I can't feel like I have missed my chance because of the scenery I saw. The Alaska higway was just forest and streams with little to no interruption. But the Haines higway was montains and work of art all the way. The wild flowers were blooming, the rivers were flowing wildly and shining far away at the bottom of the mountains were lakes and promises. Had I known I didn't have to rush here I would have hiked. But that is an adventure for another day.
Is it failure, lack of strength of some kind or plain good sense?
I have set on a little trip, a few days ago. It would be my only occasion to bike solo and see Alaska before my Sister meets me back in Whitehorse. So I have two to three weeks to spare before the happy reunion. I consulted my hosts who also happen to be biking lovers and have a good knowledge of the area, about where would be a realistic destination and which road should be the most interesting.
With close to no opposition, everyone agreed: Haines Alaska would be stunning to see, going through Haines Junction and biking the Kluane bike race route, play tourist for a few day on the ferry routes to Juneau and Sitka, and then biking back through Skagway. No question. Everyone was pretty solid on that one, so I agreed.
I started my little trip on Tuesday, the last day of May. After a late start I managed to kick my own butt and make it to Kusawa Lake drive. Even though the next day I could feel my lack of preparation screaming in some muscles; I pushed on and got into Haines
Fairest of them all
Once again I have been ridiculously lucky regarding the weather, once more. Well. Until all hell broke loose and I gave up. Maybe that is why I got so easily frustrated; I've had to deal with some small showers maybe three times, but never anything really bad. Once again I have sunburns. But now, to add on my list of things that hurt enough to remember: windburns.
Junction the next day. Not particularly impressive road, but the Pine Lake beach is worth seeing at any time.
Decided to let myself take it slow on the second day of June and biked to Kathleen Lake lodge, 25km on the fabulous mountain road leading to Haines. Happy I did because my untrained self was not ready for such a harsh climb. Was harsh to me anyway.
I had decided to reduce my numbers for the mountain road; where I would usually push up to 90km a day on regular road I would only shoot for 60km in the hills. I have never really biked in altitude unless you count Yellowstone or Glacier. I knew about the cold and the everlasting up-hill beginnings; but never have I seen such wind.
Such. Absurdly. Savage. Wind.
Once in Alberta I did not move no matter how hard I tried, but it only lasted 10-15km. I can push my bike when needed. On June third, don’t ask me how, I got to the campground I wanted. After a lot of colourful swearwords against said winds and the road. But oh how tired I was when I set camp. I was about to give
Fresh air and freedom
If it's me reading the signs, I see a beautiful story unfolding. Once again my mind is going in every direction, unable to see negativity in the world that surrounds me and eyes shining bringht at the wonders of the world. I feel balanced, or almost. Even that little bump on the road just has me meditating on pros and cons of failure and acceptance. I would get on my own nerves if I wasn't so excited about everything; especially feeling happy again.
up two minutes before I saw the sign; ready to camp in the ditch out of frustration.
The next day I gathered my hopes and spirits and aimed for another 60km, knowing that I started the day by getting us out of a canyon. I’ve done it before and accept the fact that it will be long and strenuous; but once out the world is yours. Not here. I was biking backward after 20km.
I have met a couple on the road that were training for the race and just out for a little tryout when they renounced after 10km because the wind was just ridiculous. They informed me on the time and cheered me before leaving. I had biked 22km in 3h. I was unable to push uphill and still had 40km in front of me. Also I was not aiming for a campground this time, because there are none between Million Dollar Fall and Haines. I was going for a trailhead further on the road where there would be a garbage can and maybe a toilet. I saw it when we drove by; fully exposed to the elements with no hope out of the killer winds.
Because yes, I gave up. I hitch-hiked a ride out of my misery.
Toby was really nice and easy-going, like any alaskan. He picked me up and drove me all the way down to Haines. It is a marvellous road with breath-taking views all the long; the pavement was in better shape than Québec’s and the climbs seemed almost reasonable.
I am happy I gave it a shot. Getting back on my bike finally and getting high from riding hard in the wilderness, seeing the mountains and enjoying some quality alone time. I gave up three quarters down the road, with only 100km to go. Knowing myself I would not have enjoyed the long, steep downhill that I saw coming down, I might have had to get a ride to save my brakes anyway.
But I’ve been thinking about me giving up a lot since yesterday. For once I kind of just claimed and accepted that I could not do it. That I did not have it in me. I have never let myself meditate and deal with failure. I justify myself by saying the conditions were bad; but wasn’t I under-prepared as well? Did I take on too big of a challenge too fast?
Or maybe I made the good call. Riding through bad conditions is not necessarily brave or smart. I am not mad at myself because I know I made it most of the way and pushed my limits again; but I feel childish for letting my tiredness take over and get me out of an uncomfortable position.
And once again my phone died halfway through, so y’all will have to go see for yourself what this beautiful road has to offer. I do not have a “favorite” ride from all I have biked since last year; but this one surely makes the “unforgettable wonders of my world” list.
All that being said, I feel like I am getting my balance back. Glad to be back on the road and even more extatic knowing I’ll soon share my passion with one of my favorite humans. The idea of a cross-continent trip is starting to bloom in my little messed-up brain. With a name like “ top of the world higway” you are just calling for trouble. Always forward.
Through hardships unknown and dangers untold, she made her way where ever she wanted to go because she’s a real trooper; that now understands that she can’t always fully win.
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