Posts Tagged ‘family’

Packrafting Beaver Creek with the family..

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Ever since I got my first packraft I’ve had packrafting adventures on Beaver Creek . This winter, with the hope that I could share a packrafting adventure with my family, I picked up two packrafts that can each hold two people. I was very excited to try them out! I made plans to do the classic Beaver Creek with the family and a few others in late winter (or early spring, depending on your point of view).

Trip day arrived. Our party of 10 included me, Nancy, Lizzy (age 11), and Molly (age 11); Trusten (age 70) and his daughter Robin (age 17); Beth and Constantine; Tom; and Gregg. We piled out of our vehicles to start the adventure. On the drive, Lizzy had told me firmly that she wasn’t going to be happy if it rained. When it started (very lightly) snowing, I pointed out that it wasn’t raining. She was not amused.

It took a while to get going with such a large party, but eventually we were all bobbing along, enjoying the current. The weather was pretty cold and the sun came and went as clouds passed by. When the sun was shining it was pleasant, but when it dipped behind the clouds it was a bit nippy.

Midafternoon we had a serious hail storm, with enough hail for it to pile up on the decks of our boats. LIzzy, who was floating with me, was wearing a neck gaiter, and pulled it up over her face to keep the hail from hitting her.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

I was a bit jealous how comfortable she appeared to be. After a few hours, though, the twins started raising objections to the floating, mostly involving their cold hands and feet.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28
The adults seemed to be having fun though..
Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Fortunately, we had two days to float roughly 30 miles, which in my experience is about 8 to 12 hours of floating, so after about 5 hours of travel we pulled out and made camp.

I somewhat optimistically pointed to a blue patch and told the twins “Look – blue sky!” to which they pointed at a dark cloud and said “Look – dark clouds!” starting a blue sky, dark clouds chant that became a staple.

The twins and Robin helped Constantine (the master fire maker) make a big campfire, which was a huge hit with its makers (and possibly the adults).

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

S’mores were enjoyed, and eventually everyone was tucked in their respective beds. I was excited to find out I could hold up our pyramid tent with two paddles. This was a pretty awesome revelation, and makes the tent much more usable, as there isn’t a pole in the middle of it.

The twins packed their own snacks, and while digging out the next days food I noticed a lack of trust..
Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

In the morning we packed up – after another fire of course – and floated to Borealis cabin, where we made a nice fire, warmed up, and dried off. This second day was a bit nicer, with no rain, a bit more sun, and only a brief bit of hail.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Folks were a bit reluctant to leave the nice warm cabin, but alas we didn’t have it booked and the plan was to hike a few miles and camp on the ridge above the river. Eventually we left the warmth of the cabin and headed back across the river, packed up the boats, and walked up the hill. The twins needed rides across the first creek, and enjoyed nice piggy back rides, but the tussocky climb up the hill was less exciting for them.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

By the time we made camp Lizzy was pretty tired and was almost to the point of meltdown. However, after some dinner and time enjoying a campfire, Lizzy recovered and headed off to build a little fort out of the many burned downed trees in the area.

[Molly and Lizzy are now old enough to read my blog posts and offer critizen; Molly wanted me to point out that while Lizzy enjoyed the ride, she wanted to walk across, even though it would have been mid-thigh on her. They also offered grammar and writing advice, which was a bit of a mixed blessing.]

The next morning we hiked about ten miles to the shelter at mile 8, which amazingly was empty. Alas, the rain barrel was also empty, and it took a while to find water, but otherwise it was a great place to camp. The twins appeared to enjoy the hiking a bit more, and I had a long discussion with Lizzy about the book series she is reading, the “Warriors series”. She is into those books at the moment, and it was great to share the experience with her.

Robin hiked most of the way barefoot, and arrived at the shelter pretty tired. I don’t think I saw her out of her sleeping bag the entire evening.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

The twins did not enjoy how much brush there was on a few sections, though. There are several miles of trail where the alder are growing in the trail and it is easier to walk off the trail than on it. The day was a bit long for them, and I was impressed by how well they handled it.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

The final day went by quickly, with slightly less mileage, less elevation gain, and a much easier trail due to better trail maintenance. The trail is in much better shape in this section, and much to their credit, BLM has made major improvements on a few of the swampy sections – thanks BLM! We were out at the trailhead mid afternoon.

The twins were in high spirits and were pretty bouncy for the last day of hiking. Perhaps a bit too bouncy, as they started trying to steal Tom’s snacks…

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

…and throw snowballs at me.

Beaver Creek -> Elliot highway mile 28

Boat notes :
We have two double person packrafts – a double duck and a gnu. The double duck is slightly bigger, and is very light – I think it weighs about the same as my “normal” packraft. The gnu is a heavier boat, but the two front ends are pretty awesome, and it seems to be the fastest packraft I have floated in by a fair margin. We all used kayak paddles, and that seemed to work fine, though we had to synchronise paddling so the blades didn’t hit each other.

The twins rated the trip:
Floating: 6/10
Hiking: 2/10 when it brushy (Lizzy), 2/10 when it was muddy (Molly), otherwise 8/10
The floating would have gotten a higher rating if there had been less hail and it had been warmer. I think the lower mud and brush rating would have been avoided if I had warned them of the brush and if Molly had brought waterproof hiking shoes. Nancy also was surprised by the brush. Alas, I think the trail gets very little attention from BLM, and is very brushy in a few sections from the river to the shelter at mile 8.

Thoughts from Nancy:

While I was editing the spelling and punctuation in the above blog post, the kids kept looking over my shoulder, so I put off the job until after I tucked them in for the night. When I came back from tucking them in, I found that the cat had added her own edits, consisting of about fifty semicolons. Pippin does not like it when we all leave on four-day trips. Neither do the dogs, but they would have been impossibly challenging to include. Thanks to Margaret for caring for the menagerie.

Right. So, for those considering this trip, I’d say that overall, it was excellent. The hail/snow/sleet/whatever were not much fun, but could be avoided by traveling later in the season or heeding weather reports. The approximate schedule and distances we adhered to were perfect, although a three-day version might have been fine without kids. I know Jay usually does the trip in two, with the 10 hours of floating packed into one day and the 22 miles of hiking the following day, but in my mind this doesn’t seem to leave a heck of a lot of time for roasting potatoes in the campfire, building forts, stealing Tom’s candy, discussing the iffy state of the world, and admiring Gregg’s impressive camp cuisine.

As far as difficulty goes, the float is easy, and perfect for beginners. The worst mishaps were brief groundings in shallow sections. The hike is not terribly difficult, but as noted, you can expect to have sodden, muddy feet. The dense, scratchy brush obliterates the trail for miles at a time. Lightweight but rip-resistant pants are strongly recommended.

Thanks for a delightful adventure, everyone!

Tolovana, 2012

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The last three years we have made a family trip to Tolovana Hotsprings. The first year the twins were carried and sledded out there, but the following years they hiked the 10+ miles each way under their own power. It has become a sign of the change of seasons, a marking of the end of fall and the coming of winter. Sometimes there is a bit of colder weather and even a little snow, reminding us of the winter that is coming. We have been joined by the twins friend Anna, her dad Ned and her mom Kristen, as well as Tom, and Ms Marsh.

The twins and Anna really enjoy Tolovana, with its places to explore..

Things to do..

And the wonderful hot tubs to enjoy.

I have fond memories of visiting Takhini Hotsprings and hiking out to cabins as a kid, so it is wonderful to have a chance to share these experiences with my daughters.
The twins and Anna have really grown up in the three years we have been hiking out to Tolovana, and they now hike along like little champions, playing lots of games, enjoying snacks, and generally having a great time.

This year’s hike was a bit earlier than usual, making for some muddy hiking. The sun was nice though, and we enjoyed the warmer temperatures.

There were some mud related moments of sadness as little people slipped and fell, lost boots in the sticky mud, or had muddy splash downs, but these were (thankfully) short.

Besides a bit of mud the hike in was great. The weather was so nice the little hikers didn’t even want to stop at the “marshmallow” , an old water tank converted into a shelter, and kept right on trucking.

Blueberry season was long gone, but the cranberries were out in force.

We made it to the hotsprings with enough time for the little hikers to enjoy a short soak before dinner. The bigger hikers all enjoyed longer soaks after dinner. The next day was wonderfully sunny, and the crew spent it mellowing out enjoying life.

After two days of sun, our final day arrived a bit cooler, with ice on the puddles. Everyone had a good hike out, although the little hikers impressed some disbelieving folks on our hike out. “You guys have a fourwheeler cached somewhere up here, right” .

Everyone made it out, some powered by gummies..

And some with their inner rockstar.

A huge thanks to everyone who joined us for this trip, your company makes these trips the wonderful experiences they are. I hope that this family tradition continues, here’s to fall hikes in the sun, the wind, and the snow!

A soggy saturday..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

The twins, Nancy, and I had a overnight trip planned, but things didn’t work out as we intended. We arrived at the trail head to wind, poring rain, and temperatures in the lower 40 – not the best weather for the ten mile hike above tree line we had planned. Instead we decided to make a day hike of it, and explored the area around the trail head.

The fall colors were out in force, making for some beautiful but wet hiking.

We spent several wet hours the wet and splashing around on the trails and near by hill sides.

The twins enjoyed snacks, and were excited to be introduced to Mike and Ikes. They did take a pass on my last minute gas station purchase, a “Uncle Al’s Stage Plank” . There was lots of passing of snacks while walking, to keep the little legs moving…

We spent a bit of time exploring before heading back..

The twins found a nice kid sized cave that they could walk around inside, much to their excitement. It was much to small for the adults, which I think added to their enjoyment. Molly made a point to tell me that it was much warmer in the cave, out of the wind and rain.

.

Not the trip we had planned, but fun none the less.

Moab.

Monday, January 9th, 2012

The day after Christmas the family and I left cold and dark Fairbanks to spend some time in the greater Moab area with my brother Dwight’s family.

Several days were spent with lots of Cables having fun in the warm for us +50f sun..

Silliness abounded..

And rock spires were eaten.

Everyone had a wonderful time exploring a new world of sand, rock, and in the twins’ case, the novelty of a sun beaming down actual warmth.

.. and dino prints!

Arches National Park was explored and enjoyed.

We spent some time in Canyonlands, though without the assistance of Dwight’s clan as they had to head back home for school. They were missed..

I was able to get out for one seven hour ride on Moab’s “Brand” trails, which were in a word – amazing. I had the place to myself, on a sunny windless day. The trails were dry and snow free.

Moab also has the nicest bike path I have ever seen, complete with warning signs for hills, and posted speed limits.

I got several hours of playing on slickrock, which was interesting and fairly rewarding.

The “XC” five inch travel full suspension bikes we rented (almost) cured me of any interest buying a similar bike – way too much bounce. At times it was like riding a pogo stick. I say almost as I might have been able to fix the bounce with adjustments to the pressure and damping, but not having access to a shock pump made this impossible. I was pretty impressed by how much the suspension could soak up though.. only for all the riding I did on it, it was much too much bike. We had tagalongs (thanks Kristin!) and tried to get some biking in each day. Generally the day would start with driving to the general area, then biking to various trailheads with the twins in tow, and then hiking.


The roads outside of Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands are great for biking. We didn’t see very many bikers but it seemed like it would be wonderful off season road biking, with minimal traffic, fantastically smooth asphalt, and wonderful views.

On the way back to Alaska we spent two days in Seattle taking in the sights with Steve and Manish.


(Click the Vimeo button for the full awesome effect)

Now its back to the snow bike, getting in the miles/hours in preparation to the upcoming madness in 6 weeks.

A big thanks to the Cable family of Utah, and Steve and Manish for inviting us to visit, chaos and all.

A Fall trip to Tolovana Hotsprings

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Last year our family and some friends made a wonderfully fun trip to Tolovana Hotsprings. We had so much fun we decided to do it again, and this time the twins were old enough to (hopefully) walk the whole way under their own power – hurrah!

On a fine October morning our family headed out of town, after hitting the coffee shack for some morning wake up magic. We were followed by Anna and Ned. After a longish drive we arrived at the trailhead and eventually started ambling down the trail.

The pace was fast for little legs, requiring frequent snacking..

After a while the twins ended up with suspiciously snack covered faces.

The trail in to Tolovana is about 10 miles or so. It was in great shape for the most part, but there were a couple of sections requiring some puddle dodging.

The ice covered puddles gave the little people loads of entertainment.. Molly even found a dinosaur..

The ice dino was carried for a quarter of a mile before being left in a comfortable (and I was told, tasty!) field of grass.

The hike in was filled with games of various sorts including I Spy and variations on the Dora the Explorer troll game, where a grumpy troll asks three questions of the various hikers.

I introduced the twins to this game and they have found it so exciting I no longer get to play the troll and ask questions of them, but instead they ask questions of me. Easy questions like how much is 50 plus 50, and harder ones like how many trees are there in Alaska, and how many roots does that tree have.

It was a wonderfully warm (for early October) day on our hike in, with beautiful fall colors. Our slowish (for long legs) pace gave me time to enjoy the scenery.

We had all three dogs with us. The younger dog, Remus, was very excited to be out hiking, and spent the entire hike bouncing around joyfully.

The other two dogs, being older and more dignified, followed along in a more stately manner and enjoyed the slower pace of the short legged hikers. Sometimes they kept the girls company and provided a ready (though quiet) audience.

Togiak and Polar are 14, give or take a bit, and their adventuring days are numbered.

Eventually we reached the high point of the trail, near Tolovana Dome. There was much rejoicing..

The views were fantastic.

After the dome we started hiking down the final hill to the hotsprings. The little people started dragging a bit, and to motivate everyone, personalized bear bread (also called shelf or conk fungas) were made for each of the little hikers. Everyone was very proud of their fungi.

Eventually we arrived at the hotsprings, and after a short stop in our cabin we headed off to enjoy the hot water. Eventually we pried ourselves away from the water and had dinner. The twins and Anna appeared to eat about their body weight, and I started to worry they might explode.

Late in the evening our friends Tom and Ms Marsh arrived and joined us for a quiet after kid-bed-time soak.

The next day was spent goofing off and enjoying the hotsprings. I lolled around being slothful, while the twins and Anna alternated between having fun in the hot water and playing.


In the evening we ate more and entertained ourselves in various manners. At one point Molly covered Tom’s mouth with duct-tape, after arguing with him for at least half an hour about how it would not hurt to pull the tape off. Tom insisted that it would hurt, and only gave in once Molly demonstrated repeatedly that she could pull the tape of her face and not have it hurt. It did lead to a moment of silence as Tom was muffled.

Tom and Ms Marsh apparently didn’t get enough exercise on the way in, and used the three girls as leg curl machines. Molly and Lizzy were a bit put out that Tom couldn’t move them up and down quite as fast as Ms Marsh could move Anna. The twins were nonplused by Tom’s defense that there were two of them vs only one Anna.

I amused myself exploring the hotsprings area, catching up with Tom and Marsh, and taking pictures. Apparently I took a few too many pictures of the little people, as they started making faces whenever the camera came out…

After the twins hit the sack i got a nice long soak in the wonderful evening, enjoying the quiet and the stars. Alas, as I was walking back to the cabin I noticed that the wind had started blowing fairly hard. As i drifted off to sleep that evening I could hear the wind howling over the trees as a brisk wind developed.. Ah well, Tolovana wouldn’t be complete without a good wind!

The next day the twins, Anna, and Nancy started hiking out early, while Ned and I finished the final pack-up chores and gave the cabin a final cleaning before leaving to catch up. The morning sun on the hillside above the hotsprings was beautiful.

On the way out I stopped and chatted with Tom and Marsh. They planned to leave in the afternoon and would pass us on the trail, powered by their longer legs. The hike out was a bit windy and frosty, but not unpleasant by Tolovana standards.


To pass the time the girls and Nancy left motivational fungas signs on top of the mile markers, with a different name on each marker for the first handful of miles. Tom, Ms Marsh, and a fellow we encountered at the hotsprings, Patrick, all got their own fungus sign.

Patrick passed us on the way out, and the girls asked him if he had seen the sign. He was very amused – he apparently thought someone from the group he hiked in with was playing a joke on him. At the last mile marker he left three jerky pieces and a nice note thanking the girls for the fungus.

The little people were troopers and hiked along, powered by games, snacks, and songs.


We stopped at the water tank shelter and everyone jumped around inside enjoying a (noisy) break from the wind.

The hike out was scenic and windy but uneventful. There was a beautiful frost that was a wonderful reminder that my favorite season was almost here.

We eventually reached the parking lot, loaded up and headed home.

A big thanks to Ned, Tom, and Ms Marsh for coming along on this trip – thanks for coming along and adding to the fun!

I was very, very impressed by the little folks, Molly, Lizzy, and Anna. They were fantastic hikers! Anna in particular was quite a trooper as this hike was about twice as long as she had ever hiked under her own power – go Anna! You guys have now set the standard – if three 5 year olds can hike into Tolovana and enjoy it, anyone can!

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

A family bike trip in Denali NP

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

It seems like every time I go to pick up the twins they feel heavier – they seem to be growing like little weeds. Little weeds who are now big enough to start hauling themselves on trips… and so we found ou selves setting off on a bike tour with the twins on the Denali Park road. I have always enjoyed biking the Denali park road – it is quite scenic, fairly well maintained, and once you get past the first 15 miles the only drivers you encounter are running tour buses. The tour buses always seem to give bikers lots of room and are fairly courteous. Our plans for the weekend were relatively modest – to bike the 30 miles or so into the Teklanika campground, spend the night, then bike back out the next day. The first 15 miles or so are paved and while there are hills, there is nothing tremendously steep so it should be a good introduction to bike touring with the twins.

The twins were very excited about the trip and were very eager to get started and have the adventure begin! After doing all the initial check in and paper work that visits to Denali NP seem to require these days, we started pedaling and were off!

The twins were riding their tag-along bikes , which are sort of a half tandem bike that attaches to the parent’s bike seat post. Nancy and I were hauling the gear in standard panniors, though for such a short trip not much gear is required. We have done bike trips with the twins before, but in those bike trips the twins spent all the bike time in a child hauling trailer – with the tag-alongs the twins could help power us along, as they could now pedal. The pressure was definitely on, because, as Molly pointed out, if they were not pedaling we could tell, as the free wheel makes a clicking noise while freewheeling. Molly and Lizzy are slightly different sizes these days, so they girls each get their own tag-along, and as they are a bit of a pain to swap back and forth, the girls did not swap back and forth between parents. Molly rode with me, and Lizzy with Nancy. The girls were quite good sports, chugging away while we biked up and down the hills on the first several miles of the road. After 7 miles or so a snack break was called and everyone pulled off the road to have a little something to eat. Biking is hard work when your legs are less than a foot long!

Eventually we reached Savage River where the pavement stops and the road is closed to the public. We waited in line with the other vehicles and eventually had our turn to get our passes checked and received permission to continue.

I should point out that we were definitely an oddity – we saw one other biker while biking in, a heavily laden European fellow who looked a bit shocked to see us. I expect passing two five year olds doing a similar bike tour to you makes your experience seem a bit less “epic”. The first section of the park road is open to the public and gets a fair bit of vehicle traffic. The girls had been instructed to wave at the passing cars, and took this to heart, waving to all the buses, RVs, and other random vehicles traveling the roads.

The last 15 miles or so of the of the road from Savage River to the campground we were staying at are on a fairly nice dirt road. When we were there it was in great shape, without a lot of mud, dust, or washboarding. It has some hills but nothing particularly steep, and having the twins help power up the hills was very nice – I could definitely notice when Molly was pedaling.

The riding with kids is a bit slower than with adults, as they are not quite old enough to snack on the bike, and of course need the occasional distraction. We stopped every 7 miles or so for a snack break. The twins got very good at spotting the mile posts along the road.

We also stopped to let them explore anything interesting on the side of the road, like culverts waiting to be installed.

One of our stops was at a pull-off with outhouses that is also used by the tour bus companies. When we arrived there were several buses pulled up and a the tour guide (perhaps color commentator is more appropriate description) was well into giving a talk about life in Alaska. Sometimes I wonder how the tour companies select these folks, as the talk mainly seemed to involve oil tax regimes and was given in a AM radio talk show style a-la Sean Hannity – riveting. The vistors were milling around and since we were doing something interesting like biking with kids and not talking about such exciting subjects like oil taxes a fair number of people came up to say hi and say how impressed they were we were out biking the road. This was fantastic positive reinforcement for the twins, as here real live grownups were saying they could never do this as it would be just too hard. It was also a bit depressing from my point of view, as really this trip was not particularly epic, and almost everyone I saw would have been capable of doing what we were doing, and a fair number of them would probably even enjoy it more than riding in a cramped bus. Such is life.. Eventually we arrived at the campground.

We biked around the two loops that form the campground, found a spot, and unloaded. The twins were very excited as our campsite was surrounded by small spruce with enough understory they could play under them – it was almost like having their own tree houses. They had a great time exploring and were very busy running around and checking things out. Nothing was left unexplored, even a random pile of gravel near a tent site, were they found a rock that could be used to draw on other rocks – exciting stuff!

Eventually we set up our tent and made dinner.

After dinner we joined the other campers and attended a talk put on by an interpretive ranger that included a wide range of subjects and ended with half the audience getting blindfolded and hugging a tree. Lizzy did the honors for us.

After the talk we headed back to our tent and got everyone ready for bed. While we were getting ready one of our campground neighbors who arrived in a large RV came by and talked to us for a bit. She seemed very baffled as to how we could survive the night and asked us “What do you do when it rains?”. She seemed very baffled by our attempts to explain that we had rain gear, and a tent, so rain was no problem. Eventually everyone was ready for bed, but alas sleeping in a tent is a bit exciting, so it took a while for everyone to calm down enough to go to sleep.

It took a while though.

It rained on and off all through the night and was still raining when the morning arrived. The twins were unfazed, as they have rain gear, sandals with plastic bags covering their socks, and rain paints, making them very rain proof.

The biking was quite good on the way out, and a fair bit faster as this section of the road has more downhill overall on the way out. It was a bit more muddy though, which Molly enjoyed, but Lizzy less so due to Nancy’s lack of fenders.

The road was still in good shape though and everyone had fun even with the mud.

When we reached the pavement we started seeing motivational signs and the occasional aid station – it turns out we arrived just before a half marathon was to start.

The last miles on pavement zoomed by, as they are almost entirely down hill. By the time we reached the parking lot everyone had impressive mud stripes.

After visting the bathroom for a little “de-mudding” we headed off to glitter gulch to get some pizza and ice cream. This was a fantastic trip – everyone had a great time even with the wet weather. Our first bike trip where everyone pedaled was a success, which bodes well for future bike trips. There are so many wonderful roads in Alaska to explore and as the kids get bigger I am looking forward to doing some fun bike adventures with them.

Major kudos to Molly and Lizzy for being such troopers!

Kids in the Whites

Monday, March 7th, 2011

On a brisk spring morning the family, three dogs, and I loaded up into the truck and headed off on a ski trip in the White Mountains. We had been invited out to join the Rozell family and several other folks on a trip out to Eleazar’s Cabin, which is about 12 miles one way. The Rozells have a daughter who is in Lizzy and Molly’s class at Bunnell House, and they were looking forward to spending the weekend together. We had abandoned plans to head out to stiles creek cabin due a large snow fall and high winds that made drifts deep enough that State Park’s trail breakers got stuck right out of the parking lot. Bailing on this trip was quite a disappointment to the girls – they were really looking forward to the trip. Fortuately, the weather for this weekend was quite a bit nicer, with a forecast for a fairly standard Interior Alaska spring – Lows of 0 to -20f at night, and highs of 10 to 20f above. We are now getting lots of sunlight making for bright and warm days. After a bit of a delayed start, we connected with the Rozells at Alaska Coffee Rosters and after getting a bit of caffene, headed out to the trailhead. The trailhead was a bit of a mad house, with a party of snow bikers, a musher, and a large posse of snow machines all in various stages of arriving or departing. We eventually got going after a couple of mishaps, including discovering that one of our party left the poles used to haul their child hauling chariot, leaving us with three kids and only the double chariot that seats two. Fortunately Molly was willing to ride on top of the gear hauling sled so we headed down the trail while one of the adults zipped back to town to retrieve the poles.

The 4 and a half year olds started off the day walking, and were little troopers. The rest of the day was a mix of slow adult walking / fast 4 1/2 year old walking …

and skiing with occasional stops for snacks and drinks.

It was a bit slow at times..

Molly got to ride the “green horse” on the way in and out, and was quite a trooper. She fell off quite a few times, but was quick to jump back on.. generally it worked like this:

Then this..

And finally this:

And we were back in business.
After a full day of slow travel we reached the cabin, were we caught up with the rest of the adults, hung out, ate, and generally had fun. The twins were super excited to explore the cabin, climbing around in the loft, going up and down the ladders, and otherwise having lots of fun. Eventually everyone called it a night. The next morning I was surprised to be the first one up at a little before 8. I am not a big fan of sleeping in on trips – I can always sleep in at home, but alas not every day for me involves so much outside play time. Everyone else was soon roused and we got the morning rituals started. After breakfast we headed off down the trail, though this time we had enough places for all the kids as the person sent back to town with to obtain the missing chariot parts had arrived with the missing parts. Nancy headed off with the twins, with the goal of reaching the big hill climbing up out of the valley, sometimes referred to as the “Wickersham Wall”, before nap time and having the little people walk up it.

Molly had a melt down when told that she would have to ride in the Chariot, claiming that she wanted to walk the entire way out. This provided some of the adults great amusement – a kid actually angry that she was not going to get to walk the whole 11 miles out under her own power, rather than complaining endlessly about having to walk at all.. Anyway, they zoomed down the hill while I hung out at the cabin a bit longer, cleaning up and lazying about. After giving the kids and Nancy a 20 minute or so head start, I set off, and caught up with everyone just before the big climb. The rest of the trip out was fairly uneventful. On the way in we were past by a party of snowmachine supported bikers, and on the way out we were past by the same bikers shuttling out via snowmachine.. apparently the trail was too soft for snow biking, which does not bode well for the upcoming Whites 100 race.

A big thanks to the Rozells for inviting us out and providing the inspiration- it was a very fun trip

We are off to see the hot springs, the wonderful hot springs of Tolovana..

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Fall has left us now and winter is rapidly approaching Fairbanks. Last year we made a mid October trip to Tolovana Hot Springs and had a great time. This time we brought a slightly larger group along with us and attempted to get several families to join us. Alas, one of the families was struck by colds just before we left for the trip and they had to stay home (much sadness – but we hear they recovered quickly) but we still managed to get six other folks including Ned, Kristen, the twin’s school friend Anna, Tom, Trusten, and Ms Marsh. We left town early Friday morning after meeting up at Alaska Coffee Roasters for a snack and much needed (for me anyway) coffee. Almost three hours later we arrived at the trail head, packed up, and headed down the trail.

The hike in is about 10 miles or so, and is alas a little longer than our daughters can hike right now. The trail starts off at 2000ft or so, drops down to around 900ft, then climbs back up to a little over 2000ft again, before dropping down to 800ft to its final destination at the hot springs. We brought the kid-carrying backpacks to pack the kids in while they were not walking, and the Rozells had brought their Chariot to haul Anna when nap time arrived. As backup we also brought a plastic sled to give the kids a fun ride down the hills. The kids started off walking, then hitched a ride down the hill

The twins and Anna had a blast on the hike in and walked and sledded the first four miles or so, then napped for the next hour and half. The kids were quite the troopers – hiking along in the snow and having a blast. When nap time arrived the little ones were loaded up into their respective sleep-time carriers, and dozed while their parents got a workout.

After a hour or so nap time was finished and the twins were unloaded to hike on their own again, a little before the final summit. We tried to get the twins to hike as much as possible. After all, we have to train them up, as they soon will be too big for the backpacks.

I keep mentioning to the twins the idea that perhaps in a couple of years they could carry me in a backpack but they have yet to take me up on the offer, alas.
The kids were quite the troopers and hiked a fair distance. There were a few stoppages to admire the trees, look at the frozen berries or to play with the frost..

The trail into Tolovana is alway very scenic. It offers fantastic views down into the Tolovana River valley to the south and hills near the Yukon River to the north.

The final half mile or so to the hot springs was snow free and amazingly warm and pleasant.

When we arrived at the hotsprings, it was of course time to go soak. I was banned from the kids tub, as it was “Girls Only”, and was sent off to go soak in a different tub. Life is hard.

Very hard..

The next day we spent mellowing out, soaking in the hot tubs, and generally being slothful. Or at least I was – Ned and Tom actually went for a jog, while I just got out for a short stroll with the dogs before being pulled back by in by the lure of the hot water. It was a bit windy during my brief walk, and I was amazed by the “talking trees” as the standing burned black spruce popped and creaked in the wind.

When people were not soaking, much fun was had. Tic-tac-toe was played by the younger generation…

And scrabble was played by some of the adults, except for those of us who could not spell, mainly me. Nancy and Tom, both hard core scrabble junkies, were practicably giddy when they discovered the “Diamond Edition” of scrabble, complete with rotating turntable, in one of the cabins.

Molly was enthralled by the viscious scrabble playing. I believe Nancy beat everyone by about 100 points in one of the games. I think it was her “Braille Fingers” in action, but Nancy of course denys it.

Other entertainments abounded – mainly eating.

The kids did construct a fetching crown for “Poops” the dog.

Poops’s real name is Molly, and there were several “Molly No!” incidents that made the human Molly quite concerned that she would be banished outside. Nancy’s little bag of pipe cleaners provided endless amusement for the younger generation.

After two nights of non-stop eating and soaking we, alas, had to leave. On the second day the wind had picked up and by the second night the wind was really hauling. Tolovana is a very windy place, and there are lots of stories of failed trips and mishaps on the trails. Ned and Ms Marsh related several disaster stories involving Tolovana from trips in the past involving epic winds and snow. Tom had stories of the woodsman drinking all the syrup while we were sleeping and inflicting other terrors on unwary hikers but we all thought that was unlikely. I am blessed with no Tolovana disaster stories and have fervent hopes to keep it that way, and was thus happy to see that our trip out was pretty uneventful, though a bit windy. The kids hiked up the first mile or so until the snow started, then hitched a ride on the sled to the top, before beginning the cycle of hike and nap.

The hike out was pretty uneventful, but nice and scenic. Tom, Ms Marsh, and Trusten beat us out as they were not encumbered by little training weights, but had good hikes regardless. Our little training weights had a great time and really enjoyed having Anna with with them.

This was a fantastic trip and it was great to be out with another family with a daughter the same age as the twins. I think the twins had a immense amount of fun and hopefully others did as well… Hanging out at Tolovana with friends for a weekend is hard to beat – a big thanks to everyone who came along – I had a great time! Hopefully the family that was beset with the cold can come along on a future adventure.

A couple of notes about the trail to Tolovana. This year it received some upgrades compliments of the Boy Scouts – there are now mile markers on the trail..

As well as a shelter of sorts near the top. There has been a large water tank near the high point along the trail. I believe it was hauled out to replace one of the hot tubs, but it was dropped or some other accident befell it causing it to crack. It was then left there for a couple of years..

Someone has cut a small hole in the side of the tank creating a shelter of sorts inside.

Minimal shelter, but it would be welcomed by those in need I expect.

Three generations having fun on the Chilkoot

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

In the spring Nancy and I had made plans to hike the Chilkoot with the twins and possibly joined by my dad. My dad was the chief ranger at Klondike Gold Rush Park and as a kid I hiked the Chilkoot trail several times. I have pretty fond memories of hiking the trail with my dad and was looking forward to sharing the experience with the twins – while they are much younger than I was when I first hiked the trail, I figured that they would still enjoy it. Our adventure started early Saturday morning, as we left Fairbanks on the long drive to Skagway. Our plan was to spend two days driving to Skagway, five days hiking the Chilkoot, then two days driving back. My dad decided to join us, so we planned to rendezvous with him in Tok (he would be driving from Wasilla), and he would join us for the rest of the drive. We left town bright and early Saturday morning, and after several hours, arrived in Tok and meet up with my Dad.

The twins got out of the car to be de-wiggled – fortunately Tok features two visitor centers complete with taxidermied mega fauna and large lawns to run around in – ideal places for the twins to explore and burn off energy.

One of the visitor centers also included a place to play hop scotch.

After lots of running around, the twins (and my Dad) got most of their wiggles out and we got back in the car to drive to Congdon Creek Campground in the Yukon Territories. Campgrounds in the Yukon always seem to be in great shape – clean and well maintained. Congdon Creek campground is on Kluane Lake and is very scenic.

The twins spent the evening building small boats and sending them off into the lake, while Nancy and I watched. My dad is an early to bed and early to rise sort of guy, and retreated to his tent soon after we got our camp site arranged. The next day we zoomed off down the road towards Skagway and just before Whitehorse, we made a side trip to Takhini Hotsprings. I spent a lot of time at Takhini as a kid. Whitehorse was the nearest city of any size (possibly the only one) accessible from Skagway by road, and so my folks made regular trips to Whitehorse to do grocery shopping. These trips would often involve dropping the older Cable kids off at the hot springs to splash around while my folks did their shopping.. Spending the day at the hot springs was much more fun than helping my folks shop for groceries, so I have fond memories of the place. The twins had a blast splashing around in the warm water.

The hot springs were only slightly changed from when I was a kid – they are a bit cleaner now and have a few extra bells and whistles but otherwise it’s pretty much just like when I was a kid. After spending two hours or so the twins (and to some extent their parents ) were wore out and we got back in the truck for the final 100 miles or so to Skagway.

Upon arriving in Skagway we dropped by the park office to get our official “talking to” about hiking the Chilkoot trail (like most pre-hiking lectures it mostly could be summarized in three words – “Don’t be stupid”), got our official permits, and then we were good to go. We spent a bit of time wandering around Skagway..

The character of the town has changed quite a bit from the town I grew up in – there are lots of new houses, lots of new summer-only shop fronts.. After seeing the sights we stashed my bike in an out-of-the way bike rack and headed out of town to Dyea to camp for the evening. The morning soon arrived and off we went, starting the hiking section of our adventure.

The twins started out hiking..

The first day was a standard Skagway day – mostly cloudy and damp. It rained lightly on and off.. fortunately we were well prepared, and had rain coats for everyone, including the stuffed animals.

Hiking is of course hard work, and requires lots and lots of snacking.

After three miles or so, the twins started slowing down and nap time arrived. The twins then were bundled up and stuffed into the backpacks for the most of the remaining hiking for the day.

This pattern continued throughout the rest of the trip – the twins start off hiking, they hike until nap time, then get a ride during nap time, and finish the day hiking, except for the day where we went over the pass (more on that later).
Our first day of hiking was super mellow – our destination for the evening was Finnegan’s Point, which is around five miles from the starting point. The Chilkoot trail is in great shape. There is a long section with boardwalk that crosses a set of beaver dams that was a pretty interesting.

When we arrived at the Finnegan’s Point campsite, we found we had the place to ourselves. Finnegan is the first campground and an easy walk from the trail head, so most folks press on to Canyon City or beyond. Klondyke National Park now requires folks to “book” each of the campsites, so we picked Finnegan’s since we did not know when we would be heading down the trail.. since we starting hiking mid-morning we had a short day. This left us with quite a bit of time to goof off with at the first campground and the twins made the best of it by exploring! The big spruce trees were something quite new to them, and they had quite a bit of fun playing around the with the exposed roots.

On the American side the campsites had warming shelters with wood stoves – which was a new experience for me. It was nice to have a dry place to hang out in, though the wall tents are pretty dark and gloomy. The first warming tent had some very neat wooden dumbbells that I expect the trail crew had fun constructing.

Another interesting feature that had been added in the last ten years since I hike the trail was that every site had tent platforms, which made finding a level, dry spot a lot simpler than in the past. Alas, my tarptent was a bit longer than I think they expected tents using the platforms to be but it all worked out.

The next day we headed off to Sheep Camp. My dad took off early and zoomed ahead, making it to Sheep Camp in time to get a nice afternoon nap. The rest of us walked Twin speed to Canyon City. Hiking speeds are a bit slower when your legs are only a foot and a half long.

Canyon City was much like I remember from visits as a kid, though the shelter cabin had undergone renovation and had a new floor, roof, and wood stove.

I have very strong memories of some rocking chairs carved from stumps by chainsaws by some locals who used the cabin as a base of operations for trapping during the winter, and was excited to see they were still there.

After a brief stop at Canyon City, we headed off down the trail to Sheep Camp. We stopped briefly at the old Canyon City town site, and the girls had fun crossing the very bouncy suspension bridge.

Soon after Sheep Camp we reached the twin’s nap time and they got loaded up and snoozed most of the way to Sheep Camp. The trail past Canyon City winds though drier fir forest and has wonderful views of the Nourse River.

Just before we reached Sheep Camp, we encountered a huge posse working away making the last mile or so of trail before the campground at Sheep Camp more pleasant. The girls were awake by this time and were mellowing out in the backpacks and were very impressed by all the activity.

Sheep Camp has changed a lot since I last visited – the shelter cabin was missing its roof..

Several warming huts had been installed..

And there were a abundance of dry tent platforms (quite a luxury!).

The warming huts had wood stoves and much to my amusement these stoves were burning pieces of the old shelter cabins roof supports. The girls quickly pressed the firewood into an alternate use – mainly furniture for their stuffed animal friends.

Sheep Camp was the first campground we shared with other campers, and since it was near full, there were a lot of people. Much to my surprise I bumped into an old boss of my who was hiking the trail with some other folks from Fairbanks – its a very small world! We enjoyed a fine dinner of cheesy rice, and then went to bed in order to get a good start in the morning.

The next day we would be going over the pass, which is the only challenging day on the trail. Our plan was to get an early start and to carry the twins to the base of the steep climb, then have the twins hike up the golden stairs to the top of the pass. The base of the climb is called the “Scales”, as it is where the packers in the old days would re-weigh their loads and charge extra. We got a fairly early start the next day and were on the trail by 7. The twins were a little nonplussed by the early wakeup but didn’t complain too much as they did get to ride in the backpacks rather than having to start hiking right away.

My Dad zoomed off before we were awake and moving – 20 years of commuting 45 minutes one way have made him a perennially early riser, so he was up at 5:30 and off by 6 or so in the morning.

The first four miles or so before the scales are fairly mellow but definitely uphill. As we climbed up to the start of the pass, we gradually left the trees behind and were rewarded by constantly improving views of the surrounding hills.

The general quality of the artifacts has definitely gone downhill since I last hiked the trail, and this is most noticeable in the pass. The old wooden structures and the tramway tower were in quite a bit worse shape – I guess over 100 years of being exposed in a windy, snowy pass have taken their toll.

Eventually we reached the Scales and the twins were unloaded. Without the twins in them, the backpacks seemed almost impossibly light.

The twins really enjoyed this section of trail – there are artifacts everywhere, and lots of things to see. The girls seemed most impressed by the boot soles (there are lots, and lots of boot soles along the Chilkoot Trail) and the horse bones.

After the Scales came the golden stairs. The golden stairs is the area that shows up in the classic photos of the Chilkoot. The twins really enjoyed climbing the pass – there was lots of scrambling and climbing.

Strangely the twins seemed to hike up the pass at about the same rate as some of the adults… which is amazing as adults’ legs are around a three times longer…

Eventually we made it over the pass and into Canada. Molly and I were the first over and were met by a very friendly warden (the Parks Canada equivalent of a ranger) who was very impressed by the twins and kept offering me coffee and tea. He knew my Dad from way back and apparently had spent the entire morning chatting away and drinking coffee with him. Dad was the first person over the pass that morning, at a little before 9, and apparently had left the wardens’ hut at around 11 – a hour or so before we arrived. After a brief stop at the hut we headed off in a hurry to get to the easy walking trail past Stone Crib. Stone Crib is a large area just below the pass on the Canadian side that is filled with artifacts of all sorts. After Stone Crib the trail becomes pretty tame and easy walking. The twins were quite overdue for their naps and we loaded them up into the packs and they were soon asleep. After several hours of travel we arrived at the first campsite on the Canadian side – Happy Camp.
I had never really stopped at Happy Camp before – in the past I just blew though these sections of trail and went from Sheep Camp to Lindemen in one day, but it was a surprisingly nice campsite. There is an enclosed shelter with no stove that is quite pleasant, and lots of raised tent platforms. The twins enjoyed Happy Camp immensely.

Amazingly Happy Camp is situated in the middle of a huge patch of blueberries, and much to my surprise, no one was picking them. I spend most of the afternoon picking and eating blueberries, occasionally with the help of the twins – yum, yum. The twins generated some interesting interactions with our fellow Happy Campers – twice some small parties of manly-men were sitting around discussing the trail and how hard it was, only to notice the kids and then have their bubble burst when it was confirmed that the twins did in fact walk up the pass under their own power. Ah, life is hard.
In the morning we left Happy Camp and started on our way to Bare Loon Lake.

This section of trail is beautiful, with wonderful high alpine hiking, scenic lakes, and wonderful hills.

Long Lake was particularly beautiful..

The twins walked from Happy Camp to Deep Lake and made fairly good progress for little folks.

At Deep Lake the twins loaded up in the the backpacks and started snoozing while we zoomed down the trail. After Deep Lake the trail parallels a very scenic canyon that alas did not look very pack-raftable. After Deep Lake the trail heads back into forest, starting with spruce forest, then turning into mixed spruce and pine, and finally into pine forest – its quite a interesting couple of miles.
There are a couple of interesting artifacts along this section of trail, including a very neat boat frame.

This section of trail was always exciting for me as a kid. The pine forests seemed almost magical, all long needles and dryness, quite a change from the constant damp of the coastal rain forests I was used to around Skagway. Eventually we arrived at Lindeman.

We spend a hour or so exploring Lindeman. Dad attempted to hunt down some more Wardens to chat with while the twins and I explored the exhibits. Lindeman has a tent with books about the gold rush and photos from that era. Lindemen had not changed much since I was a kid – it still looks and feels the same. After spending about an hour looking around we headed out for our destination for the evening – Bare Loon Lake.

Bare Loon Lake is a scenic campsite near a shallow lake (thus the name – oh so tricky) nestled among large pine trees. It was our final evening on the trail and the twins enjoyed it immensely. The weather was quite nice except for a very brief storm during which everyone hovered inside the cooking shelter.

The fine weather brought everyone out of their tents and I got to see a lot more of our fellow campers. It was pretty amazing the stuff some of the folks brought – Fifths of fancy single-malts with the original metal sleeves and glass containers, propane stoves.. some of it was quite boggling. The next day we headed out to hike the final three miles or so to Bennett. The twins were not particularly excited to be rousted out of their sleeping bags..

But eventually we got going.

We arrived at Bennett well before the train arrived, and after poking around, stuck our heads inside the train depot to check on lunch. Lunch turned out to be all you can eat soup, bread, and pie – yum yum!


After lunch we watched the train arrive, then got on board.

The train ride was mostly uneventful, except for the very over the top narration by an invisible guide. Soon we were back in Skagway and off to get clean and have a dinner of surprisingly good Indian food. The next morning we headed back to Fairbanks. On the way back though Whitehorse we stopped at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre , which was surprisingly good.

We spend the night at a campground just outside Tok, and were back in Fairbanks the following day before 1pm, with more than enough time for the kids to attend one of their classmates’ birthday celebrations.

This was a fantastic trip, and highly recommended. We did it in slow mode, but it could be done as a two night, three day trip quite easily without much hurrying. The hike is fairly remote feeling, but expect lots of people – this is not a hike to escape the madding crowds or for the antisocial. I have not done it as a day hike before, but I expect its a great long day hike. Doing it as day hike is also a great way to get out of the permitting complications – apparently only overnight users require permits. The record time is apparently around five and a half hours – in case one wants to run it.