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High One Highway

Alaska Range

Denali_means_“the high one” in the Alaskan native Athabascan tongue. It refers to Mt. McKinley, the massive peak that tops the Alaska Range in Denali National Park. It is a very fitting name for the Denali Highway, due to its impressive views of the Alaskan wilderness.

Alaska is massive. It’s more than twice the size of Texas and compared to the lower 48, it dwarfs the entire Midwest region (here’s a picture for scale). In addition, the U.S. federal government owns and manages 65% of the state as public land. This means more than half the state is comprised of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Believe me, it’s enormous.

Late evening view from the Denali Highway

We are currently into our second week of riding and we have seen a lot. In relation to the state as a whole, however, we have seen very little. Over the past few days, I’ve begun to comprehend Alaska’s vastness and its seemingly boundless grandeur. Traveling along the Denali Highway, we experienced a small and magnificent part of Alaska’s beauty. We caught glimpses of glaciated mountain ranges and entirely new snowcapped peaks as the old faded from our view behind us. What baffles me still is that we’ve seen only a glimpse of all that is out there. As many Alaskans will tell you, Alaska may truly be “the last frontier” and that is what calls me back to return one day.

The scenery from the Denali Highway was spectacular. We saw wildlife including anxious caribou (hunting season started earlier this week), porcupines, and a black bear (at a distance, thankfully).  On the other hand, the ride itself along the Denali Highway wasn’t nearly as spectacular.

Washboard gravel on the Denali Highway

A majority of the “highway” is gravel. You would think three farmer’s sons from North Dakota would be well accustomed to gravel roads, right? Well, with tractors and pickups, yes. With bikes, maybe not so much. At first, the gravel was manageable. It was well kept and smooth. Later on the road became increasingly extreme alongside the challenging terrain. Large rocks, potholes, mud, and “washboard” gravel soon covered the road as we climbed up and down the mountain passes of the Denali Highway. It was exhausting, both physically and mentally. With no suspension, we feel everything. On top of that, it takes an enormous amount of focus to plot a line down the road and navigate where you think it’s smoothest. Like I said earlier, it was exhausting, so we would rest often.

Finding a spot to rest wasn’t hard. Resisting the urge to snap photos every hundred yards was (sorry bros). We had the road to ourselves, so if we needed to refuel or refill water bottles, we would stop and sit along the roadside or down by a creek (we came across them often). Between meals on the road, which normally consist of bagels with peanut butter and honey, jerky, and cookies, we would occasionally snack on candy bars and trail mix.

Our trusty travel companion, Skippy

We would also snack on blueberries, or rather gorge ourselves with them. Blueberries were so thick in spots, it was hard to stop. It’s prime blueberry season according to the locals, and we aren’t complaining.

Blueberries!

The ride so far has been challenging. Long, cold, and sometimes wet days have come and gone. We’re meeting new people every day; with towns few and far between, you would be surprised at the number of kind, generous, and encouraging people we meet each day. I’m thankful for the journey thus far and I look forward to each new day.

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Here’s a video from our last morning on the Denali Highway. Fighting the gnats, we attempt to recount our time on the highway.

Bound South – Denali Reflections from Bound South on Vimeo.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nancy #

    I was worried you would regret the trip north, and wish you had gone out via the Glenn Highway. But it sounds like it was worth the time and effort! AND it was a safer route, which i felt was important!
    Nancy

    August 19, 2011
  2. Sara Erickstad #

    Hey Boys! It’s great reading your posts and seeing pictures of your adventure thus far. Praying for u all and for your continued safe travels!

    August 20, 2011
  3. Genece Warren #

    I full well remember the extreme kindness and warmth of the people of Alaska when I lived up there one summer. It was beyond belief.

    August 20, 2011
  4. JoAnn Burt #

    Hi, guys. I’m certainly enjoying reading and hearing your posts and seeing the wonderful photos you’ve posted. It’s so wonderful that you’re connecting with so many amazing folks along your travels. You continue to be in my prayers daily!

    August 21, 2011
  5. Robert Buechler #

    We like the video feeds and the audio. Sounds like the trip is rouding out to be a good experience for all so far. Keep us posted. By the way, our relatives in Alaska say be careful around those blueberry bushes. The bears like them as much as you do. We pray for you all.

    Peace in the Lord Jesus Christ!
    Pastor Rob, Debbie, and Rachael

    P.S. Being ten to fifteen minutes late to church is a Berg trait. I’m glad you have come to accept that.🙂

    August 22, 2011
  6. krista #

    Should concoct some blueberry muffins with those😛

    I like the guy in the video asking where you guys are from.

    Alaska used Blueberry on Wild Nathan! It’s super effective!

    August 24, 2011
  7. Karl and I keep checking your posts to keep track of your adventure.Have fun and stay healthy and safe. We pray constantly for you all.
    Our love goes out to all three of you

    August 28, 2011
  8. I hope you are all doing well. Most I ever rode my bicycle in one day is 100 miles and not for several days or months consecutively. I am impressed. If I were 20 years younger I would be there with you! Care as you ride. We are with you in prayer.

    August 29, 2011
  9. BTW,

    Love the pics, especially the bear encounter! Cute!

    August 29, 2011

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