Wednesday, November 19, 2008

3.5 hours of fun

Today I had my long call out where I get 4 hours from the call to get to the airport. So I went for a big ski.

I've never gotten all the way to Powerline Pass and I gave it a go today. I skied for 2 hours and wasn't there yet, but it was in my sights. I chose to turn back, but now I know it can be done in about half a day.

Here is a view of the mountains:

Here is the same view but from where I turned around:

This is a cool bridge that goes over the same creek that you may have seen in previous posts, but this one leads to Hidden Lake:
I saw a few dozen crows squawking over something in the distance. I suspect it was a moose kill from bear (they are still awake those bastards!).
I also found some bloody snow on the trail, but I suspect it was from a bloody nose of someone who needs more water in their diet.
Here is a picture of a trailing F-28. I tried to get my camera out to get the four which were flying in formation, but this is what I got. It also shows a good example of the valley walls I look at while I ski this trail:
Today is the most I've skied since I was on the ski team when I was 14. It felt good to know that I could do it, but I sure wish I had my 14 year old knees back. They took some ice when I got home and are doing pretty well. Have to see what they are like when I wake tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

another Tuesday hike

Last night I went to the local theater pub and watched Elegy for a whopping $3. It was really well acted, which is good since the story has been done, A LOT!
Today I decided to hike in Kincaid park and took some paths less trodden. I think people ride these in the summer when the Devil's club and other plants don't overcome the trail.
It was pretty cold out there today:
I saw what I thought was a dog on another trail below me. Turned out to be the biggest fox I'd ever seen. Sometimes it's hard to tell because they poof out their fur so much.
I watched it for a while and got to see it pounce on some sort of vermin off the trail! Pretty cool. Too bad no pix, it was too far away.
But, here is an owl I came across later in my walk:
After taking the photo I walked closer and it did the cool head swivel to check me out. I did my only owl call to see what would happen*. This owl left it's perch to do a flyby, staying a safe distance away and then returned to its perch. It was beautiful!
*When I was a kid I got taught the screech owl call when I was at camp one summer. The next summer I went on a canoe trip down the St. Croix river with a different bunch of kids.
Every night after we'd be sitting a while around the campfire I'd try this call, and nothing happened. The other kids were kind of snickering at me even though the councilors were telling them that I had it down.
On the last night I got done calling and we all returned to conversation when an owl swooped down over us and the fire and screeched really loudly! Everyone was scared and amazed. A few minutes later the kids who were previously snickering were now trying to do the call but the owl never came back. I felt pretty good.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Yesterday I returned to Anchorage after a couple days at home with the Mrs. While back in Minneapolis I took the ol' Murray on the Saturday morning ride.

I should have understood when my friend from said I was going to keep the pace down that the ride was not the cream puff it had once been.

It used to be 45' of easy riding, 20' of pastry and coffee consumption, and then back to the shop to open it up by 10AM. Now the shop opens at noon and that means longer riding, and more consumption.

The Murray was not pleased. In the end I was bringing up the rear and the group split in two, with only two of us in the slower group. That's what I get for not having the right gear (almost all my bike stuff is in Anchorage).

This morning I awoke to the end of a recurring dream. Every recurring dream I've ever had seems to happen over a period of weeks to months before I wake up and realize that the things happening in my head are only just that!

Today was the end of my 1st good recurring dream: it was about MTBing. Basically there was an amazing piece of land that was all twisty turny single track all taking place in a huge oval field.

Some of it was sand and some was through long prairie grass and wheat, some through dark forest.

Out of this field two epic double track trails sprouted into the mountains. If you took them you always had pristine views of the mountains and the sea.

I sure hope this dream will keep coming back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Yesterday we got about 5 more inches of snow! That will help make a nice base here in town, but we will need another 5+ to make skiing at the parks in town do-able.

Today I went back up to gasline and powerline trails and had a blast on the new snow. I tried something I've never done before: ski-music.

There is a long slog (about 30 minutes) uphill from the car and I thought maybe I'd spice it up with some tunes. It may have been the first time I've had a headset on while skiing, it won't be the last!

I've always enjoyed working out to music and today it really helped me keep a good pace going. It was weird hearing the Hellakopters and the Clash while looking at the mountains, but it was sooo worth it!

I got to a union meeting yesterday to hear the state of negotiations. 2 1/2 hours later I had a "free" lunch in me and no new news.

This morning I got together with some other FOs on call for breakfast and it was nice meeting and re-meeting some folks.

Don't stare at this too long or it will consume you!

Check out the last day of the beard for tomorrow it goes away (sometimes the snow won't stop clinging to the hair):

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another day another hike

Today I got out hiking while flakes of joy fell from the heavens! There was only a dusting when I was up there, but there were already people skiing and fat-biking on the new powder.

This is trying to capture the falling snow, but you have to look in the snaze of the background to tell it's snowing.

My legs are getting stronger and I'm getting faster. I've shaved 10 minutes off of my two hour route. I tried running downhill for a ways and nothing hurt or was sore. VERY HAPPY!

Here is near the end for today and the snow, as it has up to now, is only coming down in the mountains and leaving the town free from fun powder (or at least a descent base!).

So what does sitting reserve and not getting called out for a couple weeks look like:

I like the way the flash made some of the red hairs glow.
After about a week or so I have to shave because it starts to bug me. I think tomorrow will be the day. There is a much nastier close-up but I'm trying to keep this PG.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hatcher Pass

Today my roommate and I tried out our new avalanche knowledge by doing some back country skiing. Maybe I should start with last night:
We (including my friend James) attended a free REI sponsored avalanche safety class last night. Afterwards we went out for a drink to decide how to best apply our new avalanche avoidance expertise.
One of the things they pointed out is that you need a minimum of three things in avalanche country: a transponder, a shovel and a pole to poke the victim with. Neither of us has any of these things unless you count a ski pole that isn't as long as the fancy pole we should carry.
So we decided to go to Hatcher Pass today (one of the examples from last night where there are avalanches) and try some back country skiing. There were plenty of folks out on this sunny Saturday and we felt pretty certain that if none of them had caused any avalanches, neither would we.
Oh how wrong we were!
Sorry, I'm kidding.
We had a lot of fun with him taking the lead with his fancy back country skis, and me following with my cheap non-back country skis:
We pretty much didn't go anywhere that hadn't been traveled before, but it worked much better with him packing down the snow with his wider skis.
As I was descending one hill an unleashed dog chose to run up it, at me. Luckily she veered off because I don't think she would have liked being hit by the big sack of meat descending on those sticks right into her snout!
The area is right next to the Independence Gold mine. Here we are looking from one of the buildings down onto some others:
Here is a shot with Palmer and my car in the distance:

I managed to not fall on any of the downhills (the ungroomed ones were sketchy!). And I was enjoying the groomed downhills very much until the very end when I decided I'd do the fancy downhill ski stop where you slide on both skis sideways, tips pointing in the same direction. I used to have this difficult maneuver down back-in-the-day. Not any more. My only fall of the day came as I got back to the car. Only my pride was hurt. No one else seemed to care.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yesterday I hiked up the Gasline trail to the place where I saw all the moose last month. I still found a cow and calf hanging out. I think they are more mellow when it's cooler out.

Here is a movie of the stream from the bridge near the moose. It's surreal watching the water freeze into bits of ice and then unfreeze before my eyes:

I really like seeing the pink mountains at sunset. These two pix are at the same spot:

This second one shows the difference in colors that are out there:

I saw that there was enough snow for a couple of high school ski teams to be practicing. Today I decided to take my skis up there, but I walked a ways before I thought the snow was good enough for my only set of skis.

It is common up here to have a set of "rock" skis for the conditions we have now. On my way back to the car I took off the skis and was hiking down a hill with lots of obstructions when one of the high schoolers zipped by me.

Must be nice having rock-skis which can get battered on the rocks and roots I heard her scraping over in the corners as she sailed on by. At least her parents will be helping the economy this season.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kincaid hike

The days are getting shorter (especially without daylight savings) so my hikes are now all ending closer to sunset. At some point soon I'll have to go at noon or take a headlamp.
These were taken in Kincaid park on Tuesday November 4th, or as I like to call it Obama Day!

Here is a panoramic view of the mudflats (caused by the 30+ foot tide, 3rd largest in the world) and Fire Island:

I really like the variety of colors in this one. The snow looks blue to me, maybe that was some sort of sign?

The mudflats are frozen enough to reflect the light nicely:

It was a really beautiful day.

Rabbit Creek Trail

Sunday I went for a hike on Rabbit Creek trail. It wasn't marked so I chose to stop where I saw all the other cars parked.

I chose to go up the left trail and got pretty tired going up a steep slope of rock. My achilles were getting so stretched that I actually needed to stop several times to get them to relax.
Near the top it got a little steeper and much more rocky. I decided to turn around because I was concerned if it got even more steep, I'd be stuck.

I was carefully picking my way back down in a crab walk fashion when I saw another hiker approaching from below.

She asked what I was doing. I told her about how high I'd gotten and was worried about coming down from higher. Turns out when you get to the top there is another trail which comes down the other side of a gully.

I'd been watching a bunch of other folks on the "down" trail without realizing I would soon be joining them. They were in the vicinity of three large moose, but based on their conversation, clearly had no idea that the animals were very close to them.

Here is a guy having some fun as we approached the peak:

I asked her if there was a name for the hill we were on, and it turns out we were climbing up the back of Flattop mountain! So I wasn't on Rabbit Creek trail as I had intended.
If I'd driven 100 more yards or so I'd have seen the start of Rabbit Creek trail.
Here is a view of Anchorage from the top:
The woman who let me tag along turned out to be from Minnesota and went to the school that the Mrs. attends now. Small world.
The next day I took a day of rest from hiking and my quads were so stiff it was painful going up and down stairs.
I've never been much of a hiker. I should say I've never gone out of my way to hike. But being this close to mountains with this abundance of trails has really turned me onto hiking.
Until we get more snow, it will be my workout. Next year I'll have studded tires for one of my bikes to add some variety.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Archangel road

I returned to the road which is groomed for my ski-pleasure today. I wasn't alone, and that's OK.
Check out my crazy-expensive set-up:

Yep, those are bamboo poles made in Norway, or as I call it the mother-country. Nothing says bamboo like Norway, right?
I don't mind sharing the trail, but dogs that jump on strangers are not my favorites (especially the lab that pawed me in the jewels yesterday!). Better that the strangers jumping on me, of course Jitsu works better on humans than K-9s.
Here is one of the many streams that hasn't frozen over yet. Some of them have huge "steps" of ice with water flowing down them.

It felt really good to get back out on skis on descent snow AND not fall going downhill. I think I have my legs back. My max speed downhill was 21 MPH. It took me 1 hour and 34 minutes to get up, and only 36 minutes to get back down.

At the end of the road-trail I found this gate:
It says: FEET ONLY. I think the land owner doesn't like ATVs.
This leads to an old mine that is on private property. The owner doesn't like trespassers and has been known to shoot warning shots at people climbing the rocks on his land.
Not to leave you on a sour note, here is a nice mountain panorama for you to click on:


Nothing says Halloween like this huh?

The natives have 50 different names for snow and this is why:

This would be bad snow. It's been sublimating and just like when stuff gets freezer burn, it tastes bad. Look at this poor fur-log:

Hopefully we can get more snow sometime soon (tired of hiking) or I'll have to rack up the miles going to Archangel road and Hatcher Pass. That would be an excellent excuse for amazing skiing!
I chose to not wallflower last night, but instead watched a little Buffy for the harvest celebration.