On Tuesday night Chris Johnson and Dale Berg stayed over a night on their way home from work so a bunch of us could go skiing for a day. Our coworker Eryn Boone just bought a beautiful new house in Girdwood and was brave enough to let Chris, Dale, Ryan and myself stay there for a night. We had a great time and couldn't have picked a better day to be on the mountain. The sun was out and the snow was soft and the skiing was perfect. We actually met up with a whole bunch of people from work and I think at one time there were twelve of us in our group. It was one of those days you'd love to have more of.
Saturday morning, Clay his friend Justin, and I were going to ride snowmachines to the other side of the valley and up into a group of mountains called the Yenlo Hills. They are only 2400 feet high which is not a lot for around here but we were excited with the promise of fresh snow and an untracked area to ride. Clay's machine started running a little rough about 40 miles into the ride and after riding 60 miles up the Yetna river we stopped at a lodge and discovered that he didn't have any compression in one cylinder. Luckily he was able to ride all the way home on the one cylinder and we didn't have to tow him. Unfortunately for him, he could only go 30mph and had to watch as Justin and I played in all the fresh powder all the way home. That I think was as painful for him as having to have his engine rebuilt (it is under warranty). The farther west we went the deeper the snow got so we were all bummed to have to come home so early.
On Sunday, Thane and I rode a 50 mile loop up Hatcher Pass and over another pass called Dogsled Pass and back down another creek valley. Having spent a good part of my life running sled dogs I can say that I would not want to ever have to take a dog team down the back side of that pass. It is a STEEP downhill; if I'm looking at the topo correctly it looks like it drops almost 650 feet elevation in about 1500 feet of distance. Thane wasn't too excited about the ride (slide) down and decided he didn't want to go back up the way we came down. The nice part was that the creek bottom didn't have any tracks on it so we just played our way down to the trail about halfway down the valley. I'm not really fond of trails because they'll beat the life out of you if you ride faster than about 5mph. None of our trails are groomed so they aren't much fun and we generally avoid them as much as possible. It was a slow ride out but we had a good time and I think Thane had a good ride. When we got home Sandi asked Thane what his favorite part of the ride was and he said "all of it".
Ryan came up Monday morning and we had a really great ride. We rode to where I generally go on the other side of the creek when I have someone to ride with. I hadn't been up there yet this year since I haven't had anyone to ride with up here. Once we got across the creek we found that there hadn't been too many people out and we found some good snow to play in. We worked our way up the creek valley just to the north of the one Thane and I rode down the day before. It could have used a little more snow in places to cover a little more of the brush but once we got to the top of the valley there was plenty of snow.
The moose were happy there isn't anymore snow than there is. We saw one group of fourteen moose and another group of five about a hundred yards up the valley from them. Moose generally don't travel in herds like elk so it was kind of wild to see so many together.
Once we got to the head of Peters Creek we played around in the big valley at the top for awhile before heading up and over to yet another valley to the north. Getting up the next saddle was a little sketchy as there wasn't much snow at the top of the saddle so as I was riding up I hit a few rocks and lost forward momentum about 20 feet from the top and couldn't get going again. I wasn't looking forward to going down this hill backwards and was afraid if I tried to turn my snowmachine around that it could end up rolling all the way to the bottom. Luckily Ryan made it to the top and was able to help pull me the rest of the way up the hill alleviating my fears of having to head back down.
At this point we were sitting at the exact place we were two years ago when we debated heading down the north side but decided not to venture any further into the unknown. Later that same day we were sitting on a knoll across from this saddle when we saw a guy by himself come up and over the saddle out of the valley on the other side. We talked to him for awhile and ended up riding the remainder of that day with him. It turned out that his name is Bill Hall and he was a 63 year old retiree who has a lot of time to ride and not a lot of people to ride with (sounds like me a lot of the time), so he just goes by himself. He told us about the valley on the other side and the trail down so later that winter I went with TJ, Jeff, and Clay (blog post http://tysonsdaily.blogspot.com/2007/03/talkeetna-mountains-31707.html) and we had a great ride.
There didn't appear to be a trail down the north side of this valley and I wasn't sure how easy it would be to get out but we decided to go for it. Once we got on the other side we realized that the snow was much better and was deep enough that we were getting stuck on some of the downhill slopes. We worked our way down this valley and then up the same valley I'd been up in 2007. The snow was excellent, however once we got into the last valley all of the southern exposed peaks showed either evidence of having already avalanched or having high potential of avalanche. Being that the snow pack isn't as deep as it normally would be this time of the year the avalanches all were small slab type slides that didn't go very far. Although I'm sometimes prone to doing some dumb things from time to time, I am smart enough to know I do not want to be in an avalanche. Ryan and I decided to stay off of all the steep slopes and just play on the hills in the middle of the valley. I had cut across the face of one of the hills and was about to try and climb right up the middle of it when I noticed that Ryan was stuck on the far right side of the hill. As I was sitting there debating the best route to get to Ryan to give him a hand the whole face of the hill I was about to climb up gave way. I wasn't quick enough to get any video as I was watching to make sure the place Ryan was didn't slide but I did get a few pictures. I think all of the slopes that had gotten lots of sun over the last few days (especially in this valley where there was more snow in the valleys to the south) were really set up to slide. I don't think this slide got moving fast enough to completely bury anyone but I can say that I'm glad I wasn't in the middle of it. Although it looked small when I rode up to the bottom of it the pile was as high as my windshield. This slide was enough of a warning for us that even the not so steep slopes were ready to slide and we probably shouldn't play on the ones that had a lot of sun exposure. It was getting late in the day anyway so we determined it was a good time to work our way back to the valley at the head of Peters Creek. When we got to the top of the saddle we took a nice break in the sunshine and relaxed for awhile. While we were sitting there we saw two other snowmachines sitting on the knoll across from the saddle. We didn't talk to them until a little later but it ended up that one of the guys was Bill Hall who we had run into in this exact place two years ago and we were just talking about earlier in the day. It's funny how things work out sometimes. We played a few more minutes before climbing out of the next two valleys (up Dogsled Pass which Thane wanted no part of the day before) and heading for home. We had racked up 81 miles according to my odometer by the time we got home.
All in all I have to say it has been a great week!
Eryn, Jerry, and Chism waiting on us slow snowboarders at the top of the lift.
Fresh tracks on the Yetna River; I love that sunshine...
The lodge at Fish Lake Creek on the Yetna River
I had to take a picture of this tree, it is the wildest birch tree I have ever seen.
Clay, Justin, and I on the way up the Yetna River
A quick morning ride I took up the pass.
Ryan on our way up Peters Creek Valley
The valley was wide open...
Letting things cool off before heading into the next valley...
Our little avalanche that I was really happy not to have been in the middle of. The dark spot on the top right is Ryan.
That is some heavy snow
Ryan, happy he wasn't in the middle of it either...
On our way out of the last valley on our way home...
Hard to beat this scenery...
My last picture of the day. I thought is was a perfect parting shot.