Monday, June 27, 2011

The Russian Loop (Sharon S Rendition) (June 25)

(This is the one of three posts to make up for a general lack of posting over the past few weeks. To see trip reports from Johnson Pass and Eagle River, view the previous two posts as well.

After learning of a convenient detour from Sharon S, I've been looking forward to riding what I've been calling the Sharon Rendition of the Russian Lakes Loop. The Russian is one of my all-time favorite rides, but it has a limited season and late June is typically its maximum before overgrowth makes its impassable and unenjoyable until mid- to late-September.
The Sharon Rendition of this classic starts from the Resurrection Trails south trail head, and heads north on Resurrection 4.6 miles in to the Junction with Bean Creek Trail. The recently rebuilt BCT takes you back to Bean Creek road, which eventually dumps out on the north side of the beginning of the Kenai River at the mouth of Kenai Lake. A short ride over the pedestrian walkway along the Sterling Highway bride gets you across the river, and 50 feet later, it's two pedal strokes across the highway to Snug Harbor Road.
This cuts out the ~5 miles of shoulder-less highway riding I used to do to complete this loop. (In the name of full disclosure, there is probably 1/4 mile ride of highway riding from the Russian River Overflow Parking Lot back to the car...we didn't even get passed by a car when we rode back...)

 Brian, Ethan and I met up at 7:30 Saturday morning after a heavy overnight rain, and pondered the dark, misty clouds rolling overhead. It was too long a drive to risk getting rained out, so we decided to take along fishing rods as an alternate plan.

After driving through on-again off-again rain the whole way to Cooper Landing, we net Kjell at the trail head and found it was cloudy, breezy, and cool, but not raining.
The first half of the ride up Res and up Snug was mostly cloudy, but as we climbed blue sky started to appear.
Dropping down through the upper section of Russian Lakes Trail.
 We found the trail was just past its prime in terms of overgrowth. The trail itself was perfect, not too dry, but really firm. It appeared the rain had not made it to the upper section overnight so in some places it was actually dry. Vegetation was handlebar-high in some of the usual suspect meadows, but as a whole was still OK. Riding would have been ideal for the last three weeks, but July 4th will be the absolute latest for sure, and I won't be riding it.

The shores of the Upper Lake.

Some fields that are typically really grown up were still surprisingly low, a pleasant surprise for sure.

Such a classic June on the Kenai shot.

A quick break on bug cliff.

The avalanche slopes were blooming.

We cleaned the 42-mile loop in 5 hours, 40 minutes, and that accounted for some messing around at the end to deal with a quick flat and hanging out at Russian River Falls. Ride time was probably 5 hours, which is pretty good.
Done early, we decided to give it a go on the Russian River for sockeye. The fishing was pretty slow, but the crowds were limited too and it was actually a pretty nice and peaceful experience, which s not something that can often be said for that area.

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