Monday, February 17, 2020

Fresh to First

Happy kids looking back at me during a quick pause on the trail this morning!
"We are having a BLAST!" declares the happy, happy kids.
We gave Zorro most of this morning off as he came with for full runs the last two days. So, I took the kids, Jack & Rudy, on an extended run with some aerobic trail breaking mixed in.

We started the morning on lesser used backcountry trails and found ourselves breaking trail and laying fresh tracks in 8+ inches of fresh snow.
Kicking up Powder all around Jack & Rudy as they break trail in
over 12 inches of powder at this point on the trail.
Come along for the impressive powder pair. I've spliced together two short clips of the powder plowing kids into one video highlight. I love riding behind the trail breaking masters!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

We broke trail in deep snow for just over 1 mile. The reward for this aerobic trail breaking?

Well, rolling snow angels, of course!
Cooling our jets rolling in the snow after serious trail breaking.
"You expected something different?" asks goofy Jack.
"Yum, snow angels AND snow cones!' demonstrates talented Rudy :)
Ok, let's try that again... The reward for breaking trail over 1 mile?

Ah, here we go - the reward was being first tracks on the freshly groomed trails at Gold Run Nordic Center for over 6 miles!
Now this is more like it. What a reward for trail breaking work!
Then, the reward for dropping onto the trails at the nordic center? Well, we got to meet up with fun Zorro for a short run to the finish as a happy trio:
Wheeee! Smiles all around from the flying trio!
No need to stop for Nancy on the side of the trail as we fly on by with Zorro to the trailhead.
Flying Zorro alongside fast running Rudy & Jack!
A little of everything today: breaking trail, laying fresh tracks on backcountry trails, topping 23 MPH on nordic trails and adding Zorro for a fast & furious finish to the day: 7.4 miles traveled with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 23 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 98 days on the trails covering 668.3 miles with 61,350 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Polite

Fun skijor in the morning's new snow - did everyone have a good time?
"You bet! Such fun!" says the 'all smiles' trio at the end of our outing.
Today we get to showcase just how far along young Jack & Rudy have come. They are really maturing into perfect sled dogs with a wonderful politeness towards older Zorro.

We planned an out & back trip in French Gulch and got out early to be first on the new snow. We found a couple of inches at the trailhead and it gradually got deeper and deeper as we went out & up the gulch. At 11.5 years old, we know Zorro is not really able to break trail any longer. As the snow started getting deeper in the gulch, the trio automatically moved into the configuration below. This is just PERFECT - Jack & Rudy setting the trail while Zorro trots behind them using the trail they are setting. Using the youngsters to set trail while preserving the elder. What a team!
Jack & Rudy setting the trail while Zorro happily trots behind
them and uses their trail. What an amazing "teamwork photo"!
Ok, ready to be impressed again? Well, once we turned around and headed back, here's the team configuration for the entire return leg: Zorro running in the track we set on the way out while Jack & Rudy make their own trail in the fresh snow to the right. Once again absolutely PERFECT teamwork as we let elder Zorro have the easier part of the trail while polite & young Jack & Rudy take the hard terrain!
Which "teamwork photo" is more impressive - this one or the prior? I'm still
undecided.
Now for the video showcase of polite Jack & Rudy. Come along for a glimpse of the return leg in French Gulch as Zorro runs in the track we set on the way out while Jack & Rudy take the untouched snow to the right of the trail.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Eventually the snow got too deep for Zorro to continue (even behind Jack & Rudy), so we turned around sooner than usual. As a result, we got back to the trailhead with enough time to jog down unplowed French Gulch Road to finish the day. So fun to be up ahead of the plows and get a fast road all to yourselves!
Zorro, Jack & Rudy jogging in tire tracks on French Gulch Road while
I ride in the deeper snow on the shoulder. Fun!
An absolutely perfect day with Jack & Rudy leading the way so older Zorro could come along too: 5.2 miles traveled with 400 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 97 days on the trails covering 660.9 miles with 60,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Misaligned

Happy fellas watching a dog sled team from Good Times Adventures run on a trail parallel to us.
"Hey friends! Love watching you run!' says the happy watching trio.
We went out to the trails at Swan Valley to do one of our favorite skijor activities: run alongside the dog sled teams from Good Times Adventures. It was a very fun day with lots of excitement on the trails.

Here we are executing a perfect pass by a team stopped on the side of the trail. You can see the 2 lead dogs of the 8 dog team next to the snowmobile. Notice the leader on the right is talking up a storm as we go by :)
"Hi... Bye!" says my trustworthy 'on by' partners.
Unfortunately, that is the best photo of the day. Unknown to me, the camera on my chest got shifted to the left of my body during the day's excitement. It was just after this photo that the camera got misaligned. You can see a team coming down the trail in front of us as I get my partners under control on the side trail. But, notice Zorro is lining himself up to go too. I had to kneel and keep ahold of the gangline to keep us from taking off as this team went by. In all the "control work" by me, I accidentally moved the camera far left on my chest and did not notice the rest of the day.
"I'm coming too!' says powder plowing Zorro getting ready to join!
"We are ready too!" says Jack & Rudy getting ready to join.
How misaligned was the camera after the prior photo? Well, here we are paused on a side trail watching another team go perpendicular. I am lined up straight but the camera is on the left of my body so you can barely make out Rudy on the right.
The misaligned camera getting only a smidget of Rudy's mouth but a nice, full
view of Zorro & Jack watching the team go by.
Just how misaligned? Well, here we are executing another perfect pass yet all you can see is Rudy. Trust me, Zorro & Jack were executing a perfect pass out of view of the misaligned camera.
"Coming through!" says trotting Rudy.
Oh well, sorry for all the misaligned shots. But, back to the originally aligned camera. Here we are executing our first pass on by a paused team on the trail. We start in a quick jog along the open trail until I see a stopped team around the bend in the trail. So, we slow, shorten the gangline for safety and then perfectly pass on by. Once on by, I need to call out a little encouragement to my partners before we restart going fast along the trail again.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

A very fun day with, unfortunately, a lot of misaligned footage: 6.9 miles traveled with 600 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 23 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 96 days on the trails covering 655.7 miles with 60,450 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Woo, Whee

Zipping along in a "mimi groomer track" with my fast pals Jack & Rudy. Wheeee!
Flying along in a mini groomer track.
After yesterday's "moose following skijor", we gave older Zorro most of today off to rest from the super fun and tiring moose day :)

I took Jack & Rudy out to the freshly groomed trails in and around Gold Run Nordic Center. We started as you see above on narrow "mini groomer" trails until we eventually dropped onto the fast, wide and FRESHLY groomed trails of the nordic center. My pals were in speed mode all day long. The GPS clocked us at 22 MPH for a top speed, but it sure felt like we went faster than that! Once we transitioned from narrow to wide trails, Jack & Rudy sure made full use of the wideness!
You can't get much further apart than this. Making full use of the wide trail.
8 feet all off the ground too!
The trails were so fast & fun that I was getting giddy too. When you hang out with a pair of 2 year olds, I guess it is contagious :) Come along as we are FLYING along the fast trails. Turn up your volume and you'll hear me shouting out "woos" and "whees" and "wows" as we ZIP along.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Oh those 2 year olds. We were rounding a corner when both jumped far off trail into the deep snow. I was expecting them to come up with some animal (or animal part), yet they came up empty. But something sure got their attention to leap this far off trail!
Dunk & Hunt. We smell fresh frozen meat :)
Then, coming around another bend in the trail and look what we found - MOOSE PRINTS! Jack & Rudy each have their nose in a moose print while you can see another in between them. We didn't see any moose, but these prints sure smelled good :)
"Sniff, sniff - tasty!" say the moose sniffing pair.
Finally, after a fast & furious day with the kids, we hooked up with Zorro for a happy glide to the finish with our favorite old man :)
"Whee - so happy!" says the super trio.
A fast, "woo, whee, wow" day with the kids and a fun finish with Zorro: 8.1 miles traveled with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 22 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 95 days on the trails covering 648.8 miles with 59,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Moose Follow

Happy boys finishing a very successful "moose seeking skijor" in French Gulch this morning!
"Whew, that was FUN!" says my happy trotting partners.
One of the reasons (and the primary reason) we love the French Gulch Trail is the population of moose that live in the gulch. But, to our displeasure, we have not had a real good "moose sighting" this season. Despite tons of moose evidence such as entrance/exit troughs from the trail to forest and tracks (and poops) on the trail, the elusive moose have simply toyed with us all season.

Today started much the same as this season in French Gulch as we found a very fresh smelling moose exit trough near the trailhead. I knew it was an exit trough as there were no prints going up the trail and only a couple of prints crossing the trail from an entrance trough a few yards behind us. Darn, I thought, we just missed the elusive moose again!
"Very fresh moose trough!" says trough sniffing Zorro & Rudy.
"Scanning, scanning, where are the moose?" asks forest scanning Jack.
After thoroughly inspecting the trough above, we resumed skijoring out French Gulch with me assuming we failed to sight a moose once again. But, just around the corner from this trough and look what we found standing in the middle of the trail - MOOSE!!!!!! You can barely make out the entrance trough just above and to the left of Rudy's ear. The moose came back within 50 yards of the exit trough we found above! Oh boy - love to see moose! There were actually two (a mother and child) - this is the child you see below and the mother is just around the bend in the trail behind the kid.
"Moose, moose - let's go!" says my excited & ecstatic moose seeking trio.
The mother and child proceeded to go out & up the French Gulch trail. We followed them for almost 3 miles playing a fun game of "stop & go". If the moose stopped, we stopped. If the moose went, we went. Stop, go, stop, go, etc etc for almost 3 miles of entertainment.

You stop, we stop:
"Hi! We see you too!" says my stopped and intense moosers.
This is the mother and the kid is hidden behind her here.
You go, we go:
Mother and child are running up the trail single file (so it looks like just one).
"You go, we go - here we come!" says my moose followers.
You stop, we stop:
Mother on the right, kid on the left.
"I vote for 'you stop, we still go'!" Rudy tells me :)
Sorry, Rudy, if moose stop, we STOP!
You go, we go:
Nice view of mother and child running up the trail side by side.
"Here we come again!" says the moose following trio.
You stop, we stop:
The pair of moose stopped ahead again.
This is actually the last time we saw them as they finally took off
for a long distance instead of the "stop, go, stop, go" they
had been doing.
Today's video highlight is, of course, the moose fun. Come along for an excerpt of "go, stop, go, stop, go" with the pair of moose. Watch how hard I have to work to maintain the "stop" with my moose seeking partners. Turn up your volume and hear talkative Rudy doing his "moose scream" during some of the stoppage. What a fun day :)
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

After almost 3 miles, the moose finally exited the trail and went off into the forest:
"Moose exited here! Can we too?" asks Jack deep in the exit trough.
"I vote for following Jack!" adds Rudy.
"I still smell them, let's follow!" agrees Zorro.
I vetoed all the above votes. No way are we going to follow moose into deep snow in the dense forest! With the moose gone, we turned around and ran back down French Gulch jogging and sniffing the tracks that had been laid by the moose all the way out! 6.2 miles traveled with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 94 days on the trails covering 640.7 miles with 59,350 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Interesting

Love the look I am getting from Zorro as the goofball kids roll snow angels once again behind him!
"Um, they are at it AGAIN! What shall we do?" asks mature Zorro.
"Whee, haha, roll, hehe, let's connect our snow angels!" demonstrates the goof kids.
It was an interesting day this morning skijoring the upper elevation trails at Breckenridge Nordic Center. We have had upwards of 60 (maybe closer to 70) inches of snow fall over the last week. It has seriously snowed just about every day with some days dropping as much as 20 inches at once and the "mild" days dropping 5 inches; but the week total is in the 60-70 inch range.

What has made this interesting is that the nordic center groomers cannot keep up! We were on trails that are normally 8, maybe 10, dogs wide of easy groomed terrain. But, today, the upper elevation trails looked more like backcountry trails than nordic trails. There was a set track down the middle that was only 2 Siberians wide as people are reusing each other's tracks since the groomer cannot keep up. A "single track, 2 wide" trail is a backcountry trail. So we had the problem that Zorro, Jack & Rudy could not all fit in the single track. Plus, the snow outside of the track was too deep for one to run in and keep pace. What to do? Well, Zorro to the rescue!!!! Zorro quickly noticed the "classic track" made by the groomer to the side of the single track. While there was fresh snow in the classic track, it still had a somewhat firm surface under the new snow. So, Jack & Rudy ran in the single track (doing most of the work pulling me) while Zorro kept pace to the side in the classic track. What a smart guy that Zorro is!
Let Jack & Rudy have the 2-wide set track and do most of the work while
Zorro keeps pace in the classic track to the side.
It is not often that you can say the nordic center was "too narrow" and "too soft" to go very fast. What a week of snow it has been!

Near the trailhead, though, the trail was packed wider than 2, so back to the power trio we go:
Such power in this trio!
One problem with the prior photo, though. We are close to the trailhead. This particular trail has the following things to be cautious of near the trailhead. First, there are many side trails connecting from the left and right onto this main trail. Second, ALL of these side trails are known as places where people bring loose dogs along on snowshoe hikes. Third, only about 1/2 of the people we encounter think it is a bad idea for their loose dogs to jump in the middle of a moving skijor team. "Fluffy just wants to say 'HI'," they say.

So, what does this mean. It means I try to proceed cautiously through this section of trail. But, it is also steep and I have powerful machines. Come along and watch just how fast we go with me in a complete snowplow the entire time! Watch for all the trail intersections that are all known for loose dogs: snowshoe trail to the left at 15 seconds, wide trail on the right at 17 seconds, snowshoe trail to the left and right at 33 seconds. I get a real workout to snowplow at 15-20 MPH through this section of trail!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Finally, finished towing the snowplowing chicken human but we are still all smiles ending the day's interesting, yet very fun, run.
"Whee - we don't mind snowplowing, just gives us something to PULL!" says
the happy power trio.
A relatively short distance outing for the trails we were on; but the trails had a "backcountry feel" instead of the usual nordic feel: 5.2 miles traveled with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 93 days on the trails covering 634.5 miles with 58,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Great Until

Such happy sled dogs at our turnaround point in French Gulch this morning!
Smiles all around!
We only had time for a short run this morning and we got 4-8 inches of new snow overnight (depending on your elevation) so our plan was to get on French Gulch while the conditions were still good.

It started out PERFECT. A few pre-existing but still soft tracks and some nice powder in the shoulders and middle. Nice shot of the "tow rope trio" towing me up & out French Gulch:
Beautiful early morning conditions!
After a quick jog up & out French Gulch, it was time to turnaround and fly back. Look at this great shot of the trail with 3 set tracks and one sled dog in each track. Wheeee!
Trio of tracks, trio of sled dogs. Wheeee!
Everything was going according plan UNTIL - UGH the evil awful dirty rotten PLOW! We were almost back to the trailhead when we encountered this demon. If we'd only started 5-10 minutes earlier, we would have avoided it altogether and had a perfect albeit short outing.
"That's just plain EVIL!" express Jack & Rudy.
"Let's go knock it over!" suggests Zorro :)
Come along for the "run to the devil" video clip this morning. We start out on absolutely wonderful conditions having a blast cruising the perfect trail. Until... Well, until we encounter the devil plow on the trail and have to stop.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

To be fair, there are a handful of private cabins in French Gulch and the owners are allowed to contract any plow service they want to access their cabins. BUT.... But, the agreement between the county and the owners is the following: You may plow the access road IF and ONLY IF you leave 4+ inches of snow on the trail for backcountry enthusiasts.

Ok, I can live with that agreement, but here is what we found once we got past the devil plow:
"Um, we might be only 2 years old, but we know this isn't 4 inches of snow on the trail!"
says smart beyond their years Jack & Rudy.
I approached this trail damage slowly until I saw I could probably pass over. I think Zorro was as surprised as me that I could navigate the skis over:
"Really? You can make it?" asks concerned Zorro.
I put all my weight on my left leg and was able to cross cautiously
Oh well, no need to dwell on the evil awful dirty rotten plow. We'll just enjoy toes on snow and plan other trails until fresh snow falls in French Gulch again.
"We can forget about the plow and move on to 'end of run' treats!" says the fun trio.
A quick & short outing that was PERFECT until the last 5ish minutes: 4.2 miles traveled with 400 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 92 days on the trails covering 629.3 miles with 58,150 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Zoo

It was a zoo in French Gulch this morning as it seems like the entire town of Breckenridge brought their dogs to the gulch this morning!
Nancy, Zorro, Jack & Rudy were waiting at the trailhead as I put my skis on when
a dog came running up from behind me and into the group.
When I am on skis and we encounter loose dogs, I simply get everyone stopped and then get on my knees and wait for the human accompanying the dog(s) to eventually arrive and move them on by. Some people understand why I am stopped (I can't have a loose dog jumping in the middle of us while I am on skis - think about how many things could go wrong) and some people are, well, clueless!

Despite the zoo of activity, we still had a great time skijoring the gulch. We had many stretches of unoccupied, wide and fast packed terrain. Zoom!
Flying along the fast & wide trail!
We had numerous stretches where there were set tracks on each side of the trail with powder in the middle. The middle powder was too deep for anyone (typically Jack) to keep pace if he was in the deeper snow and the others were in the track. So, we figured out how tight we could get to fit in the narrow track.
You can't pack three sled dogs much tighter than that!
We had the chance to flirt with the occasional dog-less people we encountered on the trail.
"Hi, bye, coming through - made you smile!' says the flirtatious trio
passing on by this couple tending to a recently buried car.
Today's video highlight showcases all types of fun to be had. We start barely fitting in a narrow single track. Then, the middle powder disappears and we are suddenly on a wide, packed and ridiculously fast packed trail. Then we encounter the couple and their vehicles so we slow, flirt and pass on by. Finally, past all obstacles and it is a wide open fast packed trail to floor it - zoom!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Since we were in French Gulch, you are always on the lookout for moose. At our turnaround and Jack & Rudy got a sniff of something and had to peek over the snow wall. Moose expert Zorro clearly knew the scent was not fresh or strong enough for there to be a moose over the wall.
"We smell MOOSE - checking, checking!' says the moose seeking youngsters.
"Their noses don't know the difference between fresh and stale moose yet!" adds
'not fooled by stale moose' Zorro.
We got to finish the day off showcasing our smiles as we towed the human to the finish.
"We LOVE skijoring!" declares the happy trio.
Finally, we got to enjoy our well-earned 'end of run' treats!
"Ready! Dish them out!" says the happy & focused trio.
Despite a zoo of dogs all over French Gulch today, we found enough open and safely unoccupied stretches to have a great outing: 7.2 miles traveled with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 91 days on the trails covering 625.1 miles with 57,750 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Work Rewards

Such happy & hard-working partners on the trails this morning!
Pausing for a second to exchange pleasantries. You can see the trail we just
made in the deep snow behind Jack. Jack doesn't look like he is in deep snow
because he just rolled a huge snow angel and is proudly standing in this angel print :)
Breckenridge Ski Resort reported 20 inches of new snow overnight and 40 inches in the last 72 hours! As a result, we knew today would have extended stretches of breaking trail so we let elder Zorro sit out most of the day to then join us for a gentle run to the finish.

As expected, here we are breaking trail in at least 12, maybe 15, inches of fresh powder. POW!
Love the trail you see behind the Siberian Snowplows :)
Love the untouched fresh powder in front of us.
Today's video highlight showcases the "powder plowing power" of young Jack & Rudy. I put the clip in slow motion as I think you get the most appreciation for their power by watching in slomo. Such an impressive pair of powder plowers :)
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

We broke trail for almost a mile like you see in the video above to be rewarded with a fast run on a freshly plowed road. This road is far from town and accesses only 3 houses, so it is safe to skijor and is relatively free of traffic and the occasional car is few & far between.
Zoom - we broke trail in 12-15 inches to get to ZOOM this high elevation road!
We used the road to get us onto another backcountry trail. This particular trail is situated so it magically gets the most snow of any overnight snowfall. We found ourselves breaking trail in over 24 inches of fresh powder. POW POW!
Look at those impressive snow troughs behind the super trail breakers!
How do I know it was more than 24 inches of powder? Well, this particular trail extends for just over 1 mile. It was quite the fun workout for Jack & Rudy to plow through this much powder; but they did need a little reprieve at one point. This is always the pattern when we are doing very deep and extended trail breaking. At some point, I have to take the lead position and help bust the trail. Well, when I was in front, the snow was deeper than my knees and just under my mid-thigh - that is 24-28 inches of powder!
Look at me breaking trail as I lift my right ski up to project forward.
The "human in front" never lasts for long as I am SLOW in deep snow :)  Rudy dropped in right behind me with Jack behind him. Rudy kept head butting my legs in an expression of, "Hey, speed up in front - you slow slug!" Max used to do this same "head butt" whenever I had to break trail in front of him. It must be a red thing! I was only in front for about 200 yards, but that was just the short break the kids needed before moving back in front of me to continue breaking trail (at a much more efficient speed than me :)

The reward for breaking trail in 24+ inches of snow for over a mile? Well, this trail eventually drops onto the groomed trails of Gold Run Nordic Center. What a reward!
Zoom!!!! What a reward for young Jack & Rudy's deepest trail breaking effort ever.
Finally, the reward for getting onto the groomed trails at Gold Run? Well, we could meet up with Zorro & Nancy at one of the midpoint trailheads and let Zorro join for a short & fun "groomie zoomie" with the team! Wheeee!
Adding Zorro for a fast & happy final sprint - yay!
What a fun day for Jack & Rudy. Each 1ish mile of trail breaking was rewarded with many more miles of easy & fast terrain. What a fun finish with Zorro as we always love finishing with the happy veteran! 7.4 miles traveled with 600 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2019/2020 Season to Date: 90 days on the trails covering 617.9 miles with 57,250 feet of elevation climbed.