Monday, January 31, 2011

Approaching 150 Miles for the Season

Zorro posing for a
"pretty sled dog" shot
Last day of January and we hit the trails for an Indiana Creek winter trailhead to Boreas Pass winter trailhead skijor outing.

This outing closed January with our season ski total hitting 146.6 miles! At one time, my "season goal" was 250 miles - that is trivial, we will certainly crush that milestone. Our new, revised goal is to reach 400 miles for the season - now that's a challenge!

The Route: Indiana Creek winter trailhead to & past the Dyersville junction and up to Boreas Pass Rd; then down Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas winter trailhead.

The Conditions: packed to packed powder the entire route - we are in need of some fresh powder on the trails which Mother Nature is sending our way today!

Vital Stats: 8.4 miles; 1h 45m total; 90m moving time; 5.6 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed.
A view "down Boreas Pass Rd": partly cloudy, lots of blue sky.
A 180 of the previous shot - looking "up Boreas Pass Rd":
snow is a coming! woo hoo for fresh powder!
Max & Zorro's input: let's go "up Boreas into the snowstorm!"
The human chose otherwise and we sprinted down Boreas.
Max & Zorro forgave me and accepted "the sprint" option.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birds in the Bush! Birds in the Bush! .... FREE FOOD!!!

Friday morning Max, Zorro & I hit 20mph flying down French Gulch - top speed of the season!

The Siberian Excitement: it was a beautiful, sunny, blue bird day as we headed out skijoring French Gulch. It was a peaceful run as we cruised up the gulch. Gently gliding across the upper meadows, I noticed some wildlife tracks I hadn't seen before. Taking note, I thought, "I'll need to investigate what made those tracks later." Easygoing and focused - on we skied through the meadow. Then... KABOOM!!! Not more than 2 feet to our right, 3 white birds burst out of a bush and took off to the right. 2/3rds of our (once composed) skijoring team also launched to the right - BIRDS IN THE BUSH! FREEEEEE FOOD! At least I discovered what had made all those tracks in the snow...
[click to enlarge] Left: notice ALL the bird tracks in the snow! Zorro says, "Down here! Birds in the bush!"
Right: guess which direction the 3 birds went? Hint: look at Max & Zorro ;-)
My Siberian partners were chomping at the bit - "Gotta go this way! Get the birds! Get the birds!" A team organization meeting was in order to re-introduce all to skijoring...
  • Me: "Max, Zorro - left, the trail is to the left!"
  • Max: "Did someone say something? No... Where'd those birds go?"
  • Zorro: "BIRDS IN THE BUSH!"
  • Me: "Max - focus! Focus! Right turn." (a 360 right was going to work better than a 90 degree left through Zorro ;-)
  • Max: "Focus! Exactly - I'm focused on the BIRDS!"
  • Zorro: "BIRDS IN THE BUSH!"
  • Me: "Max! Focus! Right turn."
  • Max: "Well, ok - but you realize the birds are the other direction!" (as he drags Zorro through a 360)
  • Zorro: "BIRDS IN THE BUSH!"
  • Me: "Good right Max! Good right! Now Forward!" (as he drags Zorro with him forward)
Only Max & Zorro could make hitting 20mph the secondary highlight of an outing!

The Route: BnB trailhead (on the road to French Gulch); to & through the French Gulch winter trailhead; up French Gulch to & past the last private cabin; to the end of the last open meadow in the gulch; (rest the human); sprint back down the gulch to the French Gulch winter trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8.1 miles; 1hr 40min total; 80min moving time; 6.1 MPH moving average; 20 MPH top speed! Unfortunately: 0 birds caught and devoured...
Lower section of Fench Gulch - plowed "jeep road"
Notice the depth of the snow wall to our left - it's been a good snow season this year!
The "real trail" in the mid area of the gulch (i.e, plowed by humans, not machines).
The "fun trail" in the upper portions of the gulch - visited by very few before us!
Zorro taking a break as we reach the end of the last meadow in the gulch.
You'll be shocked to know that he is facing "due bird" (the "birds in the bush" episode happened 15min earlier in the exact direction he is facing)
Pretty shot of the edge of the final meadow in French Gulch.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cruising on Boreas

Max & Zorro "shoulder to shoulder"
as we cruise up the established path
on Boreas.
Sunday, Fun day - Max, Zorro and I hit Boreas Pass Rd for a skijor treat Sunday morning.

Conditions (as you can infer from the picture to the left): the conditions were light powder (2-4 inches) on well established trails up Boreas Pass Rd - most of the route found us in this type of established trail with the "snow wall" up to shoulder high on Max and Zorro. As we reached the upper elevations (the last mile or so) the trail became less established but still visible in 3-6 inches of powder.

The Route: the Boreas Pass winter trailhead, up Boreas Pass Rd for about 5.6 miles; (rest the human); and then return down Boreas Pass Rd to the winter trailhead. We turned around short of the Boreas Summit since as we approached tree line the wind was picking up and the human was outfitted in wicking wear, not wind wear ;-)

Vital Stats: 11.2 miles; 2h 35m total; 2h 10m moving; 5.2 MPH moving average; 11 MPH top speed (e.g., it was 2+ hours of consistent cruising, not much sprinting).
The view from our high/turnaround point.
Beautiful, serene, untouched snow everywhere!
Max taking a "snow break" at our high point.
Notice how deep the snow is just off the trail (and how high a "snow wall" we created on the trail).
A look back at our tracks leading to our high point.
Max & Zorro say, "look at all this untouched powder! Let's go this way!"
The return approach to the Boreas winter trailhead.
Happy, smiling, sprinting, airborne Siberians - Husky Heaven!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Deep Powder Day in French Gulch

Max & Zorro surveying the
surrounding landscape of DEEP
untouched powder!
Monday & Tuesday left over 2 feet of snow in the Breckenridge area. Wednesday we woke to more snow falling - Max, Zorro and I said, "we gotta skijor this big powder event!" So, we headed out to French Gulch Wednesday morning.

Given the ton of fresh snow, we could ski the road to French Gulch before heading into the French Gulch trail system. Thus, we started at the BnB Trailhead skied to & through the French Gulch winter trailhead and up French Gulch to the last of the private backcountry cabins. From here we skied back down French Gulch and hung a left on the Sally Barber Mine trail - then up to Sally Barber Mine and down to the Sally Barber trailhead at the top of the Barney Ford trail (see image below).

The conditions: did I mention we got over 2 feet of snow (with it still snowing as we headed out)? So, there you have it - the conditions: powder, powder and MORE deep powder. From BnB to French Gulch trailhead was a fast, packed powder road; from French Gulch trailhead to the Little French junction was 6-12 inches of powder on established cross country tracks; from Little French to the last cabin was untouched 1-3 feet of pure powder! Wow... The Sally Barber mine section (up & down) was again 6-12 inches of powder on established cross country tracks. That section from Little French to the last cabin was a doozy - so deep that Max & Zorro needed their energy to propel themselves and I had to do a lot more uphill cross country skiing than normal (usually, my Siberian pair propels up and I am lightly skiing - today I was pushing hard as we climbed the powder path)!

Vital Stats: 8.4 miles; 2.5 hours total; 2 hours moving; 4.2 MPH moving average; 14 MPH top speed. Given the deep powder - that's an impressive 4.2 moving average and an amazing 14 MPH top speed!
Starting up after a quick break in the deep powder.
Zorro says, "weeee, let's go bro!"
A look at the "untouched path ahead of us".
We are slogging through 1-3 feet of powder at this point!
A later look at the "path ahead" - still untouched and deep!
The trail goes up the middle of this image and then bends to the right as we get into the trees.
The last backcountry cabin (our turnaround point) is just a short distance from here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Goes Up...

Deepening snow, no tracks in front.
The trail is OURS to BLAZE! Woo!
What Goes Up ... Must Come Down - oh how we forget!

Friday (Jan 14th) found Max, Zorro and I exploring new terrain in Little  French Gulch. Highlights of the exploration:
  • Swooshing up & down through untouched, waist deep powder in the backside of Little French Gulch! Woooosh!
  • Remembering that if it is "steep up" then it will be "steep down" and driving all my weight into alternating legs to keep the Siberian vehicle under control!
  • Discovering Max has just as much a problem as Zorro with being passed. NONE SHALL PASS is the official motto of my Husky pair!
  • Hitting 19 MPH on the way down - our fastest recorded backcountry time yet!
    Details of our route (see image below): (1) started at the French Gulch winter trailhead (FG-TH) and skijored up to the Little French Gulch junction (LF-JCT); (2) left onto the Little French trail; (3) continued up to and past the Little French Crosspoint (LF-XP); (4) no tracks from here: blazed our own trail (in waist deep powder) up the ravine behind Little French Gulch to LF-CLRNG; (5) took a break to rest the human and then sprinted back down the ravine in waist deep powder to the crosspoint (LF-XP); (6) hung a left at LF-XP and skijored up to the LF-PATH point; (7) rested the human again, decided we better conserve the human and started back down (to LF-XP to LF-JCT to FG-TH).
    Satellite view of our path (click to enlarge).
    Coming down from the LF-PATH point to LF-JCT was highlighted by 2 major events:
    1. "Whoa, this is steep [down] in areas!" In places this was some of the steepest terrain we have descended (the ascent part, as always with my Siberian Husky engine, was a breeze). Determined to prove my improving intermediate skills, I refused to fall - I was alternating driving all my weight into each leg to keep our skijor vehicle under control. As one leg began to scream I would switch to the next and drive it hard for control. Max & Zorro, you ask, well they have expert skills and simply said, "you give us slack and we'll go fast - woooo!" For most of the ride it was a smashing success - I was exhausted, but we conquered expert down terrain without issue. Except...
    2. At the steepest point, I paused to get us under control and slowly maneuver this one ultra-steep point. We descended this short section just fine; but, as fate would have it, another back-country skier caught up to us (the lucky soul did NOT have the "fine" Siberian Husky downhill assistance I had ;-)  To be nice, I moved Max, Zorro and I to the side and let her pass (planning to rest while she got sufficiently far ahead before we restarted). Unfortunately, Max & Zorro took this act of kindness differently - both had serious issues with BEING PASSED! The Husky motto of "None Shall Pass" came into full affect. Once I released us to start, the 2 of them bolted at FULL SPEED to catch skier in front - such a bolt that I went face first right into the snow. We then proceeded to perform the following act: Max/Zorro waiting at the end of the gang line, but leaning forward wanting to GO; I start to rise from the snow and Max/Zorro feel a little slack in the gang line and lunge forward; I, once again, go face first into the snow; I "discuss" the situation with my partners and how they need to wait for me to get up and release before going. Repeat this act about 4 times! Finally I was able to get upright without the "lunge brothers" help and off we went (believe me, it was "pedal to the metal" once I did give them the release to go!)
    Vital Stats: 6.8 miles; 2hrs total; 95min moving time; 4.3 MPH moving average; 19 MPH top speed!!! 1900 feet in total elevation gain... Fun!
    Lower sections of Little French Gulch Trail.
    Note the path is clearly marked, although we are the fresh tracks in the recent snow.
    Taking a short break as I survey the route & landscape.
    Notice "no tracks" in front of us, we are beginning our blaze into waist-deep powder.
    Notice Zorro taking advantage of the break to roll & cool himself in the snow!
    Our original "high point" (LF-CLRNG in the map above).
    With deepening snow & unclear path, I decided to turnaround at this point.
    Look closely and you can see our "fresh tracks path" we blazed up the ravine.
    We skied down just to the right - blazing a full sprint, downhill trail through waist to knee deep powder!

    We progressed down from LF-CLRNG to LF-XP and then up to this "Final High Point".
    This is a shot looking down at what was our original high point before ascending up to this poing from LF-XP.
    At our high point, Max and Zorro say, "What do you mean we are turning around?!!!??
    Come on, let's continue onward and upward!"

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Cruising Indiana Creek & Boreas

    Max says, "Best way to 'cool off' is to roll around
    in the snow!"
    Saturday morning found Max, Zorro and I hitting the trails to skijor from the Indiana Creek trailhead up to Boreas Pass Rd and then down to the Boreas winter trailhead.

    Conditions were: (1) packed powder from the Indiana Creek trailhead to the Dyersville junction; (2) powder from the Dyersville junction to Boreas Pass Rd; and then (3) packed powder down Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas trailhead.

    These conditions meant a fast-paced route as we ascended from Indiana Creek to Boreas in 55 minutes (climbing over 1200 feet elevation in 3.3 miles)!

    Vital Stats: 8.4 miles; 1h 55m total time; 95m moving time; 5.3 MPH average; 13 MPH top speed.

    Top "wish I had a wearable camcorder" moment: as we were climbing up Indiana Creek a misinformed squirrel hopped off a low tree branch, onto the trail and sprinted about 15-20 yards up the trail (before finally getting informed and getting off the tail). The skijor engine (Max & Zorro) kicked it into overdrive and I was in a "downhill tuck" going uphill!  Woo!
    Nice shot of the surrounding scenery as we transitioned onto Boreas Pass Road.
    Our "fresh tracks" path as we ascended up to Boreas Pass Road.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Blazing Trail up Indiana Creek

    Sharing hotdogs with Max & Zorro at the trailhead.
    They always get hotdogs as a skijoring reward.
    As their happy expressions show, this is a HIT!
    We set out this morning to skijor up & back on Indiana Creek.

    Conditions were beautiful! We have had a few inches of fresh snow in town each of the past few nights and we found that this translated to much more fresh, untouched snow at elevations over 10,500 feet!

    The first mile from the Indiana Creek winter trailhead was well-traveled and packed powder. After the first mile there is a junction to either continue up Indiana Creek (towards Dyersville) or fork onto the Pennsylvania Creek trail. The latter (forking onto Pennsylvania Creek) is the more frequently used cross country ski route. As we veered toward the Indiana Creek route we were happily met with ZERO TRACKS - fresh, untouched powder for us to blaze for the next 2 miles!!!!

    The conditions slowed us a bit (you try blazing 2 miles of trail through deepening powder) but there was not a complaint from any of us - just huffing, puffing, tail-wagging smiles. The only thing we encountered for this 2 miles up and then 2 miles back were the frequent tracks of snowshoe hares. Some of these tracks must have been fresh as it took all the "listening skills" Max & Zorro have to keep on trail and not follow some of those tracks!

    Vital Stats: 6.1 miles; 95 minutes total; 80 minutes moving; 4.5 MPH moving average; 15 MPH top speed.
    Our "path" - as you can see (or not see), the trail was covered and ours to blaze.
    Good thing we had done this route before and had a feel for the trail!
    The only tracks not ours for 4 of the 6 miles today - snowshoe hare tracks!
    Max & Zorro's favorite "break activity" - dig, roll & wrestle in the deep snow.
    The human, on the other hand, rests during the breaks...