Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Split Ends

Spring got an early start this weekend, and in two days I felt like I had at least four days’ worth of fun.

Split days are something I associate with mid-April onward. Depending on the snow cover, and how late into spring it is, it usually means morning skate/crust skis on trails or alpine valleys that are cold and firm, and afternoon corn carving, road biking, or mountain biking.
The first weekend of March is awfully early for thinking about spilt days – I’d rather focus my attentions on the singular pursuit of powder – but the daylight is more than plentiful for double dipping.

I started Saturday morning with a ripping good ride in the Moose Range in Palmer with John. John deftly guided me through the sometimes confusing system, steering my studless steed away from areas that featured large swaths of glare ice or vertebrae clattering moose cobbles – forget the northern European spring classics, refrozen moose tracks make the medieval pavestones looks smooth.
Studs are definitely optimal for this area for the un-initiated, but a thin, tacky layer of hoar frost covered the hard packed snow and occasional patch of ice, providing a surprising amount of traction. A regular mountain bike with studs would have been optimal for 90% of the system.
The morning sun was brilliant, and we cruised across the Range’s northern perimeter, rolling speedily between tunnel-like spruce corridors, mixed birch forests, and open meadows dotted with clusters of big cottonwoods. The terrain consists of low ridges and flat swamps, with short, steep climbs.
The meadows were the nicest in my opinion. There, the morning sun was strong – strong enough to provide warmth – and a surprising number of birds were chirping away.
We hit the east end of the Range, rolled a short distance down Murphy Road, and wove our way back toward Fishhook.
John kept the tempo high through the ride. If anyone wants to loan me their kid and a chariot, I think I’ve developed my new training plan for 2014. Lily Ann has been a great training partner for him.

I could have been more than happy with just the ride, but Cody arrived not long after I got back, and around 1:30 we headed up the hill.
Again, the first weekend of March is very early to be thinking about corn, but the complete lack of appreciable snowfall in hatchers since early January, multiple freeze/thaw events, wind events, and 45 degree temps recorded on Marmot Ridge on Thursday, lead me to believe that south and west aspects could soften on Saturday.
That being said, I was skeptical. I expected to find softer conditions on sloped terrain near the parking lot, and increasing crustiness/boilerplate higher up.
To our extreme pleasure, I was wrong. The main skinner ridge and the west fins were creamy and soft. If anything, the lower elevation terrain closer to the car park skied the worse, though more a factor of its lesser slope angle.
Nathan was also on the slope, and had started early and synced up with a crew visiting from New Hampshire.
These east coast visitors reminded us that even in what we consider to be a severely sub0-standard winter, is still comparable to what the vast majority of the Lower 48 would refer to as “epic.”
It was reassuring.
I’m not a lover of corn, but I’ll take any day I can get in the mountains this year, and when we headed down the hill, I was spotted a bike heading up and suddenly remembered that I had done a fantastic ride only a couple hours ago.
Saturday was so fun, that John and I did a repeat on Sunday, tacking on a few extra miles of trail on the Range’s southern perimeter just because it was so damned nice, before heading back up the hill to continue the early corn harvest in the afternoon.

Similar video of John on Sunday: LINK

No comments: