Winter biking at home

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,”

The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

Read an article the other day about exercising and numbers and following the metrics. From INC. Magazine https://apple.news/A7iw63FcgSsOMHjvxv90vpg basically said it is nice to follow your heart rate, and speed and time and blah blah, but sometimes nice to just go out and enjoy.

Somehow I do not think I have had that problem of following the numbers real close, although I can definitely be accused of it. When my mom read my journal of sailing from Hawaii to Seattle she said I could have just put the journal in a spreadsheet. Ok.

But as I have aged I have gotten even slower and in turn somewhat paid more attention along the way. Ok maybe that is an excuse for going slow, but whatever I still follow the speed, and the heart rate and the blah blah blah, but it seems these days it just gives me a reference to who knows what.

Ok I ramble a bit. It is COVID time, it is winter and here in Anchorage it is but 6 hours of light a day now. Happily that is increasing now past the solstice. It is sometimes hard to get out and exercise, although one definitely feels better after.

But in the riding around the delightful trails here one comes across decorations scattered about. And some bikes have decorated themselves with Christmas lights. Just because there is only a short window of light does not mean one cannot get out. Today’s flashlights, headlamps, torches and such leave no excuse for limiting ones time to daylight.

Trail side decorations

Spectators

Even Santa had a stop along the trail

Trail side decorations

Covid Winter

Man may turn which way he please, and undertake anything whatsoever, he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.

Goethe

And now we are in a covid time and winter is upon us here in Alaska. Thus far it is a wonderful winter. With the changing climate Alaska has really noticed the increasing warmth and problems associated with that. I say normal ski season use to begin the first of October. People laugh and questioned that, and the last time that happened was 1995. (I define skiing as open the garage door, put on skiis and go.) I have for the last years defined winter as being cold, snowy, and dark. The last years the cold and snow has often been missing or inconsistent, which leaves the dark. Biking or skiing in the rain at above freezing temperatures is not a huge amount of fun. But this year is proving great. We have had snow on the ground for nearly 3 weeks now. Anchorage has some of the best ski and bike trails anywhere, and they are groomed exquisitely, primarily volunteer effort and volunteer contributions. Makes for a very fine community.

As for the covid thing well yes we are not socializing as much, not traveling, not getting together. But life is constantly changing and I am finding the new challenges can be exciting. Whereas we would often have a trip planned somewhere exotic or not, it was somewhere, but then I think, people spend a lot of time and money to come to Alaska to vacation, visit or whatever. There are some great things here. And we are enjoying them now, not that we did not before, but in a new light local stuff can brighten up.

Hence for the past 3 weeks, actually for the past 249 days since we went on “lock down” (not a true lockdown) I have been outside everyday. The past weeks exploring the trails has been delightful. Anchorage over the past 4 years, since I last really went mountain biking has developed some awesome single track trails. They have been building them for the past 10 years, but the past 4 years have really taken off. As I volunteer at the ski jumps I hear the near constant whooping of bikers on the trails below going through the woods. A trail called Jeff’s whoop whoop seems to create a lot of noise, and I now know why.

Trail Forks map of trails near my residence

But we are in full blown winter and delightful as the sun is low reaching a peak altitude of about 9 degrees above the horizon. One is required to stop whenever there is an opening amongst the tree which will allow you to stop and just stare at the sun. Sure feels good this time of year.

Sunshine stop
Tour of Anchorage trail Bicentennial park

With temperatures a very pleasant -10 C (14F) the world is quiet and serene. Anchorage has a large variety of micro climates sometimes ranging over 29 degrees C (50 F) over a 16 kilometer radius (10 miles). Most of the riding I find is in the colder areas. From our house it will be -10 C (14F) and we drop down a hill a couple kilometers and the temperature is -17C (4F). But as the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear”.

Winter biking
Sunshine through alders

Joy

Life is a daring adventure or nothing.   Helen Keller

Interesting past months.  Have not been on my bicycle since October riding into Washington D.C. in the mud.  Not that I have not done some sort of exercise, but biking has not happened.  Numerous excuses.  Pick one.

Hence it is time, and I began working on bikes.  First the fat tire bike which I loaned to a friend to ride but in getting it ready had a hard time adjusting the front derailleur.  Just could not get it to shift right.  Ok ignore it fix it when it came back.  Thus I started there.  Oh my gosh.  Embarassing!

Took the crank out and oh my! Seems I did not clean it thoroughly after riding the beach a few years ago. Some friend and I had ridden 70 miles (about 100K) from clam gulch to Homer over two days. Sand and salt water. Plus there were several creek crossings, which one I thought was 6″ deep (about 15 cm) but it was 6 feet (about 2 mete). Fat bikes float, but I and the bike got drug along the gravel for a bit.

E13 crank embarrassing but well used

 

I would say it had not been cleaned enough and has been well used. New crank chain rings, cluster, chain and basically a new drive train. Going 1x 10 getting rid of front derailleur.

Then the karate monkey a 29er I have for cruising about town. Just some cleaning adjusting and making it shine. Then Jeanne’s El Mariachi also a 29er which she took back east last fall. Needed put back together, bearings cleaned, brakes needed clear of air and gunk in the hydraulic lines. New cassette, chain, chain rings clean the derailleur.

Then the past weekend it was time to get out of Anchorage, as have either been visiting, or had visitors and been going hard, so we took a day and drove to Talkeetna, a quaint Alaska town overrun by tourists.

8 am Sunday morn

 

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Climbing museum in Talkeetna with old gear at Talkeetna historical museum.  Those are my old Galibier climbing boots in lower left.  Historical or hysterical

We took the two 29er bikes and rode out of town on a delightful bike path. Oh my gosh. I forgot how much fun biking is, especially when the bikes are purring. Everything just flowed (well the motor was a bit off) what a treat!

I remembered how much fun bicycling is.

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.

Springtime in Alaska

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time

T.S. Elliot

Since returning from Steamboat Springs in Colorado, the streak of sunshine here in Alaska has continued.  Awesome feeling to see and feel the sun returning.  In a few days we will again have more daylight than darkness.  The winter has been one of the better ones in many years due to the return of snow and cold.  As I have said winter consists of three things, snow, cold, and darkness.  If only 1 of three it can be”what’s the point”.  This finishing season we have had an abundance of all three.

Hence after the great trip to Steamboat Springs we returned and I got a email wondering about the Knik Glacier.  It is a glacier about 45 miles away (72 kilometer) and one can ride bicycle or snow machine to the face of it, if the conditions are right.  The past years it has been too warm and the river and lake were a bit dicey to cross.  I have wanted to do it for years but only tried once having to turn around after 10 kilometer because of thin ice and open water.

I would just as soon not break through ice into a large flowing river.  (Discharge normally is about 5000 to 6000 ft3/s in the summer (140 to 170 m3/s), with floods of 60,000cfs or more not uncommon.[2]  )  Currently it is flowing at 560 CFS, still enough to cause problem if you break through.  Still gets me when I see flowing water when the temperature is 10 degrees F (-12C)

But the traveling is awesome, especially when traveling with companions who know how to deal with the cold and are great bicyclers, and are as excited as I am to be there.  I will let the pictures speak.

Enroute from road to river

Riding the lake, must be deep judging by iceberg sizes

 

Where the glacier meets the wall

 

Dennis, Mark, J. R. bikes and glacier front

 

glacier face

 

Mark

Knik Glacier
Dennis

 

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Dennis’s photo of Mark, J. R. departing back to vehicle

As for the cold one just learns to work with it.  Gloves and mittens are a necessity and sometimes a challenge if there are small things to work with (like a camera).  One learns and it is awesome.

While there we discussed how if this area were down south it would be mobbed with people as it is spectacular.  When I got home and looked at some of the pictures on the phone which gives location it said they were taken at the Lake George National Natural landmark.  Wow who knew, I had never heard of it but having flown over it, I knew it was spectacular.

Then the next day wanted to ski some valleys which are often good in the spring.  Natasha (ski jumping coach) and I went out to see what we could find.  Alas, it has not snowed in weeks and the wind has been blowing over the gully we wanted to ski and it was a bit bare.  Could have skied but the breakable crust and scattered rocks did not entice us further.  We opted to return a different way making it a delightful tour.  It is difficult to go wrong when the sun is shining, and the tracks are good. (or it is just plain crusty snow and you can go anywhere)

Natasha at top of “ballfields” with Mt. Williwaw behind

 

 

top of first pass

Overlooking Anchorage with Mt Susitna (sleeping lady) and Mt Spurr in distance. distance. (Mt Spurr last erupted in 1992, wreaking havoc in Anchorage)

 

On day three Jeanne and I drove down Turnagain Arm just to see it as we never get tired of this drive.  Turnagain arm was named by Captain Cook on his third voyage supposedly while looking for the northwest passage and he had to turn his vessel again..  (it was actually his first mate Bligh (of later fame elsewhere) who explored up the valley and had to turn again).  Or a second version is the waters reverse course with the tide every 6 hours forcing one to turn again as the current reverses.  When in full flow the waters, and ice flow at 9 knots)  Either way Australia and New Zealand do not have a lock on Captain Cook history.

Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet

Turnagain arm

Video of moving ice in Turnagain arm.  It is not bike able or boatable.

I have been trying all winter to get a video of the incoming bore tide with the ice as it is incredibly dramatic.  Timing is difficult and it must be at full or new moon for maximum tide and I have not succeeded but will hopefully try again later this week.  If I succeed I will try and post.

Sometimes the best travel is in one’s own backyard.  Often that is the best of all.