Alaskan hospitality can be hit or miss, but the folks alongside the Maclaren River are wonderful and a ride down the Denali Highway should at least include a slice of pie and a coffee. On a clear day the dining room has views of the Maclaren Glacier about a dozen miles upriver, and a BLM mountain bike trailhead marked “Maclaren River Road” will take you to the terminus of the glacier. Unfortunately, a river crossing four miles down the road was impassable after several days of rain. On the other side of the river, the trail continues another eight miles. Glutenous, homemade country bread is just like grandma used to make and an entire loaf only set me back $7. I tried eating it with drops of honey alongside the road, but it’s so good that it’s best enjoyed on it’s own. It’s a real fine food source in a land of understocked grocery stores and dusty Hormel cans.
A nagging cold and a persistent rain led me to take a day off the bike to enjoy bottomless coffee and internet. Somehow, four homestyle meals and an equal number of hot showers along with a day-long coffee fix only cost $40. The Maclaren River Lodge has a reputation for being kind to cyclists, but the experience outweighed both the modest price and the reputation.
Alan and Susie spend the winter here and use snow machines to transport goods to the lodge, which remains open to winter enthusiasts even though the road is closed. Yes, it’s cold here in the winter. Yes, they get a lot of snow. And yes, it’s dark. “But it’s worth it”, they say.