Date: March 31st, 2017
Distance: 38 kilometers
Song of the Day: Say it Ain't So - Weezer
I had planned on getting up and out early today. I wanted to push all the way to Galena, but after looking at the maps I decided that wasn't a great plan. That would have meant a very hard day, followed by another hard day to Ruby. I don't think my body is ready for that. So I will break up the trip to Galena into two shorter days.
Getting on the road, I was very glad I made that decision. The wind was rolling down river. I felt happy about going 4 miles an hour. The wind felt like pushing against the tide, almost like the Yukon was tired of being trapped under the winter ice and was screaming to reach the ocean. In its wake I could see snow and leaves blowing past. The trail was getting covered over in soft, powdery snow that was almost impossible to ride over. Just an unpleasant day.
A couple of miles outside of Koyukuk the river took a dog-leg to the right, but the wind didn't. It was still coming in from the port side, but at least it wasn't hitting me in the teeth anymore. I made it to town rather early and tried to check in at the school. Sadly, they're on spring break and everything was closed up. I ended up getting a spot to stay at the city office, though.
Date: March 30th, 2017
Distance: 56 kilometers
Song of the Day: Terminal Frost - Pink Floyd
Leaving Kaltag was a lot slower than I had planned. As I was leaving I got into chatting with Amy. She is a cool person and has lived a life about as crazy as mine. It was fun to hear stories from another crazy person. I was also interested in how well she was managing to integrate into the village she was living in. Before I realized how long it had been it was past noon. Whoops.
I was excited to get out on the trail today because I was now going to be traveling up the Yukon river. It really is one of the great rivers of the world. Famous in legend, the ancient highway to the interior of Alaska. Sadly when I got there the wind was just hounding me. It made things less fun. The last few days of good winds and great trail have spoiled me. Nothing to do but put my head down and push on.
I arrived in Nulato before sunset though. Amy had told me to talk with the staff at the school there for a place to stay. I did that and they were happy to let me spend the night. Who knew I would spend so much time in schools on this trip?
Date: March 29th, 2017
Distance: 70 kilometers
Song of the Day: Don't Wake Daddy - The Tragically Hip
I left Old Woman Cabin and kept heading on east. Today was gorgeous like yesterday. I wish I had something more to say. I know on the miserable days I will write no end of complaints, but the good days are just quiet and enjoyable so I don't have as much to write about. There's no way to really express how fun it is to be under your own power and cruising along, to be out in the gorgeous and remote parts of the world, to be free to go along like the wind and appreciate this fantastic world of ours. Even the pictures don't do it justice.
I wandered into Kaltag a couple pf hours before sunset. I wasn't sure quite where to go. I had been happy to find refuge at the schools along the Bering Sea coast but this is a different school district. I wasn't sure if they did that here. I was also soon informed the town was pretty full with people. This year Kaltag was hosting "Stick Dance". It's a ceremony they and Nulato share for honoring those who have died in the past year. I was in a little bit of luck. One of the teachers from Nulato had come down to see the ceremony and was staying at the school so they had no problem letting me stay there as well. It was also fun because the teacher, Amy, went with me to see the native singing. She was able to tell me a little more about what was going on. I had no idea what Stick Dance was before I came. All of the songs were sung in the local Athabaskan language, so not only is it a way to remember the people who have died it also helps to preserve the culture. Very cool. I feel honored when I get to see things like this.
Date: March 28th, 2017
Distance: 58 kilometers
Song of the Day: Fooled by the Night - Minus the Bear
Today was my last day on the Pacific ocean. I won't see the ocean again for a couple of months until I get to the Atlantic. It's strange when I think about it that way.
I said goodbye to Chase and was on my way. The trail out of town was great. The wind was even going my way. I was having just a fantastic day. It was sunny and bright. The mountains around me were sparkling white and blue, just awesome.
I rolled into Old Woman Cabin a couple of hours before sunset. I knew I could have pushed on but this was about halfway between Unalakleet and Kaltag. I had also heard from some people that this was the best cabin to stay at on the whole trail and I can tell you, it was pretty cool. Just a little log cabin built by the BLM for public use. It had a wood stove in it which I got going and the place heated up nicely. I cooked dinner and had a really lovely time. It would have been a fun little spot to drag some friends out to.
In the middle of the night I even got up and went outside to watch the northern lights again. Just a few green bands here and there, but a fun spectacle to see.
Date: March 27th, 2017
Distance: Rest day
Song of the Day: Aurora - Foo Fighters
I know I'm racing breakup here. For those of you who don't live in Alaska, there isn't really spring here. It's called breakup, because all the snow starts to melt and the ice, well, breaks up. That's what I'm racing. I need to get across some of the rivers before they start to thaw and crack. So I don't really have time to waste, but I really did need a break. I have been pushing hard the last few days and my body really needed a chance to rest. Plus, I had some other things to take care of. I needed to restock supplies and make some minor repairs to my equipment. (My gloves are getting holes and my rear rack is getting loose.) This was a good chance to get things fixed up.
I went out to lunch with Chase at a little place called "Peace on Earth" here. It's a little pizza shop. I've missed pizza. So good. Unalakleet is so fancy it has two restaurants.
After that I got everything I needed sorted out. When Chase got off work we headed out to the ice with his drone. We spent a while getting video of me riding around on the Bering Sea. It was quite a lot of fun. I will try and edit something together soon.
P.S.: Just after I wrote this Chase came by to say the northern lights were out. It's been a while since I have seen the Aurora Borealis. It was fun to watch the green lights dance in the dark sky.
Date: March 26th, 2017
Distance: 65 kilometers
Song of the Day: West Coast- Hey Marseilles
I thought today was going to be pretty easy, just a nice ride down the beach. And it was, for the morning. Nothing special to write about. The only interesting thing was a flock of
Then about 12 miles down the coast the beach ended in a big cliff. The trail from that point was up in the hills the whole rest of the day. That first slope was certainly the worst, just a huge uphill climb. Now, I don't mind climbing hills and I prefer the interesting nature of more mountainous paths, but this was just awful. No fun at all. I was happy when I got to the top. There were a few more climbs in the day, but nothing as bad as that first one. Things got a lot more fun.
The downhill trails in much of this area had been worn in by various travelers, mostly snow machines. It was no longer smooth, so it had lots of little dips and bumps to go over. This was more technical riding. Kind of like a giant downhill pump track. I thought it was great. It was a blast to be up and riding through the narrow groove between willow bushes, and bounding up and around all the moguls.
Things did take some time though. It was just about sunset before I got in to Unalakleet. But when I did I was greeted with warm reception by Devin's friend Chase here. He was great and we spent a while talking about life and travel.
Date: March 25th, 2017
Distance: 72 kilometers
Song of the Day: Winter - TV on the Radio
I got up fairly early this morning for being in so late. The wind was at my back as I left Koyuk, but that didn't help much. The trail was as packed down as could be expected but it's mostly loose, fine snow over ice. It ends up being pretty squishy and sucking a lot of energy out of my pedaling. Oh yeah, it's also back out over the sea ice. I was just thinking I've been doing a lot of ice travel in the last few days. I might get over 100 miles of cycling on sea ice. To put that another way, I have probably bicycled over the ocean further than most people reading this have been swimming in it. Kind of crazy.
Other than that it was just a day. Easy trail to follow. Mostly straight, since on the ice there isn't much to avoid other than a few cracks here and there. I made it to Shaktoolik an hour before dark, which made me quite happy. I want to make it an early night.
Date: March 24th, 2017
Distance: 83 kilometers
Song of the Day: Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
What an exhausting day. I got a good start out of Elim, sort of. I left and went out to the ice where I had come in, but couldn't find the trail. I had to come back to town and ask around. They told me the trail cuts over the mountain behind town. Oh good, more uphill. I did hear there might be a trail right to Shaktoolik from Isaac Point about 25 miles away, though. It would be a tough day, but going right to Shaktoolik would save a day, and as I am racing breakup that's important.
The first mountain out of town was a bit of a bear, not what you want to do bright and early, though the ride down the far side was fun at least. I left the staked trail for one heading across the sea ice once I hit the beach. It was well used and seemed to go directly to Isaac Point. Unfortunately I was bedeviled by a wind coming over the port bow all day. It made everything so slow. I didn't make it to the point until early in the evening and when I got there I couldn't see anything heading in the right direction. There was one set of snow machine tracks that looked like they were going the right way, but who knows where they went. So no trail, I would have to push to Koyuk.
That took hours. I was looking for anywhere to stop along the way but the trail I was on kept out on the ice. I wouldn't mind camping on the ice so much, but I prefer not to. The sun set and I could finally see the lights of Koyuk in the distance. The trail kept turning into the wind more and more. So frustrating. The lights crept closer and closer but I could never seem to get to town. When I finally arrived it was after 11:00 at night. What a day. I found the school and the principal had already been alerted that I was there. Small towns. She set me up inside and I got some food and went to bed.
Date: March 23rd, 2017
Distance: 72 kilometers
Song of the Day: Somewhere Else to Be - VAST
In the morning I got up with my hosts. Sadly I wasn't quite out of the house as early as I should have been with the early rise. In fact, I ended up taking a lot of time eating. Which is good, I need the calories.
I finally made it out the door and ended up at the school, where I got to say proper goodbyes to Devin and Charlotte. I even spoke with Joanna's class for a bit. Sometimes I'm not sure if I am making any impression, but I hope what I do inspires other people. It doesn't have to be the same as what I do, but just to try something is all I want people to do.
On the road, or trail I should say, the weather was beautiful but the travel was slow. I am not sure what was going on but I was just feeling sluggish. The trail headed right down a river so I was back to riding on ice. I thought that would have been flat but for some reason it felt like I was always going up hill. Eventually I broke out onto Golovin bay, still riding on ice. The father who had been staying at Joanna's the night before passed by on his snow machine. He stopped and we chatted for a little while. They're going all the way out to Kaktovik, which is where the north slope touches Canada. They were hoping to be home before the ice melted out, which up there was early May. Soon enough he was off and the son passed by soon after being pulled by the dog team. Good luck guys.
A few miles later I stopped in Golovin. It is a small community on a little sand spit in the bay. The night before Charlotte had said they had soft serve ice cream there. I was excited. I found the place, Golovin Bay Trading Company, just where she said, across from the school with an orange door. Sadly they only have soft serve on weekends. Still, I had a great time there and filled up on a pretty big lunch. They had tons of stuff to cook up and eat in the store. I wish there were more places like this along my route.
I might also have fond memories of Golovin because after the big lunch my afternoon seemed to go much better. I had lost the sluggish feeling of the morning and was making good time back across the bay ice. After that it was up into the mountains. At first I was feeling all pumped up from lunch and was making great time. Soon enough the increasing slope got to me and I started running out of steam. More food and I pushed my way to the top. That was only the beginning, though. The trail ran up and down for a little bit up in the hills for a while, just like yesterday. I can never seem to go over just one ridge and be done here. It's always several.
Eventually I dropped down back onto the shore. The trail down had been worn in by a series of snow machines. They didn't leave a smooth track to follow. Instead it was a series of rolling bumps, like moguls on a ski slope or a snowy pump-track. It was fun and I was just starting to get the hang of it as I hit the bottom.
Back on the sea ice I kept pushing along. I had really run out of steam now and was struggling a bit with a troubling wind. There was a beautiful sunset to see, though. Of course that meant I was out as things were getting dark. I'm glad the trail was well marked.
I rolled into Elim half an hour after sunset, but things were still fairly bright. I wandered up toward the school when I was called over by one of the local residents. It turns out Mark is one of the teachers at the school and had seen me when taking his dog for a walk. He invited me in and offered me some food. Mark made up a sandwich with home-made whale sausage. Never had whale before. It was good. While I ate we chatted about traveling and various crazy adventures. It seems like Mark has had his fair share. It's fun to meet someone who can really swap stories. I like hearing about other people's adventures.
Date: March 22nd, 2017
Distance: 51 kilometers
Song of the Day: America - Imagine Dragons
From the beginning I could tell the day was going to be a bit different than yesterday. Riding along the beach wasn't going to be an option because the beach was ending. Up in the distance I could see a big cliff sticking out of the ocean. I wasn't sure if the trail would go around on the ice, or over the hills inland. The marked trail went with the latter.
That meant I spent most of the day climbing up and over a bunch of hills. It wasn't so bad. I kind of enjoy the hills more than the flat boring stuff. It was pretty out here as well. I'm starting to get back into some trees. It's been a while since I have seen those. Most of the Seward Peninsula that I have been on so far hasn't had them, just willow bushes and tall grass. The trees are a nice change.
At the end of the day I dropped down onto a section of frozen river. That made it easy traveling, which took me all the way into White Mountain. Paul and Stacey had mentioned that White Mountain was a cool little place and I have to agree. It's a small village nestled in the hills above a bend in the Niukluk river and it has a really nice charm to it. As soon as I got into town I started looking around for what to do. One of the kids came up to me and asked what I was doing. When I told him I was looking for a place to stay he directed me right where to go. I met a lady named Joanna there. She invited me in and got me a load of dinner. She was super nice and really fun to talk with. I guess a number of mushers and Iditarod trail users have come to stay with her over the years and I can see why. She just opens her house to you and makes you feel right at home. It was a busy house too. There was a young musher with his father, plus a half dozen of Joanna's grandkids were staying. I think she was running out of room. She put me in touch with one of the teachers in town, Devin, for a quiet place to stay.
When I arrived Devin was playing host to Charlotte, another teacher from Elim. I probably should have gone to bed earlier but I was having a good time talking with them. It was fun to hear about life in these small Bering Strait villages.