The Soggy Bottom

Last summer I heard about a 100 mile summer race, the Soggy Bottom, and followed it online. It looked like fun, so when the spring came I signed up. On a damp slightly morning, I lined up with about two dozen other bikers, and we were off.

The Soggy Bottom’s course is on the Resurrection Pass trail system (more details here, north and south). The route, in a nutshell, goes from Hope Alaska, over Resurrection Pass to Cooper Landing, then back to Hope with a side trip down and back on Devil’s Creek trail. It can be done solo, or as part of relay, with exchanges at Cooper Landing and Devil’s Creek. Apparently most people doing the race are from Anchorage, and have some sort of support crew in one form or another. The evening before the race, I talked a bit with the organizer, Carlos, who very kindly offered to take two drop bags to the exchanges for me, and I quickly filled two stuff sacks with snacks etc and handed them off.

The race started at a fairly mellow pace on several miles of road, with the fast guys and gals zooming off, and the rest of us tagging along at the rear.

Fortunately the section on the road was pretty short, and we were soon on the Resurrection Pass trail. The riding was fantastic single track in large trees and tall leafy green plants, including the ever popular Cow Parsnip.

At this point the riders had thinned out a fair bit, and I rode most of the way to cooper landing with two riders for Anchorage. Eventually I climbed up out of the green stuff and into the higher alpine terrain.

The trail continued to be pretty wonderful – fast and smooth riding single track.

Eventually I reached the top of the pass, and started heading down.

On one of the downhill sections I pinch flatted on a rock waterbar. Not a big deal, after a couple of minutes I was going again, but alas I had now used my only spare tube. While I was changing the flat three riders passed me. I caught up with two of them before Cooper Landing, the other guy stayed well ahead of me, and was to finish a hour or so before me.

Just before the flat I past a group of very classic looking hikers, including one guy hiking bare shirted in sweat pants with a mid sized boom box on his shoulder, playing old hair band rock. It was quite a scene, and made more so by the bare shirted man’s budda like physic.

About five miles or so before Cooper Landing I started running into the leaders heading back out. It was a nice twist to see most of them as I rode in, though it did require me to stay on my toes, as the trail was narrow in a couple of sections. Upon arriving at Cooper Landing I was a bit confused and had a bit of trouble locating water, but I eventually figured stuff out and got reloaded. I asked around for a spare tube, and one of the relay riders (Brian I think) from Anchorage set me up with two tubes and some CO2 cylinders, definitely adding to my peace of mind – thanks!. After fiddling around a bit too long I headed back out, heading back to Hope. The ride up to the pass was uneventful. I was caught by a relay rider, and I tried keeping up with her for a while, but eventually she pulled away. There was a brief bit of pushing up a short steep section, but otherwise it was all rideable, and very, very fun. Eventually I reached the Devil’s Creek trail, and headed back down. On the way down I passed some of the faster folks heading back up, but the really fast folks were already done with this section and on their way to Hope by the time I reached it. This section of trail was amazingly fun, with lots of fast riding with fairly long sight-lines so I could open it up and ride fast. There were periodic rocky sections that were wonderful at keeping me on my toes, and a bit of mud but nothing too bad.

The end of Devil’s creek trail ends in large parking lot, where there was a checkpoint with water and a lot of relay riders relaxing and having fun, having finished with their sections. I restocked and headed back out. The climb back up to the pass was almost as fun as riding down. Eventually I made it back up to the top, then enjoyed the 20 miles of mostly downhill riding back to Hope. I arrived in Hope just before dark, and was very happy to get a shower, a beer, and some pizza. The race ends just outside a bar, and there was live music playing, making for an interesting scene. After the beer I headed off to go to sleep, feeling a bit wiped.

I really was not sure what to expect from this race, but I was completely blown away by how fun it was. Fantastic single track, and a bit of mud, what more could someone ask for? I was pretty happy with my time, though I could have ridden a fair bit faster if I had done the trail before and knew what to expect. Running tubeless would have saved be a flat, as I pinched flatted on my rear while slamming over a rocky waterbar. It might have also saved me a spoke, as somewhere in the last 40 miles I broke a spoke on my rear wheel.

A major thanks to Carlos the organizer for putting on this wonderful event. Hopefully more Fairbanks folks will head down for the event next year, as it is well worth the drive. For folks interested in a fun but not super epic time, the relay looks like it would be a blast – the legs are all in the 35 mile range. My photos really don’t do the course justice, as they were taken on the move with a little point and shoot, but the trail system the race is on goes though some very beautiful territory. That area has some fantastic bike touring potential.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “The Soggy Bottom”

  1. Hi Jay,

    I’m trying to reach you and ask if we might use a couple of your photos from this blog post for use in our annual report. We are coordinating efforts to develop a bicycle trail along the 18-mile Hope highway. A couple of these would be great to illustrate the concept. Could you give me a call? 907-360-0480

    Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan
    Ex.Director, KMTA National Heritage Area

Leave a Reply