Monday, June 27, 2011

Johnson Pass, both ways (June 18)

Johnson Pass is a Kenai springtime epic. The 23 mile trail's north end is largely open and gets overgrown as plant life kicks into photosynthetic overdrive, making it nearly impassable and unenjoyable. The north-end also sees more snow than the south-end, so its a narrow window to get in and out.
Often this trail is ridden one-way with a shuttle, and while that would yield a rather short ride compared to some of the other Kenai epics, the north-end in particular is rough and challenging in places and can suck it out of you.
Mike C, Ethan, Kjell, and I decided to hit it in both directions, starting from the south-end and riding north, planning to turn around at Turnagain Pass. The grind took 8 hours and change, though was slowed a bit by a major mechanical at the pass. I believe actual ride time was in the 6-hour neighborhood.

 Ethan gets a lot of credit for planning ahead and bring a jug of water to leave at the north-end, which we had to drive by on the way to Moose Pass, so we could refill without having to risk drinking untreated stream water. Good thinking indeed, but his preparedness unfortunately did not benefit him.

Temps were in the mid-70s when we rolled out at 10 with the sun shining bright. We weren't too upset that a storm was brewing to the south.

Lark Mountain.

Johnson Lake.

We stopped for lunch at Johnson Lake. Only seconds after leaving from our break spot, Ethan's rear hub unexpectedly gave its last. Ethan was the hero of the trip, coasting (which involved a lot of walking and running) back to the truck, and hanging out in bug-infested Moose Pass while we finished out the ride. Oh, and that water, well, Mike, Kjell, and I were pretty happy to quench our thirsts with his good thinking.

The fabled Alaskan grizzly ground squirrel. Known for their fierce demeanor, they will charge unprovoked!

The north-end has some sweet old bridges.

Shoe for perspective.

On the return trip through the pass clouds had moved in. While the temp didn't go down, we appreciated the relief from the sun.

Kjell borrows a pair of binocs at the pass from a fellow traveler to scope a nearby slope for bears. None seen, but how many saw us?

Mike rides along the last five miles above Trail Lake with lupine blooming everywhere.

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