Archive for the ‘Randomness’ Category

Polar..

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!

A soggy saturday..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

The twins, Nancy, and I had a overnight trip planned, but things didn’t work out as we intended. We arrived at the trail head to wind, poring rain, and temperatures in the lower 40 – not the best weather for the ten mile hike above tree line we had planned. Instead we decided to make a day hike of it, and explored the area around the trail head.

The fall colors were out in force, making for some beautiful but wet hiking.

We spent several wet hours the wet and splashing around on the trails and near by hill sides.

The twins enjoyed snacks, and were excited to be introduced to Mike and Ikes. They did take a pass on my last minute gas station purchase, a “Uncle Al’s Stage Plank” . There was lots of passing of snacks while walking, to keep the little legs moving…

We spent a bit of time exploring before heading back..

The twins found a nice kid sized cave that they could walk around inside, much to their excitement. It was much to small for the adults, which I think added to their enjoyment. Molly made a point to tell me that it was much warmer in the cave, out of the wind and rain.

.

Not the trip we had planned, but fun none the less.

First long road ride of spring..

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

After putting in some extra hours at work I was blessed with a day off from work. It was a beautiful day, and I decided get some outside play time in. Alas, the snow is going but not gone, so no skiing, or off road riding until the white stuff is completely gone. The roads are dry, so I put skinny tires on the cross bike and headed off for a roughly 100 mile out and back ride.

6 hours and a little over 5k feet of climbing I was back. I am missing the snow, but really, really looking forward to riding on some dirt. Heres to summer!

End of the snow?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

On a fine Wednesday I found myself with a day off work and no family commitments, and decided to go check out the trails in the Whites. The plan was to see if I could get some late season snow biking in, but I also took skis just in case things were too soft. The trails were in great shape, probably the best all year.

The biking was great, but a bit slow as it was a little hot for Remus the dog.

I ended up doing a 35 mile loop, out to Moose Creek cabin, then across to the Trail Shelter, than back out. It was a beautiful day..

The Wickersham Creek crossing on the Moose Creek trail was all broken up by some snow machines who past me heading out. I attempted to get across without getting wet, but alas no such luck. I ended up just walking across carrying the snowbike, it was knee deep, quite a bit deeper than I expected. The sun was out, and it was very warm (hot even!) so not a big deal. Remus swam across, and was very excited to play in the water.

We stopped at the Trail Shelter to loll around a bit in the sun and have lunch. Lunch was greek yogurt and a bagel.

Remus had a bit, and agreed it was pretty good.

The trail softened up a bit in the late afternoon, but it was still wonderful biking.

It looked like the biking should be good for a couple more days, and the skiing should be good for at least a week or so. Get your last bit of spring fun in now, before its gone!

Sun..

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

We are starting to get quite a bit more daylight now..

And with the additional sun has come a break from the cold. No more -56f!

I spend a wonderful Monday out biking in the Whites, and enjoyed a wonderful 11 hour ride. It was great, but alas, I was in too big of a hurry leaving the parking lot, and left without enough snacks. The 1k calories I had with me was not enough for 10+ hours, as I found out. Not the end of the world though, and I enjoyed a wonderful day of riding in the sun.

I saw three moose durring my wanderings which is fairly unusual for the Whites. Perhaps all the fires in the last ten years have changed the vegetation to be a bit more friendly to them.

The cold weather had apparently taken a toll on some of the other inhabitants of the whites..

For the last hour of my ride I rode with a wonderful full moon illuminating trail, making for nice night riding.

Only two more weeks to the big one.

Hope everyone is out enjoying spring!

Cold..

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Its been a tough January, with most of the time spent in the “colder” area of the thermometer.

The National Weather Service has declared this January to the be 5th coldest on record, with an average temperature of -26.7f :

AT FAIRBANKS...THIS JANUARY WILL LIKELY GO DOWN
IN THE RECORD BOOKS AS THE 5TH COLDEST ON
RECORD WITH AN AVERAGE TEMPERATURE OF-26.7
DEGREES THROUGH YESTERDAY. TEMPERATURE DATA
AT FAIRBANKS DATES BACK TO 1904.

While it is possible to bike in -40f temperatures, its slow and not particularly fun, which has put a bit of a dent in my ITI training, but such is life. Hopefully things will warm up a bit soon and I can get some longer (8-10 hour) rides in. Think warm!

Gear..

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I admit it, I love reading about gear. My life is pretty busy these days and I spend lots more time thinking and dreaming about outdoor adventures than actually having them. Thinking about gear is just another way for me to think about future adventures outside… I was feeling a bit guilty while searching for some information on a potential gear purchase and decided it was about time to get off my lazy butt and put up some gear talk about some of the stuff I have been using in the summer (no winter gear here, that will come sometime later) and am particularly enamored of.

Tents
After the twins were born I knew i had to do something different about our tent setups. Our normal two person 6 pound tent was just not going to cut it, and neither was our four person 9lb tent, as there was no way to carry either of them in addition to the twins and not end up crippled. After a bunch of research, I ended up getting a Tarptent Rainshadow 2 . It’s a three person tent (the two in the name apparently means version 2 rather than two person) that weighs a little less than three pounds.

Its pretty spacious and all four of us can fit in it without trouble.

It holds up pretty well in the wind, and I have had it in rainy windstorms above treeline without trouble, though it does require care setting it up (stake out the sides low in wet windy conditions).

I liked it so much I started taking it on trips without the family and sleeping in it by myself. I often end up as the third man out on trips, and as no one I travel with has a three man tent, I end up packing my own tent and sleeping solo. This is not a big problem for me, as I like having my own space and a little quiet time by myself. However, after a while the small zipper on the door started having problems, so I decided to keep that tent only for family trips, and got a Tarptent Moment for trips where I was going to be sleeping solo. This is a fantastic tent – it’s very weather proof, spacious, light, and easy to set up.

I have used it in windy conditions above treeline in the rain, and its handles that wonderfully.

I am super happy with it. Hopefully by the time the twins get too large to share the larger tarptent with Nancy and me they will have a four person Moment-like tent! Both these tents are single walled, are made of thin fabric, and have small zippers, and require a bit of care. In calm damp conditions you have to be careful to make sure they are well ventilated to prevent moisture buildup. The zippers need to be kept clean, as the teeth are very small and easy to damage. It would be worth while for Tarptent to use a larger toothed zipper and gain a oz or two for a more durable zipper. Its not that big of a deal though, so long as one is careful, and is a small sacrifice for such light, roomy tents. They are made in the USA too, and the owner of the company actually personally responded to a handful of questions I emailed them about the Moment before I bought it – a very nice touch!

Rain Gear
I found a OR branded jacket on closeout several years ago, which they called the Zealot Jacket It weighs a little under 8oz, and is full on waterproof. Its the nicest rain jacket I have ever used – so light that I take it on all my summer trips, and very breathable. It packs down very small, about the size of a large apple.

Alas, it appears to be discontinued, which is a shame, as it is a wonderful jacket. OR has something similar that replaced it, but it is quite a bit heavier and does not pack down as small. I attempted to find something similar for Nancy and was quite annoyed to find that finding waterproof breathable jackets in a similar weight class (sub 8 oz) is pretty hard. For whatever reason they seem to have disappeared.. I don’t know why, as this jacket works as well as any traditional jacket, but weights a lot less. The thin fabric breaths better than a lot of standard weight jackets too. It is also great for class II and lower packrafting.

Packrafting
I have been using the same pair of float pants for most of my packrafting – a pair of goretex paddle pants from Kokatat . They work very well, and unless I swim I don’t get wet. When I swim I get more or less wet depending on what top I am using and if the cuffs on the ankles stay closed or not. I have found that the Velcro and neoprene cuffs don’t leak if I close them up, then pull my socks over the tops of the cuffs.

It looks a bit funny, but keeps everything tight and leak proof. These pants also work great as standard rain pants and on trips where weight is a concern these are the only pants I take.

I have been using a Arc’teryx Naos 65 for the last three years, and it is a wonderful pack for packrafting. It is completely waterproof, with a roll top closure, and keeps everything nice and dry. Even after going though long swims everything still stays dry, which is a major plus. The fabric of the pack also does not absorb water, which is nice as you can put on the pack after packrafting and not have to carry extra water weight in sodden fabric.

It is a bit heavy, but the lack of fiddling and waterproofness more than makes up for this. It is fairly free of weird extra widgets and straps too, which is nice. It is a great pack. Alas, Arc`teryx appears to be no longer making it, but has lots of similar looking packs. The downside is they appear to be tremendously expensive. I got mine on closeout for a reasonable price, but the new ones that Arc`teryx seemed to have replaced it with appear to cost a bit (perhaps a lot?) more than they should. On the upside Arc`teryx is quite good about handing problems – I partially ripped the hip belt off and they repaired it quickly and without fuss. It has room for packrafting gear and a week to a week and a half supply of food.

Other Stuff
I like to have my snacks ready while hiking and now have two “chub packs” as I call them that go across the shoulder straps of my pack allowing me to easily access snacks while hiking or skiing. The small one is made by Osprey and works pretty well – its is called the Grab Bag . It converts to a small fanny pack, which initially I though was pretty silly, but recently I started using it while packrafting and using a light pfd without pockets. The light pdf I have works ok, but does not have any pockets, leaving no place for me to carry survival gear and snacks. I have started using the small chub pack as a fanny pack, with it turned around so it is in the front instead just bellow the pdf – great for storing snacks while packrafting. I had a similar gadget made that is large enough for a water bottle, snacks, a gps, and random other stuff (hats, gloves, etc).

This works wonderfully for winter ski trips, allowing me to store just about everything I need in it for fast access while skiing. It is very nice to get snacks, water, etc without taking off your pack. I had it made by a local custom outdoor gear shop Apocalypse Design.

I am a big fan of Hydropel , an almost magical anti-friction and anti-maceration/pruning cream. It slows down the rate at which your skin aborbs moisture and is very nice when you are going to have wet feet for several days. It is also very good at preventing blisters. SportSlick also works pretty well but does not last quite as long, however it is a fair bit cheaper.

For the last two years I used a SteriPen to treat water. It works very well, treating about a quart in under two minutes. It appears to be effective, as I have not been on the receiving end of any waterborne pathogens. It is also possible to treat water while walking, though it requires a bit of coordination – nice for those moments when you want to keep moving or when the bugs are super bad. Or both.

Winter has arrived..

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Yup, its that time of the year.