Embrace the Rain: A Bike Overnight in Alaska
A short ride on a wet weekend to camp out in style near Juneau, AK.
Bicycle Adventurers: Stephanie, John, and Jan
When: May, 2016
Accommodations: Fish Creek Park near Juneau, AK, a local park where camping is allowed.
Distance: Over the two rainy days, John and Stephanie rode 14 miles total and Jan rode 17 miles.
Bonus tip for this adventure: Just go.
It was National Bike Travel Weekend and we wanted to participate! But in Juneau, AK where we live, the weather forecast was not looking so good. So we chose the closest place to home for our camping destination. We postponed until Sunday in hopes that the prediction for slightly better weather would hold, but no. We had 100% chance of rain. “Heavy at times ...” said the forecast.
Luckily, it was not actually raining when Jan arrived at about 4:00 pm by bike from her downtown home. We set off to ride seven miles down the North Douglas Highway — the gently rolling, almost-flat, wide-shouldered road where we live. And our friend Mark rode out to the park with us, just for the ride, even though he had declined to stay overnight! We were only one mile from our destination, Fish Creek Park, when the rain started.
There is a nice big campsite at the park, a popular place for walkers and fishermen. Since we’d never actually seen anyone camped there, we were expecting that on a rainy Sunday night we’d have the place to ourselves. However, when we arrived there was a tent pitched at the site, with no one around. They’d taken our spot!
Instead, we found an area in the woods across the road with some flat spots big enough for tents, and a covered-up place that had once been used for a campfire. Soon, we had, as one passing fisherman described it, a whole city set up! Two tents, a big tarp to sit under, a smaller tarp for our “bike garage,” and a roaring fire. John had driven out earlier to stash a big garbage bag of dry firewood at the park, since we knew everything there would be very wet and soggy.
We had cocktail hour. We grilled fat, fresh king salmon steaks on the coals, and had a fine evening feasting, talking, and relaxing! We made s’mores.
We wondered when the campers in the other tent were going to show up ... until about 9:00 pm when we noticed that a gust of wind had blown their tent upside down. We decided it was time to investigate! The tent had been pitched on a makeshift pallet platform to keep it off the soggy ground, and there, laying on the corner, was a piece of cardboard marked with the big word, “FREE.” So ... we had the campsite all to ourselves after all! We packed up the tent so it wouldn’t blow away and left it with the sign in a more visible location.
About the time it started to get dark, about 10:30, it also started to rain HEAVILY! We crawled into our nice dry tents and listened to it.
It wasn’t raining in the morning, but looked like it might. We had coffee and French toast with fresh strawberries, and slowly went about striking camp. It was pretty amazing that the whole “city” could fit back onto our bikes, but we managed to get it all into two sets of panniers, one rear rack, and one Bike Friday suitcase trailer. We called it the “footlocker”.
It started to rain as soon as we got on our bikes, and it stopped as soon as we reached our house!
Your favorite local bike shop? Cycle Alaska, Juneau, AK
Bike overnight tips and tricks?
- Our favorite gear? Hmm ... was it the ax? The saw? The folding chair? Maybe the umbrella or the Xtra Tuff rubber boots. The grill? The giant salad bowl? Oh, the bottle of wine.
- The tarps, homemade from silnylon, were essential.
- We learned that if you’re only going overnight and only seven miles it's pretty easy to just bring everything — things you never dreamed of taking on a bike tour.
- Most people in Juneau don’t like to camp in the rain, believe it or not. But our friend Jan was tough! It was her first self-contained bike overnight. Maybe we’ll get more participation next year.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!