Pat & Kathy's 160 mile bicycle beach ride from near Hope to Homer
written by Kathy Sarns Irwin ~ photos by Kathy and Pat Irwin
Chapter 5, Oil Platforms and the Twilight Zone
Thursday morning we got up at 4:30 am. Which is unheard of for me the ultimate non morning person. But inspired by respect and a little fear for incoming tides we wanted to get as early a start as possible. By the time we ate and put our gear together we were on the road about 6 am and had a flat tire on Rays bike. Pat fixed it next to a big pile of bear scat and we continued the 2 or 3 miles down the road to get over the Swanson River by bridge. Not a lot of traffic out there and it appeared that bears used this paved road too. We turned down Bishops creek trail. A deserted damp and dark trail in the woods posted with bear warning signs, we yelled as we cruised down the trail to the beach.
Sunrise illuminated the beach with pinks and yellows. After crossing Bishops Creek by foot we cruised down the beach along the outgoing surf. No more 4 wheeler tracks or truck tracks here. We have the beach to ourselves except for the shore birds, eagles, and ravens. We are going maybe 7-8 miles an hour on the harder pack sand below tide line.
After about 6 miles oil platforms appear on our right in the ocean. A weird contrast to the snow capped mountains, and volcanoes. All we could hear was the vibrating roar of many engines like 100 airboats off in the distance. It was so irritating and constant that we agree we would not be able to camp along this section across from the oil rigs. We wonder how the sea life gets along with all this noise. If I was a Beluga I would NOT swim through here. NO WONDER there is a decrease in Belugas and fish in upper in Cook Inlet! Its the kind of noise that vibrates in our bones when we stand still. Funny how they never talk about the noise pollution of oil drilling. We see absolutely no sea life anywhere along this area across from the oil platforms. And very few birds. It is the only section where we see litter, large pieces of machinery and strange metal parts that don't look like boat parts scattered along the beach. This 10 mile section across from the oil platforms is the only part of the 160 miles of beach where we saw garbage. The other 150 miles of beach was beautiful. We wonder out loud with all the money oil makes, why they couldn't give a little back by cleaning up this junk.
After the oil platforms we had some more nice beach with no thumping roaring machine noise, and no more trash. Just birds and waves and mountains. And hard pack sand below the tide line. Then we came to an impassible oil dock and had to leave the beach to go up to the road. It was hot, sunny and traffic was loud and thick, we wanted to get back to the beach. High security along the road with signs that say Don't Stop , Do Not Take Pictures. Darn and this was really pretty scenery here with smoke stacks, junk piles, and barbed wire fences. We couldn't find beach access anywhere.
We passed the fertilizer plant next. Still no obvious beach access and still high security. We made jokes about why the fertilizer plant worried about terrorists. No one waves or seems to notice us. We are invisible! We stop at a gas station and ask the lady outside that is filling propane tanks where there is a beach access and she gives us a blank stare; beach access? She can't think of any and has never thought of visiting the beach here. We are in the twilight zone. We seem to be the only ones that know about this secret beautiful beach.
We couldn't wait to get out of there. We followed a few more right hand turns and were stopped by drop offs of 200 foot cliffs or more and no way to get down. An old man came out of his house and told us that the bluff used to go way out there as he pointed his shaky finger out towards the ocean. It is eroding everyday and he has watched it for 30 years as his house gets closer to the edge. He was lonely and wanted to talk, as his happy wagging labrador licked our hands. He said the next beach access was in Kenai. We are almost in Kenai now. He didn't act surprised that we were biking the beach, he nodded and smiled and said that folks have been driving it for years. We waved good bye.
We rode about 5 or 6 miles on the hot road that day and it felt like 100. Pugs and Little Ray don't go too fast on pavement. Finally we found a steep access we could walk the bikes down using the brakes. Out of the twilight zone back to quiet reality. It was sunny and the beach is hard, we tried not to think about the 6 or more miles of it we missed. We headed towards Kenai river and for kicks went to see how far along up the river we could go. Not far. We hit slimy mud and some cannery workers taking a smoke break stared at us as we slipped and slid up the bank. We came back out to the road and crossed the Kenai river over the bridge.
We stopped at a laundromat for showers and washing cloths. Yes this is our vacation and a little luxury can't hurt. Next stop was a diner for fish and chips. On full stomachs we biked to Kalifornsky-Beach cannery area looking for a campground. Pleasantly surprised by the new Kenai Landing that has renovated some of the old canneries into gift shops, brew pub and Inn. Wow. Used to be old stinky canneries last time I was here in 1983. This place is pretty fancy. They gave us lots of free bottle water because the iron in the water here is bad. They offered us free showers. yippee. We perused the gift shops and had a beer at the pub. We found a camp spot in the RV lot. Before we go to bed Pat and I each take another hot shower and it feels really good on our sore muscles. Today we think we went about 30 miles.
Purple square is about where we camped the third night. Black squares are previous camps.
Kathy smiling after getting OFF the road and back to the Kenai beach