Special Correspondent Juno Kim went on a fatbike adventure in Talkeetna. Here is her story. –Scott
The moment I stepped into North Shore Cyclery in Talkeetna, I knew it was a special place. With bike memorabilia and antiques decorating every inch of the interior, this incense-scented cyclery is much more than a bike shop. Shawn, the owner, welcomed Stephen and me to the shop on a fine winter day. We were immediately charmed by the place. It’s tastefully decorated around one theme: the bicycle. This was perhaps the most diverse collection of bicycles I’ve seen, ever. From the first motorized bicycle to an antique bike from the 19th century, every bit of this place is full of interesting stories.
Meet Shawn, the ultimate outdoorsman. If it has wheels, blades, or skis, Shawn is your man. Relatively new to Talkeetna, he opened the shop three years ago and in that time has done much to foster the local bicycle community. Originally from Minnesota [hence the name of his shop, North Shore (of Lake Superior)], he has traveled extensively around Asia, leading him to open a business in Bandipur, Nepal. We shared our travel stories of Nepal and favorite memories from Asia. After traveling eight years full-time ourselves, the feeling of community when meeting like-minded travelers is intoxicating. In this log cabin in the small Alaska town of Talkeetna, he brings the world to us.
After a couple hours of chatting, it was time to hit the road. We got on our fat tire bikes to ride the fresh-snow-covered trails of Talkeetna. We’ve been here many times but this would be our first bike adventure. The air was kind of wet with drizzling snow but thankfully the temperature was a comfortable 25 degrees. We got our winter gear on, gripped our handlebars covered in Alaska-made poagies, and peddled off on our day’s adventure.
We left North Shore Cyclery for Beaver Road, which connects to Comsat Road via off-road trail or motorized multi-use trail. It was the first day that we had enough snow to make fat tire biking more fun. The road was covered with a light layer of fresh power. Isn’t winter so much fun in Alaska?
Beaver Road is paved but it connects with Old Lake Road and Ridge Trail which are gravel. The trails are flowing ups and downs. At times it was challenging because of ice patches and slippery snow on rocky terrain but it was a typical Alaskan bike trail. I had to take layers off as I warmed up. Oh, the hills!
I love this time of year when a light layer of snow covers the boreal forest. There were still some berries at the end of branches, making them look like they were wearing little white hats. Birch trees almost glowed against the snow. The brushing noise that the bike made on the fresh snow was welcoming.
Continuing along, we reached the Talkeetna Lakes Park. This park includes a series of six lakes and a few multi-use trails. It’s enjoyable during all seasons. We’ve been here in summer for a nature walk, learning about the different plants and animals here. Now the lakes are frozen becoming a natural ice rink (have I mentioned that winter in Alaska is fun?). Find the colored wooden posts around the lake that indicate different trails. The red trail around X-Lake is the longest at just over 3 miles.
While Stephen biked around the red trail, I went across frozen X-Lake. I was actually kind of nervous to be on the lake with a heavy bike since I didn’t see anyone doing the same, but people assured me that the lake had been frozen for days. Many people from the town were out enjoying this fine winter day, ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, playing games, and there was even a puppy trying to figure out how to walk across the ice. I also opened my thermos of hot tea, pausing to enjoy the moment.
From the park, it was 2 miles to get back into town. The sun was about to go down and the sky looked darker because of thick clouds. We pedaled back on the Talkeetna Spur Road, the same road we drove earlier. We parked our bicycles and Millie the dog, who was outside in front of the shop, welcomed us back. Later we learned that we missed a turn and didn’t go all the way to Comsat Road which made our loop a bit shorter, but all that mattered was that we had fun.
I was glad that we had this experience. Although we’ve been to Talkeetna many times before, this was different. I’ve had the same feeling in other towns in Alaska, that there was so much beyond the small downtown. I often thought ‘Where do people live in Talkeetna?’ because I only saw the town center. Visitors come to Talkeetna to enjoy the charming downtown and Denali view over the rivers. But stepping off the beaten path, there is more to explore, especially on a bicycle. It’s a slow, but at times exhilarating, way to get beyond main street.
Shawn’s goal is to put “more humans on bikes” and he is fulfilling that mission. His pure passion and joy toward cycling are enough to make both visitors and local residents enchanted. He has grand plans to expand bike-related adventures around town. And he also has plans for food delivery. They already make great homemade fudge and you can find a fridge full of Mimi’s amazing cheeses. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do in the future. One thing for sure is this won’t be my last visit to his charming cyclery.
Click HERE to rent bikes or join one of Shawn’s tours.
North Shore Cyclery not only rents and sells all sorts of bikes but also Nordic skates and cross-country skis.
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Juno set off for the wider world to pursue her passion for travel and storytelling. She traveled the world as an award-winning travel blogger and photographer at RunawayJuno.com, witnessing everyday life in dozens of countries. With her deep passion for storytelling, she’s brought traditional life from the Borneo rainforest, the Moai statues of Easter Island, and the cultures of Arctic Alaska closer to home. She’s dedicated to delivering the message that everyone has a story to tell.
After a decade of travel, she and her husband relocated to Anchorage, Alaska in 2017. Juno is continuing her quest of storytelling in her newly adopted home. She founded Ovibos Consulting Co. to help brands tell their unique story.
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