Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Flying High in Valdez

Two weeks ago I was in Valdez for a few days working on a couple projects for work. If I had done nothing else but work 12 hour days, it would have been an incredible trip, but oh-no, not when the sun is shining like it was.

The 45-minute morning flight from ANC to VDZ was non-stop eye candy. Then, on the 15 minute drive to the Terminal, a brown bear sow was feeding on pink salmon galore at Solomon Creek.

Pink salmon trying to get around the weir, a device used to count fish as they swim upstream.

Jump'n humpy.

Momma and her brood.

Fish on.

After work activities entailed running the XC trails in Mineral Canyon and the ridge line trail behind the high school one day, and flying up to the glacial headwaters of Gold Creek to do a little hiking with Joe and his third, Kai.

Joe's Super Cub.

The small Gold Creek Glacier wasn't much for the heat, and was melting away.

What remains of last winter's snow.

Sun behind the peaks and headed back.

Out toward a foggy Prince William Sound.

Looking for sharp rocks before take off.

Kai was all smiles the whole time except for the second Joe took this pic. Who could blame him for being a happy kid though? Kai loves planes, big boats, snowballs, and I've never seen a toddler get so excited to spot goats.
Thanks again for the flight and the hike Joe, it was a great time!

Friday, August 2, 2013

C-Re-D, and other Kenai rides

C-Re-D is a 54-mile link-up of Crescent Lake, Resurrection Pass, and Devils Pass trails.
As far as Kenai link-ups go, this one is pretty straight forward, and in good conditions, can be knocked out pretty easily.
In this particular ride, I started at the Devils Pass Trail Head, and rode south a few miles on the Seward Highway, swinging a right on the Sterling Highway to the Tern Lake Day Use Area (NOTE: Don’t take the “exit” off the Seward to the Sterling as this will take you past the day use area and require crossing three lanes of potential traffic and backtracking, but use caution riding through the exit lane to stay on the Seward, as drivers may not be looking).
From the the day use area, the Old Sterling Highway leads westward. This mostly single-lane reverted jeep trail is pretty hilly,though climbs probably don’t exceed 200 vertical feet, and is the type of trail that will have plenty of puddles is there’s been much recent rain. It’s also probably traversed more by bears than humans.
After about 5.25 miles, the Old Sterling Highway turns into Crescent Creek Road at the Crescent Lake Trail Head.
The C-Re-D route does an out-and-back to the Lake on the 6.5-mile (one-way) trail.

Blooming Fireweed on Crescent.

Loon on a Lake

Back at the trail head, the route continues 2.5 miles westerly on Crescent Lake Road to the Sterling Highway.
The next 3.25 miles are the worst part of this route, and require riding the shoulder-less and twisty section of the Sterling Highway on the north shore of Kenai Lake. There’s no sugar-coating this section, it’s not fun. Keep your head on a swivel and your ears open. Fortunately, on a mountain bike, it may be possible to ride the gravel shoulder in places, and at some point, an ATV path appears and parallels the north side of the road. Even though it’s a bit loose and gravely, it’s a safer bet to hop on this until the road pops back out in Cooper Landing.
Swing a right onto Bean Creek Road, and ride this a few miles to Slaughter Gulch Road.  The latter is gravel, and gains a good chunk of elevation,. The start of Bean Creek Trail is a bit nebulous and not the most clearly marked compared to Crescent, or Devils Pass Trail, but there are key signs along the steadily devolving road that read “trail” and point the rider in the right direction.
Bean Creek Trail is a short, gradual, and wide connector that hooks into Resurrection. Follow Res about 12.5 miles through the Juneau Creek Valley and up the benches to the Devils Pass Junction. Go-getters can tack on a few more miles and ride out-and-back to Res Pass, or turn this into about a 60-mile ride by heading out-and-back to the Hope Over Look (unmarked, but very obvious, which will tack on about 4 and 8 additional miles, round trip, respectively, from the junction.
Devils Pass Jct ahead.
Otherwise, swing right on Devils Pass, and follow it about 10 miles back to it’s head on the Seward Highway.

Ride Notes
Distance: 54 miles
Vertical: 4,600 gross
Launch Point: I launched this from Devils Pass TH, but really, it’s a matter of convenience. I got a late start, so I wanted to get spinning as soon as possible. A big perk of using this TH is that it puts the main area for water refills mid-way through (see Water). Other start points could include Tern Lake Day Use Area, Crescent Lake TH, Kenai Lake Boat Launch and Day Use Area, or Bean Creek Trail Head, to name a few.
Routing: I hit this clockwise. The benefit of this is that one of the pavement stretches (Seward Highway) is mostly downhill. Another perk, is that while I’m not a huge fan of the Devils Pass Trail on its own, it is a pretty nice trail to end a long ride on, as I learned a few weeks ago (R the D's J). That being said, it’s also a pretty sweet climb in that it’s no nonsense. I’m also more of a fan of climbing dirt roads than descending them, so I don’t mind the climb on Slaughter Gulch Road and Bean Creek Trail. Neither of these two sections are that inspiring coming back down. Again though, it’s a matter of convenience, and it’s probably worth taking into consideration other factors like time of day, traffic, and weather.
Time: This ride took me a tad over 5 hours elapsed. Other than some really quick stops to make minor adjustments, I only got off the bike twice: Once at Crescent Lake, and again at Swan Lake, both times to stretch out a bit. I took lunch on the roll on Crescent Lake Road headed to Cooper Landing.
Difficulty: As far as link-ups go, this is probably one of the easiest. Crescent Lake has a few, fun, techy features, but that’s about it. While the amount of pavement is pretty limited compared to some of the other link-ups, there’s still a lot of fast-rolling, non-technical double and singletrack. A big factor however, is recent precipitation. Both Old Sterling Highway and large sections of Resurrection are easily flooded and muddied, and this can turn what would otherwise be fast segments into less-enjoyable puddle pounding. As with any long ride on the Kenai, a rear fender at the least is never a bad idea.
Rig Choice: I did this on my Scott Scale 910, which was perfect. The TranceX would have been fun on Crescent, but a chore the rest of the way.
Water: The Kenai Lake Boat Launch and Day Use Area as well as Sunrise Lodge and Wildmans are all potential sources of water. The former is public, the latter two are private, so be polite and ask or make a purchase. Of course, on-the-trail water treatment is always an option, and in cooler weather, this ride should be doable without a re-fill (it was tapping the 80s on my ride).

Adam and I rode the Lost Lake Loop on Saturday. No pics, but the trail is in really great shape for the most part. I would say the most improvement has been in the Seward section of the Iditarod Trail (east side of the road). Trail crews did a lot of work on the Bear Lake Section in particular. In some ways, they may have "over-fixed" what was one of the most technical trails on the Kenai, but I won't complain, and I suspect nature will run its course all over that trail. I wouldn't call our pace "hammering," but we easily finished this loop faster than we usually do, and I got a flat in the alpine near the Lake, so go figure.

Sunday, I was starting to feel pretty worked over, but the sun was still shining. I caught up with Cody, Kellie, and Liz, and we rode from Lost Lake to Primrose TH with a car at either end. I'll let the pics do the talking.

Lizzy, big smile, big pit was another hot day.


Adam and I didn't see many runners on Saturday, but the trail was busy on Sunday.

Lizzy and Kellie.

Ya...we don't have any fun out there (Photo courtesy LP)
Is it next weekend yet?