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White Mountains National Recreation Area
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Mon. March 9. The trail from the mile 57 parking area was in pretty good shape although a little soft in spots, I had gotten a late start and was riding in the heat of the day. From the intersection of the Colorado Creek Trail and the Colorado Creek Cabin Trail (15 miles in), you drop about 8 miles down towards Beaver Creek. I was pulling a Bob Yak trailer with about 40 lbs.. including trailer and the trailer tire was punching through in some of the open areas. Passed a group of 3-dog teams and a ski jouer, the last of the mushers pulled up to me and the first words out of his mouth were “I saw you on the bike and swore off whiskey”. This is the type of reaction people often have when seeing a mtn. bike on a winter trail..

(ride into White Mtns.) (crossing swamps White Mtns.)

The rest of the trip to Wolf Run Cabin was warm and uneventful. It took 7 hours to cover the 23 miles to the cabin (with lots of stops) including a bit of walking the bike over some soft spots. I was beat; I hadn’t been riding much the previous month and felt to be in questionable condition. The cabin was in good shape and I had a fire going in no time. There was a big pot someone had left and it provided an easy source of snowmelt water. Better yet, someone had left a nice eggshell foam mattress and, combined with my camp pads, it made a great bed. Time for dinner and a cocktail. I had brought a pint of 151 proof everclear and mixed with powdered apple cider provided a nice stiff drink every night of the trip. As at most cabins there was a pair of camprobbers (Grays jays) and a resident shrew. Although all these cabins have a Coleman stove and lantern I brought my MSR stove (less fuel to bring) and candle lanterns, never liked noisy Coleman lanterns. Thought about bringing radio but decided to get into the quiet.of the mountains. Time for a book and bed. Beautiful moon almost full.

(Wolf Run cabin)

Tues. March 10. -20º F at 7 am. Beautiful day. Ate a good breakfast, took a bath and washed out one set of riding clothes. I was concerned about finding wood, I had seen none within a mile or so of the cabin on the ride in. Followed a trail up the small ridge behind the cabin hoping for wood, no luck. Thank goodness it was a low snow year so it wasn’t too bad tromping through the woods. Finally found a pretty good supply of standing dead spruce (‘gasoline grey’) and hauled some into the cabin. This cabin is small and tight so required very little wood. Was feeling the trip in so I thought if I went for a ride it would be a short one. Well I should have known from years of riding that once in the saddle the legs have a tendency to start feeling frisky, especially when you’re riding somewhere new.

Ate a big lunch, packed the cameras and headed up towards Windy Gap on Windy Creek Trail, about 7-8 miles. Leaving Wolf Run you slowly climb as you approach the head of the valley. I was feeling my legs for the first hour or so then started getting fired up as the trail got steeper the closer I got to Windy Gap, about 4 miles up the trail. The wind kept picking up until it was howling at the beginning of the gap. This was a beautiful trail, and as you entered the gap it really got impressive. This is a real gap, narrow, winding right through the heart of the White Mountains. The trail here was punchy in places and with the climb and headwind I walked the bike off and on for the next couple of miles. The wind almost made me turn around a couple of times especially in the shadows. Even though it was warm, (15-20o F above) the wind was brutal. Finally with the wind and soft trail I had to walk the bike almost all of the last couple of miles. Crossed some overflow just below the top of the last and steepest rise, and took a nice break.

(top of Windy Creek Trail looking east into Fossil Cr. Valley and up at Windy Arch) (top of Windy Creek Trail overlooking Windy Gap)

Alright here we go, up to the top walking the bike and the view gets better with every step . Yes, the top. Here you are looking down the Fossil Creek Trail and valley. Very impressive rock formations and what’s this? Wow a huge arch on top of a monster rock mountaintop, (Windy Arch). Time to take some pictures and get back down. Dropping off a ridgetop with a killer tailwind, this is going to be good. Yeeha! Covered the first mile or two in a couple of minutes, must have taken me 30 mins. to get up that section. This is one of my favorite situations in mtn. biking. You’re hauling ass but with the strong tailwind you find yourself in still air, totally quiet, it’s a great sensation. Blasted right through all the spots I had to walk the bike on the way up. Dabbed once in a really punchy section. Before I knew it I was back to the cabin. It took 3 hours to get to the top with picture breaks. It took a little less than 50 min. with a couple of picture stops to get back to the cabin. Best ride of the trip. Had dinner, with cocktail of course, and waited for moonrise. Took a walk under the moon and northern lights, a perfect end to a perfect day.

Wed. March 11. 25º F below. Breakfast, bath and get packed up for move to Caribou Bluff Cabin. Cached some fuel and stuff that I would pick up when I came back on Friday. On the map it looked to me like the only climb was after you leave the creek, (that’s the second crossing of Beaver Creek, the first is about a mile from Wolf Run Cabin) but on the trail the longest climb was through the swamps before the creek. As usual, in open areas like this swamp the trail can get punchy and I did walk the bike for a couple of minutes because of the soft trail. After the swamps you drop a little to Beaver Creek ( lots of open water) and the trail winds through areas of big spruce with some fun up and down sections. Saw what I took to be a loon swimming in one of the open spots on the creek. Now you leave the big trees and start climbing up and turning to the East as you enter the gap. It was about 15o F above as I started to drop down to Fossil Creek. Wow, it dropped to 15 below in about 2 mins as I dropped down to Fossil Creek where it flows past the base of a big wall which keeps this area shaded and cold. The trail winds down onto Fossil Creek, for about a mile until you climb out and up through a burnt forest valley to Caribou Bluff Cabin. This valley is the southern end of Limestone Gulch. You climb about a mile up to the cabin, one last steep short climb and there you are. What a spot for a cabin! It sits on a narrow ridge that separates Limestone Gulch and Fossil Creek Valley.The cabin is the same size and style as Wolf Run. Set up camp and hiked around taking pictures. Moonrise, cocktail and dinner. Aurora very active.

(Fossil Gap Trail starting drop to Beaver Creek) (Caribou Bluff cabin)

Thurs.March 12 5º F below. Slept in a little and after gathering wood ate and headed up Fossil Creek trail to take pictures of what, on the map, looked like impressive rock formations. Again you slowly climb up the valley. This was the firmest and fastest of all the trails of the trip. Rode up about 7-8 miles to just below Windy Gap Cabin. This trail, like Fossil Gap trail, has nice sections of big spruce forest. I had wanted to get to the cabin but my ass was getting a little sore and there was lots more riding to do. Got some great pictures. Had never seen rock walls like this anywhere else around Fairbanks. Back to the cabin and dinner. Had two cocktails and got a little hammered. Well, it was 4 ounces of 151 grain alcohol and I’m a lightweight. In the time I spent at this cabin there was almost always a breeze and it seemed to change direction every 5 minutes.

(Fossil Creek Trail) (Limestone Gulch, Fossil Creek Trail)

(Limestone Gulch Fossil Creek Trail)

Fri. March 13 7º F below. Packed up and headed down trail. Tried something new, strapped my video camera on to the Bob and filmed the descent from cabin through burn. I kept a good pace back to Wolf Run as I wanted to get there before noon and have all day to rest up before the long haul up the swamps and out to my rig on Sat. Two BLM guys where leaving Wolf Run when I got there, first people I’d seen since the ride in Mon. They were setting trails and delivering new lanterns and stoves to the cabins. Alright time to eat, bathe, eat, relax, eat, read,eat and nap. Was in bed and asleep by 9:30.

Sat. March 14 7º F below. Got up very early. Another clear day. The moon was up so I decided to pack and get on the trail. I was a little concerned about trail conditions on the 8 mile uphill through the swamps. I had walked a ways on the ride down because of soft trail. The trail was firm and it was a beautiful ride under the setting moon. The temp dropped to about 15 below after the moon set. About half way up the swamps, the sun came up and offered instant warming of body and spirit. I was fired up and keeping a good pace. The wind really picked up the last stretch before the turn to Colorado Creek Cabin. Rode down to the cabin to have a snack before the last 15 miles out to the parking area. I was surprised that nobody was there. It was the start of spring break and I figured someone would have come into the cabin Fri. night under the moon. Had a nice break and headed out.

(Sat. trip out, Beaver Creek - pre-dawn moonset) (Sat. ride out)

Leaving the cabin you have about a mile long pull through an open stretch of trail that was a little punchy. Now the fun begins as the best downhill of the whole trip throws you off the ridge. Yeeha! Note, I bought a new pair of shades for this trip and, although I thought they looked good, I discovered that on every fast descent they channeled the wind right into my eyes and with the cold temps they would tear up immediately. This added more cheap thrills to the downhills and weight to the notion of function before form. After the big drop, the next few miles are steep enough to allow you to hammer in the big ring. Now my strategy of an early start panned out as I started to meet snowmachines, dog teams and ski jourers on the way in for the weekend. The trail held up well but even with good trails fresh traffic (especially snowmachines) can break the crust and make the riding a little tougher. After traffic it takes from 10 minutes to all night for the trail to set up again for the best biking. This depends on temps and snow conditions. Ah, the parking lot, the end to a great ride.

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