Realizing A Dream On The Lost Coast - Part Two

Editor's Note: We continue with Part Two in this series. To read Part One, click here.​

Crux No. 2:  Controller Bay

Upon reaching the coast, I reveled in the ability to pedal once again. My dream of riding a fatbike along a coast was now a reality. It was exhilarating to be leaving my tracks in the sand. And oh how easy it was to ride. Our weather was holding with the deep fog lifting ever so slightly to reveal the high peaks which make up the rugged coast of southeast Alaska. Out ahead of us was a wild land of endless adventure. In 2008, Eric Parsons and Dylan Kentch pioneered the route we were currently following. They had traversed the 290 miles in reverse, beginning in the small town of Yakutat and ending 20 days later at our starting point in Cordova. They were subjected to torturous weather and a brutal landscape of impenetrable thickets of vegetation, rocky headlands, endless miles of ever changing sand, precarious crossings of glacial rivers, and tumultuous open bays. We were aiming to duplicate their journey in a mere 11 days. 

Beach riding at its finest...

It was exhilarating to finally be leaving my tracks in beach sand...

Awaking warm and dry on day three in a Forest Service hut, we packed quickly and were on our way by 6:30 a.m. Seeking the advantage provided by a low tide, we made our way uneventfully around Cape Martin. Bouncing our bikes through the slick kelp covered boulders of the cape we made good time. Our sand continued to be supportable allowing us to cover ground quickly. Additionally, our weather was still hospitable with the precipitation-free gray skies.

Though we had no firewood, cooking on our small stoves helped heat the little forest service cabin...

One of the many creatures that call the coastal waters home...

The success of our route depended upon our ability to negotiate bays that were five to eight miles across. These crossings were formidable, especially in small packrafts loaded with fatbikes strapped to their bows. Our exposure to a disaster taking place on the trip was perhaps the greatest during these challenges. If we encountered high winds or large swells, it would take every bit of our skill and experience to survive such a situation. Hoping to somewhat mitigate the risk of a sudden cold water immersion, we each brought light-weight drysuits and homemade blow-up PFDs. None of us wanted to test these pieces of gear, but we hoped they would buy us some time in case of an emergency. 

It wasn’t all beach riding...

Some of our hike-a-bike sections were burly...

Our first big crossing was Controller Bay. Eric and Dylan had found it to be a rowdy endeavor. We came upon the mouth of the bay at low tide. The horizon was dotted with sandbars separating channels of deep water. As I contemplated what lied ahead, I watched Roman, Mike, and Doom inflate their packrafts and plop their bikes across the bows of their rafts. In the blink of an eye, they were paddling across the short stretches of water with their unsecured bikes balanced precariously. A slight shift of weight from an unexpected gust of wind or body movement could result in a sudden capsize with both person and bike floating in the sea water. Following suit, I tried my hand at this “disaster” style technique as was coined by my fellow crew members. 

Trying my hand at the “disaster” style technique... —Photo courtesy of Steve “Doom” Fassbinder

Having strapped his pack to the bow of his raft, once on the other side of a channel Roman would put his pack on with his packraft sticking straight up in the air and remount his bike to ride to the next crossing. Adapting to his style, we quickly made our way into Controller Bay, paddling from one sand bar to the next. After several disaster style crossings, we came to a channel that was too expansive to safely cross without a little bit more security. Removing the front wheels of our bikes to allow for more extension in our paddle strokes, we strapped the bikes to the rafts and commenced the half-mile paddle to what was indicated on our map as Kanak Island. We were nearly half way across Controller Bay, and the going had been easy thus far.

Roman demonstrates his unique style of riding with a packraft...

Once landing on the island, we stood up from our low perches in the rafts to look at the bay beyond. To our surprise, the bay was a vast plain of sand flats dotted with pools of water. Our tide was still out, but coming in quickly. Deflating and stowing our rafts, we began the race against the clock to pedal the final miles to the mainland before the rising waters caught us in the middle of the bay. Absorbed in our thoughts of what would happen if the tide caught us short of the coast, we cranked on our pedals with a tenacity brought on by purpose. As I stared across the glimmering pools of water and sand to the thin veil of green on the horizon, I willed the bike forward hoping the far off landmark would quickly grow in size. 

With the tide out, Controller Bay was a vast plain of wet sand...

After what seemed like an eternity, I pedaled to the edge of a deep channel of water which was the final obstacle separating us from reaching the high ground of the mainland. We would have to inflate our rafts to overcome this final challenge. Laying my bike on its side, I quickly removed my packraft from its place on my Salsa Anything Cradle and began inflating it. Within 30 seconds, my bike, which had been dry, was now beginning to float from the incoming waters. With a renewed sense of urgency, I captured and squeezed air into my raft. Looking behind me, I saw the others stopping to inflate their rafts as well. Roman was just a silhouette on the horizon, still pedaling. He was going to have a bit of a paddle. With my raft mostly inflated, I recovered my bike and balanced it across the raft for my final disaster style crossing of the day. Wahoo! Controller Bay was crossed. The reward for our efforts was a stunning coastline of vibrant lupine, fireweed, and raspberries. The smell of the flowers was as intoxicating as the myriad of colors dancing across the horizon. What a day!

JB prepping for the final crossing to the mainland. Notice his tracks being overtaken by the rising waters...

An unbelievably beautiful reward for our pedal across the bay...

Lupine...

Fireweed...

JB getting lost in the beauty...

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TO BE CONTINUED...

Click here to read Part One...

This post filed under topics: Beargrease Bikepacking Blackborow Brett Davis Explore Fatbike Mukluk Sponsored Riders

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.

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