This past weekend we skied 5.7 miles to a remote DNR cabin we’d reserved out by the Chena Hot Springs in Alaska.
The last time I did something like this was in 2007, my first winter in Alaska. That time it did not end so well. I arrived to a tiny cabin full of skies and people I didn’t know and quickly realized my “winter gear” of a wool vest and wool skirt were not pro gear for the 11 mile (one way) ski up and down steep terrain. They had special names for the “type” of cc ski we would need for this adventure. I had gotten mine a month before at the Play It Again Sports shop in town for about 30 bucks (poles and all)…needless to say someone winded up coming back on a snow machine for me long after everyone else had glided smoothly to the cabin and were busy warming up.
So this time we took it easy. We got a slow easy start to the morning and ran a few last minute errands. We ended up hitting the trail around 3 pm and were super happy to discover it was groomed. I tried to phone for trail conditions, but the line is down on the weekends…oops. As it was the temps were mild hovering around 0 degrees. ( I know this sounds cold if you don’t live here, but remember it’s a dry cold in the interior, so that offsets things.) The outset looked like this
The granite tors were behind us and sloping hills in from each side. It was beautiful and didn’t take long to get beyond the sound of cars from the road. We saw one other skier heading in with a sled towed behind heading for Lower Creek Cabin. He must have made good time because we never saw him again. The only other people we saw were about 1.5 miles in and headed back to the parking area on two snow machines each towing a load of kids on sleds having a blast!
We got into a bit thicker trees covered in some fun, fluffy snow formations and a few small portions where it felt like being in a winter wonderland cathedral with the slim trees arching over the pathway. Rabbit tracks could be seen now and again crossing over the path.
After passing Lower Angel Creek Cabin at about 3 miles in the sun was getting low behind the hills and the conditions for skiing were a bit colder, but also smoother. There were less straight shot passes and a bit more small hills to keep things interesting. At this point I got into a bit of a rhythm, and started cruising for the cabin, trying to arrive before dark. But then I lost track of Taylor so I was torn between trying to get there fast and not being worried that he had been plowed over by a mama moose. He caught up to me and we arrived to the cabin after 6pm, thankful to find it was still a bit warm from the people who had stayed the night before. Temps around 50 degrees F inside as we set to stoking and stocking the wood in the sweet little wood stove. Fortunately people had left fire starter logs and extra wood behind so we didn’t have to start scrounging for dead wood to saw down after the long ski. We just used a small bit of fire start and saved the majority for people in need arriving to an entirely cold cabin. I forgot there are no lights so we hung our headlamps and Taylor even fashioned a shade over his to disperse the light using one of our beloved Orikaso folding camp bowls (I’m so sad this company is no longer manufacturing, they were the best!).
For dinner the plan was wild rice soup with dried ground turkey…but we tried to use turkey dried this summer for a trip to the boundary waters, and it had gone stale… so yuck! I will eat almost everything, but this did not make the cut. So instead we stuck to cookies, rum cream and fireball with summer sausage and cheese to keep us a float. The morning was better with power waffles (no wheat and some cottage cheese. I will have to have Taylor share the recipe as they are real good and filling.) We made them before the trip and froze some to just reheat on the stove and eat with homemade yogurt and some maple syrup. Luckily one of the far windows was a bit leaky and that ledge acted as fridge for a few of our sensitive food items (like the quiche we ate on the way in and out and some tuna we mixed up for seaweed rolls)
Above you can see us packing up again out bags on the sleeping platforms, (yes we did use sleeping pads for comform) and we were on the trail by check out time noon, and headed toward a relaxing soak at the Chena Hot Springs as our follow up. I was a little slower the second half of the way out but it took us about 3 hrs each way and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. No wind and mild temps. Glad we didn’t book for this weekend though, as temps dip back down to -30 today! Here’s a few pics from the ski out.