Posts Tagged ‘wimping out’

A long walk under the Aurora..

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

I had been meaning to get out to Borealis cabin in the Whites this fall, hoping to get one last hiking trip before good skiing and snow biking starts, but before the Summit trail became impassible. Eventually plans formed up, and Tom and I headed down the trail a little before noon on a Friday, for what we hoped would be a nice relaxing trip. On the drive I noticed the Chatanika River had a thin crust of ice all the way across it..

Things started off wonderfully, with a fine day, with a little snow.

most of the trail only had a dusting of snow, with the higher sections having a little under 3 inches. It was nice to see snow, and it was a wonderful reminder of the winter to come. I spent a fair bit of time day dreaming of the upcoming winter on the hiking in.. snow biking, skiing, cabin trips, races – all the upcoming winter fun!

Eventually we neared the end of the Summit Trail, and at dusk we could see Big Bend and Beaver Creek.

The cabin we where heading to is on the other side of Beaver Creek, requiring a crossing that should be mid calf deep this time of year. Not a big deal, if you bring neoprene socks and some river crossing foot ware, crocs in my case. From a distance the creek looked clear of ice, but there was an ominous ring of around the edges..

We headed down to the creek and arrived at a slough just before the main river, and were surprised to see solid ice covering its surface. Alas, it was much too thin to support our weight, and so we started hunting around looking for a less ice covered crossing. Eventually we found a mostly ice free crossing point, and with the aid of a large heavy stick, smashed a way across. Remus got a lift, the lucky dog. Soon after that we reached the main river, and much to our annoyance, there the shallow crossing point had a thick ridge of ice in front of it. Crossing at the shallowest section was going to involve a lot of ice breaking. The other complication was that it was nearly dark, and it sort of looked like there was ice on the other side of the creek. It looked like any crossing would involve taking a large stick with us to smash a way to the back once we reached the other side. This was looking fairly unpleasant, so I gave a quick try heading across the ice free but deeper section, but turned around after it got a bit over my knees.

We decided that while the river was crossable, it was going to be a cold, unpleasant morning if we had to ford waist deep water, and started hiking back. It was soon dark, and we spent the next three hours hiking the winter trail back to the nearest shelter cabin to crash for the night.

It was a bit of a trudge, but we were treated to a fabulous aurora display. The northern lights were amazing, probably the best I had seen in quite a while. Alas, after the first mile or so of hiking in the dark my headlamp started flaking out. I swapped batteries, but no luck, it continued to act up. I ended up walking behind Tom using his little bubble of light. It was an interesting trek in the dark, with wonderful aurora, but tricky walking on frozen tussocks.

At one point we heard a funny noise, and as Tom scanned around with his headlamp we saw two eyes staring back at us from a ways down the trail. I flipped on my headlamp without thinking – amazingly it started working again, and the eyes got closer. Eventually a small fox stepped out of the darkness and walked straight up to us, stopping about 10 feet away. I had a bit of a panic moment, grabbing for Remus and digging out his leash in case he decided to give chase, though Remus was a bit too beat to enjoy the moment. The fox stared at us for a bit, then headed off into the brush along the trail. We had some nervous chuckles, as initially the eyes looked pretty darn big and gave us a bit of a jolt. Apparently the headlamp got a jolt too, as it stayed working until we reached the shelter cabin, where it promptly died again. Eventually we were done after 13 hours of hiking, had dinner, and crashed. The morning we hiked out, enjoying a wonderfully sunny morning and early afternoon. The hike was fast and uneventful, though there was a surprisingly large amount of ice on the trail..

There was a long section of ice in the last mile before the mile 28 trail head, which is fairly unusual. If this stays it could be a bit exciting for folks heading out, especially dog teams..

I made it back to town in time for dinner with the family, which was very nice. These late season trips are always hit or miss, sometimes too much snow, sometimes too much water, or the tussocks are not frozen enough for fun walking. I have never been “iced-out” though, so that was an eye opener. No more creek fording until late spring at the earliest! My headlamp flaking out was also a reminder that I have to start carrying a backup again. It could have been a very unpleasant experience, though fortunately it was just annoying. Live and learn!

I am really looking forward to winter now… cabin trips and other adventures with the family, skiing, biking.. Any day now!


Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I had not hiked the Summit Trail in the White Mountains NRA yet this year, and as I was running out of snow free time for hiking I decided to get off my butt and day hike it. It is a wonderful hike ridge hike with marvelous views of the White Mountains and the surrounding lowlands. It was going to be a fairly long day, but doable – 34 miles or so round trip taking somewhere from 10 to 12 hours. Remus and I left a little less early than i would have preferred but we eventually reached the trail head and started hiking at 9am. I think in the end Remus might have wanted to have stayed home… more on this later.

It appeared that BLM had been working the muddy sections in the beginning or perhaps the trail was just naturally drying out.. in any case it was in better shape that it was last time I was here. Kudos to BLM!

BLM (or possibly someone else with a sence of humor) had installed a boot brush near the start of the trail.

I found this contrivance amusing, as really only a quarter mile of the trail’s 17+ mile length has any mud. Hopefully it is put to good use.

The fall colors were out in force making for nice scenery.

The Summit trail winds its way from the trail head to the side of Wickersham Dome, then follows a ridge down from the dome to another small rounded mountain and then down to the winter trail a few miles from Beaver Creek. My plan was to go to winter trail then turn around and head back. The trail is in good shape and the walking was fast and pleasant.

Remus was having fun…

I had to slow down for some of the board walked sections as they still had a bit of frost or ice on them on the way it.

The older boardwalk sections had taken a bit of a beating recently. It looks like the trail has become popular with the equestrian crowd, and the hooves had taken a bit of a toll on the older boardwalk.

Not too big of a deal, as the older boardwalk has always been fairly beat up. The rest of the walking was wonderful.

BLM had done some additional work in a couple of the boggy sections between the dome and the shelter. These sections seemed to be holding up pretty well and a nice improvement.

When we arrived at the trail shelter I stopped to check out the log book to see who had visited recently but just before opening the door I noticed someone’s stuff inside and moved on, a bit worried I had woken up someone trying to sleep in.

Apparently I hadn’t woken anyone up as I encountered the couple staying at the shelter a mile or further down the trail out on a day hike. They had three cute and well behaved husky mixes that Remus enjoyed saying hi to.

Near the top of a hill I stopped to snap a quick picture of an interesting trail marker, and then picked up the pace a bit to catch up with Remus.

Just as I was about to catch up with Remus I spotted a porcupine just ahead of us on the trail. Alas, Remus spotted it too, and ignoring my yells pounced on it. Ouch. Remus came zipping back to me with a nice face full of quills, with enough inside his mouth that he was having trouble closing his jaw. Much saddess. I yanked all the ones I could get to inside his mouth as fast as I could with my hands, then dug into my pack to find the small mini-pliers that is in my fix-it-kit. Alas, i had trimmed down the kit a bit on last weekends Kanuti trip, and had not put the pliers back into the kit. No pliers – even more saddness! Attempting to do the best I could in the situation I started pulling the quills out with my fingers as fast as I could. Alas, slimy quills are pretty hard to grip and it was a slow process. After 15 minutes or so of this the other hikers caught up with me and loaned me a leatherman. The woman, who’s name I forgot alas, helped me hold Remus’s lip up while I removed the rest of the quills inside his mouth that I could reach and most of them from the outside of his mouth and nose. The man, Sven, watched from a few feet away holding onto his three dogs. His dogs looked on with wide amazed eyes – watching me yank quills appeared to be making quite an impression on them. After 10 minutes or so we got all the ones I could get out and I gave back the leatherman, thanked the couple, and headed back to the trail head as fast as possible in an attempt to make it to the vet before it closed. Poor Remus was a sad, sad camper.

We made it out and to the vet before they closed, and Remus got the most of remaining quill removed while comfortably sedated. He had quite a few on the inside of his mouth broken off or lying under the skin in his gums that I could not get out, as well as a fair number broken off on the outside of his muzzle. After returning from the vet he spent to the rest of the evening crashed on the floor, so out of it the cat snuck up on him to give him a sniff to make sure he was not dead. The cat normally gives Remus a wide berth as he is pretty high strung and “bouncy like Tigger” as the twins put it, so having him crashed out on the floor insensible was quite a novelty.

While I was writing this I noticed he had a little sharp point on the top of his noise – I pulled at it and it got longer. Another tug and I pulled an inch and a half quill out of the top of his nose. I expect the dequilling processing will be ongoing. I showed the quill to the twins and they were quite impressed.

I feel a rather sorry I didn’t thank the couple with the leatherman more thoroughly – they came by at exactly the right time and saved my day. Next time I will make sure I take a pliers, though I hope that Remus learned his lesson.

More photos: Summit Trail Porky Hike

Bike 0, Ski 1

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Having received my long awaited Fatback, I was very, very antsy to get it out on the trails and give it a spin. I had taken it out on the local trails for several hours of riding and since it was working well decided to take it along on a trip out to Wolf Run cabin in the Whites. The trail conditions report did not bode well, but I assumed (wrongly it turned out ) that with the new snow and the nice weather folks would be out on snow machines enjoying themselves. On the off chance things didn’t pan out I waxed up my skis and tossed a backpack in the back of the truck. This turned out to be a good call. Heike, Christie, Tom, and I headed out of town and off to the trailhead fairly early Saturday morning after a quick stop for coffee at Alaska Coffee Roasters. The roads are much improved now, but still a bit slick so the driving was slow at times but we arrived intact – hurray! The trail leaving the trailhead looked great, so I packed up the bike while the two skiers (Heike and Christie) got ready to go, and Tom the runner took off down the trail. Eventually I got my bike packed and headed out. The first 5 miles or so of the trail were fantastic – hard and fast with a slight dusting of snow. I took it pretty easy getting used to the bike’s handing while fully loaded. Alas, at mile five things got a bit slower – there is a side trail here that heads out towards the Tolovana River, and all the traffic appeared to be taking the side track, with a single snow machine track heading down the trail. The trail was still rideable, but marginally so. Alas, after several hundred feet the snowmachine turned around and that was the end of the packed trail. The rest of the trail had about 5″ of snow on top of a breakable crust on top of a bit more snow, then a packed trail – good for a bike stand but not riding.

The options were to push the bike another 18 miles or head back to the truck and get skis. I was not thinking the 18 mile push-fest in followed by another 18 mile push out the next day was a good first over-nighter on the bike, so I returned for the skis. Tom joined me and we headed back to the truck while the skiers continued down the trail and off to the cabin.

45 minutes or so later I left the trail head again, this time on skis. 4 hours later we caught up with Heike and Christie who had the good sense to bail on the original plan and had stopped at Colorado Creek cabin. The trail between Colorado Creek cabin and Wolf Run cabin appeared to be completely unbroken – it would have been a long hard slog with a couple of tricky route finding sections, so bailing was a good call – we also knew the cabin was unreserved mid week and were fairly sure we would not be putting anyone out. Regardless it was very nice to step inside out of the wind into a warm, bright cabin. We had a relaxing evening goofing off and talking, and after a night’s sleep and a slow morning, headed back out on the trail.

The ski out was much faster as our tracks were mostly still intact and we were back at the trail head surprisingly quickly. Near the end of the day things cleared up a bit and we got some wonderful views of the surrounding hills and the mid afternoon sun.

A big thanks to Christie and Heike for breaking trail and doing all the cabin chores – it was very nice to ski in with all the work done!

More wind, more cold

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I had yet another aborted ski trip in the white mountains.  I had crowberry cabin which is about a 26 mile ski in from either the mile 28 trail head on the Elliot Highway, or roughly the same distance from the trail head on the Steese Highway.  I had been warned that it was going to be pretty cold and windy, but the weather stations in the area said it was around -10f in the hills and windy, and so I decided to give it a try, as I could always just turn around.  Warmer weather was forcast to be arriving on Sunday, so coming back out should be nicer.  I left the trail head at around 10am, well after sunrise.  It was quite windy but fairly warm, around -5f according to my thermometer.  This is fine with me – not too cold even with the wind, and the trail was in great shape. BLM had recently groomed the trail and it still had the corduroy patterns.

It gradually got colder as I got further away from the trail head, and was -15f at Lees. Not too big of a deal, that was still manageable. A couple of miles later, as I looked down a hill where the trail crossed a valley, I noticed some icefog or blowing snow covering the bottom of the valley. Hmm. I skied down the trail and down into the lower section, and wow – the stuff I saw from above was icefog – it was super cold, and very windy. My thermometer was still dropping and reached -35f before I decided to put it away and get moving. This was a little more than I was interested in doing, as there are two more low sections just like this one I would have to cross, so I decided to once again bail and ski back out. Disappointing, yes, but -35f in hard winds would not have been fun.

On the upside, it was a beautiful day out there and in the hills it was quite pleasant.

The sky in particular was quite beautiful.

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.