Archive for November, 2012

Tolovana by bike!

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

This Thanksgiving Nancy and the twins where off to visit Nancy’s folks on the east coast, and I was left with a week by myself with no commitments. Ms Marsh was kind enough to help me out, and invited me out to Tolovana, and on Thanksgiving day I found myself biking down the trail to to Tolovana. We don’t have much snow here in the Interior, making for not the best skiing, but pretty darn wonderful biking. I really enjoyed the ride out, enjoying the well packed trail and the fast biking.

The views were spectacular.

Near the high point of the trail I stopped at the “Tolovana Hilton”, an abandoned water tank, to get out of the wind for a moment. It is pretty amazing how warm it is once you are out of the wind..

I had the trail to my self for the most part, passing one party on ski and a family on snow machine.

I was amused to find out that I almost beat the snowmachiners out to the hotsprings. They had arrived at the parking lot the same time as we did, and passed me for the last time about a mile from the hotsprings.

One of the skiers knows my wife Nancy, and apparently recognizing Remus, asked if she was coming. Alas, Nancy was on the east coast, enjoying sun and fair weather.

The last downhill was steep enough that I briefly stopped to see what was making a hissing noise and realized it was water vaporizing on the brake rotors. A funny sight at -5f.

After about two hours of riding and taking lots of photos I arrived at the little cabin that we were going to spend the next two nights in. I was surprised to see smoking coming out of the chimney, and a snowmachine parked outside. I stuck my head in to see one of the younger members of the snowmachine posy hurriedly packing up – apparently he was told by his dad they were staying in the “first” cabin, and only when I arrived did he relize his mistake. No harm done, and I didn’t have to start the fire! Remus and I mellowed out enjoying the time to ourselves, and were eventually joined by Ms Marsh, who had walked in.

The evening was spent eating, soaking, and talking. It was a fantastic way to spend Thanksgiving, though I missed Nancy and the twins.
Black friday was spent eating, soaking, and exploring, with maybe a bit more talking.

The wind had picked up a bit overnight, and was really blowing on the day after Thanksgiving. At one point while biking up the Tolovana airfield I though I was going to have to get off the bike to push the wind was blowing so hard. On our last day the wind died down a bit, and the bike ride out was fast and pleasant. The biking was so fast it almost felt like cheating, as the trail was so firm I think you could have ridden a road bike on it. In these conditions the bike is almost magic, zooming along when skiing would have been a slow slog on the flats, and nail biting terrifying on the downhills.

A big thanks to Ms Marsh for inviting me out, it was a wonder trip, and a great way to spend a quiet mellow Thanksgiving, and it’s mad shopping aftermath.


Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Polar past away yesterday, quietly moving on in his sleep just before dinner time. I have had many, many adventures with him, and many fond memories.

We first got Polar when he was 4 years old, having failed out of a sprint musher and a long distance musher’s dog yards. He just didn’t have the drive to be a competitive sled dog, but was happy to be a pet, sleeping inside, and playing fetch with tennis balls. He was, as far as we can figure, turned 16 this spring, which is ripe old age for a sled dog.

For the last 12 years or so he has been a constant companion, joining me for winter and summer wanderings of all sorts.

For the last year or so he has been progressively slowing down, with his idea of an adventure had been a leisurely walk down to a near by lake, and napping in the sun.

We are going to miss him, he was a wonderful friend. I hope he is playing fetch somewhere in dog heaven.

“Almost” winter..

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

My local trails have been slowly working themselves into shape, and in the last week or so have become packed enough to doing longer rides from my house on the snow bike. My “default loop” these days is about 30 miles, mostly on trails, with a short section on a dirt road. On fast days last spring it would take me under 4 hours to complete the loop. Since the trails seem to becoming passible, I decided to head out and check things out. Alas, this time it took almost twice that, with a fair bit of pushing.

Sections of the trails are really nice, mostly in places were the local mushers are grooming the trails to a white asphalt like hardness.

In other places there has been little traffic, probably because we only have 6″ or so of snow on the ground, making travel a bit hard on snow-machines. The ruts made by ATVs in the summer are barely covered in some places..

It was a nice ride though, and it was wonderful to be out on the snow bike right out of the house. Darkness is arriving pretty early these days, which is not a bad things – you can’t have winters in Alaska without darkness, and I was happy to spend some time riding in the dark. It might seem strange to some, but I love traveling after sunset in winter…

I was somewhat surprised I had the trails completely to my self, and only encountered one other person, a fat biker, just a few miles before I was back at my house.

Things are definitely looking up, but we need a bit more snow before our winter trail system really opens up. With another 5″ of snow the trails would be fantastic – here’s to more snow!

Snow Biking!

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Winter is finally here, with colder temperatures and a bit of snow. I managed to get out for my second bike ride in the White Mountains of the winter, and my first ride over 5 hours since the snow has come. It was a wonderful day to be on the bike…

The trails in the Whites are a bit rough, but passable. It should be ok skiing, though a bit thin. The biking was pretty good!

I was surprised to see lots of fat bike tracks and a single set of smaller tires – looks like snow biking just keeps going up in popularity!

The first 6 miles of trail were packed hard, and the riding was fast. Just after Lee’s cabin the trail got a fair bit softer, but the riding was still pretty nice…

I seemed to have the place to myself, with only a small bird and a couple of raven’s interrupting the solitude.

I continued on to Moose Creek cabin, ducked into the cabin to check things out, then turned around and headed back to the parking lot.

A couple of miles before the parking lot Denali came out, backlit by the setting sun. A wonderful way to end a day!

On a bike geek note, I put on some cheap carbon (faux?) levers that added a surprising amount of comfort, mainly warmer (happier!) fingers. Well worth the ~$50, if they hold up.

I hope everyone is enjoying winter!