Posts Tagged ‘stiles’

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

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 Solstice ski on the Compeau Trail

Friday, December 25th, 2009

On a brisk day near winter solstice (the actual solstice falls on the following day) I joined Dan, Ed, Ann, and Heather for a day ski on the Compeau trail in the Chena River SRA.  I had biked part of the Compeau trail in the summer, but had never skied it, and approached the outing with a bit of trepidation as the only person I had talked to about skiing it had said it was nearly impossible.  I should not have worried however, as it turned out to be a quite a fun ski, with only a handful of terrifyingly steep sections.   We skied out to Colorado Creek cabin first, which was still warm from the previous tenants, had a short snack, then headed up the Compeau to the top of the ridge.  The initial climb was very pleasant, with lots of switchbacks and hardly any steep sections.  Once we reached the top of the ridge we then followed a old dozer line to a fire break installed in the summer of 2004.  There were a handful of fairly steep climbs and descents but everything was manageable on skis.  I had a number of crashes ( I think four total – I led the crash count by a wide margin) but nothing too tremendous.  Eventually we rejoined the Compeau trail and were treated too a 10 mile decent to the Chena Hotsprings winter trail that was quite pleasant and very fun.  Once at the bottom we followed the Chena Hotsprings winter trail back to Colorado Creek trail parking lot, and we where finished, only 26 miles later.   This loop evolved lots and lots of climbing and was quite a workout.    This is a fantastic day trip, and highly recommended!  The Compeau trail is very skiable, with wide switchbacks on the downhills.  The new reroute on the beginning of the Colorado Creek trail is a wonderful addition that cuts out the heavily rutted sections, which is a great improvement.

The following photos are complements of Ed, as I forgot my camera in the car, alas.
The views from the trail along the ridges was fantastic.

The lower sections of trail wind though black spruce forest and is quite scenic.

The Alaska range was back lit by the low angle solstice sun for most of the day, and was extremely beautiful.

The twins go to Stiles Creek Cabin

Monday, December 7th, 2009

On a unnaturally warm Saturday, the family and I headed off to Stiles Creek cabin in the Chena River SRA. Molly and Lizzy got to ride in a sled hauled by the dogs and napped most of the way. It must be strange to go on ski trips by going to sleep as you leave the parking lot and wake up in at your destination..  We loaded up in the parking lot, strapped the girls (and Chicken, Lizzys latest stuffed animal friend) into the sled and took off.

The taking off part took longer than one would expect – getting the twins settled in, three dogs harnessed, and two adults onto skis takes a while, alas.

The Stiles Creek trail has been rerouted in the last year and has lots of switchbacks which slowed things down to a crawl occasionally as the sled tried to cut the switchbacks.  Eventually we made it past the switchbacks and things sped up a lot.

After a two hour nap, the twins woke up and demanded snacks.  Soon they were snacking on granola bars and dried pears while zipping along..  Ahh the luxury! 

Soon we arrived at the cabin, and the twins were taken out of their warm sled compartment and they got to help find wood, get the stove started, and of course more snacking. 

After snacking came playing outside, even more wood gathering, and finally dinner, followed by more snacking (also known as desert).  We were joined in the cabin by Margaret and Trusten and their daughter Robin.  Robin and Trusten came via snow machine, and Margret via skis.

I had made a trip to this cabin as a day trip several weeks earlier and after a half hour I had the inside of the cabin above 0f, thanks to the plentiful quality of fire retardant wood (green birch and alder burn oh so well) left by the previous visitors.  We had left a plentifully supply of wood that one could actually burn, but to be prepared, I skied down the last hill dragging a nice dry spruce log.

Dinner was a tasty selection of mixed pasta and Parmesan cheese for the younger generation and Indian food and pasta with spicy peanut sause for the adults.  Yum, yum!

 The younger crowd  got endless fun out of the cabins loft.  The stairs were a big hit, as were the glow sticks.
After a night of goofing off and mellowing out, morning came and we had to pack up and head out.  The trail heads up a steep hill right out of the cabin, so we headed off on foot.  Lizzy and Molly were quite the troopers, and made it to the top of the hill unassisted (if you don’t count several rations of grandma’s fruit leather and a granola bar each as assistance).
Robin and Trusten zipped away on their snowmachine, while we walked up the hill. Robin dropped a kitkat on the way out, which was very nice of her, as I was quite hungry.

Once up the hill the twins hopped into the sled and we zoomed off down the trail.

It was a little too hot for the dogs and they were less than happy going up one of the hills, but otherwise it was a uneventful ride out.

Stiles Creek Trail day ski

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

On a nippy Monday morning Tom and I set off for a day ski out to Stiles Creek Cabin in the Chena River SRA. It was fairly cold (-20f according to the thermometer at Pleasant Valley Store) but otherwise quite an excellent ski.

The Stiles Creek Trail had undergone some re-routing and we were looking forward to skiing the new sections.  The re-route made for some fantastic skiing.  Before the reroute the trail dropped off the final hill and descended steeply.  The new sections cut back and forth though the old trail and make the steep sections (once described to me by a fairly good skier as “the most terrifying thing I have ever skied”) very ski-able and quite fun.    This was quite a contrast to the original trail which could be quite terrifyingly fast.

Polar and Remus had a wonderful time running around and enjoying the smells.

Once we reached the top we were treated with fantastic views of the nearby ridges.    Once of the nice things about this trail is that it crosses a wide variety of the forest types that the greater Fairbanks area offers – it goes though birch groves, poplar trees, black spruce forest swamp, white spruce stands, and a small section of alpine ridge top.

The trail has a lot of climbing on the way into the cabin but the reward for this is a fair number of fun downhill sections on the way out.

After 8 miles or so we reached Stiles Creek cabin and ducked inside to warm up.  After about 30 minutes we had the cabin above freezing..  Which was enough to start drying off Toms pants.

The rest of the ski out was quite fun and much faster as there is a lot of downhill.
As mentioned earlier, the reroute makes for much more fun skiing. There were two sections on the old trail that were quite unpleasant. On the way in the drop off the ridge to the cabin was pretty hairy – it was steep and the trail was canted downhill which when combined together made for less than fun skiing. On the way out the final drop off the ridge was very steep and fast, with mistakes potentially rewarded by the trunks of large birch trees – this also made for less than fun skiing. Both these issues are fixed with the reroutes – the final decent to the cabin was rerouted with enough switch backs such that it is easily ski-able and the drop off the main ridge on the way out was also rerouted such that it is a lot less steep and with wide enough turns for easy skiing. Hurray! Major kudos to DNR for improving this trail!

More pictures follow, for the photo inclined.

The trail at the its high point.

Afternoon sun.

The sunset as we skied out.  We skied the last couple of miles in the dark, alas.