Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time for a Bike Trip

I finished up my last day of work about 6:30 last night. It's been a busy last couple of weeks but I think I'm ready for the bike trip. 
John Rusyniak of Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge loaned me his Yak bike trailer for the trip.  
I tested out the trailer riding to work and around town last week. It does add some drag and increases my turning radius a bit, but i like the balance better than over stuffed panniers and I don't expect much city traffic over the next three weeks. 
Bring your Yak to work day! 
Reminds me of a Nepalese yak. Loaded right up to the top. 
Latest route plan. Looks like between 800 and 900 miles.
I'm off to a late start this morning, but I plan on posting updates from the trail. I'll be exclusively using my phone and an iPad Corrie loaned me for the next three weeks. I may have to change formats of the posts a little... 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ride to Girdwood

While planning the hike with Justin I decided it would be good training to ride back to the trailhead to get my truck. I suspect Sunday dawned a beautiful day for a bike ride, I'm not sure I didn't wake up until 10 am after the short night camping. It was perfect when I did get up though so after some oats and eggs for brunch I hit the trail. It's about 11 miles to get out of Anchorage before hitting the Seward highway heading south.

I took my first breather looking over the Turnagan Arm. 
Note the trees bending in the breeze. I perfect tailwind for cruising between 20 and 30 mph.
It's really convenient to have some of the best tasting water in the world half way through the ride.  
The ride got a bit more challenging 43 miles in when I hit the gravel road to the hiking trail. 
Almost there...
Made it to the truck! 
The view down the valley from the trailhead. 

Just shy of 50 miles at the end of the ride. My left foot is a little sore tonight but I dont know it was the ride or something I did today. It didn't hurt this morning. I might just be ready for the long ride in two weeks.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Marathon Hikes

Good friends and adventure!

Justin and I have been friends nearly 20 years and have done a lot of hiking together in the past. I sent him a message last week suggesting we get together some evening before I leave town. He wrote back "I'm thinking of doing the Crow Pass hike, from Girdwood to Eagle River, possibly this weekend, doing it over night, you down?" I said, "sure, I've been wanting to do that hike" and just like the old days the hike was planned before either of us looked into the details. That was Wednesday, we left after work Friday and made the trailhead about 7pm. 

Looking down the Crow Creek valley.
Justin and his father-in-law Gerhard on the lower trail. 
First rest break
Crow Creek coming down from the pass/
We saw two bears. They were headed straight for our trail. Thankfully they decided they didn't like the look of us and took off over the mountain.  
Justin and Gerhard at the pass.
Heading down in the almost midnight sun.
We found a brand new looking sled in the pass so Justin had to try it out.
After 10 years a heavy use my old tent was looking a little tired. REI marked this one down 33% for their anniversary sale Friday so I went over at lunch to get it. It was impressively easy to set up the first time in the 11 pm twilight. I took this Saturday morning. 
A beautiful morning in the Chugach Mountains. 
Porcupine in a tree.
Crossing the Eagle River.This may be the coldest river I have ever crossed. I was happy this last branch was shallower than the first two.  
Most of the smaller creeks had log bridges over them. Some were a bit sketchy. The lower log is wedged into the near bank and the free end is supporting the upper log. It felt relatively solid though...  
26 miles and 24 hours later at the Eagle River Nature preserve.

I was thinking about it back at home and realized this is at least the sixth time in the past dozen years that various friends and I have hiked at least 26 miles in less than a day. Often these hikes are not planned very far in advance or trained for before hand. Still, we always end up with nice pictures and great memories to go with the sore muscles. It's good to have adventurous friends! 

Despite this being the first hike of the season, only my feet were sore this morning. I probably have my brother's workout plan to thank for that. I felt good enough this morning that I biked the 50 miles to Girdwood to pick up my truck. Those photos will have to wait for the next post. It's midnight and I still have work in the morning for two more weeks. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Summer has Arrived in Alaska

How do I know it's summer?

Last Friday when I headed north to visit my dad in Tok none of the trees had leaves yet.
Ali running around at our lunch stop near Lion Head/Sore Thumb. 
48 hours later, Sunday evening, I returned to Anchorage to find nearly all the trees have leaves!
And Monday I saw the first dandelion going to seed!
I guess it's a good thing that I've already started planning and packing for my bike trip this summer... It feels great to be getting ready for a new adventure and I think I'll be able to reuse a lot of my gear from the last trip. I don't expect to be quite as minimalistic this time having the benefit of wheels and the associated maintenance. Gear list coming soon. My first day of riding is now "scheduled" for May 31st. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Taking the Scenic Route

I was sitting on an Alaskan Air Q400 headed back to Anchorage and working on a new post when the captain completely derailed my train of thought by announcing that it was really nice weather and we would be taking a slight detour to fly over Mt McKinley. Seriously, a commercial flight with 80 people on board can take a scenic detour in Alaska because it’s a beautiful day… He even flew an "S" between the North and South peaks with enough of a bank to give everyone a good view out the sides. 

A river of ice flowing off to the north.
South Peak
A little farther away. 
Another river of ice flowing to the south. 
The southern foot hills look like dunes of blown snow, but there is solid rock beneath the snow and ice. Any of my Geologist friends want to explain how this formation occurred or was it just random chance?

Now back to the originally scheduled post since "Taking the Scenic Route" is actually a pretty good title for it too...

April marks a year since I moved to Anchorage and just last week I marked one year since starting the new job in engineered pump sales. It's been a busy year of work and learning the new job, home projects in Anchorage, and weekend trips out of town as often as practical. With a full year behind me here, I've decided it's time for a change. Living in Anchorage has been a bit like living on the edge of Alaska rather than living in it. I'd already begun debating if this was where I really wanted to settle when Corrie received five job offers from schools in rural Alaska and none in the Anchorage area. After discussing our options Corrie accepted a position in Galena on the North bank of Yukon river and I've decided to take advantage of my growing financial freedom to join her there. Besides a great school for Corrie to start her career at Galena may offer interesting opportunities for me as well. Two of the best are a chance to get my pilot's license through the school and possibly heading up a sustainable energy project for the school and community. I've already spoken with my boss about finding a replacement for me and although he's disappointed I've decided to leave he seems pretty understanding. I still have a bit more work though as we've tentatively agreed that I'll stay through the end May while they find a replacement.

Where the heck is Galena?
With work finished by the first of June and no reason to be in Galena before August I'm hoping to have a couple months to take the scenic route on my way there. I'm planning to spend the first 2-3 weeks of June touring Alaska on my bike. I currently envision a route along the states main highways between 700 and 1,100 miles in length. A bit shorter than riding the Alcan, but far enough to give me a solid sense of what long rides are like. I'll post again with details once the plan solidifies. In the mean time, I'd be happy to have some company, if you have the time and would like to join all or part of the trip let me know. The preliminary route:

Possible route, I could drop Valdez leg if I'm ready to be done early.
Or I might take a ferry from Valdez to Seward and add a few more miles of beautiful mountains.

After the bike ride I'll spend July fishing with my dad, helping him with projects and hopefully backpacking with my brother. I may even squeeze a trip to NM in if the timing works out right, but those plans will have to wait for another post.