Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Type II Fun

a few weeks back, friends P & C invited us along on a memorial day bike trip on the Denali Highway. the Denali Highway is an unpaved road, approximately 130 miles long, that connects Cantwell to Paxson, south of the Alaska Range. seemed like fun, P & C are fun, biking is fun, memorial day is fun - what was there to say "no" to?

after tempting us with such fun, P & C were unable to make it, so we invited other friends, Kristin and Jeremy. after some negotiation, we modified our trip to two days and 60 miles, which seemed ambitious enough, and headed south. and yes, we checked the weather: partly cloudy, scattered showers on Sunday, highs near 60F both days. but, this is Alaska where weather can change on a dime and the last thing you want is to be in the middle of nowhere with no dry clothes.
we decided to bike from the Tangle Lakes campground to the Susitna River, so the boys shuttled a car in while Kristin and i busily packed the bikes, or maybe we took naps. Kristin's impersonation of a blue tarp burrito:

the weather looked a little less optimistic than "partly cloudy with highs near 60" but we were confident until we hit this:

biking in a cloud.

as we climbed up to the 4,000 ft. MacClaren Pass, we stopped to put on another layer. then we stopped to put on a third layer. then a rain jacket. then panier covers. then rain pants. and still we climbed. oh yeah, and there was wind. once we reached the top of the Pass, we faced the long downhill - cold, wet, windy. nothing like a screaming downhill in those conditions! we reached MacClaren Lodge none too soon and warmed up with some hot chocolate.

with hypothermia no longer knocking at the door, we were able to come to our senses and ask for shelter. unfortunately the lodge was full but they offered us the musher's cabin; there was no heat, but at least it was dry. Cob, a man i'm now convinced knows EVERYTHING about fire, reassembled the small woodstove and had it cooking in no time. so, now we had dry AND warm. it just doesn't get any better than that!

the next morning, we faced another rainy day, which might explain why we weren't motivated to leave the lodge until noon. while my socks dried out over night, i couldn't afford another long day of wet feet, so some plastic bags between two pairs of socks kept at least some of the rain and mud out the next day.

with 35-40 miles in front of us, we set off, climbing out of the valley and up a hill that pretty much didn't stop until what felt like 35-40 miles later at the car. it pretty much rained the whole time except for that brief, shining moment when it hailed slightly. we stopped for lunch under a bridge to get out of the rain.

Jeremy modeled Kristin's pink hat (she was wearing his):

and then we set off again. now, i've biked/run/canoed/hiked in the rain - rain doesn't bother me. what bothers me is to be in one of the most beautiful places on earth and not be able to see more than 50 ft in front of me. which means no expansive vistas, no looming mountains, no magestic glaciers. but we did get to see mud - on our clothes, our bikes, our water bottles, our faces. mud everywhere.

at one point in the day, it must have warmed up to about 50F, which felt downright balmy, and the clouds lifted enough to see this:

now, just imagine that as an entire mountain range in the distance. that's what we missed. but what we did have was good company, and good fun - "Type II fun" as one friend called it (the kind where you're glad you survived and feel damn virtuous for it) - but fun nonetheless.

p.s. on our way out, we added one more precipitation to our experinence - snow.

1 comment:

chase said...

Meanwhile, P & C, when not dealing w. family, have been taking long bike rides in the Berkshires, with blooming flowers, trees and shrubs and occasional long vistas when we leave the overarching canopy of trees. Guess this is Type I fun.