Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trails in town dry and open

I've been riding around the Campbell Tract lately, partly on my commute, but also with the Alaska Dirt Divas. Things are dry, getting dusty even, on the hardened trails. When I checked out Rover's Run (aka Mellen's Way) and Moose Meadow last week, there were still some muddy spots. I've since heard they're both in fine shape.

Kincaid trails, according to folks who've been riding on the west side, are dry also. It doesn't feel like June - I mean, I'm still wearing my long-sleeve jerseys - but the page on the calendar has turned. And with the new, lightest month of the year, biking and other activities are really picking up in Anchorage. There are lots of folks on the trails now. Lots of wildlife too.

One day while biking to work my husband saw a hat-trick of Alaska wildlife: A moose, a coyote and a mother bear with two cubs. Probably in a span of under two miles. The creatures are out there and are very active this time of year. Keep your eyes open and make some noise.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let the trails dry

Break-up takes such a long time. We're itching to take our mountain bikes out onto the dirt trails in town and the trailheads do look pretty dry. But, wait.

Once you get a few dozen yards from the trailhead you'll realize the trails are very soft where the snow has been slow to melt. Patience now will mean better conditions once things dry. Those ruts last a long time. So, until the trails in the municipal parks are dry enough to be open, put your slick tires on or grab the road bike. Like the sign says, check out the over 150 miles of paved trails. Many of the greenbelt trails are listed in Chapter 2 of the book.

I've heard from Dan who runs Lifetime Adventures at Eklutna that the Lakeside Trail is very good at least up to the old avalanche zone from a few years back. It is dusty, though. Typically trails open in the municipality on June 1. If they are dry sooner, they will be opened sooner. If you don't see any signs at the trailhead, just pull out your common sense and turn around if it's muddy.

You'll thank yourself later this season.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tank Trail, aka Bulldog Trail citations

I received this information from a couple of people. The Bulldog Trail is one of the earliest dirt/gravel trails to be clear of snow in the spring. It's easy to get a permit & check in. It's for your safety - the soldiers do train in the area.

Here's the content of the messages I received:
Fort Richardson MPs are issuing citations to unregistered users of the Tank Trail. A couple of weekends ago they set up a post and wrote tickets to recreational users one by one. These folks got off with a warning, but according to military police, the penalties are as follows:

1st offense: Ban for 1 year (this applies base-wide to all property on Ft. Rich including the base itself)
2nd offense: Ban for 5 years (base-wide)
3rd offense: Ban for life (base-wide)

How to Obtain a Permit
1. To use the Tank Trail or any other Ft. Rich property for recreational purposes you must obtain a USAG-AK Recreational Access Permit available at the main Ft. Richardson Gate. Permits are good for 2 years from the issue date and must be carried with you. For information call 384-0296 or 384-2916.
2. Check in by calling the USARTRAK automated system BEFORE entering the training lands and you will need your RAP number to access the system. The system provides daily training closures. The Phone Access System number is 384-3181.
3. Check out upon leaving the training lands for the day. Call the USARTRAK number and enter your RAP number for automated check-out. 384-3181.

For more information, go to the site.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Waiting for dirt

It's spring on the calendar, but this winter has lingered, receded then resurfaced to remind us we are still in Alaska.

With May comes the season of waiting for the trails to dry. The snow on the dirt trails is slushy, tumbling over the tops of my shoes when I'm walking in Far North Bicentennial Park. More gravel and mud is revealed each day.

Mountain bikers who ride the trails all winter know how quickly conditions can change - we're in the park every week and sometimes watch it from day to day. Frozen one day, slushy the next. Now we have to be patient stewards. Riding on the trails when they're extremely soft can cause ruts that can last all season. It's a good time to pull out the road bike or hybrid and build some distance on the pavement.

If you're not keen on being on the road, this just in: Parks & Recreation has cleared much of the greenbelt trails, but water remains in low spots. I'm sure you'll still find ice in the tunnels. Check this forum to stay in the loop.

Normally the trails in Anchorage open between Memorial Day and June 1st. Pretty soon we'll all be counting the days.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tree clearing near Tour of Anchorage trail

A few people have asked me lately about the trees being cut down near the Tour of Anchorage (Old Rondy) multi-use trail that runs between Tudor Road and Far North Bicentennial Park. What's going on?

Well, as we continue to get used to the newly-named "Elmore Road," on the east side, now get ready for East 48th. This new road will go west to east between Elmore and Boniface, where the new stoplight is just south of the Tudor/Elmore intersection.

The road is supposed to entice more people to use Boniface. It will follow the alignment of the new water line that is being installed for the local water utility to get more water to S. Anchorage. So, what does this mean for trail users?

This winter, it means tree cutting and excavation to put in the water line in phases. It means there will be damage to trails, some of which will eventually have to be rerouted to make way for the road. It may mean more disruption of events.

It's a shame this is being done the way it is. The Campbell Creek Trail was put in not more than 5 or 6 years ago and now parts of it will be realigned. Meaning more wetland fill, more paving and a path that will go from being a greenbelt trail to a streetside path. But the wheels are in motion and most of them are on automobiles. I hope there will be bike lanes, though it isn't guaranteed.

Here's a site for the Anchorage Citizens Coalition which encourages responsible land-use:

This is the site for the engineering firm that is planning the road:
Go to "Documents/Reports" then scroll down to get the trails report and maps.

Stay tuned and get involved.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Winter riding - returning to a trail near you!

Well, Thanksgiving week got off to a snowy start, fueling my optimism that I'd be doing a pre-feast bike ride on trails in the Campbell Tract and Bicentennial Park. It's a tradition that on turkey day, Jon and I do a ride (or sometimes a ski) before the early evening meal.

Last year, we took our bikes with their studded tires to Portage lake to ride the frozen surface as other people skated and played hockey. A tourist from Hawai'i took my photo to show the people back home what we Alaskans do for fun. Fun was a ride to see the glacier and explore the perimeter of the lake, slowly to not produce too much wind chill. Narrow waterfalls were stilled in ice. Small bergs were locked in the foot-deep, smooth surface. We pedaled to a spot where the sun had reached a little piece of the lake but its light didn't warm the air above the estimated twenty-below-zero.

Portage doesn't freeze like that every year so we were happy we'd taken the opportunity to ride it that day. Snowpack on local trails is just about as unpredictable. It doesn't always stick around, as we've been reminded for the last few days. What the cold temps bringeth, the Chinook taketh away. But don't despair. Stop putting off getting your bike ready. It's only November and there are over four months of good riding ahead.

Check out Chapter 8 for tips on winter cycling and a list of trails that are open to multi-use, including bikes, during the winter months. Bundle up. I'll see you out there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Abbott Loop Community Park

A new, wider bridge is being installed over Little Campbell Creek on the Coyote Trail (Tour of Anchorage) at the Campbell Tract - Bicentennial Park boundary. The work is being staged at Abbott Loop Community Park (sometimes refered to as the "Ballfield Trailhead). To get equipment and the bridge pieces to the creek, work crews widened and graded the bumps off the trail as it leaves the parking lot and drops down the hill.

Then it rained.

And rained.

Now it's a bit of a slog on that part of the trail. So, steer clear and choose another trailhead. You can ride north on Abbott Loop Road to get to the Lore Road Trail and take that route into the park. You're on pavement for less than a 1/2-mile and get to avoid the mudfest. (See the book, "Mountain Bike Anchorage" for a description of the Lore Road Trail.)

From Lore Road Trail, you can access the new Lynx Trail which will take you to the Smokejumper Trailhead. Or, take Lore to Coyote Trail. Until the new bridge is done, there is a temporary, smaller bridge in place for crossing the creek, but you should try to avoid the area until everything is installed... and the ground freezes.