Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Hunter-Douglas, Apr 28, 2014.
The bugs are getting to be pretty solid out here in McCarthy right now. The locals say it will get worse here until the 3rd week of July die off. I'm slowly learning to ignore them. At least they aren't out on the glacier :huh
Thanks for the words. The bears aren't actually too bad up here, and down in the lower 48 it's definitely just annoying black bears that are usually chased off like dogs with no problem. Up here in the Kennicott valley you have to be pretty smart about not surprising a grizzly when you're bushwhacking through the alders. There guides here have a few stories about literally coming face to face with PO's charging browns. Scary stuff :eek1
I almost bought some heated gear in Seattle but plowed on through Vancouver on a sunny day and didn't think about it until it was too late
It helped I was packed for winter climbing conditions. I squeezed a merino base layer and a puffy under my riding jacket and that made things manageable.
January! Can't wait to track you down and ride in the dollar-travel-far land.
Alright, time to catch up. Where the hell was I...
I peaced on out from Fairbanks not really sure what would be worth heading towards for my last few days on the road (until Fall). Anchorage seemed further away than I thought and I was ready to get off the bike again for a bit and do some exploring. I rode through some construction zones down to Healy and saw a sign for an open brewery, so I slammed on the brakes and pulled into the dirt lot for the 49th State Brewery. It was a pretty grooving atmosphere with full bar and restaurant with a lot of nice beverages on tap. I sampled a few good ones and liked the names they gave out to their brews. Steward's Folly Stout was a solid choice. I ended up camping near some power lines in a spruce forest next to the local airstrip.
Out front of the brewery they had the bus from the filming of Into the Wild, a replica of Bus 142 outside Denali Park that Chris McCandless lived in for a season before he passed. I was pretty intrigued by the thought of getting out to see the real thing so I scoped the route that was supposedly 40 miles round trip and involved a pretty substantial river crossing. I was pretty weary of the flow levels I would find this time of year when I got out there and the fact it might not be low enough to wade across. All my flotation and river gear was in the mail to McCarthy so there would be no crossing if the flows were high. I figured I'd check it out once I got out there and be stoked on the journey regardless of whether I got across or not. I packed a few more supplies and headed out to the trailhead at the end of the road /edge of town. I was surprised to see a four wheeler trail carry on past the dirt lot and figured I'd give it a go to cut off some of the hiking miles. A 1/4 mile in I found an abandoned bogged truck and two pretty sizable potholes. Not the best signs to start, I thought. I'd never gunned through one and figured this might not be a bad time to get some Asia training under my belt. My heart pounded and I gunned it through and made it across with water coming in over my boots.
Right after I crossed and put the camera away another truck came in behind to winch out the stuck Dodge. I walked back over to help them out and found out it was a rental truck for a nice Romanian guy who's English was a little spotty. I ended up popping in the cab for him and manning the wheel during the winching process so there weren't any communication issues with the local nice guy he had tracked down to rescue him. The trail from there was more ATV friendly than bike happy but I managed to keep pushing on through in first gear and found a few miles worth of potholes. I got some great experience scouting and picking my lines through them but my blood was pounding every time I felt the bike take a swerve or start to slow down.
I passed a group of ATV and 6 wheeler tours and was a little envious of how easily they blasted through the water and over the creek bed. I talked to the guy leading the group and he confirmed the water on the river was still too high to cross, so I changed my plans to just cruise in as far as I could and camp out for the night. I thought the potholes would be the worst of it but the dry (and wet) creek beds slowed me down even more. I called it after I heard a few odd sounds after pinning the throttle through a silty bit of stream. I found a nice spot with a great view of Denali Park to the South.
... when you camp like this, do you ever worry about bears, cougars, or rattle snakes ? .... here in BC we have all three, and it just seems more comfortable knowing a regular campground is somewhat safer ?
.... or are we just kidding ourselves ? ...
Cougars, not so much. I think I've seen one once in my life. I do carry my big bottle of bear mace for whatever might come rustling along but I figure people have been doing this sort of thing for a long, long time. As long as you have your food locked down well enough critters aren't too much of an issue. Well, at least relative to the danger of coming around a corner with a moose perched in the road. That scares me a lot more :eek1
Then again, I worry a lot less about them now than I did the first few nights I slept out in new bear/ cat territory.
I haven't yet been able to understand how you spray bear mace from inside your tent at a bear who is grabbing you from outside your tent? :eek1
That is my actual worry time. I'm fine when moving or hanging. As soon as I close that zipper....'what the f was that ?'
I carry mace, which as you pointed out would be useless in your tent. What then? Stab the bear with a little knife as he is munching on your leg pulling you out.
I know it might sound crazy but you really don't have to worry about the bears too much, even up here. I'll shoot out some advice from limited time chasing them around Yosemite and riding through Canada and Alaska:
-Black bears are really like dogs, most of them run away the moment you approach them since most people are physically bigger than any of them. If they don't run away, they're curious or really trying hard to snag your food the moment you look away. They rarely get confrontational and if they do, it's usually because of being conditioned to go after human food.
-Browns and Grizzlies will usually give you space, as long as they know you're there and you don't sneak up on them. When you're hiking and bushwhacking, this involves paying attention to the direction of the wind and the noise level of the area around you. If a brown can't hear or smell you, it can be easy to surprise them. Usually they'll know you're around from a long way off and hide out in the brush until you go.
-A few things to keep in mind are to NEVER store food in your tent. Always in the boxes on the bike for me, since they're hard bags. Regardless, the odds of a bear actually trying to get inside your tent with you in it are incredibly minimal. You might hear the odd story or legend about it happening but 99.9% chance it doesn't happen. But if you're gone and there's food in there, don't be surprised if gets torn up.
-If you do get confronted, stand your ground. Bears rarely charge right out the gate and will give you some warnings that they're pissed like walking sideways, huffing (loudly) and pawing the ground. That might be a good time to back away slowly or chuck something loud to spook them off. The whole playing dead thing is debatable, since most people have an instinct to live and will probably try to beat the crap out of any bear pinning them down.
Yes, the big browns are dangerous but it's not in the situations you might think. It's all about the mother and cub separation and when the bear feels surprised or threatened that the situation turns deadly. And don't fire off mace from inside your tent, you'll probably blind yourself :eek1
And then there is this video:
Didn't mean to hijack the thread. Carry on.
The only part I'm not sure about on your process is storing food in hard cases on your bike. The scent is the big thing, we always did bear bags hanging up in a tree. Ripping open a hardcase or destroying the bike wouldn't be anything for a bear that has the sweet smell of Jack Links in it's nose. But if it's trying to get the bear bag, you'll be able to hear it from a safe distance and act accordingly.
The bike is your lifeline. Being out in the wilderness, if you lose that, then you've got maybe a week's hike back to civilization. Depending on what gear was lost, you could be in a bit of trouble.
Enjoyed your trip thus far, on the part about caving, I was thinking that same thing with the Descent before you mentioned it. I was like, yep, not a chance in hell. If I can walk, I can run. If I'm crawling and worming myself through a crack, nope nope nope.
And that shot of the "office"? So, jealous. The dark corner in the grey cubicle I'm in just doesn't compare.
Well so far I've really had no issue with it. If I was more worried I could always just take the one box with food off the bike and put it somewhere where there would be no collateral damage if a bear went after it. But the interesting thing is the more wild the area, the less they know to go after human food by habit. Well, at least compared to problem areas where human food is their go to method.
The caves are fun. But it's wild feeling that pressed in. Deep breaths :eek1
My last night before having to head out to the Wrangells I decided to try out the Sewart highway through the Chugach Mountains area and the inlet. I rode into Anchorage for the first time under a dense cloud of smoke from the nearby fires. For a hot minute the California panic kicked in and I wondered if it was smog before I remembered AK doesn't really have that problem. I cruised through town for a bit but didn't stick around for long. I was feeling some waterfront time so I headed out along the inlet and watched the smoke hover over the coastline.
I stopped for a bit to watch the local fisherman at work.
I'm not sure which species seemed to be having more luck with the salmon.
After playing hide and seek with a pair of eagles and my camera I rolled on around the U-Turn to Turnagain Pass. I was pretty blown away with how beautiful the valley was. I poked around at the rest stop trying to find a place to camp but wasn't really seeing anything I was all that stoked about. A half mile down the road though I saw an unmarked dirt road heading off to the side of the valley. I took a chance and followed it and ended up at possibly one of the best free camping spots I've ever found. There was flat dirt, clear pools and a stupidly awesome view. I ate my $2 of mashed potatoes and drank my $10 of beer and just stared at the mountains for a long, long time.
I hope I can chalk that up to a 1 in a million kind of deal.
So my riding is over-ish for the next few months while I'm holed up in McCarthy in the Kennicott valley.
I climbed a local peak the other day and took a panorama of the glacial valleys that I've been working in.
The Wrangells are unbelievable. It's the Alaska everyone pictures in their mind.
Awesome photos HD!
Wow that's beautiful. Front page material for sure.
Thanks guys! I'll keep them coming along.