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Chena Dome..

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Remus and I spent a wonderful day hiking the Chena Dome trail. This is a classic hike I do every year, and it just seems to get better each time I hike it.


It has been a wet spring, bringing on the green in all its glory.


Someone has lost his tail..

This hike has lots and lots of climbing and decending. For some of the descents you can see the next climb which heads right back up to the same level you are just leaving. Up, down. Up down. Repeat. The rewards are wonderful ridge hiking and amazing views.

As usual I didn’t see any other humans, but I did see several other mammals.

Momma bear and her offspring had me a bit nervous, as they were heading my way. I stopped at the trail shelter briefly, and by the time I was on the next hill a quarter of a mile away I could see them sitting on its porch. I was a bit worried they were going to start following me, but they continued to along their way, which fortunately diverged from mine.

After the bears a small thunderstorm moved though, dropping the temperatures and making Remus happy.

Not a lot of words, but it was a wonderful day. A little under 11 hours and 30 miles I ended it sore and happy.

Wandering in the Whites..

Monday, March 19th, 2012

With the Whites 100 only a week away, Tom, Remus, and I decided to do a last minute overnight trip to Caribou Bluff cabin to check out the race course. I was on the snow bike, and Tom was on skis. It was a wonderful trip, with nice weather and fantastic biking. The trails were in great shape..

There was minimal traffic on the trails and I only saw two parties of snow machiners, otherwise I had the whole place to myself. There were occasional signs of other users though..

The ride in was fast and I decided to go a bit further and check out the trail heading out of Wind Gap. This was the first time I traveled this trail in this direction, and the views were pretty spectacular.

I turned around near Windy Gap Cabin and headed back to Caribou Bluff where I caught up with Tom and mellowed out. We had a nice evening of goofing off and lounging, and eventually hit the sack. I woke up around 2am to a wonderful display of the aurora, though I was not motivated enough to get up and grab the camera. In the morning we headed out. It was a slow ride for me on the way out, as the 50 mile ride the day before apparently was a bit too much for Remus the dog and he was quite sore.

So we took our time on the way out, taking photos and enjoying the nice weather.

The ride out was uneventful, though I did pass some folks from BLM picking up stuff off the side of the trail. Apparently a guided mushing group ran into some sort of trouble and had to be medivac-ed out by the Alaska State Troopers. The more details can be found here: . Fortunately no one seems to have been hurt.

The overflow this year appears to be fairly manageable, though there was one section of wet overflow that was maybe two inches deep. It was all easily ridden on the snow bike though, so long as I kept the speeds down and was careful.

If the trails are like this for the race we should see record times for the folks on bikes and on foot, and possibly the skiers too, though the snow was fairly cold and slow. Good luck to the racers this weekend!

A trip to Richards

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The trails were rumored to be setting up well in the Whites, so early-ish on a Sunday morning Ms Marsh, Tom, and I headed out on a overnighter to Richards Cabin in the White Mountains NRA. The weather had been pretty nice the last couple of days, though perhaps a bit too warm for the trails to set up for good biking.

We arrived at the trail head and started down the trail, enjoying the warm weather. I was planning on biking, and Tom and Ms Marsh were going to ski. Richards cabin is about 20 miles in on a well used trail. The trail starts off with a climb up over a small ridge, then decends for 8 miles or so to cross Nome Creek, then winds though spruce forrest and a old burn before arriving at Richards. The trail was a bit too loose and steep for me to bike right out of the parking lot, so I started off pushing for the first mile or so. Tom and Ms Marsh carried their skis, so I traveled up the hill with them for a while, though once it became ridable I headed off. The day was bright and beautiful, and very warm.

Eventually the climbing stopped, and I was treated to nice downhill to Nome Creek.

It was in the upper twenties for most of the day, a bit too warm for pleasant snow biking. The trail was nicely packed and I made good time for the first half of the trip. Eventually I was passed by a large party of snow machines on their way out from Richards, and the riding slowed down a fair bit.

I found out later that these folks had just returned from Iraqi. It was a bit too warm for the trail to setup, so I spent the next 8 miles or so in a mix of low pressure riding and pushing. Good practice for what is in store for me in two weeks.

Not a big deal, as it was warm, and due to the low sun angle and a bank of high clouds, there was a all day sunrise (or sunset?).

The low angle sun illuminated the ridges along Cache Mountain beautifully.

Remus the dog is not too excited by snow biking. When pedaling I travel fast enough he has to trot to keep up, and can’t lolly gag. He gets to goof off while I am pushing though, and durring on of these non-pedaling sections a vole ran across the trail and ran into one of his legs. Remus was very surprised, and didn’t know what to do for a couple of moments. After following the vole around for half a minute he decided it was not edible or interesting and moved on. I followed the vole for a bit as it attempted to find it way back down to it’s tunnels under the snow.

After several minutes of running around on top of the snow the vole found tree well and returned to its life under the snow. Eventually the sun set, I turned on my lights, and eventually arrived at the cabin.

The cabin was still warm from the previous tenants so I hunted down some more wood and got busy melting snow. Once there was enough water I feed Remus, and soon after that Tom arrived, followed by Ms Marsh a while later. Richards Cabin is a large 20′ by 30′ log cabin with lots of room. We enjoyed a wonderful evening eating, talking, and goofing off. Tom was excited to find a copy of a UK publication call “Poultry Magazine”, which was complete with a section of reader submitted poems. He was riveted.

Richards sees a different style of visitor than most of the other cabins in the Whites. Besides several other UK farming publications, there was a number of issues of gun magazines and trading publications, and some motor sport publications. I think it might see a bit more of the hunting crowd, as it is possible to reach it in summer by ATV.

Eventually we hit the sac, and after a slow morning, set off to head back out to the parking lot. A about a half inch of snow fell overnight, and it was slightly colder, but the trail had setup firm and was now pretty rideable. The new snow and the low lying clouds made for a very white day.

The ride out was mostly uneventful, though scenic. I arrived at the truck an hour or so before the skiers, with enough time to feed Remus and myself, and get the bike unpacked and loaded up.

A very wonderful overnighter – thanks for putting together the trip Ms Marsh!

First Ski in the Whites

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

I got out today and skied 20 or so miles in the Whites.. It was a beautiful day, and it was very nice to be getting some outside time. It was a fairly short ski, only out to the Wickersham Creek Trail shelter and back for a round trip of about 18 miles, but it was nice to on skis and enjoying the snow. Thanks for providing the motivation Tom!

Thoughts on Skiing vs Biking

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

I have been spending a lot of time on the snow bike and not much time on the skis. This is bit unusual for me – normally this time of year I spend almost all my outside play time on skis, and has got me thinking a bit about the differences between snow biking and skiing. There is a local 30 mile loop made by combining two local trails, the Eldorado Creek trail and Oconner Creek trails with a a couple of random connector trails that start at the door of my house. Its a pretty fun loop, with a bit of altitude gain and a long downhill.

If you live in the area these trails are well worth exploring – lots of good skiing and biking, with enough variation in the trails to keep things interesting.

The two main trails are connected at the top by some trails run along the power lines that run near Old Murphy Dome road at the top..

And the Goldstream Trail at the bottom.

The Goldstream Trail is often the coldest part of this loop, and can have some very funky cloud and inversion formations.

I take a couple of smaller trails to get to the start of the loop, including a trail called the “Dredge Swath” trail, which was originally a trail made to haul gold dredges from Ester to the some mines along Goldstream Creek. For a long time I thought folks were calling it the “Dread Swath”… perhaps because I am hearing comprehension impaired. I did spend some time thinking about what was dreadful about it though..

This loop has become my default bike or ski route when I am looking for a longish day trip. On skis it takes about 7 hours, on a bike it takes between three and a half to four and half hours. I do this loop once or twice a week, and it is very fun. On a bike do the loop in a counter-clockwise manner to I can ride up the less steep climb on the Oconner Creek Trail, and down the much steeper Eldorado Creek trail. When skiing I do it the other way – ski up the steeper section and down the less steep hills.

Hills feel very different on the bike vs the ski – on a bike long downhills are very cold as the only thing I have to do is ride the brakes. On skis downhills require quite a bit of lower leg effort which keeps me nice and warm even for long cold downhills. Going up on the bike is a lot more work, mainly because the more effort I put in the faster I go, while on skis there is not much more reward for expending extra effort, so I tend to just cruse. This means I can really wipe myself out on the bike, yet never really seem to get tired while skiing. I am sure if my ski form was better, or if I could skate things would be a bit different.. but with my current skiing form its hard to get wore out.

Other surprising differences include how easy it is to duck under low hanging branches while skiing and how hard it is to dodge those branches while biking.

Bikes are a lot more complicated mechanically than skis are, which means the chance of breaking something is a alot higher. I have not had any troubles so far, but perhaps I have been lucky. The worst thing that has happned to me so far is icy brakes, which look pretty troublesome, but still work fine.

Skiing is much faster when the snow is soft, but when the snow is cold and hard it much faster to bike… both ways are fun though.

Its hard to face-plant on skis, but its happens amazingly fast on a snow bike. Several times now I have been zooming along on a snow machine trail only to punch though in front and have a over the bars experience.

Overflow is fun on a bike and skis, though in different ways. On skis it is pretty easy and fast to double pole though frozen or wet overflow, so long as you can slow down enough when required. With metal edges slowing down is no problem. On a bike overflow is pretty fun, however it is a lot easier to slip on the ice on a bike when the ice is hard and smooth. Wet or textured overflow is no problem on the bike, as the texture gives lots of traction. The bike does not ice up much, unlike skis, so once you are off the overflow happiness returns and there are no “memories of overflow past” in the form of slow iced ski bottoms.

Enough randomness for now, hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Let there be snow..

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

On the Sunday night following Thanksgiving Tom and I headed out to the White Mountains NRA to go for a overnight ski trip to Crowberry Cabin. The previous week had been one of very strange weather in town – we had received a record level of rain and a good portion of our snow pack. I was not entirely sure of what to expect… When we arrived at the parking lot of the Mile 28 trail head, it was soon apparent that things were different here – there was lots and lots of snow. Possibly more snow than we had at the end of last year’s skiing season. The trees were bending over from the weight of it – lots of fresh, heavy snow. It appears that while it was raining in town it was snowing here – hurray!

After a quick start we were soon zooming down the trail enjoying the amazingly deep snow and the wonderful sunrise.

The ski into the cabin was slow but un-eventful. It was hovering around 0f for our ski into the cabin, and while the trails were well broken out the fresh cold snow crystals made for slow travel.

We passed a party heading out and I stopped and chatted for a bit. They told us that the night afterTthanksgiving it dumped over 12 inches of snow and that they had to break trail in about two feet of fresh snow into the cabin we were heading out to. I was very happy to have the trail in – breaking trail though all that snow would have been hard work. All the fresh snow and the clear skies made for wonderful views.

After seven hours or so we reached the cabin and mellowed out, enjoying dinner and several rounds of dessert. Remus had hauled in two pints of ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and Cookie Dough, if you are wondering) which were enjoyed immensely, though there was still room for backup dseserts – “Man” flavored pocky. I skipped this delicious (?) treat and took Tom’s word for its edibility.

Eventually we hit the sacks with plans for an early start as I was expecting a bike delivery and Tom was had writing related evening engagements the following day. Fortunately we were awakened by an unexpected visitor at around 7am. I was partially aroused my slumber by the crunch, crunch of boots on the cabin’s deck then the sound of the door opening and a headlamp shining in my eyes, and a muffled exclamation and the slam of the door. I was only partially awake and my fuzzy mind didn’t processes this information very well, instead I somehow got the impression that Tom had got up to answer the call of nature. Thinking this was not a bad idea I got up, noticed Tom was still sleeping, stumbled outside to relieve myself in a snow bank, only to be illuminated by a very bright headlamp. Apparently a musher had pulled up outside the cabin, and thinking it was empty decided to come inside and warm up while his or her dogs rested, only to have these plans foiled by our presence. After being hit with the spot light I quickly retreated inside to get more clothes on and then headed back outside to say hi to the musher only to find he had taken off. Oh well – it removed any need for the alarm clock. We had our breakfasts, packed up and hit the trail. It was a bit colder in the morning – about -10f in the hills and -20f in the valleys, but very clear and beautiful.

The ski out was fairly uneventful and a bit faster due to the mushing traffic – the musher’s snow machine tread breaks smooth down the trails wonderfully, rounding off those sharp snow crystals and making for faster skiing.

We stopped at Moose Creek cabin to duck out of the wind and I was surprised to see the place was still warm. I expect the musher who dropped in on us moved on to this cabin to warm up and crashed for a while.. alas he left a bit of a mess – the place reeked of bacon fat with a fair bit spilled on the wood stove and dog food littered the floor. Such is life I guess. The rest of the trip out was uneventful, though very, very beautiful. We passed several mushers on the trail including one I knew and we chatted a bit. He was off for a several day adventure and was unfazed by the news that the trail might not be broken out where he was headed. We also pasted several mushers from Aliy Zirkle’s Kennel who were looking to be having a great time.

We made it back into town at 5pm, well in time to meet our various engagements – I picked up my bike (my much awaited Fatback) and Tom headed off to his writer’s group.
Happy Monday everyone!

The snow levels on this end of the Whites ranged from 2ft to 4ft+. The trails are not well traveled out yet – it appeared that the trail past Crowberry is not yet broken out. The trails that are broken out are in great shape – its definitely going to be a great year for enjoying the Whites!