Friday, May 29, 2015

Stop and Go

It was "stop & go" most of the day as conditions are quickly nearing the "end of season"...
Pulling strong to the finish as the road ahead is the end of our run this morning.

This morning was probably our last run of the season at Rabbit Ears Pass. We will not say it is absolutely our last rabbit run, but most likely it was.

The conditions were a constant "go, stop, take off skis, traverse dirt, put skis back on, repeat..." as we had to remove the skis 14 times to cross large patches of exposed ground over the course of our 6.8 mile outing. Such a shame when a trail dies for the season. Come along for an outing of "stop and go" atop Rabbit Ears Pass.
"Lookout - 'skis off' section ahead!" declares Zorro making sure I see the danger ahead.
"I'm taking my toes to the edge of snow before waiting!" states Max.

We'd shed the skis, cross the dirt, reattach the skis and go for as long as we could until the next stop point. "Stop & go, stop & go, stop & go (repeat 14 times)!"
Yay, skis back on - go, go, goooooo!

Oops, stop again...
"It's still Toes on Snow (mostly), so we are ok with the stop & go day!" declare the happy
pair at yet another "shed the skis" point on the trail.

Stop, go, stop, go, ... did it every get old?
"I am still having a ball, got those skis back on yet?" asks Max as I am reattaching the skis
after the latest dirt crossing.
"Ok, it is getting a little old. Can we GO yet?" states serious Zorro starting to run low
on patience for the day's conditions.

Most likely our last rabbit run of the 2014/2015 season... 6.8 miles with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 151 days on the trails covering 1298.4 miles with 135,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cat Tracks

A great day following cat tracks all over Rabbit Ears Pass.
(snowcat, that is :-)
Zipping along for miles & miles in snowcat tracks - wheeee!

To be honest, not all of the terrain looked as great as the photos in today's blog. We had to take the skis off 5 times on the initial climb from the trailhead to cross over exposed dirt and mud. But, once we got up the initial ascent, it turned into a winter wonderland as we cruised for about 7 miles in this great set of snowcat tracks. The total outing went as follows: about 1 painful mile of snow & dirt to ascend to the good terrain, about 7 wonderful miles in the snowcat tracks and then about 1.4 slow miles of "making our own trail" as the snowcat turned away from where we needed to go to return to the trailhead. As you can tell from the pictures, the snowcat portion of the outing was the most fun!
Sometimes each wanted to trot in his own track.
And sometimes they wanted to share a track.

Despite all the white you see in the photos, it is May...
"Cool off break! Gotta roll snow angels before restarting!" demonstrate the silly pair.

We just finished crossing our last "skis off dirt patch" and it was time for the 7 mile tour in the cat tracks. Everyone ready to go?
"Yep, we are soooo ready for you to keep the skis on so we can get this team going!" declare
the happy pair acknowledging my happiness to see the terrain was starting to finally look
all white!

A fun day following cat tracks on Rabbit Ears Pass: 9.4 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 150 days on the trail covering 1291.6 miles with 135,150 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Back to May

Back to "late May" on the trails at Vail Pass this morning.
One of the few nice open stretches to get some speed.
Those clouds sure do look promising to help extend our season; but unless the temperatures
drop, they are bringing snow destroying rain! Ugh!

While it was "February conditions in late May" on Sunday, it was back to "late May" conditions today. The temperatures did not drop below freezing overnight so, even though you see a lot of snow in today's photos, it was soft & slow and you could not deviate from the set trails without sinking to your Siberian chest in wet snow.

We were ok with the soft & slow conditions at the Vail Pass trailhead as our plan was to go up from there. We expected the temps to drop as we climbed and expected to find firm & fast conditions as we ascended. Unfortunately, we climbed and climbed but never found firm snow.

Eventually I had to declare the "search for firm snow" over and announce it was time to turnaround and head back down:
"We may have failed to find firm snow, but it IS Toes on Snow!" declare the happy pair
circling back to me at our turnaround point of the day.

But wait a second, it is a "siberian hot" morning (temperatures around 32-36 F), so...
"Must roll snow angels to cool off before starting down!" state funny pair.
Nice form to their synchronized snow angels, though!

We did find a few stretches were we could open up the throttle....
Zoom we go on some nice conditions in this stretch of forest!

But as nice as that last shot looks, here is what happened down low...
Yikes! Skis off as we hike out the last mile or so...
"But, wild pheasant to the left - that can distract us from depressing mud!" declare the
pheasant hunting pair!

A slower than usual day on soft snow (and mud) searching for but failing to find firm snow: 6.4 miles with 850 feet of elevation climbed.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 149 days on the trails covering 1282.2 miles with 134,250 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


A perfect day for an 11 mile skijor this 24th of Mayuary!
Zooming along in a "sprint tuck" as we zip by a trail marker pole.

Take a look at the previous photo and the next two and guess what day it is...
Laying fresh tracks in the cool morning sun - zoom!
Laying fresh tracks under the cool morning clouds - wheeee!
Okay, done looking at those three shots... Now, it is the 24th of which month of the year? Looks like January or February, doesn't it. Well, it is the 24th of Mayuary! It was a perfect "winter morning" at Vail Pass today as the temperatures were in the mid to low 20s, the snowpack was endless and the terrain had a light layer of fresh snow to tickle our toes - in late May!

Most of the day looked like this short video clip - what a fun Mayuary morning skijor outing!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Of course, not everyone thinks "mid to low 20s" is cool...
"Call it what you want, I'm rolling a snow angel to cool off!" demonstrates silly Max at our
turnaround point of the day.
"Looks like January to me - I see endless, untouched snow as far as the eye can see!" states
trail inspector Zorro.

A "winter perfect" morning at Vail Pass this 24th of May: 11.2 miles with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 148 days on the trails covering 1275.8 miles with 133,400 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Good News, Bad News

Good news and bad news from the outing this morning...
The best news, though - we continue to go!
Jogging along the open terrain atop Rabbit Ears Pass.

Yesterday we were treated to a hard "top crust" on the snow that let us go fast, far and everywhere. Unfortunately it did not get cold enough last night to re-establish the top crust from the day's warming temperatures. We arrived at the trailhead to find the terrain soft and a little slushy. The good news: it was not so soft that Max & Zorro would "punch through", so we could proceed. The bad news: it was soft & slushy enough that we had to keep speeds to a gentle jog all day instead of opening up the throttle. You can see the softness by looking at Max & Zorro's footprints behind them in the previous photo.

We started out along our favorite "flat & fast" trail at Rabbit Ears. We had declared this trail "done for the season" recently since the underlying creek had opened across the trail. Of course we expected the open creek to still exist, our plan was to ski to the creek and then turn back into the forest from that point.
"Yep, the creek is still open - right through our trail!" say the trail inspectors in front of me.

But, as we were approaching the open creek, I spotted what looked to be an intact snow bridge a few hundred yards down the meadow. Could it be? Could we still cross the creek? Off to explore we went. The good news: we found a still intact snow bridge that less us cross and continue - yay!
"Seems safe on my side!" declares Max crossing the snow bridge cautiously.
"Good over here too!" says bridge inspector Zorro.
My partners crossed ok, so I quickly zoomed across on skis and off we went!

The bad news: my GoPro case has apparently lost its ability to hold a seal in inclement weather. Any precipitation seems to eventually get in the case and slowly blur the video until it becomes completely blurred. The good news: I have another case to swap in. The bad news: I did not have the replacement case with me today and it started to snow (from light flakes to dumping snow) partway through our outing and all video became blurred and unusable from that point on. The good news: we found fresh moose tracks atop Rabbit Ears again this morning (as we did yesterday on a different trail):
A slightly blurred photo as it just started snowing lightly when we came upon fresh moose tracks!
"Look, my head fits in a moose print!" demonstrates Max.
"Very fresh - wonderful scent!" declares Zorro.
Interesting to reflect on the fact that a moose leg leaves a posthole in the snow as wide
as a Siberian Husky head. Moose are big!!!

The good news: Toes on Snow on May 22nd - nothing else matters:
"Toes on Snow is all we care about - the day was all good news to us!" declare the happy pair
at quick pause on the trail for me to put on my extra waterproof gear.

A gentle jog this morning on soft, slushy and slow conditions: 5.8 miles with 550 feet of elevation climbed.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 147 days on the trails covering 1264.6 miles with 132,400 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Late May Beauty

A "Late May Beauty of a Day" atop Rabbit Ears Pass early this morning!
It is May 21st and look at this terrain - wow!

We got up extra early this morning to get to Rabbit Ears while the "top crust" of snow was still frozen from the night before. If it gets cold enough overnight and you get out early enough, then you can often find the top crust solid enough to hold a Siberian Husky and we get to fly all over the terrain. Well, look at the previous photo & the next photo and you see the result of our plan. Success - the top crust held up for us to zoom all over the place this morning!
Great shot of out-stretched Max and sprint-tuck Zorro as we lean into a left - wheeee!

How nice was the "top crust"? Well, watch this great skijor clip as we fly along the terrain to end the day's outing!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

You get some great views from atop Rabbit Ears...
Pausing to look down on the rest of Colorado - one of my favorite views.
"Hmmm, not sure we are impressed!" declare my partners.

Let us show you some real views:
"Sniff, sniff - hey these are FRESH moose tracks!" declares Max.
"Dunk, dunk - my head can fit in a moose print!" demonstrates Zorro.
Max & Zorro were clearly more impressed with the 'moose tracks view' than my
panoramic view...

A Late May Beauty of a Day!
"I think this has been the best May 21st in history!" exclaim the ecstatic pair at one of our
turnaround points on the trail.

Get up & out early before the snow softens was this morning's goal. What a success! 8.6 miles with 800 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 146 days on the trails covering 1258.8 miles with 131,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

1250 miles

Another day in May laying fresh tracks at Vail Pass!
Zipping along the top of Shrine Pass at the Vail Pass Recreation Area as we have the
day's fresh snow all to ourselves!

One year ago today, we surpassed 1300 miles of skijoring for the season. One year later and today we surpassed 1250 miles of skijoring for the season. Given that the 2013/2014 snow season was much better than the 2014/2015 season, it is pretty amazing that we are only 50 miles behind the pace of last year's epic season!

Back to this morning's outing. We went to Vail Pass early in the morning in hopes of finding the top layer of "snow crust" as solid as it has been our last few outings here. Unfortunately, the temperatures hovered around 30-34 overnight, so there was not a top crust to allow us to make our own path around the meadows atop Shrine Pass. Everything off the main trails was punchy and not something I would let Max & Zorro endure. But, there was 2-4 inches of fresh snow on the main trails without a punchy under layer. So, we stuck to the established paths and went up the Shrine Pass "front side snowshoe trail", down the Shrine Pass "back side snowmobile trail", back up the back side trail and then down the "front side snowmobile trail" - laying fresh tracks for 3/4 of the outing! Wheeee!

The backside of Shrine Pass and laying fresh tracks for miles!
The front side of Shrine Pass and still laying fresh tracks for miles!

As I mentioned, the temperature was around freezing (a little above freezing lower and a little below freezing higher). That's "siberian hot"...
"Rolling a snow angel to cool off!" demonstrates Max.
"Hey bro - you are funny!" says spectator Zorro.

After running a few more miles, Zorro decided Max had a good idea:
"Good idea - rub a dub dub, rolling in the snow tub!" declares Zorro.
"I already knew it was a good idea!" states 'rolling again' Max.
Unfortunately the wide angle of the GoPro was not wide enough to get all of Max in
this dual snow angel...

Making great use of Vail Pass this morning to surpass 1250 miles for the season: 8.7 miles with 850 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 145 days on the trails covering 1250.2 miles with 131,050 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May Freshies

Laying fresh tracks most of the day up, down around Shrine Pass at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area. May Freshies - Yay!
Untouched, fresh snow as far as the eye can see - wheeee!

This morning's outing started at the Vail Pass Trailhead and sent us up the Shrine Pass Trail. Once atop Shrine Pass we did a 4+ mile tour of the rolling terrain, still laying fresh tracks the whole time!
Towing me up a slight rise in the terrain as we used existing trails and made our own trails
to do two large "figure 8s" on the rolling terrain atop Shrine Pass.

Part of today's fun was visiting all of the "backcountry cabins" on Shrine Pass as we passed by 2 yurts and 3 cabins. The overnight parking lot at Vail Pass was pretty full (especially for mid-May), so we expected to encounter people at all of the cabins. The only way to reach these 2 yurts and 3 cabins is by ski or snowshoe as it is "no snowmobiles allowed". A nice backcountry getaway. As we passed by each cabin, people gathered at the windows to gaze and wave at the sled dogs towing the human. When we cruised by the yurts, a group of people spilled out to pet and ask questions about getting towed by sled dogs. A busy "winter day" at the cabins on Shrine Pass as people are clearly making the best of this year's snowy May!
Approaching the largest of the 3 cabins (the other 2 are much smaller than this one).
It always amazing to me to look at this nice looking building and the realize there is no running
water, only "generator electricity" and only "wood burning heat" in this impressive looking
but remote & isolated cabin!

After the 2 "figure 8s" atop the pass, it was time to start down. We quickly caught two snowshoers in front of us and were then laying fresh tracks again on the path down.
Zipping along as we quickly close the gap on the two snowshoers (the 2 dots in front of us).

Laying fresh tracks in May - yay!
Time to start down, everybody set?
"Well, if you say, but I think we could spend all day up here!" states Max aligning his body to
show me that we could continue atop Shrine Pass instead of going down.
"Toes on Fresh Snow in May - Yay!" says giddy little Zorro.

May Freshies covering 9 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 144 days on the trails covering 1241.5 miles with 130,200 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May Wow

A "wow, is it really May?" for the perfect conditions atop Shrine Pass this morning!
Beautiful, wide open terrain with great snowpack and a top crust hard enough to hold two
sprinting sled dogs. Wheeee we go on perfect terrain atop Shrine Pass.

Today's outing started at the Vail Pass Trailhead and then we ascended up the Shrine Pass Trail. Conditions were a little sketchy at the bottom yet improved quickly as we climbed. Once on the top of Shrine Pass, we all said, "wow!" at the absolutely perfect conditions. Conditions were so impressive that we stayed atop Shrine and did a 4 mile tour all around the top of the pass before heading back down for an 8.7 mile outing (2.4 up, 3.9 around, 2.4 down). Great Day!
Zipping along the forest atop Shrine Pass as Max & Zorro start to lean to the left after I called
out to veer left and cruise tightly by the tree in front of us.

Part of the fun of playing around the top of Shrine Pass is visiting all of the "backcountry huts" that decorate the terrain. There are 4 huts in total that people can rent for the night. The only way to access the huts is by ski (or snowshoe), making for a fun backcountry vacation.
Slowing to pass by one of the directional signs for the huts. Toilet to the left with Chuck's and
Jay's cabins to the right. Since these are backcountry huts, there is no running water thus directions
to the toilet that is separated from the huts.

A fun video clip of Max & Zorro listening to corrective commands... Watch closely as at about 7 seconds into the video Max gives his brother a "tag and go" dip. I think we will recover from the silly dip until about 11 seconds in when both start an unapproved exchange. But, all it takes is a quick "Hey, hey, hey!" from me and everyone clicks back into perfect form and we continue zipping along the beautiful terrain. Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

What a great day for mid May!
"I am having a BLAST!!!!!" exclaims giddy little Zorro.
"So much fun to play 'tag and go' with my brother!" states happy Max.
Very approving looks from my pals at our quick midpoint break atop Shrine Pass!

A "May Wow" at the great conditions atop Shrine Pass this morning: 8.7 miles with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 143 days on the trails covering 1232.5 miles with 129,300 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bear Tracks

We had a few stretches to "open it up today"; but most of the day involved trail creativity...
Zoom we go along one of the open straightaways of the day!

We went to our favorite "fast trail" at Rabbit Ears Pass this morning. This trail is completely sun exposed, so we knew it would die sometime in May. But, this trail also gets heavy snowmobile use so the machines pack the main trail to give it some resistance to the sun exposure.

Well, today was the day we had to announce this trail as "closed for the season" as, after about 2 miles, the trail had succumbed to the melting snow and underlying creek...
"Dang! No way to proceed!" states water averse Zorro stopping well before the creek to
tell me about the water hazard.
"I'm trying to find a way to cross; but it looks to be open water everywhere!' reports Max
surveying the opening for some way to cross.
Notice how deep the snowpack really is in front of Max. Such a shame that the
flowing water eroded the snow bridge and brought this trail to a close!

Once our intended route was aborted due to open water, we turned around and then got creative following various snowmobile trails that were still packed enough to keep us from punching through the soft snow. We would go for a while until it got too soft, then turn around and go another "packed direction" until it got soft, etc. etc...

Our creativity, though, did lead to a first for us in skijoring - fresh bear tracks!!!! I have always said that only fresh moose tracks can bring Max & Zorro to a stop on the trail as they will give other animal tracks only a passing glance. Well, I stand corrected: only fresh moose and bear tracks can bring them to a halt! The three of us have skijored over 5000 miles as a team and today was the first encounter with fresh bear tracks (thankfully they are hibernating most of our season).
"Sniff, sniff - what a fun & unique smell - fresh bear tracks!" state the track inspectors.
Notice the noses each in a footprint and the prints on each side of Max.
If you are having trouble seeing and identifying the bear prints in the previous shot, try this one:
Look at Max's back right foot in a bear print - his foot looks so small compared to a bear!
Notice the big print in front of Max and just to the right of Zorro - oh my!

The day's outing was cut short by deteriorating conditions; but that did not stop us from having a great time:
"Toes on Snow and Bears in the Nose! We had fun!" declare the happy pair!

A shorter than usual run at Rabbit Ears due to conditions... 7.6 miles with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 142 days on the trails covering 1223.8 miles with 128,600 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nice up High

Beautiful conditions on the "upper shelves" atop Rabbit Ears Pass this morning!
Sprinting along with perfect trail conditions!
Yes, it does seem like Zorro spends most of his life in the air! :-)

Things are getting sketchy down low; but if you can get up in elevation quickly then everything is still in great condition. Today was such a day as we took a steep climb encountering many patches of exposed dirt & mud (some with a narrow ribbon of snow to cross and some with no snow at all). But, once we got onto the upper shelf of rolling terrain it was perfect conditions in mid-May! Come along for the ride...
"Emergency! Cannot continue!" states serious & distressed Max at the terrain.
"We could back up and try to jump it!" suggests silly Zorro.
We had multiple "dead patches" like this to traverse while getting up higher.
Up higher and look at these conditions! Perfect skijoring terrain in mid-May. Zoom!

At the highest point of the day and note the partially exposed trail sign in front of Zorro. We have been on this trail in the summer and that sign is about 3.5 feet tall. Today it is about 6 inches exposed meaning that we are still on 3 feet of snowpack at the highest point of the day!
"There's my sign - so happy it is still buried!" states focused Zorro.
"You two play with your sign; I am going to roll snow angels until we are ready to go again!"
demonstrates silly Max.

Put the last two pictures together and you get a great video clip like the following. Perfect conditions above 10,000 feet at Rabbit Ears Pass!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Why don't we just move above 10,000 feet?
"Good point, it is so wonderful up high. We could camp here until June!" state the happy pair.

A great day up high at Rabbit Ears Pass: 10.2 miles with 950 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 141 days on the trails covering 1216.2 miles with 127,900 feet of elevation climbed.