Posts Tagged ‘windy gap cabin’

Whites tour..

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Interior Alaska has been having a fantastic winter – fairly warm, with just enough snow for skiing and snow biking. With permission from Nancy to disappear for a weekend, I made plans to bike the White Mountains 100 course, staying at Cache Mountain Cabin and Caribou Bluff. The Monday before the trip I did a long (ish – only 50 miles) out to the start of the climb up to the Cache Mt. divide, and determined the trail was in over the divide, but a bit soft – so, as it looked like we could bike the whole loop, the trip was on! Saturday morning, 5 of us heading out down the trail to Cache Mountain Cabin – Morris, Eric, Tom, David, and I, all on bikes. We were going to be joined by several skiers. The bike ride into Cache Mountain Cabin was fantastic – the trail was mostly in great shape, and everyone zoomed along. It was well above 0F for most of the ride in, which is very unusual for January, and we enjoyed it to the fullest!

David, the wheelie king, enjoying the extra wheelie power of his fully loaded Ice Cream Truck.

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David has been enjoying that bike to the fullest..

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Tom is hoping to write up the trip for a magazine, and there was much stopping for photo ops..

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Morris, who is signed up for this year’s ITI, was on brand new Fatback Corbis, fully loaded with carbon goodies and whatsits galore. I was afraid to touch it lest I get bike envy..

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Mid-January days are short here in Interior Alaska, so it wasn’t too long before the sun was setting… During this season it always seems like the sun is either setting or rising, with nothing in between, as the sun doesn’t really get all that high on the horizon.

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The evening at the cabin was uneventful, but fun and social. David showed everyone up by bringing out some homemade pita pizzas there were quite delicious, though Morris’s burrito from Alaska Coffee Rosters was a close second (he gave me half) – yummy! My dinners for this trip were selected off the sale rack at REI – I grabbed whatever freeze-dried meals they had on sale, and for this night, had AlpineAire’s Beef Nachos, which was more like vaguely Tex-Mex soup. Edible, but not enjoyable… the dangers of eating off the discount rack. I had miscalculated my food needs and packed about twice as much food as I needed.

In the morning Morris and Bob took off back to the parking lot, as they had to work Monday. I learned later Morris missed a turn a few miles from the cabin, and came out a different road, about 60 miles from where his car was parked.

The morning was overcast, and fairly warm, with a light snow falling. The trail from Cache Mt. cabin winds up over Cache Mt. divide, then descends though a treeless pass, over a narrow glaciated valley known as the “Ice Lakes” due to all the overflow, and follows Fossil Creek down past Windy Gap cabin to Caribou Bluff cabin, our destination for the day. The trail was in fairly good shape, though some of us resorted to pushing once the climbing started.

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David tried to ride the whole thing, and with his huge knobby tires, made a pretty good go of it..
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Though it didn’t always work out..
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He did ride almost all the way up the pass though, which was pretty darn amazing – the rest of us walked.

The trail was mostly in great shape, though the creek near the last steep climb was open, though only a inch or so deep. I walked across it, David rode..
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And Erica and Tom went around.
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The trail over the divide is one of the least used trails in the Whites. It looked like the last snowmachine on it had been a few days ago, and it was mostly in pretty good shape, though the side trail Erica and Tom took around the water looked suspiciously like it was from the same machine as we had been following, and it had tracks on the main trail as well. That didn’t bode too well and I started worrying they had just gone to the top and turned around.

Soon we reached the top of the pass..

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And headed down. My fears about the traffic all turning around at the top turned out to be unfounded – the trail was in over the top and well used.

The ride down was fun, but fairly soft. I crashed several times, including one complete endo. Alas, just before the ice lakes, my fears were confirmed – the tracks we were following looped around in a circle and headed back up the pass, leaving us several inches of unbroken snow on the trail. This slowed things down a lot, and it was very hard finding firm trail under the soft snow.

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We reached the ice lakes just before the sun was setting…
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I was really looking forward to the ice lakes, as they should be fairly good riding, and free of snow. The mostly free of snow part was right, the good riding part was optimistic – the ice lakes were soft, punchy and wet.

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I fell over once, but didn’t hurt myself – fortunately, wet punchy ice has pretty good traction. Eventually we made it past the ice lakes, where the trail got soft again. It was hard riding, and much pushing. David, who had the biggest, burliest tires and soft snow riding skills, was able to ride more than the rest of us, and quickly disappeared ahead. I think his feet where getting cold, and he was looking forward to being in the cabin. We pushed onward, expecting the trail to improve at the Windy Creek trail, just before Windy Gap cabin. The 8 miles of pushing took a while, but wasn’t the end of the world. I did briefly pick up Erica’s bike, and had instant bike jealousy – it was so, so light! Erica was alas, hurting – she had whacked her knee somewhere along the way, and was in pain. A few miles before the Windy Creek Trail intersection, I got the okay from Tom and Erica to zoom ahead and to the intersection. I took off, and was surprised to hear what I initially thought was a cow moose grunting, but eventually decided was David somewhere ahead. Eventually I reached David, where he was walking his bike. His hub had blown up, and the freehub was only “freewheeling”. After a bit of talk, we decided to go check out Windy Gap cabin, and see if it was free – if it was, we were going to attempt to warm up the hub, in hopes it was just ice inside, though that seemed unlikely, given it was so warm. The cabin turned out to be occupied, but the four people there were amazing – they took David and me in, and before I knew it I had a plate of delicious pulled pork in my hand, and got to warming up the hub.

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(sorry for the bad photo – my camera doesn’t have a flash, alas)

Eventually, after dousing it was hot water repeatedly, it was deemed a lost cause, as the freewheeling was only getting worse, and now it was making grinding noises too. By this point, Tom and Erica had arrived, and they were also welcomed in, and quickly had food thrust into their hands. Erica iced her knee, and we started discussing what to do about David’s broken bike. Remus and Shiloh, the dogs, had wormed themselves inside at this point and were crashed out on the cabin floor, snoozing. David was all for walking out, pushing the bike, but the cabin tenants, Mike, Maureen, Mike and Lynn, quickly insisted that he stay with them, and get a ride out in the morning. They also offered Erica a ride out, but she declined, saying that we were sure to see them the following morning, so if one of us needed to be hauled out we could hitch a ride then. They had four snowmachines and several large sleds, and insisted that they had enough room to haul several of us out without a problem. Eventually we left the Mikes, Maureen, and Lynn with David, and made our way to Caribou Bluff cabin. It was slightly under a 3 hour ride, with a fair number of stops, and I arrived at around 11pm. I was happy to see the cabin was still warm from the previous tenants, though less happy with the bag of smelly trash they also left. After dinner and snacks, we headed off to bed. My other discount dinner of chipotle chicken with noodles was tasty!

The morning arrived, misty with a trace of snow following.

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Erica’s knee was stiff and sore, but she gamely loaded up her bike and headed out.
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The riding was fast, but Erica was still having trouble with her knee.

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Halfway between Caribou Bluff and Borealis cabins the snowmachine rescue party arrived, and Erica decided to hitch a ride out.

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They loaded up Erica and disappeared off down the trail, Tom and I following after, though much, much slower.

The rest of the ride out was uneventful, but scenic.

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The trail was a bit soft, making for slowish riding..
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Though it was almost entirely ridable.

The sunset was awesome and seemed to last forever..
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Tom and I made it back to town, to texts from Erica saying all was well, though her knee was pretty messed up, and an email from Morris who had gotten lost and had a long trip back via a friend’s car to get back to his vehicle.

As a postscript – David’s hub was completely messed up. The drive ring is cracked and all of the pawls are toast, as well as the freehub body being heavily chewed up.
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(photo shameless stolen from David’s Facebook page – hope he doesn’t mind)

I really don’t understand why aluminum alloy freehub bodies are so popular – in my experience they tend to be fragile and quickly mangled by cassettes. In David’s case, it makes even less sense – his bike is heavy steel framed XXL. Give the size, one assumes it is mostly going to be ridden by large people. Large people are extra hard on freehubs, and are not (or at least shouldn’t) be concerned with the difference a steel vs an alloy freehub body would make. As I write this, David has a hub headed his way from QBP, which is nice of them. Hopefully this will not happen again for him, as it could have been a long, 40 mile walk out. Freehubs seem like such an important part of a bike – when they break you go from riding to walking. It is hard to imagine why bike designers think the small weight tradeoff is worth it.. The hub is a salsa branded hub 190mm hub, and it makes even less sense from that perspective – the only bike in their product line it fits on is the Blackborow, which is bike aimed at exploring, not racing. Hopefully this is just a one-off thing, though I doubt it, given all the trouble some of the larger local riders have had with other salsa hubs.

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying a fantastic winter, and getting lots of outside play time!

A huge thank you to Mike, Maureen, Mike and Lynn – you guys saved our butts. It was truly wonderful to be welcomed into Windy Gap cabin by such friendly faces. And that pulled pork – it was the best I have ever had! Nice folks like you guys make Alaska what it is. Thanks for being who you are!

Wandering in the Whites..

Monday, March 19th, 2012

With the Whites 100 only a week away, Tom, Remus, and I decided to do a last minute overnight trip to Caribou Bluff cabin to check out the race course. I was on the snow bike, and Tom was on skis. It was a wonderful trip, with nice weather and fantastic biking. The trails were in great shape..

There was minimal traffic on the trails and I only saw two parties of snow machiners, otherwise I had the whole place to myself. There were occasional signs of other users though..

The ride in was fast and I decided to go a bit further and check out the trail heading out of Wind Gap. This was the first time I traveled this trail in this direction, and the views were pretty spectacular.

I turned around near Windy Gap Cabin and headed back to Caribou Bluff where I caught up with Tom and mellowed out. We had a nice evening of goofing off and lounging, and eventually hit the sack. I woke up around 2am to a wonderful display of the aurora, though I was not motivated enough to get up and grab the camera. In the morning we headed out. It was a slow ride for me on the way out, as the 50 mile ride the day before apparently was a bit too much for Remus the dog and he was quite sore.

So we took our time on the way out, taking photos and enjoying the nice weather.

The ride out was uneventful, though I did pass some folks from BLM picking up stuff off the side of the trail. Apparently a guided mushing group ran into some sort of trouble and had to be medivac-ed out by the Alaska State Troopers. The more details can be found here: . Fortunately no one seems to have been hurt.

The overflow this year appears to be fairly manageable, though there was one section of wet overflow that was maybe two inches deep. It was all easily ridden on the snow bike though, so long as I kept the speeds down and was careful.

If the trails are like this for the race we should see record times for the folks on bikes and on foot, and possibly the skiers too, though the snow was fairly cold and slow. Good luck to the racers this weekend!

The White Mountains Loop

Friday, February 19th, 2010

On a sunny and warm Sunday morning, Ms Marsh, Tom, and I set off to do a leisurely ski of the White Mountains 100 course. Our plan was to ski the first day to Crowberry Cabin, then on to Windy Gap cabin, then out. This would make for two fairly mellow days and one longish day, approximately 26 miles, 34 miles, then a 40 mile day – all very doable. I was really looking forward to the section from Cache Mountain Cabin to Windy Gap Cabin, as I have never traveled this area before and was told it was quite beautiful. The other factor is that I would probably end up doing this section in the dark and would like to have some idea about the trail before attempting to blast though it at high speed by headlamp.

The first day started quite pleasantly, with a fast trail and wonderfully sunny and warm weather.

It was a bit too hot for Remus, alas. He is really only happy in sub 0f weather.

We zoomed down the trail and eventually stopped for a bite to eat at Moose Creek cabin. We passed two snowmachiners on the trail and a solo skier, but other wise we had the trail to our selves. The trail was super smooth and fast and made for fantastic skiing.

Once past Moose Creek cabin the trail climbs up a ridge and winds though a several year old burn and offered us fantastic views.

We reached Crowberry after a little under 7 hours of skiing which included a fair bit of stopping and goofing off. This was my first trip to the new Crowberry cabin. Its a new design without a loft, but it is quite spacious and has tons of room. We had a fantasic evening reading varous magizines including a road bike racing magazine that seemed quite out of place. Tom amused us by reading excerpts from a snow machining pamphlet, which espoused the many virtues of snowmaching (creating world peace and curing cancer, for example).

After a huge dinner we hustled off to bed, eagerly awaiting the alarm summing us to a early start the next morning (some of us anyway).
The next day turned out to be equally warm and sunny, and after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon we where off. The trail out of the cabin was a continuous drop all the way to Beaver Creek. Tom added a bit more “drop” and had a tremendous crash on one of the downhills that did in one of this bindings. Tom then had the distinct pleasure of skiing the rest of the trip with one floppy loose binding.
The trail got progressively rougher as we headed to Cache Mt Cabin, with lots of exposed tussocks. These sections where fairly short though and most of the skiing was quite good.

We encountered our first bit of overflow shortly after crossing Beaver Creek. It was short and dry though, and was quite fast and fun to ski though. I was using my skinny racing style skis, and don’t get too much edging power on overflow, and so have to be careful. If only someone made stiff, narrow, metal edged (or partial metal edged) skis..

We reached Cache Mt Cabin and stopped in to read the log book and have bite to eat. Several years ago I left a book here as a joke, ‘Develop Your Psychic Abilities‘ and it was still here. Strangely, a another book I had left in the cabin as a joke, “The Instant Divorce”, was gone – go figure.
Past Cache Mt Cabin the overflow got a bit more intense, but was still quite passable.

We were now on a section of the trail that I had never skiied, and I was enjoying exploring the area. This section of trail climbs for 12 miles or so, then comes over Cache Mt Divide, and drops down to Windy Gap. The trail up into the divide offered great views and was not particularly steep until the final sections.

The divide was quite scenic and had wonderful views of the surrounding ridges.

I could have spent days exploring this area, but alas we had still had 14 miles or so to go before we reached the cabin, so we didn’t stop very long.

The trail away from the divide was fast and fun – just steep enough for some high speed skiing but not so steep as to be uncontrollable. We reached soon reached the section of trail called the “ice lakes”, where the trail disappears in small valley with wall to wall ice.

A warning to racers in the upcoming White Mountains 100 race – this section was the only section of the trail that was a bit scary for me. I skied most of it, and was out of control for a good portion of the time. The ice has a slight slant to it, and where it is slushy it is very easy to ski under control. Where the ice is hard though, it is very difficult to slow down. Twice I ended up plowing into alders at high speed when I could not slow down. I would treat this section with caution and ovoid the temptation to bomb it, unless you have skis with metal edges.

Tom and Ms Marsh put on stylish bags and yak-traks on their feet and walked this section.

After leaving the ice lakes, the most fun of trail begin (at least for me) – the trail gradually drops down to Windy Gap, winding though big trees and going over a endless series of woop-a-doos. This made for a very fun 9 miles or so of double poling. Eventually we reached Windy Gap Cabin and crashed for the night. The next morning we headed out, and started out with a long section of ice. I skied this section while Tom and Marsh walked it. The skiing was fun and super fast.

The next 10 miles of trail winded though large trees and crosses Fossil Creek numerous times. The first 5 miles or so was a fun roller coaster with lots of small rolling ups and downs which made for fun and fast skiing.

There were a couple of sections of brief overflow. These were pretty hard frozen and dry making for fun skiing. These sections could be a bit tricky during the race when I am sleep deprived.

The ridges in this area are fantastically beautiful.



This section included one of the more interesting trail finds I have encountered – there was a partially eaten wolf or long legged dog carcass on the side of the trail.

Sections of this trail had a huge number of wolf prints – it appeared a small pack of wolves had followed a creek down to the trail then followed the trail up to the windy gap area. There was a couple of bird kills marked by a large cloud of feather so it looked like the wolves were having fairly good hunting.
Eventually we broke out of the thick forest and into a old burn and soon we were past Caraboo Bluff cabin and on the hilly descent to Borealis Cabin.

Shortly after Borealis-LeFevre Cabin we ran into the BLM trail groomers on their way out to Wolf Run cabin, then to Windy Gap Cabin and out. They left the trail wonderfully smooth and fast.

It was getting a bit late, so we pushed on to the trail shelter, had dinner, and then headed out to the parking lot.

When I reached the parking lot I was greeted by a bunch of Japanese visitors waiting in the parking lot for aurora to photograph. Tom and I made it to the truck first, and waited a while for Ms Marsh to arrive. We had a number of false alarms when we thought we had seen Marsh’s head lamp, only to find it was the aurora watchers taking pictures of things with super bright flashes. Things like the trail signs, trees, the ground, and a pile of straw… there was no aurora to be seen, so perhaps they were making the best of things.

All in all it was a quite fun three days and we got to ski the entire course. Skiing the course is highly recommended for racers – there is no place where anyone with any direction sense could get lost, but there are a few sections were you have to be careful due to ice lakes, overflow, steep descents, and other tricky bits, and its good to get a feel for it before attempting it in a sleep deprived hase.