The magic miles of yesterday were long gone today. I knew they were fleeting. That’s what made them so special. In their place today were long relatively flat miles over a road that was sometimes good and sometimes very much in need of major repair. My speed on the rough uphill road surface was extremely slow, especially once an afternoon storm blew a sharp headwind into my face. The traffic vanished, I suppose to complete the lop up to Denali (a different route than mine), so this pedal really felt out there.
The best riding was later in the day when the road bed became very smooth again and the clouds began to lift. And the air returned to completely calm. The views here, once you get any sort of elevation, are just so vast. One would think that the Rockies stretch on forever. Is this really the same country where Miami Beach is located!?
Late in the day I stopped at a kiosk commemorating Henry Allen. His 1880s exploration is ranked by historians as equal to that of Lewis and Clark and gave way to the Alaska gold rush that followed a decade later.
I stumbled upon a campground (Hart D Ranch) 75 miles into the ride and figured it a good place to stop. It reminds me of a place I stayed at in British Columbia a decade earlier, a wonderful facility, well maintained, but completely vacant of folks except for me. I came to find out that the owner (who checked me in) is in poor health and needs to sell. She raised prize show dogs. Now her kennel behind her house sits completely quiet and empty. I suspect she will be leaving many memories behind when she departs the property.
I am so wrapped up in how my body feels for the thousands of miles ahead that I almost missed the most spectacular single scene in my lifetime. In a half century of a very outdoor lifestyle, I think that’s saying something. I was returning from taking a shower in the campground. I decided to mill around back at my campsite and stare at the sky. There seemed to be a particularly white cloud. Actually it turned out to be Mount Sanford, a 16,200 foot peak that had lost its blanket of clouds. Slana, where I am situated, is at 2,000 feet elevation. That’s a tremendous rise in elevation. The site is just so remarkable because the sub-arctic setting sun had set soft light on the glaciers that cloak the uppermost 5 or 6 thousand feet of elevation. What a truly stunning scene. I had no clue that this peak even existed or what it would look like. If it had been out of the clouds earlier in the day I would have surely gawked at for quite some time. Four years ago I thought that the Matterhorn was the single most amazing thing I had ever seen. Mt Sanford is bigger, higher, more remote, it views more fleeting (it’s now back in the clouds again) and the glimpse of it caught me completely by surprise.