Day 16: Cantwell to Mary's McKinley View Lodge - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze

July 27, 2015

Day 16: Cantwell to Mary's McKinley View Lodge

Today will be a long day. I got up at 7 and had a huge breakfast at the cafe 1 mile away. Lately my favorite has been chicken fried steak smothered in white gravy, scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast with jelly.

After breakfast I went to the post office to mail the book I got from the bus tour, plus a bunch of receipts and brochures. They don't open until 10 AM, so I never mailed anything.

Today's route has no services, so I stopped at the Chevron station to buy a sandwich and a Ramen bowl to carry with me.

It rained for most of the night. 49F and raining when I departed Cantwell at 9:40 AM. Delayed mostly because of a long conversation with the cafe owners.

Chulitna river near Cantwell. I will follow this river downstream.
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The first 11 miles are mostly uphill in the forest. I went as slow as possible to avoid getting too sweaty. I hate getting clothes wet when it's this cold. But the headwind also made staying warm an issue. I wore my rain jacket with hood, rain pants, Hydroskin booties, rain gloves.

Alaska is remarkably trash-free.
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The Igloo hotel is a very strange sight. Built in the 1980's but never opened because the windows are slightly too small to meet building codes (for escaping from a fire). In about 2000 the owner abandoned the project because he realized that the high cost of generator fuel would make the off-grid hotel too expensive to operate.

The famous abandoned igloo. Planned to be a hotel, but the windows were slightly too small to get permission to open.
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The igloo is a wood structure with a urethane skin. I found this photo on the Internet.
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It rained nonstop for the first 50 miles. The wind blew the dirty road spray away from me. I took two rest stops in the rain. The first stop was in a Porta Potty at a turnout in a construction zone. The second stop was under the alcove of a toilet building at a highway rest area, where I heated water for Ramen noodles.

I couldn't see up very well, but I could see down into Hurricane Gulch.
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The rain clouds were so low that the mountains were almost completely obscured. I'm threading through giant mountains but can't see anything above me. I do occasionally see things below me.

Another gulch.
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Today's construction zones all had brand new unpainted asphalt. No gravel today.

The second half of today's route is in Denali State Park. Things look about the same in or out of the park. No houses, driveways, or billboards.

First Alaska Scenic Byway sign I saw.
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The road stays above 1900 feet elevation for 40 miles. The rain is noticeably heavier at higher elevation. Fortunately there is only one big 6-7% climb. Most of the hills are more gentle, allowing me to avoid getting sweaty.

At about 4 PM a black bear crossed the road 100 feet in front of me.

Scenery is pretty nice in Denali State Park.
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The rain finally ended below 1200 feet elevation when I exit the narrow mountainous canyon and enter a wide valley. The last 30 miles is gentle downstream along the river. Fast and easy, despite the gentle headwind. The temperature soared to 65F.

I stopped for a couple minutes to lube my chain. It was getting increasingly noisy today because of the persistent rain. Normally I am able to find a cloth on the side of the road to wipe the chain, but not in Alaska.

Chulitna river again.
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Today had a net descent of 1500 feet but it was still a long hard day. I finally arrived at Mary's McKinley View lodge at 7:03 PM. It's old by Alaska standards, built in the 1960's before the Parks Highway was completed. In fact Mary was one of the leading activists to persuade Alaska to build the Parks highway.

A welcome sight after 79 miles.
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My $105 room has one of the best Denali views in Alaska. But not today. The lower closer mountains still look pretty good. The restaurant closes at 8, so I had to hurry there for dinner. The lodge is in the middle of nowhere inside Denali State Park. No town, no gas station, nothing but the lodge.

View from my room at Mary's McKinley View Lodge.
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Later in the evening the clouds parted a bit, but no view of Denali.
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Today had a high of 65F but it was in the low 50's for most of the day. Cold and rainy.

Today was by far the rainiest riding day of the tour. Day 8 was just as rainy but it was a rest day.

Distance: 79.6 mi. (127.4 km)
Climbing: 2151 ft. (652 m)
Average Speed: 10.5 mph (16.8 km/h)

Today's ride: 80 miles (129 km)
Total: 738 miles (1,188 km)

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