Monday, November 14, 2011

Porcupine Serenade

Breaking trail uphill in 8-12 inches of untouched powder!
Siberian Power!!!
What a fun day we had skijoring today. So many interesting highlights of the trip. But, for Max & Zorro, one event made the outing...

Porcupine Serenade

We were skijoring up French Gulch and going up a small steep section that we could not see past until we came over the lip to flatten out the trail. We were going a pretty nice uphill clip, that should have been my first warning. Over the lip we crested and "WOW!" - there was a porcupine in the middle of the trail not more than 20 feet in front of us! Luckily for us, the porcupine jumped off the trail and climbed about 5 feet up a tree just off the edge of the trail. OMG - we treed a porcupine! Unlucky (for me), Max & Zorro made a beeline for that tree. I stopped as quick as I could and started reeling them away from the tree by the gangline - me against 2 Siberians dead set on getting that treed porcupine! The porcupine did not climb higher, it just sat there 5 feet off the ground watching us closely. I crawled to the other side of the trail and fought to reel the crazy Siberians with me.

Now, Max is a crackup around wildlife. He lets out high-pitched screams to express his extreme interest and motivation to catch - we call this his "ii iii iiii" scream (it sounds like a "long I" at high pitch and he usually does them in sets of 3). When the wildlife is really good (according to Max), he finishes each "ii iii iiii" set with a deeeeeep, long "awooooooo". As I'm struggling to get Max & Zorro away from this porcupine, Max breaks out into his "ii iii iii awoooooo" song. 2 solos and then on the 3rd verse Zorro joins in on the "awooooo" to make a chorus. So, here I am, in the middle of the forest, fighting to keep them from the porcupine (who is clearly reachable at only 5 feet off the ground) and a Siberian Porcupine Serenade breaks out:

Solo (Max): ii iii iiii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
Solo (Max): ii iii iiii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
Solo (Max): ii iii iii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
repeat, repeat, repeat.......

I have no idea how many verses we went through as I fought to get the situation under control - at least 15 verses, probably closer to 30! Here I was, crawling up the trail to get distance from the porcupine, dragging my skis, poles, Max & Zorro and bursting out laughing at each chorus point. What must that porcupine have thought of us! Eventually, though, I was able to drag the Siberian beasts far enough away to get back on my skis and restart skijoring. Have you ever seen a Siberian Husky sprint forward with its head in a 180 looking backward at the treed porcupine? Well, that was us...

Our original goal of the day was to find a trail to connect the backside of French Gulch to Sally Barber Mine. Since we are still in "early season" conditions, we are having trouble finding routes with enough quality snow to give us a solid 10+ mile skijoring outing. French Gulch is still pretty shallow with exposed rocks here & there - fine for skiing up, but disastrous to skijor down. Unfortunately, we could not find a connection to the mine, so we skijored up & down a wonderful stretch of 8-12 inches of powder.

The Route: (1) Start at the Barney Ford trailhead and skijor up to Sally Barber Mine and then sprint down to French Gulch; (2) skijor up French Gulch - poor conditions with shallow snow and exposed rocks for many stretches; (3) break trail skijoring straight up 1200 feet in 8-12 inches of fresh, untouched powder; (4) deadend, no visible trail, take off the skis and hike for 10-15 minutes looking for a trail restart - fail and hike back to the deadend point; (5) fly down 1200 feet (again in 8-12 inches of powder); (6) reconnect with French Gulch and skijor for a short bit before taking off the skis and jogging for 15ish minutes down to the French Gulch trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8.2 miles; 140m of total time; 85m of skijoring time - 15m of porcupine disaster time, 20m of hiking around the deadend, 15m of jogging down due to exposed rocks, 5m of miscellaneous stops. 20 MPH top speed and 1600 feet of total skijoring elevation gain!

Lower elevations around our starting point. Look closely - we are trucking!
Zorro has 3 feet in the air, Max's 2 back feet are in the air - SPRINTING!!!
More breaking trail uphill in 8-12 inches of fresh, untouched powder.
No possible way I could ski up this by myself; but add 2 Siberian engines
and every uphill seems a breeze ;-)
Done skijoring for the day. Max, still in harness, cooling down in the snow.

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