Date: June 17 & 18
Total mileage: 72.8
June mileage: 413.3
Geoff and I spent mountain on Sunday. We managed to find two of the more interesting established campsites on the Kenai Peninsula - the first night, high high on a ridge above Hope, where six sites are crammed into a spot only reasonably large enough for two or three; the second night, we found the only place below 2,000 feet elevation where it is still winter: a frigid wind pocket beside Portage Glacier. After an active night of being continuously woken up by 60 mph gales, we had to rise to another soggy morning so Geoff could run three miles up a mountain and I could fight similar gales for 16 miles of a rather lopsided 32-mile bicycle ride.
Saturday was much more pleasant. We spent the morning lounging at Tito's Diner in Hope. Then, full of breakfast and a well-sold piece of chocolate raspberry cheesecake pie, I headed up the Resurrection Pass trail while my friends waited patiently at a campsite for me to complete what turned out to be a five-hour ride. Geoff followed me for an hour, then turned around so as to not wear himself out the day before his race. I spent the rest of the time alone, mashing miles of mud and yelling out occasionally to the unseen bears whose tracks peppered the trail. Near treeline, I was singing a verse of "Third Planet" by Modest Mouse when I rounded a corner and saw two bikers trying to negotiate around a series of downed trees.
"You alone?" one guy asked me. I was terribly embarrassed, and started to explain that I was singing to warn the bears of my silent, speedy approach. Somehow, they interpreted my explanation to mean that I thought I was going really fast, which wasn't actually the case.
"Well, you better go by us," the other guy said.
I started to protest because I knew there was a big drop into a stream just ahead, but finally just went in front of them after it became apparent that these guys wanted to see for themselves what I bad ass I was. Of course these guys were on my tail, I mean right on my back tire, the entire drop. I felt like a total poser. So as soon as we crossed the bridge, I started pumping hard to gain some ground uphill. Pretty soon, the guys dropped off my tire. Then they were several hundred feet behind me. Then I couldn't see them at all. I didn't see them again until nearly an hour later, after I had arrived at the pass, eaten a Power Bar, and turned around to descend for 15 minutes. They were laying down on the side of the trail.
"Beat you to Cooper Landing?" one guy called out as I buzzed by (Cooper Landing is on the other side of the pass.)
"See you there!" I yelled, and continued in the wrong direction. I love how guys make everything into a race.
The next day, Geoff had his Spur Hill Climb on Bird Ridge, a lung-bursting mountain race that claws its way 3,400 vertical feet up cliff bands and loose gravel on its way to a short-lived summit. Geoff finished eighth or ninth among a group of a couple hundred runners. I would kill for that kind of front-of-the-pack status, but Geoff was disappointed. Guys. Go figure.
I spent those couple of hours working toward Anchorage in what I figured was a decent tailwind. I felt a little concerned when I reached the end of Potter Marsh and realized that I had covered 16 miles in about 40 minutes. But I had no idea what I was in for until I turned around into something that can only be described as a relentless wind tunnel. Every pedal stroke seemed to only propel me backward. I worked as hard as I could, but some of the larger gusts had me down to 7 mph, slower than I even ride the long hills around my house these days.
With just a few more notches in the wind force factor, I could have perfected the outdoor stationary bicycle ride. I think I know now how the Turnagain Arm got its name. Just a few more miles of that demoralizing headwind, and I would have turned around, again, to make my new home in Anchorage.