Another day, another trail that needs some TLC. McKinley trail has some of the best potential in the area for a good MTB trail, even as a loop- as it connects with the Pipeline Lakes Trail to the west. Who knows- there could be a possibility to extend the trail up to McKinley peak, or at the very least to the 610′ knob to the NE of the lake. A trail does already extend beyond the McKinley Lake cabin, up to the Historic Lucky Strike Mine- but its mostly a creek and needs some serious attention.
Though not designated as a MTB trail it’s (mostly) rideable, full of really fun sections that are linked by sections needing quite a bit of work. Much of the trail has turned into a narrow & deep rut full of very slippery roots and log waterbars. Pedaling in these sections is difficult or impossible. In it’s current state most wouldn’t consider it suitable for bikes. Though I’ve talked to a couple people about riding it, I have never seen anyone else on a bike while on it. It showcases many examples of why a trail SHOULDN’T be built a certain way in the rainforest. Much of the trail has become a creek, and there standing water (mud) in many places. A good indicator that a trail needs some revamping is when new trails are made. Hikers are blazing new trails to avoid mud pits and bogs as well as slippery stairs and rooty sections like that below.
That’s one hell of a way to sell one of my favorite trails in this area isn’t it? All that said- a lot of the trail has been hardened with rock and literally TONS of gravel have been brought in to make a solid trail. These sections have good drainage and are a lot of fun to ride. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason why the whole trail isn’t built in this way. It would make for a super great flowy trail. The USFS is currently in the process of replacing the old “corduroy” with bridges and new sections of trail for safety in some areas and to protect the old trail built for mining in the early 1900’s. After one of their first bridges was installed I spoke with the local USFS trail coordinator about how a taller bridge required dismounting the bike and that kinda sucked. In riding yesterday I saw a couple new bridges- slightly wider and low enough to ride over without having to get off the bike to get on the bridge. Well done.
When the trail was originally built I’m sure the stairs and waterbars worked fine- but it’s time to revisit the techniques used and while that’s happening it seems like a good idea to expand the opportunity for other non-motorized users groups.
I’m curious how many folks out there are riding in Cordova and what trails they think have potential to become a flagship trail for mountain biking in our National Forest. Where do YOU ride in Cordova?
Most of this year (like every year I’ve spent in Alaska) I’ve been on a boat. I spend my days on the water working long hours and living in cramped quarters with a small crew. From February until as late as November my time on two wheels is curtailed. When the occasional day off arises, now that there is a motorcycle in my stable it gets more attention than the bicycle. If I’ve got 2 hours to get into the woods on two wheels- the motor makes it happen. No it doesn’t help my legs or my wind- I spend most of my year traveling less than 10 knots, sometimes it feels good to go fast.
Don’t worry. I’m not going full moto. I’m not selling my bicycles to because I’ve got this new found need for speed- but goddamn motorcycles are fun. But I digress. This isn’t about motorcycles. It’s winter time here at 60 degrees North latitude and as I look outside there is a quarter inch of ice that fell last night as sleet and froze. The motorcycle is in bed until the spring thaw and now it’s time to get fat. Fat biking. I’ve had the fatbike for a couple years but didn’t make the jump to studs until this year because they’re so damn expensive. Dillinger 4’s & Dillinger 5’s are impressive and those that have them love them but a pair will cost you more than 4 Walmart beach cruisers. If I lived in Anchorage I may have committed earlier but I’ve been biding my time long enough that with all the new offerings out there I was able to find a studded set of the Vee Tire Snowshoe XL for around $280 a pair.
First impression: why the shit did I wait so long? If you live in an area that gets ice- you need studs. They’ll save your ass. Or at the very least your hip. They aren’t magic- and you can still go down on the ice but they’re a butt ton better than rolling on a wing and prayer. Do yourself a favor and get some.
So theres a cool little app out for a while now. It’s called Relive. It uses Strava or Garmin gps. It makes neat stuff like this:
And in other news- tomorrow is Global Fat Bike Day. If you’re in Anchorage there is a ride starting at Bread & Brew on Tudor at 6pm. If you’re in Cordova- I’m sure we’ll do something. Holler.
It’s been a couple days since my return and the snow line is heading down the mountains. I walked up to the top of the ski hill and there were patches of snow and ice scattering the trail towards the top. Before I get this published it may reach town. Our deck stairs have been covered with frost the last few days and the lakes are getting a thin layer of ice- hopefully sign that ice skating will be around the corner.
Cordova, Alaska. The town that I call home. A little fishing village where Prince William Sound meets the Gulf of Alaska. Population 1,500 in the winter- it nearly doubles in the summer. This time of year is quiet. Then the occasional tragedy of a drug overdose death makes a headline in our weekly paper. I wish I was kidding, I am unfortunately, not.
But… Life does go on. And though sometimes times are hard in our little town, things are often good. Here we go with something positive- a bike ride, even.
Some places experience it longer than others. Some places don’t seem to experience it at all. I lived in the sleepy little fishing village of Cordova, Alaska for eight years. Cordova became my home and will always have a special place in my heart. What’s it like to live in Cordova? Well, I lived in a very nice two story igloo- we didn’t have much of a polar bear problem because we trained eagles to protect our village. I had a high-end dog sled with some wicked Husky-Chihuahua sled dogs that made the two day trip to the post office feel like it was only a day and a half. Side note- just saw this on the Facebook:
So a baby seal walks into a bar and the bartender asks “What’ll you have?”
“Anything but the Canadian Club”
But I digress.
While commercial fishing from spring until fall- life seemed to blend into single work day- lasting for 8 months. Not able to ride very often in the summer- winter was full of lots of activities outside. Winter in Cordova can come on early- sometimes lasting from October until April. The sun sets earlier in the winter- which also makes things difficult. After spring equinox- the snow is still on the ground, the days are getting longer and you can get some amazing clear and cold days with blue skies that make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven (or at least to Alaska.)
I had my single speed mountain bike at the time and went on a few adventures in the snow- riding over frozen muskeg, rivers, lakes and ponds. Cordova has a maritime climate- which means it’s warmer than the interior. Occasionally while riding along over a frozen crust of snow- I would find a sink hole. The front wheel would plunge into the snow up to the axle or even higher and I would either rack myself or get sent sailing over the bars to eat a face full of sno-cone (hopefully not the yellow flavor.) I would ride alone in the woods for hours- in areas that were difficult to get around in the summer- with an ice beard and a smile from ear to ear. Ahhhh. That was the life.
Andrew sent this over- and it shot me back into thinking about it again. This was shot in Kodiak- another beautiful part of the state. These bikes are far better equipped than mine was for snowbiking. One thing in particular to know about biking in deep snow is the fact that rim brakes don’t work so well with an ice glaze over the top of them…
It also got me thinking about riding bikes on Sheridan Lake. A glacial lake- when the conditions were right you would find a bunch of folks out there ice skating. It was pretty incredible- you can skate up icebergs that are frozen into the ice. To this day it’s the only place I’ve ice skated uphill. I would love, love, LOVE to shoot a video out there of people riding bmx out there with studded tires. Though… people have been known to fall in because, well- icebergs move.