Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Night Flight

Weekdays can be fun, but it's been a long time since any weekday activities have made it to the Trail. Time to end that streak.
I was in Valdez for work Tuesday and Wednesday. Foul weather almost kept me on the ground in Anchorage, but the plane was able to make it through the banks of Prince William Sound fog.
Later Tuesday night, I went for a run up Mineral Creek, just outside "downtown" Vdz, under parting skies. That would have been a pretty nice night, made only better by feeding my tired legs with some fresh halibut and my eyes with views of the Valdez harbor, when I got a text from my boss in Valdez, Joe about going for an evening flight.
Joe, born and raised in Valdez, has a Super Cub he uses to explore the lonely beaches and ridges of the sound. PWS is a pretty inaccessible area, buried deep in snow for most of the year, and covered by dense vegetation the rest, but from the air, it's there for the taking.

We left the airport around 8:30, and covered a lot of ground for the short amount of daylight left, checking out valleys, ridges, and bays; spotting goats; putting down on the Columbia Glacier; and having a little fun skimming down low over sea, snow, and rock. We made it back just a bit before midnight and had to turn the lights on on the runway to land.

We circled over Robe Lake and made a fly-by of Joe's sister's house. When we came back by she was out waving. It's a small town. Above are the swirls of sockeye that were less excited to see us at the inlet to the lake. The spawners must have thought we were the biggest eagle they'd laid eyes on.

Flying up Solomon Lake.

The Valdez Marine Terminal, the end of the trans Alaska pipeline, with the Alaskan Explorer in port.

Allison Lake, elevation 1,354, still covered in ice on July 24. Read that again and think about it...

Jack Bay.

Turner Lake.

An icy Columbia Bay. The bergs have broken from the Columbia Glacier.

Joe and his wings on a branch of the Columbia Glacier. We put down to stretch our legs a bit. No surprise, it was pretty cold.

Joe, throwing rocks off the ice. The rocks are sharp and jagged, well worth avoiding.

Where the ice meets the sea.

Too bad there's no perspective here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer of the Resurrection

It's taken five years, but it looks like the riding season of 2007 is finally going to step down from its throne as my strongest season pushing pedals. I plugged some numbers for the month of June, and it looks like I set a personal record of 560 miles logged (15 came from running, thanks Keith), just less than 50% of that on dirt too.It's been a long time since 2007, and it's time to move on.

Numbers are just numbers though, what counts is the riding, and that has been great. Brian and I drove down to the Kenai last Friday afternoon and stopped off at the Res Pass TH in Cooper to dump water before doubling back to Moose Pass to do a 14 mile round trip ride from the south end of Johonson Pass to Johnson Creek, The trail was in fantastic shape, no mud and only a bit weedy in the usual places. It was pretty sweet to be hammering Kenai single track after work too.
After the ride we headed to Sharon and Dave's cozy little cabin in Moose Pass and fueled up for a big day with lasagna, Mooses Tooth pizza and liquid carbs.

Saturday dawned a bit gray, and we all headed about an hour north and west to Hope and up the hill to the Res Pass north TH.
The game plan for Brian and I was to ride from Hope and back. A big crew of folks were out though, all doing different point-to-point legs and out-and-backs on Res and Devils, so it felt social in a way, even though everyone was sort of doing their own thing.

Brian rides over East Creek.


Looking north from the Hope overlook, the skies beginning to part.

Nearing the pass, looking north.

Cue Robin Williams: "not with a straight stick, with a little fucked up stick."

Wild flowers going nuts on the south-facing benches above Swan Lake. Note the large drift of snow covering the trail a quarter mile distant. It's the last patch left on Res, and could still be a few feet thick. Devils still has several slide paths covered.

Can't get enough of this view.

We made it to Cooper landing under sunny skies, but on the return, a storm came tearing out of the south, and by the time we hit Swan lake the sky was spittng. At the pass, temps dropped to 47 and it was nasty, but we got through the alpine and made it back below tree line. The trail was so try to begin with even the rain didn't make things too bad.

Ride stats. "Time" in the upper left is pedal time only, elapsed time was 10 hours.

Despite the rain, the mud never got too bad.
 Two weekends ago I went down to fish camp. Fishing was slow, and consisted of flipping for reds and driftng for trout, but anytime on a boat is time well spent as far as I'm concerned.

Slow fishing means taking a few pictures.

We started our Thursday morning with a dead tree dislodging from the bank and falling into the boat. Who needs coffee?

Torpedo Creek

Sockeye on cream cheese bagels for lunch. We roll in style.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


The launch of the Tour de France always seems to launch me into a cycling frenzy. Maybe it's the sight of lycra in mainstream media, or the frequent use of the word peloton, I don't know, but as if I wasn't fired up on riding it was, the Tour always gets me going even a bit more so, and for a few weeks I pretend like I care about professional cycling. By the race's end I'll be back out of the loop and on the down swing, but hey, I'll ride this wave, it's a good one.

It's not to say that riding has been anything less than great so far this year though. The trails in town have been in great shape. Down south, the Kenai has been slow to thaw and get logged out after a brutal winter. I hit the Russian hard starting in early June, first as an out and back (see, then the following week railing the Sharon S rendition of the Russian Loop ( solo in 4:15, anf finally again two weeks ago in 85-degree heat with Ethan, Brian, and Mike C.
By the last trip, vegetation was getting handle bar high in some places and in the bright sun, lots of people got burns from the poisonous cow parsnip that weekend. I missed out on that fun somehow.
I love Russian, and it makes me sad the Forest Service won't send a crew through there with a wheeler to crush down the obnoxious by weak-structured plant, or weed whack it, but so be it, the Forest Service has had their hands full this season trying to open trails that were covered in blow downs from the big winds of winter. Sections of trails were reported to have over 10 trees down per mile, which, when you do the math on trails that run in the 10's of miles, well, it's a lot of work.

Anyhow, this past weekend, finally tired of Russian, and with the other Kenai springtime classic Johnson Pass still blocked off with over 30 trees down in a 3 mile stretch in the middle, it was time to get creative.
Brian and Ethan wanted to do a short ride, but they really wanted to try and catch reds at the Russian River. Meanwhile, I wanted to do a big ride, and Adam was game. I could have just driven down alone and met with Adam, but it seemed silly for Brian, Ethan and I to all drive down in two cars when we were leaving from the same address.
We ultimately came up with a pretty cool ride. We started with the four of us at Crescent Lake TH. Neither Brian nor Ethan had done the 6.5-mile out-and-back since it's too short a ride to justify a day drive down too, but it was perfect since they had other plans. Crescent was in excellent shape, with one patch of snow in a usual slide zone and heaps of blooming wildflowers.
When we got back down to the TH, we split ways, with Ethan and Brian taking the car to Russian River to fish and Adam and I heading east on the Old Sterling Highway. This turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day, as though I was expecting flat, this old mostly one-lane trail was in fact very hilly. I wouldn't call it fun in a conventional sense, but it beat the heck out of riding the shoulder of the real Sterling Highway. At Tern Lake and the Seward-Sterling Highway Y, we decided to head north a bit and take Devils Pass to Resurrection Pass Trail back down to Cooper, where we could ride up to Russian River, find my car, and go drop Adam off.
I don't know why this ride option never clicked, but wow, it was great. There were lots of people out riding on Devils and Res even though it wasn't nearly as bright and sunny as the previous week. Devils Pass still had over a half dozen mostly large snow fields, but big snowfields are better then tiny one so they weren't as bothersome. Res Pass Trail from Devils Pass Cabin down to Juneau Lake was in excellent condition, and the wildflower show in the passes continued. Sadly, blueberry, alder, and cottonwood inch-worm defoliation is noticeable, especially higher up, and the fall may not be so brilliant yet again.
Every stream was at bankful, and Juneau Lake was up over the trail. The lower section was muddy and appeared to have been hit with more rain than farther up. That section is often a mess though.
We ended up with an elapsed time of nearly 8 hours. What a great day.

I've been forgetting my camera recently, or sometimes just choosing not to take it out, so the only pics are from 2 weeks ago with Ethan, Brian and Mike on Russian.

This is a sight that will not often be seen: wading into Upper Russian Lake. Just two weekends prior the wind was whipping so hard off the water we barely hung out here for more than 5 minutes. This time the 85-degree temps made the ice-cold water refreshing as can be.

Brian on the shore of a bankful Russian River.

Columbine. The plentiful sun and moisture has made it a great year for wildflowers. One of the best I've seen yet.