Destination: South Fork Campbell Creek (Coffee Shop Without Walls)
Drink: Americano in a Thermos
Distance: 9.1 miles
When I started the Coffeeneuring Challenge I wanted to do a Coffee Shop Without Walls but it just didn’t work out. So, on the last day of the challenge I figured I could make it happen, using my fat bike on our recent snow. My wife had plans to swim at the APU pool, so I drove in to Anchorage with her and started my ride there, with quick access to the Tour of Anchorage Trail and the wonderful trails in Bicentennial Park.
But, before leaving I prepared my Americano on my home espresso machine:
The thermos mounts in a nifty Topeak Modula Java Cage on the fat bike. Perfect for a mid ride break, I think. This is my first time with the thermos outfit.
Leaving APU, I crossed over Tudor Road and under Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave, and entered the woods of Bicentennial Park. The Tour trail had a packed single track (by bikes) down the middle but not quite enough snow for grooming. I soon encountered a series of overflows across the trail. This is where ice builds up and runoff continues to run over the ice, forming, well, more and more ice. It can be treacherous to cross with the slick and uneven surface. But I was able to skirt most of it and where I crossed it was firm. I think Campbell Creek must have a blockage downstream, and water is flooding the low spots in the trail leaving the frozen overflow.
I tuned south on the Blue Dot trail, a really nice single track that cuts south from the Tour Trail to near the Smokejumper Parking Lot off of Elmore Road. It was kind of rooty in sections but will smooth out nicely as we get more snow. The trail crosses the South Fork of Campbell Creek on a sketchy bridge, but is nevertheless fun to ride across.
I felt my front tire bottom out on the rim over one root, and I proceeded with caution as I didn’t relish dealing with a flat in the single digit temperatures. But sure enough as I finished up Blue Dot I could see (and feel) that the front tire was very soft. I stopped and added some air, and headed northeast on the Moose Track trail. The tire seemed to hold the air.
Once I reached Campbell Creek again (upstream from Blue Dot a bit) I found a place to stop for my coffee.
The coffee was just the right temperature that I could drink it quickly, but was still hot. I drank several capfuls as I thought about my return route.
I debated taking the direct route back on the Tour Trail, or retracing the more circuitous route I had come on. I was a bit short on time to make it back at the same time my wife would be finishing up her swim, but I thought if I hustled I could retrace my tracks and still make it. So back I went down Moose Tracks to Blue Dot.
A man out walking with his dog stopped me on Blue Dot and warned me of an aggressive moose up ahead. I proceeded on cautiously and sure enough, a bull moose had staked out a piece of the trail and was not want to let me pass.
I attempted to trek off-trail around him, but he aggressively tried to head me off. I hoisted my bike overhead, waving it around and screaming, and he backed off a bit, but still wouldn’t leave me alone. I made it to a large birch tree that I thought would offer some protection (left foreground of the above picture). The moose came right up to the tree as I attempted to keep my bike and the tree between us. This lasted for a number of minutes. When I tried to move he would come after me. Eventually he wandered off a bit and I very carefully tried to get away from him and down the trail. Finally I was able to get on the bike and then I just pedaled, afraid to look back, for I knew he could easily catch me.
Once back on the Tour Trail, with the adrenaline still coursing through my veins, I stopped to air up my front tire again. I was surprised to see that the overflow areas had actually got much worse in the hour or so since I had crossed them before. There was water running over the ice in places. I carefully picked my way through, and was glad to get back to civilization.
It was a really nice ride overall. In retrospect, I should have immediately retreated when I encountered the moose (instead of attempting to trek around him) and perhaps avoided the unwelcome confrontation. But in all my years of cycling here in Alaska I’ve never encountered a moose that was so aggressive.
The Third Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge is now in the books. It was a lot of fun, and I thank MG for organizing it. Congratulations to all the other participants!