Finding our way along Campbell Creek

Finding our way along Campbell Creek

The weather finally let up so that Daniel and I could have a good outing.  After exhausting his appetite for mountains, I decided a good trek would be biking along the Campbell Creek route.  Except, this time, I wanted to take the route all the way to the University, where we could hook up with the Chester Creek system, take that to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and then back down to home.  Yes, it was quite an ambitious route.  But my preconception of how ambitious it was fell far short of reality.

The beginning part of the route is an area I have grown to become quite familiar with in the last couple of years.  After a short jaunt down 88th Avenue, we intersected with the Campbell Creek trail system and headed toward Taku Lake.  From there, we followed the trail, with a slight diversion because it was unclear which path would take us on our intended course, until the Seward Highway.  At that point, with Campbell Creek flowing right next to us, the trail disintegrates into a jumble of rocks and mud leading under the very low hanging highway.  At this point, you have to get off your bike, duck and walk under the bridge.  As Daniel and I were doing this, a group of college students went by – three in a canoe and one in a kayak, wearing a Captain’s hat and a blue blazer over his topless body.  Now there’s a moment when I really wish I had my camera at the ready.

Once we finished our scramble under the highway, we found ourselves back in touch with the Campbell Creek trail system.  It was a treat to explore this area, which runs south of and parallel to Tudor Road.  It was a completely new area, marked with complex metal framed bridges and viewing platforms over the creek.  Although I did not see it on the ride, we passed right near the point where the North and South Fork of Campbell Creek joined to form the main stem of the creek.  Someday, I will go back to this area specifically to find and photograph that convergence.  After a couple of wrong turns, we found ourselves at Elmore Road, leading to the bridge that crosses over Tudor Road and leads to University Lake.  It is the same bridge that dog mushers use during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod as they mush on their way from downtown to the Campbell Science Center to load up their dogs for the trip up to Willow and the official start the next day.

Since I have photographed Iditarod mushers along this stretch of trail before, I knew that the trail winded around the east side of University Lake.  What I did not know, was that this trail on the east side did not readily connect with the trail that would lead me back into the heart of the University and connect us with the Chester Creek trail system, which is what we planned to take down to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  What I also did not know was that this part of the trail was also the notoriously obnoxious dog park I had read about in the paper, where Alaska Pacific University was complaining about unleashed dogs encroaching on its property.  Despite the several signs on the trail forbidding free range dogs, I had to break on numerous occasions for unleashed, unmanaged, free-running dogs whose owners paid no attention to the havoc that their dogs were wreaking upon other trail users.  We passed around the north side of the lake and headed west, looking to connect with the trail and leave the dog frenzy behind.  With one problem solved, another one emerged.

Earlier in the ride, I received a call from Joe Connolly, wondering if I would like to fly up to Denali and do some aerial photography in the Ruth Glacier gorge.  Sure, I said, so long as Daniel could come with.  No problem.  So, I called Michelle and arranged for her to meet us at the Goose Lake parking lot, on the north side of UAA campus near Northern Lights Boulevard.  Little did I know, however, that when we took the trail on the northwest side of University Lake and headed north that we were working our way into a dizzying maze of unmarked mountain bike trails.  At every turn, I took the trail that seemed to be heading in the direction we needed to go, to the northwest.  At one point, we encountered a cow and her two spring calves, forcing us to hang back until they got away from the trail.  There are few worse things to encounter on a bike trail in this town than a cow and her spring calves or calf.

Another phone call, this time from Michelle.  She was at Goose Lake and wondering where we were.  So did I, I told her, mentioning that we were essentially lost in a maze of trails.  After a little while, we found some familiar territory on the edge of the APU campus.  I called Michelle and we arranged to meet over at the UAA Arts building.  But, yet again, we were stalled by a moose, this time a solo cow right on the bike trail.  As we were waiting to clear the moose, Michelle drove by and pulled off to a parking lot so we could load up, head home and shower to get ready for our flight with Joe.  As much as I like adventure, sometimes I just want an uneventful bike ride.  But in Anchorage, so many times a bike ride is more than just a bike ride.

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