I started in the light rain some time ago. It feels like a long time ago. One full day on a bike trip always does feel like a long time ago.
This morning after a horrible late start I managed to eek out about 35 miles to the pretty little town of Palmer Alaska, where I refueled and ran errands. That pretty much ended my gentle introduction on this cross continental ride. Immediately out of Palmer the road went shoulder-less and had a pretty steep grade. That was an omen of things to come. Thirty five miles past Palmer and headed up the Glen Highway I was greeted with my first serious climb of the trip, a nasty thing of some 10% grade and 2500 feet of elevation gain. Earlier when I stopped to woof down two very large chocolate chip cookies at a café I passed up a chance to ask an old-timer about the hills going forward. I am glad I didn’t know that this particular hill was coming. A bit early in the trip to be slogging the bike and 50 pounds of gear up something like that. On a first for 15,000 miles of bike touring I passed a perfectly serviceable canoe paddle in the road shoulder. I am glad I left it behind. It would have been awkward going up that hill and going thousands of more miles on top of that.
The tradeoff for the mad hills so soon on a trip of this length is the scenery. I followed the mighty and glacially-muddied Matusitna River upstream and was afforded amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Picture the 550 route between Silverton and Durango Colorado but without a wilting hot sun, or Jasper/Banff National Park but without the throngs of tourists hungry for easy photos of stunning scenery.
All nasty hills have a back side, and right when I started a 3 mile descent at 30 mph a motorist stopped to warn me about a big cow moose by the roadside. Aggressive moose aren’t a thing back in New England (that I know of) but here a cow with a calf is considered more dangerous than bears. At a hundred yards out I flagged a passing motorist and had her lead me past the beast. Fortunately the moose looked unconcerned about me. In fact it barely lifted its head off the leaves it was devouring for supper. I doubt next time I will have the advantage of a passing car and a steep descent to out-pedal any mammalian pursuers. In Maine one time I clocked a moose doing 25 mph before it realized it was actually allowed to turn off the dirt road I was following in on. That means at 5 mph going up an Alaskan hillside that I would be an easy target for a grumpy moose.
Tonight I made camp overlooking the amazing Matansutna Glacier, which sits below me (down slope) from where I have pitched my little tent. The glacier almost appears as a pillow of whipped cream surround by a sea of kelly green vegetation. A very unique site indeed.