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June 26, 2020: Saturday, All Day

The Willow Trading Post is no more. Instead, in its place is Three Bears, an Alaskan-based convenience store/grocery store. Here, they also have a campground, left over, I’m sure from the Willow Trading Post days. I was most appreciative. Just couldn’t get my ass motivated to find a less established campsite.

I began my bicycle riding day by talking with the Three Bears clerk about the corporatization of the organization – she seemed to be a very gung ho employee. Apparently, there are now 17 stores state-wide, including the one here. I didn’t say what I was thinking, which is that this company isn’t exempting itself from corporate greed – the prices on most things is far too high.

Could ya wouldya shack

We then did the bicycle touring values exchange. We talked about bicycle paths – she was in favor of one being constructed between Trapper Creek (where we were) and Willow, 40 miles distant. I explained to her that such paths are not safe – cars routinely pull into and out driveways – and that they are impractical for long-distance cyclists because they’re so slow. She contended that they’re safer for cyclists, particularly for individuals from overseas, who don’t know the rules of the road. She did make a good point about road chipseal being hard on car windshields. Yes, this and flying objects are of great concern to long distance bicyclists also.

It was a good day weather-wise – started out brisk – I set out with my lightweight fleece on, then later removed it and put on my sunglasses. I walked just once. I now have enough strength to hop on my bike at the base of hills and push off while in low gear. Was problematic at the start of this trip.

Had a wonderful downhill ride most of the way. Stopped to remove a swallowtail butterfly from the road shoulder and set it on the brush. I hope it makes it. Ate lunch at a roadside espresso stand, at a table with an umbrella canopy, watched the traffic turn onto the 14-mile Talkeentna turnoff road. Had considered taking it, but there was too much traffic to contend with. Felt sleepy, took photos of the giant bear sculpture that was on the side of the Parks Highway. A local brownie troop raised money to have it made and displayed.

Twenty miles further and I pulled into a roadside pull off area, and there met Denise and Brandon, both from Anchorage and out checking the area. Denise turned out to be a real trail angel. We talked at length about what I was doing, and she gave me a thermos cup of black tea. I’m not a big caffeine drinker, but this gave me just the boast I needed on the last five mile stretch. I felt like I really connected with her – her thoughts about travel and what I was doing were very insightful. I gave her a postcard, one with Hrimmi and me on it, and told her to keep in touch. Usually travelers, in passing, say they will maintain contact, but this seldom happens.

I had planned to camp at the Willow Community Center – I figured it was safer than the fishing area campsites – just didn’t want to deal with drunk fishermen – it was six miles away from the turnoff and I thought perhaps ten miles from the Hatcher Pass turnoff road.

Boy was I surprised. The Hatcher Pass turnoff road was just six miles distant. I couldn’t believe it. I kept looking at the very familiar espresso stand because I thought that I’d made a mistake. But no, two motorcyclists, a man and woman said that yes, I’d arrived at the turnoff road.

I was two days early. I figured that I might go aways, find a place to camp, and ride over the pass. It was a slight uphill grade on a well paved road lacking a shoulder. There was hardly any traffic. I couldn’t find a suitable place to camp, so I kept going. I finally inquired at a private residence, one that took people out river kayaking on the nearby Willow Creek. A fellow said that I could camp on his friend’s land, which was a mile distant. Turned out to be a really nice place. I didn’t go as far as he suggested but rather camped in front of his friend’s deserted cabin. And lo and behold, there was a picnic table right there, in the bushy front lawn, and a beautiful outhouse on the side of the driveway.

Next: 178. 6/27/20: Home is Where the Heart Is

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