Alaska: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula

Alaska: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula

Alaska is a bucket-list type of place and, motorcycle or not, it’s been on ours for many years. The Last Frontier is filled with nearly endless gorgeous mountain ranges, giant creeping glaciers, deep picturesque bays, and wildlife that can’t be found in the lower 48 states. It’s been dubbed the last wilderness in the U.S., and it’s a particularly seismically active area where many of the mountains are still growing. Late August brings cool weather and very long days with ample time to explore. The sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 p.m. and the average temperature is in the low 60s.

Our first day was short, only around 130 miles on a route that brought us back to Anchorage. We wanted to do something quintessentially Alaskan, so we made our way to Whittier to pick wild berries in the woods. To get to Whittier, we had to pass through the Whittier Tunnel, a one-lane tunnel that alternates between train and automobile use with rotating direction every half hour or so. Once in Whittier, we had it on good authority that after a short, extremely muddy hike we could find what we were looking for. We found lots of  berries that we knew (blueberries) but also found many that were new to us (salmon berries, watermelon berries, and juneberries).

Salmon berries ripe for the picking.

In addition to the berries, there are hiking trails that lead down to the water’s edge and idyllic views of the Inside Passage Inlet. In the distance, we noticed our first glacial sighting, Billings Glacier. Once we’d filled a bag with wild berries, we returned to the bikes and headed back to Anchorage. SR 1, which runs alongside the Turnagain Arm, is a truly epic ride. The mountains lining the valley jut into the sky and have patches of snow on them year round. The view of this rugged, glacier-sculpted landscape is absolutely captivating.

Riding through the clouds to the top of Hatcher Pass is a must-do in this region of Alaska.

Into the Mist

With 220 miles ahead of us, we got on the road early, riding into the misty rain. We were back on SR 1 that eventually turns into Sterling Hwy as we made our way south toward Kenai. We weren’t complaining about riding this scenic highway again, though, despite the frigid temperatures and relentless rain. The mountains we’d seen yesterday were now obscured by gray, low-hanging clouds, which gave the area a feel straight out of a fantasy novel.

There are more small aircraft in Alaska than anywhere else. Much of the state is not accessible by road, so these bush planes are the only link to civilization.

As we traveled, the temperature dropped and we cycled between the “warm” and “cook” settings on the BMW’s heated grips, which are capable of bringing our palms to a nice medium-rare. We stumbled into the small town of Hope where we were lucky enough to find an excellent cappuccino made at a food trailer called Grounds for Hope. One thing we’d quickly realized about Alaska in general is that they know their coffee. This makes perfect sense as they experience some bitterly cold winters.

Motorcycles & Gear

2020 BMW R1250 GS

Helmets: HJC RPHA11 Pro
Jackets & Pants: Klim Marrakesh
Boots: Gaerne Balanced Oiled
Gloves: Klim Marrakesh
Communication: Sena SF4

After another hour or so of drizzle, we rode out from under the clouds and began to dry a bit. With the second wind provided by the improved weather and our strong coffee, we pushed on to the town of Soldotna. Once we settled in at the Angler’s Inn, we decided to go for a short walk along the Kenai River. The river is known for its beautiful turquoise blue water and people come from all over to fish on its banks. As we walked, we stopped to watch a group of fishermen fight to keep angry Chinook salmon on the line. We wished we had fishing gear with us, too.

To the Homer Spit

SR 1 continues to snake along the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula for another 170 miles. After riding through the rain along the coastal highway most of the day again, we arrived at the Homer Spit, a narrow strip of land that juts into the beautiful Kachemak Bay. The sun had finally broken through the clouds just as we rode into Homer and had revealed the stunning mountain range across the bay. The weather was perfect, so we parked the bikes and spent some time browsing in the seasonal shops that populate the spit, selling various handmade knives and keepsakes. Marisa found a coffee and ice cream shop and we ordered one of her favorites, an affogato. The sunshine had warmed us, so we found a place to sit on the black rocky beach and enjoy our cold coffee treat while we watched the fishing boats come and go.