Itinerary: Darren Grant's Bike Trip to Alaska!
Day 1: (July 31) Fly from Atlanta, Georgia, to Anchorage
Alaska. I depart at 9:00 and arrive at 2:30, because I gain four hours
on the way out due to the change in time zones. Because of the Olympics,
airport security has disassembled my bike and destroyed its container at
the Atlanta airport, so re-assembling the bike is more difficult than
usual. I bike to the outskirts of Anchorage that evening and camp out in
a city park.
Day 2: Bike along the Parks and Glenn Highways from Anchorage to
Houston, Alaska, a distance of 55 miles. Steady rain in the morning
giving way to clouds and temperatures in the 60's by afternoon. Lots of
traffic but there is a wide shoulder in the road (or a bike path)most of the
Day 3: Bike along the Parks Highway from Houston to a rest area
north of Trapper Creek, a distance of 65 miles. Mostly sunny, except for
a two hour shower in the afternoon which I avoid by stopping at a tourist
information booth. Much less traffic, a car only every two or three
minutes by evening. A light climb the whole way with a few hills.
Day 4: Bike along the Parks Highway from the rest area to an
undeveloped area by Honolulu Creek, a distance of 60 miles. Cloudy with
scattered showers. Light traffic; very hilly. I take two hikes in Denali
State Park along the way. On the first, I see a pink (sockeye) salmon
swimming upstream to spawn, and take in a gorgeous view of the Chulitina
river delta. I am able to view the summit of Mt. McKinley from Milepost
171 Parks Highway at 10:30 that evening (there is still sunlight).
Day 5: Bike along the Parks Highway from Honolulu Creek to Morino
Campground at Denali National Park, a distance of 60 miles. Overcast but
no rain. Light traffic. Rough hills early on but then flattening out,
then turning into a light decline with a few hills by afternoon.
Days 6-8: In Denali Park. I take (twice) the bus trip into the
park, see caribou (reindeer), wolves, grizzly bears, ptarmigan, magpies, a
porcupine, dall sheep, and other animals. I get snowed on on Day 6 at
ligher elevations; it rains most of the first and second days at lower
elevations. Take a couple hikes and visit with fellow travelers.
Day 9: Bike along the Parks Highway from Denali Park to Nenana, a
distance of 60 miles. Cloudy in the a.m., steady rain by afternoon. I
stay in a hotel in Nenana, where the tripod for the Nenana Ice Classic is
on display. Light traffic and flat.
Day 10: Bike along the Parks Highway from Nenana to Fairbanks, a
distance of 60 miles. Light traffic but very hilly. Cloudy and rainy all
day, but I only get wet (drenched) in the morning. Visit the Museum at
the University of Alaska--Fairbanks (most excellent), and spend this and
the next night at a youth hostel.
Day 11: In Fairbanks. Do laundry, eat well, check my E-Mail
(courtesy of Internet Alaska), and go to the Tanana Valley State Fair.
See the Independence Day fireworks (since there really is no nighttime on
July 4th) and lots of snowmobile displays.
Day 12: Bike on the Richardson Highway from Fairbanks to Rika's
Roadhouse, in Delta State Historical Park, a distance of 95 miles. Boy am
I tired! Light traffic, a warm day with temperatures reaching the
70's, and mostly flat with light hills.
Day 13: Bike on the Richardson Highway from Rika's to an
undeveloped camping spot by the Alyeska Pipeline, a distance of 65 miles.
Very light traffic, but rain all afternoon and quite hilly most of the
way. I visit Rika's Roadhouse in the morning, pipeline Pump Station 9 in
the afternoon, and almost run into a moose in the road in the
Day 14: Bike on the Richardson Highway to the Gulkana River Bridge,
a distance of 85 miles. Cloudy and cool, in the 50's, but light
traffic. Hills much of the way, giving way to a steady downhill by
Day 15: Bike on the Richardson Highway from the Gulkana River
Bridge to the Billy Mitchell State Rest Area, a distance of 80 miles. Not
flat but not too hilly. A warm and sunny day with temperatures in the
70's, and light traffic, and a light wind, which is unusual from this part
of the highway. The Wrangell Mtns. and Wrangell-St. Elias are visible
from the highway, though I do not enter the park (access is limited and
much out of my way).
Day 16: Bike on the Richardson Highway from the Billy Mitchell
State Rest Area to Valdez, a distance of 50 miles. Another mild day with
light traffic. A steady climb to Thompson pass, and it's all downhill
from there--a 4% grade for the first 6 or 7 miles. I visit Worthington
Glacier in the morning and, in the afternoon, bike through Keystone Canyon
and watch salmon spawn in a stream outside of Valdez.
Day 17: Take the ferry Tustamena, part of the Alaska Marine
Highway System, to Seward. See puffins, sea otters, and harbor seals
along the way; also a view of Columbia Glacier and Prince William Sound.
I camp out on the Bay in Seward.
Day 18: Rest and shop in Seward. Buy gifts for my family. Visit
Day 19: Bike on the Seward Highway from Seward to Bertha's Creek
National Forest Campground, a distance of 65 miles. Heavy traffic--lots
of weekenders travelling back to Anchorage--and narrow shoulders and
construction makes this a harrowing ride. Sunny and mild temperatures,
atypical for this time of year in the Kenai Peninsula. Moderately hilly
and mostly uphill.
Day 20: Bike on the Seward Highway from Bertha's Creek to
Anchorage, a distance of 65 miles. It's cloudy but I stay ahead of the
rain. Mostly downhill until Turnagain Arm. I follow Turnagain Arm, which
has steady 20-35 mph winds, for 35 miles or so. Fortunately, most of it
is with the wind! I take a long hike in the Chugach National Forest in the
morning, and visit a small, historic gold mine in the afternoon. I camp
at a commercial campground.
Day 21: In Anchorage, I take a hotel (for the first time since
Nenana), do my laundry, visit downtown, and prepare for the flight back.
I have only $10 remaining from the $500 cash I took to Alaska, so
everything but laundry goes on my American Express Card.
Day 22: (August 21) Ride the 5 miles from the hotel to the airport
on a bike path along the Cook Arm; disassemble (not too much) my bicycle
and fly home, this time losing four hours on the journey. I arrive in
Atlanta at 9:30 and am greeted joyfully by my wife and son. The trip is