The forecast looked good for the weekend, so I decided to do another long ride. My plan was to bike to Circle, camp overnight, then bike home. Eric was going to do a hike up Mastodon Dome and would meet me with the camping gear, so I didn’t have to carry it. I’m such a wimp sometimes! I thought this ride would be easier than the Manley Hot Springs Ride since it has a couple of thousand feet less elevation gain, but it wasn’t. It actually felt a little harder. The biking time was 30 minutes less but the overall time about the same. Maybe it was because my legs were tired from bike commuting this week? Maybe I was stopping more to smell the roses (literally)? However you look at it, it’s a fairly big ride to do in one day. 155 miles with 9390 feet elevation gain.
This ride has 3 big climbs, otherwise it’s mostly rolling hills and flats. 80 miles of pavement, then 75 miles of gravel, mostly really good gravel until past Central. Not too much traffic. I didn’t see much wildlife. One fox on the road, several grouse, including one male who puffed up his cheeks and bellowed at me before flying off and a cute little baby porcupine.
|Fox on the road. I've been seeing lots of fox this summer.
|This grouse thought it was hiding by just sitting on the road!
|Cute baby porcupine. Where's your mama?
I started off early at 6 AM and made quick work of getting up the first climb to Cleary Summit. This was the climb I did 20 times on my Everest attempt. I was slow but steady up it and kept thinking that maybe I need to come back and actually finish an Everest attempt. I was only cold and nauseated. I wasn’t in danger. Maybe I could get my nutrition better fine-tuned? I mused on that a bit. Always sounds like a good idea when you aren’t cold and tired and nauseated.
|View from just over Cleary Summit
After that, it’s a nice downhill and then flat to rolling hills trending uphill. I thought about all the times I’ve ridden this part of the road in time trials and Tour of Fairbanks stage races. Lots of good memories. I also spent a lot of time plotting how Eric and I would do the Summer Trails Challenge this year. We started a tradition of doing them all in one day, but this year would be harder since there are 20 trails, and some involve a lot of driving to get to the trailheads. We hope to do that challenge this next Friday, weather permitting. I think I have it figured out how we might accomplish this goal. Stay tuned for a post about that!
|Poker Flats Rocket Range
Once I hit the gravel, it was just a few miles up to Twelvemile Summit. I stopped briefly, descended and then made the long climb up to Eagle Summit. I love this area. Above tree line, great views, lots of great hiking. I kept noticing long stem roses along the road. Were they markers of some sort? Had they fallen out of somebody’s truck? Were they marking where people had been killed on the road? Who knows but it gave me something else to ponder over. I picked one up and attached it to my bike for a while. Eric had left our car at Eagle Summit for his hike, so I stopped and had a snack before continuing. Lots of cars and people out on this gorgeous day. I looked to see if Eric was coming down the trail (it was 3:30 and I figured he would be finishing up soon) but didn’t see him. Then I had a very fast and fun descent all the way down to Central.
|Views from Eagle Summit
|Eagle Summit - Wind keeping the bugs down
|More views from Eagle Summit
I stopped at the little store in Central, then stopped to see my patient who lives right behind the store. As I came back from visiting her, I saw Eric who had finished his hike. He was going to head to Circle and set up our campsite. It was only 35 miles and should be mostly downhill. I could be there in a couple of hours.
|Old mining gear in Central at the museum
Those last 35 miles were the worst of the ride. The scenery wasn’t as nice, and the road had totally degenerated with loose gravel and washboard. I kept switching sides of the road to find a good line. There was a lot more uphill then I expected, too. And I swear, I had more cars pass me, kicking up dust, between Central and Circle than I had all the rest of the day. What was up with that? We found out that there were 2 funeral parties going on in Circle that night and the place was totally packed with people. Once I finished, we decided not to camp as there really wasn’t a campground and we would probably not get any sleep with the parties going on. The funeral explained all the roses on the road, too. Probably somebody was carrying floral arrangements in their truck and these fell out along the way.
|Not happy about the loose washboard gravel. Ready to be done!
|Nice view of Birch Creek
|I made it to Circle!
After I made it to the Yukon River, we turned around and drove back to Central, hoping that maybe the store, which served food was still open. It closes at 8 PM and we got there at 9 but they were still open, and the owners said they could make us dinner. Score! Hot burgers and fries instead of freeze-dried food. They stayed open another hour and talked with us as we ate dinner. It ends up, we know a few of the same people and had fun talking about them, the Yukon Quest and the fact that somebody bought Circle Hot Springs and wants to reopen it. I love small towns and family run places!
By the time we finished dinner, we decided to just drive the 2 hours home instead of camping somewhere. We arrived home just after midnight, stopping for the sunset at Cleary Summit. It was another great day to be out in the Alaska Interior.
|Midnight sunset on Cleary Summit