Switchbacks sans Shuttle
For many months I have wanted to do a human powered loop out East End Road, returning via the beach. Last Sunday everything aligned and off I went. It was yet another gloriously sunny and warm day with a well-timed low tide so I slathered on the sunscreen, filled my Camelback, packed food & a Steripen, added pressure to the tires and headed out.
The first 20 something miles are on pavement, so I inflated the tires way more than normal, to about 18 pounds. I used the bike path heading east, just because - normally I stick to the road but I was feeling like a casual start. It strikes me as weird every time that the bike path dumps you back onto the road right at a blind hill with no shoulder, but there you go.
The first 11 miles were pretty uneventful and then I spotted a dog running up a driveway towards me. Wait. That's not a dog. It's a billy goat. With pointy horns. Awesome. Road Goat turned out to be friendly, perhaps too friendly; once I had said "hi" he decided he would accompany me on the ride. The Goat Mile was the slowest mile of the day. I back tracked a couple of times to try and get him to stay home. I told him "go home". I looked for something to tie him up. I went up and down a few driveways to see if a neighbor was around that could care for him. In the end he followed me to Trails End Horse Rides where I convinced Mark Marette to take him on.
After that I just had a couple miles more of climbing before a long fun down hill to the switchbacks.
The last couple miles before the switchbacks are pretty steep, with corduroy and loose gravel; there's considerable use of brakes to stay in control.
At the top of the switchbacks I stopped to let out some tire pressure. My arm brushed against the brake rotor as I turned the valve, and I got an immediate burn. Ouch.
Next was the always fun switchback descent. Not for the faint of heart, the corners are so steep that cars and trucks have to make 3 point turns to get around them.
One of my favorite features of this beach ride is the wide variety of beach material. The beach at the base of the switchbacks is predominantly red brick like sandstone with some coal shards and a generous sprinkling of Bud Light cans. After a mile or so the party aftermath subsides and it's just beautiful views of the head of the Bay mountains and glaciers, cool bluffs with ever changing erosion features and a couple of stream crossings. On Sunday evening there was a pretty decent head wind all the way to Cottonwood Canyon which I had decided on for a dinner break.
Cottonwood Canyon is an excellent place for a rest or an overnight stay. This visit I noticed a newly added picnic table; shout out to the efforts of the Kachemak Bay Water Trail folks.
With a full belly and less head wind I set off west on mostly sandy beach that varied between firm and somewhat sinky. This stretch of beach has become increasingly covered in mussel shells in the past year.
Derek connected with me a little before Fritz Creek and we rode together back to Second Star, pausing for a cold beer* before crossing Fritz Creek
*This service not included in all trips!
I scrambled up the public access at Kachemak Drive, dragging my bike with me, while Derek continued on along the beach to the Airport Access Road. My trip ended with a mellow 3 miles on pavement back to our house.
This route is 39+ miles. It is a strenuous workout at times, and is technically easy to moderately easy, with the switchbacks verging on white knuckle steepness.