I am in fourth generation Alaskan. I began endurance riding in 2014, borrowing my mom's Specialized Ruby and riding as far as I could on my 2 days off from work as a bartender, scouring the map to see where I could go. At the end of that summer, I entered my first race, the Fireweed 400. It's a 400 mile supported road race and a qualifier for Race Across America. There's a cutoff time of 32 hours. I didn't even know if I could finish it. I ended up finishing in 27 hours, second overall by 12 minutes to a guy on a recumbent. At that point, I realized ultra-endurance is both something that I love and am good at. I vowed that I'd come back someday to ride all of the major roads in Alaska. After setting the women's record on the Tour Divide in 2015 and outright winning the Trans Am in 2016, I came back to Alaska to ride the roads-- a mix of pavement and gravel on 12 major roads (and many spurs) for a total of 4,500 miles (7,300km). It was one of the most fun adventures of my life and I've been wanting to share the story of riding the roads ever since. This summer, I'm back home in Alaska with Rue so we can ride together and she can document the beauty of the place. We'll be revisiting my favorite roads together and extending the rides to some islands in Alaska that I've never seen. As I look at this collection, I want to connect all of the dots again. I want everyone to see the possibilities of riding in Alaska. The main idea is to encourage others to start adventures from home, dream big and feel good about the time we spend outside. I'm looking forward to filling in this map as the summer progresses.
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This is our capstone campout ride for Anchorage GRIT. We split it up over three days, starting from their school in East Anchorage, spending the first night near Mirror Lake, the second at the Serenity Falls forest service cabin at the end of Eklutna Lake and riding back to the Eklutna Lake trailhead oon Sunday. Due to COVID-19, we had to postpone GRIT until next season. I already had the Serenity Falls forest service cabin rented out, so I took my 8 year old nephew Joshua out there instead. He loved it!
Riding back with 8 year old Joshua from Serenity Falls. For him, the most exciting part of the trip was making campfires.
My niece Ada is six and just learned to ride her bike a year ago. A huge motivator for her was the idea that she'd get to go bike camping with her brother (8 year old Josh) and me. I scouted the camping ride the evening before and found us a good spot on Kincaid beach.
I drove out to Denali National Park with my parents, my nephew Josh, Rue and Christina. The Denali Park Road is one of my favorite in the world. We had exceptional weather and there was very little traffic. The tourist buses are very limited this year and there aren't many people out. We saw moose, caribou, a Dall sheep and other small animals.
My parents wanted to visit Chena Hot Springs, northeast of Fairbanks. I drove out with them and Joshua, soaked in the tubs and then starting riding home to Anchorage. I camped with them the first night and continued south the following morning.
On the second day of my Chena Hot Springs- Anchorage ride, I rode to stay with friends at Creekside Cabins near Denali National Park. I spent two summers working in their cafe. It was amazing to see all of the improvements they've made to their property and to have a welcome place to spend the night. That day, I rode through a lightening storm with pouring rain. The mosquitos were terrible near Nenana. I got a flat tire just north of Healy. I didn't arrive at Creekside until 2am. They left a card with my name on it on the front door with instructions of where to sleep. It was wonderful to warm up.
Holy & Tracey from Creekside Cabins made me coffee and scrambled eggs on their opening day. So great to catch up with them. Rue decided to ride towards me from Anchorage and we'd meet near Willow to ride to my folks' cabin together. It was really the best feeling to have the love of my life riding towards me. The morning near Cantwell was chilly, but it warmed up over the day. Such a great day on the bike!
Rue and I went out to scout the Kenai 250 route together in preparation for the race. Rue will be out during the race to take photos and wanted to see the best spots. I wanted to ride all the trails. We had a good weather window and went for it. We parked my parents' minivan in Moose Pass and road to the start of the route in Hope, then up Resurrection Pass Trail to the East Creek Forest Service Cabin. We got. really late start and didn't make it to the cabin until 3am.
After topping out on Resurrection Pass Trail and descending down Devil's Creek Trail (what a ripper!) We took the pavement to the start of Johnson Pass. On this stretch, we realized that Rue lost the air from her rear shock. She turned around and took the road back to the van. I continued over Johnson Pass and we met in Moose Pass to camp for the night. I saw several friends, a moose cooling off in a pond and a lynx on the track.
Rue gave me a lift to the start of Russian Lakes Trail. With her bike out of commission, she waited for me in Cooper Landing. I saw lots of bear scat on the trail and eventually saw a grizzly bear too. I yelled "Hey Bear" and the bear went running. A lot of folks are carrying guns for safety from the bears. I've never had a problem with them. Part of the Cooper Landing side of Resurrection Pass got burned in a forest fire last year.
My best friend Christina asked if I wanted to race the Foxy Beaver, a 60km gravel race near Knik. I'd never ridden out there, so we decided to head out in the morning together for a 100km warm up. It was a beautiful day! I felt great during the race and ended up winning the women's category, riding with a group of 6 or so for the whole way. It was so much fun!
We arrived in Prudhoe Bay in the late afternoon, put our bikes together at the airport and began the Dalton Highway late in the evening. We first rode to the only supply store for the next 500 miles to buy a camping stove canister and bear spray because we couldn't take them on the plane. At that point, heavy fog rolled in and the temperature dropped. Visibility was extremely low. We put on every piece of clothing we brought and pedaled short distance to find a place to camp and warm up.
This stretch of the Dalton Highway moves from flat terrain to rolling hills. The only people we saw were passing truck drivers and one guy that is running the camp and airstrip at Happy Valley-- where we stopped so Rue could charge her e-bike. He said there was a herd of musk-oxen across the river, but we didn't see them. The whole reason this road exists is because it follows the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. It was first opened to public traffic in 1995.
This stretch of the Dalton Highway enters the Brooks Range and climbs over Atigun Pass, the highest road pass in Alaska at 4,800' (1,460,m). I love this raw and rugged mountain range. It's so far north, that there aren't any trees. We climbed over the pass in the afternoon and stopped at a small pump house with a generator so Rue could charge her e-bike. Earlier in the day, Tim from the Department of Transportation stopped in his pick-up truck and offered us a couple of clementines. He told us to stop by the DOT bunkhouse for more fruit. When we got there, he invited us in for dinner and offered us a place to stay for the night-- super nice as it was raining outside. Tim & Ken told us stories of maintaining the road during winter and avalanches-- incredible to imagine. We washed our clothes and took a shower. Tim made us breakfast in the morning and we continued south.
On the fourth day, we made it to Wiseman and Coldfoot where we stocked up on some dry supplies (mostly chips and ramen), ate a burger and packed one to go. By the end of the day, we were through the Brooks Range. The farther south we go, the worse the mosquitoes get especially near water in the Boreal forest. The riding is punchy-- very steep and rolling.