Sunday, August 22, 2010

McCarthy, Kennicott, and the Root Glacier Trail

The Kuskulana River sits beneath a deep gulch on the McCarthy Road.

Part 2 of our weekend excursion took us to McCarthy and Kennicott located in southeast Alaska in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park. This was a brand new place and even a new road for me. We parked the car in McCarthy, packed up the bike and bike trailer (thanks to Helena for the borrow!) and we were off to the town of Kennicott, 5 miles up the road. I was pretty wiped out from the Klutina Lake Rd. excursion so getting to the Root Glacier trail was tough. But, we made it up to one of the camping areas with a bear-safe box for our food.. convenient!
Our campsite was pretty sweet, just off of the trail overlooking the glacier. We had a bit of rain overnight but for morning it was just overcast.
The camping area even had an outhouse - luxury!
The Root Glacier trail was easy going for the first mile and a half to Jumbo camping area. From the camping area, the trail goes to an advanced singletrack and is SUPER fun!
Though, wet roots and steep embankments are not always the best combination. Above is the status of my bike after not clearing the tiny little wet root, and I went ROLLING down the cliff on the left side. Luckily for me, I stopped down the hill a ways, while laughing hysterically...avoiding any rocks and just getting a little scratched up. I've never landed that far away from my bike before!! Tuck 'n roll skills were particularly useful for this moment.
This was Brian's first singletrack riding ever, and he loved it.. which is good for me!
View of the Root Glacier. We never actually did go up to the glacier, which seems ridiculous, but we were so focused on biking the trail alongside the glacier.We ditched the bikes part way through the trail, because the trail got unridable.
This section was scary to walk across let alone bike across.
The Erie Mine is located at the top of these cable lines on the side of the trail. After these cable lines, the trail ends overlooking the glacier and icefall.
Here's a map of our route:
Awesome trip - the entire weekend it only rained on us when we were in the car or in the tent. A short little exploratory overnight trip to McCarthy and Kennicott. We'll be back!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Biking the Klutina Lake Road

Part 1 of a two part weekend took me 101.5 miles north of Valdez.
The "Klutina Lake Road", also known as the "Berwick-Craig Road" is an easement in Ahtna lands just north of the Klutina River, a fun salmon spot you may remember from last year if you were following. The river is an absolute gorgeous turquoise green against the surrounding landscape.
Though this trip wasn't amazingly scenic, nor did it have anything at the end we could reach (the end is gated off to private property/no trespassing signs as seen above, so we couldn't get to the lake legally), it was a mystery road to me and I couldn't find much information on it, so I wanted to ride it to find out. We had gorgeous weather, so were not disappointed in the journey.
The road stayed above the river.. way above the river for quite aways.
Then the gravel/dirt/4-wheeler road steeply descends down to the river around mile 14.
Brian waits for me after the steep hill. It was super scary hauling the bike trailer downhills. The extra weight and bulk acts like a bike-rudder.
The fireweed hanging on to the last couple weeks of summer!
After that major downhill, the road becomes much rougher.
We found ourselves a camp spot down by the river, complete with firepit.
Now here's the part where you say "aw man!!" because we didn't actually go all the way to the end of the road. We came across this big long, very deep blob of water and decided that there was no easy way around it, and didn't want to sacrifice having wet shoes and feet when we were excited to go to Wrangell-St. Elias. Honestly though, if there was more than a gate saying "no trespassing" at the end, I would have easily forded the potentially deceptive puddle. When I threw a giant rock in the puddle, it PLOOOOPED quite a ways down. Without an end-incentive, we decided to bag it and turn back. It was an especially rainy year down in this area, so I think normally it would be much shallower.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mt. Prindle!

Spent a picture-perfect weekend in Interior Alaska hiking up in the White Mountains at Mt. Prindle! It was my first time up here, and a trip that has been on my list of "things to do" (which is excessively long and growing with time) for a few years after I was told "you'd love it up there!" You were right, I DID love it up there!
There are a few small stream crossing at the beginning of the trail, which I have heard can become swelled and swift with excessive rain. Luckily for us, rain, nor the threat of rain, was an issue whatsoever!
There was a trail for a short time, but shortly after we ended up in a boulder route through the valley.
The going was easy through the valley even though we lost whatever social trail there was, if there was one.
Then, the ascent! The ascent was pretty gradual, but upon coming up to the first ridge, there was a lot of descent and ascent still left to get to Mt. Prindle.
The weather was perfect, and there was a nice breeze that kept ALL OF THE BUGS AWAY! I could not grasp the concept of backpacking in Alaska in 80-85 degree temperatures at 4000 feet with NO BUGS. So rad!
Up on the ridgeline, we manuevered around these big giant tors, which are a part of "some of the best rock climbing in the Interior". I for one, have NO interest in hauling rope and climbing gear in a pack up to this spot. Good for those who think it's worth it. ;)
After our slow start out of Fairbanks that afternoon, Brian, Cana and I managed to make it to the top with enough sunlight left to descend to a campsite down the ridge aways.
The fading sun gave an incredible illumination of our surrounding mountains.
Cana, above, exemplifies how we all felt at the end of the day.
I have never fallen asleep outside of my tent in Alaska until this trip. The tent was an unnecessary 5lbs to carry, but neither of us expected a bug-free trip. It was a picture perfect weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Staying in AK

I am staying put in Fairbanks for the foreseeable future!

I was forced to make a yes or no decision whether to go full-time at my job about 4 weeks earlier than I was hoping to. Many factors made the decision difficult, and my wanderlust almost made me say no wanting to move elsewhere for a bit. I was so torn because I felt that either way I could potentially have regrets. But luckily this is a decision I was planning to make soon, and whenever I finally HAD to decide, I knew what I wanted. It's only as temporary or permanent as I want to make it, and that ultimately made me say yes to more fun in Alaska. I really had a hard time doing grad school here with all of the distractions, but knew that I loved the place when I was only working and leaving work at work. In any case, it all worked out and I made a decision. I can't tell you for how long, but I can tell you that as long as I am happy, I will stay. The pages are blank for a new chapter in the same place!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fort Yukon, AK

A trip for work took me back to one of my first villages in Alaska - Fort Yukon.
Fort Yukon lies on the Arctic Circle in the Yukon Flats. It recorded the highest ever temperature in Alaska of 100 degrees F on June 27, 1915.
On the way, we got an awesome view of Denali from the air
I was in charge of putting in the new weather station from scratch.. including digging a ditch for wiring.
Remote villages means an awesome airplane ride! We took a Piper Navajo 6-seater to and from Fairbanks.
I love flying over the open unestablished land. It's fun to picture yourself down at ground level, knowing that from the sky things look so dramatically different.
On the way back, we took the scenic route through the White Mountains, and I got to see aerially where I had been biking all last winter. It looks way scarier and way more in the middle of nowhere from an airplane than on ground!
'Til next time, Fort Yukon.