After 5 long days on the Alaska State Ferry, I arrived in Whittier Alaska for the 55 mile ride into Anchorage. I’d probably climbed the 10 available staircases between 3 levels at least 100 times, just to keep moving! It felt soooo good to be back moving on the bike after being cooped up so long. I hitched a ride with another ferry passenger through the Whittier tunnel (no biking through this 1 lane, 2.5 mile, longest highway tunnel in North America!), then got a rainy glimpse of the Portage Glacier. With the wind at my back, I was able to fly down the highway at 20-25 mph, a feat not usually achievable with my 100lb bike rig.
Short snack break while riding Turnagain Arm to Anchorage.
Once in Anchorage, I stopped of at a coffee shop in town. Within moments of arriving, a woman pulled up off of her mountain bike (clearly set up for off road touring), and asked me if I needed anything, including a place to stay! She introduced me to her boyfriend Nick Carman who has a great blog about bike touring and gave me great info for riding Alaska.
I had already been put in touch with a fellow who hosted me for 4 nights, Tony Allen. A fantastic fellow who’s a monster on two wheels.
This is Alaskan hospitality as I’ve experienced it everywhere I’ve gone so far: We’d never actually met or spoken, but he let me stay with him, brought me down to his friend’s cabin in Hope, AK to go mountain biking with him for the weekend, and bought me food and beer. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into Alaska.
Hope is a kooky little town about 80 miles outside of Anchorage. I can’t imagine more than 50 people live there year round, but a popular destination for locals with tons of wilderness and mountain biking access.
Our little cabin for the weekend. Right in ‘downtown’ Hope!
Downtown Hope. The only bar/restaurant in town, the Seaview Cafe.
On Saturday night at the Seaview, they had a live bluegrass band including 2 cousins who grew up in town. At the same time, 2 separate bachelorette parties were being held in town. It was quite an evening for this little town, between the old school locals and the very different groups of ladies at the parties. Luckily the two bachelorettes worked it out in a dance-off.
Tony and his friend Oscar took me biking on the Resurrection Trail the first day in Hope. It’s a beautiful single track that extends for 40 miles. I had actually been on it when I was last in Alaska at 15 years old, hiking the length with my Sister. Great to have distant memories sparked…
… A bit snowy at the top of the pass…
Following day, Tony took me for another ride with his friend Michael who hosts a 250 mile race through the Kenai in late June. He let me ride his extra mountain bike, made for riding in the winters up here in Alaska… 4” wide tires to hover over the arctic crust. This thing had huge treads and studded tires for ice. It was like riding on a man-powered monster truck. I LOVED it.
Riders up here are… in a word… BURLY. I was struggling to keep up with everyone I rode with in Anchorage, from Tony’s friend Jill in the trails around town to the other riders in the Kenai. These people will ride through the Winters in below zero weather on their fat tire bikes, racing on the snow crust. Hardcore athletes to say the least.
All in all, Anchorage was a fun town with a really strong community of bikers to connect with. The wildlife here is a regular part of life, as I saw a huge moose on the trails right in town, not 20 feel away from me. I felt lucky to have received such great support to send me north toward Prudhoe (next blog post).