August 31, 2008

Winner Creek

Dr. Snow, Photographette K, and yours truly biked 'n hiked to Winner Creek headwaters on a rare day - the radiant orb was out as were a hundred folk on the Ted Stevens Boardwalk-to-Nowhere. But, Nowhere is a wonderful place.

Perhaps Photographette K will post some images for our enjoyment, but until then we'll have to settle for a map because yours truly forgot his camera.

We biked within a couple of miles of the pass overlooking the 20 Mile drainage, then hiked to just beyond the pass. Beholding the view of 20 Mile rimmed with glaciers and verdant tundra makes the trip worthwhile, plus the biking is downright fun.

We reversed course and returned to Alyeska and tried the new Blueberry Pancake Trail - a great trail for mountain biking thrill-seekers!

Blueberry Pancake has banked corners, elevated boardwalk and erosion-resistant features that make for a terrific ride. Likewise, the Boardwalk-to-Nowhere attributed to our senator-for-life-and senator-under-federal-indictment is a longer yet terrific ride.

It would be an interesting factoid, the length of Winner Creek Trail boardwalked - it's a lot. Both Blueberry Pancake & Winner Creek are highly recommended for experienced pedalers. Winner Creek is almost 8 Miles one-way to the pass and about 2000 feet vertical. Winner Creek Trail starts in a Hemlock forest near the Alyeska Tram. The boardwalk has many steps, a few double and triple the normal height. The trail has some rocky sections, and a few interesting creek crossings. Water volume in the creeks varies considerably; the day we did the trail, there was considerable exposure crossing them, but we survived without incident.

August 24, 2008

Kenai Canyon

Turk guided Kruser, Dr. Snow & yours truly down the mighty Kenai Canyon to prospect for Cohos, and turn Dollies & 'bows. A marvelous day, floating from Sportsman's to Skilak Lake; Turk rowed like a pro, and caught like a pro.

But, Dr. Snow won the Rainbow prize for the prettiest fishies.

Yours truly got lucky with a nice Dolly. I followed directions well. Turk said cast there, I did & my rod bent over.

A less than stressful Skilak crossing.

The brown bear is difficult to see in this shot, but what a magnificent animal. And what a magnificent day!

August 14, 2008

Fix the Heel and Free the Mind!

Dr. Snow tells me, "Fix the heel and fix the problem". Just what I want to hear. The ravine crossing in flat light left me half buried on the far bank of the ditch. Even with snow plugged ears, I could hear the fixed heel Dr. Snow offer his opinion.

Thanks, Doc. I always thought it was, Free the heel and free the mind. So, another free-minded free-heeler succumbed to the fixed heel allure for the back country.

Back country skiing for this two planker meant a free heeled sinusoid for many, many years. Going both ways, riding the lifts and skinning the switchbacks, meant fixed heel alpine power for the mechanized lifts and free heel telemarking for the self-powered backcountry. But, with today's alpine touring gear, why?

Still, free-heeling is the right tool for the right application, such as the skateski trails, long-approach trips, and point A-to-B tours, even with some steeps thrown in. But for putting in backcountry laps, this old timer telemarker had to admit that fixing the heel does fix some problems.

Weight is not a problem for modern fixed heel systems. Fact: my fixed heel alpine touring set up is lighter than my telemark set up. Now, I'm not talking Bishop Bomber on megawide skis (& skins) with knee high, super stiff, duck-billed "telemark" boots. We're talking backcountry set ups for dawn-to-dusk laps. That's right: Scarpa T2/BD O2/Atomic 10ex (2003-2005 vintage) is a heavier set up than Scarpa Spirit 3/Dynafit Vertical ST/Atomic Snoop Daddies (2008). Plus, the AT set-up has a more powerful descent capability. And, the near-frictionless ascending pivot with the Dynafit allows more efficient (lower effort) ascents.

More efficient ascent, more powerful descent. Why not?

So, my backcountry friends, another telehead has converted.