Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sloshing to the Season Finale

Friday morning our 2011/2012 skijoring season came sloshing to an end on Baldy Mountain.
625.1 miles for the season!

Laying fresh tracks between Baldy and Boreas mountains. The snow looks
great in this shot and it was as we were above 11000 feet elevation and about
30 minutes into our outing. We looped back to this same path about 45 minutes
later and it had already degraded to a sloshy wet & sticky surface.
We had a few inches of new snow Thu night (and a few inches Wed night). Sounds promising, but the snow at home was a wet & sticky mess - barely even snow. So, we decided to take our fun to much higher elevations on Baldy Mountain. The higher you go, the more the new snow transitions from wet & sticky to soft & fluffy. Usually...

1) The first 30 minutes found us laying fresh tracks in 2-4 inches of new powder! So much fun, but we noticed the temperatures increasing and the snow quality deteriorating, even at elevations well above 11,000 feet.

2) The next hour or so we witnessed the terrain quickly turning from "fresh powder" to "slush above mud" as we cruised around the West and North faces of Baldy Mountain. Temperatures approaching 40 degrees and slushy, sloshy terrain started to slow down the Siberians; but we kept going, having fun at slower speeds. I let Max & Zorro set a pace that was comfortable to them in the heat & slush.

3) The final 30 minutes found us returning to elevations below 11,000 feet (to get back to the trailhead at around 10,600). Yuck! A shallow wet & sticky layer of slush over a trail of mud. Yuck! I had to remove the skis twice to cross over areas where the top layer was too shallow and my skis were cutting (and sticking) into the mud.

The day's total: we skijored up over 1400 feet of elevation, looking for "better snow higher" without much luck. Our total mileage was a modest 8.4 miles (heat, elevations and slush impaired ;-)

A fun day.... But, with the "10 day forecast" showing all sun and highs in the upper 50s/low 60s - well, we officially declared our 2011/2012 skijoring season over today.

Dreaming of October, pray for snow! Max & Zorro.
It's hard to see in this photo; but that is a trail of fresh bunny tracks going downhill
in front of us. The *last* thing the human needs is bunny juice to energize the
Siberians downhill!
Did I mention the "Siberian hot" temperatures? Max rolling a snow angel to
cool off in the snow.
Siberian Snow Cone Party.
Max & Zorro enjoying tasty snow cones during one of our breaks.
Fallen tree obstacle along the way to the True Romance Mine.
Back at the trailhead getting our "end of run hot dog" treats.
Very intense Max & Zorro watching my hands closely!

Monday, April 16, 2012

April Trail Breaking!

Wow - what a trail breaking powder day in April we had today!
Going "single file" and following Max's trail breaking lead. Notice how the path
laid by Max is as deep as Zorro! That's why we all fall in behind the tall red boy!
1) The first 1/4 mile found us breaking trail in about 8 inches of untouched powder.
2) The next 4.75 miles found us breaking trail in 12-20 inches of untouched powder. Almost 5 miles straight of powder often as deep as Max & Zorro! We did a "loop route" around Baldy Mountain, so we were breaking trail in incredibly deep powder this entire route!
3) The last mile found us following our own tracks and sprinting to the finish line (see video below).

Accolades to Lead Dog Max... Twice we were high up on Baldy in about 20 inches of snow and Max took a right that I was sure was incorrect. When you are looking over an untouched field of deep snow and trees, all turns look "the same". I was convinced we were making each turn too early, but I kept quiet and let Max lead. Of course, Max was right and I was wrong. Each turn was the correct right, even though you could not see the trail and all turns looked the same. Both times we quickly got to landmarks that showed me Max made the correct turn. I love that sled dog ability to sense and follow a buried trail!

Some more fun shots of the deep powder:
Near the trailhead, breaking trail in 8+ inches fresh snow. Woo Fun!
You can't make Max do *all* the trail breaking work. On a downslope, he lets
Zorro hop to the front and make the trail.
When short Zorro is in lead, we go a bit slower. I swung out to the right to get
a shot of Zorro plowing through shoulder deep powder. He might be short, but
he gives it 110% all the time!
The only complication of the day... BUNNY! BUNNY! As we were coming up one steep stretch, a snowshoe hare hopped across the trail and then about 15 feet into the trees. Of course, our skijoring vehicle launched right at the bunny and flew off the trail - planting the human in huge pile of snow. To make matters worse, the silly rabbit just STOPPED only about 10 feet from Max & Zorro. Snowshoe hares are white in the winter and brown/black in the summer. They often stop when near predators because they think their color camouflage makes them invisible. Today's hare was dirty white with black splotches - that is, he was in the process of changing from winter whites to summer darks. But, put a dirty white rabbit in fresh snow and he sticks out like a shining beacon. He didn't fool any Siberians who had him dead in their sights and were raring to catch fresh rabbit food! Luckily Max & Zorro were anchored to the pile of human in the deep snow. Yet, each time I tried to get up, the Siberians would get a little slack in the gangline and lunge further off the trail. I eventually threw a snowball at the dumb bunny so that it would run off further into the forest. Finally it was not dead centered right in front of my salivating partners and I could start to pull us out of the snow and trees...

BUNNY ALERT!!! I had already thrown the snowball at the silly rabbit to get
it to run off into the forest. But, Max & Zorro (especially Zorro) are still locked
on the direction of the fresh rabbit food.
"Maybe the bunny is under here!" Max investigates.
"No, I'm sure he went that way. Let's turn this vehicle around and chase after
the bunny!
" proclaims Zorro.
A nice shot of the deep snow trench we just carved coming up the trail.
Overall, it was not a particularly fast outing today. Only 6 miles just under 2 hours. Sounds, slow, huh? Well, factor in that almost 5 of the 6 miles required breaking trail in 12-20 inches of snow and we actually made pretty good time! But once we got back in our own tracks, we flew the last mile, see below:
A fast jog down the home stretch to the Baldy Mountain trailhead.
video

Sunday, April 15, 2012

SNOW!

Finally - a "spring snow" in Colorado!!!
It was a wet, sticky, slow snow - but IT SNOWED!!!
Cruising up Boreas Pass Rd, laying fresh tracks in about 4 inches of fresh snow.
After what was the driest March on record for Colorado and 14 days of "no snow" in April, we FINALLY got a good spring snow (something that usually happens multiple times in March and April).

Max, Zorro & I were almost convinced the season was over; but we kept the slightest glimmer of hope going. It couldn't go all spring without a single snow, could it.... Phew, it could not! We got an 11 mile skijor run up & down Boreas Pass Rd today. Wheee!

The conditions? Well, "molasses soup" at the lower elevations, "powder bliss" at the higher elevations.

The lower terrain (from the Boreas winter trailhead to Bakers Tank) had about 4-6 inches of new wet & sticky snow atop wet mud on Boreas Pass Rd. It has been so hot and dry lately, that Boreas was a path of mud and completely free of snow until last night. The wet snow started to accumulate before the mud could freeze and then provided a layer of insulation to keep it from freezing. The result: a wet spring snow over a wet mud base. Imagine pouring a layer of honey over a bowl of molasses - that was the conditions at the lower elevations. We had to remove my skis 3 times (once up and twice down) to scrape the layer of wet snow & mud that had accumulated to the point where my skis would not glide. But, no complaints here: we were skijoring again - just expending a lot of effort to move the skis through the sticky terrain. Max & Zorro kept pulling, trying to get human to move faster through the honey & molasses; no give up in those two!  ;-)

The upper terrain (from Bakers Tank to just below treeline on Boreas) had 4-8 inches of beautiful, soft & untouched new powder atop a hard/frozen Boreas Pass Rd. We had a blast on this 1/2 of the outing - breaking trail in 4-8 inches of fluffy snow. Woo, what fun!

And... it's still snowing this afternoon. I sense our 2011/2012 season will be continuing tomorrow!

Our final approach back to the Boreas winter trailhead. Siberians working hard
to pull the sticking skis through the wet snow.
High up on Boreas Pass Rd at our midpoint break. Max beginning one of
his patented "snow angel rolls" in the snow.
Zorro at our midpoint. It was snowing nicely high up on Boreas. Zorro's left
side is happily covered in fresh falling snow.
Snowing hard at our midpoint. We had a few hotdog treats, changed my gloves and
then turned around to see our "up tracks" were already covered in snow and invisible.
So, it was a fun time breaking trail up & down Boreas, no "easy down" taking our
existing tracks. Nice workout for the Siberians!
Vital Stats: 10.7 miles; 135m total time, 105m skijoring time (30m of stoppage for one break and 3 "remove and scrub the buildup off the skis" stops); 1500 feet of elevation climbed; 15 MPH top speed. Given the "honey & molasses" lower terrain, we made pretty good time covering 10.7 miles and 1500 feet - we must have been flying in the upper terrain; because we were certainly crawling in the lower terrain...

Monday, April 2, 2012

600 Miles - the End?

We did it - we hit 600 total miles for our 2011/2012 skijoring season!

It was a real stretch to get to 600 miles today. The conditions were, well how to put it nicely... horrendous! We spent about 60 minutes on skis and about 60 minutes hiking over exposed terrain. But, the 3 of us were determined to get to 600 miles today.
The Ugly: "Yikes! Where'd the snow go???"
This was skiable just 2 days ago! To make matters worse, this was the
shortest of 5 different sections of exposed dirt we encountered on our
outing today. Shed the skis and hike - BOO!
We went back to the Breckenridge Nordic Center trails today. The nordic center closed for the season yesterday, so we were hoping to get some useable terrain by piggybacking on their "just closed" trails. We were on much of the same terrain we skijored Saturday morning. But here's the big differences between Saturday morning and Monday morning:

The high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday topped 60 degrees! Melt, melt, MELT!

As a result of the Saturday/Sunday melt-off, our terrain was about an even mix between The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - see for yourself in the photos above and below:
The Bad: Icy with intermittent exposed ground.
We were able to skijor (carefully) up these bad sections; but you could not
skijor down this type of terrain - too slick & narrow at Siberian downhill speeds
to catch one of these exposed patches and lose a ski. Shed the skis and
hike down - BOO!
The Good: Ahhh, a stretch of actual snow!
Only about 1/3 of our outing had conditions looking like this...
Given the first and second photos above, the obvious question is: "Was this our last skijor outing of the season?" The answer is "Absolutely Yes! ... Unless we get a real dump of good snow at some point in April." So, most likely, this was it (the reason we hiked half the outing to make it to 600 miles). But, as the eternal optimists, Max, Zorro & I are holding out hope for a magic dump of new snow to keep our fun alive. Pray for Snow, Pray for Snow, Pray for Snow....

Vital Stats: 8.4 miles; 120m total time; only 60m skijoring time (sigh!); 17 MPH top speed; 1500 feet of elevation climbed.
Back at the trailhead getting our "end of run hotdog treats".
Notice the lack of snow on the ground...
Notice Zorro's cute little tongue - Yum, yum!