Archive for December, 2009

Beaver Creek Day Ski

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I had a day to myself so I decided to be productive and to get out and do a long day ski.  It was fairly cold, but there was supposed to be a strong inversion so I headed out the White Mountains to ski the hilly Mc Kay creek trail to Beaver Creek and back.  After a fairly late start ( stopping for coffee and a tasty breakfast treat at Alaska Coffee Rosters slowed things down a bit), I headed up the trail at a little before 10am.    The inversion was quite spectacular – it was well above +10f at the top of the first hill, much warmer than then -10f or so at the parking lot.   The lowest spots on the trail where probably around -20f, cold enough that my pack got crinkly.   The ski was mostly uneventful, but quite scenic, with wonderful views of the Alaska Range on the way in.

On the way up the first hill I ran into a trapper returning from checking his sets and talked for a while. The trapper took a fancy to Remus, and gave him a chunk of bait about as big as Remus’s head, which made his day. Yum, yum!   Besides the trapper I was passed by 3 mushers traveling in a tight packed group, but otherwise had the trail completely to my self.

The trail was in fantastic shape and was quite smooth and reasonable skiing, with great views of the surrounding hills, including a rock formation locally referred to as “Sled dog rocks”, a rock formation that is supposed to look like a musher with a dog team.

Once the moon rose there were fantastic views of the moon over the mountains to the North and East.

While the trail was in good shape, the off trail snow cover ranged from adequate to almost non-existent. The open tussock fields were blown almost free of snow, with the tussock tops completely exposed.

The total round trip distance was 30 miles.  I did not make it all the way to Beaver Creek but stopped at the top of the last hill before the creek, as I was not looking forward to the long drop down and the cold bubble waiting for me at the bottom.   The trail is quite hilly, and a bit of a workout, but quite scenic and highly recommended as a out and back day ski.  Next time I think I am going to explore the US Creek road and see if it would make for good skiing.

More pictures follow for the photo inclined..

The trail on the way up the first hill, complete with sunrise.

Remus, enjoying his “after huge chunk of meat” jog.

The trail winds though a number of burned areas.  A few of the areas burned so completely it seemed all the trees were completely incinerated. This open section used to be in black spruce, and now is a large field of stumps and grass.

Once the moon rose I was treated by the sight of it slowly creeping across the north eastern sky as the day progressed.

More moon and alpine glow photos, hurray!

My turnaround point – thats Beaver Creek at the bottom.

A Solstice ski on the Compeau Trail

Friday, December 25th, 2009

On a brisk day near winter solstice (the actual solstice falls on the following day) I joined Dan, Ed, Ann, and Heather for a day ski on the Compeau trail in the Chena River SRA.  I had biked part of the Compeau trail in the summer, but had never skied it, and approached the outing with a bit of trepidation as the only person I had talked to about skiing it had said it was nearly impossible.  I should not have worried however, as it turned out to be a quite a fun ski, with only a handful of terrifyingly steep sections.   We skied out to Colorado Creek cabin first, which was still warm from the previous tenants, had a short snack, then headed up the Compeau to the top of the ridge.  The initial climb was very pleasant, with lots of switchbacks and hardly any steep sections.  Once we reached the top of the ridge we then followed a old dozer line to a fire break installed in the summer of 2004.  There were a handful of fairly steep climbs and descents but everything was manageable on skis.  I had a number of crashes ( I think four total – I led the crash count by a wide margin) but nothing too tremendous.  Eventually we rejoined the Compeau trail and were treated too a 10 mile decent to the Chena Hotsprings winter trail that was quite pleasant and very fun.  Once at the bottom we followed the Chena Hotsprings winter trail back to Colorado Creek trail parking lot, and we where finished, only 26 miles later.   This loop evolved lots and lots of climbing and was quite a workout.    This is a fantastic day trip, and highly recommended!  The Compeau trail is very skiable, with wide switchbacks on the downhills.  The new reroute on the beginning of the Colorado Creek trail is a wonderful addition that cuts out the heavily rutted sections, which is a great improvement.

The following photos are complements of Ed, as I forgot my camera in the car, alas.
The views from the trail along the ridges was fantastic.

The lower sections of trail wind though black spruce forest and is quite scenic.

The Alaska range was back lit by the low angle solstice sun for most of the day, and was extremely beautiful.

Fat Bars!

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

In my continuing search for tasty delights that can be eaten on the trail on ski trips, I decided to revert to a old standby, the “fatbar”.   My last 40 mile day ski was a bit calorie deprived near the end, probibly due to getting sick of trail food.. even fruit pies loose their appear after a while.  Alas, most common treats are pretty much inedible at <0F temps.  Powerbars turn into bricks.  Snickers turn into iron bars of teeth breaking hardness.  Even the best candy bar looses its appeal when you have to suck on it for a extended period to warm it up enough to chew.. so thus the fatbar!  Fatbars are sort of a soft cake like thing that has soo much fat and sugar it never really freezes and is soft and edible at cold temps.  At -30F its fairly hard, but still chewable, rather than jaw breaking hard like lots of other treats. Here is a how to, with my assistants, Molly and Lizzy. First you mix up 2 eggs, 1cup pb, and 1/2 butter:

Next add the cake mix:

Stir and press into the bottom of a 9″by11″ pan:

Next mix up the filling, starting with the ingredients below, and adding whatever comes to mind, though if the goal is winter trip food keep in mind the ingredients should be eatable at cold temps – I would stick with chocolate, coconut, and other high fat foods.  Substituting white chocolate is a good call.

Next pour the filling over the crust, crumble some crust over the top (optional), and then bake.  After 20 minutes or so, remove from the oven and then cool.  

After its cooled, I transfer the fat bars to one quart bags for easy access snack rations.

These snacks are surprisingly tasty, though I was somewhat surprised to learn that the recipe originated in the Mid West as a desert.  I can’t imagine eating  these things while I am not on a trip… so much fat and sugar..

Many thanks to Margret for the recipe!

The Recipe:
Bottom Topping:
1 package of yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

2 cups (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bottom/topping ingredients.  Stir until it becomes a dough that holds together.  Press 2/3 of dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 X 13 pan.  (Reserve the remaining 1/3 for the top.)  Prepare the filling by melting the chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and salt over a low heat while stirring.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and optional coconut and/or nuts.  Poor over the dough.  Crumble the remaining dough onto the top.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool and cut into bars.  Serves lots of people in town, and only a few hard-working winter adventurers.

I substitute white chocolate chips, and add 2x to 3x the amount of coconut, and sometimes use almond extract rather than vanilla.  Yum, yum!

A Borealis-Lefauve Day Ski

Monday, December 14th, 2009

I had plans to do a overnighter at Borealis Lefauve Cabin in the White Moutains NRA last weekend but alas the folks who where coming all bailed due to other commitments. Since I had the cabin, I decided to do a day ski out there instead, with a stop at the cabin to warm up and relax. This turned out to be a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. The Whites were completely empty and I had the trail all to my self. Its always hard to predict how busy the whites are – I would have expected that it would be quite busy, as it was a fairly warm (+10f to -10f depending on how low or high one is ) calm day with clear skies. Perhaps the low snowfall is keeping the snowmachiners home.. In anycase, it was a great ski. The Wickersham Creek Trail is in great shape for skiing, though the snow was pretty abrasive and hard on wax. The normal overflow spots had a fair bit of overflow, fortunately it was the dry and hard. The 40 miles took me about 4 hours going in, and 5 hours going out, alas not particularly fast. I am afraid I am going to have to work a bit on my nutrition on these longer skis, as I was a bit energy deprived for the last couple of miles, but it all worked out and I arrived at the parking lot relatively intact.

Pictures follow, for the photo viewing inclined. We are now in the time of the year where the photos mainly consist of sunrise and sunset photos, due to the fact it is either dark or the sun is rising or setting. Which is all good, but it limits the picture taking a bit.

The sunrise, shortly after I left the parking lot, complete with a early morning raven.

A wee bit of overflow.

The overflow had fantastic ice crystal formations in all kinds of strange shapes.

The thermometer at the Trail Shelter half to the turnaround point said it was a balmy -10f.

Even more overflow.

The final bit of overflow.

The twins go to Stiles Creek Cabin

Monday, December 7th, 2009

On a unnaturally warm Saturday, the family and I headed off to Stiles Creek cabin in the Chena River SRA. Molly and Lizzy got to ride in a sled hauled by the dogs and napped most of the way. It must be strange to go on ski trips by going to sleep as you leave the parking lot and wake up in at your destination..  We loaded up in the parking lot, strapped the girls (and Chicken, Lizzys latest stuffed animal friend) into the sled and took off.

The taking off part took longer than one would expect – getting the twins settled in, three dogs harnessed, and two adults onto skis takes a while, alas.

The Stiles Creek trail has been rerouted in the last year and has lots of switchbacks which slowed things down to a crawl occasionally as the sled tried to cut the switchbacks.  Eventually we made it past the switchbacks and things sped up a lot.

After a two hour nap, the twins woke up and demanded snacks.  Soon they were snacking on granola bars and dried pears while zipping along..  Ahh the luxury! 

Soon we arrived at the cabin, and the twins were taken out of their warm sled compartment and they got to help find wood, get the stove started, and of course more snacking. 

After snacking came playing outside, even more wood gathering, and finally dinner, followed by more snacking (also known as desert).  We were joined in the cabin by Margaret and Trusten and their daughter Robin.  Robin and Trusten came via snow machine, and Margret via skis.

I had made a trip to this cabin as a day trip several weeks earlier and after a half hour I had the inside of the cabin above 0f, thanks to the plentiful quality of fire retardant wood (green birch and alder burn oh so well) left by the previous visitors.  We had left a plentifully supply of wood that one could actually burn, but to be prepared, I skied down the last hill dragging a nice dry spruce log.

Dinner was a tasty selection of mixed pasta and Parmesan cheese for the younger generation and Indian food and pasta with spicy peanut sause for the adults.  Yum, yum!

 The younger crowd  got endless fun out of the cabins loft.  The stairs were a big hit, as were the glow sticks.
After a night of goofing off and mellowing out, morning came and we had to pack up and head out.  The trail heads up a steep hill right out of the cabin, so we headed off on foot.  Lizzy and Molly were quite the troopers, and made it to the top of the hill unassisted (if you don’t count several rations of grandma’s fruit leather and a granola bar each as assistance).
Robin and Trusten zipped away on their snowmachine, while we walked up the hill. Robin dropped a kitkat on the way out, which was very nice of her, as I was quite hungry.

Once up the hill the twins hopped into the sled and we zoomed off down the trail.

It was a little too hot for the dogs and they were less than happy going up one of the hills, but otherwise it was a uneventful ride out.

More fun in the Whites

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Marsh, Tom, and I enjoyed a long day ski on Saturday in the whites. Marsh skied out to a little past the Trail Shelter, while Tom and I skied to Moose Creek cabin, skied a cross via  Moose Creek Trail to the Trail Shelter, then back out to mile 28.  We intended to catch up with Marsh and ski back out to the parking lot, but alas we were slower than anticipated, as the Moose Creek trail, although super scenic and very beautiful, was a slow tussock fest.  With a bit more snow Moose Creek trail would be a lot more fun.  It was a fairly enjoyable eight and a half hours of skiing, though not without some excitement.   I had partially ripped one of the bindings off of one of my skis last Monday and had not noticed it until we were around 18 miles in.  After it bit of tightening I made it out, but thinking about one of my skis falling off made the hills a bit more exciting.

The low angle morning sun, just over the Alaskan Range.

The midday sun, peeking though a stand of burned black spruce.

The setting sun, as seen from Moose Creek trail.

Remus and Tom, enjoying the a tussock free section of Moose Creek trail.

A less tussock free section.

The only litter find – a binky!