(May 27 – written by Nancy)
Last night was the coldest night we have had yet. It was all right if you didn’t move from the warm spot you had made in the sleeping bags because everywhere else was very cold! We even layered some coats on top of us early this morning to try to create some warmth. Mark said his phone showed 34F this morning – the water wasn’t frozen in our bottles so it didn’t get down to 32F but pretty close!
We packed up camp relatively early and headed back over to at Fast Eddy’s for breakfast. Nothing like a stack of pancakes, eggs and bacon to warm you up and fuel the ride. By the time we hit the road about 9:30 it had warmed up quite a bit as was almost comfortable – with a nice thick coat, earwarmers and warm gloves. The sun was out though, and we had a tailwind so no one was complaining.
The first 10 miles were fairly flat – something we were all thankful of given the big breakfasts we all had. The first exciting thing we saw, other than the amazing views of the ranges off to south, was another weigh station. There were no trucks around at this station and the scales were already operational so we all took our turns getting on the scales again. Mark came in at somewhere fluctuating between 260lbs and 280lbs, Dave came in at 300lbs, and Chris and I confirmed our weights at 320lbs and 280lbs, consistent with our earlier weigh-ins. So, I am still the winner (or loser, I think) for the proportion of weight carried relative to body size. The rest of us did not agree to follow Mark’s logic of calculating it relative to our ‘ideal’ body weight, or somehow subtracting the weight of fat, or some other weird calculation he was trying to do to get out of being the lightest overall weight. Granted, he is eating freeze dried food so he is paying a price for that…
We turned southeast and started our ride along the Tetlin National Wildlife refuge. Lots of beautiful scenery with a large delta giving views to the snow-capped Wrangell Mountains. The Tetlin Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 and covers over 950,000 acres. The refuge provides a breeding habitat for nesting waterfowl and is a migratory corridor for many birds and mammals. The area is supposed to be a critical area for trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes – we did not see any today but we continue along the refuge tomorrow so perhaps there is still a chance. Not surprisingly, given the ponds and lakes in the area, moose are said to be plentiful here, together with caribou and other mammals. It is quite pretty, and despite all of the water around we are still not being bothered by mosquitoes – though we did run into some pretty large swarms of gnats while riding today and I think we all ate a few.
We ended up at a funny little park at Northway. It is supposed to be an RV/camp area, but we don’t think it’s really open yet (anymore?). It’s just behind the store/fuel station run by the Naabia Niign community. It looks like it could be a nice spot, but there is no running water and no electricity in the camping area. You can, however, get a shower for $1 (Mark and Chris had to pay $2 for some reason – must have been the beards) and they will fill your water bottles up in the store for free. So we decided to stay here – the next place to camp was a state campground down the road a bit and this seemed okay for the price anyway!
The store is a classic little roadside shop – very little nutritious food but enough snacks to make anyone happy. Mark bought some bad snacks and hit the attached liquor store, buying the only thing you could buy in quantities less than a 6-pack. Unfortunately that was some kind of fortified lemonade in cranberry and strawberry flavours but he and Chris persevered and got those down. Dave and I shared a half-gallon of milk, which seemed to astound Chris for some reason!
Tomorrow we enter Canada – wow that was a quick trip through Alaska! A friendly guy hanging around the store told us you can’t take any open containers of liquor into Canada so that meant Chris and Mark had to drink the rest of their bourbon they have been sipping on. Mark also carried a bottle of red wine that we had put into a Nalgene bottle, so we had to drink that as well, though that went well with the Indian curry dinner we had. As everyone is now fully lubricated and fed I think sleep will be easy coming tonight!
Hopefully it will be quiet tonight – across the road is a Park office with what looks like cabins for park personnel and some cars parked there, and the State Trooper office is just across the highway from us so we don’t expect trouble. And hopefully the bears (and other mammals) will stay in the Wildlife Refuge and out of our camp….
Tomorrow we have a ~60mile ride to Beaver Creek, the first opportunity to camp in Canada. We’ll have to remember to pull out the passports in the morning to make sure we can get in.
PS: this will be posted on the 28th. There is no Wifi or mobile signal here. And also, Happy Birthday to Pam, Dave’s sister. Sorry we missed get you best wished on the actual day.