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...