Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Need Some of Those ... Errr, Maybe Not!

Cruising down the return path
to Spruce Creek trailhead.
Wednesday found Max, Zorro & I once again taking on our most difficult skijoring trail - the path up and back to Lower Crystal Lake from the Spruce Creek winter trailhead.

What makes this trail the most difficult, you ask... (1) Could it be the over 2,100 foot elevation gain in just 2.8 miles to the lake?  No, that's fun; an extreme workout for all - but a ton of fun. (2) Could it be the lack of oxygen at our high points over 12,100 feet elevation? No, that's fun too - makes your lungs work. (3) Could it be the over 2,100 foot elevation descent down in 3.4 miles while attached to 2 Siberian sprinters? YES - now that is difficult!!!  ;-)

Humorous Event of the Day (any sleddog enthusiast will appreciate this one!): the approach to Lower Crystal Lake is above treeline and often extremely windy with the winds blowing directly into your path up. About 1/4 mile from the lake we encountered another backcountry skier cowering from the wind (poor soul did not have skijor power). We were going straight into a 20-30 mph gust, Max & Zorro heads down powering forward, as we cruised by him. He watched in awe at our uphill speed, into the wind, and said as we passed by, "Wow, I need some of those [Siberian Husky engines]!"

We took a break on reaching Lower Crystal Lake. As we were preparing for the return trek down, this same skier reached the lake with us. He skied up to us and said, "Nobody will believe I made it all the way to the lakes, but you 3 were real inspiration! Can you take my picture with the lake/peak in the background so I have proof?" "Sure," I answered and I reached down to disconnect Max & Zorro from their neckline while we played photographer. Nice photo session and a little more conversation and then I reconnected the neckline for the path down (the skier was taking tons of photos of the pretty Siberians and the equipment hookup and organization process).

Hooked and ready to go, "Ok guys, forward, let's go," I commanded. About 5 feet forward and Zorro body slammed into Max in a statement of "It was your fault we stopped so long!" The skier now got the chance to shoot photos of me untangling two wild beasts and discussing skijoring semantics with them. Hooked and ready to go, "Ok guys, forward, let's go" ... About 10 feet forward and Max body slammed into Zorro in a statement of "Was NOT my fault, take that!"  As I again started untangling, the skier came down and asked if I needed help - "No, " I said, "We just took too long of a break and they are super recharged to go, it works itself out." He shrugged and skied a little further in front of us to take more shots of the silly human and these crazed huskies. Hooked and ready to go (again), "Ok guys, forward, let's go" - BANG - Max & Zorro shot forward in a unified sprint to take off downhill. As we FLEW past the skier, the last thing I heard him say was, "Maybe I don't want some of those!"

The Route: Spruce Creek winter trailhead to Crystal Creek jeep road (steep) up to Francies Cabin and then continued (steep) up in windblown, above treeline terrain to Lower Crystal Lake; return down to Francies Cabin and then take a forest service road down to Spruce Creek jeep road for the (slightly less steep, but still very steep) return to Spruce Creek trailhead.

Vital Stats: 6.2 miles; 1h 50m total time; 90m moving time; 4.1 MPH moving average; 17 MPH top speed; 2,100 foot elevation gain (and loss); 12,100+ peak elevation. An amazing 45m up! An equally amazing 45m down - trying to keep the super sprinters under control on such steep terrain leads to a lot of "cautious skiing" by the inadequate human ;-)
On the approach to Lower Crystal Lake (located straight ahead at the base of the peak in the foreground).
Windblown terrain with occasional head-on gusts of 20-30 mph.
Over the next major hump is where we passed the backcountry skier and left him in awe!
Inside the walls of an abandoned & roofless old mining cabin.
In summer you see a beautiful Lower Crystal Lake out this window - it's frozen & snow covered in winter.
It was so windy at the lake, I huddled inside this ancient, degrading structure during our break.
Zorro standing on a snowdrift inside the old cabin structure.
Peeking over the top of the wall at the frozen/snow covered lake.
A look to our left from inside the degrading cabin walls.
Snow (and blown snow) has collected up to the top wall beam on this side of the structure.

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