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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Last July, I took a trip to Alaska to meet up with Kim McNett and Bjorn Olson who were wrapping up a kayak trip navigating the Kenai peninsula. Daniel of Defiance Frameworks, musician Ben Weaver, and I met up with Kim and Bjorn after the sea portion of their trip to ride and packraft from Seward back to Homer. 

A group of cyclists with their fat bikes loaded with gear, stand on the grass in a front yardDaniel, Bjorn, Kim, Ben, me

We take off late afternoon from Seward and ride into the Chugach National Forest. Glacial waters on the trail floor hide our route. Riding is slow going and dense. Our map references a cabin and we point towards it. It takes a river crossing and countless bear and moose tracks before we find it, tucked away and surrounded by fresh berries. There’s an exhausted silence as we stain our fingers purple and eagerly fill our mouths.  The cabin guestbook brings us up to speed on the active bears in the area that have marked time by destroying the nearby outhouse after each quarterly repair effort.  We dry our shoes on the fire. With no darkness, my body is confused and exhausted. 

Front view of cyclists pushing their fat bikes through a creek in the woodsPhoto by Bjorn

Three cyclists standing in the forest with their fat bikesPhoto by Bjorn

Fat bikes in front of the National Park Resurrection River cabin

Four people sitting around a campfire on a grass clearing on a mountain hill, with trees in the backgroundPhoto by Bjorn

We take in a lazy morning, leaving the cabin in the afternoon. A trail clearing effort proves to have only gone so far as the cabin and we’re soon pushing through thick overgrown forest. It’s slow going. We ferry our gear across another river crossing. The easiest ferrying spot on the river puts us at the edge of a good bushwhacking. There are several downed trees and thick Devil’s club to push through in an effort to join back up to our trail. Bjorn’s saddle and one of his pedals call the quits in the scramble and the rest of us are left eyeing our gear cautiously. We spit out of the brush and ride dotted two track which eventually blurs into a solitary line in the ground, set too deep to pedal a full rotation. The flies are thick and biting. After a mix of ratcheting, kick-push and riding alongside the rutted single-track, we leave the primitive trail into open gravel road. The fast descent is a welcome reprieve and dumps us into a small campsite where we call it a day.

The next morning, we pedal into Cooper Landing and decide our best course of action is to delay a bit so Bjorn can replace his pedal and find a saddle that still has a nose stuck to it.  While he sorts out his parts swap, we nap, trade stories and take the rafts out. It’s a lazy day that leaves us a bit stir-crazy to keep moving but it’s too gorgeous to be frustrated by much of anything. We stay put for the night at the edge of HWY 1. The cars don’t sound much like waves, but I try and convince myself anyway.

A lake with mountains in the background with blue sky and clouds above

Front view of 3 people sitting on a log, looking at a map, with a pizza box sitting on the ground in front of them

From Cooper Landing we load up the rafts and take off, putting in some eddy practice under bridges as we move. I am, by far, the least experienced paddler in the group and I’m trying to absorb as many tips as I can during this short paddle section, knowing the days ahead will be much longer. Midday, we pull out at a boat launch and pack the rafts back onto the bikes. It’s an energized hilly gravel pedal into a campground on Skilak Lake where we tuck away for the night.

Rear view of three cyclists standing with their fat bikes, at the end of a gravel trail, in front of a lake

A bottle of Hunter liquors, on a picnic table, with a person sitting at the left end

Close up of fat bike wheels on the front of a kayak on a lake, with mountains in the backgroundJunk Strap use #203

We cross Skilak in rafts in the morning and navigate into the Kenai River, putting the mountains behind us. The river is mellow with small rapids and every now and again some boulders to dodge. The water is lined like streets on parade day. It’s fishing season. Folks of every sort are wearing suspendered pants that come up to their nipples, but floating on brightly colored inflatable boats with fat tired bicycles strapped to them, we’re still the odd ones. There’s lots of attention our way.

Side view of fat bikes lined up against the wall outside of a log building

We take out for lunch in Sterling then paddle a bit further to an oversold campground near Soldotna. It’s 10:53pm but looks like a sunny 2 o’clock. I abandon any hope of drying my shoes and pass out. 

Fat bikes leaning on and around a large boulder on a rocky beach, with tree in the background

Fat bikes laying in the sand on a beach, in front of a body of water

In the morning, we point towards Kenai, finishing the paddle with some swift water, white tips, and boulder obstacles. We pull out at a bridge access and make our way towards the beach. The sun is beating us down. We pass a few hours at a local roadhouse as we wait for the tide to go down. Plenty of plastic bottle whisky, cold PBRs and fishing talk. Getting antsy, we take off for a short pedal down the beach and prop up in the sand for a quick snooze as we continue to wait for tide. We finish the day riding to Kasilof Beach where a dip-netting tent village has spread itself wide across the sand.

After breakfast, we paddle across the river mouth between dip netters. It’s a day of hot beach riding.  Long grinding miles past fishing shacks on mostly smooth packed sand.  We pause only to nap briefly in the shade and wait for tide to go down. A beachside waterfall location makes the perfect location to make camp at for the night.

Rear view of a cyclist standing with their fat bike on a beach with water to the right, a building on stilts

A vast sandy area with a cyclist between 2 large rocks in the distance

A cyclist stands with a fat bike on a sandy shore near a hill, with water and mountains in the background

Onward we point to Diamond Gulch, where a welcoming crew meets us with provisions and high-fives. We swap stories and laughs around the fire until wind and rain drive us into our tents. It’s single digit mileage to Homer, and it’s sinking in that the trip has come to a close. A good mix of known and unknown, some physical and mental pushing and some of the best folks you could hope for. I haven’t yet started packing to leave and I’m already scheming to get back. I hear that Homer Cycling Club puts on one heck of a Big Fat Bike Fest…

Front view of cyclists riding their fat bikes down a rocky shore, with a rock cliff in the backgroundPhoto by Bjorn

Rear view of a cyclist walking with a fat bike on a rocky shore towards 3 friends, with mountains in the backgroundPhoto by Bjorn

The front of a Surly fat bike sticks out from behind a large log, on a seashore, with water in the background

About Kippley

Amy Kippley a.k.a. Kippley

Amy brings with her an impressive cycling resume as a mechanic and industry pencil pusher. Both worlds of knowledge serve her well in her role here as she communicates with our suppliers and facilitates all the things that go along with getting our bikes produced and hanging parts on them. In her personal life Amy has a thing for Abraham Lincoln and a lifelong love of NASCAR, which is actually car racing believe it or not. Huh. It’s a strange world. Someone should sell tickets.