Posts Tagged ‘chena_rec_area’

Angel Creek 50, the ultra walk

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Late this spring, in a moment of weakness, I signed up for a local 50 mile running race, the Angel Creek 50. It was a bit of an experiment for me – I don’t have any big biking plans this summer, and wanted to try something different. I run a fair bit, but don’t enter in to running races all that frequently, mainly only shorter races with the family.

Alas, despite my best intentions, my training up to the race was a bit spotty – I got several months of running in, trying to get lots of short runs in and a few longer (so like 12 miles) run in a week. My right hamstring started giving me issues though, and I got distracted by fun trips, and so my running died off a bit. Eventually race day arrived, and I showed up a bit under trained, but since my only goal was to make the mile 42, 13 hours, 30 minutes cut off time, which is slightly under my walking pace, I figured I should make the cutoff.

The race is in the Chena River State Recreation Area, on a mix of single track and atv trails. I have been on most of the trails before, but there are a few sections that I had never been on, and I was looking forward to it!

The race starts at Twin Bear Camp and ends Chena Hotsprings, which are a little over 20 miles apart, so I took advantage of the race’s shuttle the evening before the race start, and camped at the start. I had brought a tent, but Twin Bears turned out to have quite the facility, and I ended up staying in one of their bunk houses, with Ned. There were so many bunkhouses I think each racer could have had one to themselves. The race start was a nice and early 5am, so we got up at 4am, eating and getting ready. There was a brief pre-race meeting, and before I knew it we were off!

The race sort of went by in a blur.

I ran the first 10 miles or so, then slowly started walking more and more. I didn’t run more than a few miles after mile 25, as my quads were shot, and my right knee was super unhappy after the big downhills around mile 20.

It was raining lightly at the start, then by mile 8 ish it started dumping. No big deal, the weather was not that cold, and I am almost always too hot. I tried to eat every hour or so, and drink every 10 minutes or so. That seemed to work, as I stayed hydrated for most of the race, and didn’t have energy issues. At mile 18 the climbing started, and I learned the hoka stinsons I was using had really poor grip on wet muddy rocks. No big deal, it just required a bit more care than I would have liked. The miles 18 – 20 ish were on trail I had never been on before, and I enjoyed it, though I was now mostly walking, with a few bits of running. The visibility on the ridges was pretty poor, but the trail was pretty easy to follow, in my opinion at least.

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Folks made fun of me at the race finish for saying that, but I didn’t have any trouble finding my way. I had to stop a few times and look around for the next rock cairn, but that only took a few seconds, nothing major, but that might have only been because I was going so slow.

I didn’t take very many photos, as I only had my phone, but I did get a selfie..

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Andy and Chris were at the Chena Dome trail shelter, and Andy was as cheerful as ever.
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I had been by myself for most of the race, but Andy said my friend Tom was only 10 minutes ahead, with a “big group”. Alas, I never caught up with them.

The rest of the race sort of zoomed by, and I walked the next 25 miles. I would have loved to have run more, but alas, my legs were not up for it.

I made the mile 42 cut off by an hour and a half, and finished at 14 hours, 20 minutes ish.

It was a super fun event, and I think I will try doing it again next year, though hopefully I will be able to run a lot more of it.

I used the Strava app on my phone during the race, and it worked great. It told me my pace every mile, which provided lots of motivation. The few times I was around other people I muted it, but since I was by myself for most of the race, it didn’t annoy anyone. When I finished I still had over 50% of the battery left, which was good news.

I walked/ran everything but the last 8 miles in some hoka stinsons, which was a mixed success. They are super comfortable, but they are hard to tighten down fully, and get next to no traction in mud or wet rocks. I have run a lot in them, but never in this much rain and wet. The left shoe started feeling funny after mile 25, and after the race I noticed it had “blew out” in a section.

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It is hard to tell from the photo, but there is big dent and soft spot where my thumb is.

The final 8 miles of the race I ran is some montrail road shoes, and they got much, much better grip.

A huge thank you to my family for letting me disappear for this race, and to the folks who put it on – Drew Harrington, Karen Taber, and George Berry. You guys rock, I really enjoyed it.

A few more photos can be found here:
Angel Creek 50

I learned a few things, mainly I walk at roughly a 17 minute mile pace, which is slightly slower than I would have expected.

An update: 5 days after the race, I am fully recovered, except my feet which are still a bit destroyed. I ended up with blisters on the ball of both feet, and they are taking a while to heal up completely.

Chena Dome..

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

In a moment of weakness, I signed up for the Angel Creek 50, a local 50 mile foot race. The cut off for the race is 13.5 hours for the last checkpoint at mile 42, which is pretty close to my walking pace. To see if I could make it, Tom and I headed out to hike Chena Dome trail, a very hilly local 29 mile hike.

The weather was fantastic..

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I ran the easy bits, but alas, my knees didn’t enjoy the downhills.. fortunately there was still some snow, which felt so good on them..

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The trail was in great shape, but it was baking hot. I am not really a hot weather person, so climbing up some of those hills nearly scrambled my brain.

There was a fair bit of water on the trail, and a bit of snow still. In a few weeks it might be hard to find any water besides what is in the catchment system at the shelter.

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The shelter at mile 17 was looking a bit beat up.. and, alas, the hole in the floor was a bit bigger than it was when I last visited, and lots more had been chewed on by porcupines…

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The last few hours were even hotter.. Fortunately a few hours before we finished we ran across a small clean snowfield, which we used to top off our water supplies. The cold water was heavenly.
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Tom, Shiloh, and I were very happy to reach the car, and headed off for a sock and dinner at the hotsprings.

In end, it took us 9 hours to do the 29 miles, which is just barely over the cutoff. I was beat when I finished! Hopefully I can run of more of the actual course than I can of Chena Dome!

This was the first time in a very long time I have done a hike without Remus. Remus is now 13, and getting a bit too old for long days. When I left in the morning with Shiloh, he started barking and was not happy to be left behind, but was consoled by being let into the house and being given a huge rawhide chew. Rumor has it when the twins woke up they gave him an old bagel with bacon and provolone. It is tough getting old..

Thanks for the company Tom!

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.

And Now, Skiing!

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I took a bit of a break from biking and did a short ski in the Angel Creek valley near Chena Hotsprings, with Tom and Remus. It was fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Our recent snow dump has given us a fair bit of white fluffy goodness.. a little over a foot or so of new stuff in this location.

We stopped briefly at the new Lower Angel Creek cabin and peeked inside. The new cabin has wonderful view and is very large. It should make a nice option for larger groups and families. Wonderful job State Parks!

A Iditarod Trail Invitational writeup is coming soon, I have been slacking.

Thanksgiving..

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

With Nancy and the twins away visiting her parents, I decided to have a nice mellow Thanksgiving safely away from the masses. To that end, Tom, Ms Marsh, and I headed off to Upper Angel Creek cabin in the Chena River State Recreation Area . I took my fat bike while Tom and Marsh decided to ski. The trail into the cabin was in amazing shape, making for effortless biking.

I stopped briefly at the lower cabin which is getting replaced after burning down last winter. The new cabin is huge and looks like it is going to be a great option for short trips. I think this would make a great destination for the twin’s first self powered ski trip.

Remus had a blast on the trip in, though he would have enjoyed a bit more sedate pace with more stopping time to explore and sniff around. On bike we travel fast enough he has to keep his short legs pumping to keep up.

Remus was entranced by all the wolf sign on one section of trail. A small wolf pack appears to use the trail as a corridor and there were lots of tracks and wolf scat.

The trail was so flat and fast it almost felt like I was cheating, gliding along expending almost no effort.

I arrived at the cabin well before the skiers and enjoyed some peaceful quiet time as the cabin warmed up. The arrival of Tom and Marsh was announced by the crunching of their skis on the cold -20f snow.

We spent the evening lounging around and of course eating. In the morning, after pancakes and an immense amount of bacon, we headed back to the trail head and a soak in Chena Hotsprings. Over the night the temperature had risen to a balmy -4f which seemed amazingly warm. I decided to take an alternate route out, and took the new trail routed along the hillside. The views from the new trail are fantastic.

The trail was a bit soft though, and I felt a bit guilty whenever I broke though the thin crust and created a trench with my rear tire. The trail looked like it would be wonderful skiing. There is one creek crossing that was open, but it was possible to sneak across without getting wet.

At about half way I retreated to the lower trail and zoomed out to the parking lot, where I dropped off my overnighting stuff, and then explored the Chena Hotsprings winter trail while waiting for Tom and Marsh to catch up. The winter trail appeared to be in great shape, though there was some large sections of overflow.

Eventually Tom and Marsh caught up and we headed off to soak in the hot water at Chena Hotsprings and a burger at Mia’s – a fantastic way to end a wonderfully quiet Thanksgiving.

A big thanks to Tom and Ms Marsh for making this trip happen!

A Winter Granite Tors Hike

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Tom, Ms Marsh, and I (plus Remus the dog, if he counts), spent a wonderful Sunday hiking the Granite Tors. I love this trail in all its seasons and this hike was no exception. Here are some photos that sum up the experience.. or attempt to anyway. Enjoy!

Next time I need to bring the “Big” camera and get some better photos!

Chena Dome in a Day – the 2011 edition

Monday, August 29th, 2011

One of my favorite hikes in the greater Fairbanks area is Chena Dome. It is a wonderful 30 mile long ridge hike, with wonderful views and fantastic walking, and lots of climbing. I have made it a goal to hike it at least once a year. Lately I have been doing it as a long day hike, taking a little less than 12 hours to finish the loop. Doing it as a day hike means you don’t have to carry a heavy pack up and down all those hills. You can read about some of the other times I have hiked this trail with the family and as a day hike. It took us about 11.5 hours to hike the 30 miles and 8k to 14k feet of climbing (how much actual climbing there is is open to debate apparently) , which is about what it has taken me the other two times I have done it. Not nearly as fast as the rumored sub 7 hour times some of the local hot shot runners have done it in, but fast enough we got home at a reasonable hour.

My friend Tom, who joined me for this adventure, maintains that fall has yet to arrive, though I think the tree’s colorful display’s disagree with him.



The fireweed was in full color too.





The views from the ridges were, as always, fantastic.



Tom and I had fantastic weather for the hike for most of the day, though we had a brief and heavy rain storm while we were at the trail shelter at mile 17.



After the rain storm it appeared that a section of the ridge we had been on a hour or so before now a dusting of snow. It was nice to have missed that.



Near mile 8 there is a old plane crash.



The rubble and twisted plane parts has always been a pretty sad sight for me and a reminder of how dangerous air travel in Alaska was back in the day, and to some extent still is today. When I got back into town I decided to spend a bit of time looking for details on the crash. It appears the crash was a Curtiss C-46 operated by Transocean Airline on a flight from Umiat to Fairbanks. The plane crashed late in the evening on December 30, 1951. The details can be found here.

A photo of the plane, prior to the crash, complements of www.taloa.org .




I would love to know the full details of the crash if anyone has them. I found reference to a rescue attempt in -70f temperatures but was unable to find the CAB report on the accident – if anyone has it I would love to read it.

More photos can be found here.

Doing Far Mountain Trail in a Day

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Last year Tom, Ms Marsh, and I did a hike and float that included Far Mountain, and ever since then I have been very interested in doing the full loop as a day hike. Eventually I ended up with a free Monday and along with Tom found myself heading up the Far Mt. Trail. The trail starts near Chena Hotsprings parking lot (the actual start of the trail is a bit hard to find with a few side trails and roads that make things a bit confusing – check with the folks at the Chena Hotsprings activity center for a map if you have problems) and after crossing the bridge over Monument Creek the trail heads up a ridge and the climbing begins.

The Far Mountain trail loops around Monument Creek valley on a series of ridges. There are lots of ups and down, with between 8k and 14k feet of climbing, depending on who you ask (I measured around 8,000 feet of climbing – that is 8,000 feet of going up). The trail is a little less than 27 miles. The views from the high points on the ridges are fantastic.




There are also several interesting granite tor formations.



Far Mountain itself is a little underwhelming, as it has a large communication facility on top, complete with generators and a couple of large towers.



The majority of the trail is well above the tree and brush line making for wonderful alpine hiking, though there is a section of spruce forest near the end.



The day we hiked it it was was partly cloudy, but it can get quite socked in.
On a clear day:



On a foggy day:



The last mile or so is very muddy.



It appeared that the muddy section was in the middle of some trail work of some sort, however as it appeared the equipment had stirred the mud up into a froth and re-routed a small stream to run down the trail perhaps these repairs might do more harm than good…

This is a highly recommended long day hike. It took us a little less than 12 hours of walking at a brisk but not rushed pace. As an overnighter it is more challenging due to the limited water sources. There are tundra pools in several places around mile 7 or so, but after that there was not much water to be found.




My dog Remus was a bit dehydrated near the end, and I had to give him a some water from one of my bottles near the end of the day. Getting water would mean a long drop down to the one of the creeks at the bottom of the valleys.

The hike has a fairly remote feel, besides the stuff on top of Far Mountain. On the day we hiked it some military planes were out training and made a bit of noise, but otherwise it we didn’t see anyone on the trail.



One day or several, its a beautiful hike and well worth doing.

If you do this hike during berry season, the blueberries can be fantastic.



A map – like all the photos in this blog click it to see the image in greater detail. A better map can be found here. Kyle Jolly’s book Outside In the Interior has a chapter on this hike.



More photos can be found here. Sorry for the low word and high picture count – I have been a bit slow on the blog front lately, but more coming soon!

The twins go hiking – a trip to Stiles Creek cabin

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Our family had been planning a hiking trip for a couple of weeks… This trip was to be the twins’ first “real” hiking trip. “Real” in the sense that it was going to be the first overnight trip where the twins walked the entire way under their own power. No rides on Mom or my back. No carrying. I have been eagerly awaiting this day for a long time – finally an end to the massive packs! The weather had been a bit rainy lately, so we decided to book Stiles Creek cabin in the Chena River State Recreation Area so we had a bit more rain-free room. Our neighbors, Trusten, Margaret, and their daughter Robin decided to join us for the adventure. Robin was so excited by the trip she packed a day in advance and even said it was ok if we left as early as 8am – a monumental admission for her while on a summer break schedule. The morning of the trip we left early, expecting little legs to walk slowly for the eight hilly miles to the cabin.

The dogs were very excited to be out on a hike. Only the youngest of the dogs had to carry a pack, but fortunately he didn’t seem to mind that he was singled out.

The weather was a bit rainy but never moved beyond the light drizzle stage while we were on the trail. The girls were troopers, walking along at a fast pace for their short legs. We engaged in many, many different games to distract from the walking and to keep the twins from getting bored. Songs were sung, words were spelled, riddles were told, snacks were eaten..

One of the more popular games involved a ferocious dragon who asked the twins questions, like for example how to spell “dog” or what was 12 plus 5. If the twins got the answer correct the dragon would roar and gnash its teeth. This was so popular that soon the twins reversed things and had the dragon asking ME questions, like “what is 1000 plus 1000”, “How many trees are there in Alaska?”, and my favorite, “How many lakes are there in Alaska?”. Tricky dragon!

The twins made a number of trail finds on the way into the cabin. Molly found a little brass bell, and Lizzy found several gloves and a flat piece of textured plastic that she became very enamored of.

By the time we reached the cabin we had found five gloves, including one pair.

We arrived at the cabin a little before Trusten and Margert caught up with us, and in time to escape a torrential downpour. The kids spend the rest of the evening exploring the cabin, rampaging and giggling in the loft, while the adults lolled about reading the magazines left in the cabin and playing cards.

In the early evening there was an epic downpour and we had to move the dogs to a more covered location, and let the oldest inside where she promptly curled up and went to sleep. Eventually we followed her example and hit the sack. In the morning it was drizzling on and off, but it appeared it might actually clear up. After a fine breakfast of cereal we headed out a little before the rest of the crew to get a head start for the little legs. The girls chugged away, climbing the hill that leads away from the cabin like little troopers.

The trail on the way out was a bit more muddy due to the heavy rainstorm that past in the early evening, but it was still passable.

The improvements to the trail DNR has made in the last few years have been pretty impressive. The girls made good time on the way out, zooming down the trail, and counting down to zero with the trail markers. Just before arriving at the parking lot Lizzy was very excited to find a “L” shaped stick. Lizzy is the master of finding letters and numbers in the natural world.

We arrived at the trailhead a little after Trusten and Margaret arrived, in time to join them for a trip to Mia’s. Mia’s is a small restaurant in Pleasant Valley on Chena Hotsprings road, and has the best burgers I have tasted and wonderfully fantastic Asian food. We enjoyed a wonderful after hike dinner there and everything was fantastic – that place is highly recommended!

This trip was the first where the twins walked entirely under their own power, and they did a truly fantastic job, covering sixteen miles in a total trail time of nine hours, with hardly a complaint despite all the drizzle and mud. I am very proud of them! Lots of adventures await..

More photos here: Family Trip to Stiles Creek Cabin

Far Mountain Float and Hike

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I had been thinking about pack rafting trips that might work in the upper area of the East or Middle fork of the Chena for most of the summer, and finally things came together. Our plan was to start from Chena Hotsprings, hike up to Far Mountain, then traverse down one of the many ridges down to the East Fork, then float out to Chena Hotsprings road and bike back to the hot springs. Ms Marsh, Tom, and I left the hot springs a little before lunch time and started hiking up the Far Mountain Trail towards Far Mountain. Alas, on our first try we missed the start of the trail and wandered around a bit before getting on the correct trail. The trail is surprisingly beautiful.

The trail started out on a ATV trail, but once it hits the ridge the ATV tracks die away and fine alpine hiking begins.

Weather was pretty nice for most of the first day, giving us superb views and wonderful hiking. The trail winds though some fairly recent burns and it was pretty neat to see how the alpine area was recovering.

We expected to have a pretty dry hike and had packed quite a bit of extra water so we had enough water to make dinner but we were quite excited to find some tundra pools a little after half way to Far Mountain on the first day.

Hiking was amazingly – nice dry ridges with wonderful views.

After we reached mile nine or so, just before Far Mountain, we called it a day and made camp. Dinner was provide by Ms Marsh, and was a fantastic boil in a bag soup meal.

Lately my trips have switched to “just add hot water” meals which can be made plastic zip lock bags or by reusing the foil pouchs that freeze dried meals come in. It allows us to bring a smaller pot and saves fuel making for lighter packs. Light packs makes for happy packrafters!

The next day the we awoke to less stellar views – it was totally socked in.

We spent most of the day hiking though the fog with limited visibility. Several of my last couple of trips had involved hiking though the fog in whiteout conditions, so I have been getting pretty good at it. This time I was quite prepared and had a route preloaded on the gps making it fairly easy to stay on course. I did get us circled around once and did a unnecessary horseshoe loop, but such is life.

The view from the top of Far Mountain is supposed to be fantastic – alas we didn’t get to see much. There was an impressive cairn though, as well as a very large and loud communication complex on top though.

After going over Far Mountain we turned away from the trail and followed the borough boundary along a series of ridge tops heading down to the river. The hiking remained pretty good – lots of game trails and brush free hills.

I found two sets of caribou antlers that I picked up for the twins – I would have loved to have some antlers as a kid, and thought the twins would enjoy them. Alas, they were not the same size, so when I got back and handed them out, Molly noticed hers was smaller and immediately attempted to trade with Lizzy, who was having none of it.. Such is life…
Just before we reached the river we passed though a recent burn, perhaps from last year. It was very fast hiking and it was quite interesting to see the plants moving in after the fire. There were a couple of sections with impressively thick knee high grass.

As we neared the river we also dropped below the clouds and the views opened back up, making route finding much easier. After the burn we hiked though a short section of fairly brushy black spruce forest, but eventually made it out to the river.

We made it to the East Fork at around 4pm, and were very, very happy to see it had lots of water and was going to be a good float. My big concern about this trip was the water levels on the East Fork – I had not been very far up it before and had no idea what to expect, and was a bit concerned we would hike all the way in just to discover it was too low to be float-able. Fortunately that was not the case – the water levels were great and made for great pack rafting. Since we arrived at the river mid afternoon we put in and floated for a couple of hours.

After two hours or so we called it a night and made camp. The East Fork was surprisingly scenic, with great views of the ridges hemming in the river and lots of interesting rock cliffs. The evening was fairly uneventful, besides the splashing beavers. We seemed to have set up camp near some sort of beaver meeting ground. On this trip I attempted to go without a tent, justing using a bivy and a tarp. It was mostly a success, though the bivy I used does not appear to breath all that well. On the second night, since I had my pack raft out and inflated I turned it over and slept on it – it was like heaven and very comfortable.

The next day we continued the float. Up to this point we had not seen any other floaters, but this changed about midday. We heard an air boat in the distance, and saw several pulled up on shore, as well as several parties of more traditional floaters with rafts and inflatable kayaks.

Strangely we saw lots of boats pulled up on shore but few people and no one on the river..

We passed one of the camps where a large jet boat was pulled up along with a jet ski and Ms Marsh talked to them a bit – they were completely flummoxed when they were told that we hiked in. One of them responded with a “Holy Sh**” and a completely incredulous look. More mind boggling for me was the jet ski – its fragile fiberglass bottom made it seem to me like the least useful motorized appliance ever for traveling in shallow rocky creeks.
We did stop and talk to a guy with one of the groups of non-motorized floaters. He said he was on “Camp Duty” while the rest of his party hunted. They were dropped off at the landing strip at Van Curlers Bar, a old placer mine on the upper reaches of the East Fork. Apparently mining of some sort is in progress and the landing strip is open and usable. Some interesting details can be found online about some of the folks who prospected in this area, including Van Curler. Excepting the air boats and jet boats, the float felt pretty remote considering how close it is to town – there were not a lot of signs of other travelers, besides a large number of cut out sweepers. In the lower sections of the river there are a number of very large log jams that have been cut out, so this is probably a good thing – some of those log jams were pretty immense and would have been a bit of a pain to portage around.

Eventually we arrived at our take out, where Tom and I got on bikes and biked back to the hotsprings while Ms Marsh guarded our packs and hunted for cranberries. The bike ride was very fast and fun and before I knew it we were back at the truck.

This hike, float, and bike is highly recommended – the hiking was fantastic, the floating pretty fun (though mellow), and has a very remote feel considering how close this is to town.

A Map.

More photos.

Far Mt – East fork of the Chena trip