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dhb

Alaska: The Road to Hope

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dhb

I live in Anchorage, Alaska. There are 2 roads out of town. One heads generally north to the Mat-Su valley, Denali, Fairbanks, and Outside. The other south along Turnagain Arm, through the Kenai mountains to Seward, Kenai, and Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. The most westerly point reachable by road in North America is located along this route (Anchor Point) about 200 miles south of Anchorage.

 

This southerly road, called the Seward Highway as it leaves town, follows along the Turnagain arm of Cook Inlet--named by or for the famous Captain Cook when he kept turning again as he was frustrated by its extensive tidal mud flats. The other division of Cook Inlet, Knik arm, runs north towards the Mat-Su valley. Anchorage is located in the crook between both arms. Cook Inlet and its arms are fjords, though heavy glacial deposits have almost filled the arms. Because the inlet tapers as it runs into the mountains, very high tides are generated, said to be the second only to the tides of the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Tidal range is in the order of 20-30 feet and during spring and neap tides a large tidal bore, or wave can be seen running up the arms at speeds of 20 miles an hour. The Seward Highway runs along the north shore of Turnagain arm about 50 miles, crosses its head, then runs up into the Kenai mountains on the way to the town of Seward on the Gulf of Alaska about 120 miles. For most of its length, the scenery is outstanding--enough to win the National Scenic Byway designation. Unfortunately, it won't win any awards from bikers interested in tight, twisty excitement, as there isn't any of that. The road has been groomed and straightened into a series of mostly mild sweepers. Sport tourers can find some challenge and adventure in working their way through the clots of RVs and rubber necking tourists which never are in short supply. If you are of the "never cross the solid double yellow line" persuasion, enjoy the views and extra gas mileage. You'll be able to get by easily the most egregious of the land yachts and the rest are going close to the speed limit anyway.

 

There are few side roads to explore, but at about 75 miles from Anchorage, there is a nice twisty 15 mile paved road from the Seward Highway back through the mountains which dead ends in Hope, a small town on the south side of Turnagain arm. Traffic is light on this stretch and it's easy to pick up the pace if you want to. The combination of a 200 mile roundtrip of ever changing, never boring scenery including a 30 mile bonus of tighter stuff makes the road to Hope an enduring personal favorite short day trip.

 

Labor Day this year was sunny for a change with temperatures in the high 50s. I've been reading of the woes of the sweltering Californians and the hurricane battered South East riders so felt it my duty to get on down to Hope and tell you about it. Sort of like pay back for your winter and early spring ride tales when all I've got is ice, snow, and hibernating bikes in the garage. Please remember my sacrifice come this winter, OK?

 

The Seward Highway traffic along Turnagain wasn't too bad considering this was a holiday, but I took it easy as I was looking for belugas. These small white whales frequently are seen along this stretch in August and September, but I didn't spot any in the water today. Along about 30 miles from Anchorage is a very fine lookout ramada built on Bird Point

 

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Note the glacially smoothed rock in the foreground. Hey, there are those Belugas right beside the parking lot

 

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Walk on up to the lookout for a great view across Turnagain arm.

 

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Just up the road from here Dall sheep are usually seen on the mountainside, sometimes right along side the road.

 

Following along the arm, I pass the turn off to Portage Lake (subject of 2 prior ride tales) and continue around the head of the arm climbing quickly to the 998 foot Turnagain Pass. This area is just at tree line and less than 1000 feet above sea level. Part of the reason is the 30 feet of snow it gets each winter. The trees seen in this photo are almost completely buried by January.

 

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This is such a popular winter playground that the east side of the road is Nordic ski only and the west side snow machine only to keep the peace.

 

Another 10 miles into the Kenai mountains brings me to one of the nicest campgrounds on the Kenai--Granite Creek. The namesake creek is fairly low this time of year

 

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As I cruise through the campground, bits of white fluff are floating in the shafts of sun coming through the spruce. The source is all around me--fireweed going to seed

 

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Not to be left out, the grasses along the creek bed are getting ready for winter too

 

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The road winds along Granite Creek and Sixmile Creek passing over the new bridge over Canyon Creek

 

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I pull out here and take a look up Canyon Creek as it runs down from Summit Lake

 

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The 15 mile road to Hope splits off the Seward here and follows Canyon Creek downstream to Turnagain arm

 

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The lower Canyon Creek is a classic mountain stream winding along with the road and I stop a couple of times to walk down to it

 

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The grasses and fireweed aren't the only plants getting ready for winter

 

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The sumac berries provide some rare bright color in our usual fall color scheme of yellow and brown.

 

Soon I'm along the south shore of Turnagain as the road runs along it for about 5 miles to Hope. There are a number of very scenic turnouts well worth a few minutes contemplation

 

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Here you get a good idea of the mud as well as the tidal range.

 

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The mountains just behind Hope are picking up some nice light this time of day

 

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Hope is a remnant of placer gold mining days and about 200 people live here. The main street is lined with very old buildings fairly well preserved. The Seaview Cafe is a converted general store and has a nice bar.

 

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My favorite is the Hope Social Hall

 

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Another spot of color is seen right near Tito's, the best place in town to eat. These rose hips are from wild Sitka Roses

 

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The road runs about a mile and ends at a campground, also one of the nicest in the Kenai. Sherry and I like to stop at a nice picnic overlook there and watch the tides and clouds. For someone who gets jumpy stuck for 10 milliseconds behind a lumbering RV, I'm always surprised at how enjoyable it is to just sit there and look. What do you think?

 

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Taking a hint from the rose hips, sumac, fireweed, and grasses, it won't be long before I put the bikes up for the winter. It's been a good riding season for me and I hope for you as well.

Take care,

Dave

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Marty Hill

Beautiful as always. Hope you have some spare time next june. grin.gif

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Francois_Dumas

Wonderful photos David, thank you for sharing !!! thumbsup.gif

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Kenny Haynes

As always, outstanding pictures and text. National Geographic should hire you. THANKS for the post. grin.gif

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ian408

 

Once again, beautiful pictures and ride tale.

 

Are you coming down to the lower 48 this October?

 

Ian

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glockster

David, all I can say is WOW !!!!! thumbsup.gif I gotta go there someday.

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StretchMark

Awesome!!

Some signs that your riding season is nearing an end. frown.gif

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dhb

Thanks again for all the nice comments. Many visitors to Alaska don't get to see the place at the turn of the seasons for obvious reasons, so I've tried to show Spring (Portage) and Fall (Hope). Don't know if any more Alaska ride tale worthy adventures are in me this season, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Best wishes,

Dave

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Dances_With_Wiener_Dogs

Beautiful. Your profile says that you won't leave Alaska in the summer. That's how my wife and I feel about the Pacific NW. I enjoyed the photos and text.

 

Cheers,

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BarryBeemer

Beautifully done, David! Isn't Hope where they publish a sort of mailorder bride magazine, trying to lure Lower 48 females to come up and marry mountainmen?

 

You know what they say.....ALASKA! Where men are men, and so are the women!!! grin.gif

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rhadd1

Thanks for reminding me of the beauty up there. I have been along that road a couple of times, once for work in Soldatna and once just visiting. I have used the scope on the turnout above Turnagain Arm to look for mountain goats above me., as well as for whales in the Arm. time to start planning a returm trip.

Anchorage from Flat Top

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dhb

Barry,

That's not all they say about Alaskans. I've heard it said that women complain that in female deficient Alaska, the odds are good, but the goods are odd. I don't know exactly what they're talking about, but it doesn't sound like a compliment. You're right about the miner from Hope who advertised for a wife--he attracted someone up who was interested but didn't last long. Come to think of it, maybe it was HER who started that saying...

Bob,

Today Sherry and I ran down the arm to Girdwood and there were at least 30 belugas frolicking right along the shore--traffic jammed and the shoreline packed with gawkers. The Alaska Railroad train to Whittier was just stopped, idling along the tracks so people in the train could watch. The tourists in the cars had jammed against the water side windows so that the cars were at quite a lean angle. Just a few miles away the Dall sheep were just above the road on full display. Wow, sensory overload and me without a camera. Next time..

Best wishes,

Dave

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