twice since returning from my work induced tropical paradise i've gone somewhere for the weekend+, and twice now it's rained the entire time. during my first outing i found my future hometown, during this one, i got to ride what i can now confidently refer to as the best singletrack that i know of in alaska.
i went for 30ish mile ride/informal race called chuckapalooza - spawn of soggy. half of the race is on one of the kenai classic singletracks that i had yet to ride, and i was about to get a very soggy introduction to it.
i procrastinated as much as possible on friday, which i'm very good at. finally shut the door of my truck and got rolling at around 3:00, which should have put me in the primrose campground at 6ish, and it would have, if i hadn't had so much trouble finding an accident-free intersection while driving through anchorage. finally pulled in a little closer to 7 and found no other riders there. i just figured they all had more sense than i did and would stay home to avoid the rain and mud. i did, however find out that the campground is free after labor day, after most of the tourists have stopped touristing.
the fungi were going nuts in the campground.
hot fungi on fungi action...
carlos, the organizer, showed up after a bit. food was eaten, beer was consumed, and a stellar's jay, which is the only bird i've ever seen with eyebrows, blue ones no less, landed right on carlos' handlebar to pose for a few photos.
next morning the ground was wetter than it was the night before.a couple more riders had shown up later in the evening, and nearing the start time, it was looking like a 3 person ride. start was postponed a half hour just in case more people showed up, and within fifteen minutes a bunch of people arrived from different directions. by the time we started there were at least 13 riders.
the monkee had offered to show me the way if i got lost, since we seem to be of similar pace inclinations of late, and are both from the only state out there that can trump the greatness of alaska. as we were all lining up for the start, he suggests, quietly, that it might be better if he and i ride the loop in reverse. i have absolutely no idea what we're in for, aside from crappy weather and slippery trails, so of course i agreed.
we snuck off from the pack, and only almost mislead 1 other rider, taylor. the long lake trail is fairly new, and in an area where the loamy, rooty layer can be several feet thick, so mineral soil isn't always an available option. basically, where the trail surface wasn't the consistency of a wet mattress (most of it), it was the consistency of butter, and it was criss-crossed by numerous water bars and roots, which were slick enough to make me think they were buttered. there were quite a few opportunities for play though, with rather wide stumps cut down near ground level and assorted other goodness. after a year of traffic, it's going to be a kick ass trail.
the trail out of the campground:
more fungus amongus
from there it was a 5ish mile road downhill coast-a-thon to the lost lake trail head. lost lake is the one everybody calls they're favorite. and it didn't disappoint. the surface was firm, the grade was mellow enough for enjoyable ss climbing, even with my legs starting to burn, and there were enough rocks to keep it interesting. i put myself on a cliff blok and water diet for the ride, and it worked pretty well. i went through 4+ packets(6 bloks per pkt) and a sweet and salty granola bar, and was never hungry, never cramped.
in addition to all the other wonderful attributes mentioned in the previous paragraph, once you break treeline, the views are killer, even on a foggy, cloudy day like yesterday. waterfalls, canyons, the bay, multi-colored hills.
that last photo shows part of the lake the trail is named after. there are very few photos of the trail from this point on, and that is because, despite how undeniably great it is, lost lake trail is not my new favorite alaskan trail. primrose is. as soon as we split off onto the trail, it got twistier, steeper, chunkier and rougher with more opportunities for fun lines. i was having an absolute blast from that point on to the finish. it's rolling for a bit up on the 'top', but eventually you crest one last little hill and can see kenai lake in the distance, way below you.
from that point on, it was almost entirely downhill, and got steeper, rockier and rootier. tons of fun. the monkee steered me right, and we rolled across the finish line into a magical land of pork ribs and beer, lots of beer. and later on whiskey as well. delicious whiskey. despite taking what may(or may not) have been the more difficult direction, we still managed to finish somewhere in the middle. chuck d crushed us all of course, finishing in a bit over 3 hours, parker showed up with a nasty case of swine flu and managed to finish just 15 or so minutes down on chuck. a few more riders and then we finished in a few minutes over 5 hours. riders kept rolling in for several more hours after us.
it was definitely a sloppy, slippery ride, but well worth the drive down and i'll definitely be doing it again. big thank you to carlos for everything he does for the mtb community up here.
i swapped out all my fun components for my less heavy and more racery ones, and it was a good idea. the tires rolled faster and lighter and i was more comfortable. only issue was a few instances of rear brake induced axle slippage on the primrose downhill, all within about a 5 minute span.
the view from the start/finish area.