Biking Because

"Bikes are the cars of the future" – Sean O'Neill.

Tag: bears

Alone on the Cassiar

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Entering BC

Unbeknownst to me, turning off the Alaskan and onto the Cassiar Highway would hold a future of mixed fortunes. Testing my limits and pushing me to the point of almost throwing in the towel. While I was happy to be back in BC, the weather took a terrible twist. It rained, it rained so much that I’d willingly have swapped it for the worst of the west coast of Ireland and that’s a statement worth analyzing. The wind pushed against me, the climbs became struggles. Progress sputtered and stagnated. I was constantly miserable, cold and wet. The routine was biking wet, setting up my tent wet, taking it down wet, cooking in the rain. I wasn’t covering nearly enough distance. Then Mt Doom, the pinnacle of misery, the shit-sprinkles on top of the shit-cake….my airpad burst, now I was sleeping on the floor of a cold, wet tent. You’re getting it, misery.

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Sniffing my food

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Staring me down, look closely you can see Salmon in the river

The good news is I’m still going and here’s why. Whenever I felt at my most miserable something beautiful would always reveal itself, reminding me of what I was doing and where I was, re-energizing me to keep trudging on. The first; as I struggled into a cold, hard headwind I noticed something up ahead but I couldn’t make out what. As I got closer it became clear, a Lynx and 3 cubs ambled across the road, something that is extremely rare to see. It made me smile and inspired me for the rest of the day. The second; so my airpad burst, I was camping in Kinaskan Provincial park and the weather was awful. I casually mentioned to the park operator about my airpad. She turned up 10 minutes later with a therm-a-rest airpad for me, said I could keep it and didn’t charge me for camping either…energy levels rising.

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Good Hope Lake

I woke up the next morning to clearing skies and the sun which I hadn’t seen for a week. In the next 3 days things picked up rapidly. I was riding my bike on an isolated stretch of the Cassiar and I noticed something up ahead. A black Bear, shit! I stood tall on my bike and kind of yelled at him. He looked at me, sized me up and sauntered off the road. This happened again about 5 miles later. The next day, I was on the side of the road cooking some lunch, looking around I saw a Bear coming my way. Luckily he veered into the bushes and I didn’t see him again.

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Good Hope Lake

I camped in Meziadin Provincial park for a night, beautiful setting. The next day I was leaving and noticed some people gathered by a creek about a mile down the road. Leaning my bike against the rail I took a look. Incredibly, a Grizzly was in the stream about 15ft below intensely focused on catching the spawning Salmon. He could so easily have just come up the embankment and eaten any of us I thought. He must have been reading my mind because that’s exactly what he did. He got between the people and their cars then casually strolled over to my bike of all things…I pictured him tearing my gear to shreds and having a field day on my food stash. Not today, he turned around and went back to fishing.

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Black Bear on the road

I’m in a place called Kitwanga now and as the Cassiar comes to an end I’ve had time to think, it was an experience I’ll remember for some time. Next up is the Yellowhead, the Highway Of Tears.

The Arctic and Me

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    (Warning : this is going to sound melodramatic but I’m sensitive so shut up)

     One of the most grueling journeys I have or will ever undertake. It’s remarkable how windburn, sunburn, exhaustion, torrential rain, snow, sub zero temps, freezing fog, unrelenting biting insects  and 500 miles of climb after unforgiving climb (27,000ft) can all make you quickly forget about bears and wolves. Have mercy on the ill prepared, I was not one of them. Thanks to my mosquito suit I only got about 50 bites, there is just no escape. You had me question my sanity and my decision to come here many times.

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Those black dots are Musk Ox

     Prudhoe bay is a fly in/ fly out oil field on the Arctic ocean. It is a desolate barren place with freezing fog and bitterly cold winds, it resembles what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like. But…. there is also incredible beauty here. The vast open expanse of the Arctic tundra is an awesome sight to behold. Atigun pass and the Brooks range are spectacular and awe inspiring. North of the Brooks is Arctic tundra as far as the eye can see and almost magically once over the pass is the beginning of forest. The slow trickle of sparsely growing trees pockmarked here and there quickly flows into a full forest.

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Atigun Pass

     There is a discernible difference in the wildlife from other places that I have been, it must be from the little exposure they have to people. I got to within 15ft of a bear and he didnt seem to know what I was. I saw herds of migrating caribou being stalked by hunters , even got chased by one (not a hunter). I also saw Musk Ox.

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     Once over the Brooks the climbs become more and more arduous. Common tactics such as switchbacks and winding roads around mountains are not employed here, straight up and over. The Dalton “Highway” (mostly gravel/dirt road) was built as the most direct route from Fairbanks to Prudhoe. It’s featured on the TV show Ice Truckers.

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     Trundling down the final descent, with my hands clamped on both brake levers as usual I did not feel as though I had just conquered something, but more a feeling of respect, of thanks, for letting me pass through because you could have shut me down at any time..

I’m in Fairbanks now for a day or two of rest, bike repairs and to get new panniers. The old ones were chewed up on the road. Then on to Whitehorse.

On the Remote Boat

I’m writing this update from the house of some Anchorage biker enthusiasts who put me up for a few days. Great folks who couldn’t do enough. Soooo, the ferry ride from Bellingham to Whittier was epic. There were cabins but a few people including myself camped on the top of the ferry deck in a solarium. 5 days later I’d seen pods of Killer whales, dolphins, majestic scenery, tiny native villages tucked under daunting mountains and a rare gathering of about 30 Humpback whales in their feeding ground. image The most dramatic was saved for the last day. So every port I took my bike from the car deck and biked into the nearest town or just to stretch my legs. We arrived in a small native town of Yakutat at 5am and I was ready to get off. The Captain announced "We are requesting no one disembark, there are two injured Grizzly Bears on the beach…." Holy Shit!! So I went to have a look. There was a guy on the beach with a gun trained on the treeline. We watched… and watched… nothing, couldn’t see any sign of a bear. People started to head back to sleep. Then all of a sudden… BANG.. BANG… 2 shots rang out. I saw this medium sized grizzly bolt from the treeline to the water and start to swim. Incredibly he seemed uninjured and continued to swim across the bay, easily a couple of miles. It was crazy. image On to Whittier where I get off. Cold, rain and ominous grey skies greeted me. Plus an impassible tunnel for bikers. I got a spin to the other side, the skies were clear and the views were amazeballs. Biked the beautiful 90km+ to Anchorage. For directions, garmin bike computers suck balls. Anchorage is cool. It is plopped in the middle of wilderness, Bear bins and Moose in the city center.

Today I’m flying to Prudhoe bay and the trip will start in earnest.