May 28-29 Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

To put this journey into perspective, think about this. We ride in a day what we could travel in an hour in a car. But at our pace, you see so much more detail. Every little creek and road drainage provides a gap in the trees from which we can see the far mountains across the vast valley that this part of the Alaska Highway shoulders. Nature’s beauty is breathtaking. We hear the swan calls in the morning, the squirrels chirping and the water rushing. At 10 miles an hour, I get to enjoy the bouquets of wildflowers that have sprung up along the roadside. I found the peace sign painted in tar on the road by the mischievous road worker. We passed slowly enough to to see the humorous license plates hung in a tree by an old homesteader: OLDFART and BEAVER! It was cute to see the heart inscribed in the sand along the Tanana River declaring Dalton’s love for Shannon! And there is plenty of time to daydream. This is good for the soul!

May 28 we rode 59.04 miles over 5 hours 41 minutes traveling from Tok to Lakeview Campground on Yarger Lake. So far, we have covered approximately 369 miles. I thought I left my journal in the motel room, so we got in an extra 1.6 miles as we backtracked to find it …. It was in my backpack after all.

After a huge breakfast in Tok, we began our eastward journey. It was 12 miles to the Tanana River which is very low for this time of year. We started climbing hills after the Tanana, and the first hill was 3-4 miles long.

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Fortunately, it wasn’t a steep grade. For the next several miles, we rode up big hills and down small ones, slowly climbing to the summit.

When we finally descended, it was an emotional let-down as we descended in under 3 miles. What took us 2.5 hours to gain took us 10 minutes to lose. The rest of the day’s journey took us up and down smaller hills.

It is rare to have a campground to yourselves. But that is the privilege we found when we arrived at Lakeview Campground on Yarger Lake in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. What a treat! The lake has views of the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains all along its southern shore. There were several pairs of nesting ducks and we were treated to the sounds of swans landing all night long. Experiencing these nuggets of nature is what makes this trip worthwhile.

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On the 29th, we journeyed 54.98 miles in 5 hours 40 minutes to travel from our private campground to Beaver Creek. Most of the ride took us along the border of the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.

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What a beautiful oasis of wildlife this refuge is. Spending time here certainly allows you to understand just why places like this should be preserved. There are so many pairs of nesting swans. In the last few days, I have seen more swans than I ever have before.

We crossed into Canada and took a few moments to place a foot in each country!

This journey sure makes you appreciate the simple things in life.

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A warm meal and bed are nice, but there is nothing that brings as much peace and comfort to me as nature and solitude

 

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May 24-27

There is something about traveling at 10 miles an hour that slows down life itself! What a pleasure it has been to see the Alaskan scenery at this pace! Sometimes in life you need to slow down, and this journey is our way of doing just that!

We left Anchorage on May 24 with an end of the day destination of the Matanuska Glacier at Mile 101 on the Glenn HIghway. We rode the first 52.6 mile section to Palmer. We were treated to the sight of 2 bald eagles sitting on power poles at Elmore and Tudor Roads.

Here is a photo of the Chugach Mountains as we rode the Glenn Highway.

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An eagle greeted us as we rode into Turkey Red Restaurant in Palmer 4 hours and 43 minutes later! It was here we met my sister, our daughter and grandchildren for dinner before embarking on the final leg of the day.

The Glenn Highway between King River and the Matanuska Glacier has no shoulder and has steep, winding curves. For safety’s sake, we hitched a ride with our daughter over this 60 mile section of road. Goodbyes are never easy, and tonight’s was no different. Our grandson wanted to sleep in the tent with us, so we wore him out riding his bike and gathering firewood and loaded him up with big hugs and kisses! Our granddaughter slept through it all!

 

On May 25, we pushed to Glennallen, an 86.73 mile, 8 hour 19 minute ride. The road is very hilly until Mile 79, but we had gorgeous mountain view! Mount St. Elias was a out it all its glory, so we were able to enjoy it for several miles. We saw several pairs of nesting swans and different types of ducks. No other wildlife so far.

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Mount St Elias

May 26 took us from Glennallen to Slana (the gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Wilderness and Preserve). Riding 77.32 miles in 7 hours 52 minutes was actually quite enjoyable. In Chistachina, we were treated to a short respite from road riding on a bike path we discovered. The riding was mainly level for the first 40 miles of the day and then we started to climb ….for 25 miles! A good climb always has a descent, so we coasted into Slana for the last 10 miles!

We have been pushing to get to Tok to avoid the Memorial Day weekend traffic. I don’t know about anywhere else, but in Alaska this weekend marks the beginning of summers, and traffic is always heavy. Everyone is ready for recreating after the long Alaskan winter! On Friday, May 27, we met our goal by traveling the 65 miles to Tok (1.5 miles was in a pilot truck through a construction zone). Today’s views were equally spectacular, and we saw several swans and one curious caribou.

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Bill told me that the road between Glennallen and Tok was relatively flat. I guess he forgot out the 2 mountain passes there are to cross. We finally found that flat ride he was talking about 8 miles from Tok, and we also found another bike path.

Our next segment will take us from Tok across the Canadian border to Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory!

Riding the Great Divide from Alaska!

Over the last few years, we have completed a few amazing trips. In the fall of 2011, we enjoyed fall colors as we rode the east coast of the U.S. from Bar Harbor, Maine to Richmond, Virginia.  It was this memorable and adventure-filled trip that hooked us on bicycle touring.  Since that time, we have adventured on rail-trails across British Columbia, Forest Service roads through the mountains in Idaho, single tracks in Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  Unfortunately though, none of these trips lasted more than 3 weeks due to work commitments.

Now that we have retired from our jobs, we are free to embark on a nearly 5000 mile ride with few time commitments and no real schedule. On Tuesday, May 24, we will begin a journey from Anchorage, Alaska to Antelope Wells, New Mexico (a Mexican border town).   In Antelope Wells we will turn northwest to return to our home in Tucson, Arizona.  We will begin our trek toward Skagway, Alaska where we have reservations on the June 16 Alaska Marine Highway ferry that will take us to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.  Our next commitment is scheduled for June 20 … a ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy, British Columbia.  Port Hardy is a city on the northern end of Vancouver Island.  From that port city, we will take our time journeying east to Banff, Alberta and then south down the Rocky Mountains to Mexico.

Selecting bikes and a way to transport our gear has been an adventure of its own. We both have several bikes, but for this adventure, we have chosen to ride our Yeti ASR carbon full-suspension mountain bikes.  They are built for cross-country riding and climb hills like a dream.  On our previous rides, we have packed our gear in a variety of bags from racked panniers to seat-post mounted tail bags and handlebar bed rolls.  For this trip, we will be using Ortlieb panniers mounted on Old Man Mountain rear racks, front fork mounted Salsa Anything cages and bags, handlebar bags that will house our tent and sleeping bags and an assortment of frame and handlebar bags.

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Our gear and supplies have finally been selected and packed. In this process, we have selected, packed, unpacked, rejected, found replacements and finally repacked our final selections into the nooks and crannies of all the bags.  On Sunday, we took a full-loaded test ride.  The bikes gave an awesome performance.

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Finally, we are ready to go!