Passing some time in Haines

It’s fun to spend more than a day in a place, getting to know all the nooks and crannies of it, rather than just passing through. With this in mind, we set aside five days to explore Haines and catch up with friends. We pitch our tent on Leah and Nick’s land, among skunk cabbages and big trees not far from town. Mornings, ravens make a racket in the trees, discussing serious business. It’s the perfect place for a home base.

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Leah and Nick plan to build a yurt on their land. The yurt should go up in a day, but first there has to be a foundation and a platform.

Saturday comes and we’re all digging in the dirt.

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Monday morning, concrete is poured.

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Tuesday we bike out Mud Bay Road, finding small slices of beachside singletrack and raspberries along the way.

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Tyndall wants to get a panoramic view of Haines and the surrounding land.

Wednesday we hike up, looking for a view. My legs are tuned for biking, and they protest when I ask them to climb.

The trail for Mt. Ripinsky goes steadily up. Tall skinny trees give way to short fat trees. Wildflowers bloom up high. We eat second breakfast at the summit before the wind chases us back down.

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In town on our last day, we buy groceries for the ferry ride to Prince Rupert and mail a box of unwanted items home.

Heavy rain in the morning compels us to seek out a final cinnamon bun and Inside Time at the Rusty Compass.

We leave Alaska, not planning to come back for awhile.

Whitehorse to Haines by Bike and Boat

After three days in Whitehorse, we have sorted everything out. Tyndall has a new hub that works and doesn’t wobble.

We head south on the Klondike Highway, aiming for Carcross. It sounds like an interesting place and we want to check it out. A few days off the bike make the legs sluggish, but soon my pedals spin with relative ease.

Carcross has the smallest desert in the world, ice cream, small houses, a beach and singletrack.

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We continue south to find a good camping spot for the night.

Rain showers, and a desire to catch a 2:00 pm ferry in Skagway have us on the road in the very early hours of the morning. We wind our way through White Pass to the Canada and US border. White Pass is stunning. The wind whips clouds by as I gaze at the view. This scenic vista might be the best I have seen in awhile, I think. The water is blue blue blue and the land is many shades of green.

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Then, we’re going down. Cars pass us with burning brakes. I stop to put on layers. Rain drops pelt my face. Rigid fingers grip handlebars. I pass the train filled with warm, dry tourists and just keep on going.

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A quick stop at US customs, and we’re back in Alaska. It’s hard to leave this state. We seem to keep finding our way back.

In Skagway the wind blows. It would be more productive to walk. We shovel down food, then inquire about ferry tickets. We have made it with an hour to spare.

In Haines, we search out Leah and Nick. We’ll be here for a few days.

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Up up up, down down down on the Taylor and Top of the World Highways

We break camp and head two more miles down the Alaska Highway. Here’s our turn for the Taylor Highway. The road starts climbing and doesn’t quit. We’re out of water and everything is dry.

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There’s a sign for Four Mile Lake, off road down a 4×4 trail. We take it. Off roading! This is fun. This is why I have been pushing knobby tires around for the last 10 days, just so I can ride this short 4×4 trail.

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We’re rehydrated and back on the road. We go up, and we go down. Rain clouds chase us. Logic says I should be tired, but I’m not. These hills are much more fun than grinding on a flat road. They are less intimidating than everyone said they’d be.

We camp 49 miles in on the West Fork of the Fortymile River. The Bugs find us.

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A short climb and then a long downhill into Chicken. We find showers and a place to pitch our tent, near two German cyclists. They plan to ride to Dawson, then paddle a canoe down the Yukon to Circle.

Chickenstock is on Friday. A man offers me ten Canadian dollars to speak to his tour group from New Mexico. It will buy me a burger in Dawson, I think.

Friends from Anchorage arrive. We pass two days in Chicken, listening to music and throwing rocks down by the river.

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Sunday’s here and we are ready to leave town. We fill our frame bags with homemade baked goods and leave.

We share the narrow road with RVs the size of buses. They have names like Adventurer, Ultralight, Bounder, Sunchaser.

We’re pedaling up up up.

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The border is open until 8:00 pm. We make it.

Where are you headed? Whitehorse, then Skagway and Haines. South America eventually.

How long will you be in Canada? 10 or so more days.

Do you have any weapons, tobacco or alcohol? Only bear spray.

Enjoy your stay.

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There’s still more up. Then we are zooming down down down. Looking for water and a campsite. Water is a puddle in a parking lot. Camping is in the same parking lot. Lentils for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies from Chicken.

The sun is out. We’re moving again, heading for Dawson.

I put my head down and pedal up the hills. Sunscreen and sweat drip in my eyes. Banana Boat is not sweatproof, I guess.

Tyndall stops to write at the top of each hill. He tells me his brain is on fire. That’s great, I think. My legs are on fire.

I’m screaming down hill, squinting through the dust with one eye open and hanging on.

There’s a sign. It says 6% downhill grade for the next 14km.

We arrive in Dawson and search out burgers.

Figuring it out: From Fairbanks to Tok

Our days take on a structure that has nothing to do with alarm clocks and meetings. We take care of the basics and everything else takes care of itself. Mostly. What gets done gets done. What doesn’t, doesn’t. It’s a different sort of life than the one we left, but it has a good rhythm to it. We are figuring it out.

The miles in the morning come easy. After lunch, they are a bit harder to earn. Mostly, I just want to nap away the afternoon.

We stop at Hot Licks for ice cream then pedal out of Fairbanks during Friday afternoon “rush hour.” We need to get better with our timing.

We camp on Chena Lake with the tundra swans and sandhill cranes.

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In the morning, more pavement pedaling.

An army convoy passes us. A dog chases us. We pedal on. Camp for the night is in the woods with The Bugs.

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Delta Junction has an actual grocery store. Plums. Avacados. Barley tea. Yogurt. Fresh bread. Pickles. Don’t get distracted. Focus. All I need is HEET, mouth wash and peanuts.

I come out with HEET, mouthwash, dark chocolate peanut m&ms, yogurt, plums and an apple. The plums are surprisingly juicy. The apple is crunchy.

We race rain clouds out of town, pushed playfully along by the wind. 10 miles. 20 miles. Stop and camp at the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge.

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We move on in the morning under a grey sky. A day later, we’re in Tok.

Denali to Fairbanks

We take the bus into Denali as far as we can, then start zipping downhill towards Wonder Lake. What’s that up ahead? A moose? No, bear. A brown bear ambles up the road in our direction. We stand our ground on the right side of the road and act big and scary. He passes on the left, peering up at us as he goes. No big deal.

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We reach Wonder Lake and take a snooze. Later, we pedal back out of the park in the midnight sun.

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We deviate from our original plan and head north to Fairbanks, instead of East to Paxson.

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Usibelli coal train

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Wind turbines north of Healy

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We make it to Fairbanks.

Time to take care of some business and continue on to Tok.

On Leaving

We whittle our belongings down to the essentials and eat a last meal.

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Friday we buy donuts for breakfast, make a few last minute adjustments, pack everything on the bikes and roll away.

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Oh, just kidding.

Tyndall’s business sunglasses are still at the house. We return, get the sunglasses and try again.

Now we can leave. We meet friends for the ride out of town. Then, we’re on our own.

We pedal pedal pedal to Wasilla where we stay with friends for the night. Thanks for the hospitality and amazing food Keith and Leeann.

It’s hard to comprehend what it is we have set out to do, so, for now, we’re thinking in small bites. A ride to Wasilla. Another to Talkeetna. Going to Chickenstock. Each small bite leading to larger ones.

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Midnight Denali sunset from Talkeenta

Weekend Play

Alaska is so beautiful in the spring time that Liz and I had to get out and enjoy the sun.  It hardly gets dark anymore and the past few days have been blue bird.  Liz got in a training ride this weekend by riding from Anchorage to the Hope cut off while I couldn’t resist some early season boating on Six Mile.

Dropping in on 17th Ender.

17th Ender, Six Mile

Predator Rapid from above.

Predator Rapid, Six Mile

Enjoying a lazy Sunday morning with friends.

Relaxing Sunday Morning

Liz will most likely be the photographer on this trip based on the quality of her photos. I’ll have to come up with something else to keep my mind busy on the long stretches ahead.