May 26th 2013
Me and W had been planning for quite a while to go biking in Denali. Well not planning as such, but we had been saying “we need to go biking in Denali sometime”. The year before that our chance rained away. So when we stumbled upon some really great weather one of those days in May last year, we finally took the chance. Packed the car and drove off for an adventure. As the bear aware people we are, we brought bear spray along with us, and as always, I thought about different bear scenarios. What do we do if this happen, or this, or that. Always. That is how I am. As we drove towards Denali we had some incredible views of Denali, or the “Great One” as the word Denali mean. I always feel sad for all the tourist who happen to arrive on a cloudy/hazy or smoky day in the summertime. Because, how fun can it be to travel all the way to Alaska and the most famous mountain (ok one of the most famous mountains in the US) can’t even be seen. Even though I have seen “her” so many times by now, I always get happy. Sometimes you can see her sticking up in the far background from campus, and I always ask my friends: “did you see Denali, she’s out!!”
Denali is big enough to create its own weather system, and a lot of times she is hidden in those clouds.
I always call her Mighty Denali, because she is. That mountain also has a lot of deaths on her conscience. Not that it is her fault, but still, all those mountaineers who try to conquer her every year. In some way I guess its always just a chance, a chance that the day will not be in your favor, as it just is with everything. There is a chance for anything and everything. Similar to a chance of running into a bear while biking. I mean what are the chances? Denali National Park is so big. Unlike other parks you are not allowed to drive your car through it. So you are stuck with taking a bus, but if you have a bike you can be more on your own on the road. And of course, you can take the bus far far into the park and then just hike off the road system. I still haven’t done that but it’s on my bucket list. Your stars have to align in order to make things like this happen. Need nice weather (well ok you don’t but I would prefer), need to be able to be away from work for a couple of days, and preferably find someone who also have time to go with you.
That day in May last year we started at Savage river. It is this parking spot, as “far” (because it is not that far, only 15 miles) in as you are allowed to drive in the summertime. That is, 15 miles from the highway. So in reality the park just starts right where Savage river is. We decided to do a roundtrip of 30 miles. 15 miles in and 15 miles back. The day was really nice, and after a while we were biking in shorts and short sleeves.
The views are always so spectacular, but you definitely do not feel alone when the big buses comes barging up behind you, full of amazed tourists who can’t believe why someone would bike when they can take the bus. Or maybe they are jealous, who knows. W biked and bike and biked, I could feel my muscles start to hurt. I guess I had been sitting around too much during the wintertime, not enough exercise. And as we got closer to Teklanika river, around 15 miles in I was so tired, and angry. My happy mood was washed away because now I was hurting. We arrived at the Teklanika river camping ground and decided to have lunch there, and it was not until this year I realized that the actual Teklanika river outlook was 1/2 mile further away. We ate, I was so hungry and tired and after that lunch my batteries were totally rebooted.
We started to go back, all those downhills we had, were now uphill, of course. As we were biking we were yelling and making noise, because that is what you should do, to keep the bears away. As we rounded a corner and started to go uphill this bus passed us. At this point we were pretty tired of those buses, and as the bus stopped at the top of the hill before the road turned around the corner we decided to wait it out. After a couple of minutes I got really eager to get moving and we were wondering why the bus was still standing there. Well, the view was pretty nice so maybe they were taking pictures. As a second bus approached and also stopped up the hill we decided to go. As we got closer to the bus the driver were doing some hand-motions out the window…which kind of looked like yeah you can pass…or so we thought. But when the bus started to reverse towards us we were thinking…hmm this could only mean one thing. At that point we saw the terrified looks of the tourists in the bus, waving with their hands. It actually looked pretty funny now when you think about it. And as we got side to side with the bus driver he opened the door and informed us that there was a grizzly just by the road….approximately 50 meters away from us. At that point your blood starts to rush. He also informed us that the bear was now too close to us (the rule is that you need to be at least 250 m away from wildlife), we were looking at each other and thought “No Shit” of course we know that, and yes we do understand that we can’t pass. All I could think about how do I get my bike on this bus, and in my imagination I could see the bear come running for us and totally chew up the bikes, we of course would jump on the bus. But that did not happen. Neither were we let on the bus. The driver told us that we needed to backtrack where we come from and bike at least 150 feet away from the bear. W and I looked at each other and thought “are you serious”. Because, you are not suppose to run let alone bike away from a bear that is that close. And with the buses there the bear didn’t seem to care at all…but you never know. He told us that we could catch a ride with green bus, to get pass the bear. Biking away from that bear was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Because I had no clue if the bear had seen us, if he would care or if he was behind us. We biked for a couple of minutes, and I turned to W and asked
-how far do you think we have biked
he replied – at least double the distance
I said, -well I think we should go further because I don’t feel safe at all
W agreed but right at that time we saw one of those green buses down the hill. We waited for it and stopped it an explained the situation. The driver was this really funny lady, she turned back to the other people in the bus and said, -well what do you guys think, should we let them on? As she helped us attach the bikes outside the bus she said:
-Well hurry up, we want to see the bear too.
We drove 5 minutes and sure enough, there it came, walking down the hill, and the driver said,
-Ohh that’s a big grizzly.
I looked at W and said:
-well, this was fun….but I don’t think I want to bike in Denali ever again
Until a couple of weeks ago. When me and two other friends decided to go biking in Denali.
I am a:
I currently live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and have lived here since August 2009. In this blog I will share my photographs from my life here, and of course stories about life in general in Alaska. So if you are as enthusiastic about an active outdoor life and love nature and photography as much as I do, you will probably like it.
Here you can follow me and my adventures, enjoy.