The latter third (of the Denali Highway)

Another edition of racing from rainclouds:

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I’ve posted about the nature of the Denali Highway, which is a more typical American playground that the highly regulated Denali Park Road. On the Denali Highway, feel free to roar around on an ATV, shoot a gun, burn your beer cans in a campfire and generally, excercise your liberties. The first portion of the road passes through the drainages of the Nenana (Tenana, Yukon) and Susitna Rivers. Crossing the Maclaren River begins a climb up to the second highest motorable pass in the state. Maclaren Pass, at 4086 ft is the gateway to a tangle of kettle lakes and classic glacial terrane–U-shaped valleys, eskers, glacial erratics, and palsas are omnipresent. In the current climate, alpine glaciers are tucked back in the valleys, pouring milky meltwater downslope into ever-larger channels and finally into the Yukon, Susitna and Copper Rivers. Spring has finally arrived at 4000 ft and is progressing at a rapid pace. However, summer will have to hurry to find a few weeks before fall arrives in late August.

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My purple rando-monster, as I call it, continues to prove itself as a viable hybrid. The French word “randonee” refers to any sort of overland (or water) travel, as we might use the work “trek”. Modern American connotations suggest randonee to be the kind of spirited riding associated with brevets. This bike is capable of spirited riding with the appropriate motor and fuel, which I supply. But, it is a monstrous vehicle capable of real overland travel, especially when fat tires come back into the picture. I’m thinking that MIssoula will be a good place to make the switch. I’d estimate that my operating pressures are between 15-25 psi for most riding. I’m not obsessing about it and probably tend towards lower pressures, as I often do. Last summer on the Divide, I remarked that Greg’s tires seemed really hard. We measured his pressure at about 50 psi on 2.25 Schwalbe XR tires; my 1.75 Schwalbe Marathons were at 20 and 25 psi (front and rear). Without monstrous loads I can operate at lower pressures, floating over gravel and washboard. Lael says, it’s like riding a gel pen.

The Revelate bags are working out nicely and fulfill my desire to tour rack-free, or rack-lite in this case. The frame bag is designed for the current medium Pugsley and isn’t perfectly mated to my frame, but it’s all Eric had available in his shop in Anchorage. Boxes full of top-notch bikepacking kit were awaiting shipment to QBP, where they are undoubtedly already spoken for by shops all over the country. No matter– the misfit bag still holds food, clothing, a tube, and a tangle of electronic cables and chargers. Without the laptop, camera, external hard drive and associated cables I now carry, I’d be able to remove either the framebag or the Carradice saddlebag. The smaller pocket on the other side of the frame bag holds my toothbrush and toothpaste, along with some zip ties and a steel spoon. Between spooning peanut butter and toothbrushing, this is the most used compartment on my bike.

In the uplands between Maclaren Pass and the Tangle Lakes Inn are multiple opportunities for trail-riding. Most are multi-use ATV/bike/ hike routes, but would seem to be ridable in drier conditions.

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The eastern section (42 miles) of the highway climbs and descends several times before meeting the Richardson Highway in Paxson, which isn’t much of a town. Actually, Paxson is mostly a crossroads with a dilapidated roadhouse that manages a little business, despite appearances. The Tangle Lakes Inn (about mile 20) is a hospitable place and has a bar and restaurant that is a popular local spot for fishermen. The eastern twenty miles of road are paved. Amidst a rainstorm, I encountered the most beautiful roadkill; I prepared a gravelly grave aside a lupine. Glacial topography abounds.

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Better weather and breathtaking scenery encouraged some fast riding. Dodging rainstorms from multiple angles continues to be my game, and encourages even faster riding. I remain relatively dry.

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Racing away from rainclouds, my reward comes in the form of a thirty mile-an-hour descent into more promising skies.

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