Saturday, August 15, 2015

Talkeetna to Tok

Pretty bedraggled on the Denali highway.

Everyone tours differently. On my last adventure I was in the midst of soul-searching and exploring the earth and myself in new ways. With a tarp and some guts I pedaled my way to new depths of mental strength, humbly finding my limits and then making new limits. The depths keep going. I will never forget riding the Denver pass at 4am. The last four miles I thought would never end. But they did. Still those miles are stuck in time and somewhere I am still exhausted, delirious, and elated at the stars at the top.

I had forgotten what it is like. The emotion, the endless miles, the solitude, the input and output of calories and muscle. The people you meet. The remote beauty of your own soul dissolving into the beauty of the mountains and rivers and birds and plants as you pedal.

Today is a rest day. Re-fuel, re-pack, re-evaluate and shower. Talk to people whom I love.

The first 5 days of solo biking were everything I expected - challenging, beautiful and enlightening. They also caught me off guard. I've met people whom I never imagined existed. I've surely fallen in love with Alaska. Native people, subsistence hunters, trophy hunters, blueberry pickers, builders of the pipeline. Strong women who split wood and are warm and comforting. Tourists of all varieties.

It's pretty normal here to not have running water or electricity. It's awesome.

(Minor repair)

(Watermelon berries)

The wilderness, punctuated by the great Alaskan oil pipeline. A reminder that all that is beautiful and sacred is still subject to our consumptive lives. Since its inception over a quarter of a million barrels of oil have spilled or leaked out of the pipeline. I spoke with one man who was in Prudhoe Bay when they began building it in the 1970s. He told me that he watched them destroy a lot of pristine arctic land to do it and that he had shot bullet holes into it until he realized that nothing he could do would stop them. Oil to fuel the princess cruise ships and busses that carry the tourists to Denali National Park to see the mountain and the bears. Oil to package the food I eat every day. Oil.

The Denali highway is amazing. If you get the chance, go blueberry picking there. 110 miles of dirt road and some of the hardest distance riding I have done to date. Washboard, potholes, dust, big hills and big trucks. Also one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Five solo days and I'm right on target with where I wanted to be. 460 miles or so from Talkeetna. We shall see what the next few weeks bring. My riding buddy bailed on me so I have had to re-think my plan, route, strategy and timeline. It's kind of nice to have the freedom to go as far as I want, stop when I want and enjoy the ride! I'm going to try not to get too crazy about putting down miles. I'm going to try not to be the most bad-ass and to just be human for a while. I'll try.

**I've been having technical difficulties blogging from my phone-the app I was using is terrible and I have lost entire posts and only been able to post half-blogs at other times.

Location:W Willow Way,Tok,United States

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The waiting game

Today is the day.  Tomorrow I embark on a solo journey up to and across the Denali highway.  It's a day and a half ride to the highway and then 135 miles of remote gravel road followed by another 80 miles of wilderness to the Alaskan highway.  Then another 190 to the Canadian border and into the Yukon!
It has been raining and I am dressed almost entirely in cast-off clothing from the Talkeetna roadhouse where I washed my soaking wet clothes and took a really lovely shower for $10.  It's expensive here.  But I needed a hat and got one for free out of the lost and un-found bin which is great because the cheapest hat in town is $35.  So overall a win.  
Yesterday I paddled a green canoe to this cabin on long lake.  
Trespass cabin, made for the use of kind trespassers and lovers of cabins in the wild.  I spent the night here and paddled back to Melissa and Spencer's dry cabin early this morning.  In the rain with the cool voices of loons in lieu of a playlist.   
When the skies are clear you can see great mountains behind the lake.  
I rode into town with Melissa and Spenser and then headed 3 miles up the road to the library to look at maps.   The library was closed of course so I rode back to town- soaking wet and muddy- and holed up at the beautiful coffee shop where I wrote notes for my trip

I'm certain I won't have cell service - at least not at all in Canada so I took snapshots of maps and wrote a rough mileage plan indicating resources along the way.  

I chatted with a lovely fellow named Tim at the coffee shop. He is a seasonal worker, plans to study intentional communities and practices yoga so we got along well and talked about Alaska of course.  

Talkeetna is a great town - I love the locals.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

It begins.

It's already going to be hard to leave.  The first leg of riding was from anchorage to Talkeetna.  The riding is relatively flat here and the roads are better than anywhere else I've been.   But I'm also only in Talkeetna.   A little town full of sea planes and tourists and a staging area for Denali.  
Just south of Wasilla.  The Chugach range behind us.  I felt like I was on a private 'backroads' tour with these two cats (and best riding companions), in their jerseys,  telling me about the mountains, history and geography of this beautiful place.  
Willow Creek.   The salmon are running here and we waded into the river to watch them swimming about our feet. Amateur fisher men and women were lining the banks and eating well.  They are incredible creatures   The fish and fisherwomen.   
Chum salmon in Sheep Creek. There were some sockeye in here also. Huge, red and beautiful.  They are spawning and many of them were already dying.
Day 2 of riding was an easy 40.  A few flat tires and a three hour stop at the Denali brewing company for some Killer Belgian strong ale, bluegrass and card games. 

To the right of the picture you can see the vague outline of a 14k and 17k mountain.  This is the Alaska range and the convergence of the Talkeetna, Susitna and Chulitna rivers. The current is wild and dangerous.
 Amidst the clouds you might be able to make out Denali, the highest peak in North America and the third highest in the world at over 20k feet.  It's impressive. And hard to photograph from here today.  

So far I have been surrounded by friends and this morning one of the best took me on a 3 hour zip line tour!   I think I will hang here for another day or two and then I am on to the next - I need to decide between Fairbanks or the Denali Highway, a 130 some mile remote gravel road.  I'm leaning towards the Denali Highway. 

Solitude and hard pedaling either way.  But for today- napping, Melissa and finishing my book. 


Fish lake 

Paper birch syrup 

Potions for sale.  Not kidding.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I cried twice this week.  Once during my exit interview at work and flying into Anchorage. Glaciers and coastline and vast mudflats with shining channels of water that are the axons and dendrites of the Pacific. 
This place is incredible.  

A trip to REI, some bear spray and a few last items.  Dinner with a friend and today I hit the road.   I have the most wonderful 'warm showers' hosts who have ridden their bikes all over Alaska and Canada and are full of great information, advice and amazing hospitality.

Alaska. I'm in it.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Goateats revised

   Goat-eats revisited (packing)

At the risk of embarrassing my current self by exposing the remnants of a somewhat shoddy blog of my past I am re-energizing my blogging life.  Welcome.  After all, as painful as the past can be to look back at, it is and will always be a part of time and space.  I can't change it (yet) so I'll take it and run. 

I am going to Alaska for a while.  I'm going to ride my bike and sit alongside a river and do some other things.  I'm not sure what happens after that.  But I am going to find out.
Walking out of my yoga studio today for possibly the last time and certainly the last time in a while left me feeling sort of the way you feel when someone amazing dies. Like -you miss them like nothing else and your heart feels compressed in your chest but the beauty of your time with them has been so great that there is a surpassing joy even in their passing.  A loss which, in the light of the impact, makes you cry with gratitude and feel that you are the most blessed person on the earth.  A strange grief.  Walking out of the studio where I've shed veritable rivers of sweat and tears. Where much transformation of my physiology, mind and spiritual self has occurred. Amazing people taught me many of the greatest lessons of my life behind the door through which I have just exited. Struggle, struggle, frustration and bliss. Openness. A clear voice. And lots of true friends who will be missed!  

 The only other photos I have today are of the food I am dehydrating in preparation for my time on the road.  I'm going crazy and will probably be dehydrating shit for the next week straight.   It will be well worth it when I am in Canada, days away from a grocery store and hungry from biking all day.  

Kind of weird, right?   A large bell jar of homemade sauerkraut, dehydrated - I would guess down to about 3oz.  It's awesome.  Inspired by my friend, 'Dada-G', who makes the most incredible pickled, dried and oil preserved zucchini. Dried pickles. Who knew!  It's genius. (Dada-G is also a master at sourdough bread and I am almost certain that he speaks the language of microbes). 

Black quinoa cooked in vegetable broth. I am going to seriously love myself for this when I am in the Yukon. 

And this concludes my rather disjointed post.  I am still learning to format this from an I-phone app.  It's not ideal. I'm sure things will get more interesting soon.  I fly out in 8 days.  

💕 Sharah

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter is setting in here in cold upstate NY.  I now live in the City of One Hundred Thousand Crows and I am far away from my favorite running trails and mushroom hunting grounds.   I am, however, quite a bit closer to the Adirondack foothills where I grew up which is a good change.  A short drive and I can walk all day seeing no one and finding all kinds of interesting things including hillsides carpeted with Savoyane and huge patches of Wintergreen, Duck Potatoes, Trout, Princess Pine and Sugar Maples all in abundance where they are scarce elsewhere.   And I still know where to find the best Sassafras patches around.

Here are some photos from earlier in the year that I have not gotten around to blogging about until now:

"Old Man of the Woods"   
This mushroom is edible, safe and easily recognized.   Most people who eat it, however, relate that it has a terrible taste.  Who would want to eat a mushroom called "Old Man of the Woods" anyway?   No, thanks.

Painted Boletes are also marginally known as edible mushrooms although not choice edibles

These Giant Puffballs would have been choice eating if I had found them a week earlier - as it was they were beginning to turn yellow inside which is best to avoid.  The Cinnabar Chants and Chanterelles in the foreground were delicious.

Edible Lobster Mushrooms are actually species of Lactarious mushrooms which have been infested with a mold which turns them from edible but unpalatable into choice mushrooms.   The same mold can attack other fungi as well so identification verification is important before consuming.  The ones I found were past their prime but smelled distinctly of seafood.   Very cool...  and only slightly nauseating.  Supposedly they are delicious.

This Gem Studded Puffball is also edible, and the slug actually looked quite nice sitting on top of it.   A complete meal?  Nice textural interest anyway.

 Orange Peel Fungi are also on the margins of edible - not choice but not poisonous.  I would rather look at them myself. 

I don't know what this guy is - possibly a Aminita Caesarea but I wouldn't bet my life on it

 Yellow Tube Fungus is yet another "edible" that I would rather look at.   Maybe someday when I have eaten every choice mushroom I can find I will test out some of these strange foods... maybe.

Besides being a good edible, this Bear's Head Toothed Mushroom (I am 95% sure this is it - I didn't eat it) is known to contain a Nerve Growth Factor, which potentially can combat Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.  It is also thought to be beneficial in combating Cancer and Tumors.  

A few photos of mushrooms shedding their spores... I don't know what sort of mushrooms these are but they are still nice to look at and the spore prints are very cool.

 Grasshopper - a good source of calories and good for a picture.  I think I will start eating these guys about when I get around to eating Orange Jelly Slime Fungus.   Yuck.  

This very cool Yellow Garden Spider has built a "Stabilimentum" into her web.   No one really knows why some spiders put these designs in their webs.  This one is a linear decoration and for whatever purpose, whether camouflage, to attract insects or simply as a form of spider art, it is very beautiful and interesting.