Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Summer 2010: The Core of Man's Spirit Comes From New Experiences – Jon Krakauer
First big adventure was my epic bike ride across the entire park road, 92 miles long, from the old mine town of Kantisha to the little dorm area. I like to think that my roommate, Dorothy, and I popularized the route even though it was tradition for many to ride it on solstice overnight since it is light out the entire time. That seemed to be more for the hardcore bikers, but after Doro and I did the ride suddenly every weekend it seemed someone was planning the trip... and some didn't make it. Doro and I planned to do it in two days, not one like most, to really take it in. I had warmed up by doing some rides along the road during the day, taking the bus in with a borrowed bike, getting dropped off somewhere and biking out. I noticed that my knees were starting to give me problems and hoped it was a random occurance.
I ended up deciding to pump almost entirely with my right leg since my left leg was useless. Ah, the mental conflict I endured, trying to tell myself to keep going even though I wanted to stop. I did not want to come all this way, have perfect weather over a solstice on days I managed to line up off of work with my adventurous roomie to not finish, I had to do this, even if only on one leg! Mile 39 (mile 53 from entrance) Toklat, an amazing site. Of course our friend's cabin had to be one of the farthest back, but boy was it amazing to get there, rub some kind of balm over our sore muscles and sleep through the day.
We got home at 2:40am, with sore butts, and one bull moose napping as our only decent wildlife viewing. Stairs were my nemesis for a while, but we did it, we road the park road and I did it on one leg. And then went to work at 8am the next day.
I also hiked up to the erratics visible from the entrance of the park. Some parts of that hike I felt like I was in Ireland, there were fine green ferns everywhere. My buddy ate bad blueberries and threw them up, but soldiered on. It was whole days worth of hiking, but playing around those massive massive boulders was worth it. The picture below are the glacial erratics with me between them. You may have to squint and find the red dot that is me.
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.” - Lord Byron
This time around I borrowed a different bike that was WAY to big for me, but grateful to have a bike nonetheless. There were four of us again: Dorothy, Justin, John from the ODH ride, and myself. Another perfect day. So it seems as I blog we have nothing but great days in the interior, but I assure you it rained a ridiculous amount that summer. I was just super lucky all my epic events were accompanied by great clear days. We could see the mountain from where we were at certain times it was amazing.
The Magic Bus lays along the Stampede trail which lays in a nook not deemed part of the National Park. It is a trail meant for hunters on four wheelers. No other kind of vehicle can go past the Teklanika river, and we were attempting this crazy terrain on bicycles. This was as close to mountain biking I have ever been on. The trail was rugged and pitted with huge pools of water knee deep and up to 50 feet long. We would gain momentum to hit the pools to try to have enough inertia to get across without stopping. We would sometimes hit rocks we couldn't see and would then have to walk the rest of the way. I believe the round trip mileage for this adventure was around 40 miles, but because of the terrain and some terrifying river crossing, we estimated it to be a 10 hour round trip ride.
First river crossing was Savage. It was a bit swift, but low and not intimidating. Justin comically attempted to ride across and I laughed as he failed and fell over. It wasn't long before we were at the river of our nightmares: The Teklanika. The river that Chris failed to cross when he tried to leave the bus and come home which ultimately led to his death. The river the French girl drowned in a month earlier. I am the shortest of the four, Justin was the tallest. He crossed at the first point the trail hit the river, we watched him struggle a bit with the bike over his shoulder and swift water pushing past him, rising to his waist. The three of us who wanted to live decided to look for a better, safer spot to cross.
The light went away fast and the temperature dropped just as fast, leaving us to motivate continuous moving just to keep warm. Being dry was never an option as those huge pools spotted the trail all the way to where we parked the car. I walked most of the way back by the light of my dim headlamp. The few times I tried to ride I would hit a rock and barely catch myself from falling. It was cold and I couldn't use my fingers to change gears anymore. I could see my breath in the air and I was drenched head to toe. We were all spaced out on the way back, but I managed to catch up with Dorothy and Justin who had stopped for some reason with their headlamps off. I courteously turned mine off to not blind them when I realized they were staring at the sky. The Northern Lights had decided to make an appearance. This was one of the best viewings of the lights I've ever seen. Part of the sky just had a dull green glow that didn't move much, but another part show cased the curtain type of Northern Lights that move and wiggle across the sky. I thought about taking a picture but decided I was too damn cold and it was too much trouble. This had to remain a memory.
Our 10 hour round trip ended up being 14 hours, and I wasted no time stripping out of my wet clothes into dry ones as soon as I got to the car. At home in my bed, in my half sleep, I kept dreaming I was biking into those pools and felt the sensation of hitting the water and slowing. A few times I woke up to myself grabbing the bed after having the sensation of falling. That was most definitely the most epic adventure I have had.