my favorite roads in Alaska. I first drove it in 1974 after a successful trip climbing MountDrum, my first big mountain climb.  Since then I have driven it maybe a dozen times usually in the fall when the colors are in fulll glory.  Mountains rise up to 13000 feet above  the road paralleling the Alaska Range.  For those who have been to Alaska this is the road which goes into Denali National Park, although that is not the section we rode.  We road from near the entrance of Denali National Park east 134 miles (215 km)Denali-Highway-Map_1

Hence Jeanne and I, hopefully nicely, invited ourselves along with the Irving family bike ride across the Denali Highway.  The real problem is the shuttle.  That is why a invite with Irving was nice. Ken and JanLee  are our friends and head of the Irving family.  Their daughter Bonnie has two kids 9 months and 3 years hence would be driving the van with the boys.  Her husband Matt would ride along with Bonnie’s sister, Brita and her husband David.    They had a friend, Gary  who came along with his camper truck.  Thus the two vehicles to carry stuff.  They live in Fairbanks which is a 4 hour drive to either end of the start of Highway.  Our problem is we are in Anchorage and it is a 4 hour drive from Cantwell at  the western end of highway the highway at the old roadhouse of Paxson. It is a 6 hour drive to Paxson from Anchorage on the eastern end.  Whatever, we have wanted to do this ride on bicycles for years.  Here was a chance for a supported ride with friends.

Hence we drove each in our individual car for 250 miles (400 km) to Paxson, left her car in a gravel pit beside the road, and we drove the 4 hours  134 miles (215 km) to Cantwell, where we met the Irvings and camped  a few miles in beside Joe Lake.  Camping is awesome along the road with pullouts and creeks and lakes and views all along.

Thus we rode for three days and it was great riding, gravel a fair amount of up and down as the road parallels the mountains and lots of stream and river crossings, (all bridged).

Cars are interesting as some would stop or at least slow down so as we did not eat their dust, but several did not bother to slow and just flew by, us coughing in the dust.  People are weird.  But for the most part not much traffic, 3-4 hour maybe.

The heart I am not used to and it was clear and sunny hence the wondrous views.  But the second day we were stopping behind any little tree for shade, and drinking massive amounts of water.  The last day, on the last 20 miles (32 km) I just had to put my head down, and grind it out.  For me, it was ridiculously hot in the upper 80’s and lo 90’s (29 to 35 C)

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Denali Highway 
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Drinking lots of fluids was a requirement 
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Camp number 2 of 3
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Mount Deborah and Susitna River (rises 10,000 feet above river (3000 meters))
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Wildlife along the numerous lakes. 

It was a kick seeing the hundreds of kettle lakes from old glaciers and riding the eskers from old glacier moraines.

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Riding the Esker
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Bald Eagle and view
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Mt. Hayes, Moffett, and Shand

Basically it was a treat to be back on the bike.  Sometimes I forget how awesome it can be just cruising along, good friends, camping, enjoying life.

We got to our car at Paxson, departed our friends to return drive the highway for the third time.  Had a most wonderful camp near McClaren Summit with a sunset making the kettle lakes brilliant orange.  Unfortunately, I could not get my lazy body out of sleeping bag at midnight for a decent photo.  IMG_3941.jpg

Of course the ride was eventful with a flat tire requiring a 20 mile return drive to repair as cannot trust the modern emergency donut tires, put in cars.  Only extended the drive home by 3.5 hours. Amazing trip.

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