Why My Blog Sucks (right now)…

5 Dec

A blog is a pretty easy thing. The only criteria for having one, is that you need to have a computer, access to the internet and maybe a camera to take some pretty pictures (note that wit, intelligence and good grammar are not prerequisites). Unfortunately this is too much for a simple soul such as myself.

The Computer

I have an absolute phobia of the dentist. It is unreasonable, it is largely unfounded, and it is mostly unexplainable; but more importantly it is absolutely undeniable. The last drug free visit to the dentist resulted in a solid 2 hours of crying. This was very embarrassing for me and for the dentist. The time before that, I bit the dentist. The dentist is a friend of ours, which made  dinner parties awkward for a few months. For my last dentist appointment, I decided to accept the Ativan and have a phobia free afternoon. This meant finding someone who could babysit me – which would include driving me home and making sure I did not go on a mildly stoned internet shopping bender.

I chose my friend Monika to help me with this task. I’d like to tell you that this was a careful decision, where I compared the highly responsible qualities of my many friends and chose the best woman for the job. But, that’s a lie. Monika is the only friend I have that works from home and can be at my beck and call. I gave her 2 important instructions: get me home and don’t let me wreck anything.

Once I had been dutifully transported from dentist chair to sofa, I began my favorite afternoon activity – soap opera watching. Because soap operas take such a small amount of brain power, I also thought it would be a good idea to play on my computer. This is a normal occurrence – television on, computer in lap. Unfortunately, in my semi-lucid state, it was more like: television on, potato chips in lap (on floor, in sweater, etc…), pepperoni sticks in pocket, mouth partially agape with some mild drool, dog going crazy, computer half on sofa/half on dog toy; and Monika bored playing on her iPhone. A few minutes later, the tableau had barely changed – with the small exception of computer on sofa, dog on computer.

When I initially heard the snap and saw the screen disintegrate into black – I found it wildly amusing. Shortly after, I fell asleep. By the time I woke up that evening, all the effects of Ativan worn off, it was too late for discipline.

The Internet

This one is really not my fault. I barely understand how the internet works. All I know is that at one time, I could log into the internet anywhere in my house. Then, suddenly, without warning, whatever let me do that disappeared and we had to plug into a long 2005-ish blue cord that emerged from behind the couch. Unfortunately, this cord was exactly 23 meters, and 2 walls away from my screen-less computer, which needed to be plugged into the television.

The Camera

I’ve tried to figure out how to make this not my fault. I could tell tales of fierce pickpockets that attacked me on the streets of Portland. Or I could weave stories about broken bits and freeze cracked lenses. But, the sad truth is that I am a very irresponsible 30-something year old. I don’t know where the camera went. One day I had it. One day I didn’t. I may someday rediscover it hidden in a bag, or stuffed inside of a pair of mittens; but for now it’s gone, along with a memories card with my last month’s adventures.

So You Just Bought a Snowbike…

4 Nov

Pow

Four years ago, there were 3 snowbikes in Whitehorse – not exactly a critical mass.  This year, rumor has it there will be almost 90 bikes floating on top of snow packed trails.   With all the new bikes in town, I thought it time to share some of the things I’ve learned over 4 seasons of fat biking.

 

1.  Pulaski-less Trail Building

Lean

Snowbiking is a lot more fun on purpose packed trails.  Sure, you can keep your adventures limited to popular walking trails – but, if you want to have a really good time, you’ll probably want some singletrack.  Trail building/maintenance for snowbiking is probably even more work than summer trail building, because every time you think things are perfect, it snows.

How do you maintain and build snowbike trails?  It’s easy – you just have to snowshoe them.  If you don’t have snowshoes, small steps in big boots are just as good.  Feeling adventurous?  Build and pack up a berm or two on the corners.

Because of the constant snow and wind, it’s easiest to pick one route to maintain for the winter.  In Whitehorse, the Hillcresters/Porter Creekers tend to maintain Quickie; while the Riverdalers concentrate their efforts on Boogaloos/Go-T.  With all the new bikes and riders, there could be an expanded network this year.  If there’s a route that you like – let your fellow bikers know, so that you have the necessary numbers to keep the trail in good shape.  Remember that there’s different criteria for good snowbike trails.  Ridges are beautiful, but wind exposure kills a trail quickly.  Try to find routes that stay in the forest, where they are protected from the elements or you might find yourself frustrated.

 

2.  Make Friends

Fat bikes at rest

There may be a whole bunch more fat bikes, but we are still a new phenomena in the Yukon forests.  Snowshoers, snowmobilers and dog sledders aren’t used to seeing bikers in sub-zero conditions.   Some folks might be curious, others will be crusty – but no matter who you encounter give a smile, a wave and a friendly hello.   When you run into the nice neighborhood lady with her dog – don’t make her step off the path into 1.5 feet of fresh snow – pull over and let her keep walking on the path.  If you see a dog team coming – grab your own mutt and let them pass without creating a mess of lines, dogs, and flying fur.  Make friends on the trails!

The winter also brings with it a whole other world of potential partners – partners that help us expand our trail network and our access, there is only so far that you can hike.   Klondike Snowmobile Association is a great example – thanks to their regularly packed routes, snowbikes can venture all the way to Braeburn Lodge with a stopover in a stove-equipped cabin.   Biathlon Yukon is another snowbike friend, that packs and hosts a trail event for winter riders.   If you are going to ride the Dawson Overland or Jackson Lake routes – think about buying that $20 KSA membership with a note that you are a snowbiker.  It’s well worth the packing and the cabin.  If you are going to play on the biathlon trails, give an hour or two as a volunteer shot counter at their next competition.  The more we all work together, the better it is for all of us.

 

3.  Know where to Ride

Top of Boogaloo Heights

Part of making friends is knowing where you are allowed to ride.   To figure out where you can and cannot go you can check out your City’s trail network information.  For the City of Whitehorse, I look at their Trail Plan.

All trails in the City of Whitehorse, with the exception of the Mt. Mac ski trials are multi-use trails.  The trails at Chadburn and Magnusson are designated non-motorized multi-use, with no snowmobile access allowed – except for volunteer groomers at Chadburn.  You are allowed to have your bike at both of these areas.  That being said, respect the work of the volunteer groomers at Chadburn and don’t ride in the tracks.  Generally, the groomers try to place their tracks over to the side, so that other users such as walkers, snowshoers, etc… can still access the trails.  There is no volunteer grooming at Magnusson, so finding a ski track isn’t always easy.  But, if there is a track, try to stay beside it instead of on top of it.

The ski trails at Mt. Mac are single-use designated.  Snowbikers continue to work with the club to see about eventually opening up some of the singletrack trails, but until there is some agreement, they are for ski use only.

All other trails are open, but use some common sense when deciding where to go.  Don’t ride on the Yukon River at the same time as the Yukon Quest starts.  Bad idea…  Riding on the most popular walking trail mid-day on Saturday will not be fun for anyone – you’ll spend as much time getting on and off your bike for pedestrians as you will riding.

 

That’s the basics – any other snowbikers have tips for the newbies?

 

Sierra de la Norte

4 Nov

A snowy day in Whitehorse is the perfect time to finish looking through bikecation photos.  After playing in Colorado, Heidi hit the road and headed toward Santa Fe.   En route, we spent a night in Durango, a cute town, with a couple beautiful trails.  We decided on Hermosa, which because of time constraints was an out and back early in the morning.  I’d like to come back someday and check out the Colorado trail – maybe as a bikepacking adventure.

High Colorado

 

From our Durango pit stop, we headed to Santa Fe, land of red dirt and killer margaritas.   I was in town for a mountain biking conference, which meant I had plenty of sources to learn about the best trails.   On the first day of riding, I headed to the Dale Ball trails, which is a fun in-town trail system.  I found a kindred spirit in Kate, a local guide, who was as keen as me when it came to riding.  The planned, 1.5 hour group ride, became Kate and I, racing a setting sun after 3 hours of awesome single track.  My ride with Kate, also gave Heidi a rest.  After a whole season of 0 mountain bike rides, she’d been on 4 rides in 3 days and was feeling a bit tired.

My plan to use the bikecation to convince Heidi that mountain biking was where she should be focusing her fun times seemed to be succeeding.  In fact, I was pretty sure that I’d leave Heidi fully infected by the bike bug by the time I flew out of Santa Fe.  Our last ride, was supposed to be the whipping cream atop a glorious sundae of awesome rides.  Unfortunately, a combination of self-made mistakes and basic bad trail planning conspired against us.
Cold Windsor

Our ride was supposed to be a 20 km shuttle from 12,000 ft elevation into the downtown of Santa Fe, estimated time was 2 hours.   What did our ride end up being?  A 50 km shuttle from 12,000 ft to 9000 ft to 12,000 ft to 7000 ft to 8000 ft to… actual time was 7 hours.  How did things go so horribly awry?

Mistake #1 – When there is a group ride option, you should take it.  Being selfish, and avoiding the group ride because you don’t want to get stuck behind 150 other cyclists will equal karma kicking your ass. (my fault)

Mistake #2 – When you are marking a trail use the same trail names, the same maps and the same markings.  Our misadventure started because the first trailhead sign said Winsor Trail (which was our planned adventure), and the second trailhead gave directions for 150 and 162.  Apparently, we were supposed to know what number corresponded with each trail name.  Because we didn’t, we ended up 3000 ft and 8 km down the wrong trail.    Three hours into the ride, we actually started down the correct trail, but once again found that the trailheads didn’t correspond with our map.  Even worse, was that every trailhead  map we got to had a different set of trail names.  We thought we were saved when we ran into some hikers who also had a map, but instead of making it easier, it just added a third set of trail names into the already confusing batch.  With food and water running out, we finally got another set of cyclists to direct us to the road – not my favorite way of ending a shuttle, but at least it meant we didn’t die, lost in the forest.

Mistake #3 – When trying to convince your sister she should love bike riding, don’t get her lost without food or water – it might tarnish the experience.

In the end, Heidi and I made it back to Santa Fe, and I’m guessing that I didn’t completely destroy her feelings about mountain biking, as I’ve heard she’s back in Fruita this weekend.

 

The Fruita Facts

19 Oct

I went to Fruita 2 years ago on the first annual Bikecation. At the time it was more of a stop on the way to Moab. This time, it was a destination. The great thing about Fruita is the variety of trails, and the quality of after-ride burritos.

18 Road (aka the Bookcliffs)

This is a section of fast, flowy, trails.  Somehow the 18 Road has defied the normal rules of physics – for every foot you climb, it seems you get three times the amount in descent.  The only problem with the Bookcliffs is that you can easily do every trail in about 3 hours.  But, every trail is awesome enough that it doesn’t really matter.  This year they added a new trail called PBR (Pumps, Berms and Rollers) which is even more fun than my previous favorite Kessel’s Run.

Highlight of my 18 Road day was rolling up to groups of men climbing the access, then flying past them with a cheerful hello.

Best Route (so far): Uppity Down, Chutes and Ladders, PBR

Zippity

Lube

Kokopelli Trails

After riding the Kokopelli trail network, I have a hankering to make the full trek from Fruita to Moab.  I remember riding these trails on the original bikecation, and being shocked (and admittedly a little scared) by the stone steps.  Now, after two extra years of riding, the steps were pure entertainment and the views of the Colorado river were incredible.

Best Route (so far): Mary’s Loop to Horsethief, to Wranglers

View break

Prickles

Rabbit Valley

I had never visited Rabbit Valley before, but looking for at least one new ride, I headed there with my sister.  What we found was an awesome cliff-side ride that wove above a green Colorado River valley.  Even those with slight vertigo should try this out.  There is only a small section that is close to the edge, the rest is a comfortable 3-5 meters away from the side.

Best Route (so far): #2 to Western Rim

Vertigo

Overlooking the Colorado

 

Grand Junction

I am a Junction junkie.  I spent 4.5 hours riding the Tabeguache trails with a huge grin on my face.   These trails are fun, technical and well marked.  Definitely the highlight of my Fruita riding.  For the first 2.5 hours I rode solo, retrying the trails from 2 years earlier and being thrilled at how much more I could get through.  For the last 2 hours I rode with my sister, a new mountain biker, on a long fun downhill.

Best Route (so far): Pet-e-kes to Holy Cross to Ali to Kurt’s

A Selfie that worked

Racing the Sunset

 

Now I’m back in Whitehorse, riding on a soft bed of snow and wishing for some red rock and hot desert sun.  At least I still have burritos.

Streets Paved with Gold

18 Oct

 
Sunny Side Up

How do you know you are in Aspen, Colorado?

1.  You only recognize the store names because of Sex and the City.

2.   50% of people you see can’t move their foreheads.

3.  There is an equal number of BMWs and funky cruiser bikes.

4.  You can not afford to buy anything.  At all.  Period.

 

Aspen would be one of those amazing places I could never, ever afford to go – except for one thing, my sister lives there.  There are two important things you need to know about my sister:  she’s way cuter than me, and way nicer than me.  Thanks to these two things, she is the perfect travel companion.   She somehow finds you a $30 room in a hotel with a $900 rack rate.  She gets you a table beside Cindy Crawford at the busiest restaurant, and the cheque is always missing most of the meal.  She knows everyone, and everyone adores her.

I went to Aspen to visit Heidi, but had full intentions of doing some bike riding while I was there.  Although I’ve heard rumor of bike trails, my previous visits have been small stopovers en route to bigger biking meccas such as Fruita or Moab.  Heidi’s boss and good friend John assured me there were places to ride and even offered to guide us around.

Riding in Aspen is always a challenge no matter what the route.  With a starting elevation around 8000 ft, your lungs can barely handle the 500 m walk between Gucci and Dior – let alone climbing up one of the many nearby mountains.  But, once you get up, the views are spectacular.   The mountains are coated in golden aspens, enjoying the last weeks of silence before the snow flies, and the tourists arrive.  Not a bad way to start my bikecation.

Aspen Climb

 

After my intro to the ride, I decided to tackle a more ambitious tour of the area.

Good Night and Good Luck

3 Oct

It’s been a busy couple weeks, and while blog posts have bubbled up in my brain, a lack of functional computer makes them difficult to get in type.  About three weeks ago, Starbuck sat on my computer screen, and it turns out that screens are an essential part of the computer equation.  This has been frustrating, and normally I’d begrudge the puppy, but Starbuck has suffered his own disaster this week;

An allergic reaction to unknown substances has made given my precious a balloon face.  Although it’s recovering now, thanks to Benadryl, I have been distracted with trying to spoil the dog in his time of crisis.  This is partially precipitated by the fact that I am leaving my doggy in his time of need.  In 20 minutes, I jump in the car for a 10 day adventure in the States.

October is the perfect time to head out of town.   With the weather getting colder, and the sun setting faster, it’s getting harder to get outside.  The spectacular fall colors have been largely replaced with nothingness.  Trees are bare, flowers are dead, and many of the higher trails are coated in snow.

In addition to any limitations put in place by environment, the truth is that I’m also getting a little bored.  I’ve ridden the Whitehorse trails so much that I’m losing a bit of excitement.  To try and reignite the spark, I’ve been trying night riding. a clever way of disguising a old trail in new clothes.

 

But now it’s time to go out and explore.  I can’t wait for big sun, flip flops, chicken fried steak and red rocks.  And so I bid adieu to the Mr., the dog, and the beautiful North.  See you soon!

 

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The Selfie

23 Sep

 

Today was one of those fall days too good to ignore.   As soon as the first mug of coffee was gone, I was scrounging for a riding mate.  But my enthusiasm was no match for busy schedules and  broken bikes, and after a couple hours it became clear that today would be a solo ride.

I don’t mind riding alone.  I usually leave some detailed instructions on where I’ll be going,  download a couple new podcasts and happily pedal away.   I miss the company, and the courage that comes with knowing that someone’s around to get you to the hospital if required; but mostly I miss someone to help with the picture taking.

My bike wife is the queen of the self-portrait.  I have watched Jenn whip out a camera while sitting on the handlebar of my snow bike as we slide down an icy pathway.  I have waited on group rides for Jenn to catch up, only to discover 3 days later through a Flickr update that her delay was due to a series of photos capturing her journey over a particularly scenic ridge.  I have sat on the side of a trail as Jenn built a camera stand out of twigs, moss and rocks; all while apologizing for not replacing the tripod she lost 4 years ago in Carcross.

Unfortunately, I do not share Jenn’s talents.  After downloading 57 photos from my spectacular Yukon River ride, I have discovered the following:

In 63% of my self-portraits, I am absent:

At least the rafters made it into the frame.

 

A perfect selfie, if there was a self.

 

In 24% of my self-portraits, I am checking to see if I’m in the picture before the picture’s actually been taken:

I think I got it this time…oh f@#%$

 

In 9% of my self-portraits, Starbuck is stealing my thunder:

As if there aren’t enough photos of him…

 

In 4% of my self-portraits, I am in the frame, but unrecognizable:

Thwarted by the sun

 

In reviewing my particularly bad batch of self-portraits, the Mr. casually mentioned that there is a remote control that came with the camera.   Maybe there’s hope yet…

 

The Chilkoot Adventure: Day 3

23 Sep

Day 2 is here

Day 3 of our Chilkoot adventure started with an imaginary snooze button.   We only had 12 km from Lindemann to Bennett, where we were being picked up by float plane.  Our plane was scheduled for 2:00 pm, which meant we had loads of time to get ourselves out of a sleeping bag and onto the trail.   Thanks to my new Skagway purchased alcohol flask, I got to enjoy my Sunday morning coffee and Bailey’s from the shores of Lindemann Lake.  Eventually, we got bags on backs and started on our way.

 

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I didn’t expect much from our last day on the trail.  In my own head, the real Chilkoot was over the pass to Lindemann City.  After that, you were just “getting out”.  I was pleasantly surprised by our final hours en route.  Lindemann City turned out to be quite spectacular from the top viewpoint – especially when comparing the Gold Rush era photograph, with its current – more natural look.   No matter how many archival photos we passed, the idea that once upon a time the trail was packed with gold-seeking adventurers is still difficult to imagine.

Adding to the disbelief were little treats like this cabin, which next to the Mr. looks like it might be inhabited by the Snow White’s good friends.

 

By noon, we had made it to Bennett Lake and a still-warm cabin.  Inside there was a 1986 copy of Ranger Rick, which I’m pretty sure I owned as a  5 year old with big dreams of becoming a Park Ranger.   There was also a cribbage set, and enough National Geographic magazines to keep us amused until 2:00 pm.

Unfortunately, 2:00 pm came and went without the arrival of a float plane.  Outside the cabin windows, low clouds hanging over the lake suggested that our flight could easily have been delayed.  But, with no satellite phone, the only thing we could do is speculate.  Eventually (aka 2 minutes later) boredom set in, and I decided on a quick walk to the White Pass station.  There, I was lucky enough to find our old Chilkoot Pass friends Don and Dorothy, who happened to have a sat. phone, and happened to be calling the very same company to get a flight out of Bennett.   Don was able to get word that flights had been slightly delayed out of Whitehorse, and I was happy to have company while we waited.

After Starbuck’s slight freak-out on the Pass, we were a bit worried about his first trip in the air.   Turns out that he’s not smart enough to differentiate between on the ground and in the air travel, and treated our flight like any other car ride home.  This should not be confused with Starbuck being well behaved – all it means is that we was no more annoying than usual.

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The float plane base is only a few kilometers from our house, and we were able to get off the plane, into our car and back into the house in short time.   After ordering some pizza, it was time to check out the damage from 50-odd kilometers of walking.


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There was some hope that my half-ass attempt to protect my feet from the mean-spirited attacks of my hiking shoes would be successful. Alas that was not the case, with both sides suffering some major damage.

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Not sure what exactly the problem was. I’m thinking it could have been that the hiking shoes are a size too small for me. May have also been that I’ve only ever worn them one other time. Or it might have had something to do with the fact that the first time I wore them I got them really wet, then created the world’s greatest shoe drying stand, which was so amazingly efficient that it completely burnt off the backs of the shoes. Apparently shoe backs do serve a purpose.

 

 

The Chilkoot Adventure: Day 2

23 Sep

Day 1 adventure is here.

We adopted Starbuck as a 9 month old puppy from the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter.  He had originally been rescued from Ross River, a small Yukon community, when his litter was found underfed and under-loved.  He, along with his brothers and sisters were adopted quickly.  Starbuck was the only one returned to the shelter.

Had Starbuck stayed in Ross River, he may have been in a dog team – and he would have almost certainly lived outside.  But, Starbuck ended up with two professional yuppies with no kids.  What does this mean?  Instead of running around the Yukon surviving on fish scraps and fighting for a dry corner – his owners carry a dog sized blue sleeping foam and mini-tarp across the Chilkoot, before paying for him to join them a float plane home.  Life is tough.

For a brief period of time it appeared as though, we would at the very least make Starbuck carry his own food.  Food, which he was too excited to eat.  In the end, he much preferred the hot dinners we packed, who wants kibble when you can eat beef stew.

On Day 2 a wet Starbuck woke up, eager to hit the road.  So eager, that he squirmed around like a lunatic when we tried to get his pack on.  Despite his insistence that we start at the crack of dawn, he started the day with a bit of a limp.  It took us 3 km to realize, that the pack was on wrong, and rubbing against his front limb – an action that automatically meant unlimited cheese treats for Starbuck, supplied by guilt.  I had hoped to enjoy a couple Babybel, but whatever…

 

We made it to the Scales in good time – possibly helped by the fact I was carrying 1980 lbs less than my gold rush counterparts.  There we met the only other hikers we would see all weekend – Dorothy and Don and their dog Sammy.  One of the few problems with hiking off season is the markers that are normally found leading up the Golden Stairs.   The Parks Canada staff had kindly sent me the GPS coordinates for the pass, but the GPS was broken and I was – as usual – overconfident when it came to memory.

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The four hikers and 2 canines headed up the pass.  The wet boulders were a challenge for Starbuck’s paws, but he made his way up the rocks, with only the occasional slip into a crevice.  Without the markers, we picked our own way up the rocks, with every other route looking 20X better than the one we were on.  We got most of the way up the summit before realizing that we were too far to the right and that we had some big boulders to climb around to get back on course.  This wasn’t a big deal for us bipedal, tall humanoids, but turned out to be more than Starbuck could handle.

Golden Stairs

The worst punishment in the world for a spoiled little black dog, is to be apart from his owners/supply of babybel cheese.  Each time we’d climb across boulders too big for the dog, he would start to cry and shake and cry some more.  We tried to find an alternate route, but there was no way to get across.   After 15 minutes of looking around, the Mr. had resigned our fate to a return to Skagway.  I had not carried a freaking dog foamie 25 km just to turn around again.  So, we crawled on the rocks, and through the power of teamwork (aka Mr. shoving the dog into my hands and me lifting him over the biggest boulders) we managed to get the dog onto the right trail.

This adventure was not without emotional scars.  The 15 minutes of dog crying was enough to give up $20 worth of homemade beef jerky from the Deli.  It was also the end of Starbuck having to carry anything.  All this in spite of the fact that the minute we hit snow, he was in puppy heaven with any residual trauma clearly forgotten.

 

From the summit, we made great time to Happy Camp, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch of crackers, that would have been very tasty with some cheese and meat.  All day, we had narrowly avoided the rain, watching it creep behind us and limiting any prolonged breaks.

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail

The views on the Canadian side of the trail are phenomenal, and while we were entertained by vistas of mountain lakes, Starbuck was entertained by fat ground squirrels with limited dog experience.   We passed through Deep Lake campground, a beautiful space to pitch a tent in nicer weather, but the rain was quickly approaching and a warming tent was worth some extra hours of walking.

Finally we got to Upper Lindemann and an amazing little cabin with a strong stove and dry wood.  After 10 hours, and 25 km of walking I was ready to get warm and dry.   Starbuck wasn’t as convinced that we should end the day, but eventually agreed upon promise of Beef Stroganoff.   At least if something happened on Day 3, we’d have plenty of kibble to eat.

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The Chilkoot Adventure: Day 1

23 Sep

The first time I hiked the Chilkoot was with my friend Lisa and my parents.   It was 25-30 degrees Celsius the entire time.  We hiked in shorts and t-shirts, which weren’t always deemed necessary, replaced with only sports bras.  The entire time the sun shone in a big blue sky – weather could not be more perfect.  For that reason, I thought that it might be best to never, ever dare to repeat the trail.  It simply couldn’t be better, so why mar a good memory?

But a couple weeks ago, when Jenn and Julie were planning their Chilkoot hike, the Mr’s interest was piqued.  Fifteen years ago, he’d come to the Yukon with a plan to hike, but it never happened.  Interest quickly turned into a plan, and on Friday, September 7th  we found ourselves driving towards a rainy Alaskan coast.

The Chilkoot officially closes the first week in September, this means no wardens, no wood, no markers, questionable weather and very few hikers.  We figured that last bit makes up for all the rest.

We arrived in Skagway just past noon.  The steady, cold rain, didn’t exactly inspire a speedy departure.  Instead, we used our time in Skagway to buy essentials: a down coat and alcohol flask; and eat a huge lunch at the Brew Pub.

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Finally, at around 3:00 pm, we made our way to Dyea and the start of the trail head.  We took out every piece of rain gear we had packed – put it on, and set down the muddy trail.

Our trail plan was simple: go fast, go light.  Tony had the biggest/heaviest bag at about 30 lbs, I carried just under 20 lbs, and Starbuck got off easy with 5 lbs of kibble in his new pack.  Day 1 would take us from Skagway to Pleasant Camp, approximately 17 km down the path.  We rolled into Pleasant at around 7:00 pm, perfect time to start a fire in the warming hut and make some dinner.

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Leaving in the arid climate of Whitehorse, we weren’t completely prepared the high humidity of coastal Alaska.  I learned some very important lessons.  Lesson #1: wet wood does not burn well.  Lesson #2:  a wet wood fire does not produce much eat.  Lesson #3:  hanging wet clothes over a wet wood fire, produces slightly warmer wet clothes.  Lesson #4: a wet dog sleeping next to a wet wood fire makes a slightly smellier wet dog.

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But, despite the wet weather, the company made up for everything.  We had some delicious dinner, waited until it got dark, and determined that no more hikers would be staying at Pleasant that night, pulled out our thermarest and had a nice snooze in a semi-warm, semi-dry shelter.

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