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Life without fishing

Posted: July 11, 2013 - 4:07pm

This has been an interesting year. In most Junes of the most recent 30-some years, I’ve spent a lot of hours chasing king salmon and razor clams. Due to the scarcity of these species this season, I’ve neither fished nor clammed. Instead, I’ve done chores around the house, swatted mosquitoes and biked down No-Name Trail.

Maybe you’ve noticed No-Name Trail, the paved trail that parallels the Seward Highway. It was constructed a few years ago during a major highway upgrade. One end is at the Seward Highway trailhead for the Johnson Pass Trail; the other end is at the scenic outlook/rest stop where Canyon Creek enters Six Mile Creek, near the Hope Cutoff.

Driving past No-Name Trail on the way to or from Anchorage, I’ve often wondered if anyone ever used it. I never saw anyone walking on it or riding a bike on it. Then my friend Brian Bell — he’s always coming up with weird ideas — suggested that we load our wives and bikes into his pickup, drive up there and bike it.

About the trail’s name, I Googled the heck out of “bike trails,” but couldn’t find any mention of it. Unlike every other trail in Alaska, there’s no shot-up sign at either end, and no trailhead parking area littered with broken glass and beer cans. Brian calls it No-Name Trail, so that’s good enough for me.

At this point, I ought to warn those of you who might be considering riding No-Name that it’s not for just anyone. This wide, smoothly paved trail is strictly for mature, out-of-shape bicyclists who don’t like to pedal uphill. If you’re into riding on dirt trails or other extreme sports, don’t even think about taking on No-Name Trail.

Brian and I convinced our wives that the trail would be paved, downhill and free of mosquitoes, so they agreed to accompany us. Our plan was to take just one vehicle, leave it at one end and let Brian hitch a ride back to it when we reached the other end.

It was warm and sunny at the turn-off for the Granite Creek Campground, where we parked the pickup and drenched ourselves with DEET. We had been wrong about the mosquitoes.

For most of the seven-mile ride, we were beside the East Fork of Six Mile Creek. This area has a history of gold-mining activity, and we saw signs of it along the way. Six Mile Creek is also famous for its exciting Class IV and Class V white-water rafting, but neither crusty prospectors nor shrieking rafters were there to pose for photos. In fact, no one was there except us. It was like fishing the Kenai River and having the whole river to ourselves. We had the feeling that maybe we’d missed seeing a “Keep Out” sign, that maybe-we-shouldn’t-be-here feeling.

Having it to ourselves wasn’t the only good thing about No Name Trail. We Kenai Peninsula residents sometimes forget that the Seward Highway passes through some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery. In 2012, it made Life Magazine’s “The Most Scenic Drives in the World.” Not to get too gushy about it, but the rushing streams, the ragged mountains against the azure sky, the kelly-green alpine meadows contrasting with the dark spruces and the traces of snow on the mountains combined to paint a magnificent landscape, through which we rode like the wind.

On the subject of wind, not only was the trail smooth and almost entirely downhill, but the wind was behind us. We braked far more than we pedaled, although not enough that my fingers were ever tired. The breeze also kept the mosquitoes grounded.

Though we dawdled along the way, the ride ended too soon. Brian had no trouble hitching a ride back to where his pickup was parked. After a few minutes of trying to look pathetic while standing beside the highway with a sign, he was picked up by a talkative Brazilian in a rental car, and the rest is history.

That bike ride down No-Name Trail was the high point of my June. I recommend it for anyone who likes to ride a bike, but who has an aversion to pedaling, panting and sweating. It’s no substitute for fishing or clamming, but it beats having to whack weeds or paint a deck.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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