Posts Tagged ‘solo’

A leisurely 40 miles

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I had the day off from work and decided that it would be wonderful to do a longish day ski at a leisurely pace in the Whites. I decided to ski out to a ways past Borealis and back from mile 28, as the trail was rumoured to be in pretty nice shape. Its spring break, so I expected crowds, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic on the trails. On the way in I saw a two people skiing out from Eleazars, and two people on snow machines leaving Borealis, and the way out two parties of snow machines and a musher, but otherwise I had the place to my self. The whites are a strange place in regards to traffic – some days I run into constant snow machine traffic and other days its completely empty.
When I waxed my skis the night before, the forecast was for a nice 20f to 25f, so I waxed up with blue Powergrip. When morning came it was 0f and I was too lazy to mess with rewaxing and just left it. Amazingly the blue Powergrip lasted the entire day, with a bit of rewaxing due to icing with the overflow. The day started windy and overcast with a fast trail due to some recent mushing traffic. I made good time and zipped a long at a good clip until 13 miles or so in, when I ran into the first batch of overflow.

A short bit of double polling and I was quickly past it, and off to the next section. The overflow continued on and off for the next 5 miles or so.

Fortunately it was pretty dry and not all that intense and thus very skiable.

My first major distraction occurred when a small owl flew over me and I photo stalked it for a while.

Besides the owl, there were large number of what appeared to me to be fairly fresh caribou tracks on the trail, something that I have not see before. I spent some time scanning the nearby hills in the off chance I would see them, but alas no luck. I would love to see some winter caribou!
I reached Beaver Creek a little longer than 4 hours since leaving the parking lot, and skied on for a ways, then stopped for lunch. My lunch was a healthy handful of bear claw almond pastries – yum, yum! They had been squished together due to my poor packing, but still tasted great. Fantastic! After shoving these down, I headed back out to the parking lot. As I crossed Beaver Creek it started to snow, and the trail began to slow down. The long ski down from the first hill past Borealis is normally a long pleasant glide, but the fresh snow pretty much did away with the gliding part. Eventually I was past by a musher and things sped up again. While the musher pasted she made a comment about how it looked like Remus was really enjoying himself.

It looked like Remus was enjoying himself because he was in fact having a lot of fun. Remus loves long trips – I think in his ideal world every day would involve a 40 mile ski. Perhaps he would prefer even longer days – so long as its not too hot Remus never seems to get tired. Shortly after we past the musher we made it to the trail shelter. I had smelt a brief wiff of smoke while crossing the last bit of overflow and was quite impressed the smoke from Eleasars could blow that far.

When I reached the trail shelter, the mystery was resolved – the shelter was unoccupied but someone must have been by recently as while the fire was almost out it was roasting hot inside! Remus and I spent 20 minutes or so hanging out in the heat of the shelter, drying off and in my case adding some tar wax for a bit more glide in the new snow. Eventually we pried ourselves out of the warm and snug shelter and headed back down the trail. The rest of the ski was quite uneventful except for a funny encounter near the trail creek trail junction – there was a blue down parka in the middle of the trail. Remus was quite suspicious, and after sniffing it, gave the scary parka a wide berth. I was not sure what to do – should I leave the jacket or pack it out – but since I thought I could hear folks on the trail ahead, I scooped up the parka and continued on. After a couple of jogs in the trail, I soon saw the travellers in the distance, and was somewhat baffled as to what was going on – there appeared to be a short gnome like person who was as wide as he or she was tall, along with two others messing with something off the trail. I as I got closer things cleared up – the gnome like creature was a young boy wearing a huge adult size parka that covered him so completely only six inches or so of this legs where exposed.. The other two were trying to dig out a snow machine stuck off the side of the trail – apparently they were on an evening jaunt out of the nearby Lees cabin. After handing back their parka I gave them a hand and the snow machine was quickly back on the trail and they zoomed off down the trail. The rest of the trail went by pretty fast and I was soon back at the parking lot, hungry but none the worse for the 40 miles. The hunger was dealt with by a nice greasy burger on the way back into town – hurra! Alas not Mias quality, but it was eaten quick enough I hardly noticed. Alas, Remus had to wait until we got home for his dinner.

Hmm, well it was cold… and then I wimped out

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Last weekend I had planned on heading out to Caribou Bluff cabin the White Mountains NRA, but alas the folks I attempted to conscript into coming along all either where too busy doing real work or thought it would be too cold to be fun.  I decided to go anyway and ended up skiing out a little more than half way, 17 miles or so, then decided that this was not such a good idea, and turned around and headed back out.   At the trail shelter the thermometer read -30f, with some of the lower sections noticeably colder. This was not particularly a big deal, its just raises the stakes in case of an accident or other troubles on the trail. I am not too big of a solo cabin trip sort of person, as its pretty boring being in a cabin without people to annoy with my endless babble, so with this combined with the safety worries I decided to bail and turn it into a longish day ski with a heavy pack. It was probably a good call, as it was quite a bit colder at my house the next morning, so the -30f temperatures on the trail would probably have been -40f on the way out. On the upside, I did this trip with stiffer racing skis, and they really rock with a pack on the heavy side – the extra stiffness really makes for better glide and keeps the kick wax on longer.

In the first couple of miles out of the parking lot I was treated to fantastic views of the Alaska range, back light by the rising sun.

In the “less fantastic views” category, just before the the Trail Creek Trail junction, the dogs found several well chewed moose hooves in the trail.

The dogs where quite excited by these trail finds and had to be forcefully prompted to keep going.  Polar was so excited he carried his hoof part for about a mile before I was forced to take it away and ditched it in some deep snow.

Besides the cold and the wind, it was quite a beautiful day – sunny and clear.

The only people I saw where in a low flying super cub who appeared to be headed out to a inholding on beaver creek and flew back out a hour or so later.

The trail is in quite good shape and super hard and fairly fast, given the temperatures.

Besides the moose parts, I also found another interesting trail find – a round fur ball about the size of a softball.  At first I though it a piece of hare fur, but on a closer look it was definitely not hare.  It was near where a musher had stopped, so perhaps someone lost a tassel on a fur hat..

The dogs enjoyed the trip, though by the end Polar was shivering. I think Polar’s days of 30 miles skis with dog packs are limited..

The overflow on the this year on the Wickersham Creek Trail is not bad at all – the spots that have been bad the last could of years are quite tame.

On a temperature related note, I did get to play a bit with a digital thermometer that I picked up a while back. Its supposed to be good to -55f, but alas the display seems to stop working at around -30f.

A spin on the new skis..

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

About two months ago I picked up a set of low end “racing” skis and until recently I had been too afraid to take them out for any long skis due to the low snow conditions. Yesterday I decided enough was enough, and took the new skis out for a out-and-back to Eleazar’s cabin the the White Mountains NRA.

It was not a long ski, only 26 miles or there abouts, but enough to say that the new skis are a bit faster than my old sport glasses and keep the kick wax on a bit longer in abrasive conditions. Hurra!

The trails are in fantastic shape in the whites, if you ignore the rocky sections in first quarter mile of the Wickersham Creek trail.

There was a fantastic temperature inversion going on – the temperature on the trail ranged from +15f to ~-25f. I stopped at the trail shelter, where it was a little below -20f:

And at Eleazar’s cabin, where it was around +8f. The distance between these two places is around a half a mile in a straight line (possibly less) – it is amazing to me that there can be such a large difference in temperature for such a short distance..

Eleazar’s cabin has a fancy new deck that is a new addition since my last visit – quite spiffy!

There were no critters to be seen (besides some gray jays anyway), though I did see a fantastic vole race track.

Amazingly enough, I made it back to the parking lot just after dark. The days are getting a bit longer – soon the best time of the year from a skiing perspective will be upon us. Wahoo!

I should mention that yesterday was quite a day for trail finds. I found a crescent wrench, enough dog booties that stopped picking them up, and a handful of neck lines. I really don’t understand how mushers could be losing neck lines but they are getting to be a common trail find for me these days.

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.

A Borealis-Lefauve Day Ski

Monday, December 14th, 2009

I had plans to do a overnighter at Borealis Lefauve Cabin in the White Moutains NRA last weekend but alas the folks who where coming all bailed due to other commitments. Since I had the cabin, I decided to do a day ski out there instead, with a stop at the cabin to warm up and relax. This turned out to be a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. The Whites were completely empty and I had the trail all to my self. Its always hard to predict how busy the whites are – I would have expected that it would be quite busy, as it was a fairly warm (+10f to -10f depending on how low or high one is ) calm day with clear skies. Perhaps the low snowfall is keeping the snowmachiners home.. In anycase, it was a great ski. The Wickersham Creek Trail is in great shape for skiing, though the snow was pretty abrasive and hard on wax. The normal overflow spots had a fair bit of overflow, fortunately it was the dry and hard. The 40 miles took me about 4 hours going in, and 5 hours going out, alas not particularly fast. I am afraid I am going to have to work a bit on my nutrition on these longer skis, as I was a bit energy deprived for the last couple of miles, but it all worked out and I arrived at the parking lot relatively intact.

Pictures follow, for the photo viewing inclined. We are now in the time of the year where the photos mainly consist of sunrise and sunset photos, due to the fact it is either dark or the sun is rising or setting. Which is all good, but it limits the picture taking a bit.

The sunrise, shortly after I left the parking lot, complete with a early morning raven.

A wee bit of overflow.

The overflow had fantastic ice crystal formations in all kinds of strange shapes.

The thermometer at the Trail Shelter half to the turnaround point said it was a balmy -10f.

Even more overflow.

The final bit of overflow.

Chena Dome in a day

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

In honour of my switching to 3/4 time, I decided to use by first Monday off to do something interesting, like hike Chena Dome as a day hike. 12 hours (11 hours 35 minutes but whos counting anyway) and 6 quarts of water later I finished Chena Dome with sore feet but otherwise a fairly happy hiker. Chena Dome is one of the classic interior ridge hikes. Its quite a roller coaster of a hike, with lots of ups and downs, including some really steep sections. The reward for all this up and down is a fantastic alpine hike with spectacular views. The trail starts at 900ft above sea level and tops out at 4200ft asl, with 5 smaller ridge high points topping 3000ft.

The trail is a loop with the trail heads separated by a mile of walking on Chena Hotsprings road. The upper trail head had a bunch of Alaska DNR trail crew workings with Bobcats busy building a new trail out to Lower Angel Creek Cabin. The traditional trail had become increasingly trashed by summer ORV use, so DNR has decided to build a new trail on the hillside for summer use – hurray for DNR! The current Angel Creek trail has huge ruts in it and it now takes a lot of snow for it to be pleasant skiing. The new trail looks like it will make for superb summer biking and winter skiing. I am really looking forward to skiing it this winter!

The beginning of the trail winds through a several year old burn as it slowly makes it way up past tree line on the ridge. The fireweed was quite beautiful.

Just before the trail breaks out above tree line there is a huge batch of burls.

Once above tree line the trail becomes a ridge walk and follows a series of ridges. Great views abound.

The Chena Dome trail is a seldom flat – if you are not going up, you are going down.

Wildlife sightings were pretty limited. I saw a number of ptarmigan and song birds of various types.

My views from the trails were periodically cut off by smoke – there are lots of smaller fires burning in the interior and sometimes when the wind shifted I could hardly see the ridges next door. Occasionally it would clear up and the views would return.

At about mile 8 there is a 1950’s vintage military plane crash. I spent about a half wandering around looking at the wreckage.

Finally, the summit! There is a Alaska DNR communications hut on top, but otherwise there is nothing much too see. I did find a large pile of moose droppings, which seemed quite out of place.

Once over the summit I encountered one of the few places where the trail is flat. It was a little to rocky for good running but was a nice break from constant ups and downs.

Eventually the trail drops off the ridge into a saddle near mile 17 where there is a small shelter. The shelter has a water catchment which makes it a great place to camp or to for a break, as there are not a lot of water sources on the trail.

After a shortish break to refill my water bottles and have something to eat I was back on the trail. Remus was overheating for most of the trip, and greatly enjoyed wallowing in the tundra pools we passed.

After a couple of miles we started up the last hill, and then the long downhill to the parking lot. All in all this was quite fun as a day hike, though pretty long. It a lot of way it makes sense to do it as a day hike as you do you have to carry a heavy pack up and down the hills. Anyway, highly recommended!