10-day bike trip to Denali National Park

Well, well, 2 seasons later and 1 year older (on paper!) and I am back in the Anchorage public library typing away the details of my previous week. I left on Wednesday the 17th and was away for 10 days with my mountain bike, bob trailer and plenty of warm clothing. I spent two days riding in some light snow showers and a day (my birthday!) riding in pouring rain, and two days pedaling at 6 miles an hour into strong head winds. When I left it was officially still summer, but I have to say that I experienced summer, fall and winter within a week.

I came here with the idea that I wanted to see the state and test out doing some cold weather riding/camping. I got what I was looking for. I was only at 2000-2300 ft, but I was also within 300 or so miles of the Arctic Circle. As I rode north each night got colder. First there was ice in my water bottle, then ice in my nalgene in my tent. At my furthest point north I had my nalgene freeze SOLID inside my tent. My sleeping bag kept me warm despite the layer of ice that formed on the top where the moisture in my breath had frozen. I paid to camp twice; despite every night sleeping at an established campground. Most were state run and completely empty. One nights I woke up in time to look out of my tent and see the northern lights. Another night I had a view of Mt. Denali (the LARGEST mountain in the world, it stands at only 20,000 ft, but is 18,000 ft above the range level. Everest, for example, is 29,000 ft high, but only 11,000 ft higher than the range it is in.) from my tent door. I didn’t do any long hikes, but had ample opportunity to hike around the trails at the campsites, if I wasn’t too cold. My morning off in the national park I was eating cereal with water and powdered soymilk and the liquid was freezing as I ate it-I realized it when I was chewing on ice crystals. I decided to hang out in my tent for awhile until it warmed up a little. Vegan food was difficult to find outside of Anchorage, but I was able to make due because of all the food I had brought with me (mostly dehydrated refried beans, hummous, and curry lentil soup; chocolate; almonds; ramen noodles; and tvp).

I met some interesting locals, chatted with some rangers, and hung out with some other travelers. In the national park one night a French guy in his early 30’s invited me for tea in his family’s RV. Him, his wife and two kids (2.5 and 4 yrs old) had rented an RV in Montréal months ago and have just ended up in Alaska. Amazing. This is after them spending a couple months in southern Africa. They shared many travel stories from Africa and together we knocked Americans for their ignorance of US foreign policy. That night I thought a lot about where I might be when I am 33; will I be traveling in an RV with a wife and kids? Will I have been to Africa and lived all over the world as they have?

The next day I left to complete my round trip to Anchorage; I layered my miles so that I could stay at different campsites then on my way North. Why the same route? I had intended on taking the Denali Hwy East for its 135 gravel miles with no towns, and then looping back to Anchorage on different hwys. But after crossing a pass on my way North (in snow) I talked to a state trooper who made me decide otherwise. “All the hunters are getting out of there because of the weather. If it snows hard no one goes back there. Bring a lot of food and do not expect to see any other people. Prepare to be snowed in for a week, plus however long it will take to ride.” A bit more than I was looking for this trip.

I have other stories, but I have to keep this at a readable length. Back in Anchorage we went hiking up to Exit Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula the day after I got back. Amazing. Today (Monday the 29th) it is raining and unfortunately it is suppose to rain all week. This gives me time to prepare for my trip to the Vancouver area. Apparently it is really a hot spot for Mnt biking. Anyone know anyone there? I still haven’t worked out a place to stay or an itinerary. I’ll keep this posted. Thanks to everyone who sent me a b-day message.

One last thing: Everyone should check out this webpage for amazing pictures of an amazing bicycle journey from Alaska to the tip of South America: The Road South

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