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Monday, July 28, 2008

You cannot bike to Imuruk Lake...

Well, at least in these conditions... without a fat bike...

After (unexpectedly) serving my civic duty on Friday morning, Tyler and I left around 1pm. Eighty miles later we arrived at the Kougarock bridge at and took off to find the trail around 3pm.

About a mile down a "real" trail we saw a muddy swath previously cut by 4-wheelers heading up the hill. I was hoping the first few miles would be the only be muddy parts but no such luck. The rain put a little damper on my grand vision of a nice dry ride-able trail.

We finally ditched the bikes after 6 miles and packed it on foot. It was like walking through a rice paddy for three days.
My goal of Imuruk lake was long gone with the loss of a day and the mud.

But we had a great hike into relatively unknown territory up into the Bering Preserve and on to Aurora area. It was a blast with lots of heavy slogging, tundra variations with some ankle twisters and an awesome set of grizz with wolf tracks.

Walking side by side probably talking about those silly humans... or maybe it was a wolf bear.

Of course no self respecting Alaskan adventure is not without some empty barrel artifacts

or some gold mining architecture

or an obscenely deep narrow stream crossing with an old piece of timber,

Overall about 60 - 70 miles total according to the GPS, about half what was needed to get to the lake. I was fairly amazed that there was an embedded old trail that eventually ends up in Deering. The country was remote and oh so vast and beautiful. We did manage to see the lava fields and the lake in the distance. I'm excited about going back in the fall with my fat bike on frozen tundra.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I gave a little laugh this morning when I realized I must look pretty funny (nothing new there). I had my crocs on, riding my bike to work, thermos of coffee in the water bracket and carrying a porcelain cup of coffee. All I needed was the morning paper and the ability to ride without hands on the dirt road. But enough silliness, yes there was frost... in July. Not all that uncommon here, I suppose, but still this summer (so far) has been no so good. A slow thaw with above freezing temps not until June, followed by 8 days of fog leaving us stranded (no flights in/out) then a freak snow storm, then 80 degree weather (3 days), then rain and now frost... I shouldn't complain about the weather, it seems cliche especially in Gnome.

Here are some friends enjoying a day at the beach. What's wrong with this picture, sorry Wayne couldn't resist.

So the pool is now closed for cleaning. This puts a little damper on my preferred daily workout. It has been the only high output, low impact non-injurious thing I could do as of late. In the pool I was finally eking back up to 4k again and having it finished before 7am was priceless. I still feel knee soreness after only a 12 mile gravel road ride and a 2 mile hike the other day. We leave tomorrow afternoon for a little Madventure. I figure about 50 miles of "riding" in mud, mosquitoes and more mud followed by about 20 miles of hike-bike, tussoks, tundra and more mosquitoes. Three- four days should be enough and it'll be a good assessment of the ole knee.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rainy days

The summer rains are here in Nome. Since returning from Gambell it has been raining and damp. I get a kick out of trying to establish a pattern to the weather here each year. The only consistency in the 10 years I’ve been in Nome is that it’s either winter or it’s not and if you wait for a nice day to do something you will be waiting a long time. This week is a little bit of a drag but in a few daydreaming moments I have been envisioning two races. The first, of course, is one of unfinished business the route to Nome of the Iditarod invitational bike race and the second is the Yukon 1000 kayak race next summer. The Yukon 1000 is a perfect fit for me, even my wife thought so when she heard about the inaugural race for 2009. The only down side is it seems a bit “rule-heavy” and there is no solo class. I have been racking my mind to see who to partner with for a race this size and I actually thought of two mountain bikers. We’ll see if one of them is interested...

Back to earth, I am looking forward to the unknown Imuruk Lake trip in two weeks and will actually be going with a friend. Someone that’ll go with me on one of my hair brained schemes! Wow! A lot of folks wonder why I go solo out in the country so frequently, well for one it’s easier because I’m making all the decisions and going with my gut feelings on things. And two I always get the raised eyebrow look if I asked someone. I’ll keep you posted on how this trip goes. As far as I know no one has attempted to bike to Imuruk Lake before. It’s going to be epic, ha ha.

I am also feeling good going with someone because the whole bear situation is getting out of hand. My friend Pete helped save a girl who was mauled recently in Anchorage during a bike race, jeez that sounded awful. Then a bear was sited on the east end of town here a few days ago. I’ve had a few run-ins with bears over the years and it’s no fun always being on the edge of your seat going solo. My last real close encounter was on a kayak trip 2 summers ago when a young grizzly started pushing in my tent while I was inside. Not a fun thing to see a paw pushing on your tent and me wondering “hmmm what is that” while I was totally wiped out from a harrowing day on the water. In any case it’ll be nice to share the burden next week.

I think I’ve rambled enough to last at least a few days.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gambell cont'd

Sarah posing on our walk yesterday on a great windless and warm Gambell day. These are two lund boats tied to a, I think, a bowhead whale jawbone.

Sarah teaching students in Gambell.

Walking towards the point. All the shoreline and the town have this very unique pea gravel and it makes the everything look so clean. The typical wind also cleans anything in its path so the townsite and surrounding area are beautiful.

(these pictures were posed on the 4-wheelers)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gambell and past thoughts

I flew to Gambell this morning and as with most villages I thoroughly enjoy returning to these places. Gambell is a special place and my family will even join me on Friday while Sarah teaches the youth some guitar seminars.

While I was in the 1900 beachcraft this morning I had a great view of the deep green hues of the ocean landing in Savoonga before we headed over to Gambell. As summer and kayaking does it jump starts my thoughts to reflect back on the summers of 2005-2006 when I kayaked to Barrow for a friend with leukemia "Rowing for Roro". The epic journey lasted a total of 65 days, 53 days in 2005 and the rest in 2006. That time alone on the ocean carved a block of memory and lessons that won't ever go away.

The difficult parts and gut-retching pain of mental/physical anguish fade though. It's amazing how that happens. I went in search of my journal a few days ago and had a tough time finding it. It was scary because it was such an enduring time that I want to make sure the thoughts and memories are real. As a result I believe I will start copying the journal into the blog and try and write it up as best as possible.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's days like this...

It's days like this that I particularly enjoy living here, neverending sunshine, 70 degrees and a nice ocean breeze. You would never know the water temps are about 38 - 40 degrees unless the spray hit you. I spent a part of the afternoon and evening getting in a wonderful 20+ mile kayak up the coast toward sledge island. I just couldn't bring myself to hop on the bike and deal with dust, loose dogs and mosquitoes. Instead I did the old standard kayak but it is days like this that make it worthwhile. I started at Fort Davis passed by Nome,
and cruised on down toward the Penny River then back. Just when you'd think I would be sick of the kayak.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Family Weekend in Nome

(this is a posed picture with Hahnah on the 4-wheeler; not riding)

As the weekend (and 4th of July) approached the extra day off usually excites me into some grand physically grueling outing. However, with a family I am realizing you have to choose your epics.. and they actually become grander. The first years in Nome I would go out every weekend and many weekdays too, on some wild short intense excursion. Now that I have done a few things I have to venture further or to more interesting places each time. This leaves weekends and daily activity with the family and an awesome multi-day outing about once a
month-- unless I owe a bunch of time after a really big event-- as in now (ultrasport). In any case it's a great balance.

I feel like it's important to get Hahnah in a tent and out in the country any chance possible. That leaves us with limited options and the one that spoke to us well was using the truck to go out and beach camp. We loaded up the truck bed full of amenities (not what I am used to!) and even borrowed a friends 4-wheeler. The beach sand gets soft and we have to cross two rivers so an extra vehicle is a good idea. We were heading towards the Sinnok River about 30 miles of beach driving west of Nome. Last year we did it and it was great except it took a while because I rode the whole thing by bike behind the truck. This year the temperature was an outstanding 70 degrees! This was my first beach run on the west side of the summer and I was amazed. I heard the influx of miners coming to Nome increased since gold was up but holy crow, the first 3 miles every 200 yards a home made tent/hut was set up with sleuce box and water pump. It spaced out after that but the presence was still there even 10 miles up to the cripple river. The 4-wheeler traffic was incredible, by my standards. I couldn't wait to cross the cripple river b/c the "traffic" thins out considerably as no one usually goes past that river.

Unfortunately, the south wind was blowing the ocean waves high upriver and raised it a good 2 feet above normal. I had to cross by foot first and check the route and levels. It turned out to be well above the waistline and up to torso. Doable but with the waves coming in it's sort of on the borderline of the airbox on the 4-wheeler. A borrowed one at that so we decided to turn back. We camped not far away but the traffic was a little too much for me... I prefer none. A 4-wheeler passed every couple of hours except in the early morning... I may be spoiled but it's just not the same as the remoteness a few miles acrosse the river.

The next morning (today) we got up and the wind died down before swinging to the north and it had to be close to 80 degrees. The mosquitos were awesome. The beach was nice but the lack of remoteness kind of killed the ambiance and we decided to go back to town and work on finishing projects on the house but not before I chopped a bunch of wood for the winter wood stove (price of fuel oil is $6/gallon). It felt good to break a sweat and I was itching to do something on the ocean. I finally got my chance in the evening I busted out the kayak and rowed a fast 10 miles on the ocean. It felt great even though the 25 knot northwind kept wanting to shove me out to sea.

What to do tomorrow?? I think a bike ride on my newly acquired "training" bike that I bought for $25. It only needed a crank arm and some serious cleaning, lubing and tension adjustments. Of course since my hands go numb I added some fat padding. We'll see what tomorrow brings...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mini adventure...

Lately, I've been feeling the urge for a new excursion which needs to be satisfied. I have four days at the end of July to do something. The question of what event should I plan...? The past 10 years here in Nome I've had some excellent trips all over the Seward Peninsula but as of late the more accessible trips have all been done. It doesn't excite me to climb Osbourne or hike up a valley or kayak up or down the coast. The old standard has always been kayaking and I do have my old kayak in Golovin still waiting to be paddled here to Nome. But I've done that route at least twice now. What to do...

Imuruk Lake!
The map above is not the best and if you haven't been to Nome you know those gray lines are not "highways", rather dirt/gravel roads.

I really enjoy doing trips that others have not done or rarely done. Hiking and climbing areas not well traveled were easily done a few years ago but now it seems a lot of folks are exploring these areas too. So I studied my Seward Peninsula wall map and looked at some interesting locations. The Bering Sea Land Bridge National Preserve falls about midway in the peninsula and covers a good portion from Deering and Shishmaref to the North. The interesting thing about the preserve is no unauthorized motor vehicles are allowed, so that means no 4-wheeler trails or people landing in planes. It means the only way in (in the summer) is by foot or bike. I studied a lake called Imuruk Lake virtually in the center of the peninsula. It has some lava formations to the south and possibly and old village site to the north of the lake. It's a very mysterious place as it is virtually untouched and I only know of one person who has even visited the lake in the summer for any length of time. He works for fish and wildlife and also describes the area as a landscape from ancient times. In fact about 20 miles east of the lake is an archaeological find of old habitable caves over 8,000 years old. As of now my plan is to go to the end of the Kougarock road 80 miles north of Nome and bike in on an old trail up to the preserve 20 miles at which point it'll likely turn into a 30 mile further hike & bike. There are some ridges and creek beds I may be able to follow up to the lake. It's at a 1,000 ft elevation so I am hoping the tussoks turn into alpine ride-able tundra. More research on it's way..... I suppose if it doesn't work out I can always resort the 100 mile ocean kayak.