Archive for April, 2010

Blah,blah, blah.. and so I went biking

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Spring in Fairbanks is a mixed blessing – its nice and warm with long days and tons of sunlight, but the snow is mostly gone so no skiing, but there is a still enough to make hiking (at least on the interesting trails) marginal, and the trails are still too wet for good mountain biking. The road biking is pretty nice though, as so when I ended up with a idle Thursday away from work I decided to go for a mid length bike ride of around 50 miles and go explore some roads I have not been on before. I am a fan of gravel roads, and tried to plot out a route that included ~20 miles or so of gravel. My plan was to take Sheep Creek Rd to Murphy Dome road, then take Spinach Creek Rd to Old Murphy Dome road across to the Eliot highway, then back on Goldstream. This was Google’s suggestion for my route. The first 13 miles or so were fun and fast and after several steep climbs I reached the end of the asfault and the start of the dirt. Just before the end of the pavement there was a road crew making repairs of some sort…

Soon after passing the road construction I reached the end of Spinach Creek Road and turned onto Old Murphy dome road. I had not been out this way in quite a while, and the last time I was out this way I was skiing on trails that parallel the road, so I was not sure what to expect. The views from the road were fantastic – besides the weird clearcuts that is. There were lots of cleared land off the side of the road, in strange places… very odd as the trees are all black spruce with a “large” one being about 6″ around – not exactly the sort of tree loggers dream of.

Old Murphy dome road was is great shape, with lots of nice gravel and had some really fun descents. I Eventually reached what appeared to be the end of the road, or at least were the road turned from gravel to mud..

There was however a really nice well maintained road heading off north, so I took that on the off chance it hooked up with Murphy dome road again. Alas, it dead ended after several miles, leading only to a number of small houses. A dog jumped out at me and gave me a start, but he turned out to be quite friendly, as did his owner. I talked to him for a moment and got conformation that the muddy road that I decided to skip was actually the road I wanted, and headed back out to find it again. The road turned out to be not that bad – there was only 4 miles or so of mud and it was mostly bikable except for a quarter mile or so were I ended up pushing as my slicks were just spinning out.

I did not feel too bad, as I could see tracks from a mountain bike and they ended up pushing about as much as I did on my road bike. Eventually the mud disappeared and the biking sped up – wahoo.

The dirt road continued on for a while, and then turned back into a maintained gravel road.

The gravel continued on for a short distance until I reached the Eliot Highway and then it was back to pavement.

The final 20 miles or so were mostly on pavement and not all that exciting as I have had biked them lots of times before – they zoomed by fairly quickly and after a snack at Goldstream General store I was back home. All in all it was a great way to spend my mid morning and mid afternoon.

Spring is here…

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Spring has arrived..

And the rivers are breaking up – soon hiking and pack rafting season will be here – hurray!

I am looking forward to a long summer filled with fun trips and adventures!

One last ski trip

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Spring is pretty nice in Interior Alaska. The days are long, the weather is warm, and there is still enough snow around for good skiing. The family and I decided to take advantage of all the glories of spring and headed out to Eleazar’s cabin in the White Mountains. Eleazar’s is about 12 miles from the nearest trail head, and a fairly mellow ski, in normal conditions. Hauling two three and three quarter year olds makes it a bit less mellow, but still doable. I had scouted out the trail two days before the trip was planned to make sure the trail was still ski-able, and while the first quarter mile or so was pretty bare, the rest was in great shape. We left town mid morning, and after a hour drive or so, we reached the parking lot and began the unloading processes. Traveling with kids complicates things a bit, so the unloading processes was pretty extended – the twins hot water bottles to prepare (traveling in luxury!), the chariot to assemble, snacks to ready, etc.

Eventually we were off and heading down the trail. The first bit was pretty muddy and low on snow.

The twins walked the first mile and a half – which was good as there was not enough snow for them to ride in the chariot.

It also got them nice and tired so by the time we had enough snow to load up into the chariot they were tired enough for nap time.

The bushes on the side of the trail were starting to melt out, revealing last years blueberries..

and cranberries.

Eventually nap time arrived and the twins were bundled up into the chariot and Nancy and I put on skis. The skiing was fast and fun – the trail was hard and a bit icy, but with some softer wax it was still quite good skiing.

Going down the steeper hills with the twins in the chariot was a bit tricky and I ended up walking down the really steep one. The chariot has quite a bit of mass and tends to give the puller the occasional hard push when going over moguls. On the steepest sections of trail I had to be careful as I was almost knocked over several times while walking. Fortunately we arrived at the bottom intact and after short time nap time was over and the twins were awakened and treated to snacks and entertainment while we skied along.

After a few more miles we reached the final hill to the cabin. The twins then were extracted from their comfortable quarters and they walked up the final hill to the cabin. The trail up was in great shape, but the last 100 feet or so was completely snow free.

Shorty after I reached the cabin the folks who were joining us on the adventure arrived – Trustin and Robin. They traveled by snow machine and had a good but interesting ride in. The snow free sections were apparently a bit challenging – the snowmachine did fine but the sled had a bit too much drag.

Eleazar’s is a wonderful cabin – its perched on top of a bluff that overlooks the Wickersham creek valley and has a great view. The twins had a great time exploring the cabin and the surrounding area. The cabin had a couple of interesting board games that the twins got quite a bit of mileage out of, as well as a loft. The loft was a great hit.

Eventually it was dinner time..

and then everyone turned in for the night. It was so warm the stove did not require stoking (or over-stoking as often is the case) which was quite refreshing – no trips from my warm sleeping bag to load wood into the stove were required. In the morning everyone enjoyed a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon – except of course Nancy who made herself a bowl of cereal. My first attempts at pancakes were a bit of a failure – after the first bacon dripping assisted pancake I learned the “non-stick” pan I brought was more of a “stick” pan. I could not find my normal pan and had used one of Nancy’s pre Jay pans that I had never used before. Fortunately Trustin had brought butter and liberal use of it prevented any additional pancake disasters.

After lots of pancakes and bacon, we enjoyed a lazy morning of laying around goofing off, but alas eventually we actually had to pack up and get moving. The twins started off walking and got a good mile and half in before nap time arrived.

The ski out was uneventful but quite pleasant. On the last couple of miles we evicted the twins and they walked the last bit with lots of renditions of one of their favorate books, “We are going on a bear hunt”.

Togiak, our older dog, decided we were going too slow, and started taking naps on the side of the trail, curing up under spruce trees while we slowly dawdled the last mile or so.

Eventually we reached the parking lot and everyone loaded up. The dogs were quite happy to dive into the straw in the back of the truck and go to sleep.

The trip was super fun and a great way to end the ski season. The twins had a good time and I got quite a work out hauling them around. I brought violet Toko spray klister and used it on the way out. That stuff is quite amazing – it works quite well and less of a pain than standard klister with no more sticky tubes of doom.
Alas, the snow is almost gone now – I expect its now time to put the skis away. With some luck I will get in one bike ride on the trails before the snow softens up too much, and then I think the snow season will be done. Soon backpacking, pack rafting, and bike touring season will arrive – hurrah!

The snow season is still here..

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The family and I have a trip planned this weekend in the White Mountains NRA. It was looking a bit dubious as there is not a lot of snow left on some of the trails around town so I left work a hour early and drove out to the trail head to checkout the trails on my bike. Fortunately there was nothing to worry about- at least the first 7 miles or so of trail out of the mile 28 trail head are in great shape. There is a bit of dirt showing on the first couple of hundred yards out of the trail head – which was very ominous.

After a brief encounter with a musher who was having trouble slowing down his sled on the icy hill I zipped up the hill and soon the dirt was gone.

The encounter with the musher was pretty funny – I saw him coming crashing down the trail and grabbed Remus and jumped off the trail as he was obviously not going to be able to slow down. He zipped by me with a quick “opps sorry – can’t slow down” and continued down the trail and zoomed out of sight as he headed into the parking lot. Shortly after that there was a big bang and a lot of cursing..

The rest of the bike ride was fantastic – the trail was hard and fast, the sun was shinning, and it was beautiful clear day. I went down the trail to Lees and briefly stuck my head in the cabin but as it was colder inside than out didn’t hang around all that long.

After leaving Lees I zipped back up to the trail junction and down to the big hill a ways towards Eleazar’s, then turned around about a third of the way down as it was getting late and I didn’t want to bike back in the dark.

Remus enjoyed the bike ride, but probably would have preferred to be skiing. The trail was super fast and I spent quite a bit of time in the big ring cranking – this gave Remus a bit less time to explore as he had to run pretty hard to keep up.

I am really enjoying my Fisher Paragon. I have always been a bit dubious of the Fisher bikes – it alway seemed to me that the bikes (and Gary Fisher) had a bit too much “attitude” and not enough bike, but I am really enjoying the Paragon. Its really fun to ride and quite responsive.

I had been avoiding the Whites recently as I had spent a ton of time out there this winter training for the white mountain 100 race. It is a great place to train since the Whites has a long trail system that is in good shape and has enough variety to keep me from getting bored. Alas, I eventually got sick of it.. It was nice to be back there though – its really a nice place to escape to. I am looking forward to this weekends ski trip with the family – it should be a fun trip!

End of the Snow Season Scouting Mission

First road ride of the season without studs

Monday, April 5th, 2010

As the ski season is winding down, I decided to get on the road bike and go for a spin. I ended up with a morning 30 mile loop on the road bike Monday morning with Tom. This was my first ride of the season without studs. I don’t have a “real” road bike, but have a cross bike and it can run large (~40mm) studded tires which are nice for the shoulder seasons when the trails are too soft or bumpy for good snow biking. Alas, the studs are super slow on ice free pavement and as the roads are mostly ice free now I took them off for the ride. It was hard getting out of the driveway but the rest of the ride was ice free and fun.

It was really nice to be back on the road bike – I had forgotten how fast and fun it is. We did a fairly mellow loop – 30 miles in about 2 and half hours.

Our ride took us by one of Fairbanks many oddities – a partially dissembled plane parked in a vacant lot.

Its rumored that the owner is planning on turning the plane into a rental unit. It would make for a unique place to life, thats for certain.
The trip back down my driveway was a lot more traumatic than going out – the driveway is on a slight hill and with narrow slick road tires it was a bit tricky making it down without wiping out.

I made it down with only one wipe out, which was success of a sort.

Happy spring everyone!