Ostroski in Alaska

February 10, 2014

Words by Rocky Mountain Enduro athlete Peter Ostroski. Photos by Charlie Renfro.

Alaska is home to the world’s northernmost rainforest, resource development, North America’s tallest peak, and spectacular terrain. While the winter provides world class skiing, summer brings long days and plentiful wilderness. Living in Alaska in the winter and racing the mountain bike enduro circuit in the summer, I found a break in my schedule for a quick adventure in the 49th state.

After the Crankworx EWS race in the mecca of mountain biking, Whistler BC, I packed up my Altitude and flew to Anchorage, Alaska. I arrived to the sight of fog-covered mountains shooting straight up from the North Pacific Ocean and several moose lounging 100 meters from the runway, and made my way to the small ski-town of Girdwood. With persistent precipitation and fog, I met up with local photographer Charlie Renfro in hopes of a weather window to get some images.

Anchorage is home to a growing number of mountain bike trails. Kincaid Park, on the south side of the city, supports a huge network of Nordic and snow-bike trails in the winter, but the summer trail-network is great too, and we were lucky enough to get some evening light there.

Our next mission was to head southwest on the Kenai Peninsula to the town of Homer, in search of some riding across the Kachemak Bay. We rolled into town mid afternoon after four hours of driving and went aboard the Ikpiq, an English-made bilge keeler vessel. Captained by our local Girdwood friend Aaron Stiassny, the 26-foot long vessel can sit flat on land without tipping over and holds a lot history in its old wooden deck boards. The boat has sailed up and down the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, nearly being lost in a storm which stranded local Homer legend John Miles on the southwest side of Shelikof Strait, 150 miles away from Homer.

Next we made our way Jacklof Bay in search of a trail up to Red Mountain towards the North side of Seldovia. The word was the trail up to Red Mountain had washed out from flooding last year, and little was known about the actual condition of the massive drainage that used to be home to an old chromium mine. The old mining road was indeed washed out, and we reached the upper valley near Red Mountain with about an hour of daylight left and no singletrack in sight. We scrapped the idea of trying to ride to the ridgeline and headed back to the boat for a dinner of fresh mussels.

Our slow motor back to the dock the next morning was followed by a tour of the bluff above Homer Spit, John Miles’s house, and the neighboring farm. We made it in time for a beer and a close up view of the farm's first pig-slaughter of the season.

Heading back to Girdwood for the last couple days of the trip, the weather locked in once again. Rain and cool temperatures didn’t make for ideal exploring conditions, but on the last day the clouds lifted. We made our way up towards Crow pass, where there's a 24-mile trail all the way down to the town of Eagle River. The terrain went from alder-thick singletrack to rugged, open alpine trails. The epic riding in the Chugach Mountains was a great way to round out the adventure.

All in all it was an incredible trip, with much more to explore next time. Thanks to the folks in Anchorage for the local knowledge, Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and Charlie Renfro for the photos!

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