Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trail Breaking

Over the past two winters, I've been helping a friend cut trail into one of his trap line cabins.
Last spring, we made it about halfway before we ran out of time, right at the base of "The Big Hill".
We realised The Big Hill was going to need lots of work to get a trail up it, so this past December 4 of us made the long trip in to work on it some more.
The Skandic WT 600 is a trail breaking monster

Heavy snow and cold temperatures added challenge, but in the course of a long day we were able to cut a reasonable trail through the timber to a high bench system, where we would be able to pick up a trail the owner had cut from his cabin the past summer.
On that trip, we made it to within 100 yards (as per the GPS) before we ran out of daylight.
The Caribou swamp

Our next trip in on the by now well packed trail had us arriving at the trails end with lots of daylight left.
We cut trail through a nasty bit of Willow swamp, and promptly located the end of the cut trail from the lake.
Its big snow country, but the Skandic was in its element, and I broke trail the final two kMs to the lake, then went back to pick up the others.  There was an honest 3-4' of snow back there.
Soaking up the vitamin D at Triangle lake

Rendevous weekend, 3 of us went back again to fix up the trail some more, and perhaps put some more trail in for the trap line.
The cabin

Good trail allowed us to make good time in, clearing more brush and debris while on the move.
It was a cold weekend, but clear.

Heading out

We had a bit of a mishap on the way home when one ofe the BearCats seized a bearing on the drive shaft.
The Skandic made short work of the load though, with a B train of gear behind it.
The dog and poney show

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"The Best Fat Bike Ride Ever!"

Last winter, I made an overnight trip into Rose lake from Fish lake, and back out the Watson river.
I had great condtions (being a month later) and it was a fantastic ride.
But in a way, it felt like cheating, as in I broke up a great loop with an almost unnecessary overnight in a comfy cabin.  The real way to do this is to link it up as a day ride.
It has everything you want: serious remoteness, fantastic scenery, and (usually) good trails.
Tony D and I had been threatening to link this up for a few seasons now, but the conditions just never worked out.
March 2010

Well, the conditions didn't seem to be working out this year as we were dropped off, and started slogging up Fish lake into 20-30 KmH winds.  But we kept on, neither of us wanting to be the one to bail, and waiting to see what conditions in the alpine were like.
Well, the trail was soft, but not THAT soft, windy, but not THAT windy, so we kept on. 
If one keeps up this sort of behaviour, you reach a point where its just easier to keep going, and thats what happened.
By the time we reached Mud lake, the thought of reversing our trail back up the god-for-saken pass was pretty unappealing, so commit we did.
The point of no return

Fortunately, the trail stayed firm, and actually got better.
Large Wolf tracks kept us company and reminded us of our place in the grand scheme of things.
Its pretty big country back there, and you really are a long way from anywhere.  Its not a ride to attempt lightly, as there is almost no traffic (we saw no one), and you aren't walking out in a hurry.
Feeling small

The ride down the Rose creek valley is one of those sections of trail that should go faster than it does.
Its a net elevation loss, but there are some miserable slog-fest uphills that just seem to go on and on.
Eventually, you find yourself in the Willow flats and meadows of the intersection between the Rose creek valley and the valley that heads over to the Watson river.
A skiff of snow covering the trail

We came upon a large herd of Caribou that inhabit this incredibly beautiful area.
You could smell them as we stood and watched them for a while.
Tony loving the bomber trail conditions

Once you are finished with the meadow section, there is a long-ish climb through the divide over to the headwaters of the Watson, and the land of downhill bliss.  More or less.
The upper Watson had a surprise in store for us; overflow!

Falling off and smacking your head or breaking an elbow has serious consequences out here

The overflow didn't last too long, and we were back on good trail in a Km or so.
Upper Watson river

The trail stayed very good from here on.  A dog musher had been the last to use it, and mushers make great bike trails.  Smooth and fast!
We made great time down the Watson, although the effects of 7 hours of riding were begining to tell.
The route

Although its a bit busy, you can get a good idea of the trails conditions by the track points.  The Watson sped things up considerably.
We ended up riding the last hour and a half in the dark, and I was glad to have brought along my NiteRider 750.
Once we hit the Alligator lake road, and more fresh musher tracks (bliss!), it was a downhill rip all the way to the connector trail which heads over to Annie lake.
Of the connector trail, which is about 2 Km, and all downhill single track, railing it in the dark, with the NiteRider blazing the way, Tony declared it to be the most fun he has ever had on a Pugsley.
The last few Ks got a bit much, and a couple short punch hills had us whimpering, but we made it to the carpark at 8:30, with a very happy Starbuck (Tonys pup) ripping out to great his master.  Sierra had been waiting, er, quite a while for our return.  I just had to bike the last 1Km out to the cabin and Michelle and dinner.
As Tony loaded up, we both agreed it was the best ride ever, and while it might not have been an epic, it was certainly within spitting distance of one.
11 hours, ~120 Km.