After wending our way southeast out of Anchorage on their excellent bike path system, we pedaled the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm, an extension of Cook Inlet, and through part of Chugach State Park (where the grizzly killed those two people this past July). Unfortunately we weren't able to time our travel to coincide with the famous bore tides of Turnagain Arm.
Our picnic lunch was at the Bird Creek State Recreation Site off the bike path which wound through it. This bike path that we have played tag with on and off from Anchorage is a nice way to avoid the highway. We selected a picnic spot and propped our bikes against accommodating trees. The weather could have been more pleasant than the drizzles we experienced during lunch. However, by the time we were back on our bikes, it was merely cloudy.
After another hour of pedaling, we noticed a promising place across the road for warmth and hot drinks. As we pulled into the gas station/cafe located at the Alyeska Highway junction, quite a few of the bikes along the wall had a familiar look. We joined the others who had already ordered up a variety of hot chocolate/expresso/coffee drinks. My double mocha hit the spot and warmed me down through my toes.
During this first day of riding, the group began to sort itself out with riding partners, riding styles, and riding attitudes. One rider preferred to ride "sweep" this first day. Other riders clumped in groups of twos and threes. I found myself sharing a similar riding pace and attitude of "where to stop and explore" with one of the men. In my early assessment, I was egotistical and foolish enough to think that I was keeping up with him, a much stronger rider than I. I rationalized that because he was carrying at least 15 pounds more gear than I, we were well matched in speed. Hah! I must have been under the delusion which often accompanies the first day of a tour. It became apparent over the course of riding together that we were never riding a pace that *I* was setting; we were riding together because he chose to ride at my speed. When I rode behind, he controlled the pace from the front. When I led, he set the pace from the rear, as I wouldn't let myself get too far ahead. It took me quite a number of days to become aware of his exquisite art of pace-setting. Much to my chagrin.
The scenery that we are pedaling through would be breath-taking if we had Mother Nature's cooperation. As it is, the mountain peaks are iced with low hanging clouds. We do have incredibly beautiful views up narrow valleys edged by steep mountains painted with snow fields and glaciers. It could put Switzerland to shame. Turnagain Arm and the surrounding mountains are how I envision the fjords of Norway (I think, never having been there).
At the end of the day, we passed the Alaska railroad station at Portage en route to our campground three miles up a perpendicular road toward Portage Glacier. Tomorrow we'll return to board the train to Whittier. The terrain is such that the train is the only means by which to reach Whittier, where we will then catch the ferry to Valdez.
Today's ride was not difficult. The mileage was right for the route, and weather.
Tonight in camp we are introduced to the famous Alaska "state bird" - the mosquito, plus a variety of other flying-bitey things that I haven't experienced before: white sox and no-see-ums. Those of us who have mosquito head nets put them on. No matter that they look ridiculous - they seem to work.
Later after dinner, two of us walked the mile or so in the drizzle to Portage Glacier and Lake. The lake was dark and mysterious in the rainy twilight, hunks of ice floating in the blue-black water, surrounded by high stark peaks.
Copyright (c) Judith J. Colwell, 1995. All rights reserved.