September 13, 2014

Hatcher Pass Epic.

The 2nd Annual Hatcher Pass Epic bike ride took place on August 9 and was hosted by Backcountry Bike and Ski out of Palmer, Alaska. Palmer is roughly 45 miles north of Anchorage. The Hatcher Pass Epic is a 90 mile bike race ride that begins in Palmer, climbs through Hatcher Pass, strolls by Willow and then ends back in Palmer. Matt and I signed up for the ride about a week prior to the event. Although I take a spinning class about twice a month, I hadn't put that many miles on my road bike this summer. Fortunately, Matt informed me that the ride was intended to be split up between team members, so upon agreeing to the ride and unbeknownst to Matt, I convinced myself that I could do 10 miles of the ride and Matt could do 80 miles (sarcastic grin). On the morning of the ride, we packed up the truck with our bikes, snacks, fluids and...

...Rio! Since one of us would be driving the truck while the other rode bike, Rio provided some much appreciated entertainment for the driver. 

Matt started the ride out of Palmer and rode for about 15 miles...

Then, I took over for the next 12 miles, which included the steepest climb of the ride through Hatcher Pass. 

Hatcher Pass runs through the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains.

The Hatcher Pass Management Area is not a State Park. Rather, it is a mix of state, borough and private lands with the state being the principal land owner. Therefore, almost all of the land in the Hatcher Pass area is public. Most private land encompasses the widely distributed land holdings that are mainly mineral estates. 

The area is popular for day trip recreation, including cross country skiing, sledding, snow machining, mountain and road biking, hiking, camping, hunting, kayaking, berry picking, rock climbing and recreational gold mining.  

Matt finished the last couple miles of the road bike portion of the ride before getting on his mountain bike to complete the 15 mile dirt road portion of Hatcher Pass Road, better known as Fishhook Road.  

The first few miles of the Fishhook road required a strenuous 800 foot climb to the top of Hatcher Pass, which has an elevation of 3,886 feet. However, the greatest thing about climbing mountain passes is the downhill.

Matt enjoyed a gradual coast down the last 13 miles of Fishhook Road.

While each of us rode the ride, Rio enjoyed many drinks of water in her camping bowl...

...and a few naps on her sleeping pad...

When Fishhook Road ended, I hopped back on the road bike for another 15 miles, getting us past Willow and to the outskirts of Wasilla. Matt completed the last 15 miles of the ride from Wasilla back to Palmer, where riders who had completed (or not completed) were waiting with food and drinks in hand. 

While most rides hand out tshirts or water bottles to finishers, The Epic handed out stem caps, which are the perfect swag for a bike ride. 

Matt, Rio and I had a great time riding our bike through Hatcher Pass. Until next year...

August 14, 2014


I have been to Kodiak a number of times and have blogged about one of those adventures here. I was fortunate enough to go again at the end of July for a field visit for work. However, I had never been to Kodiak in the summer, so it was nice to see the island in full bloom...

I went with Larry, who works for the State of Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Our first night in town we navigated down to the beach. The temperatures were in the high 60s and the sun was out.

After a few minutes at the beach, we decided to head to Fort Abercrombie where there are trails and another view of the ocean. 

Alaska fireweed is a plant that grows wild in most of Alaska. The flowers on the weed grow in a unique way compared to other plants. The plant starts flowering at the bottom and then works its way to the top. Alaskans often use the fireweed to help determine how much summer is left; if the blooms are at the top, summer is almost over. 

The field visit with Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) lasted three days, and each day was filled to the max with business meetings and appointments at KANA and with community members in Kodiak. These productive days resulted in a desire for some solitude in the evening, so we drove along the road toward Chiniak, which is the only town (Chiniak is technically not a town, but a census-designated place) on Kodiak Island accessible by a road system. 

The road system on Kodiak Island is relatively short, so a number of families who live in Kodiak have second homes or camps in Chiniak. However, Chiniak does have a K-10 school with a total of about 10 students. After 10th grade the students are bused to Kodiak High School. 

The orange circle in the picture below is a jelly fish.

After driving around the island, Larry and I met his niece, her husband and their three kids for dinner at Olds River Inn, a fantastic restaurant near Chiniak, or about an hour west of Kodiak. The food was fantastic.

The Kodiak Library was built in December, 2013. The space was lovely and had some really interesting pieces of art. There are gathering rooms open and available to the public, so we headed to the library to utilize one of these spaces for a meeting.

I loved this art piece using glass floats. These floats are traditionally used to keep fishing nets and longlines afloat. They can be easily found in Kodiak.

After a long day of meetings on Thursday, Larry and I enjoyed a brew at Kodiak Island Brewing Company.

They have used traditional fisherman type art to decorate the building, which is pretty neat.

After getting some dinner, we headed west of Kodiak to try our hand at fishing. Unfortunately, only the pink salmon, or humpback salmon, were running, which are really not the best salmon to eat. Larry preferred that we didn't waste our time fishing and just enjoy the scenery.

We headed to another river to find the same luck, but experienced even more beauty.

One thing I always do when traveling is try to find a gym. The KANA gym is available to all Indian Health Service beneficiaries (Alaska Native/American Indian people) and KANA employees. We were given visitor passes so we could access the gym. The gym was very nice and had weight lifting equipment, barbells, cardio machines and a number of different type of strength and cross fit accessories. Larry and I visited the gym each morning before starting our day.

Before a long day of meetings on Friday, we grabbed a coffee from Harborside Coffee and Goods, one of my most favorite coffee places in Alaska. They roast their own coffee beans, so I purchased a bag for Matt and me to enjoy when I returned home.

I love traveling to Kodiak because there is so much to do and each time, I find myself exploring new things. However, I was definitely ready to head home after three long days of meetings and evenings of exploring the island.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!