What a wild ride. From the mundane to the insane. Alaska has it all.
Alaska Expedition: PART ONE....
482km/ 300 miles cycling, 240km/ 150 miles paddling in 16 days.
The expedition was simple: Ride as much iconic single track as we could find, paddle some big ass rivers to complete one big loop covering as much of cold & wet, yet beautiful, Alaska as possible.
AK is no joke, it’s wild, remote and incredibly difficult to access in the event of an emergency, hence the reason to spend so much time preparing for the Expedition and to plan exactly what we were after. So, the theme was set; RAIN........
Day 1- 35km/22 miles Resurrection Pass
Day 1 started like most others had for this "summer" in Alaska, with rain. We were camped 5mi/8km out of Hope at the start of the Resurrection trail. After breakfast in the shelter of an outhouse awning we packed up between showers of rain and after the months of planning and preparation it was finally time to set off starting with a 20mile climb to the pass.
It was a slow start with fully loaded bikes but we were in no real hurry. This wasn’t a race after all, just a long-sustained effort. We climbed and climbed in the pouring rain, feeling the cold on my face is one sensation that I love. We passed a couple of cyclists on fat bikes and some hikers on their way down. We reached a cabin and decided it was time for lunch, may as well take the opportunity to get out of the rain and dry off a little while we eat.
We spent 40 minutes eating in Fox cabin, embracing the dry and peering out the window hoping to see some blue sky, but it was not to be :) After lunch it was onward and upward. We continued to ride through deep mud puddles and overgrowth. Lucky for us it seemed the cow parsnip, a photo synthetic poisonous plant, had started to wilt, thankfully losing its poison.
We reached the pass (how high) by midafternoon & reveled in a brief respite from the rain. It was now a beautiful undulating single track that would lead us over devil’s pass. We reached the final part of the pass right as Liz`s pedal fell off her bike, she had changed them the day before but something had gone wrong. We stopped and tried to put it back on but the thread was stripped. Being on the summit fully exposed, in the freezing cold and pouring rain was not the place to try repair the bike. We knew it was less than 2 km to Devils Pass cabin so Liz rolled down the trail with 1 pedal to the hut.
It was around 5pm when we arrived and there was nobody occupying it so we hung all our things out to dry, Liz made coffee, while I set to work with a small flat head screw driver to clean out and create a new thread in the crank arm. After almost 2 hours of work the pedal was back on. We decided to make dinner and stay in the cabin.
We finished dishes and settled into our sleeping bags. It had not stopped raining and the temperature was dropping fast. Lights out by 9:30, happy with our progress even though we had stopped short of the plan.
12:30pm "YOU GUYS NEED TO LEAVE" We were woken up after midnight with a loud bang on the door and a headlamp in our eyes. A lady was yelling "you have to leave, we have a reservation”. In a state of confusion, we were up and staring at this lady, who had 4 or 5 small children between the ages of 8-10 in tow. Frozen, dripping wet, shivering and hungry. Unbeknownst to us, you need to reserve many of the cabins throughout AK.
In all our research and question asking we had not heard this from anybody. We packed our stuff as quickly as we could. The lady bundled the kids inside and got their bikes up on the deck. Liz and I were in total disbelief, it was still pouring with rain and we had no idea where to go. The lady just continued to tell us "You have to leave"; with no offer to just sleep in the corner of the cabin or anything.
So, we loaded our bikes and put on our little headlamps and headed toward the next cabin where there was also dispersed camping. It was 4.5mi/7km and we arrived at 2:30am. This cabin displayed a large sign saying " Sleeping in the cabin without a reservation was illegal you can face a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail”. I tried scouting the camping area, but couldn’t even find it in the pouring rain and fog. Liz was adamant, we would be staying in the cabin. We got in got changed got a fire going and went to sleep around 3am. What a start to the expedition.
Day 2- 106km/66miles Seward
After a slow start, thanks to the night before’s events, we finally set off at 10:40am. We rolled down some fairly technical single track with Liz having a lot of trouble with her rear shock, in the end she had to lock it out. The sun was trying hard to come out and there was light drizzle, a much better day in general, mind you, thanks to our midnight relocation, we had ended up on a trail that was not where we had planned, thus adding an extra 20mi/32km+ onto the leg.
The trail continued to improve and soon we were coasting along varying terrain and around picturesque lakes.
Hitting the road in the early afternoon it was almost a time trial into Seward. Again, it was freezing cold and raining but the views were stunning. As we entered Seward we were greeted with some blue skies and BIG MOUNTAINS.... My legs were feeling the effort of a fast pace for some 35mi/56km.
All day we had been discussing the previous night, it was unbelievable this lady had managed to drag 4/5 kids through the dark, cold and rainy weather until midnight. The question we asked the most was "why didn't she stop earlier at any of the other cabins on the route”. We will never know.
We arrived in Seward around 7pm, fortunate enough that Liz had some friends that lived there. We were welcomed in true Alaskan fashion. Beer, Salmon, hot shower and a place to sleep inside. We hosed off our bikes and literally ourselves after all the mud we had ridden through before venturing into the house.
Our hosts, Mick & Mark, were amazing, so generous, full of support and local knowledge. They gave us plenty of advice on the next day’s trail and places to camp.
Day 3- 35km/22 miles Primrose campsite
It was another late start after we tried to fix Liz`s rear shock and she ran some errands. We stopped in at the supermarket to get some supplies on the way out of town and then it was onto one of the trails we were most looking forward to - Lost Lake Trail.
A steady climb of 7 miles to a beautiful summit that rolled on for a few kilometers and then descended Primrose trail. As you near the summit the views of Seward and the surrounding glaciers and mountains are spectacular. There were blueberry shrubs everywhere, so of course we ate a few, it was amazing.
As we got up higher it was almost jacket worthy, this is when I realised I had left my nice warm jacket back in the house, hanging up to dry. I was so annoyed with myself, I never forget things and here we are almost at a point where I am going to need it and I don`t have it. Lucky for me Liz called Mark and he drove it to the bottom of the trail on the other side so I could collect it. Thank god for that.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking for this section of trail- no words needed :)
After a steeper and more technical descent we reached the campground right on dusk. I grabbed my jacket out of the bear box and Mark, the LEGEND, had stuffed 2 beers in the pockets, what a great gift! Mark, you’ll always have beer waiting for you at my place :)
We set up the tent and were treated to a beautiful sunset on Primrose lake.
Day 4- Primrose to Hope bridge 64km/40 miles
We left camp after a nice breakfast of oats with mixed nuts and choc chips (of course!). Today was a day of road riding. We set off into the light drizzle and along the Seward highway. The mountains that surrounded us along the highway were just remarkable, enough to keep you from getting bored riding the highway.
We crossed over Moose Pass completing the small loop we had done to get into Seward. The road was undulating, without many big hills to climb, following the valley nicely. The trees had already turned beautiful fall colours, it was spectacular to see the bright yellows and oranges but also a little ominous knowing that summer is now behind us.
It continued to rain on and off all day at some points becoming pretty cold but nothing too serious. We eventually rolled in to the car park off the side of the highway that leads into Hope, thus completing the first leg of our expedition.
We sat under the shelter of the toilet block and ate some cookies before gathering our things and settling under the overpass to camp. It was still raining very heavily and this would ensure a dry camp, protected from the wind. After going to collect and filter water it was time for dinner. We cleaned everything up and stored it well away from the tent in a place we hoped was protected from the bears, something that we had to keep in mind always.
I am an ultra runner, Mountain biker, Packrafter, Climber, Ironman, Endurance Athlete