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.

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