Posts Tagged ‘mckay creek trail’

It is supposed to be cold..

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

I am blessed with a fairly flexible schedule, and a very understanding wife, so when I found myself with a Monday and Sunday free of major commitments I started planning an overnight cabin trip in the White Mountains NRA. The Whites has some of the best hut to hut skiing and snow biking (and walking it turns out) around – a nice trail system, wonderful views, and relatively few people. The plan was to head to Cache Mountain Cabin, with one group coming in the “long” way on bikes, and the other coming in the short way, ~20ish miles, on bikes and skis. The morning of the trip we were down to three bikers and one skier, Tom. As Tom, Remus the dog, and I headed out of town we got a call from the other bikers, who were planning on coming in from a different trailhead and going in the long way, saying they were turning around, as it was raining. Rain in December is pretty uncommon in Fairbanks. Tom and I decided to try our luck, so we headed out, planning on checking out the trail, and turning around if things were too miserable. We arrived at the trailhead, and the weather, while warm, looked pretty nice, and the trail was firm, so we headed off. Tom started off walking as the trail starts off steep..

I started off pushing, but eventually things flattened off and I started riding. The trail was nice and firm and the biking was great, though a bit misty.

And warm..

After 7 miles or so, the trail splits, and unfortuteatly most of the traffic appeared to be going the other direction, and the trail got soft. Not too soft though – it was still ridable and fun, though not fast. There was also a huge downhill, which is always fun.

After a couple more miles of biking I found myself pushing up a big hill, wondering how Tom was doing. The skiing looked to be pretty fast, and I was thinking he would be catching up soon. The answer soon came in the form of loud and distant cursing. It was dead calm, and as there are almost no trees so sound can carry a long way. After one more bout of cursing I decide to wait for Tom and see how he was doing. Eventually I gave up waiting and started walking back.. eventually Tom arrived. Apparently the around freezing conditions made skiing very difficult – it impossible to get any grip on the icy surface of the snow for forward motion on the flats and uphill, and stopping was next to impossible on the downhills. The cursing I heard was Tom’s last two attempts and skiing downhill, before he gave up on skiing and started walking. I asked him if he wanted to turn around, as we where about half way, but he wanted to keep going – even though the skiing was aweful, it is so very rare to be out in the Whites in December, in bairly freezing, calm conditions. Bad skiing, but still a fantastic day! He walked most of the rest of the way in, skiing maybe 4 miles of the 19 (ish) miles into the cabin.

I walked up the hill with him, then continued on. The biking was fun, though slow, and there was a fair bit of pushing. By the end of the day the slightly over freezing temperatures made things a bit soft and squishy. I got to putter around Cache Mt cabin drying off the bike and de-icing everything before Tom arrived, and then enjoyed a evening of talking and goofing off.

The next day it was +20f, the trails were setup bomber for biking – fantastic biking.

Biking past some of my footprints from pushing on the way in made my day.

The skiing apparently sucked still, and Tom enjoyed a nice long walk out.

Thanks Tom for a fantastic trip! Hope everyone is enjoying winter!

PS – For those of you who say I don’t post enough pictures of myself, here you go:

(Yes, I felt like a complete idiot taking this photo!)

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.