Last week was a big week for cycling in Cordova. There was meeting for the brand new “Cordova Cycling Coalition” as well as the PTA Bike Rodeo! That may not seem like a lot to some of the big city dwellers, but for Cordova it’s a pretty big deal. Our little fishing village has limited options for cyclists. You’ve got to be an adventurer, making the most of our limited bicycle infrastructure. Many kids here start on push bikes, graduate to a bmx and move onto a motorcycle or 4-wheeler as soon as they can. We’re a town predominately propelled by petroleum but let’s face it, most of the United States is. So I’m glad we have opportunities, as infrequent as they are, to celebrate the bicycle and get people riding.
Many communities base their cycling effort on commuters. As an example, 3.4% of commuters in Seattle use a bicycle to get to work or school (2014.) Their smug neighbor to the south (Portland, OR) ranks number one in the US with 7.2% (2016.) The national average is way down there at 0.5%. That means if 11 or so people commute by bike in Cordova, we’re right on the national average. I think many here in Cordova would agree that the largest barrier to cycling here is the weather. It can be shitty. Shitty on a level that few people that don’t live here could understand. So shitty that it can be dangerous. Biblical amounts of rainfall, high winds, heavy snow… shitty.
When I moved to Cordova I was a proud non-driver. I was living in Austin, TX working as a bike messenger. I hadn’t owned a car in 8 years and didn’t see any reason to… but Cordova had other plans for me. After a year, I bought a 4Runner. Things I took for granted living in the city like public transportation, pleasant riding weather, and proximity to trails; I no longer had. Cordova requires a little more independence. There aren’t droves of people parked at the trailhead out mountain biking. If I wanted to ride, I went by myself. No big deal really. I’ve been playing with myself most of my life.
Though access might not be as easy as in a larger community, Cordova does have quite a few opportunities for those that want to get out and explore on two wheels. We’re home to about 20 miles of paved roads, plus quite a few gravel USFS roads, trails and easements, as well as old logging roads and trails that are infrequently used (and free to access if you have a permit from the native corporation.) The hardest part about riding those trails, is knowing where they are. I started mapping them on my own, and then through some friends that run a guide outfit in Oregon, found out about the GaiaGPS app. There is a pretty badass layer you can put on the maps called “USFS Classic” which as far as I can tell, contains all of the logging roads in Prince William Sound. Pretty damn handy if you’re looking to ride on the Copper River Delta, especially if you’d like to incorporate some loop trails.
Many of the USFS trails contain what they call “Step & Run” trail building techniques- which consist of pressure treated wood stacked on top of each other as stairs- not great for walking and near impossible to ride. It is an effective technique to put in miles of trail on the cheap, but it’s kinda shitty if you want to ride a bike around this beautiful area. Some of the best riding that I’ve found is on this old system of logging roads from when the Native Corp was logging here in the early 1990’s.
Below is the Stuck Lake-Boulder Alley Loop trail. If you look just north of where the red route is, you can see the jumbled little wad of logging roads. That is a hill that the kids in town call “The lookout” and I can see a lot of potential to ride up the hill and make some sweet singletrack down.
Here is a fun little ditty that I put together from the ride. Pro tip: check the wind when you go out there. If you ride it clockwise, the wind won’t suck so bad if it’s blowing easterly. Riding Against The Wind is for Bob Seger songs.
We’ll see what happens with the Cordova Cycling Coalition, but I hope it keeps some steam and maybe, just maybe, we can get Cordova on the map as a cycling destination.