Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Into the Alaska Range
Seriously rough trail conditions out there. Mike seems to be taking it all in stride, and moved steadily through the day to a spot about five miles north of Finger Lake, where he stopped for the night at about 9:30 p.m. Alaska time. He's about 135 miles into his 1,100-mile journey.
This would mean he rode about 45 miles Tuesday, which, given the trail conditions, is pretty impressive. There were reports of driving wind and rain, slushy surfaces and sinkholes. It takes an amazing amount of patience, and not a small level of skill, to hold a straight line on soft and ragged snow trails. Add the amount of weight Mike's trying to drag through there, and it's not surprising that many of his average speeds between points later in the day didn't break 2 mph.
Beyond Finger Lake, the trail climbs slowly but steadily into the foothills of the Alaska Range. Mike's at about 1,200 feet elevation right now. Rainy Pass, mile 165, tops out at 3,200 feet, but there are an infuriatingly large number of steep drops followed by climbs between those two points. And trail conditions aren't expected to get better. 25 mph winds gusting to 40 blew in most of the trail in open areas. The reported rain will help the trail set up a bit if the temperature drops below freezing — but it hasn't yet. Plus, rain on top of snow can leave behind unseen hazards. The drop into the Happy River Gorge, known as the Happy River Steps, has been described as a "frozen waterslide."
Temperatures in the region remained in the low-30s with light snow, but at least the wind has let up a bit.
Track Mike here.