July 14th-July 27th 2016 450 miles from Fairbanks , AK to Delta Junction, AK.
If you take the Richardson Highway southeast from Fairbanks, Delta Junction is just 95 miles away. I opted for a less direct route, riding through Denali National Park, across the Denali Highway, and 450 miles later arriving in Delta Junction.
My constant companion for this leg of the journey was no longer mosquitoes, they were washed away by the rain that followed me south. Every morning I listened to the raindrops hitting the outside of my tent struggling to find the motivation to don my extra soggy bike shorts for another day of rainy riding. Bike shorts are bad enough when they aren’t soaking wet, with seven days of rain it was like putting on a cold wet diaper to kick-start my morning.
In Denali National Park I bought a ticket for the backpacker bus, which dropped me and my bike at the end of the Park road. I spent the first night at Wonder Lake campground position perfectly for spectacular views of the Alaska Range, home to Denali, the highest peak in North America. The entire evening I stared at the bottoms of cloud covered mountains, willing the clouds to break, hoping to get a glimpse of the towering peaks. It rained throughout the evening and the mountains stayed hidden beneath a thick layer of clouds. The following morning I woke early and peeked out of my tent. The clouds had lifted just enough that I could see Denali. Of the four days that I was in the Park that was the only hour that I had a view of Denali!
Polychrome Pass, Denali National Park
Denali National Park road
Unfortunately I succumbed to the rain. After 30 miles of riding along the park road in a downpour I made it to Toklat River. Typically on a bike trip you celebrate the hard-earned downhills, but the 3 mile downhill to the river was excruciating. By the time I made it to the river I was freezing, my legs were stiff with cold, and my hands were useless. While a appreciate a good sufferfest as much as the next guy I decided to throw in the towel. I caught a ride back to the park entrance and had a hot shower and a cup of hot cocoa. Both of which were truly amazing!
Denali is behind me in the clouds!
Denali Grizz with two cubs
Wonder Lake Campground
Added these to my oatmeal!
Caribou on the Denali Park road.
30 miles south of the Park entrance I turned east onto the Denali Highway, a remote 135 stretch of gravel that connects the Parks Highway to the Richardson Highway. While most of my four days along the Denali Highway were damp and rainy I think it is the most beautiful stretch of highway that I’ve ever seen. For days I rode through expansive river valleys with views of the Alaska Range to the north, and the Wrangell Mountains to the east. Glaciers poured off the highest peaks and caribou grazed along the road side. On my final day of the Denali Highway the rain stopped and the clouds mostly cleared. The last 70 miles into Delta Junction were downhill. The wind was at my back and the sun was on my face. What more could a boy ask for?
Day 7 of Rain! You can see the crazy in my eyes.
The sun came out and I got back to the paved road!