Posts Tagged ‘tolovana’

Tolovana to Minto, on skates

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Skating from Tolovana Hotsprings To Minto

A year or so ago, the cool kids did some neat trips on nordic skates, a sort of skate blade attached to a ski binding apparently common in Scandinavia. I was seriously tempted to join in the fun and get a set. Eventually, the number of folks I know who have them grew enough that I decided I must get some, as it looked really fun and a neat way to explore. Soon after my set arrived I was invited on a skating trip from Murphy Dome to Minto, which was quickly turned into a Tolovana hot springs to Minto trip. Our plan was to hike into Tolovana, enjoy a nice mellow evening, then leave early and hike and hopefully skate to the town of Minto. Minto is in a windy place, (hopefully) windy enough to blow the snow off the ice, and from the trail into Tolovana, you can see nearly endless expanses of bare ice just outside town. I have often wondered if it would be possible to explore that area with ice skates – I guess I was going to find out! The plan was to hike into the hotsprings, enjoy the nice warm water, then the following day hike down to the flats, and skate from lake to lake, eventually hitting the Tolovana river, and hopefully reaching Minto. I headed out with Ed, Heath, Seth, and Patrick mid morning, making the several hour drive to the Tolovana trailhead.

The hike into Tolovana was mellow, and we arrived with plenty of time to soak and hang out. It was a bit odd to be there in the fall without the family..

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In the morning we headed out early-ish, and hiked down to the flats, hoping to arrive at around dawn.

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We arrived at the flats after a brief bit of stumbling through an old burn, but nothing too epic. The flats greeted us with a nice smooth lake, and we quickly put on skates and zoomed across. For the next hour we hopped from lake to lake, taking the skates off between. Eventually we arrived at some lakes connected with a small stream, but alas, the stream had some beaver dam issues, and soon Heath and I had wet feet.

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It appeared the stream we had planned on following hadn’t frozen up enough to be skate-able..

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We soon bailed on following the small stream, and headed overland, crossing fields, swamps, and a few old burns..
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Eventually the narrow stream widened out into some large old channels, and these were frozen, with lots of hard, smooth ice.

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The skating was amazing – fast smooth and fun.

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Patrick, who is originally from Sweden, told us his parents use very similar skates to travel on a 60 mile lake just outside his home town.

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I was pretty worried I was going to be holding everyone back, as everyone else had a lot more experience skating both on ice and on skis, but it didn’t seem to be an issue, or at least everyone slowed down to my pace.

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We arrived in Minto at around 5pm, well before dark, making our selves at hope in a local teacher’s house before getting a ride back to our cars at the Tolovana trailhead.
A huge thank you to Scott and Cassie for making this trip possible!

A few gear and route notes
It was about 27 miles, give or take a bit. I think we walked about 8 to 10 miles, someone of which could have been skated if we were more willing to take the skates on and off for frequently. The rest was skating.
The ice was, for the most part, great skating, with no open water on the main river. I am not sure how common this is.

As far as safety gear, Ed suggested shin guards, so I picked up some soccer shin guards which were a bit too small for me, and some knee pads. Most of us had some ice picks to get out of the ice if we fell in – I think that is 100% (perhaps 1000%) required, so you can get out if you break through the ice. The knee pads were also too small for me – I think they were intended for woman playing volleyball, and by the end of the day my knees were hurting from the pressure. Ed also brought a helmet and a life jacket, both of which were a good idea. If I was to do this again, I would also take a helmet and a life jacket, just in case of ice issues. We also had several throw bags.

Skate wise, I think we had the full gamut of boots and bindings – Heath was using some sort of mega boot combo with AT or Tech bindings, I used NNN-BD, Ed Pilot, Seth NNN skate bindings, and Patrick SNS-BC. They all seemed to work ok. My boots were a bit floppy, especially after I got my feet wet, but I added more socks and tied them as tight as I could and things were much better.

This was my first trip with everyone navigating solely by smart phone.
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I used Backcountry Navigator, several other folks used GAIA. At least Ed and I had pre-cached satellite imagery. It worked fantastically – at one point we realized that grassy fields (fantastic walking) showed up in a particular color in the imagery, and we aimed for bits of that while navigating. It works amazingly well – I am totally sold on phones as a replacement for GPS at this point, at least for this style of navigation. It is truly fantastic to pull up imagery of your location and use it for planning in the field.

I would like to thank Cassie for the ride from Minto, and Steve at Minto for the route information, and letting us crash at his place for a few hours when we arrived at Minto. Thanks!

Tolovana Post Thanksgiving!

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Winter this year has been treating us well in Interior Alaska well, warm and fairly mild though we have been a bit short on snow. After a good thanksgiving with the family, I headed off to go spend Sunday and Monday night at Tolovana Hot Springs with Tom and Ms Marsh. I feel a bit bad these days cutting out on the family, but since the twins were going to be at school Monday and Tuesday, I was only missing two evenings of family time. The weather forecast called for a small amount of snow, so Tom and I decided to bike, and Ms Marsh walked pulling a sled. The trail was in good shape, though there was not enough snow to cover the ruts.

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The ride in was fast and fun, and before we knew it we were at the hotsprings, warming up our cabin and enjoying the hot water. It was Tom’s first overnighter on a snowbike, and he seemed to be enjoying himself.

The dogs had a great time..

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The next morning arrived calm and clear, and I got to watch the sun rise from one of the hot tubs. Not a huge accomplishment, as the sun is officially rising at 10:30AM..

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Then it was back to eating..

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Eventually Tom and I left Ms Marsh to enjoy the quiet by herself, and we headed out to explore. The trails down from the hotsprings didn’t appear to be broken out, as there was only a few inches of snow, so we biked for a bit, then went for a walk down to the flats.

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Eventually we made our way back and returned to eating and enjoying the waters. That evening on a impulse I checked NOAA weather radio, and was surprised to hear we had a winter storm warning, for up to a foot of snow! Plans were made to check on things early in the morning as the evening’s clear skies didn’t look very threatening, and everyone hit the sack, after a few more trips to enjoy the hot waters. In the morning we were happy to see only a inch or two of snow greeting us, but it was lightly snowing. Ms Marsh started her walk out a hour or so earlier than Tom and I, as we were optimistic that the biking would be fast (ish).

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After one last soak we headed out, and while the biking wasn’t bad, it was going to be a lot slower on the way out.

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By the time we made the parking lot, there was 3″ to 4″ of new snow. Not a huge deal, but definitely things were a bit slower. It took us a little over 4 hours to get out, and we enjoyed a fair bit of pushing, which wasn’t the end of the world, as I had managed to ride everything on the way in. The new snow made hauling a sled a lot more work, and Ms Marsh looked happy to be done when she arrived at the truck. The drive back to town almost took longer than the getting out from the hotsprings, as all the new snow made the roads a bit of a mess.

I hope everyone is enjoying fall (or early winter, as some would have it)!

PS: About half the photos are compliments of Tom, who brought his mega camera on the trip. I feel a bit odd to have so many photos of me in a post!

The Dunbar to Tolovana!

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

I have wanted to ski the Dunbar Trail to Tolovana Hotsprings for years now, and I finally got a chance! Tom, Remus, and I set out early on a fine Sunday morning, driving up to the end of Murphy Dome, then strapping on our skis (or in Remus’s case, dog booties) and headed down the trail.

The first 10 miles or so were all downhill to the Chatanika River. Once down to the Chatanika, it was not entirely clear how to get to the Dunbar, so Tom and I wandered around for a while, passing though a surprising large subdivision filled with cabins of all shapes and sizes looking for trails that were heading in the right direction and not marked with “No Trespassing!” signs. Eventually we hit the river, then headed down it a ways hoping to see were the Dunbar crosses. After about a half hour we turned around and headed back after not seeing anything. We retraced our ski tracks and heading up river we quickly found were the dunbar crosses, and turned off the river and headed to the hotsprings.

The trail was in amazingly good shape, nice and firm making for great skiing. The trail was surprisingly scenic for a winter trail though black spruce forest and swamp. The dunbar is pretty straight, occasionally making small jogs for no apparent reason. However the trail occasionally cut off the dunbar to follow a swamp or lake for a while for some chance of scenery. At one point we crossed a strange bridge in the middle of nowhere – sort of amusing, as to get to the bridge you had to cross a ton of very wet swamp, several small creeks, and the Chatanika River.

At about half way the dunbar climbs up a short hill, and near the top there was a wall tent platform, but alas no wall tent.

As I understand it, the folks running Tolovana Hotsprings have a warming tent here, which I am sure is very welcome in the colder parts of the winter. We enjoyed a bag of pre-cooked bacon to celebrate being half way, then zoomed down the hill. On the other side of the hill the trail got a bit narrower and a bit more overgrown, but otherwise was still very easy to follow.

Remus was a bit bemused by the length of this trip – after about 30 miles I think he started lying down and taking a nap when ever we stopped.

There were a couple small wind blown lakes that we had to cross and we had to be careful we didn’t miss were the trail exited the lake.

Eventually we reached the turn off for Tolovana, and headed to the hotsprings.

The trail from the Dunbar crosses some large open fields and swamps that were very beatiful when lit by the low angle evening sun.

Where the trail crosses the Tolovana River I was amazed how incised the banks are, and wrote off pack-rafting the Tolovana River, as the views of the banks would get old quickly I think. The drop down to the river and back up was very steep, and called for a bit of walking.

The sun went behind the hill just as we crossed the final swamp before the short climb to Tolovana.

As soon as we hit the trail up to the hot-springs Remus realized were we were, and spent the final mile running ahead and looking back at us, giving us “hurry up, we are almost there!” look about a thousand times. It must be hard to be a dog, and not know when you head off for a walk if it is going to be 5 miles or 50.

We finally arrived at the hotsprings just before sunset where we meet up with Henry, who had came in the short way, and had the cabin warmed up and water ready for us. I immediately started cooking dinner, and after chowing down we all headed off to enjoy the hot waters. The next day we spent the day eating, talking, soaking, and goofing off.

Henry entertained us with many stories of his bike racing days, and discussion of all things bike related among other things. My favorite tub at Tolovana, the middle one, had a huge amount of alge growing in it but Tom bravely volunteered to clean it up.

I took a short walk over to the airstrip, but eventually turned back as the lounging footwear I had brought, crocs, where filling with snow even with the plastic bags I had over my socks. The evening was spent with more chatting, eating, and soaking. The next day we headed out the short way to the Eliot Highway in a few inches of fresh snow, and back to town.

Thanks Tom and Henry for a truly wonderful trip, and to Nancy for letting me skip out on parenting duties for two nights. I have not skied much this year, and I think this trip just about doubled my season’s milage. Perhaps it is not recommended to do that in one 50 mile push, but I survived with minimal damage – hurrah!

The route in from Murphy Dome is about 46 miles, and took us about 13 hours which included a fair number of snack stops and several miles of extra wandering around. It was good skiing, but would have been top notch snowbiking, at least when we did it. There are a couple of tricky spots, but otherwise it was fairly straightforward. There are a number of small lakes and swamps to cross, and it looked like it could be easy to loose the trail in those spots, so budget some time for that.

Tolovana by bike!

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

This Thanksgiving Nancy and the twins where off to visit Nancy’s folks on the east coast, and I was left with a week by myself with no commitments. Ms Marsh was kind enough to help me out, and invited me out to Tolovana, and on Thanksgiving day I found myself biking down the trail to to Tolovana. We don’t have much snow here in the Interior, making for not the best skiing, but pretty darn wonderful biking. I really enjoyed the ride out, enjoying the well packed trail and the fast biking.

The views were spectacular.

Near the high point of the trail I stopped at the “Tolovana Hilton”, an abandoned water tank, to get out of the wind for a moment. It is pretty amazing how warm it is once you are out of the wind..

I had the trail to my self for the most part, passing one party on ski and a family on snow machine.

I was amused to find out that I almost beat the snowmachiners out to the hotsprings. They had arrived at the parking lot the same time as we did, and passed me for the last time about a mile from the hotsprings.

One of the skiers knows my wife Nancy, and apparently recognizing Remus, asked if she was coming. Alas, Nancy was on the east coast, enjoying sun and fair weather.

The last downhill was steep enough that I briefly stopped to see what was making a hissing noise and realized it was water vaporizing on the brake rotors. A funny sight at -5f.

After about two hours of riding and taking lots of photos I arrived at the little cabin that we were going to spend the next two nights in. I was surprised to see smoking coming out of the chimney, and a snowmachine parked outside. I stuck my head in to see one of the younger members of the snowmachine posy hurriedly packing up – apparently he was told by his dad they were staying in the “first” cabin, and only when I arrived did he relize his mistake. No harm done, and I didn’t have to start the fire! Remus and I mellowed out enjoying the time to ourselves, and were eventually joined by Ms Marsh, who had walked in.

The evening was spent eating, soaking, and talking. It was a fantastic way to spend Thanksgiving, though I missed Nancy and the twins.
Black friday was spent eating, soaking, and exploring, with maybe a bit more talking.

The wind had picked up a bit overnight, and was really blowing on the day after Thanksgiving. At one point while biking up the Tolovana airfield I though I was going to have to get off the bike to push the wind was blowing so hard. On our last day the wind died down a bit, and the bike ride out was fast and pleasant. The biking was so fast it almost felt like cheating, as the trail was so firm I think you could have ridden a road bike on it. In these conditions the bike is almost magic, zooming along when skiing would have been a slow slog on the flats, and nail biting terrifying on the downhills.

A big thanks to Ms Marsh for inviting me out, it was a wonder trip, and a great way to spend a quiet mellow Thanksgiving, and it’s mad shopping aftermath.

Tolovana, 2012

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The last three years we have made a family trip to Tolovana Hotsprings. The first year the twins were carried and sledded out there, but the following years they hiked the 10+ miles each way under their own power. It has become a sign of the change of seasons, a marking of the end of fall and the coming of winter. Sometimes there is a bit of colder weather and even a little snow, reminding us of the winter that is coming. We have been joined by the twins friend Anna, her dad Ned and her mom Kristen, as well as Tom, and Ms Marsh.

The twins and Anna really enjoy Tolovana, with its places to explore..

Things to do..

And the wonderful hot tubs to enjoy.

I have fond memories of visiting Takhini Hotsprings and hiking out to cabins as a kid, so it is wonderful to have a chance to share these experiences with my daughters.
The twins and Anna have really grown up in the three years we have been hiking out to Tolovana, and they now hike along like little champions, playing lots of games, enjoying snacks, and generally having a great time.

This year’s hike was a bit earlier than usual, making for some muddy hiking. The sun was nice though, and we enjoyed the warmer temperatures.

There were some mud related moments of sadness as little people slipped and fell, lost boots in the sticky mud, or had muddy splash downs, but these were (thankfully) short.

Besides a bit of mud the hike in was great. The weather was so nice the little hikers didn’t even want to stop at the “marshmallow” , an old water tank converted into a shelter, and kept right on trucking.

Blueberry season was long gone, but the cranberries were out in force.

We made it to the hotsprings with enough time for the little hikers to enjoy a short soak before dinner. The bigger hikers all enjoyed longer soaks after dinner. The next day was wonderfully sunny, and the crew spent it mellowing out enjoying life.

After two days of sun, our final day arrived a bit cooler, with ice on the puddles. Everyone had a good hike out, although the little hikers impressed some disbelieving folks on our hike out. “You guys have a fourwheeler cached somewhere up here, right” .

Everyone made it out, some powered by gummies..

And some with their inner rockstar.

A huge thanks to everyone who joined us for this trip, your company makes these trips the wonderful experiences they are. I hope that this family tradition continues, here’s to fall hikes in the sun, the wind, and the snow!

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!

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.

A Family Trip to Tolovana Hotsprings

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

On a sunny Saturday morning the family and I headed out to Tolovana Hot Springs for a 3 day weekend.  After a two and a half hour drive we reached the trail head, loaded up our packs and headed down the trail for the 11 mile hike to Tolovana.  Tolovana is a natural hot springs with a three cabins that can be rented.  The hot springs is a pretty wonderful place – there are several hot tubs and the water is without the sulfuric smell I normally associate with hot springs.  Its also pretty easy camping, as the cabin we had rented is quite large and includes such amenities as propane lights.  Its not a completely easy trip though, especially with the twins, as there is one large climb on the way in and two large climbs on the way out.  The trail is also quite exposed for most of its length and can be quite unpleasant when the wind is blowing.   Fortunately it was a wonderful late fall day on our way out, with little wind and temperatures in the 20s.  There was a dusting of snow at the parking lot so the girls started out in a sled but the snow quickly disappeared as the trail dropped down 1100 feet to the lowest section on the trail.

The girls took advantage of the hard frozen but relatively free of snow trail conditions and walked for a mile or so.  The lower sections of the trail wind though some fairly swampy bits that were fortunately well frozen and quite hard and dry.   This area burned several years ago and the trail now winds though a forest of standing dead spruce trees with some thickets of alder along the sides of the trail. 

The twins were quite the troopers and hiked quite a ways.  I had gotten them yactraks before the trip and they were quite proud to be putting them to use on the icer sections.

Eventually the girls tired out and then the hard part started, at least for the parents – nap time!  The girls were loaded up into the backpacks and into their “sleepy sacks” and enjoyed a warm and comfortable ride for the next hour.  One of the funny things about taking the girls on trips like this is that it has redefined pack weights for me – our packs were in the 70lbs range with the girls in them, so normal backpacking weight packs seem light in comparison.

The girls slept for the next hour and a half as we hiked over the highest section of trail and dropped down towards the hot springs.

The view from on top is quite spectacular, with a wonderful view of the Minto flats and the Tolovana river.  This was the first time I had ever been on this trail and not been on skis, and it has a completely different feel to it when you are walking.

The trail had recently received a haircut which had widened the trail considerably in sections, cutting down the willows that had been encroaching on the trail.  After we made it all the way in we learned that the trail had been trimmed by a “John Deer decked mower” according to the log book.  This led to interesting visions of someone riding the trail in a lawn tractor, which seemed unlikely.  In the section of the trail that goes along the “old runway” this was quite noticeable.  This should make the trail much more pleasant skiing in a couple of the narrower downhill sections.

While there was only a couple of inches of snow in the most snowy sections winter is definitely on the way.  We ran across a some blue berries sticking still holding on to the bushes and I tried to convince the girls these were still edible to no avail.

Eventually we dropped down from the dome and were back into the snow less area. 

By this time the girls had had enough pack time and they went back to walking.  Molly took a brief ride in the sled down the last hill and by the time we reached the stream coming out of the hot springs the snow was completely gone.

Shortly after we arrived at the cabin Tom and Marsh showed up and we all settled down for some after hike snacks (two containers of Stax, the pseudo Pringle ) and a soak.  The hot tubs at Tolovana are all fantastic.  They now have three hot tubs, including a new wooden “horse trough” looking one.  The temperatures in the tubs range from “lobster boiling” hot to just hot.   Initially the girls were a bit suspicious of the hot tubs but by the time the second day came they were big fans.

The girls had quite a bit of fun in our cabin.  There were a number of card and dice games that were quickly pressed into duty.



No back country trip is complete without the girl’s two lambs, named naturally Lamby and Fred.  The black footed and faced lamb is Fred, in case you are wondering.

On the second day Tom,Marsh, and Nancy disappeared during the middle of the day to go hiking and I hung out with the girls and read some fine escapist science fiction. Later in the afternoon I took off to explore the trails heading down the Tolovana river and the Dunbar Trail.  The last time I had been in this area was the winter after the forest fire and the trees in the area still smelled of smoke.  Things are quite a bit different now, and its w
as pretty fascinating to wander though the burn exploring.  And of course, enjoying another soak.


The next morning we all got up early in an attempt to make a quick start.  Tom managed to sleep though most of the early packing and breakfast making, and woke in time to have the last plate of pancakes and the remaining slices of bacon.

The dogs were pressed into duty as bacon frying pan cleaners –  its amazing how clean they can get a frying pan clean.  Rest assured, we also washed the pans afterwords.

Bacon powered (except for Nancy, who had her normal, vegetarian breakfast of milk and cereal) we headed off on the long walk out.  There is quite a bit more climbing on the way out and the weather was not as nice, but it was not that strenuous of a hike out.   The wind had picked up and was blowing 10 to 20 miles a hour, but otherwise it was a fine day.

The Tolovana parking lot was quite a different scene and the wind was blowing quite a bit harder.

I had a nice collection of rime ice on my truck.

All in all this was a wonderful trip and was very much enjoyed by all.  The twins in particular had a great time.  I think I will have to visit again in the fall – it was quite a mellow trip in and out.  Its often hard to get folks to make a trip out to Tolovana, as there are lots of horror stories about how its not a fun ski (too steep) and can be quite cold and windy.  The trail seems quite passable once it starts to frost up, so early-mid fall seems like a good compromise – the weather is not too harsh but its not too wet as to be unpleasant hiking. A couple of week earlier would probably have been more ideal.