***This blog post is WAY delayed & was supposed to go up in May, but that was when our website broke!***
Justin & I used to consider ourselves avid bikers. When I first moved to Phoenix in 2002, I was living with 5 others and sharing 1 car, so I opted to bike the 2 miles to/from work because some of us (ahem, Chris & Sara) were perpetually late. When we moved to New Hampshire in 2007, Justin bike commuted his 9 miles to work a few days each week, and I sometimes joined him. With that being said, we probably haven’t taken a bike ride since 2016, and even then, it wasn’t at length or in regularity. We both never took to the mountain biking scene, much to the happiness of our aging bodies. In summary, biking fell off our radar during our nomadic years.
Fast forward to settling in Alaska. Biking is not the primary activity in these parts, overshadowed by hiking and skiing, but it is growing in popularity. We no longer own bikes (hopefully going to change that soon), but I’ve always set my sights on biking on the road into Denali National Park and Preserve. It is a great way to experience the park. As a reminder, personal vehicles are not permitted past mile 15, so the only way to travel further on the road during the summer is via a bus tour (which is lovely).
The human-powered route is definitely always an option. During the winter, when it is closed at mile 3, we ski it (albeit, not very far). But in the spring and fall, the park opens its road to mile 30 depending on the snow. The bus tours don’t start running until mid-late May, so it’s a huge treat and privilege to have the road to get deeper into the park without any bus “traffic.”
This spring, the park opened the road May 4-20. We were around and had time, so we borrowed bikes from Bike Denali and set off on an adventure from mile 30 at the Teklanika River.
Justin asked me how many miles I thought we’d make it, saying his target was 10-12 (to get over Sable Mountain to the landslide on the road at mile 43). I guffawed. Once again, my husband severely overestimates my (and his) ability and dreams real big. For the record, I was happy if we made it 3 miles.
Spoiler alert: I begrudgingly made it 3 miles (so 6 round trip). Justin pushed himself to make it 4.5 miles (so 9 roundtrip). Besides my excuse of being way out of biking shape, the road is the slightest uphill with a headwind. My lungs wheezed like those of a 78-year-old smoker (hi mom!) and my heart felt like it didn’t have enough room in my rib cage to beat. Once I turned around, my batteries recharged and I was flying “downhill.”
I was waiting for Justin to catch back up at the Teklanika River bridge, and spotted a grizzly! It probably was one of the first of the season spotted in the park as it was May 11. I forgot my good camera with a zoom in the car … and I haven’t seen a grizzly since then!
And guess what? I want to go back for more. Like I said, we will be buying bikes soon. Granted, we’ll probably only bike once or twice a year, but that’s the whole thing about settling down. There’s room for gear! Maybe we’ll hit the park road again this fall and make it a few more miles … maybe not.