Husky House

Posts Tagged ‘cross country skiing’

Skiing in Denali Park

I have been dreaming about Denali Park ever since our end of season visit there for the Road Lottery drive-in September 19th.  On Friday everything fell into place (nice weather, daylight, time) and we left the boys at Muttessori, threw the backcountry skis and a bunch of junk food in the Jeep and made our merry way to the Park.  The roads in the hills by our house still wear an inch of ice from the Thanksgiving week icepocalypse, and we were a bit concerned about the highway, but it was clear and dry once we were several miles out of Fairbanks.  It was a picture perfect day:  sunny, clear, cloudless, blue sky and 30 degrees in the Park!  Mt McKinley was basking in the sunshine.

The easy access to the Riley Creek was blocked off by a construction storage yard, so we had to work our way through the woods down a narrow, winding, snowshoe trail.  A snowshoe can meander through the woods on a lot tighter trail than can 6 foot long skis, so after a while, I took off my skis and walked.  The snow was punchy and I kept sinking up to my knees or higher.  For that reason, Bill kept his skis on, carefully and slowly negotiating the trail.  He is more patient than I.  The snow on Riley Creek was deep, and the only trail was at least a foot deep and also originally made by snowshoes, and used by skiers. The warmest kick wax I have is VR55, just short of sticky klister, and it was somewhat effective in the shade (in the beginning), but slippery in the sun.  I didn’t take the time to put a binder on the skis, and that would have helped preserve the wax, but nothing was going to cut into my time in the sun in the Park.  Despite being a lot more challenging than we had anticipated, we enjoyed the skiing and savored being in the Park in mid March.  I had skied Riley Creek by myself last March, and it was perfect in every way.  There was only one ski track going up the creek and it was easy to follow, allowing me to easily ski farther up Riley Creek than we did Friday, but any day in the Park is a good day!  Rather than retrace the snowshoe trail back to the Jeep, we skied back to the train station and walked about a mile down the Park Road to the Jeep.

The Denali Park Spring Road Opening is underway, and  the countdown to opening the road to private vehicles has begun!  Oh how I would love to ride along in one of the dozers!  In about a month we will be able to drive as far as Teklanika, until the tourist season begins around Memorial Day weekend and the Park Road is restricted beyond savage River.

Snow blowing across the Parks Highway as we passed through Healy on the way to Denali

Bill skiing up Riley Creek

Bill climbing out of a snow hole on Riley Creek

Me taking a photo on Riley Creek

This was a long slippery climb, next time I'll use the binder before waxing!

There are more photos in my gallery.

March Madness Alaska Style

There is more than one kind of March Madness, and the one I am talking about is not at all associated with college hoops, rather the wonderful March weather and our  mad attempt to cram in all sorts of outdoor activities in the snow.  Sure you can do these activities all winter, but not under the brilliant sunshine and relative warmth and comfort of March.  Snowmachining: perfect.  Skiing: perfect.  Skijoring: perfect. Running: perfect.  As I grow somewhat wiser with age, or perhaps just lackadaisical, I am becoming a fair weather person.  For a long time I would run despite the winter weather; 40, 50, 60 below, bring it on, it was a challenge I relished, and there was plenty of it during our days at Eielson AFB.  Twenty years later, 20 below is my cut-off for daily running, but I will run every other day, no matter what, for the welfare of the boys (as well as our sanity), they must get out.  I am not so foolhardy as to believe that winter is over, but I am enjoying every day while this wonderful weather lasts. So when March arrives, and the severest weather is behind us for another season, we rejoice with jubilant madness and play!

Some major March events around Fairbanks include the Limited and Open North American Sleddog Races, the World Ice Art Championships and Nenana Days, when the ice classic tripod is planted in the ice on the Tanana River.

On Sunday we rode our snowmachines down the Tanana River and into the Rosie Creek area.  It was lots of fun and we found a powder meadow to play in with Bill’s Crossfire 800.  The Crossfire is so powerful it virtually floats on powder with very little effort, easily conquering terrain where I wouldn’t venture with my Arctic Cat 500.

Bill enjoying a powder meadow on his Arctic Cat Crossfire 800

Monday Bill and I skied at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, and the trails were groomed to perfection.  Speaking of Creamer’s Field, in another month the first migratory Canada goose will touch down, signifying (hopefully) the end of another long winter.

Bill enjoying a March ski at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

I'm pretty sure I did that move (on the lower sign) when I was skijoring with Pelly and ET at North Star Golf Course yesterday

The next couple days were reserved for quality time with the boys, and on Tuesday we took them running at the University.  On Wednesday we skijored with them at North Star Golf Course and today we ran with them at home.  The skijoring was phenomenal, the boys amazing.  I never know what to expect when I hook up the boys and get behind them on my skis.  I had Pelly and ET; Pelly (like Clem) is a workhorse and ET is a slacker, often affectionately called lazybones.  Bill had Clem and Dawson.  To say the boys were ready to roll is an understatement.  It was all we could do to hold them back while we got into our skis, which took much longer than it should have because of this multitasking.  Since the golf course is primarily used by the Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association , the overabundance of scents drove the boys crazy, hyping them more than they already were.  Clem and Dawson claimed the first victory, dragging Bill full speed across the parking lot and launching him into the first bush at the trailhead.  At this point, I could no longer hold back my duo and off we went full speed down the trail.  While they respond well to Gee and Haw (right and left), “Whoa” is often not an option.  I can honestly say I have never skied this fast, and I have never seen ET run with such gusto.  It was a “kill mommy”  moment, but an absolutely beautiful site.  About three quarters of a mile down the trail, still going warp speed, Pelly stopped on a dime to “answer the call” and there was no way I could stop, so over the top I went, landing with a thud (see the sign above).  Eventually, after we each collected ourselves, Bill and I joined up on the trail.  We had a great time, and I can’t wait to do it again, hopefully minus the thud.

There are more photos in my Winter 2010-2011 album in my gallery.

Both Creamer’s Field and North Star Golf Course are meticulously groomed by volunteers from the Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association.

Skiing the Tanana River

Super Bowl Sunday,what better day for a girl to grab her skis and head off down the Tanana River.  It was sunny, peaceful, beautiful and quiet.  On a normal Sunday, the parking area at the river launch is crowded with vehicles and snowmachine trailers, but this was Super Bowl Sunday, and all the testosterone was lounging in front of a TV somewhere.  Beautiful!  It was an interesting outing, and although most of what little traffic I encountered on the river was female, it was varied.  There were a couple other skiers, several skijorers, two bikers with a dog running along, two snowmachines and a dog team.

When they are running, dog teams are quiet, and they can sneak up on you.  I was merrily skiing along when all of a sudden I heard a dog panting behind me, and by the time I turned to look, the lead dogs of a dog team where at my side.  This is the closest I have been to a dog team running full speed, and the closest I have been to being run over by a team.  I yelled “sorry!” to the guy, thinking I had somehow been in his way, but as I watched him zip off down the river, I thought, “what was he thinking?”  As you can see in the photos, the river is wide and there was ample room for him to pass me at a safe distance.  I didn’t even have the opportunity to take a photo!

Skiing on the Tanana River on a beautiful day

Just another beautiful day in paradise

At the end of my shadow is a skijorer

This looks like fun!

Skiing a New Trail

With freshly waxed skis in tow, we headed out yesterday to ski a new trail.  We didn’t know anything about the trail, except where it was, so we left the boys home so we could scout it to see if it was fitting for them and us together (skijoring).  I am not good at picking the best kick wax for conditions, and yesterday was no exception. That is why I liked my skate skis without wax, I could manage to push my way through all conditions.  We choose the Madshus backcountry touring skis, which considering the wrong kick wax, worked as good as anything.  The trail was a mushing trail and despite the November ice storm and relative lack of snow, was hard packed but in great condition.  In retrospect, I think we should have taken the trail to the immediate right, but we stayed on the main trail, which paralleled the Parks Highway and went up and down, but mostly up on the outbound, and for the most part, stayed out of sight of the highway.  I believe where we turned around was opposite the Parks Monument.  I can now say that I have both biked and skied up that long hill.  The terrain was not bad, but without the proper wax, it was a slip and slide (not glide) experience.  It reminded me of kayaking upstream; paddle for all you are worth for what seems like forever, then turn around and ride the current downstream in what seems like only minutes.  Despite that, I enjoyed the afternoon and the trail and I would do it again, hopefully with better grip.  I am undecided  about skijoring the dogs on the trail, there’s a lot of downhill and dogs love to run downhill, and there are no brakes on skis!  It was a beautiful day, and after skiing, we drove out to the Parks Monument to view Mt McKinley at sunset.

Bill skiing on the new trail

One of the few relatively flat sections of the trail as it follows along the Parks Highway

Mt McKinley at sunset from the Parks Monument

Skiing at Last!

Today I finally rounded up all my gear (really had to hunt for the boots) and went skiing at Creamer’s Field solo, just me, no boys.  I always need at least one solo outing before hooking up the boys.  I decided to use Bill’s skate skis instead of mine, since his had not been used since they were waxed several years ago and mine are in dire need of waxing.  We have about 4 inches of new powder on the trails on top of crud from the warm weather earlier in the week.  I was excited to be out and ready to skate!   However, my first few attempts at gliding told me this was going to be a workout, the skis had NO glide.  About half way around the front field I saw a skier and a skijorer going the opposite direction on a parallel trail in the woods and decided to follow in their tracks.  It was so much easier than breaking trail, and I think I had finally abraded  enough of the accumulated grime from the skis that I started to get some glide and even  managed to skate a bit, not pretty, but functional.  All the skis are  in the back of the Jeep to take to get cleaned and waxed before my next go.   Despite that, I had a great time, thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and beauty of winter and can’t wait to ski again.

ET update:   ET is much better, the Rimadyl and antibiotics are doing their job on his broken toenail and he is no longer limping. He was prancing with his tail high on his walk this morning  and playing with the other boys.  It’s so good to see him back to normal.

Skijor signs at Creamer's Field

Trail through the woods at Creamer's Field

Snow covered bridge at Creamer's Field