Posts Tagged ‘mondays’

Doing Far Mountain Trail in a Day

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Last year Tom, Ms Marsh, and I did a hike and float that included Far Mountain, and ever since then I have been very interested in doing the full loop as a day hike. Eventually I ended up with a free Monday and along with Tom found myself heading up the Far Mt. Trail. The trail starts near Chena Hotsprings parking lot (the actual start of the trail is a bit hard to find with a few side trails and roads that make things a bit confusing – check with the folks at the Chena Hotsprings activity center for a map if you have problems) and after crossing the bridge over Monument Creek the trail heads up a ridge and the climbing begins.

The Far Mountain trail loops around Monument Creek valley on a series of ridges. There are lots of ups and down, with between 8k and 14k feet of climbing, depending on who you ask (I measured around 8,000 feet of climbing – that is 8,000 feet of going up). The trail is a little less than 27 miles. The views from the high points on the ridges are fantastic.




There are also several interesting granite tor formations.



Far Mountain itself is a little underwhelming, as it has a large communication facility on top, complete with generators and a couple of large towers.



The majority of the trail is well above the tree and brush line making for wonderful alpine hiking, though there is a section of spruce forest near the end.



The day we hiked it it was was partly cloudy, but it can get quite socked in.
On a clear day:



On a foggy day:



The last mile or so is very muddy.



It appeared that the muddy section was in the middle of some trail work of some sort, however as it appeared the equipment had stirred the mud up into a froth and re-routed a small stream to run down the trail perhaps these repairs might do more harm than good…

This is a highly recommended long day hike. It took us a little less than 12 hours of walking at a brisk but not rushed pace. As an overnighter it is more challenging due to the limited water sources. There are tundra pools in several places around mile 7 or so, but after that there was not much water to be found.




My dog Remus was a bit dehydrated near the end, and I had to give him a some water from one of my bottles near the end of the day. Getting water would mean a long drop down to the one of the creeks at the bottom of the valleys.

The hike has a fairly remote feel, besides the stuff on top of Far Mountain. On the day we hiked it some military planes were out training and made a bit of noise, but otherwise it we didn’t see anyone on the trail.



One day or several, its a beautiful hike and well worth doing.

If you do this hike during berry season, the blueberries can be fantastic.



A map – like all the photos in this blog click it to see the image in greater detail. A better map can be found here. Kyle Jolly’s book Outside In the Interior has a chapter on this hike.



More photos can be found here. Sorry for the low word and high picture count – I have been a bit slow on the blog front lately, but more coming soon!

Whites 100 Trail Recon

Monday, March 21st, 2011

With the White Mountains 100 a week away, Tom and I headed out to the Whites for a quick overnighter to check on the trail conditions. Last year the race was a week earlier, and the weather quite a bit colder, so I was a bit concerned about the trail conditions.. We left town at early afternoon and were on the trail at around 3pm – just in time to encounter a fair number of folks returning from weekend jaunts on snowmachines, which combined with the warm weather made for very soft trails.

The first several miles were too soft to bike, but the further we got in the firmer the trails were. Alas, there was a constant stream of snowmachine traffic which keep things fairly soft.

After a overnighter at Moose Creek cabin we left fairly early in the morning, and the trails were much, much faster. We took a less traveled side trail which is not part of the race, Moose Creek Trail, and it was pretty soft due to some heavy paddle track action..

.. but once we hit Wickersham Creek trail things got a fair bit harder and faster. From the Train Shelter (the final checkpoint) to the big climb out of the Wickersham Creek valley the riding was very good and very fast – I averaged 9 mph without a lot of effort. This was pretty good news, as it means the trails are going to be pretty good when they are not disturbed by heavy traffic.

The overnight low at Moose Creek was -5f, which is pretty good news, as it is cold enough the trails will setup up over night, but not so cold as to create problems for folks. Last year the overnight lows were around -20f, which led to some unhappiness. So the verdict is that the first mile or so will be fairly painful – soft with lots of moguls, but the rest of the trails will be pretty firm and fast until things warm up in the mid to late afternoon, at least for the bikers. From a classic skiing perspective, everything looks pretty good – the snow is not super cold so there should be reasonable glide, though the snow is pretty coarse so it will be hard on kick wax, and from a skating perspective, the trails look wonderful – wide enough to give good skating and enough snow to make the trails fairly smooth, at least for the first 25 miles and the last 10 we explored.

In other good news, the overflow appears to be pretty mellow. The section before the Trail Shelter has in the past year had fairly epic slanting ice sheets – this year its pretty mellow and entirely ridable. While there is lots more overflow to be had on the race course, the fact that this section is in good shape is a very good sign.

I have been playing with making movies lately, so here is some video from the ride:

Whites 100 Trail Recon from J C on Vimeo.

Only a couple more days to go! Time to go carbo load – go drink some beer and eat some ice cream!

More photos can be found here:

Pre Whites 100 Trail Recon

An afternoon on the snowbike..

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

With a Monday free of family and work commentments, I loaded the snow bike up in the truck and headed out to the White Mountains NRA. The trailhead was largely empty, besides a ranger from BLM who was unloading his snow machine. I unloaded the bike, let Remus out, and headed off to go have some fun.
The trail was a bit soft, but ridable.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, though a bit breezy at times. Several weeks of snow and wind have made an interesting snowscape..

By the end of the day it was pretty windy on the hills, with a fair bit of blowing snow. It was fairly warm, perhaps 15f or so, so it was not cold, and very beautiful.

Wind in the Whites from J C on Vimeo.

I ended up biking about 30 miles in 6 hours or so – so nothing particularly epic nor fast, but a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. The trail softened up quite a bit in the late afternoon and I ended up pushing a fair bit, but it was not the end of the world to push for a while.

This was my first long day trip with my new 100mm Flattop rear wheel. I got this rear wheel built up for cabin trips and so for it has been a bit of a mixed bag – they add quite a bit of float in really soft conditions, but the price you pay for this is a fair bit of extra rolling resistance. They also are a bit tricky to get the bead seated on them correctly. It took me several tries to get the tire mounted on them in a somewhat round manner with the seated fairly evenly on the rim – not really the experience you would expect from a $120 rim.. I ended up gluing the most troublesome side down as with the loose fit I was not confident that they would not slip when I was running low pressures. Also a bit disappointing – perhaps my 70mm UMA IIs from speedway have spoiled me, but it should be unnecessary to glue tires on these days.

Let there be snow..

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

On the Sunday night following Thanksgiving Tom and I headed out to the White Mountains NRA to go for a overnight ski trip to Crowberry Cabin. The previous week had been one of very strange weather in town – we had received a record level of rain and a good portion of our snow pack. I was not entirely sure of what to expect… When we arrived at the parking lot of the Mile 28 trail head, it was soon apparent that things were different here – there was lots and lots of snow. Possibly more snow than we had at the end of last year’s skiing season. The trees were bending over from the weight of it – lots of fresh, heavy snow. It appears that while it was raining in town it was snowing here – hurray!

After a quick start we were soon zooming down the trail enjoying the amazingly deep snow and the wonderful sunrise.

The ski into the cabin was slow but un-eventful. It was hovering around 0f for our ski into the cabin, and while the trails were well broken out the fresh cold snow crystals made for slow travel.

We passed a party heading out and I stopped and chatted for a bit. They told us that the night afterTthanksgiving it dumped over 12 inches of snow and that they had to break trail in about two feet of fresh snow into the cabin we were heading out to. I was very happy to have the trail in – breaking trail though all that snow would have been hard work. All the fresh snow and the clear skies made for wonderful views.

After seven hours or so we reached the cabin and mellowed out, enjoying dinner and several rounds of dessert. Remus had hauled in two pints of ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and Cookie Dough, if you are wondering) which were enjoyed immensely, though there was still room for backup dseserts – “Man” flavored pocky. I skipped this delicious (?) treat and took Tom’s word for its edibility.

Eventually we hit the sacks with plans for an early start as I was expecting a bike delivery and Tom was had writing related evening engagements the following day. Fortunately we were awakened by an unexpected visitor at around 7am. I was partially aroused my slumber by the crunch, crunch of boots on the cabin’s deck then the sound of the door opening and a headlamp shining in my eyes, and a muffled exclamation and the slam of the door. I was only partially awake and my fuzzy mind didn’t processes this information very well, instead I somehow got the impression that Tom had got up to answer the call of nature. Thinking this was not a bad idea I got up, noticed Tom was still sleeping, stumbled outside to relieve myself in a snow bank, only to be illuminated by a very bright headlamp. Apparently a musher had pulled up outside the cabin, and thinking it was empty decided to come inside and warm up while his or her dogs rested, only to have these plans foiled by our presence. After being hit with the spot light I quickly retreated inside to get more clothes on and then headed back outside to say hi to the musher only to find he had taken off. Oh well – it removed any need for the alarm clock. We had our breakfasts, packed up and hit the trail. It was a bit colder in the morning – about -10f in the hills and -20f in the valleys, but very clear and beautiful.

The ski out was fairly uneventful and a bit faster due to the mushing traffic – the musher’s snow machine tread breaks smooth down the trails wonderfully, rounding off those sharp snow crystals and making for faster skiing.

We stopped at Moose Creek cabin to duck out of the wind and I was surprised to see the place was still warm. I expect the musher who dropped in on us moved on to this cabin to warm up and crashed for a while.. alas he left a bit of a mess – the place reeked of bacon fat with a fair bit spilled on the wood stove and dog food littered the floor. Such is life I guess. The rest of the trip out was uneventful, though very, very beautiful. We passed several mushers on the trail including one I knew and we chatted a bit. He was off for a several day adventure and was unfazed by the news that the trail might not be broken out where he was headed. We also pasted several mushers from Aliy Zirkle’s Kennel who were looking to be having a great time.

We made it back into town at 5pm, well in time to meet our various engagements – I picked up my bike (my much awaited Fatback) and Tom headed off to his writer’s group.
Happy Monday everyone!

The snow levels on this end of the Whites ranged from 2ft to 4ft+. The trails are not well traveled out yet – it appeared that the trail past Crowberry is not yet broken out. The trails that are broken out are in great shape – its definitely going to be a great year for enjoying the Whites!

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!

Mondays..

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I recently decided to go check out the Ester Dome Single track, a new trail system off Ester Dome road. I had been avoiding this area as my perception of them were somewhat coloured by some conversations with some random strangers that made them sound like some sort of mini version of the North Shore of Vancouver trails, suitable for folks with 50lb fully suspended bikes and too much Mountain Dew. Much to my surprise, the trails are actually super fun single track winding though birch and spruce trees. Obviously I shouldn’t talk to strangers.. The trails are very smooth and not very technical but narrow enough to keep me on my toe. The winding banked turns are very, very fun. There is supposed to be a short half mile more technical loop, but I didn’t bump into it. Alas, I now feel bad I didn’t come to any of the trail maintenance sessions.

My photos don’t really do it justice, as I was too busy having fun.

Remus enjoyed it too.

Summer is a bit hard on our dogs – the trails around our house are mainly winter trails and are pretty wet in the summer, so they don’t get as much exercise as they should. I have taken Remus, the youngest of the lot, on several mid/short length (20 mile or so) bike rides recently in an attempt to whip him into shape for the upcoming winter. Remus of course is very excited about this, as any excuse to go for a trip is fine with him.

Remus and I headed out to the Mile 28 trailhead in the White Mountains NRA to go explore and get some outside time. I had intended to bike out the main trail, but headed up the Summit Trail instead. I had never really thought of this trail as bike-able, however it turned out to be excellent riding. A bit rocky in a couple of sections but mostly quite fun. The old board-walked area at around the one mile mark are getting more muddy… I miss the boardwalk..

The ride up to the dome was amazingly pleasant. The view from the top was fantastic.

Once on top I noticed a new trail branching off to the side. It’s cut into the side of the ridge, and is dry and bike friendly, but alas not all that scenic.

The biking on the new trail is great.

Apparently BLM is working on hardening and reworking sections of the Summit trail, re-routing or otherwise dealing with the sections that are muddy. Its good to see BLM spending time on non-motorized trails. Hopefully it all works out. Remus and I continued until the new section appeared to stop, and turned around and headed back to the parking lot and then on the check out the main trail, and then headed home. Happy Monday everyone!

A Beautiful Day…

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Remus and I escaped this afternoon to go hike Granite Tors..
It was a great after noon, hot and sunny – a fantastic day for a hike, and for reflecting on life the universe and everything. Time well spent.

We found berries..

And more berries..

And even more berries..

Blueberry season appears to be on us.. Get your picking in now before Remus and I eat them all!

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 Nugget Creek Repeat!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Tom, Ms Marsh, and I did a repeat of a trip Tom and I did last year – a hike, float. bike loop that visits Nugget Creek Cabin in the Chena River State Receration Area. This time we did it when the Chena was pretty high, and it was a much more fun float – the water was fast and there was no low water dragging at all. The river guadge at 40 mile was reading about 17.14 ft during the middle of the day. This is a wonderful high water float – there are sweepers but nothing really dangerous so long as you are paying attention, and the south fork flows a lot faster during high water making the float quite a bit more fun.

The river at Nugget Creek Cabin was almost bank full.

State Parks is in the process of putting in a new trail that will start somewhere around 1st bridge – this should make this a “instant classic” easy water pack rafting route.

They also improved the marking substantially – which is super as parts of the existing trail are very hard to follow. Wahoo!

The hike is a little under 6 miles, and the float is about 20 miles from Nugget Creek Cabin to the Rosehip campground.


A Map:

More pictures here:

Nugget Creek Hike Float, 2010

A short trip on the Chulitna

Monday, June 7th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Map:

Pictures:

East Fork of the Chulitna day float/pack