Posts Tagged ‘caribou bluff cabin’

Whites tour..

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Interior Alaska has been having a fantastic winter – fairly warm, with just enough snow for skiing and snow biking. With permission from Nancy to disappear for a weekend, I made plans to bike the White Mountains 100 course, staying at Cache Mountain Cabin and Caribou Bluff. The Monday before the trip I did a long (ish – only 50 miles) out to the start of the climb up to the Cache Mt. divide, and determined the trail was in over the divide, but a bit soft – so, as it looked like we could bike the whole loop, the trip was on! Saturday morning, 5 of us heading out down the trail to Cache Mountain Cabin – Morris, Eric, Tom, David, and I, all on bikes. We were going to be joined by several skiers. The bike ride into Cache Mountain Cabin was fantastic – the trail was mostly in great shape, and everyone zoomed along. It was well above 0F for most of the ride in, which is very unusual for January, and we enjoyed it to the fullest!

David, the wheelie king, enjoying the extra wheelie power of his fully loaded Ice Cream Truck.

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David has been enjoying that bike to the fullest..

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Tom is hoping to write up the trip for a magazine, and there was much stopping for photo ops..

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Morris, who is signed up for this year’s ITI, was on brand new Fatback Corbis, fully loaded with carbon goodies and whatsits galore. I was afraid to touch it lest I get bike envy..

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Mid-January days are short here in Interior Alaska, so it wasn’t too long before the sun was setting… During this season it always seems like the sun is either setting or rising, with nothing in between, as the sun doesn’t really get all that high on the horizon.

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The evening at the cabin was uneventful, but fun and social. David showed everyone up by bringing out some homemade pita pizzas there were quite delicious, though Morris’s burrito from Alaska Coffee Rosters was a close second (he gave me half) – yummy! My dinners for this trip were selected off the sale rack at REI – I grabbed whatever freeze-dried meals they had on sale, and for this night, had AlpineAire’s Beef Nachos, which was more like vaguely Tex-Mex soup. Edible, but not enjoyable… the dangers of eating off the discount rack. I had miscalculated my food needs and packed about twice as much food as I needed.

In the morning Morris and Bob took off back to the parking lot, as they had to work Monday. I learned later Morris missed a turn a few miles from the cabin, and came out a different road, about 60 miles from where his car was parked.

The morning was overcast, and fairly warm, with a light snow falling. The trail from Cache Mt. cabin winds up over Cache Mt. divide, then descends though a treeless pass, over a narrow glaciated valley known as the “Ice Lakes” due to all the overflow, and follows Fossil Creek down past Windy Gap cabin to Caribou Bluff cabin, our destination for the day. The trail was in fairly good shape, though some of us resorted to pushing once the climbing started.

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David tried to ride the whole thing, and with his huge knobby tires, made a pretty good go of it..
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Though it didn’t always work out..
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He did ride almost all the way up the pass though, which was pretty darn amazing – the rest of us walked.

The trail was mostly in great shape, though the creek near the last steep climb was open, though only a inch or so deep. I walked across it, David rode..
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And Erica and Tom went around.
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The trail over the divide is one of the least used trails in the Whites. It looked like the last snowmachine on it had been a few days ago, and it was mostly in pretty good shape, though the side trail Erica and Tom took around the water looked suspiciously like it was from the same machine as we had been following, and it had tracks on the main trail as well. That didn’t bode too well and I started worrying they had just gone to the top and turned around.

Soon we reached the top of the pass..

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And headed down. My fears about the traffic all turning around at the top turned out to be unfounded – the trail was in over the top and well used.

The ride down was fun, but fairly soft. I crashed several times, including one complete endo. Alas, just before the ice lakes, my fears were confirmed – the tracks we were following looped around in a circle and headed back up the pass, leaving us several inches of unbroken snow on the trail. This slowed things down a lot, and it was very hard finding firm trail under the soft snow.

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We reached the ice lakes just before the sun was setting…
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I was really looking forward to the ice lakes, as they should be fairly good riding, and free of snow. The mostly free of snow part was right, the good riding part was optimistic – the ice lakes were soft, punchy and wet.

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I fell over once, but didn’t hurt myself – fortunately, wet punchy ice has pretty good traction. Eventually we made it past the ice lakes, where the trail got soft again. It was hard riding, and much pushing. David, who had the biggest, burliest tires and soft snow riding skills, was able to ride more than the rest of us, and quickly disappeared ahead. I think his feet where getting cold, and he was looking forward to being in the cabin. We pushed onward, expecting the trail to improve at the Windy Creek trail, just before Windy Gap cabin. The 8 miles of pushing took a while, but wasn’t the end of the world. I did briefly pick up Erica’s bike, and had instant bike jealousy – it was so, so light! Erica was alas, hurting – she had whacked her knee somewhere along the way, and was in pain. A few miles before the Windy Creek Trail intersection, I got the okay from Tom and Erica to zoom ahead and to the intersection. I took off, and was surprised to hear what I initially thought was a cow moose grunting, but eventually decided was David somewhere ahead. Eventually I reached David, where he was walking his bike. His hub had blown up, and the freehub was only “freewheeling”. After a bit of talk, we decided to go check out Windy Gap cabin, and see if it was free – if it was, we were going to attempt to warm up the hub, in hopes it was just ice inside, though that seemed unlikely, given it was so warm. The cabin turned out to be occupied, but the four people there were amazing – they took David and me in, and before I knew it I had a plate of delicious pulled pork in my hand, and got to warming up the hub.

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(sorry for the bad photo – my camera doesn’t have a flash, alas)

Eventually, after dousing it was hot water repeatedly, it was deemed a lost cause, as the freewheeling was only getting worse, and now it was making grinding noises too. By this point, Tom and Erica had arrived, and they were also welcomed in, and quickly had food thrust into their hands. Erica iced her knee, and we started discussing what to do about David’s broken bike. Remus and Shiloh, the dogs, had wormed themselves inside at this point and were crashed out on the cabin floor, snoozing. David was all for walking out, pushing the bike, but the cabin tenants, Mike, Maureen, Mike and Lynn, quickly insisted that he stay with them, and get a ride out in the morning. They also offered Erica a ride out, but she declined, saying that we were sure to see them the following morning, so if one of us needed to be hauled out we could hitch a ride then. They had four snowmachines and several large sleds, and insisted that they had enough room to haul several of us out without a problem. Eventually we left the Mikes, Maureen, and Lynn with David, and made our way to Caribou Bluff cabin. It was slightly under a 3 hour ride, with a fair number of stops, and I arrived at around 11pm. I was happy to see the cabin was still warm from the previous tenants, though less happy with the bag of smelly trash they also left. After dinner and snacks, we headed off to bed. My other discount dinner of chipotle chicken with noodles was tasty!

The morning arrived, misty with a trace of snow following.

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Erica’s knee was stiff and sore, but she gamely loaded up her bike and headed out.
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The riding was fast, but Erica was still having trouble with her knee.

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Halfway between Caribou Bluff and Borealis cabins the snowmachine rescue party arrived, and Erica decided to hitch a ride out.

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They loaded up Erica and disappeared off down the trail, Tom and I following after, though much, much slower.

The rest of the ride out was uneventful, but scenic.

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The trail was a bit soft, making for slowish riding..
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Though it was almost entirely ridable.

The sunset was awesome and seemed to last forever..
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Tom and I made it back to town, to texts from Erica saying all was well, though her knee was pretty messed up, and an email from Morris who had gotten lost and had a long trip back via a friend’s car to get back to his vehicle.

As a postscript – David’s hub was completely messed up. The drive ring is cracked and all of the pawls are toast, as well as the freehub body being heavily chewed up.
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(photo shameless stolen from David’s Facebook page – hope he doesn’t mind)

I really don’t understand why aluminum alloy freehub bodies are so popular – in my experience they tend to be fragile and quickly mangled by cassettes. In David’s case, it makes even less sense – his bike is heavy steel framed XXL. Give the size, one assumes it is mostly going to be ridden by large people. Large people are extra hard on freehubs, and are not (or at least shouldn’t) be concerned with the difference a steel vs an alloy freehub body would make. As I write this, David has a hub headed his way from QBP, which is nice of them. Hopefully this will not happen again for him, as it could have been a long, 40 mile walk out. Freehubs seem like such an important part of a bike – when they break you go from riding to walking. It is hard to imagine why bike designers think the small weight tradeoff is worth it.. The hub is a salsa branded hub 190mm hub, and it makes even less sense from that perspective – the only bike in their product line it fits on is the Blackborow, which is bike aimed at exploring, not racing. Hopefully this is just a one-off thing, though I doubt it, given all the trouble some of the larger local riders have had with other salsa hubs.

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying a fantastic winter, and getting lots of outside play time!

A huge thank you to Mike, Maureen, Mike and Lynn – you guys saved our butts. It was truly wonderful to be welcomed into Windy Gap cabin by such friendly faces. And that pulled pork – it was the best I have ever had! Nice folks like you guys make Alaska what it is. Thanks for being who you are!

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!

The last ski trip of the season..

Monday, April 4th, 2011

A week after the Whites 100, I headed back out to the same area for a nice, mellow two night trip, this time on skis. I have not spent a lot of time on skis this year, instead focasing on biking, so I had been looking forward to some good quality spent gliding effortlessly over the snow (vs pushing the bike though the warm mush). Heike, Ms Marsh, Tom, and I headed out of town on a warm and sunny day, and after 60 miles or so of driving, left the trail head at mile 57 of the Eliot highway at around noon. The skiing was fantastic, and the weather was perfect, clear and sunny. Our plan was to spend the first night at Wolf Run Cabin, then head to Caribou Bluff cabin via Windy Gap, and then head back out to the mile 57 trail head. The first day was a fairly mellow 23 mile ski though burned spruce forests..

open tussock fields..

..and eventually across Beaver Creek and to Wolf Run cabin.
There were lots of wolf tracks on Beaver Creek. Perhaps the cabin was aptly named..

We spent the evening eating, goofing off, and generally enjoying being out in the wilderness. In the morning we headed out on our way to Caribou Bluff cabin, a leisurely 20 mile ski. The snow was very fast making for pleasant skiing and the views were fantastic!

A mile or so before reaching Windy Gap we were treated to views of Windy Arch.

The high point of the day was a flat ridge top with a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.

After dropping down to Fossil Creek we stopped at Windy Gap cabin where a party of snowmachiners were just getting ready to leave. Heike used her “Super German” powers to snag a couple of beers from them, and hung out for a while in the warm cabin sipping beer. Eventually the beer was consumed and we headed back out on the trail and continued on to Caribou Bluff. This section of trail was very fun, with unbelievable fast snow and wonderful weather. Heike was skating and with the wide smooth trails she disappeared down the trail like a bullet. Eventually I arrived at the cabin, a little toasted from all the sun and the (single – I am a lightweight) beer.

The evening was spent goofing off, reading magazines, and talking. The cabin had a fairly new copy of Velo News which with its lycra clad roadies provided some strange but interesting reading. Others found the copy of US Magazine or the New Scientist to their tastes. Its amazing how much sun we have now, and how bright and warm it is. Remus, alas, had to satisfy himself with a raw hide chew.

This cabin is in a truly beautiful location and I really enjoy spending time here.

After lots of eating and socializing ( sometimes it appears that trips are just a chance to eat junk food without guilt) we hit the sack, and in the morning headed back out to the parking lot. The ski out was fairly uneventful, but scenic. Just after leaving Carabou Bluff we passed a partially eaten moose.

It appeared that the moose was killed by wolves, though someone had placed cut logs around it, as if to arrange seating around it.

Strange, but perhaps they were watching the Ravens, as the snow was covered with their tracks. Remus required some convincing that the moose was not one giant dog treat laid out for his munching pleasure. The rest of the way out was pretty uneventful, mellow ski out. I had not done enough skiing this year, so my feet got a bit tore up by the time we reached the parking lot, but nothing too major.

It was a fantastic trip and a great way to end the ski season. It was fun enough to make me question spending so much time on the snow bike. Almost…

A big thanks to Heike, Tom, and Ms Marsh for making this trip happen – it was a great way to wrap up the season.

A visit to Caribou Bluff, but alas no Caribou

Monday, March 15th, 2010

My plans for this weekend included a solo trip to Caribou Bluff cabin the White Mountains NRA as a final shakedown trip before the race. Tom decided to join me at the very last minute as the warm spring conditions were too much to resist. We left town late morning and where on the the trail at around 11am. The “warm spring conditions” included a fair bit of wind, so it was not as warm as I would have liked, but still quite pleasant. I spent a bit of time chatting with a biker in the parking lot who was heading out to meet up with some skiers returning from a trip. We left a bit before the biker but he caught up with us and zoomed by as if we where standing still.

I expect in the actual race this will be the only view we will get of the bikers as they leave us in the dust.

After a couple of miles of skiing we ran into some folks we knew returning from a 5 day trip and after a bit of chit-chat, headed back on the trail. The next 17 or so miles went by quickly and as the day warmed it up it got amazingly warm and sunny. I did have a nasty spill on some overflow and wrenched my shoulder – but I survived and was soon skiing down the trail again. The overflow was quite manageable for this late in the season and was dry and fast – perhaps too fast, leading to my spill.

The trail was in great shape and the skiing was fairly fast. There was a small amount of fresh snow, but not enough to slow things down.

After four hours or so of travel we reached Beaver Creek and staring climbing up Fossil Creek Trail. This climb always seems to go on forever – its a bit of a slog but has pretty nice views.
I noticed a neat looking arch for the first time – I have travelled this trail about a dozen times and had never noticed it before. I would really like to get a chance to hike in some of this area in the summer, as the ridges look like they would be pretty good walking.

After a hour and a half or so we finally reached neared the high point for this section of trail and were treated to some wonderful views of the the White Mountains.

We then enjoyed a fun downhill to Fossil Gap Trail and a fast ski to the cabin. The days are nice and long now so even with our late start we still made it to the cabin with lots of day light. Caribou Bluff cabin is in a very beautiful spot – its up on a ridge with wonderful views.

The cabin is small but quite comfortable with a window that looks out toward the Limestone Jags – its very rewarding to sit in the warmth of the cabin and scan the nearby ridges for wildlife.

Remus enjoyed the trip in but apparently all those super long days have spoiled him – he still had an amazing amount of energy at the end of the day and spent quite a bit of time running around and exploring.

Alas, Tom’s feet had a battle with his boots – and apparently lost. Tom had replaced his ski boots due to a cracked upper and this was his first ski in the new boots – hopefully the ski was long enough to break them in for the race.
After enjoying a fine repast we turned in and hit the sack – only to spend the next couple of hours roasting due to a over stoked stove. In the morning we left early so we could get back to town with enough time to finish up the various chores that awaited our return.

The ski out was fun and fairly fast and even warmer than the ski in. We had a brief encounter with a moose who was enjoying the browse of the edge of the trail, but it quickly moved on and let us continue down the trail.

I was able to make in out though the overflow without any spills – which was quite nice.

Just past the trail shelter a super friendly snow machiner offered me a 7-up – which I gladly accepted! It was super refreshing and was much more drinkable than the near boiling water in my pack.

On the final hill into the parking lot I took Remus’s pack so we could go down the hills at a bit faster pace – Remus was a very happy dog!

Soon we were back at the trail head and driving back to town. Only 6 more days to the race!