Alaska’s Lost Coast by Bike and Packraft: The Adventure Begins
In late July, writer-photographer-adventurer Cameron Lawson and a new friend will use fat-tired bikes and packrafts to travel approximately 350 miles along Alaska’s Lost Coast. Getting from Yakutat to Juneau will take 14 to 17 days. The majority of this adventure is highly isolated and void of civilization and will entail lots of beach riding, river crossings, bushwhacking, and a couple open ocean crossings. Follow their trip here.
After watching two Alaskan adventurers, Eric Parsons and Dylan Kench, pioneer a ride along Alaska’s Lost Coast in a video YouTube, I knew I had to give it a try. At the time, I was unfamiliar with fat-tired bikes, Alpacka rafts, and the sport of “bike-packing,” but the video captured my imagination and made me dream.
Within a year of watching that inspirational video, I had bought the necessary gear and lassoed a partner for a ride along Alaska’s coast from Yakutat to Cordova. I was instantly converted to this new mode of travel. We’d bounce over beach cobbles the size of grapefruit and blissfully pedal over miles of black sand. If we had to cross one of the many glacial-fed rivers or wide bays, we’d move into a more amphibious mode of travel by using our Alpacka rafts. Between using our bikes and rafts, I felt like there wasn’t much terrain that would stop our progress.
Our 2010 trip was magical in every way. First, we had good weather. This was a big plus, because southeast Alaska is known for low, soggy clouds that spit out a constant deluge of rain. Next, my friend on the trip was strong and determined. We moved at a similar pace, agreed on most decisions and our partnership was fluid without edges. Each day was full of discovery, adventure, and companionship as we peddled and paddled through a very wild, mysterious land.
After our trip, we both felt like it was one of the coolest adventures we’d been on.
Over the last couple years, I’ve wanted to get back to the Lost Coast, where rugged, glaciated mountains meet the moody Gulf of Alaska. It’s an area that sees few travelers, and it’s one of the reasons it’s so appealing. The raw and ever changing landscape has a magnetic pull that runs deep, and I’ve dreamed about exploring more of the beautiful coastline. Now, I’m going back.
The plan is to use fat-tired bikes and packrafts to travel approximately 350 miles over 14-17 days from Yakutat to Juneau, Alaska. The majority of this trip is highly isolated and void of civilization and will entail lots of beach riding, river crossings, bushwhacking, and a couple open-ocean crossings. We’ll travel past Lituya Bay, where, in 1958, the world’s largest tsunami took place at Lituya sending a massive wave 1700 feet up the side of the mountains. Plus, we’ll be packrafting past the mouth of Glacier Bay (National Park established in 1980). And will be interesting to document the impacts of the Japanese tsunami—debris has been reported at Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Unlike the 2010 trip, this time I’ll be adventuring with a female companion that I’ve never met before. This definitely adds an interesting twist, as we pass through an unforgiving land. This all started during a conversation with some friends in Alaska. I mentioned that I wanted to get back to the Lost Coast and travel from Yakutat to Juneau. My friends were busy working as pilots and didn’t have the time, but they recommended one of their friends who enjoyed these kinds of Alaskan adventures.
Not wanting a year to go by without some sort of big trip, I gave her a call. During the planning process, we’ve been able to Skype. This has been helpful in getting to know each other, but there are lots of unknowns. From my experience, partnerships that work, share the same level of dedication to the end goal and can roll with hiccups along the road. Physical stamina is helpful, but the mind is far more powerful.
I’ve never taken a trip of this magnitude with a big unknown variable, so everything about our journey will be interesting and I’m looking forward to it.