Cycling in Alaska
Cycling in Anchorage, Alaska
“ Pablo’s,” at Fifth and “ L “streets in Anchorage, Alaska has all of the new high -tech racing bikes. We signed up for a three-hour rental. Kitted out with helmets and water, we set off. The “Tony Knowles Bike Path” runs ten miles each way, from downtown Anchorage to the lofty green aerie of Kincaid Park, high on a bluff along Knik arm of Cook’s Inlet. The inlet is a vast tidal basin that sweeps the water in and out daily, with a thirty-foot tidal range. The tide was rolling out now, as we powered our jet age bikes along the leafy trail. Out across the bay, we could see the Alaska Range of Mountains, shining far to the North. Their icy white peaks reflected clearly in the still, blue waters of the Inlet, creating that incredible double image you see are sometimes lucky to see along scenic waterfronts.
We enjoyed viewing new types of flora all around us. The Devil’s club bush, with its bright red berries, Sitka spruce and alder trees provided a food rich environment for the thousands of Moose who live in and around Anchorage. Bears live here too, but are much shyer around people. Vista after vista unfolded, as we sped around a rise or bend in the road. Sometimes, you had to just stop and stare for a bit to take it all in. Even pictures, that you take yourself, fail to reflect how beautiful the scenery is here.
About six miles out, we came to a large parking area overlooking the Inlet. We stopped for a time, had some water and enjoyed the visage. It was on the flight path to Steven’s International Airport, so the huge metal behemoths roared about three hundred feet over our heads, as they made their final descent. You could even feel the jet wash stir the air. It was a little unnerving to see these monsters so close above us. We continued on, mindful of the rising terrain of the pathway. Sometimes, even with the many higher gears, we dismounted and walked the bikes up the hill for a stretch. We were ascending several hundred feet in just a few short miles. A sheen of sweat had broken out on my face from the ride’s exertion. Too many useless calories ingested the last few nights.
And then, we arrived at the emerald pocket of Kincaid Park. An athletic field, and various sports venues, were complimented by a large public, stone and wood casino. Local folks were barbecuing and picnicking all around us. We walked out onto the patio, of the casino, and were treated to the sparkling white visage of Mt. McKinley, in the Alaskan Range. It was a clear and sunny day, but we were still amazed at the sight lines. Mt. McKinley sits some 235 miles to the north of Anchorage. Yet, we could see the top cone of her peak, icy white and majestic even this far away. It is a magnificent skyline. We watched the Mt. like everyone else around us.
As the weeks wore on, we were to hear from various guides and tour operators that “seeing Mt. McKinley” was a rarity. Something about cloudy days and the mountain “being out” for only brief number of days. Fortunate tourists felt like they were the only person in the last hundred years who had seen the mountain. It was part of the tourist hype of what I began to think of as “Looking for Mt. McKinley.” It became tiring after a time. The scenery up here needs no hype. It is magnificently beautiful in the extreme.
Soon enough we turned our bikes back toward Anchorage. The first three miles, of the path, were a downhill hoot. We had to ride the hand breaks all the way, hoping that no knuckleheads were blocking the path, as we careened around the downhill runs, like bobsledders in a run. We sped under the landing paths of the huge planes, again startled at their proximity. It was a cool ride. We stopped periodically, along the path, to enjoy again the visage of mountains and sea. It was a clear sunny day and almost seventy degrees out. This hadn’t happened for over a hundred years:) (LFMM)
Near the trail’s end, there are several spurs of the trail that run into the city neighborhoods. Access is both easy and well used. We had to dodge the many Families Griswald out for a day’s sun. Our legs were tiring from the twenty-mile run. We made it into Pablo’s with five minutes to spare on our three-hour lease. He seemed surprised to see us. He asked if we had really ridden the whole twenty miles. I didn’t want to ask if we looked too old, out of shape or he thought we were just fibbing. Yes, you can make the run in three hours, if you push it!
Joseph Xavier Martin