Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Middle Fork, mofos!

Click on the pic for a better view.

Middle Fork Loop is one of the best winter rides in the Anchorage area. On a sunny day in late winter, when the trail conditions are prime, it has all the ingredients for an epic afternoon.

It's reached after a long, sustained climb into Chugach State Park, then runs across the mountains with great views of the Anchorage bowl, Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna. Even Denali, on a good day. And the descent will put a huge, shit-eatin' grin on your face.

The problem is that Chugach State Park's management plan doesn't address mountain biking, and certainly not winter mountain biking, so we're still treated as second-class citizens by park managers. We have to beg, borrow and steal to use some trails.

Fortunately, we have winter access to Middle Fork again with special-use permits issued to fat-bikers this season. (Last year, after two or three seasons of permits, we got the shaft and were shut out of Middle Fork.)

Yes, you have to own a fat bike for this ride. Although trail conditions are sometimes suitable for regular mountain bikes, the special-permit rules specifically require fatties. According to the rules, "A Fat Tire Bike is defined as a self-propelled bicycle created for cycling on soft, unstable surfaces. The tire width is 3.5” or greater and tire pressure is less than 20 pounds per square inch ground pressure."

Get a permit and treat yourself to a ride on this trail. Or get a permit just to show state park people that we're here, we're not going away and we want fair access, regardless of how many Nordic skiers don't like to share.

Send an email to csp@alaska.gov. Give them your name, mailing address and email address, and tell them you're requesting a fat-bike permit for Middle Fork Trail.

That's it. That's all you have to do.

Within a few days, they'll email you a permit that you can print and attach to your bike when riding Middle Fork.

Be nice. Follow their rules and don't shred the trail. Try not to be a dick, no matter how many grumpy skiers scowl at you.

Then maybe, just maybe, Chugach State Park officials will someday learn to accept us as legitimate trail users who don't need a "special permit" to use our park.


lemmiwinks said...

Sheesh! A fellow goes away for a few months because this place is closed down and look what happens.

Welcome back Tim, you're my window on the great white north (and the home of 3 hour winter days).

Anonymous said...

Hey have you read the proposed plan that "park officials" are pushing? The 2009 Trail plan? It has winter biking all over it and opening more of the park to biking. Its the legislature thats not helping. If we keep whining that we are misunderstood and shit on then that is your deal. These guys get it. Its still high school civics though. It takes a long time to change regulation. Its not like its a park policy that they do in house. ITS LAWS AND REGULATION. Call them and talk to them . They are pushing new regulation as well... Whining fat tire owners will get us no where.

Tim said...

Well, Mr. or Miss Anonymous, I'm frustrated by the sluggishness of the process to update management plans. The system doesn't make park management decisions very nimble or responsive.

And after a few years of dabbling in the public process -- especially when it comes to issues of winter bikers sharing trails with Nordic skiers -- I have found that playing nice doesn't always pay. I think our cause often needs a "left flank" of people who are willing to complain and call 'em like they see 'em. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and all that shit.

If you read my post carefully, you'll see that I encourage bike riders to be nice and play by the rules to set a good example and make the system work.

But this is just a blog. And blogs exist so people like me can rant, rave and babble. Try not to take me too seriously.

After all, I collect pictures of people flipping me off.

Anonymous said...

Tim said "get a permit," so I got a permit. What other positive steps can we take to get the change we want?