Posts Tagged ‘crowberry cabin’

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!

A 50 mile day

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Since the White Mountains 100 is rapidly approaching, Tom and I decided it would be a good idea to get a longer day ski in to get a feel for what it would be like. I had pitched the idea of a out and back to Caribou Bluff cabin, which would be around 60 miles total, but Tom convinced me that an out-and-back to Crowberry Cabin would be a better idea. This was a good call, as the ski was pretty fantastic – the trail was in great shape and super fast.

We made pretty good time, making it to Moose Creek cabin in under 3 hours. The weather was mostly quite nice, though pretty cold and windy in the valleys. The total time was under 11 hours, with a pretty long stop at Crowberry for snacks and to melt water.
Near Crowberry we saw some very interesting weather related mirages.

By midday the sun was out and it was wonderfully sunny and hot. Perhaps too hot.. The last couple of hills before reaching Crowberry seemed to go on forever.

Eventually we reached Crowberry and crashed on the deck, melting snow and snacking while enjoying the sun reflecting off the cabin. After relaxing for a hour or so we packed up and headed back down the trail. It was a super pleasant (though long) ski out, with a number of long pleasant downhills runs.

We almost made it back before dark, though not quite – in the last four miles or so I had to get out the headlamp. The last three miles of the trail always seems to take forever, especially in the dark. There are not a lot of identifying features, except for the signage for the ski loop junction. I am always happy to see this sign, as it means its only a quarter of a mile until the start of the final decent into the parking lot.

One short and delightful downhill later we arrived at the parking lot and were soon munching chips. My legs were not as wipped as I expected, which was good news for the 100. Dropping the 60 miler down to a 50 miler was probably a good call though – I was pretty tired when I reached the car. I also appeared to have grown several extra chins too…

I am still refining my kickwax for these long day skis – I used green powergrip (applied with a heatgun then ironed on) topped off with 4 layers of Swix VR 40 blue on one ski and Toko binder with 8 layers of Start white and 4 layers of Swix VR 40 blue on the other. Both setups seemed to work equally well, and lasted for a very long time – I had to re-top off with Swix VR 40 blue twice but otherwise had excellent kick and fantastic glide though out the day.

More photos, for the picture inclined..

The 50 mile day

The White Mountains Loop

Friday, February 19th, 2010

On a sunny and warm Sunday morning, Ms Marsh, Tom, and I set off to do a leisurely ski of the White Mountains 100 course. Our plan was to ski the first day to Crowberry Cabin, then on to Windy Gap cabin, then out. This would make for two fairly mellow days and one longish day, approximately 26 miles, 34 miles, then a 40 mile day – all very doable. I was really looking forward to the section from Cache Mountain Cabin to Windy Gap Cabin, as I have never traveled this area before and was told it was quite beautiful. The other factor is that I would probably end up doing this section in the dark and would like to have some idea about the trail before attempting to blast though it at high speed by headlamp.

The first day started quite pleasantly, with a fast trail and wonderfully sunny and warm weather.

It was a bit too hot for Remus, alas. He is really only happy in sub 0f weather.

We zoomed down the trail and eventually stopped for a bite to eat at Moose Creek cabin. We passed two snowmachiners on the trail and a solo skier, but other wise we had the trail to our selves. The trail was super smooth and fast and made for fantastic skiing.

Once past Moose Creek cabin the trail climbs up a ridge and winds though a several year old burn and offered us fantastic views.

We reached Crowberry after a little under 7 hours of skiing which included a fair bit of stopping and goofing off. This was my first trip to the new Crowberry cabin. Its a new design without a loft, but it is quite spacious and has tons of room. We had a fantasic evening reading varous magizines including a road bike racing magazine that seemed quite out of place. Tom amused us by reading excerpts from a snow machining pamphlet, which espoused the many virtues of snowmaching (creating world peace and curing cancer, for example).

After a huge dinner we hustled off to bed, eagerly awaiting the alarm summing us to a early start the next morning (some of us anyway).
The next day turned out to be equally warm and sunny, and after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon we where off. The trail out of the cabin was a continuous drop all the way to Beaver Creek. Tom added a bit more “drop” and had a tremendous crash on one of the downhills that did in one of this bindings. Tom then had the distinct pleasure of skiing the rest of the trip with one floppy loose binding.
The trail got progressively rougher as we headed to Cache Mt Cabin, with lots of exposed tussocks. These sections where fairly short though and most of the skiing was quite good.

We encountered our first bit of overflow shortly after crossing Beaver Creek. It was short and dry though, and was quite fast and fun to ski though. I was using my skinny racing style skis, and don’t get too much edging power on overflow, and so have to be careful. If only someone made stiff, narrow, metal edged (or partial metal edged) skis..

We reached Cache Mt Cabin and stopped in to read the log book and have bite to eat. Several years ago I left a book here as a joke, ‘Develop Your Psychic Abilities‘ and it was still here. Strangely, a another book I had left in the cabin as a joke, “The Instant Divorce”, was gone – go figure.
Past Cache Mt Cabin the overflow got a bit more intense, but was still quite passable.

We were now on a section of the trail that I had never skiied, and I was enjoying exploring the area. This section of trail climbs for 12 miles or so, then comes over Cache Mt Divide, and drops down to Windy Gap. The trail up into the divide offered great views and was not particularly steep until the final sections.

The divide was quite scenic and had wonderful views of the surrounding ridges.

I could have spent days exploring this area, but alas we had still had 14 miles or so to go before we reached the cabin, so we didn’t stop very long.

The trail away from the divide was fast and fun – just steep enough for some high speed skiing but not so steep as to be uncontrollable. We reached soon reached the section of trail called the “ice lakes”, where the trail disappears in small valley with wall to wall ice.

A warning to racers in the upcoming White Mountains 100 race – this section was the only section of the trail that was a bit scary for me. I skied most of it, and was out of control for a good portion of the time. The ice has a slight slant to it, and where it is slushy it is very easy to ski under control. Where the ice is hard though, it is very difficult to slow down. Twice I ended up plowing into alders at high speed when I could not slow down. I would treat this section with caution and ovoid the temptation to bomb it, unless you have skis with metal edges.

Tom and Ms Marsh put on stylish bags and yak-traks on their feet and walked this section.

After leaving the ice lakes, the most fun of trail begin (at least for me) – the trail gradually drops down to Windy Gap, winding though big trees and going over a endless series of woop-a-doos. This made for a very fun 9 miles or so of double poling. Eventually we reached Windy Gap Cabin and crashed for the night. The next morning we headed out, and started out with a long section of ice. I skied this section while Tom and Marsh walked it. The skiing was fun and super fast.

The next 10 miles of trail winded though large trees and crosses Fossil Creek numerous times. The first 5 miles or so was a fun roller coaster with lots of small rolling ups and downs which made for fun and fast skiing.

There were a couple of sections of brief overflow. These were pretty hard frozen and dry making for fun skiing. These sections could be a bit tricky during the race when I am sleep deprived.

The ridges in this area are fantastically beautiful.

This section included one of the more interesting trail finds I have encountered – there was a partially eaten wolf or long legged dog carcass on the side of the trail.

Sections of this trail had a huge number of wolf prints – it appeared a small pack of wolves had followed a creek down to the trail then followed the trail up to the windy gap area. There was a couple of bird kills marked by a large cloud of feather so it looked like the wolves were having fairly good hunting.
Eventually we broke out of the thick forest and into a old burn and soon we were past Caraboo Bluff cabin and on the hilly descent to Borealis Cabin.

Shortly after Borealis-LeFevre Cabin we ran into the BLM trail groomers on their way out to Wolf Run cabin, then to Windy Gap Cabin and out. They left the trail wonderfully smooth and fast.

It was getting a bit late, so we pushed on to the trail shelter, had dinner, and then headed out to the parking lot.

When I reached the parking lot I was greeted by a bunch of Japanese visitors waiting in the parking lot for aurora to photograph. Tom and I made it to the truck first, and waited a while for Ms Marsh to arrive. We had a number of false alarms when we thought we had seen Marsh’s head lamp, only to find it was the aurora watchers taking pictures of things with super bright flashes. Things like the trail signs, trees, the ground, and a pile of straw… there was no aurora to be seen, so perhaps they were making the best of things.

All in all it was a quite fun three days and we got to ski the entire course. Skiing the course is highly recommended for racers – there is no place where anyone with any direction sense could get lost, but there are a few sections were you have to be careful due to ice lakes, overflow, steep descents, and other tricky bits, and its good to get a feel for it before attempting it in a sleep deprived hase.