Monday, July 14, 2014

Back to the Mountains, July 13-14, 2014

July 13
It rains all night and we sleep with the fly off under the pavilion.  What a luxury!  Unfortunately, it's still raining in the morning when we set off.  Our ride takes us up and down steep hills and through lush forest.  In the pouring rain we make slow progress.  After almost four hours and only twenty miles, the weather gradually begins to improve.  We have a long, beautiful descent into the Matanuska river valley, and a shoulder reappears on the road.  Hooray!  We stop at an overlook and eat lunch at a wonderful picnic table with a spectacular view of the Matanuska glacier.  The glacier looks rather out of place glowing in the sunshine in the middle of a lush, green valley.  After lunch, the afternoon gets better and better.  We have sunny weather, no bugs, and a tailwind that gets stronger as the day goes on and literally pushes us up the hills.  
Mid-afternoon we stop at the Grand View Lodge to share an amazing veggie burger and blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream.  Here we meet a motorcyclist who is very impressed with our journey and tells us, "I love adventure, the more the better. Five minutes on the edge is better than a lifetime of boredom."  Just down the road, we summit Eureka Pass, the highest point on the highway, and are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Wrangell Mountains, enormous and snowy.  We camp in a large gravel area filled with trails and firepits that appears to be a playpark for ATVs.  Our grassy spot is perfect.

July 14
We start our day with a wonderful downhill.  The morning air is a bit chilly, but not uncomfortably so because the sun is out!  In the perfect weather, we bike through a gentle valley with rolling hills of spruce forest.  The trees on either side are occasionally broken up by a small, murky pond or blue lake.  It's perfect habitat for moose and mosquitoes.  Unfortunately, only the mosquitoes come to greet us.  The few lodges or houses along the road are either for sale or look abandoned.  We eat lunch on a dirt hill on a side of the road, 30 miles in.  Nothing special.  What's nice is that after lunch, the ride is mostly downhill, a runway straight to the enormous mountains in front of us.  In Glennallen, a small town right outside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, we stop at the IGA to buy some extra provisions.  Eating an enormous bag of tortilla chips with salsa outside, we meet Toby and Ann, two touring cyclists from Switzerland.  They are traveling from Anchorage to Skagway over the span of about four weeks.  We share stories and end up camping with them in a small park just out of town.
   Our new friends: Toby and Ann

Fun fact: Wrangell Mountain, which we're right next to, is the largest active volcano in Alaska at over 14,000 feet!  It can be seen smoking on clear days.

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