Archive for June, 2009

And I Forgot My Spoon

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Tom and I decided that we would attempt to hike, bike, and packraft a loop in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, hopefully hiking into the headwaters of Beaver Creek and floating out. We started at Ophir Creek Campground, got on bikes, and biked east to the start of Quartz Creek Trail. Quartz Creek trail is a 17 mile trail that heads to the headwaters of Beaver Creek. This is new territory for Tom and I – I have done brief hikes in the area and had skied some of the area in the winter, but nothing of any length in the summer.

Things did not start off particularly well. 20 minutes or so before we made it to our starting point, the sky opened up and dump a torrential downpour on us. This was not a auspicious start, but fortunately the rain stopped soon after we arrived at Ophir Creek Campground.

We left the car, got on the bikes, and headed off to Quartz Creek Trail. The trail is mainly a ORV trail had undergone major upgrades in the last couple of years, including some fancy plastic base material, and inset concrete stream crossings.

It was quite impressive how much work BLM had put into making this trail passable for the four wheeling crowd. On the upside, it was not muddy at all which is quite a rarity in these parts and was very fast walking.

After stream with the fancy brickwork, we ran into our first party of motorized users. We talked to them for a bit and were very surprised to hear that there was only enough water in Quartz Creek to “dip a pan in”. This did not bode well for our float. Near one of the high points there is an interpretive plaque – which was impressively random, as we had not encountered any signs up to this point since leaving the parking lot. The main point of the sign appeared to be not to chase the sheep with your four wheeler.

The trail winds it way over several passes, through alpine meadows, and crosses several streams.

The flowers were out in full bloom in the high meadows.

The trail is amazingly scenic. This is probably one of the nicest trails I have hiked on in the interior.

As we crossed the final bit of Little Champion Creek, the rain caught up with us.

Fortunately the rain did not last long, and we were soon dry and approaching one of the highlights of the the hike – the beautiful tors. Near the end of the trail there are a large number of very large granite tors, some of which are right next to the trail. It is incredibly scenic.

We stopped at the final tor and had dinner. Dinner was complicated by the absence of my spoon – it appears that during my packing I somehow forgot to put my spoon into my pack. I ended up eating with a folded bit of plastic bag, which was less than ideal. For folks interested in shorter days, this would be a wonderful place to camp.

This was the end of the trail for us – we now had to head down to Bear Creek to start the float. As we worked our way around a large hill a beautiful rainbow came out.

Once around the hill, we were very happy to see a full looking Bear Creek in the distance.

After several miles of intense bushwacking (around 5 I believe) we made it to Bear Creek, which was quite floatable, which lead to much happiness. I had been dreading a long walk back out and had visions of a creek with only a couple of inches of water in it. Fortunately the floating looked quite fun, and into our boats we went.

Bear Creek was quite a fun float – the upper bits where we started are a bit rocky, which made for exciting rafting.

At about 1:30am we decided we should call it quits for the day and camped on a gravel bar. At this point the trip was verging on a death march, Bataan style, so calling a day was in order.

The gravel bar did not have any bear sign, but did have a large number of quite fresh wolf tracks.

After a couple of hours of sleep we resumed the float, and bobbed down the river.

Bear Creek was largely free of sweepers and log jams, and we only had to portage once.

After 3 hours or so, we made it to Richards Cabin, a BLM cabin that can be rented. The cabin is a former inholding or mining clam and is very nice. We stopped for a bite to eat and to leave an entry in the log book. It is amazing how different this area is in the summer. Tom and I had skied into this cabin 4 months earlier in a snow storm – now we were walking up to it in a muddy trench being hounded by mosquitoes. The contrast was stunning.

Shortly after Richards we ran into a huge log jam, which we had to portage around. We took a dry ox bow thinking it was a short cut, which ended up in Champion Creek right before it hit Bear Creek becoming Beaver Creek. At the confluence the water level rose a lot, which added to the fun considerably. Bear Creek had a fair number of shallow riffles that were only just float able in a packraft and required a lot of care to not get stuck on.

Eventually we made it to our take out point, put our packs on, and slogged though 3 miles of tussocks back to Ophir Creek camp ground. The tussock slog was remarkably unpleasant.

After 1 and a 15 minutes of tussock slogging we hit the road, and a short while later the car. In the car there were Staxs, juice, and pastries, hurray!

The trip was quite an adventure. In retrospect it would have been more fun if we had camped where we first hit Bear Creek, then floated in the morning making the first day a little shorting and giving us more sleep. It was still quite fun though, and a highly recommend float for anyone who is interested. Richard’s cabin appears to be quite bug proof, and would make a excellent overnight stop, in case any future travellers read this. Hikers not up for 20 mile days could camp at one of the Tors and enjoy great views.

High water on the Chena

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Tom and I decided to take advantage of the recent rain and float the Chena from approximately mile 45 to first bridge. The Chena was quite high – according to the National Weather service it was the 8th highest they have recorded for the 40 mile bridge. In any case, it was a wonderful float and quite a bit more fun than it is at normal water levels.

The float was approximately 8 miles, with a 5 mile bike shuttle.

The river was full bank to bank for the entire float.

The new Hunt Memorial Cabin .

There was a bit of wood, but nothing very serous. The sweepers were easily avoidable with all the extra water.

With an average flow rate of approximately 10 km/hour, paddling was not really needed.

The bridge near the Granite Tors trail head.

Near our takeout we ran into a several floaters out enjoying the high waters like us.

Hiking the Granite Tors with the twins

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Saturday Nancy, the twins, and I set off to hike the Granite Tors as a overnight. The Granite Tors is a nice day hike (without additional encumbrances, like for example two three year olds), or a easy over night trip. It is a very beautiful hike which wanders though black spruce bogs, recovering burns, and high alpine meadows. There is a bit of elevation gain, but nothing too extreme, and the views are spectacular. The hike is about 15 miles long, with a starting elevation of approximately 750ft and a high point approaching 3000ft.

It was a beautiful hike, and the girls where very excited to be out hiking.

The dogs, Togiak, Polar, and Remus where also excited to be out and about.

Nancy and I carry the girls in Sherpani Rumbas. They work well, but are not really designed for two parents carrying twins – there is just not enough space to carry gear for overnighters.

The beginning and end of the trail winds though a low lying black spruce forest, which is board walked. The board walk made for fast pleasant hiking. We saw a lot of unripe blue berries – this will be a very good berry picking area this fall.

The twins are big fans of the board walk which is pleasant hiking for short legs.

Eventually the boardwalk ends and the trail starts heading up. The next couple of miles of trail slowly wind up the ridge until it reaches tree line near the first tor. This area is recovering from a fire that occurred several years ago and it is quite interesting to see the vegetation coming back.

There are a large number of burls leading us to an extraneous burl picture.

The twins where quite excited by the cairns which Molly starting calling “rock trees”.

Eventually we made it up to the top, referred to by some locals as the “Plain of Monuments” and we camped at the base a set of tors. It was a wonderful camp site with enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away.

After a couple of stories we all hit the sack. The hike out was a little less fun, as it was raining pretty hard for the first hour. Molly and Lizzy where unfazed though, and enjoyed their ride out in the covered comfort of the kid carriers.

On the way out we ran into some friends on the board walk and enjoyed their company for the rest of the hike out. The trail on the way out was almost entirely down hill and very fast walking. Perhaps too fast – at one point I almost fell and was told by Lizzy to “go slow on the hard parts”. The way out heads down from the plain and passes a number of large tors before descending though a burn for a couple of miles, then hits board walk which lasts for most of the remaining couple of miles of trail.

On the way out we stopped by Mia’s and got dinner. This time the croad was a bit more adventuresome and ordered some of the Korean options from the menu, which turned out to be a good call, as they are quite good.

Fun on the South Fork of the Chena

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Tom and I hiked into Nugget Creek cabin in the Chena River State Recreation for a very fun pack rafting and hiking day trip. The South Fork of the Chena River is a fairly shallow and slow stream that winds its way though an almost complete cross section of the forest types available in the Interior.

We started at Mile 36.4 mile of Chena Hotsprings Road, and followed the Mist Creek trail for about 1/4 of a mile, before having to cross the Chena River. After attempting to simply ford across, we inflated our rafts and floated across, then packed them back up and continued up the trail.

Mist Creek Trail can be quite hard to follow at times.

For those of you who are burl obsessed, there where many, many burls along the way.

After about 6 miles we ended up at Nugget Creek cabin. The cabin is mainly visited in the winter and according to the log book, we where the first visitors since the melt.

After a quick bite to eat we inflated our rafts and headed out. The cabin is very nice in the winter, but is a mosquito trap in the summer, and while reading the log book we soon had more bugs inside than out.

And we are off!

The float was quite fun, and lasted about 6 hours. The only downsides to the float was the large number of sweepers that crossed the river completely and the short sections of shallow water. On the upside these appear to keep normal river traffic completely out.

One of the highlights of the float was the beautiful cliffs that abut the river.

Other river sights included some silty river banks, some of which where quite huge.

In the last couple of miles before hitting the main part of the Chena River the water slowed down a lot and things started to get pretty boring.

Once we hit the Chena, things sped back up, and we made it to our takeout in short order. Tom headed off on his bike to pickup the car and I packed up the rafts.

All in all, quite a marvelous trip! Very recommended as a nice mellow pack raft trip, though possibly better as a overnight as its a bit long as a day trip with 3 hours hiking and 6 hours of floating. One would hate to get out so late that one missed Mia’s!