Day 6

8/6/95 - Sunday
Route: Little Tonsina River State Recreation Site to Copper Center
Lodging: Klutina Salmon Fish Camp
Mileage: 37 miles


After a chilly fitful night on the hard ground with my awful ground pad, I awakened at 5:40 a.m. to the call of the Canada geese overhead and the constant drone of the jet engines at the pipeline pumping station nearby. Man and Mother Nature collide in my senses. I'll take Mother N. any time.

This morning there was glorious SUNSHINE at breakfast. What a way to begin the day!

We've had relatively little interaction with the local residents ("locals") while on the trip - due in part, I'm sure, to the fact that we are a largish group, and the best and easiest interactions occur when you are cycling solo and must reach out.

This morning we stopped at Alaska House, a typical log building along the road, this one featuring very attractive gifts in one room and a snack canteen in another. The owner, apparently from bad experiences, trusts few people, particularly older folks who keep ripping off items from his store. Odd. Older people ripping off an older owner. He is also a pragmatist and conserves resources. When I asked where the restroom was, he pointed me down a small hall and around a corner, and admonished me with, "Don't flush if you are only peeing." Okay. Back to California drought behavior. I can deal with that.

Lunch today was pizza - again! We converged on the Grizzly Pizza and Gifts, another log structure, where we were the bulk of the patrons. Before getting settled with our pizzas, we overheard one of the owners and another patron debating the virtues of hunting. Mounted on all four walls of the dining area were dead animals of every possible variety. Ugh. But in a corral out back, a live somewhat friendly buffalo was available for petting.

We spent the night along the Klutina River at the Klutina Salmon Fish Camp in Cooper Center, a quaint town at the confluence of the Klutina and Cooper Rivers. (The Cooper River is said to carry the highest sediment load of any river in Alaska, presumably from glacial runoff.) The town is small, but has all amenities that cyclists might want. Showers and laundry are available, albeit 3 miles down the road, there are wild raspberries within an arm's reach from the road; the old roadhouse is now a lodge serving terrific breakfasts, locally renown sourdough pancakes reputed to be made from 100 year old sourdough starter; food supplies; and a well stocked liquor store featuring a variety of interesting micro brewery beers. Even more enticing is the spectacular view of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum in the Wrangell range looming over the town.

Nick, a software engineer/bon vivant from Seattle joined us as we strolled through town after dinner to the Copper Center Lodge for more dessert. I listened as he wove a tale of adventures in Asia, Alaska, and other worldly destinations. In his early 30's he has parlayed the software engineer game to his advantage, working until he has enough money to meet his needs and then traveling until it's gone, whereby he begins the cycle anew. In a burst of generosity, he opened the large old chest freezer at camp and pulled out pounds and pounds of frozen king salmon for us to take with us for dinner tomorrow night. We wrapped them (too) well in my emergency solar blanket and packed them on a bike. We assumed that they would thaw slowly throughout the night and next day and be ready to cook when we arrived at camp.

I indulged in the "bike to eat, eat to bike" cliche at the Copper Center Lodge where I wolfed down (after having had a large dinner and dessert in camp) a large slice of warm blueberry pie ala mode.

The mountains came alive as we left the Lodge. Clouds moved off the mountains and we had a view of the sun's late evening golden glow highlighting the snowy tops of the mountains.

The biting insects were out in force tonight and I have significant numbers of insect bites that itch!!

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Copyright (c) Judith J. Colwell, 1995. All rights reserved.