Posts Tagged ‘mellow’

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!

Packrafting the Clearwater

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Tom, Ms Marsh, and I did a repeat of Ed Plumb’s Clearwater packrafting trip. It was a fairly mellow three day trip, with lots of wonderful hiking. As usual, Ed’s writeup has everything you need to know so this is going to be a low word, high picture count post. The floating and hiking were great – this is a trip to do!

There was superb alpine hiking…

Some fast but boring ATV trails..

Over alpine streams..


And beautiful campsites.

Scenic alpine lakes..

Strange flora..

Dinners eaten and in some cases snuggled with..

There was a bit of brush..

But it was never bad, as we were always following game trails of one sort or another.

Evening campfires were had and socks were dried (or not).

There was even some biking thrown in..

All in all, a wonderful way to spend three days.

More photos here.

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!

The last ski trip of the season..

Monday, April 4th, 2011

A week after the Whites 100, I headed back out to the same area for a nice, mellow two night trip, this time on skis. I have not spent a lot of time on skis this year, instead focasing on biking, so I had been looking forward to some good quality spent gliding effortlessly over the snow (vs pushing the bike though the warm mush). Heike, Ms Marsh, Tom, and I headed out of town on a warm and sunny day, and after 60 miles or so of driving, left the trail head at mile 57 of the Eliot highway at around noon. The skiing was fantastic, and the weather was perfect, clear and sunny. Our plan was to spend the first night at Wolf Run Cabin, then head to Caribou Bluff cabin via Windy Gap, and then head back out to the mile 57 trail head. The first day was a fairly mellow 23 mile ski though burned spruce forests..

open tussock fields..

..and eventually across Beaver Creek and to Wolf Run cabin.
There were lots of wolf tracks on Beaver Creek. Perhaps the cabin was aptly named..

We spent the evening eating, goofing off, and generally enjoying being out in the wilderness. In the morning we headed out on our way to Caribou Bluff cabin, a leisurely 20 mile ski. The snow was very fast making for pleasant skiing and the views were fantastic!

A mile or so before reaching Windy Gap we were treated to views of Windy Arch.

The high point of the day was a flat ridge top with a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.

After dropping down to Fossil Creek we stopped at Windy Gap cabin where a party of snowmachiners were just getting ready to leave. Heike used her “Super German” powers to snag a couple of beers from them, and hung out for a while in the warm cabin sipping beer. Eventually the beer was consumed and we headed back out on the trail and continued on to Caribou Bluff. This section of trail was very fun, with unbelievable fast snow and wonderful weather. Heike was skating and with the wide smooth trails she disappeared down the trail like a bullet. Eventually I arrived at the cabin, a little toasted from all the sun and the (single – I am a lightweight) beer.

The evening was spent goofing off, reading magazines, and talking. The cabin had a fairly new copy of Velo News which with its lycra clad roadies provided some strange but interesting reading. Others found the copy of US Magazine or the New Scientist to their tastes. Its amazing how much sun we have now, and how bright and warm it is. Remus, alas, had to satisfy himself with a raw hide chew.

This cabin is in a truly beautiful location and I really enjoy spending time here.

After lots of eating and socializing ( sometimes it appears that trips are just a chance to eat junk food without guilt) we hit the sack, and in the morning headed back out to the parking lot. The ski out was fairly uneventful, but scenic. Just after leaving Carabou Bluff we passed a partially eaten moose.

It appeared that the moose was killed by wolves, though someone had placed cut logs around it, as if to arrange seating around it.

Strange, but perhaps they were watching the Ravens, as the snow was covered with their tracks. Remus required some convincing that the moose was not one giant dog treat laid out for his munching pleasure. The rest of the way out was pretty uneventful, mellow ski out. I had not done enough skiing this year, so my feet got a bit tore up by the time we reached the parking lot, but nothing too major.

It was a fantastic trip and a great way to end the ski season. It was fun enough to make me question spending so much time on the snow bike. Almost…

A big thanks to Heike, Tom, and Ms Marsh for making this trip happen – it was a great way to wrap up the season.

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

Snow!

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Ms Marsh, Tom, and I spent the day enjoying a mellow ski out in the White Mountains NRA. The greater Fairbanks area received a lot of snow in the last couple of days, and in the Whites that resulted in about two feet of snow on the ground. Thats about as much snow as we had at the end of the year – Wow!

The skiing was fast and fun. With the warm mid 20’s weather it was strange to see only five snow machines and three parties of skiers, but it was nice to see people out enjoying the snow.

Ski Season Is here…

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Snow has arrived in the Greater Fairbanks area and while its a little too grassy to ski on the trails around our house, I had high hopes for the trails up in the White Mountains. Remus and I headed out to the Mile 28 trail head to check out the trails.

The trails out of Mile 28 are a bit rocky but quite ski-able and fun in a rock-ski only sort of way.. so long as you don’t crash, as the snow cover is a bit thin. I didn’t head down to the low lands, but stayed on Trail Creek Trail and the skiing was pretty good. The biking would have been even better great – but alas I left the bike at home as I have yet to swap out the warm weather only front shock..

I skied several miles past Lee’s Cabin then turned around and headed back .

Winter is a great time in Fairbanks – there are so many winter trails to explore!

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.

Monday Biking Fun

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Last year I noticed that a new trail was being put in the Angel Creek valley in the Chena River SRA. This trail is supposed to replace the very rutted existing trail that runs along the base of the valley. The existing trail is pretty wet and really only passable during the winter. Impassible unless you have an ATV, apparently, judging from the ruts. The new trail is routed up high and is supposed to side-hill up the valley, making for a durable, dry trail. Anyway, as I had nothing to do on this fine Monday I decided to go check it out on my bike. While I was out there I also intended to bike into Stiles Creek Cabin and see how that trail is in the summer.

The new trail to Lower Angel Creek cabin is great and makes for fantastic biking. It starts off with a nice climb that offers great views:

It then side hills up the valley for 5 miles or so, then hits an intersection where you can drop down to Lower Angel Creek cabin, or continue on for a hundred feet or so.

The developed trail dead ends at this point, but it appears that it will continue on as its cleared and flagged for quite a distance, so it looks like State Parks plans to extend it to the upper cabin.

I stopped by the lower cabin and checked out the log book – a party of bikers had just been by the day before so it looks like this trail will be pretty popular in the future.

The winter trail past the lower cabin heading out to the upper cabin was marked as closed to motorized vehicles, but alas there was fresh tracks on it from some large ATVs.. The trail did have a very pretty display of some white flowers that appeared to be only growing on the trail, not off the trail, making for a nice effect.

The trail is really fun on a bike – its dry, free of ruts, and has lots of nice mellow climbs followed by short descents as it works its way around the valley. Alas, its a bit short, being only a little over 10 miles round trip, but hopefully it will get extended to the upper cabin, making for a longer ride. There are only a couple of tricky parts where crushed rock was brought in to fill in some muddy sections. These sections are very passable, but require a little care – no big deal.

There is one nice small pool of water off the side of the trail, which Remus enjoyed, and a couple of dry pools.

I am looking forward to skiing this trail this winter – it should make for a fantastic loop when combined with the old trail!

A map:

On the way back I stopped by Stiles Creek Trail and biked into Stiles Creek Cabin. This was a pretty fun ride that is a little under 8 miles one way. By the time we were half way to the cabin Remus was a bit beat – it was hot and he is a little out of shape, as alas am I. Fortunately, at least for Remus, it started raining shortly after the half way point and he cooled off in the downpour. I, on the other hand, got nice and muddy.

DNR has been making lots of improvements to this trail. They re-routed the first several miles of trail to get around a massively muddy section, which has made the trail a very fun summer bike ride. DNR is apparently still working on it – they had some tracked equipment near the start of the trail:

And some signs of trail hardening still in progress – you can tell where the trail work stopped:

This is the first time I had been on this trail on a bike in the summer and it is very, very fun! The trail winds though mixed deciduous and spruce forest and is very scenic.

Alas, the rain hampered by picture taking, so I didn’t get any pictures good enough to do justice to the route.

On the way out I stopped to toss bits of a broken tequila bottle off the trail and was surprised to find a bunch of parts from a rear derailer.

After making it out to the parking lot, Remus jumped into the back of the truck and went right to sleep – I think I wore the guy out! Alas – no sleep for me as I had to drive home.

Both these trails are highly recommended bike rides and are very worth the hour drive from Fairbanks.

As a side note, I have really been enjoying my new bike, a 2008 Gary Fischer Paragon. I picked it up last fall at Goldstream Sports and have really been enjoying it. It is an amazing transition from my old Kona 96 vintage Aa. It rides wonderfully and is a nicer bike than I need these days – life is tough!

Hope you all are enjoying summer!

A Weekend with the Family

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The family and I had a very busy weekend.  On Saturday we hiked up to Wickersham Dome.  Molly and Lizzy walked the entire way up to the dome by themselves.

There was quite a bit of stopping to check stuff out – the twins are continually amused by random things along the trail. Lizzy was quite fascinated with the flowers.

They made pretty good time even with the stops and had a blast hiking.

(Photo provided by Eli)

They even enjoyed the final climb to the top – after which of course everyone had a nice lunch and then rode in backpack carriers to the car while taking a nap.  Everyone being the twins that is.

On Sunday we headed out to Chena Lakes to spend the afternoon goofing off, playing in the water, and hopefully getting in some packrafting practice time. Nancy biked there along with Tom and her old school friend Eli who is in town for a conference. They appeared to have a good bike ride, but when we caught up with them they were having fun fixing a flat. Fortunately the twins were around to supervise the repairs.

Eventually we made it to Chena Lakes, where the twins got out their own bikes.

Eventually Nancy took the twins out for a nap time run in the Chariot, and Tom and I got out our packrafts and spent several hours splashing around in the lake. The water was fantasticly warm given it was a fairly cloudy overcast day. We spent a lot of time practising re-entering flipped packrafts – I think I flipped and got back in about 30 times. I was much, much faster by the end of the day. Spending a bit of time practising flipping is really worth while – it keeps you from panicking when you flip in moving water, and hopefully allows you get back in. Not panicking is pretty crucial if you don’t want to loose your paddle and possibly your raft – potentially leaving you with a long walk home. Chena Lakes is a great place to do this – the water is quite warm and the lake is normally not all that busy. The beach is pretty busy, but the rest of the lake is generally pretty unused.