Archive for the ‘trip reports’ Category

White Mountains Loop..

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Social media media reminded me that I normally ride around the White Mountains NRA’s main “loop”, which is a great 100 mile loop though most of the interesting parts in early January, and inspired, I booked a cabin trip. Then snow came (and lots of it!) and slowly the trails improved.. then more snow. So I moved the trip, and finally, with news that the far part of the loop was in, and with a forecast warm weather into the teens it was on.


The Whites are a special place for me..

The first day Eddy the dog and I (Shiloh the dog stayed home, as he isn’t into long days, the Twins had school, and Nancy had work and nicely took over parenting duties) rode to Cache Mountain Cabin.

It was beautiful, but cold – near zero Fahrenheit up high..

Looking back towards Moose Creek White Loop 2022 Sunset White Loop 2022

It was much colder down low, and when Eddy and I crossed Beaver Creek it was surprisingly cold. Cold enough my face felt numb in the still air. When we arrived at the cabin it felt a fair bit warmer, and it was -20f. The evening in Cache Mt cabin was spent relaxing and enjoying the evening, warmed by the huge stockpile of wood the “wood fairies” (aka previous visitors) had left us.
I was a bit saddened to see a big dent burned into the wall of the cabin – it looked like someone had hung a lantern on the wall of the cabin, and it at set fire the wall, burning a sizable dent in it. Sad..

Untitled

The next day Eddy and I rode over the divide to Windy Gap Cabin. I was hoping for a good trail, but was prepared to walk the whole way. Fortunately the trail was great! Alas, it was overcast with lightly falling snow so not very scenic, and I didn’t take a lot of photos.. The ride up to the pass was warm, and soon after leaving the cabin it warmed up to well into the teens, which was great. I was so warm I took off a bunch of layers as a rode up to the top, following the tracks of a large wolverine (no photos alas) most of the way to the top.

PXL_20220121_214134028

The ice lakes were mellow, with very little water..

PXL_20220121_222353899_2

I did find a dog bootie on the ice lakes with “fulda” written all over it. Later I put it on Eddy, joking it was his “Euro clubbing wear” with some folks we passed. It turns out it is a classic, from the 1997 Yukon Quest dog race! Amazing it is still around..

I have been bringing a small large mouth vacuum insulated container for lunches, and that has been rocking – it is so nice to have a hot lunch quickly while riding..

Lunch

It was much colder on other side of pass (or divide as folks like to call it), and I nearly froze my butt off until I stopped and added layers.

Shortly after the ice lakes the trail got a lot softer with no traffic since the last snowfall, and while it was still ridable, it was slow and high resistance.

PXL_20220121_235257357._2



Some bike selfies..

White Loop 2022 White Loop 2022

The wood fairies were out in force again, and I was happy to see a huge amount of wood at Windy Gap cabin. Yay!!

The evening was spend warm and mellow, listening to the wind howl outside.

Late in the evening a big dog team arrived with a snowmachine and a huge sled that made a wonderful looking trail. They were heading to wolf run cabin and were a bit lost, we chatted for a bit, then they were off. The next day we headed out to complete the loop, excited by a much warmer and calmer day.
The trails were busy on the way out, and I saw lots of people I knew..



Yay for a nice three day trip in the Whites! I returned to town a bit beat, but very enlivened by the trip that was ordinary enough I feel a little silly writing about it. Double yay for fun ordinary adventures!

Cache Mountain

Sunday, December 12th, 2021

I have been slacking a bit, both on writing and having adventures worth writing about. I am theoretically signed up for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, but given the covid crisis it isn’t clear to me it isn’t going to be an out and back again… not super exciting. Otherwise, I don’t really have much planned this winter, and that is making getting into shape and staying motivated hard… Fortunately winter is fun and the dogs and I found myself heading out to Cache Mountain Cabin in the Whites Mountains NRA with a winter weather advisory and a forecast of 2 to 5 inches of snow. I packed enough food to push my bike out (and back!) to the cabin, but fortunately the trail was mostly in great shape. Eddy and Shiloh had a blast, though Eddy had to be on harness for about half the ride in and all of the ride out due to all the caribou and his driving need to chase them.

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

Eddy, with his head in the snow as always..





I had left my good lens at home as I didn’t expect to see anything worth taking photos – go figure, as it turned out there were caribou everywhere. They were all over the trail, and just before the cabin I almost ran over two sleeping in the trail.

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

The trail was in pretty good shape given the low snow conditions. The first 8 miles to the junction were in fantastic shape, after that the the trail had just enough traffic to Beaver creek to be ridable with lowish pressure, where most of the traffic apparently turned around and the trail had several inches of light fluffy snow on it. Beaver creek had a bit of overflow, but I escaped without wet feet and only a slightly icy bike.

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021
Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

After a bit more overflow in the trees past the creek, I climbed up into a big open tussock field, where I lost the trail, eventually just giving up and pushed until the trail entered the trees and was easier to locate.

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021 Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

After the tussock field of doom, I followed a wonderful section of caribou groomed singled track to the cabin – several miles of nice packed narrow trail – yay!

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

(Sorry for the bad photo, the light was going..)

The evening in the cabin was relaxing, and in the morning two snow machines passed by taking away the nice caribou single track, but making the rest of the trail a lot nicer. The ride out was great, though fewer bou and more bou hunters. A few miles before we reached the trail head we ran into Ed(dy)’s old owner, Jodi of Dew Claw kennel, who was out on a training run, and stopped briefly for quick chat.

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

The drive back I enjoyed a nice post adventure glow, much happier with winter while the dogs snuggled. Yay for winter!

Cache Mt trip, winter 2021

Packrafting Beaver Creek Again

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

I love Beaver Creek! I try to do the classic Nome Creek to Summit trail float and hike once a year or so in some form. It is beautiful and the logistics are simple so it makes a great easy packrafting trip.

Four years ago our whole family packrafted (google says it should be spelled pack-rafting, but what does google know? 🙂 ) Beaver Creek, floating down to the Summit Trail and hiking out to the Wickersham Dome trailhead. It was a mixed bag – the twins had fun for sections, but Lizzy in particular hated the brush and didn’t enjoy the packrafting with two people in a boat that much. The weather was not ideal – we got hailed on several times during the float and rained on a fair bit. This year we ended up with a Memorial day weekend without commitments and so I started aggressively pushing to do something fun outside. Doing a repeat of the Beaver Creek came up, and Molly seemed excited about it once I pointed out they could be in their own boats, and that BLM had trimmed the dense (!!) brush in the first eight miles from the river. Lizzy was not excited about the hiking part because of all the brush in the trail, and “packrafting is dumb”. Her irritation about the brush is understandable as it was in her face when she hiked it four years ago, which is a lot worse than having it waist level like it is on me. Her disliking of packrafting is also sort of understandable, as the the only trip the twins have been on they didn’t get to control their own boats and were in double boats, so there wasn’t much to do besides bob around and be cold. Eventually a compromise was reached, and we decided Molly and I would float Beaver Creek, then Nancy and Lizzy would meet us half way on the hike out. My friends Tom and Amanda were going to join us.

Alas, as the trip came closer Tom hurt his back and the forecast was for unseasonably cold weather. Yikes! Tom’s back issues were abating but not well enough for the hike, but Molly was still up for it, and the weather was to go back to the normal sun by the time we were hiking so we charged ahead. Our friend Heath dropped us off at the put in were our car read 37f with a stiff breeze. Molly was in my boat with a white water skirt, and I was in an open double boat (alpacka calls them double ducks). After a bit of messing around we got inflated and were soon floating down the river.

Beaver Creek 2021 Beaver Creek 2021

Much to my surprise Molly was quite warm sealed into the boat with a skirt. I was not though – my feet were very cold by the end of the day.

Beaver Creek 2021

The float down beaver creek was uneventful but fun. Molly seemed to pickup the packrafting basics quickly, and my worries of her flipping or getting into wood in Beaver Creeks class I (maybe II if one is very generous) whitewater didn’t come to pass. The twins have been doing an internship with the Alaska Songbird Institute helping monitor Tree Swallows, and have developed a keen interest in birds.

Beaver Creek 2021

There were lots and lots of birds to see. Bald eagles, a few other large birds of prey, tons of ducks and other waterfowl.

Beaver Creek 2021

lots of wolf tracks on the river..

Beaver Creek 2021

The brief bit of winter trail near the river looked great.. the other side was a different story though.

A few miles upstream of our take out in a straight line the river had cut off a long oxbow and was now taking a new channel, leaving a deep backwater pool were the river used to flow. Seeing the river evolve was pretty neat!

Beaver Creek 2021

Beaver Creek 2021

The “too much floating look”..

Our plans were to float most of the way to the takeout then camp on the river, but the float was faster than I expected, and in around eight hours we pulled into Borealis-LeFevre cabin just across from the take out. The place was a bit of a mess – very muddy, with TP and trash littering the grass around the cabin, but the warm of a woodstove was very appreciated. It took several hours for my feet to recover from the cold float.

Beaver Creek 2021

Beaver Creek 2021

Mystery drift wood..

Beaver Creek 2021

The previous visitors had left the new window open and the shutters unlatched, and as we arrived they were banging in the wind – I was bummed to see it left like that. BLM had just put a new opening window in this winter (I think? Maybe it was earlier..) and it still has a screen free of holes. An opening window with a screen without holes is quite a luxury in this cabins, but it is going to be a short-lived one if folks leave it open all summer. A bit of sweeping and picking up, the fire started, and the place was warm and cozy. In the morning we loaded up into the double boat, and with two trips we are across the river and hiking out.

Beaver Creek 2021

BLM had done a fantastic job clearing the trail. The dense brush of our last hike is gone, leaving a nice clear trail – yay!

Beaver Creek 2021

Beaver Creek 2021

Beaver Creek 2021


It was wonderful to see all the clearing that had been done – they really put a lot of effort into it! It has turned brushy hike were it is hard to follow the trail into a fun and pleasant easy to follow trail. As forecasted the weather warmed up, and Molly and I enjoyed a fantastic (but longer than I remembered) hike to meet up with Nancy, Lizzy, and the dogs.

Beaver Creek 2021

Molly’s snow field crossing technique..

Beaver Creek 2021


Along the way we found a small pool with magically delicious “mountain water” as Molly put it that she hoarded for the rest of the hike. A mile or so from our meetup point the brush came back and we had to smash though a brief but dense thicket – I expect the trail clearing crew ran out of time and didn’t clear the whole thing.


Beaver Creek 2021

The remaining brushy section..

The evening was spent reading books, playing games, petting the dogs, and searching for water, as alas the water catchment’s barrel had split open.

The next day we hiked out, with Lizzy setting a blazing pace.

Beaver Creek 2021 Beaver Creek 2021 Beaver Creek 2021 Beaver Creek 2021

We had a question from a man in a kilt who upon seeing our paddles and life jackets asked about the trail up from the river, and was excited to be informed the brush was mostly trimmed out. Apparently we were not the only group put off by the thick brush. Lizzy I think ended up being sad she missed the float – I don’t think it entirely dawned on her how much difference having your own boat would have made fun wise. She and Nancy still had fun though, and the group of us arrived at the parking lot tired, muddy, and happy. I did have one freak out /breakdown as folks were getting in the car in regards to the mud free-ness (or lack there of) of their shoes – my apologies Nancy!


As a postscript, after checking with BLM to make sure it was ok, the following Friday I hauled in two new trash cans to function as rain barrels and a roll of hardware cloth to wrap around them to keep them from getting chewed up. Someone had put in a trash bag in the split barrel meanwhile and it was mostly holding water again. I swapped out the split trash can with a new one, stashed the extra, and hauled the broken one out. Hopefully it will several seasons.

Beaver Creek 2021

Happy summer everyone!

Whites Loop

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Photos from biking the White Mountains 100 course as a two night overnight trip. The trail was great, with warm weather and mostly great trails.

One item of note – few miles below Windy Gap there is a new reroute, with a good 400ft+ climb instead of a gentle downhill grade, but on the upside, no ice or overflow.

Whites Loop

Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic 2020

Friday, August 7th, 2020

It was early morning and Tom and I were walking up Yacko Creek, with 40 or so miles to go.  The valley was covered in low lush green grass, the sky was clear and blue, and the walking was great.  After rushing by a mining camp guarded by a friendly looking black lab, and a much less friendly pit bull mix, we were happy to be away from people again.  Off in the distance, some dark shapes were moving around in the grass.  Ravens maybe, I wondered?  We got closer, and Tom and I started wondering aloud what they were..  Soon we were close enough to see it was a small wolf pack, with the younger members bouncing around like puppies while the older ones lay in the sun.  I grabbed a rock, readied my trusty anti bear air horn, and told Tom to get the bear spray.  About the time we figured out what they were, they noticed us, and after giving us brief consideration, they headed off into the neighboring hills.  I could see them occasionally as they weaved in and out of the dwarf birch covering the hillside before disappearing.   Tom and I sped up a bit, feeling their eyes on us as we walked up Yacko Creek in the morning sun. 

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020

The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic is a point-to-point semi-organized event that has been held since the early 80s.  The route changes every three years, with the current route going from the Cantwell area to Sheep Mountain Lodge near Eureka.  My normal partner for these sort of adventures, Tom, and I had done a shorter version of this twice, but didn’t do it in 2019 due to a schedule conflict.  Fortunately this year due to Covid we had lots of free time and we were in.  The current route is much longer than the one we had done before, though – instead of nearly two days, we were looking at possibly six days.  It was a daunting prospect! 

In the leadup to the event we studied maps, and talked gear, and generally obsessed too much (or at least I did), eventually settling on a route hitting the ATV trails in the Nelchena area.  Hopefully we would be able to take 50+ miles of ATV trails to the finish, avoid any huge climbs, and enjoy some great walking.   We also decided to take only one boat, a two person packraft, hoping to use it only to cross the Susitna.  We had been warned about giant beaver swamps and slow walking on Tsusena Creek, but we were hoping the lighter packs would make up for it. 

The day before the race, Amanda (Tom’s partner) drove us down to Cantwell, graciously driving us to the start for a brief pre race meeting, followed by pizza.

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020
ASWC 2020

A highly trained and very bouncy young dog who was apparently trained as a search and rescue dog at Barry Switzer’s Ground Zero Emergency Training Center. The owner was unimpressed that I didn’t know who Barry Switzer was, but the puppy could fetch tennis balls like a champ!

In the morning Amanda dropped us off at the start (thanks Amanda, you rock!!).  Alaska outdoor superstar Luc Mehl was there and said hi, but I’d had way too much caffeine and was so worked up I think I came across as either insane, on meth (or crack), or both.   Which is sort of funny, as the only other time I have met him in real life was on the iditarod trail 200+ miles into the ITI with less than 6 hours of sleep, and I was pretty manic.  After a slightly awkward (but not nearly as much so as AlaskaCross ) start we were off.  

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020

The first 30 miles or so were great walking, as we walked up the Jack River, and over to the Tsusena.  We had two groups ahead of us, plus a random person with a white pack we saw just as we reached Caribou Lakes. The Tsusena was great walking, until it wasn’t, as we hit some huge lakes created by beavers, followed by brush.  Eventually it got too dark and we called it good, setting up our tiny tent and getting 4 hours of sleep.   


Our schedule of making camp just as it became hard to see and getting four hours or so of sleep, plus maybe two more hours of fiddling and setting up and taking down camp continued for the rest of the trip.  We had a freeze-dried meal each just before going to bed. Alas, the first night I woke up with hunger pains and had to scarf down some nuts, then again later some cheese. (Tom says the cheese part happened the night after.)   Apparently “Night Cheese” is some sort of 30 Rock in-joke, and Tom made fun of me a lot for it, though I should point out I never saw 30 Rock.  

Night cheese..

After that I made sure to supplement my freeze-dried meals with nuts and coconut oil for more calories.

DSC01857

Our campsite for the evening..

In the morning we continued down the creek, occasionally seeing the flash of a paddle through the brush along the creek as seemingly everyone floated by.   The walking was never horrible, but in places it wasn’t very fast.  We did find several miles of old trapline that was occasionally flagged and ended at a tree stand and a short airstrip that provided several miles of great walking. 

AMWC 2020


Eventually we crossed to the other side of the creek, and I dunked my “nice” camera when I misjudged how deep the creek was – it was so clear it was several feet deeper and a lost faster than I expected.  Alas, that was the end of the good photos, and I had to rely on my phone for photos after that.   The camera survived though; the lens just had some moisture in it.  Good thing I didn’t bring the good lens, but instead my junker lens!

We finally reached some ATV trails, which we took to the lakes near Tsusena Bluff, which we followed over to Deadman Creek.  We saw a huge tripod in the distance, and were surprised to eventually walk right up to it.  It turns out it was an artificial eagle nest installed in the early 80s – neat!  

AMWC 2020 AMWC 2020 ASWC 2020 An eagle’s nest!!

From Deadman we walked a mile or so up the Susitna to a small creek which we took down to the river. 

AMWC 2020


We made a very uneventful crossing, and slowly climbed up to the Fog Lakes. 

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020 The Susitna!


We crossed Fog Lakes as a rainstorm slowly blew in, climbing up over a small hill, to camp in the rain on an unnamed creek as it got dark. 

In the morning it was dry and sunny, and we hiked up into Tsisi Creek, over to Kotsina Creek, and camped near darkness at the divide between George and Goose Creeks.  

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020 AMWC 2020

Heading down to Kotsina Creek

AMWC 2020 IMG_20200721_230541975

Camping between George and Goose Creeks

The walking was mostly great, and I enjoyed the sun, briefly hiking in my underpants to let my pants dry.   We went to sleep to clear skies, and woke 4 hours later to an icy tent.  Hiking on Goose Creek was great, but alas it turned away from our destination and we had to head up into the dwarf birch near Busch Creek on some small hills leading to the Black River.  Shortly after crossing Busch Creek we had our first bear encounter as we startled a medium sized brown bear who took off bounding up the hill like we were the devil incarnate.  Tom and I both wished we could run uphill that fast; that bear flew.  By midday we hit the start of the ATV trails, which turned out to be a small road that started semi randomly in a huge open swamp.  

AMWC 2020

Civilization!

Near the swamp we had our second bear encounter as  a mother bear and two large cubs saw us way in the distance on the other side of the swamp and again ran away at top speed.   Hurrah for well behaved bears!  

A few miles down the road we ran into some footprints.  Later we were to learn Matt K, Brian P, and John P had taken this trail over to and up the Little Oshentna, crossing over Horse Pasture and into Caribou Creek.

The trail ( actually a dirt road) was great walking, and soon we zoomed to the Black River, where we had to inflate and cross one at a time.  I had brought 100ft of p-cord to shuttle the raft back and forth, but alas, that much p-cord turned out to be a big pain to manage, and after several attempts and one huge mess of tangled lines we managed to both get across.  
Several hours later we had to cross the Oshentna, but this time we just both got in the boat at the same time.  Alas, after deflating we learned there was another channel to cross.  Sigh.  Soon we were across, and were back on the fast walking mini-road, only to take a wrong turn and end up at the Oshentna again, headed in the wrong direction. 

ASWC 2020

With some backtracking we made it to the correct trail, which alas became a bit of a muddy mess. 

ASWC 2020

In the evening we camped at the intersection of two ATV trails in a little pass, on a wonderfully clear and beautiful evening.  

In the morning we awoke to a hard frost with chunks of ice on the tent, and clear skies.  We zoomed along attempting to stay warm until the sun hit us.  We followed Yacko Creek though some mines, passing some old mining equipment, through some much more active mines, and eventually out into a beautiful green valley where we surprised a small pack of wolves enjoying the morning sunshine.   Our plan at this point was just to push though and hopefully finish in the early morning, ideally making good time on the great ATV trails.   

ASWC 2020 ASWC 2020

Tom drying stuff out winter classic style.. but more dusty


Fortunately the trails remained great, but it was oh so hilly, hot, and dusty.  My feet were not enjoying the hard surface.   We had two biggish climbs, then topped out at “Monument”, before descending to Crooked Creek.   From the top of Monument we had cell service, so I called my wife Nancy and my daughters to say “Hi” – the joys of modern life!   From there we had intended to take the Crooked Creek trail, but alas, we wasted several hours trying to find the trail before bailing and walking around it to Belanger Pass trail, swacking though dwarf birch in the almost dark before hitting the trail.   In honor of getting back on the “easy walking” we had a freeze dried meal each, then walked in the dim light up a thousand feet or so vertically, to descend down a wide road to a muddy and mindlessly straight Squaw Creek trail. 

ASWC 2020

Early morning manic Belanger Pass trail selfie..


It was surprisingly warm up high, and more surprisingly, pretty cold after we descended. 

ASWC 2020

Squaw Creek trail, in one of the less muddy sections.. so straight, so boring!

Squaw Creek Trail was a blur of mud and mist in the distance that ended finally at 6am when we turned off to bump into some folks I had talked to at the start eating handfuls of donuts.  Now minus the donuts they were huddled around a fire, looking warm but glued in place.   Apparently there was yet another beaver swamp and one of their group had fallen in at 3am, getting completely soaked and resulting in a nice big fire and naps for the lot of them. 

ASWC 2020

The donut guys, in happier, drier times.


I moved on quickly, as otherwise the lure of the warm fire would suck me in, and soon it would be me napping.  

ASWC 2020

We inflated to cross the beaver swamp, only to find it was actually very shallow for the most part, too shallow to paddle, and only deep in one narrow section dug by ATV traffic.  Then it was up and over the side of Gunsite mountain, then down to an abandoned section of the Glenn Highway, where we pounded out several miles of pavement, followed by a few more miles of sleep-deprived wandering on social trails before finally reaching the finish at Sheep Mountain lodge. 

AMWC 2020 AMWC 2020

Lifelike pavement walking action!

Amanda was there to meet us with Professor the Black Lab, and we were back in civilization, with food, showers, and all the comforts of life. Hurrah!   As we signed in, I was surprised to see just two groups (four people) finished ahead of us.

ASWC 2020

Amanda, being the wonderful person she is, had booked us rooms (I even got my own, double yay!), and had food for us – triple yay!   After a nap, we hung out with the other groups who finished. Alas, the winner and new record holder and master packer (his pack was tiny!!) Sam Hooper was already long gone, but Matt, Brian, and John were there and we chatted a bit.  Then we took naps before meeting the next group coming in: Luc Mehl, Lee Helzer, and Alan Rogers.  Then it was dinner, and more sleeping before the long drive back to Fairbanks, chauffeured by Amanda while I sat in the back seat petting ‘Fessor. 

ASWC 2020



We made a brief stop in Delta for weird Russian foods from the IGA for my daughter Lizzy, and a burger for Tom, before finally making it back to Fairbanks.

AMWC 2020

Квас!

Gear

We took a single packraft.  That was a mistake, probably, as we didn’t get any breaks for our feet.  If I do it again, I will take my own boat.

We took a small 3lb tent, a Tarptent Rainshadow.  It is a great tent, but too small for two adults to sit up and do things like fix their feet.  This slowed things down a bit.  I would take a different tent, or at least a tent that two people can sit up in at the same time.  Perhaps a mid, as the bugs were almost non-existent for the most part. 

We both brought sleeping bags and closed cell foam pads.  I brought a 30 degree bag I originally got for my daughter lizzy.  It worked great.  

We took an older MSR Pocket Rocket and a biggish titanium pot that is the lightest pot I own.  I would have taken my MSR Reactor, but it is on the fritz and takes forever to boil.  In retrospect, I would have taken a Jet Boil or something that boils water faster.   We had a freeze dried meal every evening, which is the only time the stove was used. 

Foot stuff – we brought ¾ of a roll of Lukotape, and used it almost completely up, and lots of a homemade hydropel replacement that our friend Beat made.  I also had a small amount of Sportslick.  The hydropel replacement works great, much better than anything I have used before (at besides hydropel 🙂 ).   Next time I will bring lots more. 

We both brough trekking poles.  Well worth it for the creek crossings, of which there were lots. 

Shoes – I used inov-8 Roclite G 275 and they mostly worked great, until they didn’t. They have weird non-eyelet things for the laces, and they were almost completely destroyed by the end, and I had to cut up a sleeping pad to cushion the front of my shoes for the last 30 miles.   I wore a thin liner sock and a thick outer sock.  Mostly I was happy, I just wish those shoes’ lacing system was a lot more durable.   I would use something else next time.

ASWC 2020 shoe fail

Not impressed by the lacing system..



I took a HMG 4400 pack. I have a love hate relationship with that pack. At the upper 30lbs of weight I had in it, floppy and uncomfortable would be the best words to describe it.  After 25 miles I had to stop and repack as it was so uncomfortable.  Also, I wish it was made out of VX style fabric rather than dyneema as it seems to be aging really fast.   However, it is light, and it is laid out well, with good pockets.    And my other pack of a similar size is around 1lb heavier.   I don’t think I will take it on trips where I am carrying more than 30 lbs again.  Maybe I am just a wimp. 

Navigation – we had print maps of the route, made with Caltopo, and the route loaded on two cell phones, with a Garmin etrex 30 as a backup. Next time I might just leave the etrex at home, as cell phones are much easier to use than the etrex is.  The print maps were great for route discussion. 

Food 

I took about 16 lbs of food, hopefully enough for 6 days, plus 1200 calories of “emergency chocolate”   That works out to be a little more than 2.5 lbs a day, and included a freeze dried meal.  I bought two of the Expedition Foods (https://expeditionfoods.com/ ) 1k calorie meals and those rocked – they tasted good, and were noticeably more filling with no need to wake up in the middle of the night for a snack.  Alas, they are expensive and they have no US outlet and are based in the U.K.  The Thai curry was particularly delicious.  For the “normal” calorie meals I brought macadamia nuts and little packets of coconut oil to add calories, which seemed to work great.   I had about 8oz of either cheese or pepperoni per day, which was great.  Next time I might bring twice that.  The rest of the 2.5lbs per day was mostly candy bars (mars bars, snickers, m&ms, a few granola bars).   This was a mistake – I bought too many candy bars and not enough nuts and simple carbs.  I was probably short of protein.  Next time I think I will bring some powdered recovery beverages, instant breakfast mixes, or something similar – something I can just add to a Nalgene of water and drink.  I had brought several packets of chai mix which was wonderful just added to cold water in my Nalgene.   I had some electrolyte tablets but didn’t use them.  I should have; my feet swelled up huge the last day, possibly due to a lack of protein or electrolytes.

Nancy suggested I add some pilot bread, which was great.  Next time I will bring a lot more simple carbs in an easy to digest form like that, possibly with other crackers or chips like Fritos.
My daughter Molly (kids are useful for something!) vacuum sealed each day of food individually, and that worked well. 
I finished with a day and half to two days worth of food.  Since it took us about 5 days that seems to be about right. 

Route

Our route was a mixed bag.  The walking was mostly good, besides Tsusena Creek and some of the muddier ATV trails.  The ATV trails got boring quickly, though, and it would have been nice to see some of the higher country.  Not floating was a bummer, as it meant we were always on our feet while traveling.   Next time I think I would try to do more floating, which could be hard if Caribou Creek and Tsusena are both running high.  It sounded like Tsusena Creek was continuous class II+/III last year, which might have been more than we were willing to do.

What would I do again?  

  • Sleeping 4 hours a night was good – we were mostly functional and made pretty good time. It also let our feet heal up and dry off. 
  • A freeze dried meal a day worked great – some sort-of-real food was very nice
  • A tent – a tent was excellent, as it rained a fair bit. 
  • Trekking poles – I almost didn’t bring them, as they weigh slightly over a lb – like half day of food! 
  • Leukotaping my feet two days before, completely covering the heel and the front and using tape adherent (tincture of iodine) worked perfectly.  The original tape stayed on for most of the trip. 

What would I change? 

  • I would bring a different tent, possibly bigger, maybe without netting, so two adults could sit up at the same time to treat their feet and do other tasks.  Perhaps a mid.  A HMG mid if I won the lottery. 
  • Different food. 
  • Different shoes that didn’t have the lacing system fall apart. 
  • More foot lube. 
  • More leukotape – we almost ran out! 
  • Bring a boat per person! 
  • Possibly a different pack
  • Leave the etrex at home, possibly bring another usb battery instead, maybe a AA powered charger. 
  • Cut more weight out – my pack was too heavy.
  • bring compression socks – my feet swelled up a bit the last day, and got really big when I finished!
  • carry my “good” camera in a waterproof bag!
  • Probably lots of other things I am forgetting. 

After Affects

My feet swelled up huge, but otherwise I was mostly fine. I had two small blister on my feet, and one blister on my hand.

ASWC 2020

My feet though..

Finally

I would like to give a huge thank you to Amanda for driving us around, picking us up, getting me a room at the finish, providing food, and everything else – thanks Amanda!!! 

Thanks Tom for accompanying me – it was fantastic traveling with you!

I would like to thank Nancy and the twins for letting me disappear on this harebrained adventure.  Thanks, I love you guys so much, and really appreciate your willingness to let me disappear for a week (or several) occasionally.   

I will probably update this post as I remember more things as I remember them. 

Luc posted a wonderful write-up here, with as always better words and photos. Plus he made a video!!

2020 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic: Talkeetna Mountains from Luc Mehl on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading!

Map

Alaska Cross 2020

Friday, June 19th, 2020

Alaska Cross is point to point semi-organized semi-race. It originally went from Chena Hot Springs to Circle Hot Springs, then branched out to several other destinations. In the latest incarnation it goes from Lost Creek (mile 6 of the Dalton Highway) to the Wild and Free headquarters at Eureka AK. I did it last year with Ned Rozell and had a great time. This time I was back, with Tom, and hoped to take a “better” route. It is about 46 miles in a straight line, but folks are free to take whatever route they want.

The start is pretty awkward as usual, though perhaps a bit more so with the “promoter” Mark Ross sending us off with some sort of late 90s music that I had not heard before.

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

There are many route options, but almost everyone took an ATV trail for the first few miles, then groups started peeling off to take their own routes. Tom and I headed up to a ridge that extended for the first 28 miles.

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

The next 20+ miles were a mix of okay walking and tussocks, with a bit of brush tossed in.

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

When Tom and I first crested onto the ridge there were around 7 or so folks ahead of us, and gradually that thinned out to just one – Brent Sass of Wild and Free Mushing. We would see Brent on and off again ahead of us for rest of the race, always on the next ridge ahead of us.

Alas, it was really hot, and there wasn’t much water on the ridge. By the time we started dropping off the ridge I was very dehydrated and starting to have trouble eating. Tom needed a quick break to adjust his shoes and I ducked behind some rocks to take an dehydrated emergency potty break (a number two) . Alas, just as I was finishing up when Matt (I think) passed by. I hope he didn’t see me and wasn’t traumatized for life. My apologies Matt!

Once off the ridge we took an old road which varied from really great walking to a muddy and brushy atv track for a few miles before heading up to a ridge we would take most of the remaining distance to the finish.

We finally had good access to water and I drank three liters over the next few miles, and stocked up for the high and presumably dry ridge we were taking next. Alas, even after I was bloated with water I was still dehydrated.. too much, too late I guess.

I did stop and take photos of the little shipping container shelter Ned and I peeked into last year. Last year Ned had said he was very tempted to take a nap in it, but I vetoed that idea thinking it was a moldy mess. In a little more daylight it looked a lot more inviting and not all covered by mold as it looked to me the year before, but fortunately it was only 8:30, way too early to take a nap.

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020 Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020 Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

The climb up to the final ridge looked huge from below, but it didn’t take that long to hike up it. Alas, my stomach was feeling off from being dehydrated and I was having a hard time eating the food I bought. Next time, fewer Snickers and more cheese or other non-sweet high calorie items. Tom gave me his only cheese stick, for which I was very grateful – thanks Tom!

The ridge went on, and on. Up and down.. but the walking was great!

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020 Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020 Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020 Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

Eventually we left the nice ridge and headed down to the Hutlinana River. Just before we headed down I saw the rind of a tangerine or other small orange on the ground next to some footprints in some dry caribou moss. This ridge is pretty remote, so I can only assume it was from last year…

We headed down to the river in a nice brush free gulley, and quickly found a winter trail we took over to the Hutlinana hot springs trail. Alas the beavers had been very active, and several times the trail went into waist deep pools before we crossed the Hutlinana, and started the six mile walk to the finish just as the skies opened up and dumped rain on us..

Alaska Cross, Lost Creek to Eureka 2020

We arrived at the finish around 9am, just after the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was a very welcome relief to lie in the sun on the grass of the Wild and Free homestead, drinking cold pop from a cooler in my truck and listening to the dogs howl and watching them play. I was pleasantly surprised that only four people had finished ahead of us – Brian, Nick, Bob, and Brent. It seemed like we were going so slow I expected everyone to be ahead of us. Eventually we found everyone napping in the workshop and we headed in for a nap before driving back to the start.

What a great way to spend 24 hours, I had a blast. I will probably update this with some lessons learned and other information as I get a chance.

Thanks for the company Tom, and congrats to everyone who showed up for the long walk, and Brent and Ida for hosting us at the finish!

The results from Mark R, who likes the results listed from last to first:

 
AKX 2020, June 13, After-math:  

11.  Mike Fisher,  Brandon Wood    - Scratched at 25mi. returned to lost creek. 
10. Drew Harrington, Chris Miles   -   34hr. 43min.
9.  Tait Chandler, Todd Vorisek    -   30'  35"
8.  Mark Ross, WM*                 -   30'  27"
7.  Tracie Curry, Clinton Brown    -   28'  32"
6.  Matt Blood                     -   27'  14"
5.  Jacob Buller                   -   26'  53"
4.  Jay Cable, Tom Moran           -   22'  51"
3.  Brent Sass                     -   22'  21"
2.  Bob Gillis, WM*                -   22'  15"
1.  Nick Janssen, Brian Atkinson   -   21'  58"
   
*Wildermeister

Our route, and stats in Strava:

Some things that worked:

  • I am using new shoes – Inov8 Roclite 275. I love them – blister free
  • Foot-lube – I stopped briefly and re-lubed my feet at half way or so. That seemed to work great.
  • I didn’t run out of food – hurrah! I was definitely close last year.
  • Once again, using a cell phone for navigation rocked.
  • We really only stopped once for Tom to deal with his feet, and for me to go to the bathroom.
  • the last ridge was way nicer than the Elephant Mountain route I took with Ned last year.

Things that worked less well (fails!):

  • I got dehydrated – I should have brought more water carry capacity and started out with more water.
  • I overtreated some of the water I had with chlorine dioxide using aqua mira, which made my stomach feel a bit off, or made it worse.
  • I brought too much sweet foods, and the non-sweet foods I bought – mainly pistachios – were hard to digest. I ended up chewing a whole mouthful, then washing down the paste with a big gulp of water. Not ideal. Next time more cheese and similar stuff would be good I think, and less candy. I had a huge handful of sour patch kids at one point and that really sat in my tummy like a rock for hours.
  • I had chafing issues – I wore a belt and that had my pants a bit too high and I had some rubbing issues. Chamois Butt’r helped, but if this was longer it could have been an issue.