Loving Hating Snow Biking (a Denali Highway snow bike trip)

8:08 sunrise

20:09 sunset
Hi.  It’s been awhile.  We’re back to 12 hours of light (yay!) but are still in the grips of winter temperatures. It was -29C this morning when I left for work.  Brr.

Two weekends ago I went on a really amazing fat bike trip with friends along the Denali Highway in Alaska. And by really amazing I mean jaw-dropping scenery/hospitable accommodation/intelligent and humourous company/breath-taking proximity to wildlife/deep silent wild kind of amazing.

And yet I haven’t bothered to write about it.

Maybe it’s because my riders in crime, Jill M, Jill H and Sierra, have all given hilarious and vivid versions of our trip.  I’m not sure I have anything to add.  Jill writes so beautifully about what it is like to be out there that even though my journey wasn’t identical to hers I still feel that I experienced the days as she did. The other Jill – the cynic as she called herself – captured the nuts and bolts of at least half of how day one felt when she wrote “most of the way up this climb…required an endless mix of pushing and riding, neither of which was pleasant or efficient.” And Sierra, my beloved bike-wife who saved me from losing my shit at the 18km mark when she started carrying my backpack, described each of us as dogs which may sound insulting but instead was full of affection and made me laugh.

Basically, I loved their versions of our three day trip and I haven’t felt like I needed to write my own.  And besides, I document the crap out of everything with my camera anyway.  So there has been less blogging in my blogosphere lately.

But I have been thinking about one thing since I got back.  Actually, I was thinking about it when I was out there, mostly during one of the first long climbs when we were alternating between riding and pushing our bikes uphill.  When I was sweating my ass off and my heart rate was making my eyeballs thud just a little bit inside their sockets.  When I was thinking to myself that perhaps I wouldn’t make it the 42 miles to MacLaren Lodge – at least not in daylight.  I’ve been thinking about why I choose to do this.  Why go off on long bike rides that make me slightly uncomfortable only to immediately forget about the parts that sucked and think that it was the best experience in the world?

I guess the obvious answer is what I just said.  As soon as the bad parts are over, I tend to forget about them.  And it’s not as if I ever thought that we were in peril or that we would not be able to make it to our destination.  It’s just that there were hard parts.  They were real.  And yet, once they were over, it’s almost as if they never existed.  It’s as if the Denali Highway bike trip was 100% easy-peasy, comfortable, luxury travel.  But it wasn’t.  At least, not all of it.  At least, not for me.

I believe that it is important to experience the uncomfortable as fully and as acutely as possible.  I try to feel, to listen and to pay attention to the minutes during excursions like this when I am genuinely not having a good time.  When I am super tired or when a little voice inside my head pipes up about how being where I am at that moment is less than ideal and perhaps I should do something about it.  Like stop.

But somehow, in trying to access and make myself available to the annoyances in a journey like this, the good parts are made even better.  It makes the sky seem even more impossibly blue and the awe of being in the middle of absolutely-fucking nowhere even more astounding than I thought possible.  Finding a low – and letting it sink in – makes the coming high even sweeter.

So ya, our Denali Highway trip was amazing.  And I survived.  And it wasn’t that hard.  But it was just hard enough to make me think… and to dream about what adventures we can get up to next year.



  1. I just saw you wrote a trip report. Again, you wrap it up so succinctly. Adventure touring is difficult and that's part of the appeal. To me, it's almost the main appeal. These days, I just can't get as excited about a wine tasting, road spin through Sonoma County. I'm sure I would enjoy it, but given the choice with similar (and willing) company, I would still choose the Denali Highway in soft conditions.

    I'm so glad you, Sierra, Jill, and I were able to collaborate on this adventure. I enjoyed riding with you, and always appreciate your attitude even when the activities venture toward type-two fun. I look forward to seeing you in May. My friend Leah and I might scope out a Henry Coe overnight in a couple of weeks, so I should have some good beta on the fun factor of those trails. 🙂


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