Archive for September, 2011

Scenes from my commute..

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Enbigen the map.

Its a bit round-a-bout, but I have to get the miles on the legs to prepare for upcoming winter madness of one sort or another.

One month until the snow biking season starts…


Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I had not hiked the Summit Trail in the White Mountains NRA yet this year, and as I was running out of snow free time for hiking I decided to get off my butt and day hike it. It is a wonderful hike ridge hike with marvelous views of the White Mountains and the surrounding lowlands. It was going to be a fairly long day, but doable – 34 miles or so round trip taking somewhere from 10 to 12 hours. Remus and I left a little less early than i would have preferred but we eventually reached the trail head and started hiking at 9am. I think in the end Remus might have wanted to have stayed home… more on this later.

It appeared that BLM had been working the muddy sections in the beginning or perhaps the trail was just naturally drying out.. in any case it was in better shape that it was last time I was here. Kudos to BLM!

BLM (or possibly someone else with a sence of humor) had installed a boot brush near the start of the trail.

I found this contrivance amusing, as really only a quarter mile of the trail’s 17+ mile length has any mud. Hopefully it is put to good use.

The fall colors were out in force making for nice scenery.

The Summit trail winds its way from the trail head to the side of Wickersham Dome, then follows a ridge down from the dome to another small rounded mountain and then down to the winter trail a few miles from Beaver Creek. My plan was to go to winter trail then turn around and head back. The trail is in good shape and the walking was fast and pleasant.

Remus was having fun…

I had to slow down for some of the board walked sections as they still had a bit of frost or ice on them on the way it.

The older boardwalk sections had taken a bit of a beating recently. It looks like the trail has become popular with the equestrian crowd, and the hooves had taken a bit of a toll on the older boardwalk.

Not too big of a deal, as the older boardwalk has always been fairly beat up. The rest of the walking was wonderful.

BLM had done some additional work in a couple of the boggy sections between the dome and the shelter. These sections seemed to be holding up pretty well and a nice improvement.

When we arrived at the trail shelter I stopped to check out the log book to see who had visited recently but just before opening the door I noticed someone’s stuff inside and moved on, a bit worried I had woken up someone trying to sleep in.

Apparently I hadn’t woken anyone up as I encountered the couple staying at the shelter a mile or further down the trail out on a day hike. They had three cute and well behaved husky mixes that Remus enjoyed saying hi to.

Near the top of a hill I stopped to snap a quick picture of an interesting trail marker, and then picked up the pace a bit to catch up with Remus.

Just as I was about to catch up with Remus I spotted a porcupine just ahead of us on the trail. Alas, Remus spotted it too, and ignoring my yells pounced on it. Ouch. Remus came zipping back to me with a nice face full of quills, with enough inside his mouth that he was having trouble closing his jaw. Much saddess. I yanked all the ones I could get to inside his mouth as fast as I could with my hands, then dug into my pack to find the small mini-pliers that is in my fix-it-kit. Alas, i had trimmed down the kit a bit on last weekends Kanuti trip, and had not put the pliers back into the kit. No pliers – even more saddness! Attempting to do the best I could in the situation I started pulling the quills out with my fingers as fast as I could. Alas, slimy quills are pretty hard to grip and it was a slow process. After 15 minutes or so of this the other hikers caught up with me and loaned me a leatherman. The woman, who’s name I forgot alas, helped me hold Remus’s lip up while I removed the rest of the quills inside his mouth that I could reach and most of them from the outside of his mouth and nose. The man, Sven, watched from a few feet away holding onto his three dogs. His dogs looked on with wide amazed eyes – watching me yank quills appeared to be making quite an impression on them. After 10 minutes or so we got all the ones I could get out and I gave back the leatherman, thanked the couple, and headed back to the trail head as fast as possible in an attempt to make it to the vet before it closed. Poor Remus was a sad, sad camper.

We made it out and to the vet before they closed, and Remus got the most of remaining quill removed while comfortably sedated. He had quite a few on the inside of his mouth broken off or lying under the skin in his gums that I could not get out, as well as a fair number broken off on the outside of his muzzle. After returning from the vet he spent to the rest of the evening crashed on the floor, so out of it the cat snuck up on him to give him a sniff to make sure he was not dead. The cat normally gives Remus a wide berth as he is pretty high strung and “bouncy like Tigger” as the twins put it, so having him crashed out on the floor insensible was quite a novelty.

While I was writing this I noticed he had a little sharp point on the top of his noise – I pulled at it and it got longer. Another tug and I pulled an inch and a half quill out of the top of his nose. I expect the dequilling processing will be ongoing. I showed the quill to the twins and they were quite impressed.

I feel a rather sorry I didn’t thank the couple with the leatherman more thoroughly – they came by at exactly the right time and saved my day. Next time I will make sure I take a pliers, though I hope that Remus learned his lesson.

More photos: Summit Trail Porky Hike


Monday, September 12th, 2011

In the spring a group of friends and I headed out to Kanuti hotsprings for a wonderful overnight ski trip. Ever since then I have been thinking about a summer trip to the hotsprings, either as a hiking trip or a packrafting trip. With a free weekend and nothing major planned Tom and I headed out to Kanuti for a quick overnight trip. The plan was to hike in and out, as we were uncertain as to the water levels on the Kanuti River. Like the vast majority of rivers in Alaska it is ungauged and it is difficult to tell how much water it would have. The four hour drive to the start of the hike was scenic but uneventful. When we arrived I took a quick look at the river and was surprised to see it was bank full, with lots of water for pleasant floating. Having left our packrafts at home we gazed at the river longingly, but loaded up our packs and started walking.

I have not done any straight up backpacking trips recently and was amazed how light a sub 20lb pack feels. Not having to carry either float gear and a packraft or gear for the twins makes for light backpacks.
The first mile involved hiking on the Alaska Pipeline and was fast but pretty boring. Eventually we broke away from the pipeline and headed up to the ridges leading to Caribou Mountain.

The weather was a bit gloomy with a spate of wind driven rain that changed to snow as we got higher up.

Near Caribou Mountain there was enough snow to slow things down a bit and to make hiking in my running shoes a bit iffy.

I had the feeling the views would have been wonderful if we had not been stuck in the clouds. After side-hilling around Caribou Mountain we headed down to the hotsprings.

After crossing one slightly swampy saddle we descended down a hillside covered with small birch trees before reaching the hotsprings.

Midway down the last hill the small birch trees formed a fairly dense wall of brush and slowed things down a bit.

Eventually we arrived. The springs were in great shape, and after some cleanup we jumped in for a soak. The water was pretty relaxing and well worth the trip.

After enjoying the water for a while I got out and explored the springs. For the most part though the springs is remote-feeling, with not a lot of signs of past human visitors. The place seems pretty popular with the caribou and moose – there were tracks all around the springs.

In my wandering around I did find a smaller spring on the other side of the creek from the main springs that appeared to be warm enough to soak in. It had been cleaned out in the not so distant past, and might have seen some use this summer.
I checked out the Kanuti River near the springs, and it was fairly high and very floating. I have to come back sometime to float this!

The clearing the springs is located in is pretty interesting. The area closest to the springs is bare of any vegetation, with the rest of the meadow covered in wild chives and chest high grasses.

It is an interesting place and well worth visiting. Tom enjoyed the hot water so much he fell asleep and soaked for a extra hour or so, long enough to be a bit dehydrated and to have massive leg cramps when emerging. After having dinner and goofing off around the fire we hit the sack. This was the first trip where Tom got to use his new “Clown Tent”, a LightHeart SoLong. I was using my floor-less tent, a Golite utopia, and since I was by myself, Remus came inside too. He was pretty happy to join me out of the rain.

In the morning we had a brief soak, packed up, and headed out. We found a much nicer way though the brush on the way up the first hill which made for nicer hiking.

The weather was much more pleasant on the hike out, with periodic breaks in the clouds showing fantastic views of the surrounding hills.

All the snow on Caribou Mountain was gone, making for more pleasant hiking. By the time we were heading down the final hill large chunks of blue sky were showing though breaks in the clouds and the sun was peeking though in spots.

Soon we were back on the pipeline and shortly after that at the truck.

For folks who like hotsprings this is a trip to do – the hiking is wonderful and the springs are very nice. It took us around 5 hours to go in, and around 5 hours to hike out. The drive was around 4 hours one way, but could take more or less time depending on road conditions. We parked at the Kanuti River bridge at around mile 105, but it should also be possible to park at the abandoned gift shop at “Old Man”, or at one of the pipeline access roads (be sure not to block it, as your car might get towed).

As a side note, I was saddened to learn that by the end of the trip my shoes had large holes in them.

These days I do most of my hiking in non-waterproof trail running shoes or light hikers. They are light and drain fast, important for the wet places I spend most of my time hiking in. The downside is I have had bad luck finding shoes that last any length of time. The shoes I took on this trip, North Face brand trail running shoes , have only around 120 miles on them, and four trips: two ~30 mile day hikes, a three day trip, plus this one, and already have large holes in them. It might be time to switch back to Saloman XA comps as I got several summers of use out of a pair. My current shoe selecting strategy, which can be summed up as getting whatever fits and is cheap or on sale, seems to not work so well.

A larger interactive map can be found here and a standard paper map can be found here.

It was a little under 12 miles each way, and it took us 5 hours of hiking to get in, and 5 hours of hiking to get out.

Additional Details
Ed Plumb’s blog, as usual, has additional information on this trip in the summer, as well as the winter .

More Photos: Kanuti