When you scare up two frogs and a duck on a mountain bike ride, you know it’s a good ride!
At least, that’s the opinion of Swamp Thing (aka Eric).
Five other riders joined him on this loop ride that stays inside the Parks and Old Nenana highways and barely touches pavement. Actually, one of our semi-regs, Not-a-Wimp (aka Ken), showed up on his road bike. He had hurt his back earlier and decided a romp through the swamp might not be the wisest decision. But he did ride with us up Parks Ridge Road, a nicely appointed gravel road that starts this ride. Not-a-Wimp and Swamp Thing outpaced most of the rest on the long climb, each claiming the other was setting the blistering pace. Young Travis (only one ride so he doesn’t get a nickname) caught up on his fatbike and chatted amiably with the oldsters, draining them of needed oxygen.
At the top of Parks Ridge Road we discovered our trail had been turned into a driveway. The house is still under construction, so we were able to proceed. And fortunately, Young Travis (is that a nickname?) knows the builder, so he said he would find out if the owners would let us continue using the trail.
As we entered trail, Not-a-Wimp turned back for a loop road ride that was about 10 miles longer than our ride, but took him 30 minutes less time. (We tried to convince him to come along on the trail ride, but he declined. Sad.)
Shortly after starting on our trail, we discovered another part of the trail appears to be turning into a subdivision road with lots being cleared for houses. Ah well. The rest of the ride was nice and traily!
We paralleled the Parks on the trail, riding over numerous small-diameter trees laying across the trail. Well, SAD (Slow Ass Dave) didn’t make it over one of the trees, but he blamed it on Young Travis (guess it’s a nickname).
We made it to the gravel pit where Swamp Thing relayed his story of the 40-Year-Alaska-Who-Drove-Through-Glennallen-Thinking-He-Was-On-The-Parks-Highway. It was here that only a year before, when Swamp Thing was out of town, that SAD led the ride in a circle, unable to find the correct trail. Fortunately, this is one rare place where Swamp Thing actually knows his way and we were able to continue on the trail.
We made it to the Intertie power line in good time and continued on to where the Intertie turns toward the east. We stopped briefly, looking at the long straight power line, the route we planned to take. From high up it looked so…dry.
A long descent brought us to Creek Crossing #1. Swamp Thing was a bit disappointed. With the wet summer we’ve been having he thought the swamp would be swampier. Alas, we suffer only wet feet. No waist-deep wading was required. But Swamp Thing was buoyed by the enthusiasm of Gung Ho (aka Dan), who tried to ride everything that appeared unrideable. (And actually successfully rode a couple of sections. But just a couple.)
From there it was ride-slog-ride-slog-ride-slog. We crossed three creeks and followed a reroute around one of the particularly nasty slogs (further disappointing Swamp Thing).
Along the way, Chain Gang (aka Carl) busted a chain. Not his first time. He’s getting good at it. Fortunately, he had a master link, purchased after the last time, when he had to borrow one from Swamp Thing. Also, Bushwhacker (aka Evan) took the road less traveled across one of the creeks. He claims the route was drier, though we did lose sight of him in the bushes. And SAD almost led the group farther into swamp but decided he’d rather that the group hated Swamp Thing for that kind of leadership and turned around.
Eventually, we made it back to some semblance of civilization (it was Ester, after all) before Swamp Thing led us past a power substation and into another swamp. That one was short-lived, especially after Young Travis followed a dryish trail around and everyone — including Swamp Thing — followed him.
One more brief encounter with swamp led us to a trail that once again paralleled the Parks Highway. We crossed – high and dry – over Alder Creek, dove back into the woods, and popped out onto Parks Ridge Road, from where it was a short jaunt over to the cars.
Just as we arrived, semi-reg No Nonsense (aka Nikki) showed up to say hi. Her hubby was out of town and she had kid (aka dog) duty. She was claimed to be disappointed that she missed the ride and was impressed with the grass and muck that had collected in Swamp Thing’s rear derailleur.
During snacks we learned that the ride was the last of the season for Gung Ho, who was starting a night class the next week. Bushwhacker, a regular from last season who only made this ride this season, said he hoped to make one more ride this season, if work allowed. Work! Who needs it?
Report and photos by Eric.
Next ride is the Nugget Creek Loop Lashing. (You may want your headlight on this ride.) Check the ride schedule here: https://www.fairbankscycleclub.org/rides/tuesday-night-mountain-bike-rides/