I love the feeling when you set out on a two-wheeled adventure. The combination of anticipation spiced with fear; crazy happy, but edgy with uncertainty – a huge buzz. It doesn’t last long, this surge of emotion and sensory overload but it’s overwhelming … we’re off, on the road and our journey south has begun….
Then on a recommended side trip to camp out at Eklutna Lake. A ‘bit of a grind’ up to the glacial lake was mentioned … but it was a little disconcerting to run out of gears on the first significant climb of the trip.
After topping out over Eureka Summit at around 1000m we found ourselves looking in vain for a suitable campsite.
Despite freezing and misty conditions the proximity of huge snowy mountains, frozen lakes and alpine tundra made for an exhilarating ride. After a freezing descent to the McLaren River Lodge we settled in to thaw out, fighting half a dozen hairy hounds for prime position in front of the stove. Leaving somewhat reluctantly we battled on into the rain. Several soggy hours later I was wet, frozen, exhausted and completely bonked … praying to deities that I don’t actually believe in, begging for the endless rain to effing ease off a bit. Finally, the point at which we were too tired to care about setting up camp in the rain coincided with an acceptable campsite.
We’ve seen some funky wildlife these past few days – huge moose with their ridiculously long legs, bald eagles (very cool), tons of ptarmigan, cute pikas, an arctic hare, and a pair of beavers splashing around at Tangle Lakes.
We’re constantly on alert for bears, but being told that a female grizzly with cubs had recently been hanging out along the section of road we were about to ride certainly added an edge to the experience. We didn’t see her, but I did see a mound of bear scat of truly terrifying dimensions.
Our ‘all you can eat’ weight loss program is well underway, with the kilos falling off faster than you can say “another piece of pie please”. In an effort to reverse the calorie deficit we’ve tackled some American cuisine, with blueberry pie and pancake stacks being current favourites. The isolated roadhouses are actually very similar to outback roadhouses in northern Australia. Swop the bears for crocs, reduce the facial hair and plaid – and it’s just like the Daly Waters pub.
Dry conditions, with even the threat of sunshine(!), meant a fun ride along the last 90k of the Denali Highway. We thought that the mountain scenery couldn’t possibly get any more dramatic but the final section out to Cantwell just blew us away. We’ve only been travelling a week and we’ve already run out of superlatives …. wow Alaska, just wow.