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Category: Alaska

Hunting by bicycle is punk rock.

Hunting by bicycle is punk rock.

The homey Garrett, involved with Off the Chain in Anchorage- went on a hunting by bicycle trip this month along with a large handful of other co-op members. It looks like they were successful. Alaska being Alaska, I saw a couple of the hunting party members in the Anchorage airport on my way home from Interbike.

 

I’ve combined guns and bikes on a few different levels, most of the time carrying a sidearm or shotgun as bear and moose protection while on solo rides. Last fall I cobbled together a lightweight scabbard for my .22LR for hunting small animals, like rabbits and grouse. It worked well- though I’ll be doing some more to improve it’s design this year.

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For small game, my setup is pretty slick but with a heavy, high powered hunting rifle or shotgun- something more substantial would likely be necessary. I would likely just shoulder my rifle if headed out for a larger mammal, or use a rack like the folks at Cogburn have designed.

Nice work on the hunt, as well as the video. I like when the face of hunting is of real people in search of real food and a connection with the land.

I’ll leave you with a song I listened to quite a bit when I moved to Alaska as a vegan, in 1999. Also- save me some of the tongue!

Thanks to Brandon for the heads up on the video!

Pedal. Paddle. Push.

Pedal. Paddle. Push.

I’d been looking at this loop for a while now- Eyak River, down and around Pt Whitshed and back to Hartney Bay. It would be a fun little pedal/paddle trip. A quick day trip. 28 miles or so…

My wife, ever supportive yet always the realist- asked me how long it was going to take me. “Six hours, maybe eight.” I said. 
She smiled. That smile she gives me when I tell her I’m just going to have one more beer at the bar. The smile that says: “I know you think that’s the case, but I know you and you’re full of shit.”

As it is most of the time- she was right. 

Even though it’s just out my back door, I knew that chances were slim to none that I would see anyone for the day- so safety was a concern. Packing in the off chance that I’d have to bivy in the rainforest was necessary.

My pack list:

  • Lunch: a couple granola bars, some dates, coffee in a thermos, a salmon sandwich, and a can of salmon in case I needed more. I had some GU Brew in my water bottle, and some IPA poured into a VAPR bottle that fit smartly into my water bladder (which had ice water in it to keep it cold.) 
  • iPhone to use my GaiaGPS app
  • DeLorme InReach Explorer
  • Packraft and paddle packed into my Blackburn handlebar harness
  • PFD strapped to my backpack when not in use
  • First Aid kit. with emergency blanket
  • pack raft repair kit
  • Tool kit, pump, Leatherman
  • firestarter
  • Bear spray (I opted for spray over gun because of weight.)
  • Long underwear top and bottom and spare socks

I wore my brand new Louis Garneau techfit shirt and shorts, my sock guy socks, crappy sneakers, OR Helium jacket, and my light fishing shell pants. I wore my Hodala vest that was made by Doom and some smartwool arm warmers. A cycling cap and a stocking cap to keep my thoughts warm.  Light GIRO gloves. I also brought along the new Ryders THORN sunglasses I’m trying out. 
Wifey dropped me off at the trailhead on her way to work and I got started. Though I’ve lived here for near 10 of the last 15 years, I’ve never hiked the Eyak River Trail. I tried riding down it, figuring it would be quicker than paddling. I made it a couple hundred yards and gave up. It sucked. Up and down through roots and boulders- if that’s what it was going to be like- I was better off in the boat. I will walk or ride it in the future- but I’m thinking that that it’ll be like just about every other USFS trail in the area in that it was built to say “Fuck you” to mountain bikers. I got my raft together and then enjoyed a leisurely float down Eyak. Listening to birds and watching the sand tumble down in the current. It was quite peaceful. 
   
 Then came Mountain Slough. Years ago- I traveled a similar route in a canoe. But we couldn’t find Mountain Slough- so we took Eyak River all the way to salt water and paddled the coast. This time, through the miracle of GPS and some local knowledge, I found it. Though it isn’t much of a slough now, after the 1964 earthquake that raised the elevation in the area by six feet. A big sand bar marks where it used to be. I got into pedal mode.
  
In pedal mode, with 4” tires, I was able to navigate the sandy slough, through some of the veiny iron rich water deposits twisting and turning as sloughs often do. The brush above the slough became too thick to navigate, and the water too deep to ride through effectively so I resigned to staying afloat until Crystal Falls. 

Back to paddle mode. The tide was going out, but I was high enough that the area isn’t affected tidally-much. Bike strapped up with the wheel and pedal off, I headed down stream… a very short distance. The water got to be about ankle deep- and my boat just wasn’t cutting it. Sloughs are a fickle lover. One stretch can be water head high. Turn the corner and it’s nothing but a puddle. More than once I was baffled as to where in the shit the water went. For the next few miles I clamored in and out of my raft- paddling or pulling. At about this point- 2 1/2 hours into the trip, I realize it was going to take me more than 6 hours.

I skipped the cutoff to explore Crystal Falls, an old abandoned cannery just off of Mountain Slough, as I was beginning to realize I needed to get my hustle on to make the tide. With big tides in this area and the best riding to be done at low water- sometimes you gotta beat feet to make it. I decided I’d take the straight shot across the intertidal area to Pt Whished.

This is where I started to question what in the hell I was thinking to start such a trip.

  The muskeg and meadows and mud that I’ve seen from the air quite a bit looked far different up close. The muskeg in this area is in fact small little sloughs with mountains of grass between. It’s the equivalent of trying to ride over 6-12” curbs placed in no order, but between 10-20” apart. Soggy ground with slippery mud in-between. The “meadows” are water soaked bogs, often with tall grass and brush growing 2-4’ high, making riding impossible and pushing the bike very difficult. The mud is soft and gooey- like a greasy turd. Break through the surface of the gray slime and you get the black anaerobic compost of millions of years of decaying life. 

  Multiple times I sunk balls deep in a sinkhole and found myself staying afloat by using my bike as a snowshoe. At one point I was making headway riding in the refried beans-like mud. A  low spot in the mud was ahead and I figured I could just hop my front wheel over it and keep going.

*Squish* 

SNAP! 

 

I hit the ground in an instant. Shit. My shoulder was about three inches in the mud, cheek to the slop. What was that sound? Did I just break my collarbone? Did my carbon fiber frame or fork just snap? Should I move? I slowly righted myself. I felt whole. I picked my bike up. Bike was good. The Blackburn handlebar roll carrying my raft however, didn’t make it. The bracket- which felt a little chintzy, has a little zip tie thingy to keep it in place and the thing snapped. Thankfully it didn’t fall into the tire and it still works, but it doesn’t stay quite in the right place.

  
About this time, I figured out that a certain point I got sand on my shirt or my backpack. This came to light as I was pushing my bike through 4” of mud. An uncomfortable sensation, sort of an itch- sort of a scratch. I lifted my shirt to find sand. I lowered my chamois to find…. sand. I don’t know if you’ve ever had sand in your chamois- but sand is what they make sandpaper from and riding on 60 grit isn’t something that I’m fond of. Thankfully much of the terrain was unrideable, so I only had to walk in my sandy chamois. 

  
All this, 6 hours in, and I’m not even at my halfway mark. Shit. The first thoughts of where I might sleep for the night crossed my mind. My phone was near dead because the GPS app eats batteries like Garfield eats lasagna (mmmm…. lasagna) and for whatever reason, my Satellite txt unit, though it sat on the charger all night- didn’t take a charge. Though I knew where I was at- my concern was for communication with the wife that gets nervous if/when a situation like this arises. What should I do? What CAN I do. I looked around. Camping in 3” of water isn’t a good idea. I have weather on my side- I’m not broken and I know where I’m going.

  
So I remember what my momma always told me. She said “Son, sometimes you just gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps and shit in your pants.”

  
So I took that to heart. That’s what I did. Pt. Whitshed was right there. I mean- I could almost touch it- 5 miles away. So I slogged along- stopping for water here and there, hopping some small sloughs, fording others.

  
I was stalked by two moose that were hanging back around 50 yards. After researching back in town I have learned that when they pull their ears back, raise the hair on their hump and lick their lips- you should get the fuck out of there. I wish I had read that before I left. Thankfully I didn’t have to use my tiny can of bear spray- as I don’t even know how effective it is on moose. But seriously- I’m more scared of moose in the woods than bears. I doubt I’ll leave my sidearm at home when I’m this area next time. 

  
I got to the bay just to the east of Sunny Bay. I don’t know the name of it. It was 4:30. I’d transitioned from push/pedal to paddle 4 times now as I approached the biggest slough yet. About 10’ wide, it was a murky glacial blue that I couldn’t see a bottom in. That was it. Whitshed was close enough- My riding was minimal up this point and I’d been out 9 hours already. 9 fucking hours and I was half way. Man do I have a way of putting the “what the fuck was I thinking?”  into Advewhat the fuck was I thinkingnture.

On the water, I was bucking the tide a little bit- but making ground. my legs were tired, as was my wind- turns out working on fishing boats and doing construction for the past 6 months hasn’t helped my cycling at all.
  I paddled around Pt Whitshed, tide almost high- then around Wireless Point, then Big Pt. Then Gravel Pt. and into Hartney Bay. The tide just began to turn and I touched down at Hartney. I drug my boat up the beach and took everything down. Txt’d the wife (on the DeLorme as the phone was dead) that I was riding home, and got on the road. Pavement never felt so good under tire as those last 5 miles home. With no pasty mud holding me back- trying to glue me to the landscape- I felt like I was flying along.
I got home and the wife met me at the door with a warm hug, a cold beer and a hot meal. Some guys have all the luck.

All this and I realized a couple things:

  • Sometimes it feels good to hurt bad.
  • The people that lived here and traveled this area- even 50 years ago, were tough sumbitches. Way tougher than me. 
  • Bicycles are the cyclist’s selfies.
  • For being as pessimistic as I am, I’m overly optimistic about how much time it will take me to do something.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Take pictures.
  • Even if you don’t enjoy the whole ride, you’ll enjoy the story. 
  • When in heavy moose country- bring a sidearm. 

Will I do the trip again? Yes and no. If I do the same route- I’ll skip the bike. I may try and ride the Eyak River trail- as much as is rideable. I want to explore Crystal Falls- maybe overnight there. 

I’m really loving my packraft. I enjoy making loops out of trips because out-and-backs are for suckers. I’m still working on my pack list. I felt fairly good about my preparedness minus the electronics which are not necessarily crucial- though do offer some safety especially the DeLorme satellite txt unit. 

And some gear reviews:

I wore my Louis Garneau Techfit shorts and shirt under my shell as a base. The shirt was great- I didn’t use the back pocket- but the zipper didn’t chafe under my pack. I would prefer a snap to the Velcro closure on the shorts as I could feel the edge of the Velcro on my tender muffin top. A belt might have helped keep them up- they sagged a bit when soaked with silty water.  The chamois fit well and was quite comfortable. I wore a size XL in both and like many cycling garments- I couldn’t go smaller. European cycling companies don’t care that Americans are getting fatter. They’ll call a spade a spade. That “extra-medium” you’ve been wearing… Yeah- get a large. 

I also have been wearing the shit out of my Ryders sunglasses. I brought the Thorns out and they were great. The anti-fog feature works really well- though I did manage to fog them up. It was actually well beyond fog, more like water droplets- I’m a heavy sweater. One wipe down though and I was good to go. I feel confident in saying that most shades would have been worthless for much of the trip. The hydrophobic outside doesn’t seem that effective, but the photochromic lens- especially the yellow was great for a grey day. Looking at the frames, I was surprised to see that they are only UV400. That may have something to do with the other technologies- but if 100% UV protection is real important to you- it’s something you should know. The Thorns fit snugly- maybe even too snugly for my fat noggin. The pinch point is right above my ears. The Caliber model fits better, but I like the look and yellow tint (as opposed to brown) of the Thorn.
So that’s all that’s fit to print. And this is all being done on my phone- as I sit back on the boat on the Gulf of Alaska. Here’s to more bike rides and to moving forward. I hope my misadventures inspire you to push your limits, to explore the wilds around you and to breathe deep the fresh air that your lungs were built for. 

AK Codepak- hard sided framebags for your bike

AK Codepak- hard sided framebags for your bike

There are a few items that seem to be standard purchases for those that buy fatbikes.

  • Flat pedals– if you ride in snow much- clipless pedals have a tendency to get ice in tight spots so the pedals won’t engage. A good set of flats prevents this- as well as enabling you to wear warm boots.
  • Pogies– you’ve seen them. The oven mitts that people put over their grips to keep their booger pickers warm. I hate the look of them and thankfully don’t live in an area that they’re necessary. Not saying that I won’t use them ever- I just don’t need to in Cordova. I wear my kit (spandex) when I’m racing cross- not when I’m riding my cruiser to the grocery store- know what I’m saying?
  • Framebags– frame bags of some sort are used to carry stuff in the void that is your main triangle. Long used by bikepackers and the swiss military and anybody else that saw all that space as wasted- there is a new option out there- made right here in Alaska.

AK CODEPAK

codepak

 

Is manufacturing hard sided frame bags made for your fatbike. Using either aluminum or carbon, you can get one built specifically

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Mountain House needs a feedbag accessory.

Mountain House needs a feedbag accessory.

The wife and I went on an overnight trip out to Sheridan Glacier the other day and this time I was going to do the cooking.

This meant that I had to do a little preparation. What should I make? My wife eats food like someone that actually cares what it tastes like. I couldn’t mess it up, or she may not want to go bike camping with me again. Thankfully, I had reached out to Mountain House a while back and they were kind enough to send over some samples. In my backpacking, touring and vagabonding over the last 20+ years it occurred to me that I had never eaten a prepared, freeze dried meal. I’ve eaten instant hummus, rice, oatmeal, MRE’s and various other snacks- but never a freeze-dried meal in a bag. I thought I may wait and use them for a trip I have planned for the spring but there’s not time like the present, especially when a critic with such a refined pallet was to be there to share.

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First of all- since I had the meal plan on lock, it took an element of stress off the trip to be sure. There is something to be said for only having to add water to a meal. You don’t even need to bring salt. I left my cook pot behind in favor of my lightweight Optimus kettle. We brought the pizza that was made the night before for lunch, and though I brought more calories than needed, what the hell- we were going to eat well. And of course there was the possibility that the meals would be gross. Thankfully they weren’t.

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Tire repair 101

Tire repair 101

The tires on the bike go round and round…

…until you find something sharp and hard and that at once identifiable swan song “PSSSSSHHHHHSSSS” rings out- your stoke deflating as quickly as the tube in the tire itself.

That was my experience a couple weeks back on a ride through Boulder Alley and up the east side of Sheridan Lake. A really fun place to ride, the lake was freezing, as were the puddles that accumulate in the low parts of the trail. Most weren’t thick enough to support me riding across, and 9 puddles out of 10 I would break through. I made it to the lake and rode along the ice edge- the water level much lower than normal enabling me to get closer towards the Sherman Glacier than usual.

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On my way back to the truck, I didn’t make it far before it happened. I swear it was a damn piece of ice, but it could have been a stick- a sharp stick. All I know is that I thought to myself. “It’s a good thing I didn’t pack a pump, patch kit, or any tools.” It was a 3 mile walk out- not the end of the world, but enough to kick myself for being over confident and under prepared.

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Frosty Bottom 2015.

Frosty Bottom 2015.

As I said on my last trip to Los Anchorage, it is home to one hell of a fatbike community. Nearly 300 racers came out last Saturday, to race the 9th annual Frosty Bottom 25/50. A race that starts at Kincaid Park, heads up to Hilltop (where the 25 ends) and/or back to Kincaid (for the 50.) The race is open to runners and skiers as well, but the fairly dry and fast conditions only brought 2 skiers to the finish line- with most of the participants choosing a bike over shoes, like a civilized person would.

I got into town Friday and like most of my trips to Anchorage it started like this:

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A delicious beer from Midnight Sun Brewing that I enjoyed with my lunch at Cafe Amsterdam. A Cohoho Imperial IPA on Nitro. So good. The nitro gave it such a creamy consistency and opened up a lot of flavors that I hadn’t noticed in bottle or C02 draft. My food, like most found in Anchorage, at least in my price range- was ok. I didn’t get dysentery, but it was nothing to write home about. From my experience, you won’t find great food or an amazing cocktail in Anchorage- but you can find some good beer, a lot of it brewed in our wonderful state.

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Homer Big Fat Bike Festival 2015

Homer Big Fat Bike Festival 2015

I’m really hoping to make it this year to Homer for their Festival. 3 days of fun on fat bikes, beach rides and bonfires. February 6-8, 2015!

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The flier design is awesome, and the event page has all the details, HERE

I’ll likely fly in late on Friday, I hope I can find a rock to sleep under.

Global Fatbike Day, Anchorage. The recap.

Global Fatbike Day, Anchorage. The recap.

I got back from a shitstorm of fun on Sunday night, after an amazing weekend in Anchorage. I went up for Global Fatbike Day, and since my move back to Alaska- Anchorage is my new Portland. Turns out there are lots of dirtbag bike folks that like to drink beer and have bum fires in parks. Sure, the weather is about 50 degrees colder- but a little whiskey warms the body and good conversation warms the heart.

I met too many people to remember- but all were nice.

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Time in Anchorage when coming from a town with no road out is not without the errand running to stores, purchasing things that aren’t available in Cordova. Since I’m currently doing construction, I made a stop to buy some hand tools. I also made the rounds to the bike shops, to see what might be new and interesting. Here’s what I found in my rambling around Anchorage:

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Tomorrow in Anchorage: Global Fatbike Day

Tomorrow in Anchorage: Global Fatbike Day

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Tomorrow in Anchorage and around the world, people will be straddling their fatbikes and going on rides with friends and making new ones. The majority of my trips and rides are done on my own and I’m looking forward to meeting some people in the Anchorage area. It feels a little like that time in 2006 when I showed up to a Fast Friday in Seattle- not knowing anybody, but that turned out pretty well.

Love them or hate them, fatbikes have made a big impact in the cycling world. It feels a little similar to the fixed gear boom that started about 10 years ago- though there isn’t a conversion kit for a shitty 10sp so you can get in on the cheap. Nope, these bad boys cost some dough.

Global Fatbike Day Alaska Facebook page

Anchorage info- taken from the FB

Ok folks so the details you have all been waiting for. The ride will start from West Chester Lagoon around 7. The group ride will head east on the chester creek trail towards the hillside with many chances to branch off on single track that will re-connect with the bike trail. The ride will continue on the chester creek trail making its way across northern lights and through the university/ medical center area again taking chances to ride more single track along the way. Once back on the bike trail the ride will head across the tudor overpass onto the tour trail and make a shorter loop on some campbell creek science center single tracks. Trails will most likely include blue dot, moose tracks, lynx, birch meadow, Speedway, moose meadow, lower rovers, salmon run and continuing along the tour trail back to westchester. The loop through the campbell tract trails can be done in either direction its up to you! The single tracks that turn off the chester creek trail and the tour trail will be marked come the day of the ride. We will announce what kind of marks to look for because weather may dictate one form of marker over another (marking paint on the snow vs flagging) come ride time.

I would like to stress the listed route is only a loose guideline. If you are not comfortable with any of these single track off shoots sticking to the bike path as well as the tour and larger trails like moose tracks is just fine and continuing on your way towards campbell creek science center is another option. The great part about doing that is you will most likely be constantly riding with fellow fat bikers on the way. The ride is meant to be about having some fun and be done at mellow conversation speed. The route listed above should be largely doable for some within an 1.5-2 hour range however please do not feel like you must do the entire length of route in that time. Ride as much of the route as you can and make sure to be back at the lagoon by 9 ish for the swag give away. Be sure to bring some additional warm layers so you can be comfortable while hanging around post ride. Also be sure to stash some snacks and beverages of your choice in your packs for post ride (or during the ride) up to you really.

Global Fatbike Day general Facebook pageFind your area, and go on a ride! Start one up! Be it solo or in a group- get on your bikes and ride!