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Mineshaft Grinder road race pays homage to Hope's mining history

Karen Lewis
KMTA Heritage Area
Mineshaft Grinder runners take off at the 2019 race.

The Mineshaft Grinder is coming to Hope this weekend. Tough cyclists and runners have the chance to complete challenging uphill races centered around the theme of mining — designed to highlight the history of the small town and raise money for the local school.

"The whole backstory is about celebrating the unique history of Hope, which is one of our Heritage Area communities," said Rachel Blakeslee, executive director of the Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm Heritage Area, which organizes the race.

She said the race is relatively young — it started in 2018, and skipped a year because of the pandemic.

Mineshaft Grinder races are named according to theme. There’s the Gold Grinder, an 11-mile uphill bike race to the end of Palmer Creek Road; the Silver Grinder, a half-marathon road race; and the Quartz Grinder, an 8.5-mile up-and-down foot race.

After the formal races are done, runners can continue to celebrate Hope’s mining history and get an interesting workout in while earning raffle tickets.

For the bucket carry, participants will try their hand at doing laps around the Hope School’s basketball court while carrying painters’ buckets full of rocks. For each lap, they get an additional raffle ticket.

"It’s just kind of like playing into that miners theme, you know, what the work actually felt like back at the time," Blakeslee said.

There’s an afterparty and raffle at the local Creekbend Cafe. Ticket-holders will have the chance to win prizes donated from local bike shops, like bike rentals, clothing, water bottles and other items.

Every runner will get a swag bag with coupons, stickers and an official race day mason jar.

Funds from the Mineshaft Grinder go to support the Hope School, the community’s small K-12 school that Blakeslee said is an important pillar of the community.

She said funds will go directly to the school’s PTA, and can be used at the discretion of that group.

“Because it’s a small community, their fundraising resources are also small," Blakeslee said. "The fundraiser is to support the Hope School in whatever way they can use the support.”

The money raised at the event also goes toward the KMTA Heritage Area.

Blakeslee hopes that this event will also introduce more people to the community.

“Hope just has so much to offer, and I would just encourage people to — whether or not they attend the event — to check Hope out, go explore," she said.

This year, for the first time, the race is open to adaptive athletes. Blakeslee said several para-cyclists will participate in the bike race this weekend through the adaptive sports organization Challenge Alaska. She hopes in the future to create races that are more accessible to adaptive athletes.

The Mineshaft Grinder is Saturday, Aug. 13. The first race begins at 9:30 a.m.

Today, there are around 50 athletes signed up to participate. You can still register on the day of the race if you’re not signed up yet — just bring cash or a check to the check-in. Go to for more information.

Editor’s Note: KDLL’s Report for America position is partially funded by the KMTA National Heritage Area.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.