Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Third in a Row

Today was our first "third day in a row" skijoring in this early 2014/2015 season - woo hoo!
Fully extended, skijoring Siberians! Zoom!!!
In order to accomplish our first "3 in a row" for the season, we had to travel to Buffalo Pass far north in Colorado (at the base of Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area). It is quite the trip to get to (and back from) Buffalo Pass, but it was certainly worth the effort to get our first 3-fer before the end of October!

We experienced very good "October snow conditions" for the majority of the outing - enough snow to occasionally uncork the Siberians, enough snow to keep the human upright & safe and the occasional untouched, fresh powder side trail. Follow along below...

Today's video highlight shows part of one of the many nice stretches to open up the throttle - wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Buffalo Pass is open for hunting until mid/late November, so someone with a good 4WD can still drive the main trails. The vehicles pack the trail and make it easy for Max & Zorro to sprint but hard for the human to keep the skis under control (try skiing on ice :-). Luckily there was enough snow along the trail for us to enjoy the fast terrain without sacrificing the human:
Our typical configuration on heavily packed trails: (1) Max & Zorro enjoying the fast track;
and (2) The human riding the powder shoulder (notice the ski tips in powder to the left of
Max & Zorro). Fast for them with powder control for me - perfect!
We enjoyed a few "no vehicles allowed" side trails and got to lay tracks in fresh powder!
Ah, fresh powder for all!
That is Summit Lake at the top of Buffalo Pass in the right foreground.
Unfortunately all the side trails we tried ended pretty quickly with not enough snow to continue on complex terrain...
"What do you mean 'dead-end, turnaround'?!? We have no problem continuing over fallen
trees, boulders and bushes. Humans are wimps!"  say Max & Zorro who questioned my
every "turnaround" request when the side trails got too sketchy for me...

Fun day atop Buffalo Pass covering 7.6 miles with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 7 days on the trails covering 51.3 miles with 6050 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lets Go

Today's skijor outing had "equipment issues" at the start which lead to classic "we have no patience, let's go" from Max & Zorro.
"Booooooring, boooring, can we go yet?" asks yawning with impatience Zorro.
"Can we go YET?!?" says wooing Max.
I was having a problem with one of my ski bindings as it had frozen into the closed position before I could get my boot attached for the day. Temperatures at the trailhead were single digits and the binding must have gotten wet and then quickly frozen while I was getting my other equipment ready.

Max & Zorro are typically pretty patient at the trailhead waiting for the musher to get ready. But, patience has a limit and they always let me know when I have gone beyond their limit! After giving me the "yawn & woo" treatment above, Max took it one step further as you see below:
"You're killing us! LET'S GO!" says Max the bucking bronco showing his impatience and
testing if Nancy can really hold him back while I try to get my ski bindings working.
Nice work by Nancy to keep hold of the wild beast :)
Once we finally got started, it was a great day on the trails at Rabbit Ears Pass. We did the same route as yesterday with two modifications. First, we carved the trail in the fresh snow yesterday, so we got to re-use our tracks again today. Second, the temperatures remained in the teens and single digits for the entire evening, night and early morning; so all the mud & puddles from yesterday were frozen ground and ice today - yay!
Zoom, zoom - following the track we set yesterday!
With the improved conditions over yesterday, though, that meant we out-skied our set track and had a couple miles of laying fresh tracks too - wheeee!
Further than we made it yesterday - fresh snow for all!
We did hit one hidden puddle which caused me to stop and clean my skis before continuing. Everyone ready to go again?
"Yep, glad you are back on track!" says happy little Zorro.
"I cannot believe this guy, will we make any progress today?!?" says the 'still impatient with
my behaviors of the day' Max
Quick pause to check the GPS before restarting once more. Everyone ready?
"Yep and I am so happy we finally covered some serious terrain!" expresses happy Max.
"Asked & answered - will you just get going!" states Zorro.
Nice October conditions leading to a 8.9 mile outing with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 6 days on the trails covering 43.7 miles with 5050 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October Freshies

A great October day laying fresh tracks on Rabbit Ears Pass!
Breaking trail and laying fresh tracks in 5-7 inches of fresh October powder - wheeee!
A storm blew into Colorado Sunday night into Monday morning and we decided to check the snow accumulation at Rabbit Ears Pass. Great decision as we spent the day laying fresh tracks in 2-8 inches of snow all day long!
Another beautiful stretch untouched, fresh snow. You can see the "snow troughs" behind
Max & Zorro showing the tracks they are laying in 4-5 inches of snow.
Before you get too impressed by the first two pictures above, remember that it is still October. That means that "early season conditions" are to be expected at all times. Today's primary obstacles were puddles not yet frozen and covered in snow (as they will be in November). See for yourself:
"Eek! Look at the puddle danger!" exclaims water averse Zorro taking the high road far to the
left to make sure he does not touch any water. "It's just a little water bro," says go-with-the-flow
and power through puddles Max.
The biggest problem with "puddle obstacles" is that it creates wet & heavy snow near any puddle which causes skis to become sticky and hard to glide (you have to lift up/down like snowshoes instead of typical gliding on skis). Oh well, it is better than no snow at all!

Time to turnaround, everyone having fun?
"Great day!" says happy little Zorro.
"Yes, but I think we should keep going!" says 'less than impressed' with the turnaround
command Max.
Quick stop to scrape mud & heavy snow off my skis. Everyone ready to go again?
"Absolutely, glad you fixed those silly skis!" says happy Max.
"Going...." demonstrates 'all business' Zorro.

A great day laying fresh tracks albeit somewhat slowed by sticky snow around the many puddle obstacles: 7.2 miles with 750 feet of elevation climbed.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 5 days on the trails covering 34.8 miles with 4150 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just Enough Snow

Just enough snow to take the sled for a spin on Vail Pass this morning.
Talking to my pals at our turnaround point of the day...
"Enough snow for me to have a GREAT time!" expresses happy Max.
"I see more snow, let's go!" says Zorro surveying our surroundings.

We got a dusting of new snow at home Tuesday night; but awoke to see more than a dusting on the traffic cams at Vail Pass. So, we all piled into the Jeep quickly and headed up to Vail Pass to make use of the snow. Unfortunately there was only 2-4 inches of new snow and Vail Pass is still open to cars. This meant we had to use the sled instead of skis for our quick morning run. Oh well, the sled on snow is better than no snow!

Our "start point" near the top of Shrine Pass at Vail Pass.
Enough snow for the sled; but not enough for the skis (especially with the tire tracks).
Off we go - wheeee!
A great shaded (and, thus, snow covered & frozen) straightaway to uncork the Siberians.
Still shaded & frozen, but you can see the trucks have been cutting down to dirt in many places. Boo!
And the occasional "UGH!" as the vehicles have destroyed the snow and brought dirt
and mud to the surface!

Our funny encounter of the day... As we were sledding up Lime Creek, Max & Zorro's "wildlife sensors" started firing and you could tell they had the scent of fresh deer or elk. At about the same time, a hunter was coming down the road in his truck (it is "hunting season" on Vail Pass until mid November). I stopped the sled and pulled Max & Zorro off to the shoulder to let the truck pass and the 2 of them happily oriented themselves in the direction of the fresh deer or elk scent. As the hunter passed, we have the following exchange: "Nice dogs, you seen any deer or elk tracks this morning?" ask the hunter. "Thanks and no I have not; but there MUST be deer or elk nearby or these two [pointing at Max & Zorro] would not be this animated." I responded. "Hmmmmm..." he pondered and then put his truck in park, took out his rifle and headed down into the trees in the direction Max & Zorro were intensely pointed and watching. As I started to get Max & Zorro re-oriented back on the trail, I heard two gunshots. Guess the hunter had success, thanks to the fine wildlife tracking and pointing skills of Max & Zorro. What talented sled dogs :)

A nice day (for October) to get the sled out on the trails for a 6.9 mile run with 550 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 4 days on the trails covering 27.6 miles with 3400 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's Better Than Summer

The theme for today's "sled dog" outing:
Well, it's better than summer!
"What do you mean 'sketchy conditions'? We could go all day!" say the happy pair simply
excited to be on snow at a beautiful 21 degrees.

We expected degrading conditions for our outing today as Sunday's snowfall was not enough to hold up against multiple days of rising temperatures.

If we are expecting degrading conditions, then we follow two rules: (1) Use the dog sled instead of skis as the sled can handle hitting rocks or dirt and skis cannot; and (2) Get an early start so that any mud from yesterday is frozen ground today. The downside of the sled is that we cannot go as far as our typical outing on skis as 2 sled dogs cannot tow a human uphill like they can when I am on skis. Yet, it is an outing on snow!

How to summarize today's outing... Well, it's better than summer! But, oh my, were the conditions really degraded in areas. Follow along below for the good, the bad and the ugly of the outing:

The Good. Laying fresh tracks in 3-4 inches of untouched snow!
The Bad. Eek, look at all the exposed ground! Thus the reason we were on the sled and not skis
today. But, do notice the "sled frame" at the bottom of the image and you can see I was still
able to keep the sled runners on snow - it just looks really bad.
The Ugly. Egad, not enough snow to keep the runners off ground. But, notice the shininess
of the ground - we are on frozen ground and ice, so the sled keeps going. Pretty ugly, but
it's 21 degrees and it's not summer!
The, um, well... <insert your most distressing word here>... Dog sledding without snow (but
on a sled). Thank dog for frozen ground or we would have been carrying the sled on the poor
human's back at this point!

Max & Zorro's opinion of the day? "Well, it's better than summer! A cool 21 degrees to let the sled move across frozen ground and we are able to run much faster with the human on the sled runners instead of feet!"

A 6 mile sled run today with 850 feet of elevation climbed and the good, the bad, the ugly & the "oh my god" of trail conditions.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 3 days on the trails covering 20.7 miles with 2850 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

10 Miles at Vail Pass

A magnificent mid-October day to skijor 10+ miles at Vail Pass!
Flying along the top of the Shrine Pass Trail at Vail Pass.
Max & Zorro in a perfect "synchronized tuck" as they propel the human through the snow!
A nice snowstorm blew into Colorado on Sunday and that had us itching to hit the trails Monday morning. Since it is still October, the high "mountain pass" trails get the most & best quality snow from a storm. So, we got up early and were thrilled to be first tracks on the trails at Vail Pass!

Our second outing of the season and Max & Zorro already look to be in perfect midseason form. These two are definitely professional sled dogs :-)
Shoulder-to-shoulder in a synchronized airborne stretch as we sprint along the trails
as if the "summer layover" never happened.

Today's video highlight shows this midseason form as we were flying perfectly all day. Excellent conditions to uncork Max & Zorro in mid-October! Woo Hoo!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

The network of trails at Vail Pass is virtually endless. But, eventually the human decides it is time to turnaround...
"Well, ok, if you say so! I am having SO much fun!" expresses happy & agreeable Max.
"Turnaround?!? Pfft - I could go for hours more!" demonstrates Zorro pointing in the
'continue forward' direction and pretending he did not hear me say time to turnaround.

Look at the great snow in the pictures and video and you must be thinking, "Go again tomorrow!" Unfortunately, though, the Vail Pass trails are not closed to vehicles for winter until late November. So, we encountered a few 4WD enthusiasts blasting up the trails after we hit our high point of the day and started back down. The Vail Pass trails will be trashed by the end of the day and unusable until the next snowstorm. Oh well, at least we were smart enough to get started at sunrise and enjoy laying fresh tracks for the majority of the day!

Todays outing: 10.1 miles with 1150 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 14.7 miles with 2000 feet of elevation climbed for 2 days on the trails.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014/2015 Opening Day

October 4th was Opening Day for our 2014/2015 Skijoring Season.
Max, Zorro & I were so excited to be back on the snow!!! Go, go go...
Wheeee! We had the occasional "obstruction free, all snow" straightaways like this.
My pals were SO HAPPY when the human could open up the throttle!

Being on skis on October 4th is certainly a treat. But, you have to expect sketchy conditions with frequent ground exposure. Our outing took us to Buffalo Pass in north/central Colorado. This is a common hunting area this time of year, so we were sharing the trails with ATVs and 4WDs that tend to cut through the snow and down to the dirt. So, most of our day went as shown in the video below: (1) wheeee - we found a nice shoulder to trot & run outside of the ATV/4WD tracks; (2) obstacle upcoming, I think I can slide by on one ski; (3) oops, too much exposed ground - cannot get by, too late to stop my accelerator pals -- catch a rock or mud and wipeout...

[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

We had 3 wipeouts like the one in the video during the day. But, the optimist would note that we tend to have roughly 6 wipeouts a season and we already have 3 out of the way - woohoo! :-)

A couple of shots of my "so happy to be back on snow" skijor partners:
The human stopped to assess the terrain before launching down the curvy road.
About ready to go and I asked, "Everyone ready & having fun?"
"Absolutely! I LOVE snow!" answers giddy Max to my question.
Another quick pause point while I make sure the terrain is ok to "open up".
I asked the "Everyone ready?" question again and got this response:
"Quit talking, I'm going!" demonstrates Max.
"I am, you better be - Max is moving out with or without you!" states happy little Zorro.

Our most humorous moment of the day came with an encounter with an ATV driver. When we saw the ATV approaching, we pulled over to the shoulder and stopped to let him pass. As he got even with us, he stopped to ask me if he was on the right trail to the top of Buffalo Pass and how much further to the top of the pass. I gave him a "Yes, right trail and you have about a mile to go." He said "thanks" and then looked at Max & Zorro and tried to startup a conversation about them and skijoring. Here is the reaction he got from Max...

"What? ANOTHER question??? We already gave you directions. You are KILLING me!" says Max
to his attempt to start a conversation. You can see Max lifting his front left leg and swaying his head
to the right in a classic "you've got to be kidding me" motion.
"No more questions - lets go!!!!" demonstrates Max the airborne bucking bronco.
In response to the guy's idle conversation, Max let out an "awoo woo woo" and bucked in
the air to show his displeasure with idleness. The guy looked wide-eyed at Max and said, "Sorry,
I will let you get on your way." Hilarious Max...

The end of our fun, albeit short, run. How was it guys?
"Awesome, just awesome!!! Snow is back!" says approving Max.
"<chomp> <chomp>, snowcones are back!" demonstrates snow-approving Zorro doing his
2nd favorite winter activity of eating snow (skijoring is his favorite activity :)

Tally for the day: a quick 4.6 miles with 850 feet of elevation and a top speed of 16 MPH.