Thursday, October 29, 2009

The gear that gets me here; Giant Trance X

Earlier this year I watched my former two wheeled stead, a 2004 Marin East Peak, bite the dust outside of Grand Junction Colorado.
The Marin had a hellish life, and despite my many criticisms, it saw far more abuse than most riders would even dream of putting their bikes through. The Marin (Mari) seen in the summer of '06, looked much the same as it did at the beginning of the '09 season.
When the down tube cracked on the Holy Cross Trail, the only original components left on the bike were the handlebars, stem, seat post, and main frame.
Even the swing arm, the back part of the full suspension frame, was replaced.
I bought that bike at least three times in five years.
It’s time had long since come and gone and I had planned to start scoping out deals on new bikes right about now.
Instead, I had to do that a little earlier than planned, and probably to my own benefit.
The ’09 Giant Trance X2 I picked up on Grand J has, after one season, proved to be a worthy purchase.The Trance, seen a week ago before it was stowed away inside for the season.
I was very skeptical of the Trance at first.
When I was buying the Marin several years ago I was also test rode the Trance X’s grandfather, the Giant VT2.
I disliked the VT2’s complex linkage system and saw it quickly succumbing to the rocky, rooty, muddy riding of central Vermont.
Giant VT2
I took the bike for a ride up the fire road to Silver Lake.
While it climbed better than most full suspension bikes would have then, it still felt sluggish, and was twitchy on the descent.
Compared to the Marin’s, simple, sleek yet efficient “quad-link” suspension system, and power focused drawn out rider position, the choice was obvious.
The following year Giant unveiled the first line of Trance’s, but paid little attention to the Trance line.
Earlier this year however, two of my riding buddies from Middlebury, Andrew and Ashar both picked up Trance X’s, and I had noticed more of them on trails in Saratoga.
When it came time to make a purchase, they’d all done a lot of the research for me and spoke highly of the bike.
The Trance, and its relatives that feature the “Maestro” suspension system, have also received rave reviews year after year from several bike periodicals.
I don’t always put much stock in these corporate reviews as there’s a lot of pressure to appease corporate marketing dollars spilling from between the lines.
All the same, repetitive high reviews and an unchanging product design all say the bike as something good going for it.
Another huge selling point was Giant’s life time warranty on the frame.
One of the biggest downfalls of the Marin was its penny thin rear dropouts. The dropouts became so thin on my original swing arm that after two seasons I had to replace the whole arm.
When I called Marin and asked for a replacement, the rep fought me tooth and nail, and wanted me to pay full retail price for the arm.
He grudgingly relented, and charged me whole sale price when I accused him and Marin of not standing behind their product.
I still paid more than I should have.
More, he still refused to ship directly to me, and my understanding was that that same rep got in a verbal fight with the mechanic at the shop I went through afterwards.
The shop, by the way, dropped their Marin line, no surprise.
After an experience like that, I came to appreciate the value of a bike company that’s willing to stand behind their product when they’ve done a poor design or construction job.
So obviously, I bought the bike, and after all this gab, I still haven’t said how it rides, yikes.
OK, well the upright position and steep head tube of the Trance took some getting used to.
I was originally tempted to buy a size up or put a longer stem on, but on the advice of the owner of the shop I purchased it from, I hung in there and rode it out.
Well worth it.
You absolutely have to get back in the cockpit on this bike when coming through whippy corners and steep descents, and it is definitely twitchy at the helm.
Experienced riders won’t take long to get used to this, nor learn its values. The twitchiness means that paired with the right treads, this bike will maneuver through anything with the agility and speed of a fighter jet.
The suspension is beautiful on climbs but velvety smooth on descents.
I often refer to it as a butt sled on the way down. Just stick your rear end out, grip the saddle with your thighs and point where you want to go, it’s as fun as easy as sledding was as a kid.
That same steep head tube angle pays dividends on switch backed climbs, where the bike rolls around hard steep corners like a sure footed pack horse.
It’s a very comfortable rig to spend hours on too, a big plus given that the only type of riding here.
I’ve also become a big fan of the 15mm quick release axle.
I know there will still be riders out there who may not believe it, but the beefy through axle is absolutely stiffer than a regular quick release, and you know it when you’re tearing through a technical section.
If you’re going to have a bike with so much snap in its figurative neck, you might as well equip it with ankles that won’t flex under pressure.
I have picked out a few downfalls.
Overall the X2’s component package is solid and I have no complaints.
I’m still not a big fan of Shimano drive trains and will eventually replace the current one with Sram, but that’s still somewhere down the trail.
The wheels leave a lot to be desired though.
The pair of WTB Laser Disc Trails that came stock on my Trance.
The WTB Laser Disc Trails are perhaps one of the worst WTB products I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with.
WTB, which I’ve generally found to be a solid company, tried to reinvent the wheel here. The rims feature a groove meant to seat the bead of the tire for a more secure fit. In theory this is a good idea as it means less energy is lost to flex between the rim and the tire, but in reality, it just make life a bitch, pardon my language.
The grooves in question are visible by contrast of a thin layer of dust seated on the inside of the rim. The dust on the outside of the rim gives the wheel the look that it might be damaged but it assuredly isn't.
It’s impossibly tough to get a tire to seat correctly on the rim. I only managed to get my front tire, a Specialized Capitan, on after numerous efforts. My rear tire, a Kenda Nevegal, was never seated correctly, and that may have played a role in its ultimate destruction. When seated correctly, the tires were equally hard to get off the rims.
Not only is all of this a pain in the butt when doing maintenance or changing tires in the comfort of your garage or shop, it’s the lead in to bad news on the trail.
When I blow a flat I don’t want to spend a half an hour feeding the bugs or baiting bears because my tire takes 10 minutes just to pop off and another 18 (minus a few minutes to change the tube and inflate) to get back on correctly.
I think Ashar proposed the best solution for dealing with the wheels in an email he sent recently: “I recommend letting most of the air out of the tire, and then hucking off an 8’ deck onto flat ground. Once you get the folded rim off the frame and throw it into the river, you can spend the winter leisurely shopping for a replacement deal.”
The only other major mechanical I had with the components was a dead bottom bracket at the end of the season.
I’m not sure if riding conditions are to blame or not. It wasn’t particularly wet, though it’s still Alaska and mud and water are part of every ride. I may try and get this replaced but I won’t cry a river if I have to buy a new one.

While I spent the last weekend putting some gear away, my skis are out and ready for the snow to fly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I hate to do this but I'm just exhausted, for no apparent reason either really, but I need to get some sleep.
So thanks all for the birthday wishes. It was a quiet one, but the Kenai Gods smiled and the sun came out with temps in the 50's so I was able to do a nice three hour road ride with Justin and his wife and get lots of work done both on my car and on the bikes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mans best friend

On my run Tuesday after work I had some unexpected but pleasant company.
A massive German Shepperd came bounding out of some one's yard as I ran past and decided to join me for the rest of my jog.
The dog was hanging out in a neighborhood that has a few dogs, one of which is a real prick and snarls and snaps when I go by.
Fortunately I didn't see the others around, but being such a big dog I slowed down to a walk.
The big shepperd just wagged his tail and even lightly grabbed my sleeve as I scratched his ears, as though to lead me off.
I started up again and he took off in front of me.
I've had a dog or two follow me on rides and runs before, and on the latter I'll usually stop so the flustered owner can retrieve their pet before their pooch follows me to the other side of a pass.
I figured this dog would turn around once I rounded the next bend as most do, but instead he just kept on going.
It's not really my problem if someone can't keep track of their dog, and I figured eventually this dog would decide to go its own way on its wandering, but when I returned to the highway he was still a few feet out front waiting to see where we were going next.
Eventually I got back to camp, the dog still wagging his tail excitedly, overjoyed by all the new sights and sounds, and clearly clueless to his location.
Sure enough he followed me right down to camp.
The big dog was so trusting and people friendly.
He responded in a snap to a whistle, and when I opened the door to the lodge he went right in.
As tempting as it would have been to adopt him right then and there, he had a collar and a tag, and I was sure someone somewhere was probably starting to wonder where he was at, so I went and grabbed my keys and a coat.
When I opened the trunk to the suby he leapt right in without hesitation, and I drove back up the road to where I'd found him.
He'd hardly jumped out when a man emerged from the house I'd stopped in front of called "Barron," and the dogs head looked up.
I talked with the owner for a few minutes, told him his dog had gone for a nice run and what a nice looking dog he was.
The owner was gracious and friendly, and said he'd just had surgery, evident by his noticeable stiffness and limp.
I felt bad for the dog, which clearly needed to get out and stretch.
When I walked back to my car he trotted after me, not towards the house, and I had to turn around and walk back so his owner could get his collar.
I'd love a big dog to run and bike with on the weekend and keep my feet warm while I write these posts, but I can't, and I saw that evidenced by this dog's situation, which is sadly to me, so similar to many other dog's situations.
First and foremost, there's no dogs allowed in the lodge, so I just can't have one right now.
There's more than that though.
To most people, I think, pets like dogs are just a fuzzy form of furniture. They're something you keep in your home or yard to warm it up a little, add some character.
Sure, the average pet might get walked from time to time, but most, like their owners, are over wight and out of shape.
For some types of dogs that's OK, but for others, its evidently not, and they're noticeably depressed or ill behaved as a result.
Fortunately it doesn't take a lot to make most dogs happy.
Feed them, pat them on the head, let them out when they whine and they'll love you.
For the dogs this works for, great, but that won't likely be the dog I want.
The dog that can follow me from one end of the Resurrection to the other can't spend everyday of the week couped up because I only have time for my own workouts.
That same dog needs to be loyal and trustworthy to not disappear over a ridge or come tearing back with a brown bear in tow.
That dog can't take off for Nome because it's gun shy, nor can it eat whatever I might be so lucky to line up in my gun sight.
I clearly ask a lot of my best four legged friend, and so I think it's reasonable to return the favor.
I know I can't do that right now, I couldn't do that if I was living in a little apartment in a big city.
I don't see how it's fair to not make sure a dog isn't as happy as he or she makes me.
So while Barron wagged his tail wondering if maybe I'd take him into my home, or just go back and explore more of the neighborhood with him, I knew there was no room for him, or any other dog in my life right now, but if he wants to go running again, and his owner wants to throw me a leash, I'll take him with.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The MacGyver of the Kenai

You're 10 miles out on an icy late season ride when the sidewall on your tire blows out making an inch and a half bubble of innertube rubber balloon out for the next sharp stick to poke: no worries, a paper clip and a ballpoint can get you home.
My riding buddy Justin, more recently aka the MacGyver of the Kenai, had more than the aforementioned materials in his breakdown bag thank god, but that was more or less my situation on Saturday.
Justin and I were planning on heading up to Swan Lake for what looks to be the last mountain ride of the season.
The trail in freeze thaw mode as low as 1,000' with lots of gooey mud, and ice in all the puddles; but the sun was out and the riding was nice.

Justin rolls across the bridge above Juneau Falls.

Approaching the spur to Trout Lake.

Trumpeter Swans on Juneau Lake.

We were enjoying the warm sun on our backs, views across Juneau Lake and the bugling of the swans on the other side when Justin commented that this was one of the nicer rides he had ever been on and that it was great nothing had gone wrong.
I joked he'd probably just cursed us.
We rolled not 20 feet from where we'd been stopped and BAM!
I thought someone was shooting at me or I'd somehow run over and set off an unspent bullet.
The metallic thunk from my rear wheel told me otherwise.
The sidewall on my Kenda Nevegal, which came stock on the Trance and has otherwise been a solid rear tire, has just blown out. The sidewall tore right off the bead at the seam.
It appears it was defective, there were no signs of puncture marks and the trails here don't have much in the way of jagged rocks to shred sidewalls.
Anyway, regardless of the cause, I had a major problem. With such a big hole, the new tube would balloon out the gaping hole and it wouldn't take long before a stick or something would pop it too.
Had I been on my own I would have probably used the old tube to make a few layers of protection around the exposed tube and hope the hole didn't expand even more. If that didn't work, which it wouldn't have for 10 miles, I'd be hiking.
Justin carries everything you can imagine expcept a spare tire though, so we did better.
With a half hour of rigging, we wired a tire lever over the tear to keep it from expanding more and taped it all up with body tape to keep the bubble in and safe.

That got me about 5 miles limping along before the wire eventually began to unravel letting loose the lever and the hole further expanded.

We added more wire and replaced the lost lever with a rotten stick.

There was a lot more stop and go through the last five miles as we cinched the wire more and tried different shaped sticks, but the whole system made it to about 500 feet from the trail head, pretty damn good.
While it wasn't the most ideal way to end the season, it was ultimately better than hiking. I'll have plenty of time to do that business in the coming weeks I imagine.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog induced guilt

In a place that's so big and wild, whenever I spend the weekend in, or have a camera technicality n a trip like last weekend, I can't help but feel a little guilty.
Part of the guilt with staying in is that even though it doesn't appear that I'm going anywhere anytime soon, I still can't help but feel that I'm missing something I don't have a lot of time to see.
It does seem like every two weeks here is different than the last, either with the weather, the scenery, the snow conditions, etc; but there's also a sense of urgency I can't shake.
It's a sense that this place is all going to fold up to the sound of a buzzing alarm, and I'll wake form my dream to find it's no more.
That's not a bad thing I guess.
I also hate when my camera's not there to capture the scenery, even if I'm visiting a place I frequent often.
For whatever reason though, I often find my biggest concern when any of these things happen, is that I won't have an adventure to write or post pictures from here.
It seems like every time I hit the trail, or make my own, I come back with photos that melt my computer screen, and more often than not, a have a story to tell.
Last weekend when I went up to Crescent Lake, excited to get some art from the rarely visited locale, the second I realized I forgot a battery, the first thing I thought was: "Damnit, now I won't be able to post photos from this ride to the blog."
That's what I'm thinking?
I'm riding a sweet windy little trail that goes to a beautiful aquamarine lake sandwiched between snow capped peaks, and I'm annoyed that I won't have blog material?
That mentality often follows me out the door, and I have to say, this blog has lent itself to making me more prudent on taking the camera on more trips than I probably would otherwise.
That's made apparent when I cram a weekend full of adventures. Usually once I'm happy I've got a nice post, the camera may still go for a ride/hike/board, but it gets pulled out of the bag a lot less frequently.
Don't get worried though, I'm not about to say that I'm going to try and change this quirk.
I'll still make a habit of checking twice, even thrice, before I leave, that I've got a camera, and a battery.
After all, these photos get me through the week sometimes.
Just know that when I'm taking it easy, laying around the lodge on every odd weekend or so, the little hamster wheel upstairs is spinning at the red line trying to come up with post content.

Scott and I went to Homer and Anchor Point today to do two schools related stories. We enjoyed lunch, nice weather and nice views across Kachemak Bay from the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The people that live here

I dropped the ball on my ride Friday to Crescent Lake. It's been a year since I last made it up there, and this time I was excited to take a few photos as I forgot my camera last time.
I forgot the battery. Oops.
We had some pretty wild weather this weekend with winds gusting to 90 mph in Turnagain Arm and the mountains. Temps warmed to the 60s and the air felt dense and tropical with moisture jetted north from the south pacific.
The narrow Crescent Lake was a frothing bath, with waves over a foot high pounding into the shore like an incoming tide.
By Saturday morning the bulk of the storm had passed and though it looked like blue hell in the sky in almost every direction, I went for a ride on Mystery Creek Road.

MCR, a primitive dirt road with few bridges, lots of mud and pond sized puddles, runs north from the Sterling Highway along the base of the Kenai Mountains, connecting with the Enstar natural gas pipeline right of way and continuing on to Chickaloon Bay, 40 some odd miles from anything to the south, but only a few miles from Anchorage on the other side of Turnagain Arm.
It's strange country.
On the one hand, its incredibly remote. When's the last time you were legitimately over 20 miles from anything but your car?
On the other hand, MCR is opened up every fall to public access chiefly for hunters, but anyone with the vehicular means can use the road.
In the winter, when enough snow falls, it's opened for snow machiners.
This means that this lonesome place is accessible to anyone with four-wheel drive or a snowmachine. Both are pretty common in these parts.
In truth, MCR is really only drivable by a stock 4x4 for about the first 15 miles or so. After that there's a few mud pits and stream crosses that you don't want to be messing around with in your average grain-fed urban SUV.
The first 10 mile are, in good weather, even accessible with my car, if you don't mind a little mud. I don't, thank you.
What this all means though, is even though your way out, there's signs of people, and with that idiocy everywhere.
Crumpled cans, beer packaging and even piles of human feces swaddled in toilet paper were more common than animal tracks.
More on this behavior later.

I drove about 10 miles out and parked at a side trail that leads to an airstrip before hopping on my hard tail.
I saw one truck near the highway and didn't see a single person for the next two and a half hours as I made it closer to Anchorage than home.

After an hour I came to an overlook where I could see the Alaska Range in the distance. That was good enough.

Long sections of the trail look like this. The mud hole in the foreground is about 3 feet deep and has a 1 foot diameter culvert at the end that's been washed out. You better have a skid plate and some solid treads if you want to get through.

Here's a different looking view of the Kenais from one of the many large burn areas.

When I got back to my car a newer looking pickup came down the trail from the airstrip.
It was the first car or persons I'd seen in about 3 hours at this point.
The truck stopped 40 feet away, and I assumed probably because they thought I might be headed towards them.
They stayed put though even after I dismounted, and I went about what I was doing, wondering why they were waiting.
Holy sh!t I thought as I ducked my head and waited to hear the shattering of my windows or ricocheting of bullets.
Nothing, I looked up to see a rifle sticking out the drivers side window pointed towards a stand of burned spruce, and caught the spiraling motion of a grouse falling from a bent over tree.
Whew, I thought, even smiling, momentarily glad I hadn't just been caught in some kind of Alaskan version of Deliverance.
I waited to see if they would get out and retrieve their quarry, even if illegally gotten.
Nope, they laughed and drove on by.
What the hell?
I listened to the sound of their truck fade in the distance as they headed for the highway.
I guess I got a free dinner I thought to myself.
I was still wearing thin spandex and didn't want to wade through the sharp undergrowth though, so I changed first, knowing the bird, if not dead but just wounded, would limp to denser cover and likely be even harder to find.
Sure enough, when I went and looked I found I was the only thing up for dinner, as the flies, awakened by the warm weather, built up their swarm.
This is the second event of this nature I've witnessed, two weekends in a row. I drove by the bear that was shot in the aforementioned story minutes before it was shot in front of a group of onlookers feet from the highway.
While this is not everyone, these are people who call this place home, like it or not.

The buffoons can't have all the fun though. While my offroading days are long gone, I still love stomping my fossil fuel powered feet in the puddles from time to time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tuned out

Last weekend making my final descent down the Lost Lake Trail I saw something that ticked me off quite a bit.
This says a lot since after 6 hours in the saddle I shouldn't have felt anything other than hurt and hungry.
Flying through the canyon section, I spotted a runner in front of me maybe a 100 feet or so.
I try and make a lot of noise on my way down that and other windy trails to avoid collisions.
Seeing the runner up ahead I called out a "hey-oh" at a pitch I knew he would hear.
I watched, and in the fractions of a second it took me to close half the distance he didn't respond.
I was close enough now to see the wires coming up from his shirt to his ears.
Son of a.... "HEY OH" I yelled, this time making sure my call got through as I squeezed down on the levers.
The guy's head turned around and he kindly moved off to the side as I rolled up.
As I went by I thanked him, but I noticed as I continued past he gave me a slightly irritated look, and as gravity took back over with my fingers off the levers, I saw his head snap back up the trail to see if anyone else was coming.
I've got a deep rooted bad habit of not telling people I'm alone.
When I'm in a group, I'm pretty quick to yell how many more are to come if I'm up front.When I was young and went off hiking and biking by myself though, keeping my solo status was a good thing.
Now its obnoxious, and I realize it's left more than one group of hikers, equestrians and other riders standing around or moving on tenuously waiting for others to come tearing after me.
So I felt bad for a second that this guy was going to spend the next five to ten minutes wondering if another two wheeled devil was bearing down on him, especially as he entered the switchbacks ahead.
Then I thought about the situation more fully.
First and foremost, forget that this is Alaska for a moment.
This guy was running on a very popular trail on a Friday evening with headphones.
Lost Lake is a favorite for mountain runners, hikers and mountain bikers alike. Even in the off season it still sees a fair amount of use.
Bike paths see lots of use too, but most bike paths don't run along precipitous drops or make narrow switchbacks through dark boreal rain forests.
It's just not ideal for wearing headphones, no matter how awesome they make you feel.
Ok, Alaska factor.
It's not just disrespectful and dangerous to other trail user to be running around on Lost Lake tuned out to the world, but with only an hour to go to sunset on a stormy fall evening, it's an invitation to get seriously chewed up or worse.
I already feel that running alone in the backcountry here is really putting yourself in harms way.
Admittedly, so is mountain biking, but so far, fewer riders have been caught between the jaws of a bruin than runners.
I would say the same thing about a plugged in mountain biker though.
As nice as it might be to enjoy the awe inspiring scenery of the mountains with a favorite sound track playing through your ears, there's real danger out there that requires attention.
My stance on the bear threat has relaxed greatly since I first came here, but I still like to have all my senses about me, especially when I'm on my own.
In my frank opinion, this guy might just as well have been carrying a few salmon carcasses with him instead of wearing headphones.
So as I rolled away, wondering if I should yell back so he could enjoy the rest of his run without that eerie feeling that something was coming up from behind him, I decided, no.
It might do him some good after all.
On Wednesday I had that point driven home.
While I wait for snow, I've moved into a pre-ski training mode that involved more running, as much as I dislike it.
Wednesday evening I was out for a run on a loop I call the "Juniors Loop" after a fishing hole it goes by.
Not 10 minutes out of camp on a stretch of dirt road that parallels the river, I spotted two fuzzy objects several hundred feet up the road.
Two brown bear cubs, likely two-year olds, though perhaps smaller three year olds had been mulling about and were now watching me.
I watched them and vice versa for a few minutes before they started to amble off towards the woods.
To mom?
I wasn't going to hang around and find out, not many people live on the particular dead end stretch this time of year.
In the course of a half an hour my run was rerouted again by two more times by two separate moose.
I straight out refuse to run in the woods here, but I do feel comfortable on the side of dirt roads or in the right of way alongside the highway.
That doesn't mean I won't see wildlife obviously, and the situation did get me thinking about whether headphones are even safe in these places where I'm more likely to get mauled by the tires of a truck.
Not too long after I made it back down in the parking lot at Lost Lake, the bike loaded, feeling warm and dry in real clothes and about to hit the road for the scenic drive home, I heard the "pat-pat-pat" of the runner coming down the last stretch.
He jogged into the lot headed for a Prius at the far end. As he entered the open he shot me a look that said, "Hey, F-you you Mountain Dew extreme sport punk."
OK maybe I read "in between between" the lines, but it wasn't a pleasant look.
Fired up with adrenaline from the long descent, I just wanted the guy to say something so I could unleash.
He just hit the remote unlock button and I was deprived, probably for the better on my part, perhaps not he.

A friend sent me this picture. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New and familiar territory

Lots of photos, which can only mean one thing, a weekend heavy with adventures.

The mountains are finally suiting up for winter. Here's a shot towards the Kenais taken Thursday evening.

Early last week a hyperphasic bear came through late one night and decided it wanted eggs. The bruin came a few months too late though. The bait curing rack, laden with juicy king salmon roe through June and July, has been empty since mid August. After tearing open the screens and munching on an empty cure solution bottle, the bear turned its attention to some tasty dish soap.
There's a very sick and gassy bear wandering around Sterling now, but it hasn't been back in these parts.

On Friday I checked out a new twist on an old ride. The Lost Lake and Primrose Trail, which both lead to one of my favorite places on the peninsula, was recently incorporated into a loop. While all the Kenai epics are truly amazing, and not one is better than any other, at least in my humble opinion, their downfall is that everyone of them must be ridden out and back, or involve a long highway ride to make ends meet.
The new loop starts in Seward at the Lost Lake Trail, goes across the highway to Bear Lake, and follows the recently reconstructed Iditarod Historic Trail north to the point where it joins the Primrose Trail.
The northbound section twists, curves, climbs steeply and plummets again through old growth forests. The riding is slow and plodding, sun is scarce, noise is reduced to the sound of water sighing from the spongy earth beneath the two tires.
It's dumbfounding country, exactly what I would have imagined mountain biking in Alaska to be before I came here.
The icing on the cake is that the ride culminates with a climb through the high country around Lost Lake and a seven mile descent back to Seward.
The map below is just a sketch, and in no was should be considered accurate. Intel from other riders says this loop is 32 miles long and involves over 10,000 feet of climbing. My legs can attest.

From Bear Lake, looking west towards Lost Lake.

A giant old tree. Most trees in Alaska aren't much taller than your average NBA point guard, but on this ride I saw some big old behemoths.

This is what I imagined mountain biking in Alaska to look like.
Seeing green for most the day was pretty nice, it's getting harder and harder to come by.

Breaking out of treeline on Primrose, looking north to Kenai Lake.

To Seward.

One last look back to the lake, perhaps not to be seen again until next summer?

Saturday was supposed to be an easy day, and for the most part it was.
Despite the previous day's long ride, I woke up refreshed, and tackled a couple errands and some studying I needed to do, and by the afternoon it became apparent the weather was backing off.
My mind, still racing through the descent from Lost Lake, soon overpowered my every thought, and I found myself loading up the bike again to head to Resurrection for a "quickie."
I decided to time-trial myself after such a slow day and see how far I could hammer in an hour with the north end of Juneau Lake being the goal.
Although the trail was a little mucky from the previous night's rain I still made great time.
The perk of the trip, and perhaps the whole weekend, was seeing so many people I knew.
Friday I ran into a ski friend on Primrose. Saturday, only a few miles into Resurrection, I ran into a state parks official I work with on a frequent basis at the paper. Then 10 miles out I passed Edie, also a ski friend, and a friend of hers, on their way to a cabin to spend the night.
They invited me in for hot tea, a rare luxury on a mountain bike ride.
After some chat, I headed back out, and along the way passed two more friends from skiing on their way in to meet Edie.
It's not really a surprise that a bunch of like minded people should be drawn to the same place on a nice weekend, but 10 miles or two miles out, it's always nice to see familiar faces.
Juneau Lake.

Though I no longer get paid to fish on a daily basis, I still manage to find a way to pull it off on occasion. Sunday I went steelhead fishing on the Anchor River with a friend of camp, Scott.
It was a pretty slow afternoon overall, which means I caught nothing, Scott got three. I learned a great deal however and hopefully I'll have the chance to try my luck again later this season. The fishing for these colorful salmonids gets better as the weather gets worse.