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.


  1. Good looking pictures. Is it as flat as it looks? How many hours of daylight do you get?

  2. For the most part, the part of the trail we were on was as flat as it looks. This part of the trail crosses a lot of low-lying swamp and river delta, so quite easy riding when frozen.

    As of today we have 6 hours and 17 minutes of daylight. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes more. We would've been around 5 and a half hours of daylight on that day. We left down the trail around 11:30 I think and it had just gotten about as bright as it was going to get that day. By the return trip at 2 it was already starting to feel like dusk. Then again, this time of year all of our daylight feels a bit like sunset as the sun is quite low on the southern horizon.