All week, I told everyone I know that the riding on Resurrection Pass is perfect. “Right now, you gotta go now!” Lael listened to it over and over, and as she scanned photos, she asked questions about the cabins and the trail. By Friday, it seemed that I was destined to return with her. A few piles of equipment come together on the floor in preparation for our early departure on Sunday morning.
We promptly depart mid-afternoon.
On the trail only a few hours before sunset, we roll upstream without a plan. Clear skies, exactly like our trip last week, are an assuring sign.
By now, the sun passes over the valley onto the far hillside. Temperatures are cool, but nothing a little uphill pedaling can’t erase. A fresh inch of snow over last week’s ice is both a blessing and a curse. Fresh snow improves traction in some situations; elsewhere, it conceals hazards.
Fresh ice pours from the hillside in a few places. Lael has about 250 Grip Studs in her tires. A few early-season bruises convinced her that studs are a good thing.
Only a few tracks are found on the trail, including one tire track and several boot tracks.
Crossing Resurrection Creek at sunset, seven miles from the trailhead, we start thinking about shelter. There are three cabins along this section of trail: Caribou Creek, Fox Creek, and East Creek. Cabins are available for rental throughout the Chugach National Forest. Without a plan, and with the option to bivy outside, we continue on the trail for another hour.
At dusk, we poke our heads into the Fox Creek Cabin. No one is here. We start a fire and unlace our shoes.
Nearing the equinox and 12 hours of sunlight, officially, we already count more than 12 hours of usable light. Twilight lasts forever, and grows longer by the day. Later this week, our days will be longer than yours (unless you live in Fairbanks!)
Dinner is mostly taken from the depths of the refrigerator and freezer at home. A couple of hot dogs roasted on a stick are gourmet fare when away from a kitchen. Toasted corn tortillas, melted cheese, and avocados round out the meal. A sip of whiskey and water to wash it down.
I am excited to sleep outside, but a fire is a nice feature. The cabin is warm through the night, as outside temperatures remain in the 20s. Past midnight, a woman’s voice breaks my sleep. Two dogs come rushing into the cabin, and the energy of a late night hike is quickly part of the cabin. Two boys enter. We exchange names as an official gesture, I forget them immediately, and Lael and I rearrange ourselves to make room. The boys are quick to retreat to the top bunk, and to sleep. The dogs are restless for a time, and Carolyn is ready to share stories of the trail. She has been hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing this trail in winter for nearly twenty years. Partway through the story of another year’s adventure, I fall back asleep.
By morning, Lael and I fetch water from the stream for coffee and pack our things. Cabins are nice, for a time.
Overnight, clouds have rolled in. Snow falls. Wind overhead teeters treetops. Today is a whole different world.
Lael is excited to explore. This doesn’t look like the honeymoon ride I shared with the guys last week. She couldn’t be happier.
I’m always curious to find what she hides in her bags. She fills her new Wanderlust top tube bag with a shaker of sea salt, formerly a plastic container of decorative cinnamon cake toppings. A 5-Hour Energy signals a return to her old touring habits of caffeine-loading at gas stations. The three yogurt-covered peanut clusters I’ve offered her as sustenance in the last hour have disappeared into her bag. I also spot an espresso flavored energy gel, also caffeinated. I promise, her framebag is filled with real food. Apples are on Lael’s menu all day, every day.
We ride up into clouds, snow, and sun, barely.
In contrast to our ride last week, this is a whole other world.
Cresting mounds of glacial gravel, rising above treeline, the wind presents itself in full.
Nate and Bud and Lou have been fossilized in the mud from last week. The ground is rock solid and windblown.
Riding uphill and upwind, we stop at each major gust. At twenty, thirty miles an hour, it challenges us to remain upright on the bikes. At forty, fifty miles an hour, we stop and bow our heads.
A good time to be wearing a snowboarding helmet, I think. This was my little sister’s helmet 15 years ago. Somehow it has made its way from NY.
After pushing and riding for a few miles, we decide to turn around just short of the pass. We consider running up and over the next small hill to see it, but the triviality becomes apparent as the wind gusts once again. Lael is still smiling. Not much will erase that.
Of course, unrideable uphill trail is blazing fast in reverse, both downhill and downwind. Gusts propel us through drifts. We pass two hikers on the way down. They watched us push into the wind a few minutes ago. “It is a little easier in this direction”, I offer.
This section of trail, with a healthy tailwind, ranks high.
Lower, the trees provide shelter.
We stop into the East Creek cabin to look around, and to warm our fingers. As blood returns to our digits, the world begins to defrost as well.
After lunch and a nap a few miles further down the trail at the Fox Creek Cabin, the two hikers arrive just as we are leaving. We pass the warm cabin to them.
A fresh layer of snow makes any landscape more beautiful.
Back down to the bridge, we look forward to a quick ride out to the trailhead.
This week, I’ve revised my luggage. We only have one well-worn seatpack between the two of us, so I attached a drybag to the underside of my saddle. I’m thinking I’ll stitch some straps to the bag to make a permanent seatpack out of it. For just more than the price of the bag (13L Big River Dry Bag, about $30), it presents a cheap solution to lightweight packing, especially in conjunction with my preferred Sea-to-Summit compression drybag (size S/10L) up front.
She is also using her new Beargrass top tube bag from Wanderlust Gear out of Missoula, MT. The design features a single zipper down the center, and is almost the exact same size as my Revelate Gas Tank. Always creative with her words, she’s calling it the Beargrasstank. The Bunyan Velo “Get Rad” patch is sold out for now, but new patches have arrived.
The snow accumulates, and the riding changes. Ice is no longer a hazard, and steering is a little less precise in fresh snow. For now, only a few inches pile up and the riding is great.
A few hazards are hidden under the snow, but the landing is softened.
The snow becomes very wet further down, and waterproof layers come out.
Across Resurrection Creek one last time.