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July 13, 2020: The Little Nilchina Campground and Recreation Area

I’m here and I’m dreadfully homesick. Being in this campsite area brings back memories because I’ve stayed here a few times before, with Pete and the horses. It’s the final pitstop before we head home.

This is an overgrown, unkempt camping area, excellent for bicyclists. There’s an outhouse in a thicket of trees. The Little Nilchina River, very accessible, is to the right of the camping area. The sites are semi-private. I haven’t done a review of the campground (a favorite activity), but I’d say that the one thing lacking are picnic tables. No matter, I can use my bear cannister as a table and sit on it while eating and reading. There are some mosquitoes, but it isn’t too bad. They’re simply hoovering.

Along the Glenn Highway

It was a tough day. I was sleepy because I didn’t sleep well last night, or the night before. It was also the toughest day in terms of the hills. Had I known that I was going to be in for it, I would have stopped sooner. But there were really no places to set up camp. Alone, I tend to be more picky and go farther than I would if I were with someone else.

My riding day began with a long, four mile uphill climb. This wasn’t so bad because it was early and I was still fresh. My legs felt good although the sore spot in my back started acting up a mile into it. I kept focusing on the fact that I had a clean, wide shoulder. From Mile 98 on I had views of the Matanuska Glacier. By car, I would only have a glimpse of it. I was travelling by bicycle, so I was able to stop and view it from differing angles and distances. Had Charlene come just a bit farther, she too would have been able to take in the view. But then again, neither of us may have been as appreciative as I was this morning because at the day’s end, we were so tired.

There was a nice downhill, then, too soon, I came to Caribou Creek and the most gnarly uphill thus far on the Glenn Highway. Oh my Dog – I stopped, ate an energy bar, and assessed the situation. There was a steep drop into the canyon, then a long, gradual uphill climb. I got on my bicycle and started down. I wasn’t able to get up any speed for three reasons. First of all, I began feeling vertigo – there was a narrow shoulder and I was riding next to a concrete wall drop off. And secondly, there were gratings, water drains, that seemed dangerous to me. And thirdly, there was a lot of debris on the shoulders. So I rode my brakes downhill.

I attempted to gain momentum at the base, but by then it was too late. I gave it my all, but only made it one third of the way up. I was distracted by a noisy semi. I got off and began walking. I didn’t mind walking and was actually glad there wasn’t much traffic because I don’t like to be seen pushing my bicycle uphill.

I next headed in the direction of Sheep Mountain, stopping at an interpretive sign picnic table in order to eat a pre-lunch. I then had enough energy on hand to ride up yet another hill. I stopped at the Sheep Mountain Lodge – the clerk gave me water and I purchased a huge raisin oatmeal cookie. He was very non-committal in response to my observation that The Caribou Crossing hill was a tough climb. Who knows? Maybe he saw me pushing my bicycle.

I ate lunch on nearby steps, and there came to two realizations. The first is that when I ask for anything, even route information, I should purchase something, and then attempt to keep the conversation going. The second was that rather than ask for water, I should ask where an outside hose or spigot might be. I found one to the left of the stairs and filled all my bottles and Camelback.

The afternoon was much the same in terms of the terrain. Had a lengthy climb up to Gunsight Mountain Lodge. There was also a stiff headwind. I began looking for places to camp along the tundra. Didn’t think I’d make it to Eureka Summit, which I could see, a notch way ahead, in the rolling hill. Third realization of the day. Stop at every pull off and take a break. I rewarded myself at each, by eating trail mix.

I would not have made it except for the fact that finally, I had hill climbing momentum. I simply shifted into my lower gears and spun. And so, I did not walk up any hills in the afternoon.

I saw, at the distance, the Eureka Hill Tesoro Station and felt – jubilant. This feeling was intensified when I was told by the restaurant owner that it was seven miles distant, to the Little Slide Mountain RV Park. I thanked her, and while eating the rest of my Sheep Creek cookie in the outdoor eating area, looked at my Milepost notes and observed that the Little Nilchina Recreation area was just a few miles beyond Slide Mountain.

It was a glorious ride downhill, with me singing at the top of my lungs. The downhill seemed hard earned after such a long day.

Next: 195. 7/15/20: Hardship Sells

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