Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ferry Road and beyond

This was a Trip Report done for the News-Miner in 2016.

Corrine bikes on the mining road after passing the wind turbines.

Party: Eric Troyer, Corrine Leistikow
Trip Location: Mining roads that cover the hills to the east of Ferry, just north of Healy.

Access: To get to the trailhead, turn on Ferry Road at Mile 259.4 Parks Highway. Take the road about a mile to where it ends at the Nenana River. Park out of the way with the other cars. Bike or walk your bike across the river on the boardwalk that’s part of the railroad bridge. On the other side, travel a short distance, about a quarter mile, and turn right, crossing the railroad tracks. Turn right again, following the wide gravel road.

Trip Date:  Saturday, July 9.

Trail or route conditions, wildlife sightings and any highlights from the trip: The first part of this trip is a wide, fairly smooth gravel road, made even wider and smoother with the construction of the Eva Creek Wind Project, finished in 2012. The first 6 miles is a steady grind. Another 4 miles of mostly ups but some downs takes you to the wind turbines, which are impressive to see close up.
Corrine crosses the pedestrian pathway on the railroad bridge.
The first part of the road is wide and flat. It accesses the wind turbines.
The road stays wide all the way to the turbines, but it gets steeper!
Along the way you start seeing the turbines.
Along the way, at about Mile 9, is Boot Hill, a collection of memorials to past locals, with a strong boot theme. Boot Hill also has a sculpture, about 20 feet high, made of large perforated circles and the tail of an old small airplane, partly buried as though it had crashed there.
Boot Hill is a great place to take a break. 
The plane crash turned art. 
We were generally following a trip description from the out-of-print book “Mountain Bike Alaska: 49 Trails in the 49th State,” which was published in 1991. We had read the description but didn’t bring the book with us, so we missed the road to the Liberty Bell Mine described in the book. But that was fine. The wind turbines, another mile past Boot Hill, are a huge draw when you get up there.

You get to bike right next to the turbines. They are massive!
We knew we had to go east, so we followed the road that direction until it left the wind farm and turned into a narrower and rougher mining road, though it was mostly easy for biking. The road followed a ridge for a ways and we could see some buildings in the valley to the south, which we later learned is the old Liberty Bell Mine. Then the road dropped, steeply at times, for several miles into the California Creek drainage.

The mining road dropping into the Calfornia Creek drainage. The road past the turbines is more typical of a mining road, narrower and rough in places.
At the bottom we came across a small mining operation and briefly talked to one of the friendly miners, who told us where we should have turned to get to Liberty Bell Mine. We rode another mile or so to California Creek, where we stopped for lunch. The mining road continued on past the creek and would have been easy to cross if we had had the time and didn’t mind getting wet feet. We were just out for the day and had already gone about 18 miles, so we turned around.

The mining operation.
We turned around here, but clearly you could explore further. 
I’d like to go back again sometime. “Mountain Bike Alaska” describes a ride 25 miles one-way to the Totatlanika River and there are several ATV trails that take off from the road after it reaches alpine country. However, I first have to forget how much I hate long, boring uphill gravel grinds.

For more information buy a copy of “Mountain Bike Alaska.” Used copies are still available online. Or just follow the USGS maps. The Liberty Bell Mine road is marked, as is the road we took (marked in red after a 1972 revision).

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