Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 50 of 78
  1. #1
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    In the footsteps of giants.


    July was busy -- lots of prep for lots of travel.



    Back home now -- cleaning gear, building wheels, answering metric tonnes of email, and yes -- sorting billions of pixels.






















    In a few days I'll start recounting an Alaskan coastal traverse between Cordova and Icy Bay, using fatbikes, packrafts, and inspiration from those whom came before.






















    We traveled roughly 175 miles over 7 days of movement.










    It rained inches -- too many to remember, too many for the Yakutat (!!!) airport to manage.











    I'm no hypocrite -- the numbers are still irrelevant. I mention them only to provide some context -- a framework if you will -- to understood what we did. I doubt I can explain why to anyone that doesn't already get it.









    Highlights included dense fog on the Copper River and its' delta, massive swells buoying us along on the crossing of Icy Bay, brief moments of sun (or at least not-rain) amidst all the rain, thousands of seals, mirrorlike beaches near Katalla, millions of berries, and the camaraderie developed between friends attempting a challenging and worthy objective.

































    I'll be back once I've sorted, culled, and uploaded enough pics to start telling the story proper.



    Thanks for checking in.




    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: alaskamatt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    268
    Awesome. Don't let it take away from the story but if you get a chance can you describe how you carry your camera? I've tried different ways with mixed results. For me, well protected means little use as I don't want to stop and dig it out or hold up the group, and easy access meant banging around and serious impediment to riding.

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: SeaHag's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    346
    Quite the adventure. Thanks for sharing some of it with us. Look forward to more pics and tales of the trip.

  4. #4
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by alaskamatt View Post
    Awesome. Don't let it take away from the story but if you get a chance can you describe how you carry your camera? I've tried different ways with mixed results. For me, well protected means little use as I don't want to stop and dig it out or hold up the group, and easy access meant banging around and serious impediment to riding.
    Yep. Will answer any/all tech questions that accrue at the very end of this thread.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Reputation: frankzetank's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    88
    Subscribed! This thread is just what I needed to escape my "Monday back to work from vacation" mood! Looking forward to the rest/more!

    As always, inspiring! Thanks for taking the time to share.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    273
    Awesome - looking forward to reading about it!

    (Brakes and gears?? )

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: watts888's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    6,172
    "Why?"

    because it's there.
    "a hundred travel books isn't worth one real trip"

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Posts
    121
    Unbelievable cool. Bucket list just grew.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    256
    I was hoping you would post a trip report.. I just got done reading Romans write up on Eric's blog.. Looking forward to reading yours..

  10. #10
    will rant for food
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    3,650
    Love these trip reports because it just looks so upside down compared to what you're "supposed" to do with a bicycle.

    <3 <3
    Disclaimer: I run Regular Cycles (as of 2016). As a profiteer of the bicycle industry, I am not to be taken very seriously.

  11. #11
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    As I muddle through my workflow to start this TR, I should note that Roman has already published his version. And it's awesome, in ways that few others could be.












    Required reading:



    Part uno.









    Part dos.









    Part tres.








    Also, this trip was inspired and informed by the 2008 trip of Eric and Dylan. Eric got taken down by an achilles injury this summer, giving him downtime to finally finish his trip video. Watch it more than once, and marvel at what these guys were doing 8 years ago, before fatbikes or packrafts were a thing to (more or less) anyone outside of Alaska.



    Last edited by mikesee; 08-12-2016 at 07:31 AM.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  12. #12
    beer thief
    Reputation: radair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    4,528
    Hehehe, subscribed

    MC really needs no introduction. He earned a hard-won reputation grinding out miles setting records on the gravel Divide and snowy Iditarod races of enduro-cycling. He builds wheels (big ones) and bikes (good ones) and picked up his first packraft five years ago. If a packrafter is someone who has not been a kayaker first, he’s the best packrafter I have ever seen. His combat rolls in big water inspire. A mechanic in everything he does, Mike picks up something new, strips it down, then puts it back together better than when he picked it up. He’s smart, funny, facetious bordering on sarcastic, and likeable, but not particularly good looking, thank god.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: vikb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    9,380
    Thanks for another great set of photos Mike. It's the closest a lot of us are going to come to experiencing a trip like this.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  14. #14
    mtbr member
    Reputation: mongol777's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    762
    Subscribed!
    ****************************
    Don't believe everything you think
    ****************************

  15. #15
    will rant for food
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    3,650
    From the second link mikesee put - Misery Loves Company – Guest Post by Roman Dial (Part 2) | Revelate Designs LLC:

    Go to ACME Mapper 2.1, search “Guyot Bay, AK”. Then marvel at the coastal erosion as you toggle between “Satellite” and “Topo”. Icy Cape and Guyot Bay are gone. It looks like over five square miles of coast has washed in to the ocean.
    Yikes.
    Disclaimer: I run Regular Cycles (as of 2016). As a profiteer of the bicycle industry, I am not to be taken very seriously.

  16. #16
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    1,964
    Look a little bit to the east. Some of it has been deposited there..
    Latitude 61

  17. #17
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    Look a little bit to the east. Some of it has been deposited there..
    Actually, I don't think so. I see the deposition you're referring to, but the near-shore currents are emphatically moving west along that whole section of coast.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  18. #18
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    1,964
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Actually, I don't think so. I see the deposition you're referring to, but the near-shore currents are emphatically moving west along that whole section of coast.
    Interesting, I wonder what else is eroding to get that deposition.
    Latitude 61

  19. #19
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    Interesting, I wonder what else is eroding to get that deposition.
    The answer is clear if you scroll out and look at what's happening at the head of Icy Bay.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  20. #20
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    1,964
    As Drew said, "Yikes!"
    Latitude 61

  21. #21
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north, day one.



    editorial: i think the story here greatly benefits from the imagery. i'd like to make the pics bigger to help with that, but this is as big as i can make them here. if you'd like to see the same story, same pics, but *bigger*, go here.

    Late night flights are part and parcel of any trip to Alaska, ensuring that you're at least a bit rummy if not downright discombobulated before you even have feet on the ground. In 20 years of annual sojourns north, my antidote to being off my game from square one has been a lot of OCD prep before leaving home. Upon landing I typically only need to unbox my bike, devote 5 minutes to threading pedals in and bars on, then consult my shopping list and spend 10 minutes grabbing essentials from Freddies before I'm 'ready'. This year I had the benefit of arriving half a day before Jaybs and Brett, giving me bonus time to fiddle with gear, catch a luxuriant catnap, and then re-check all the fine details.











    Peggy, Todd and Parsons deposited us at ANC, where we had a few moments to learn about Roman's new favorite pastime before hopping the milk run to Cordova.















    So summery was it there that we did the unthinkable, even unimaginable: We sought shade to unbox and rebuild our bikes. Given what came later, we may have pissed off the weather gods with this unconscionable, despicable act of defiance.











    Final details buttoned up, we got our pose on then spun down a dusty road.















    Perhaps inspired by the views in every direction, our pace could only be described as hauling. I was borderline spun out, panting, and running ragged for the 15 miles to the Flag Point bridge over the Copper's westernmost channel.





















    Looking upstream (above pic) gives a perspective-inducing glimpse into the Copper's drainage. Had any of us claimed to not be a bit anxious in that moment, I'd have insisted on checking for a pulse.











    Roman broke the spell and dove in headfirst, riding down the dunes and along the channel before stumbling through a balls-deep crossing.










    Back onto dry land we enjoyed playful, trailless, omniterrain cruising for maybe 40 minutes before things started to get moist.
















    We pushed when needed and rode when possible, savoring backlit peaks, tracks of megafauna, and perhaps the last semblance of relative dryness on our persons.










    Just because it was wet did not automatically mean we could inflate boats and end our foot sloggling. A minimum depth of water is required for that, and we needed to get further east to find a proper channel.










    Getting closer.











    The next step involved inflating the boats to use as sleds, to drag our bikes with less overall effort.
















    Eventually we arrived at the last and tiniest slice of what one could exaggeratedly call "land", with a marginal current beyond. There we sloshed about ankle deep while adding layers, donning drysuits, stuffing gear inside drybags or the tubes of our boats, then shoved off into the Copper proper.






















    Given that the gauged flow near this spot was a comfortable 260,000cfs, one might forgive us for assuming that we'd have the benefit of lots of current pushing us toward the ocean.











    Alas it simply didn't work that way. That's an enormous volume of water any way you slice it, but to get at the whole equation one must consider the width of the channel that water is filling. At roughly 8 miles across, the water never seemed to get more than a few inches deep. Reading the current was challenging to the point of frustration, as fog had rolled in and obscured all landmarks. Our only reference points other than ourselves were seals, flotsam, and occasionally the moon would poke through the gloom. Often we'd run aground a sand/silt/mud bar and have to slosh around to find some depth.










    Realizing that our initial plan of making it to and through Softuk lagoon before shutting it down was simply not going to happen, we used Gaia to navigate to an island.











    There we erected shelters, donned dry clothes, and kindled fire to heat water for a late night snack.








    Spirits were high given that we weren't paddling and sloshing through the manky murk in the wee hours. But deep down we knew the score: That Jaybs had a plane to catch and a place to be in a little over a week, and after half a day of travel we were already half a day behind schedule. We drifted off knowing that we'd have to make that time up somewhere.

    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  22. #22
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1,139
    I love seeing the pics from the start zone. I lived in Cordova for a summer (a long time ago) and don't get to seem much from there. Beautiful spot...

  23. #23
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day two.


    Dense fog loomed and billowed through camp throughout the short dark hours, all through breakfast, and ensured all of our kit was saturated as we packed up to get back on the water.
















    On-water visibility was good enough to see suspicious seals (just beyond Doom and Brett, below) but not much else. As we ferried ever left, 45 to 50* across the current of the river, we could hear diesel engines somewhere out there. We knew they were fishing boats scooping up reds by the millions, thus we endeavored to head in their general direction -- with the understanding that they'd be in deeper water with stronger current.











    What we'd forgotten is how well sound travels over water. Eventually it occurred that those diesels were 10+ miles away, out at the edge of the delta. It'd take us many more hours to slog and slosh our way there.










    These gents had been so fixated on their catch that they'd paid a little too little attention to a prominent sandbar on the chart. Dohp. Note the shovels and the pile of mud perpendicular to the boat. Hours of toil had given them half a chance at getting out on the next tide swing, but they had a lot of work left and not much time left to do it.









    Hitchhiker.










    At the far SE end of Softuk Lagoon we dragged our sodden carcasses ashore and packed, finally, to ride.




















    The beach was glorious -- firm and fast. Spirits were high as we left the tedious travel of the delta and steamrolled into the evening.














    Jaybs scouting from the highest point around.
















    A public use cabin appeared on the beach right about dinnertime, and who were we to say no to an out-of-the-wind-and-spray-and-bugs place to sit and cook and relax?










    Hauling ass for a few miles along mirror-smooth beach had lifted our spirits and hopes substantially. But now, almost 2-days into our trip, we were already a full day behind our must-make schedule. Had we been overly optimistic with this itinerary? Or was the riding to come really *that* good?



    I can't speak for mis amigos, but I was hoping against hope that it was.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  24. #24
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    187
    Bravo! best post in a long time!
    Mongoose product development

  25. #25
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    810
    So cool, I really enjoy reading your stuff.

  26. #26
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    1,544
    Wonder if they run aground often? Not only the one plastic shovel for use on deck, but a second metal spade too.

    Looks like they were in relative good spirits, but that might have been because they just meet up with some crazies paddling rafts in the ocean with camping gear and bikes strapped aboard.

  27. #27
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day three.




    Overnight our weather emphatically shifted. New normal was low ceiling, low pressure, flat light, wind and spittle from the southeast. Little did we know this was as good as it would get for the next ~5 days.















    It felt like summer had just been kicked to the curb by fall, and fall in SE AK means inches of rain per day.



    It takes a lot more than a sodden forecast to dampen Davis.










    Approaching Point Martin.









    Minor gymnastics (brute strength coupled with delicate footing) were required to negotiate this obstacle.





















    We resumed pedaling on a mirrorlike beach near the Katalla townsite.











    Tightly scheduled as we were, we had no time to explore the ruins shown on the USGS topo's. Vertical posts sticking out of the sand marked the remains of a dock, and were the only remnant visible from the beach.
















    Low tide slip and slide.
















    Riding on the mirror-smooth sand was effortless, and left free mental space to pay attention to the tide pools and life therein. Award for 'most comical character' went to the hermit crabs, scurrying so quickly and haphazardly away from any movement. I found it easy to anthropomorphize each one denying having stolen it's shell ("You can't prove anything!") while running away.




































    Above, Wingham Island closest, Kayak Island beyond.










    As we neared the edge of Kanak Island the tide was mostly out, exposing vast flats with short channels between them. Below the boys are clustered discussing whether to stay on the mainland and keep riding, with the likely result that we'd need to do one or two bigger crossings later. Ultimately we decided to cross here, to the point of land just behind them. And once we landed there we could see another, shorter crossing maybe 5 minutes ride away.










    Normally we'd deflate boats and pack up between each crossing, because it doesn't take long and it's far easier to ride with all gear stowed.















    But these crossings were so close together that we kinda figured "why not" and just lugged our inflated boats haphazardly from one to the next. It was crude and comical, but it probably saved us time.










    Ever the problem solver, Roman immediately devised a quick, easy, efficient means for attaching boat to pack so that he could ride more or less unencumbered for ~1/4 mile at a time. He'd arrive at the next crossing, drop the boat with pack still attached, drop the bike onto the boat, then climb on and paddle across.










    Eventually we all found a way to mimic Roman's time-and-energy-saving discovery.






















    Many crossings hence we made it to the NW point of Kanak Island and proceeded to follow it's SW shoreline. More low-tide mirror-smooth riding ensued, some so silent and effortless it felt akin to flying.













    Eventually we arrived at the extreme southern tip of Kanak, where you need to cross Controller Bay to get to the Okalee Spit. Back in '08 Eric and Dylan found such rough waters here that they hitched a ride on a bowpicker. Somehow we arrived at a low-low tide and found light winds, light chop, and a short ~20 minute paddle across. Having heard of the fast tide swings and having seen what Eric and Dylan experienced, we packed the boats quickly, carefully, and donned drysuits 'in case'.










    Having reached the other side so quickly after having been prepared for an epic, no one was certain if that was actually "it". Just too easy. I checked Gaia and it showed where we stood as being underwater. Huh. Although we couldn't see another crossing anywhere ahead, we decided to play it safe and rode on with boats still deployed and ready.









    After maybe 25 minutes of riding into a headbreeze with a giant, awkwardly shaped sail, I decided to stash my boat and when I started riding again I could see that Brett had done the same. Although we weren't more than an inch above the actual sea level at any moment on this section, that inch was enough to keep us riding with some effort.
















    Cliffs on the north shore of Kayak Island dominate Jaybs.















    Maybe 200 meters shy of being home free onto the Okalee, we came to a channel of uncertain depth. I stood right at water's edge for a moment trying to gauge it, as though maybe it would be worth just wading, and in that moment sea level went from under my shoes to over them. I hastily unpacked my boat but before I could inflate it my bike was floating next to it! Needing to act fast before my belongings floated away, I leaned the bike on my hip, blew the boat ~2/3rds of the way up, then plopped in and sloshed across.










    Above, Brett, and below, Jaybs. From these pics you might get the idea that we'd just paddled miles from the last land visible behind them. In fact there was land visible just a few feet behind them (an obvious line in the water) just as I was pulling out the camera, and then suddenly there was no land they were in the midst of their own 'disaster style' crossings.







    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  28. #28
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    day three continued.




    Once safely onto the Okalee we lunched briefly, stashed boats and paddles, then headed overland in hopes of finding a good bear trail back to the beach.











    This trip happened 3rd week of July, which is prime wildflower season at home. I'd actually had a bit of regret in leaving the peak flowers behind, because they are so stunning and so fleeting, and I simply hadn't expected anything exceptional from the Alaskan flora.



    Ahem. Shows what I know.











    So delighted were we by the lupine and fireweed extravaganza that at first we didn't notice the berries. And then we all dropped bikes and began inhaling.













































    We *did* in fact find a bear trail, or at least tracks left by a bear big enough to make a trail anywhere it went. Moments later we popped out onto the beach, relieved to have good sight lines again.















    A little guy.










    Maybe 2 hours later we arrived at the western edge of Cape Suckling, another of the 'cruxes' that we'd learned about by listening to Eric and Dylan's tales. We dropped bikes and scouted ahead, finding difficult but not impossible footing given our awkward loads. I'd misread the maps and expected to have many more such traverses in the next ~2 miles, thus I lobbied to launch boats and paddle around all of them at once. While whinily pleading my case Doom poked his head around the corner, then returned and reported that he could have thrown a rock to the next good riding, with no further challenges visible beyond.










    We unloaded gear from bikes and into packs, the better to carry them, and in maybe 30 minutes elapsed we were past the worst of it, repacked, and back to riding.




















    Engaging riding led us onward beyond Cape Suckling, and as we neared the Kiklukh River something odd caught my eye.



    It's common to see all sorts of detritus and outright trash washed up on the beaches, but that stuff all rests horizontally, and this thing was a part of the vertical world. It resolved itself to be a tent just as two humans resolved to be themselves. We'd known Brad and John were en route a day or so ahead of us, but we didn't expect to see them so soon.










    We exchanged hugs and high fives then quickly threw up our tents in advance of oncoming precip. We shared food, fire, stories and commiserations before wind-driven rain put an end to a very satisfying day.











    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  29. #29
    beer thief
    Reputation: radair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    4,528
    Simply amazing. Would like to know what you're using for a camera.

  30. #30
    mtbr member
    Reputation: worldskipper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Posts
    217
    Mike, I was wondering why you didn't take your new custom fatty with you on this trip? Or did you and it's not in the pics?

    Since I'm assuming that the the bike with the 27x4.5 BBG's with jackalope rims is yours (any water getting into the rims?), how would you compare them to the on to the standard 80mm+ BFL combo for distance riding on the beach?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

  31. #31
    mtbr member
    Reputation: vikb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    9,380
    Quote Originally Posted by worldskipper View Post
    Mike, I was wondering why you didn't take your new custom fatty with you on this trip? Or did you and it's not in the pics
    My guess...saltwater + fancy steel custom bike = not happy.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  32. #32
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    Simply amazing. Would like to know what you're using for a camera.
    I took a Canon 5d3 body with a 28-300L lens. Normally I'd add an intervalometer and a 16-35 f2.8 as well, but the forecast was for sodden and I knew that I'd not get much chance to shoot time lapses, and wouldn't want to swap lenses in such a humid environment. So i kept it simple, though by no means small or light.

    I also had a GoPro Session and an Olympus TG-830: Both are waterproof, and on 2 of the days it rained so hard/so long I never took my DSLR out of the bag. The P&S and POV came in handy those days.

    2 days
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  33. #33
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    My guess...saltwater + fancy steel custom bike = not happy.

    This. We treat our bikes worse than dirt on these trips. There's often no way around it.

    Thus I bought something cheap, reliable, and aluminum.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  34. #34
    mtbr member
    Reputation: worldskipper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Posts
    217
    Thanks makes good sense. What about the tires/rims?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

  35. #35
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by worldskipper View Post
    Thanks makes good sense. What about the tires/rims?
    Jackalope's are singlewall, thus no water ingress. I ran 'em tubeless since the interface is so bomber reliable. Never touched the pressure after initially airing down when we left the road. When I got home I peeled the tires off to verify that there was no water in there, and there wasn't.

    16+ years ago when the first 29" options came on-scene, I rode them and loved everything about the taller platform. I feel the same about B Fat, because it is taller (with better angle of attack and an elongated footprint) than 26 x 4.8, and can no longer personally see a use for 26 x 4 or even 4.8.

    I do still run 26 x 5.2's on snow, but once more/bigger B Fat options come available, I will likely go to B Fat for snow as well.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  36. #36
    mtbr member
    Reputation: worldskipper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Posts
    217
    Thanks Mike! I will be contacting you about getting a set of these maybe for my Gulf coast trip.
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

  37. #37
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    51
    Awesome thread! And that bear on the right in the first set of pics is just... SCARY!

  38. #38
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    51
    Awesome thread! And that bear on the right in the first set of pics is just... SCARY! Good thing is was just a photo backdrop.

  39. #39
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost Coast north day four.


    Waking to the sound of rain wasn't what I'd dreamed about. Although honestly, at first, I wasn't sure that was even what it was. The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing 'perf!' at the camera. Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our 'mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward. Going to be a wet one.



    Two men cooking breakfast, getting dressed and packing bags inside of a 2-man 'mid is a process, one which requires coordination, consideration, and proprioception. The space is so confined and your gear so strewn that you need to think each movement through in advance, lest you find an elbow in your eye or dip a foot into your tentmate's soup. That process was one level more delicate on this morning, owing to condensation on the inner walls of the tent which rained down onto us each time we bumped a wall or the center pole.











    We bade farewell to Brad and John and rode out into the drizzle, which initially wasn't as bad as it had sounded inside the tent. Rounding a point of land soon after starting brought us face-on to the oncoming wind, driving rain straight down on our noses. Already thin conversation grew yet more scarce as we burrowed inside of hoods and kept our heads tipped down to ease the sting.











    Best to stand upwind of this'n.













    I'd love to wax poetic here, spinning yarns about how the adverse conditions made us stronger, or forged a bond, maybe increased camaraderie. Probably all of that did happen. What stands out about the day, now, is that the sand was soft, the beach was steep, the rain and wind relentless. We had to grovel at the very edge of the crashing waves to find a barely rideable surface, which meant that every few minutes one would dump right there and engulf our feet, chilling us yet more.































    Shivers were my first clue that something was changing ahead. Then came the bergy bits in the intertidal.















    Then we rounded a corner and saw this big blue marble standing sentinel at the mouth of the Seal River. In bright sun or even heavy overcast I could have found limitless angles to explore and shoot here. From within the heavy downpour we had, I fired off a few from-the-hip bursts with my gutless point and shoot and kept moving.










    The Seal flows out of the Bering Glacier, carrying many thousands of cubic feet of water per second, with a few hundred cubic feet of ice floating, sloshing, and fizzing along within that current. I may have been colder at some point on this trip, but I really can't remember when.



    A slack current on the put-in side of this crossing lulled me into thinking it would be easy. That current increased imperceptibly, likely with each paddle stroke, until I suddenly became aware that my ferry angle and speed were insufficient to miss a grounded many-ton iceberg near my hoped-for landing. I paused two beats then dove for the eddy behind it, amazed at its size and the power of the current whipping me past it. And then I was almost upside down as the slack water of the eddy spun me around and pulled my unstrapped bike most of the way off the deck.









    We packed haphazardly after the Seal, fingers too leaden to manage delicate tasks, cores too cold to care. Popping over the dune line and back to the outer coast we nodded in amazement and appreciation as the temps instantly climbed an easy 10 degrees relative to the cold-hole of the Seal behind us. Not to say it was warm...










    I have no recollection of sunshine on this day. I do remember being intensely grateful for the moments when either the rain or the wind (but rarely both) lulled.











    After our third or fourth lunch-and-bootstrap break we found engaging riding high against the dune line, but it didn't last long enough -- maybe 10 minutes -- before we got squeezed back onto the apron at waters edge. More groveling.















    At the mouth of the Kaliakh River we stopped to admire dozens of seals sliding down the bank and into current to escape the predators (us) they saw approaching. Look beyond Roman's right shoulder for their slides in the pic immediately below.










    We didn't cross the Kaliakh until the next morning. Perhaps we didn't want to disturb the seals any further. Perhaps. More likely we'd just run out of gumption for the day, so when someone suggested climbing up into the dune to camp we all moved that way without another word.






    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  40. #40
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day five.


    The breeze and drizzle stayed consistent through the night, making for unsettled sleeping and one big, wet, psychological hurdle in getting dressed the next morning.



    Once we'd rolled out to meet the day we found the seals back in their favorite spot, leery as ever but seemingly disinclined to move.











    A quick ride to where the bluff shut things down, then a quicker paddle saw us across the high volume but very flat Kaliakh.




















    Moody low-ceiling light ushered us across this vast mirrored flat toward looming peaks, bulging glaciers, and one massive distraction of a relic being reclaimed by the earth.



























    What they were after, just before the storm ended those dreams and a few lives.











    A balls-deep crossing somewhere just south of the Yakataga River. First few steps felt fine, then the subsurface crust got thinner, started to feel like sodden cardboard, and then we were wallowing ankle deep in muck, with current complicating each footfall.























    Heading inland to find a better place to cross the Yakataga. Roman vocalized what I'd been thinking here, that it "Felt more like B.C. than Alaska".
















    We'd had an air service fly a food/fuel drop to the Yakataga grass airstrip. I'd been against it on general principle, arguing that we could easily carry the ~9 days of food we'd need. But Jaybs tight schedule meant that any time we could save by not schlepping added mass might make the difference in him getting out on time, so I'd grudgingly agreed. Diving in to our stashes of freshies felt like christmas, and I felt silly for not getting behind the plan from the start.










    As part of his unprecedented and unrepeatable-for-mortals-or-anyone-else tour of Alaska in 2010, Andrew Skurka had walked this stretch of coast, and afterward had shared his annotated maps with Roman. Knowing how tight our timetable was, and seeing notes from Skurka indicating a road connecting Yakataga and Icy Bay, we'd collectively agreed that that was the route we needed to follow. Perhaps the speed achieved on that hard-surfaced route would buy back some of the time we'd lost early on.



    Thus we followed that constantly devolving road out of Yakataga, made a wrong turn, did some backtracking, eventually pushed out to the beach when the "road" became more akin to a bear trail, and the saturated vegetation lining it became akin to riding, slowly, through a pressurized drive-through carwash.











    We were soaked to the skin even wearing full raingear, and then it *really* started to rain. The afternoon passed quickly as we alternated between riding soft, fluffy beach sand into a headwind with driving rain, and stumble****ing up into the jungle in search of Skurka's yellow brick road.









    Each time some semblance of the road was there, but underneath and overgrown by the rainforest. Essentially reclaimed by the earth. After much effort to cover little distance, we cut our losses at the edge of the White River, threw up tents, wiggled out of sodden clothes, climbed into sleeping bags. We brewed up dinner while poring over maps both real and imagined, wondering if the 'road' we'd found was the same as Skurka had hauled ass along. Wondering if we should have just skipped it from the outset and ridden the slow-as beach. Wondering if it would ever stop raining.

    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  41. #41
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    3,196
    Awesome pics, as always. Would love to hear more about bikes, equipment and clothing. What worked and what didn't. I'm a big fan of wool and wool base layers.

  42. #42
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    273
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post


    We were soaked to the skin even wearing full raingear, and then it *really* started to rain. The afternoon passed quickly as we alternated between riding soft, fluffy beach sand into a headwind with driving rain, and stumble****ing up into the jungle in search of Skurka's yellow brick road.

    There is the SE Alaska I know and love!
    Really enjoying the pictures and words, thanks for taking the time to write them up!

  43. #43
    Professional Crastinator
    Reputation: Fleas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    4,337
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    my antidote to being off my game from square one has been a lot of OCD prep before leaving home.
    ^^^This, over everything else I read in all accounts, made me wonder how far one has to go to prepare for an outing like this. I have to think the group all did their homework on weather and climate, terrain and erosion, flora and fauna, tides/schedules, water sources, prior routes and potential alternates and/or bailouts(?)....

    Then with the gear (what works and doesn't): boats, bikes, sleeping, cooking, clothing...

    Then becoming familiar and confident with all of it (and what amount of time that may take): deploying and collecting boats, packing/unpacking/repacking as needed (with some efficiency), spares/repairs...

    Not to mention time to develop some reasonable level of fitness so as not to put yourself or your party at risk, and simply the cost of putting it all together.
    My mind is spinning! It is a daunting thought even to consider beginning to plan such an adventure.

    I'd like to see MC's shopping list for this trip.
    Umm... lessee...toothbrush, raincoat, food, fatbike (not just any fatbike), stove (not just any stove), packboat (not just any packboat), socks (not just any socks), tent (not just any tent),...

    Grand Total..............$!!!!!
    (whatever it is, it seems perfectly reasonable since reliability is key)

    A background story might make another great thread.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  44. #44
    beer thief
    Reputation: radair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    4,528
    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    ...
    I'd like to see MC's shopping list for this trip.
    Umm... lessee...toothbrush, raincoat, food, fatbike (not just any fatbike), stove (not just any stove), packboat (not just any packboat), socks (not just any socks), tent (not just any tent)...

    -F
    Careful, asking for trip lists can get you in trouble! No doubt there is a lot of preparation and decades of experience involved. Or the willingness to suffer with what you brought that didnt work so well.

  45. #45
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day six.

    Drizzle continued off and mostly on throughout the night. When the drizzle ended it was replaced by heavy rain. Each time I woke to shift or shiver my ear was bent outward in hopes of hearing silence replacing the drum of rain on tent skin. That wish was never granted.



    When finally we had to rouse and move, we ate quickly, packed without much conversation, savored what there was to see while it was there to be seen. Low cloud, fog, and rain obscured many of our views on this day.











    First order of business was to cross the White, which Jaybs got to do 3 times after forgetting a critical piece of clothing at camp.



    Slack tide beyond gave us a wide berth within which to choose lines. All of them were wet, and most had been fluffed by the constant deluge.










    Paralleling Umbrella Reef as we continue SE.










    Perhaps the visual highlight of the day, for me.










    The rain had the added effect of coloring all of the creeks we crossed, not just the glacial ones.











    So what? The flavor didn't really change, but the texture of the water we drank sure did. Good for our gizzards, is what I told myself.










    Full current, over-knee depth, and zero visibility: Doom still damn near rode this one out.










    We'd all noticed an increase in the number of full-sized trees washed up at high tide, but somewhere near Big Sandy they became impossible to ignore. We advanced and debated theories on why so many, here, now, but couldn't come to agreement.
















    Our arrival at the Big River crossing coincided with possibly the heaviest rain of the day, as well as high tide. What we found there wasn't just terrifying, it was a complete deal-breaker where further forward progress was concerned. Heavy current plowed straight into ocean swells, while carrying whole trees along for the ride. Not just tree skeletons as seen above and below, but whole living-minutes-ago trees with full crowns of leaves and branches, and massive gnarly rootballs plowing wholesale into each other, tearing hell out of the bank, the bottom, and everything else along the way. It was impossible to slip past them, impossible to even find a safe place to blow up boats within proximity of the carnage. So we retreated to a place where we might safely wait for low tide and hoped for a change in circumstances.











    This few-hour long break did nothing to increase our chances of success at getting Jaybs out on time. But it somehow coincided with a brief break in precip, allowing us to dry out clothing, tents, sleeping bags, cameras and lenses and camera bags, build a fire, eat a meal, even catnap for a few.










    In that sense it was priceless. Possibly the biggest, luckiest break we got the whole trip.










    Gear re-stashed and attitudes adjusted, at low tide we rolled back down and found a much different scene. The ocean was no longer damming up the river, which meant the river lost it's steam before entering the surf. Specifically, this meant that the massive trees were grounding out just before they reached us, so that we'd only have fast current into breakers to contend with. It was spicy but doable, and as exclamation point to achieving the delayed-gratification crossing we were rewarded with a few moments of honey light and atmospheric surf-spray while watching gulls get tubed.




















    Jaybs, celebrating.










    Riding in a drysuit? Every day.










    Moments after the Big crossing the sun was replaced by cloud, laughter by apprehension, dead tree skeletons by live ones hanging by a thread from a 40' bluff being pounded relentlessly by waves for ~half of every day. It seemed we'd found the source.










    This one may have come down moments later. We didn't hang around to find out.











    Waiting to cross the Big at low tide gifted us the ability to skirt Icy Cape on the same low. The riding was good, buoyed by adrenaline and the realization of how much carnage was happening a few hours before, and coming again a few hours later.








    To help illustrate the destruction we saw, Roman shared this visual reference after the trip:



    Go to ACME Mapper 2.1




    On the lower right search “Guyot Buy, AK”.



    Click on “Topo" at the upper right.



    Put your fore-finger on the airstrip shown on the old topo and your thumb on Icy Cape.



    Hold them there as you click on “Satellite”.




    Now, marvel at the mile width of coastal erosion as you toggle between “Satellite” and “Topo”.



    Icy Cape and Guyot Bay are gone.







    We concluded our lengthy day with a few miles of high-speed gravel road and some great beach riding to camp at the cusp of our next obstacle: Crossing Icy Bay.



    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  46. #46
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day seven.


    3 layers of white noise facilitated good sleep in this spot: a cascading waterfall, small waves shushing into the sand, and the ever-present pattering of precip on the walls of our tents.

    No surprise then that Roman and I were oblivious to the curious bear that approached as we sawed logs.











    Up and moving, we were giddy at the thought of finally crossing the vastness of Icy Bay to reach the Malaspina glacier on the other side. Massive bonus that not only was the rain temporarily holding off, but the temps actually felt warm for the first time in days.










    Brett, Doom, and Jaybs sussing out a calm spot to surf launch.










    Jaybs, relieved to be past the breakers, ecstatic to be *in* Icy Bay.










    The first hour of the crossing had a certain novelty to it. How often do we get to paddle inflatable pool toys miles from land, or with bikes on board? Not often enough!



    The middle hour brought big swells to bump our anxiety back to appropriate levels. At one point Doom dropped back to snap some pics and in so doing we often lost sight of him when the big rollers passed between us.



    The last hour we focused on the thin white line of breakers smashing into the shore ahead, always searching for an anomaly within that line -- some spot where we might land safely.










    Several such spots presented themselves -- our landing couldn't have been easier.











    3+ hours in the boats had us stiff and chilled at landfall, then as we deflated boats and repacked our kits the rain returned in earnest. That briefest weather window was critical to the crossing -- unlikely we'd have committed had it been raining or blowing or both.










    We followed gravel and cobble bars upstream along many braids of the Cetani River, searching out the most rideable surface with feet and tires, always with the goal of getting ourselves up to and onto the Malaspina.










    Pinched between thick veg and the roiling river, below we look for a place to inflate and cross.










    Safely across, we kept boats inflated as the upcoming cobbles and bluffs appeared to suggest repeated crossings on tap.







    We fanned out in search of a rideable route, backtracking when needed, bushwhacking when forced. Eventually we popped through one last brush line and, with an instant drop in temperature, there was the moraine and just beyond it white ice.










    We'd arrived. Well, almost. Coincident with our arrival at the toe of the glacier came an uptick in the cold rain falling on us. Late in the evening as it was, no one was willing to commit to the ice just yet.



    We somehow kindled fire but the heavy rain kept us from enjoying it: Our shins nearly melted so close did we stand, but the longer we huddled the colder and wetter we got. Nothing to it but to retire to tents and bags, catch some rest, hope against hope for a change in the weather pattern that seemed less likely by the minute.

    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  47. #47
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dRjOn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    2,218
    awesome....as in, the true meaning of the word.... :-)~

  48. #48
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    335
    Hey @mikesee how did you like the qrd pedals? Did they hold up well in the sand? I had mixed experience with the white brothers cranks (and had to have them repaired under warranty after a desert sand trip fouled them).

    Looking for other options that might hold up better...

    thx.

  49. #49
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754
    Quote Originally Posted by gregclimbs View Post
    Hey @mikesee how did you like the qrd pedals? Did they hold up well in the sand?
    I was tickled with 'em. Occasionally rinsed them in ~fresh (or at least not salt) water, then didn't really think about them otherwise.

    Once or twice I needed to use my leatherman pliers to get the release started, but 10+ other times they came off and went back on as advertised: tool free. So nice to be able to install/remove pedals quickly for bigger boat crossings or to simply avoid smacking my shins when schwacking.
    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

  50. #50
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    9,754

    Lost coast north day eight.




    Laying in our bags all night while listening to the rain continually intensify, you might think we'd had to agonize over what our next step would be. Get up onto the glacier with already soaked gear, in a whiteout, for 2 days of just-above-freezing rain? Then another 2 or 3 days of sodden riding and paddling from there?

    In reality, once we took a quick glance at the calendar and did some basic math, we really didn't have a decision to make: Our time was already up.





    It was more complicated than just that, of course, but knowing that we had ~100 miles left to go, with ~half of that on the glacier (2 days travel), then a long day across Yakutat Bay in the boats, then another day to ride and schlep down to Yakutat proper, then ~half a day to box bikes and ensure there was room on the milk run out meant (assuming all went well) that we needed ~5 more days to finish.

    We had just a shade over 2 to work with.

    Given that there was an airstrip near Icy Bay lodge -- a mere few hours from where we lay listening to the rain fall -- made our "choice" to pull the plug purely academic.









    All that remained was to pack our sodden gear, call in a plane, and make it to that airstrip.










    We rode a few hundred meters to where the Cetani flowed out of the glacier, inflated boats while shivering in the rain, then climbed in and went for a ride. Highlights of our float included Grand Canyon-sized wave trains, reading and running everything, and (ahem) watching Brett both swim and self-rescue.



    The water was so cold it didn't feel cold -- it burned any skin it came into contact with. The fact that Davis immersed himself into it, got himself and his craft out of it, floated another ~40 minutes festering in his own slushy juices, then packed up and rode a few miles without a single whimper bore testament to what we all already knew: Davis doesn't dwell on minutia.










    Rolling through the fog back out to Icy Bay, aiming toward a cabin we'd spied the day before.










    If you could step outside of your borderline hypothermic state for a moment you were likely to notice unbounded natural beauty everywhere. It required discipline, sodden and shivering as we were, to maintain that mindset.










    We kindled fire, dried gear and selves, cooked a meal in the hunting cabin, then fired up the sat phone to arrange pickup. Dry clothes in a warm room felt indescribably blissful, tempered only by the knowledge that our trip was ending. All that remained was a few miles of riding to the airstrip.










    Something about knowing the plug has been pulled makes me pay closer attention to the small details along the way. Almost like I'm already missing them. Megatons of kelp, trillions of mussels, a single apex predator, and a dearth of traction beneath our tires were the highlights of the ride up to Icy Bay Lodge.
















    A few short crossings kept us engaged, especially once the ceiling lifted enough to allow up-bay views of the Yahtse.
















    After a few hours of coasteering we rounded a point and saw a tender, a landing craft, and even some pleasure craft moored. The folks at the Icy Bay Lodge were friendly, inquisitive, and informative (sharing that their little harbor here is the only safe anchorage between Cordova and Yakutat -- which explained the crowd) not to mention hospitable. While Mike inquired about our trip and answered the volley of questions we returned, he also made sure we each had a cold beverage in our hands.










    At dusk we climbed a steep, greasy track up into the woods, then rolled along through the trees to the airstrip beyond.










    I'll be back to share some video and a bit of 411 on gear in a few days. Got a specific gear/bike/boat/kit question? Ask and ye shall receive.



    Handbuilt wheels: www.LaceMine29.com

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Giants baseball....
    By Fishbucket in forum Off Camber (off topic)
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 07-03-2014, 12:03 PM
  2. OT: SF Giants Believer Video
    By hanskellner in forum California - Norcal
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 07-25-2013, 11:11 PM
  3. Let's see some dirty Giants
    By DiRt DeViL in forum Giant
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-05-2012, 05:47 AM
  4. Riding Among Giants
    By Lead-Sled in forum Passion
    Replies: 28
    Last Post: 07-10-2012, 08:34 PM
  5. OT: Giants return!!!
    By squashyo in forum California - Norcal
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 04-03-2011, 08:38 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •