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