Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ice Fog

Just sayin'. Ice fog. It's fun stuff.

 You can kind of see the frost on my gloves here. My jacket and pants were also covered in frost. As was the entire bike. And my face.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Try to Keep Up

Sunny days and warm temps. A bit odd for January. At least the warm temps bit. No wind and sunny skies and temps in the upper 20s or lower 30s. Those were the conditions under which my son and I set sail for a good long day's riding.

Well, four hours or so of being out there in it. 21.7 miles actually ridden. But tons of fun had. 

In the Valley there are numerous trails that are maintained for snowmachines and dog sleds. Numerous trails that are absolutely impassable in the warmer months. Numerous trails that form a virtual highway system into vast tracts of land in this great state that are inaccessible at other times of the year. I've always wanted to explore some of these courses, to get out into more remote areas of the valley, but haven't done it to this point for a variety of reasons. 

After a bit of encouragement from my wife, my son and I took the day and headed out to explore a bit. And I figured that if one were to explore a dog mushing trail and all that goes along with that (read: a coating of dog fecal matter on everything at the end of the day), then we should at least start our exploration on the most famous trail of them all up here - the Iditarod.

Friday night we picked up a map to help us find our way and I spent a good few hours debating the best options. Some locals over at the Alaska MTBR forum had mentioned just how much dog crap was on the trail the last time he rode it and that the Big Lake ice road was in and ridable, so a good option would be to go there and ride out to a trail called, wait for it, Trail 6. Looking at the map, it seemed a decent ride, and I was close to pulling the trigger on that one. The thing is, though, that my boy, twelve years old and on his first adventure ride would have been bored out of his mind if the first six miles of the ride were across the lake - flat riding with numerous snowmachines and trucks.

After much debate we decided that the risk of getting covered in dog poo just wasn't great enough to push us to Big Lake. So we hit the sack early-ish and woke the next morning with the goal of getting out the door by 10, knowing that wouldn't actually happen, but setting the goal anyway.

Saturday dawned nice and warm and clear. The sunrise on the mountains as we headed out of the neighborhood and towards our jumping off point was amazing - pink and bright and boding good things.

We travelled down KGB road, stopping off at Three Bears for fuel, both for the vehicle and ourselves, arriving at the Knik bar around 11:30 AM. I got out and inspected the lake ice - though I'm not sure what the point was as there were already a couple of pickups out there ice fishing, but checked it anyway, before we unpacked the bikes, loaded them up and headed across the lake, hoping the trail on the other side would be easy enough to find.

It was, even though we technically were trespassing from the lake up to the actual Iditarod trail, but judging by the tracks, we weren't the only ones who'd done this.

My son was riding the 2014 Pugsley - a heavy beast, for sure. Yet, he kept up with me or ahead of me the whole ride. Our plan from the outset was to ride to S. Burma road, ten miles in, turn around there, and head back for a nice 20 mile round trip. The challenge, of course, was to not ride so long as to turn my boy off from riding like this, but also making the drive to the trailhead worth the time and gas. A 20 miler felt like the right way to address those concerns.

The ride for the first few miles goes through a mix of forrest and swamp with some low hills to climb - easy riding even with the sparse snow cover and icy sections of trail. Then the trail cuts through a number of swamps and lakes - flat, easy riding. Riding in the sun this particular day. The final bit going to Burma road is where things take a turn. You enter the woods again and a couple of decent, bordering on hellacious climbs - sharp uphills with blind corners. Ripe for a nasty accident if you encounter a dog team. Interesting fact - sixteen dogs pulling a sled are generally nearly silent when on the move.

Overall, the ride to Burma road and back is one that most anyone can do. And this year, with the sparse snow cover, a skinny bike with studs is probably the best tool for the job - though a fatty is always fun.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Same Old, Same Old

Ugh. Back to the daily ins and outs, the same old, same old, the work-a-day world.

I'm  really not feeling it. I want to live on vacation for the rest of my life, man. Get up late. Ride my bike. Take a nap if I were so inclined. Ride my bike. Stay up late. Eat diner at 10 at night. Have a drink or two.

You know, live life, man.

But, instead I am stuck here. In the office. The daily grind.

Eh. It could be worse. I could have not had the two weeks off. I could have not been able to get my bike out there and enjoyed the weather and the snow and the trails.

And there was some good riding to be had. And then there was a meltdown with rain to make the low elevation areas kinda crappy for riding, but the upper areas? Bomber.

I don't know how many miles I rode during my vacation. Probably not as many as it felt like, because at least two days of riding were spent packing in trail so each mile felt like two and I'll count them that way if I want.

I know. I've talked about this trail system before. I just keep finding myself impressed with the work that has been done on the trails and the general beauty of the area. I love Hatcher Pass, but GPRA is quickly becoming my go-to backyard outdoor experience. I just love that I can ride, the kids can ski, and the wife can walk all at the same place and the great thing about it? There seems to hardly ever be anyone else there. Rare is the time when my trail experience coincides with someone else's. Not to say that I don't want to see you out on the trails. I do. I just also really enjoy the solitude that comes from having trails to myself.

It's a great time to be a non-motorized trail user in the valley right now. So come and get it.

I have to say that in the valley, the premier riding venue is certainly GPRA - Government Peak Recreation Area. There are two connected single track trails here and the lower track is machine groomed, flowy, and fast while the upper track is narrowly packed in, which makes for some challenging climbing - and the upper track does climb.