Posts Tagged ‘day trip’

A Cast of Thousands on Riley Creek

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The king of pack rafters (at least Interior ones), Ed Plumb organized a trip down to Riley Creek near the Denali Park entrance. This creek is very accessible and is rumored to have some nice class II boating with at least one class III drop. It was supposed to be a short 1-2 mile hike followed by a several hour float. Ed recruited a very large posse (13 people total) for this adventure – I guess the short nature of the trip and the potential fun floating made it pretty attractive.

I was unfazed by the unlucky number 13, as my morning coffee was filled with good signs.

After meeting up at Lulu’s we all left town shortly after 9 and were on the trail hiking at a little before 1 in the afternoon.

The hike was fantastic – the trail is in great shape and very fast walking. We had a major train of people –

I was pretty bouncy from the latte and probably annoyed everyone around me with my endless babbling.

Fortunately people shifted around a bit and thus I got to spread my annoyance around.

Eventually we left the trail and dropped down to the creek.

Where we put in on the creek the water was moving moderately fast with more water than I expected – it looked pretty fun.

This creek has quite a bit of character – at the water levels we floated it at there were quite a few nice rocky sections with fun obstacles to maneuver around.

There are a couple of sections where the creek runs along smallish rock walls, but nothing too exciting.

The forum post that spawned this trip, circa 2007, mentioned a rope across the creek near a cable. Well, it turned out that there is still a rope across the creek under a cable, near a foot bridge.

It appeared the rope was used to haul stuff back and forth across the cable, but its seemed that having it dangle just above the water was unnecessary, especially since there is a foot bridge just near by. NPS’s legendary safety paranoia seems to be a bit missing here..

Shortly after the footbridge we encountered the rail road bridge and a brief exciting section. This bit could be a bit tricky – at the water levels we floated it at it was fairly fun and not too tricky. We took out just after the parks highway bridge and made our way back to the cars.

Quite a fun day trip and highly recommended. Its very similar to windy creek, but at the water levels we floated it slightly harder with a few sections that are a bit more challenging. The total time for the hike and float was around 5 hours so it makes for a nice mellow day trip hike-and-float. It was pretty fun to float in such a large group. There was quite a selection of paddles, different sorts of boats, and several generations of spray skirts all of which it was fun to see in action. There was also a wide range of gear folks were taking. One of the pack rafters sported a neat helmet cam made from a gorilla pod and also going super lightweight style with no pack – just strapping his pfd to his life vest – most impressive! Hopefully some of the videos he took will get passed around, as they might make interesting viewing.

More photos here:

Riley Creek Packrafing trip

A short trip on the Chulitna

Monday, June 7th, 2010

On the way back from the packrafting class, Tom, Ms Marsh, and I stopped to do a quick hike/float on the East Fork of the Chulitna River. The river was supposed to be class II with a fair number of large rocks for eddy play, so I was looking forward to it. We started at the East Fork rest stop on the Parks Highway, and hiked back out from just below the confluence of Honolulu Creek. This section of river is super fun – just like I was told there are quite a few nice large rocks to play around. I had a great time practicing entering and exiting the eddies using the “stab and jab” technique from the packrafting class. Perhaps a bit too much fun, as I flipped while exiting a eddy with a nearby pore over – but no big deal I was back in pretty quickly and my “nearly dry” suit combo kept me dry.

The float is pretty scenic and in a couple of places the river goes by some interesting cliffs.

The hike out was fairly short and fast – it took about 20 to 30 minutes.

There is a more direct way with via a trail, but it ends up in someone’s driveway complete with a ton of “No Trespassing” signs, so we just bushwhacked directly out to the road.

This section of the river is super fun and makes a great day trip to breakup the drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

The pack rafting class has really changed the way I see rivers – I spent this float playing in eddies trying to hit and catch as many as possible, something I would have never done prior to the class. We need more rivers like this in the Fairbanks area!

A Map:


East Fork of the Chulitna day float/pack

Chena Dome In a Day

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Last year I did Chena Dome as a day hike, and it was fun enough that I decided it should be a yearly ritual. This year it was hotter, dryer, and slightly slower. The trail is pretty dry right now, with a couple of tundra pools that had water but otherwise was very dry.

After about 1 pm (mile 9 or so) a thunder storm moved though the area, making this ridge hike a bit iffy. Storms blew though sporadically for the rest of the day, making things a bit fun.

Twice I felt a bit of static electricity that caused the hairs on my arms to feel funny, but this could be my imagination – regardless it let me to several mad “get off this ridge” dashes.

It was super hot, with highs in the mid 80’s. I drank a little over 2 gallons of water on the trail and was still quite dehydrated when I finished. My total time was a little under 12 hours.

This hike is fantastic and is well worth doing. Its a lot of work – there are only a couple of short flat sections, so you are either climbing or descending, but it makes up for this with superb views and wonderful ridge hiking. Its a bit mentally challenging at times as you are always either looking at the hill you are climbing or going down and looking at the climb you will be doing next. Such is life – trails this beautiful must have a price to pay in one form or another. Chena Dome does not get a lot of traffic – I seldom encounter other folks while hiking it.

I am going to try something a bit new with this trip – I took lots of pictures, geo-tagged them, and put in them in a Picasa Album so folks can get a feel for what the trail is like. You can find a click-able google map bellow with images – zoom in and click on one of the photos to get an idea what the trail is like at that point. Hopefully folks fine this useful – enjoy!

View Larger Map

A short spin on the Denali Park Road

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Because of some work day shuffling I ended up with a Wednesday free with nothing to do and decided that it would be a good day to bike a section of the Denali Park road. Wednesday would be the last day of the spring when the public can drive the first 30 miles of the park road, allowing me to skip biking the first 30 miles, which are not quite as interesting as the rest of the road. I left two at 8am, and got to the Denali park entrance a little after 10, and made it to the Teklanika camp-ground at a little after 11.. there was a surprising large amount of traffic on the park road which made travel a bit slow.. I was on my bike at 11:30, and the fun began. The park road is truly a great bike ride – its normally in fairly good shape, the drivers are all very nice, the views are interesting, and occasionally you get to see wildlife up close and personal. This time there was tons of wild life – I saw more wildlife than I expected and in some cases saw it a bit closer than I wanted too. It started off with a fox chasing a hare across the road in front of me.

The next wildlife sighting was a sow bear with two cubs hanging out on some gravel bars on the East Fork of the Toklat River. I spent a bit of time watching them, but quickly lost interest – they were too far away to enjoy and I have seen lots of bears before, so the novelty wore off quickly.

While climbing up the road into Polychrome Pass, I was surprised to see a sheep hanging grazing right next to the road.

Near the top of the pass I encountered a small group of rams hanging out right next to the road, sun bathing.

I spent 15 minutes or so watching them.. they didn’t seem at all traumatized by the traffic on the road or the party of wildlife paparazzi taking pictures of them.

On the way back I had my most interesting animal encounter. While climbing up into Sable Pass I came around a corner and there was a smallish wolf sniffing around a bridge. I watched the wolf for a while, and it either didn’t notice me (the wind was blowing fairly hard at this point and I was down wind of him) or he didn’t care. Once he was finished inspecting and marking the bridge he then headed right at me at a fast trot.. this caused me a fair bit of surprise, as I was expecting it to bolt off as soon as I was noticed – that is what normally happens anyway.

My other wolf encounters had involved me madly digging out my camera while the wolf in question zooms off at great speed after noticing me. In this case the wolf saw me, then apparently decided to run up to me and check me out. Alas this plan was foiled by my surprised high pitched girlish yelp and my quick grap for a nice rock to chuck at it – I am afraid I reverted to my dog defence mode and yelled while grabbing for a rock to bean it with if it got too close. Fortunately the wolf was surprised by my antics and veered off of the road and into the bushes instead of charging me. Which was probably good, as I expect pelting the wildlife with rocks is not approved Denali Park visitor behaviour.

This encounter gave me a nice adrenaline boost and I zoomed up Sable pass and was back at the car much, much faster than I expected – it took about a third of the time to bike out as it did biking in, in part probably due to my picture taking and other goofing off, but it was still quite surprising. I was back in Fairbanks at 7pm.

The park road is a super scenic bike ride. Polychrome Pass is particularly dramatic as the road is cut into the side of the mountains and offers great views.

In some places the the below the road is a un-interrupted steep scree slope dropping of over a thousand feet.. It feels very dramatic.

This is my favourite section of the road, and should not be missed if one is to spend any time biking the park road.

The surface of the park road is all dirt (besides the first 15 miles which are paved) and varies a lot depending on the conditions. There are a fair number of climbs but nothing too difficult – everything is fairly easily climbing in granny gear while spinning. This time the road surface was super dry and a bit dusty, though some of the other times it was pretty muddy – this is obviously weather dependant.

The dust was not too bad though, and the drivers tend to be super nice and slow down so you are not completely dusted out.

On the way out I encountered one of the road hazards of park road – animal caused traffic jams. In this case everyone was queued up to watch some caribou way off in the distance.

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

More wind, more cold

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I had yet another aborted ski trip in the white mountains.  I had crowberry cabin which is about a 26 mile ski in from either the mile 28 trail head on the Elliot Highway, or roughly the same distance from the trail head on the Steese Highway.  I had been warned that it was going to be pretty cold and windy, but the weather stations in the area said it was around -10f in the hills and windy, and so I decided to give it a try, as I could always just turn around.  Warmer weather was forcast to be arriving on Sunday, so coming back out should be nicer.  I left the trail head at around 10am, well after sunrise.  It was quite windy but fairly warm, around -5f according to my thermometer.  This is fine with me – not too cold even with the wind, and the trail was in great shape. BLM had recently groomed the trail and it still had the corduroy patterns.

It gradually got colder as I got further away from the trail head, and was -15f at Lees. Not too big of a deal, that was still manageable. A couple of miles later, as I looked down a hill where the trail crossed a valley, I noticed some icefog or blowing snow covering the bottom of the valley. Hmm. I skied down the trail and down into the lower section, and wow – the stuff I saw from above was icefog – it was super cold, and very windy. My thermometer was still dropping and reached -35f before I decided to put it away and get moving. This was a little more than I was interested in doing, as there are two more low sections just like this one I would have to cross, so I decided to once again bail and ski back out. Disappointing, yes, but -35f in hard winds would not have been fun.

On the upside, it was a beautiful day out there and in the hills it was quite pleasant.

The sky in particular was quite beautiful.

A spin on the new skis..

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

About two months ago I picked up a set of low end “racing” skis and until recently I had been too afraid to take them out for any long skis due to the low snow conditions. Yesterday I decided enough was enough, and took the new skis out for a out-and-back to Eleazar’s cabin the the White Mountains NRA.

It was not a long ski, only 26 miles or there abouts, but enough to say that the new skis are a bit faster than my old sport glasses and keep the kick wax on a bit longer in abrasive conditions. Hurra!

The trails are in fantastic shape in the whites, if you ignore the rocky sections in first quarter mile of the Wickersham Creek trail.

There was a fantastic temperature inversion going on – the temperature on the trail ranged from +15f to ~-25f. I stopped at the trail shelter, where it was a little below -20f:

And at Eleazar’s cabin, where it was around +8f. The distance between these two places is around a half a mile in a straight line (possibly less) – it is amazing to me that there can be such a large difference in temperature for such a short distance..

Eleazar’s cabin has a fancy new deck that is a new addition since my last visit – quite spiffy!

There were no critters to be seen (besides some gray jays anyway), though I did see a fantastic vole race track.

Amazingly enough, I made it back to the parking lot just after dark. The days are getting a bit longer – soon the best time of the year from a skiing perspective will be upon us. Wahoo!

I should mention that yesterday was quite a day for trail finds. I found a crescent wrench, enough dog booties that stopped picking them up, and a handful of neck lines. I really don’t understand how mushers could be losing neck lines but they are getting to be a common trail find for me these days.

Beaver Creek Day Ski

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I had a day to myself so I decided to be productive and to get out and do a long day ski.  It was fairly cold, but there was supposed to be a strong inversion so I headed out the White Mountains to ski the hilly Mc Kay creek trail to Beaver Creek and back.  After a fairly late start ( stopping for coffee and a tasty breakfast treat at Alaska Coffee Rosters slowed things down a bit), I headed up the trail at a little before 10am.    The inversion was quite spectacular – it was well above +10f at the top of the first hill, much warmer than then -10f or so at the parking lot.   The lowest spots on the trail where probably around -20f, cold enough that my pack got crinkly.   The ski was mostly uneventful, but quite scenic, with wonderful views of the Alaska Range on the way in.

On the way up the first hill I ran into a trapper returning from checking his sets and talked for a while. The trapper took a fancy to Remus, and gave him a chunk of bait about as big as Remus’s head, which made his day. Yum, yum!   Besides the trapper I was passed by 3 mushers traveling in a tight packed group, but otherwise had the trail completely to my self.

The trail was in fantastic shape and was quite smooth and reasonable skiing, with great views of the surrounding hills, including a rock formation locally referred to as “Sled dog rocks”, a rock formation that is supposed to look like a musher with a dog team.

Once the moon rose there were fantastic views of the moon over the mountains to the North and East.

While the trail was in good shape, the off trail snow cover ranged from adequate to almost non-existent. The open tussock fields were blown almost free of snow, with the tussock tops completely exposed.

The total round trip distance was 30 miles.  I did not make it all the way to Beaver Creek but stopped at the top of the last hill before the creek, as I was not looking forward to the long drop down and the cold bubble waiting for me at the bottom.   The trail is quite hilly, and a bit of a workout, but quite scenic and highly recommended as a out and back day ski.  Next time I think I am going to explore the US Creek road and see if it would make for good skiing.

More pictures follow for the photo inclined..

The trail on the way up the first hill, complete with sunrise.

Remus, enjoying his “after huge chunk of meat” jog.

The trail winds though a number of burned areas.  A few of the areas burned so completely it seemed all the trees were completely incinerated. This open section used to be in black spruce, and now is a large field of stumps and grass.

Once the moon rose I was treated by the sight of it slowly creeping across the north eastern sky as the day progressed.

More moon and alpine glow photos, hurray!

My turnaround point – thats Beaver Creek at the bottom.

A Solstice ski on the Compeau Trail

Friday, December 25th, 2009

On a brisk day near winter solstice (the actual solstice falls on the following day) I joined Dan, Ed, Ann, and Heather for a day ski on the Compeau trail in the Chena River SRA.  I had biked part of the Compeau trail in the summer, but had never skied it, and approached the outing with a bit of trepidation as the only person I had talked to about skiing it had said it was nearly impossible.  I should not have worried however, as it turned out to be a quite a fun ski, with only a handful of terrifyingly steep sections.   We skied out to Colorado Creek cabin first, which was still warm from the previous tenants, had a short snack, then headed up the Compeau to the top of the ridge.  The initial climb was very pleasant, with lots of switchbacks and hardly any steep sections.  Once we reached the top of the ridge we then followed a old dozer line to a fire break installed in the summer of 2004.  There were a handful of fairly steep climbs and descents but everything was manageable on skis.  I had a number of crashes ( I think four total – I led the crash count by a wide margin) but nothing too tremendous.  Eventually we rejoined the Compeau trail and were treated too a 10 mile decent to the Chena Hotsprings winter trail that was quite pleasant and very fun.  Once at the bottom we followed the Chena Hotsprings winter trail back to Colorado Creek trail parking lot, and we where finished, only 26 miles later.   This loop evolved lots and lots of climbing and was quite a workout.    This is a fantastic day trip, and highly recommended!  The Compeau trail is very skiable, with wide switchbacks on the downhills.  The new reroute on the beginning of the Colorado Creek trail is a wonderful addition that cuts out the heavily rutted sections, which is a great improvement.

The following photos are complements of Ed, as I forgot my camera in the car, alas.
The views from the trail along the ridges was fantastic.

The lower sections of trail wind though black spruce forest and is quite scenic.

The Alaska range was back lit by the low angle solstice sun for most of the day, and was extremely beautiful.

A Borealis-Lefauve Day Ski

Monday, December 14th, 2009

I had plans to do a overnighter at Borealis Lefauve Cabin in the White Moutains NRA last weekend but alas the folks who where coming all bailed due to other commitments. Since I had the cabin, I decided to do a day ski out there instead, with a stop at the cabin to warm up and relax. This turned out to be a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. The Whites were completely empty and I had the trail all to my self. Its always hard to predict how busy the whites are – I would have expected that it would be quite busy, as it was a fairly warm (+10f to -10f depending on how low or high one is ) calm day with clear skies. Perhaps the low snowfall is keeping the snowmachiners home.. In anycase, it was a great ski. The Wickersham Creek Trail is in great shape for skiing, though the snow was pretty abrasive and hard on wax. The normal overflow spots had a fair bit of overflow, fortunately it was the dry and hard. The 40 miles took me about 4 hours going in, and 5 hours going out, alas not particularly fast. I am afraid I am going to have to work a bit on my nutrition on these longer skis, as I was a bit energy deprived for the last couple of miles, but it all worked out and I arrived at the parking lot relatively intact.

Pictures follow, for the photo viewing inclined. We are now in the time of the year where the photos mainly consist of sunrise and sunset photos, due to the fact it is either dark or the sun is rising or setting. Which is all good, but it limits the picture taking a bit.

The sunrise, shortly after I left the parking lot, complete with a early morning raven.

A wee bit of overflow.

The overflow had fantastic ice crystal formations in all kinds of strange shapes.

The thermometer at the Trail Shelter half to the turnaround point said it was a balmy -10f.

Even more overflow.

The final bit of overflow.