Sunday, April 30, 2017

KENAI RIVER CANYON PACKRAFT TRIP

April 18, 2017:  Troy and I took a packraft trip through the Kenai River Canyon on a sunny day.  The conditions were perfect and we had the entire river to ourselves.  

Troy cruising through the Kenai River Canyon.

Shelf ice along the shore.

Troy packs gear for the hike from Skilak Lake back to the truck.

Good thing we found this sign...so we didn't get lost.

Hiking out through the burn area.

Spring in Alaska!


Monday, February 20, 2017

FAT FREDDIE'S FATBIKE RACE/RAMBLE

The GPS track of Fat Freddie's Fatbike Race/Ramble.  We started and finished at Freddie's Roadhouse and rode clockwise around the 12.8 mile 'loop.'  The trail was well groomed and the intersections were clearly marked.  About 30 riders participated.  It was a splendid day in the Caribou Hills near Ninilchik, Alaska.
Doug Armstrong eats power fuel--a Hostess donette--prior to the start of the ride.
Riders pushed their bikes up the first big hill.  It was steep!  Look closely and you will see a dog in the lower left corner of the photo.  It was missing a rear leg and it ran the entire distance of the ride.
The Caribou Hills Phone Company maintains a phone booth along one of the trails.  Jim Bennett tried to make a call but it was out of service.
Jim Bennett pedals along the well groomed trail in Caribou Hills.
A fatbiker pedals toward the top of a knoll.
At the first checkpoint there was a nice family on snow machines handing the fatback riders water bottles.
Fatbikers on the trail.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

GLOBAL FATBIKE DAY 2016

Global Fatbike 2016 group photo at Lower Skilak Lake Campground, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

     Global Fatbike Day 2016 was a huge success.  This year we decided to stay close to home and ride the Skilak Lake Loop Road.  After checking with the folks at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge all was a go.  Sixteen fatbike riders showed up at 1:00 PM, on Saturday, December 3, to what appeared to be difficult riding conditions due to deep snow on the road.  After a group photo everyone pedaled out of the parking area making way for Engineer Lake which was ~5.2 miles distant.  Surprisingly the riding was quite good as long as you kept your tires in the trenches packed by vehicles traveling the route.

The Tabors pedal their fatbikes toward Engineer Lake.
Even though the biking conditions were good it was chilly.  The temperature never rose above 12 degrees Fahrenheit.  Everyone stayed warm by the constant movement of pedaling their fat bikes.

Geared to go.
Once the majority of the group made it to Engineer Lake it was time to make the return trip to the vehicles.

Fatbikers ride Skilak Loop Road.
The group on the way back to Lower Skilak Lake Campground.
After the ride everyone met at the Owens' home for a potluck and barbecue.  We had intended to enjoy a bonfire, but everyone thought they would rather stay indoors due to the cold temperature outside.

Enjoying dinner inside the Owens' home.
All in all it was a great day and everyone seemed to a have a wonderful time.  We are already making plans for Global Fatbike Day 2017!

The sun sets on Global Fatbike Day 2016.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

DENALI NATIONAL PARK 2016



Elizabeth, Emily, Charlie, and Julie at the Teklanika Campground entrance sign.
Although Mrs. Huffy's arm was still in a sling after spending most of July in recuperation mode since her broken wrist experience when we were in Valdez, we made our annual pilgrimage to Denali National Park with our good friends Charlie and Julie Stephens. We spent our time participating in typical Teklanika activities including hiking, biking, berry picking, riding busses, visiting with other campers, and attending evening Ranger presentations.  We were only there for four nights this year because that was the longest stretch of time available when we went of make reservations.

The first day we walked on the Teklanika riverbed and tried to get on the 6:20 PM bus with our bikes.  We had intended to ride from the top of Sable Pass back to Teklanika but the bus was full of passengers and camping gear.  So, we went to the evening Ranger talk covering the topic of bears.

The crew ready for the Highway Pass hike to the waterfalls.
The next morning we caught a bus to Highway Pass where we trekked to the waterfalls.  Along the way we were entertained by several caribou as they crossed the tundra running in inexplicable directions all around us.  It made me think of the book entitled, Running With Caribou.

A caribou ran near us as we made our way toward the waterfalls.
The weather was nice so we enjoyed our time at the waterfall and ate a picnic lunch before turning back toward the road.  Julie decided to climb a hillside on our way back, much as Ridgerunner had two years previous.

Elizabeth and Emily at the Highway Pass waterfalls.
Once back at the road we flagged down a bus in short order and rode back to Teklanika.  We ate a quick dinner and attended another Ranger presentation about beavers.  We also made plans for the following day which included a bike ride from Polychrome Pass and berry picking in Igloo Canyon.

Our logistical planning worked well.  Julie and I took our bikes to Polychrome Pass on the bus while Charlie took his to Sable Pass an hour later.  Elizabeth and Emily got on a bus an hour after Charlie and headed for Frederick's blueberry patch in Igloo Canyon.  Somehow we all met up as planned and enjoyed an hour of picking blueberries together and another picnic lunch.

Fatbike at Polychrome Pass

Julie adjusts her gear atop Polychrome Pass.

Fatbike tire with Sable Pass in the distance.
Emily and some of the blueberries she picked at Frederick's blueberry patch.

Charlie picks some blueberries.
Later in the evening we attended another Ranger presentation about lynx.  It was interesting and we were able to get a good look at a lynx pelt up close.

Ranger Bill displays a lynx pelt.
On our final full day we made plans to hike Tattler Creek and ride the 6:20 PM bus to Toklat and back.  Walking up Tattler Creek was wonderful even though we picked the windiest place in the park to eat our picnic lunch.  After eating we continued up the creek where we soon overtaken by another hiker.  He was a photographer for the BLM and was looking for the dinosaur tracks that are located somewhere along Tattler Creek.  He passed us and then started straight up the side of Sable Mountain.  We stopped and decided this would be our turn around point.  But, first we determined we needed a short break.  Julie climbed the same route as the BLM hiker while the rest of us watched and rested in the warm sunshine.  On our way back to the road we enjoyed viewing a ewe and lamb Dall sheep on the side of Tattler Creek canyon.
Liz and Emily making way on the Tattler Creek hike.

Charlie ready to make a Tattler Creek crossing.

Ewe and lamb Dall sheep.
Arriving back at the camp we sat around in the warm sunshine discussing our day and other things when Stephen stopped by.  He is a retired Pediatrician from Bismarck, North Dakota and travels the world with his camera.  We enjoyed more conversation and hearing about his adventures.  Later he walked past our trailer and we invited him in for smoked salmon and crackers before catching the bus to Toklat.  One of the things we always appreciate about staying at Teklanika is the wonderfully interesting people we meet.
Stephen and his photography gear.

We all hopped on the bus for Toklat rolling through Igloo Canyon and over Sable Pass.  Just after crossing the bridge over the East Fork and starting to ascend Polychrome Pass another bus driver coming from the other direction told us of a bear only few hundred yards up the road.    Our driver crept forward and we watched as a grizzly came down a small hill onto the road
and began eating grass right in front of the bus!  After a while it walked along the edge of the bus much to the elation of us passengers as we kept our camera shutters snapping and video rolling.  It was an awesome encounter!

A grizzly eats grass along the side of the park road near the East Fork bridge.
Wildlife sitings for the remainder of the trip to Toklat included several moose on the Plains of Murie and some Dall sheep high on a mountain visible from the Toklat Rest area.
Caribou antlers along the edge of the Toklat River.


We saw some moose in Igloo Canyon on the return trip but the highlight was the colorful sunset we witnessed as we pulled into Teklanika.  The sky was on fire and the hills and clouds were lit up with alpenglow.
A faint rainbow at the top of a mountain.

Teklanika sunset.
Denali
The next morning we packed up and slowly drove out of the Park.  After stopping at the Visitor Center and Riley Creek Mercantile we made our way to Byers Lake Campground where we experienced an extremely intense thunder and lightening storm.  Two days later we were home.  We are already making plans for our next trip to Denali National Park.

Here's a video of the trip:


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

DENALI NATIONAL PARK 2015



Team Hufford at Polychrome Pass, Denali National Park, Alaska.
The Hufford girls hiking along Tattler Creek on the afternoon of our arrival.
 
August 6, 2015:  We arrived at Teklinika Campground in the early afternoon after spending the previous night at Byers Lake Campground in Denali State Park.  We were in hiking mode, of course, so we chose Tattler Creek as our destination and hopped a bus for the short ride to Igloo Canyon where the road crosses Tattler Creek.  We saw three bears on the flanks of Cathedral and Igloo mountains as we rode along.  The weather was beautiful with clear skies and warm temps.  We enjoyed walking up the steam bed and ascending the hill that rises above the small canyon that Tattler Creek rushes through.  We spent some time enjoying the scenery and then returned to the road.  Looking back up the small valley we saw that two bears were munching their way through the berry bushes up the valley from which we had just returned.  This was our 15th trip to Teklanika and everything seemed to be just as it should be.


A grizzly bear hunts for ground squirrels near Sable Pass.
The Hufford girls at the top of Polychrome Pass.
Looking down from Polychrome Pass to the East Fork of the Toklat.
August 7, 2015:  Laura chose the hike for this day deciding a walk on the west side of Polychrome Pass would be a good place to explore.  As we rode the bus through Igloo Canyon we saw a bear hunting ground squirrels near Sable Pass.  It even caught one and ate it while we were watching! 

After a short break for photos atop Polychrome we disembarked the bus a couple of miles beyond the pass.  The weather was beautiful again as we climbed up and away from the road.  Liz, Emily and I went as far as a gravel covered knoll where we watched as Laura climbed higher and higher.  Before long we were reunited and hiking down a rocky stream bed to the road.  We stopped along the way for a foot soaking in ice cold water.
Emily and Laura examine the hiking route we are about to make.
Emily takes a break to contemplate the scenery near Polychrome Pass.
Laura climbed higher on the hillside than did the rest of us.
 
Laura and Emily pause for a photo while hiking down a steam bed back to the road.
Soaking tired feet in ice cold water is always refreshing.

Later that evening Liz and I decided to put our fatbikes on a bus and take them to the top of Sable Pass.  We rode the bus with another cyclist that had pedaled a touring bike from Anchorage to the Park.  She put her bike on a bus after being scared by a moose near the Savage River.  We unloaded our bikes at the top of Sable Pass and rode back to Teklanika in just about an hour including stops for photos and breaks.  It's particularly fun because the route is almost entirely downhill.
My fatbike at the nail studded Sable Pass sign.
Liz on her fatbike.
Riding the road down from Sable Pass.
August 8, 2015:  A hike near Highway Pass was the day's destination.  The weather had turned cloudy and blustery in the night so we went prepared with rain gear just in case things got worse.  Upon our arrival at the pass we hiked uphill through the low vegetation to a point where Emily and I waited while Liz and Laura hiked higher up the mountainside.  When we reunited we all walked down a rocky stream bed to the road.  The views were amazing and we could even see the waterfall that we hiked to last year with the Zimmerman's.  It was a splendid day.
The Hufford girls at the Highway Pass sign.
Liz and Emily hiking in Highway Pass.  They also brought some baggies for collecting berries.
Liz and Laura climb higher in Highway Pass.
A caribou near Highway Pass.  They were everywhere.
August 9, 2015:  This was our last full day so we decided to do some berry picking in Igloo Canyon.  We gathered our gear and berry bags before catching the bus to a small drainage just over a mile up the road from the Igloo Creek bridge.  When we got off the bus so did a group of six other hikers.  Our trails crossed a couple of times before they took off for some scrambling up the mountain.  We found a berry patch loaded with blueberries and began to fill our baggies.  We took a break from berry picking to enjoy some lunch and then started picking again.  Suddenly I heard Laura say in a quiet voice: "Bear."  I looked up and about 25 yards away was a grizzly invading our berry patch.  Remarkably it was totally uninterested in us and just kept eating its way through the area.  We quietly picked up our packs and slowly walked down to the road where several bus loads of people had watched the entire event as it transpired.  We talked with bus drivers and decided to walk down the road and find another berry patch.  Keeping a close eye on Frederick (Laura chose the name for the bear) we soon realized that he was eating and gradually moving the same direction we had chosen.  So, we made an about face and walked back toward the area where we had initially been picking berries.
Liz and Laura hiking up a small drainage on the side of Cathedral Mountain.
Silhouettes of hikers climbing a ridge on Cathedral Mountain.
Emily happily picking blueberries...
...a few minutes later this guy showed up about 25 yards away.  He was totally uninterested in us and just munched berries as we slowly walked away.
After we had picked enough berries we rode back to the Teklanika Rest Stop where we decided to walk the remaining distance to the campground.  That's when we met John and Mandi, a super cool duo on an expedition of epic proportions.  They are driving from Alaska to Argentina in a van they converted for overland travel.  We truly enjoy meeting people like John and Mandi as they are great examples for our daughters that life should be lived to the fullest.  Their unassuming manner made it easy to talk with them and it was a treat to hear about their adventures.  Best of luck John and Mandi!
John and Mandi--they are on an overland adventure in a van they converted themselves.  Visit their website at:  www.johnandmandi.com
Once back at the campground we reloaded our packs with food and water and went back out to the bus stop to catch the last bus of the day for a ride out to Toklat.  We got on board and immediately took a liking to Sheryl the driver.  She was one of the most pleasant drivers we had during our trip and told some very entertaining stories.  We saw several bears along the way and tons of caribou, but the sighting of the evening took place on the East Fork of the Toklat where we saw a grizzly on a caribou kill.  It was down river from the bridge quite a distance away but the bear and dead caribou could be seen clearly through binoculars.  Then, on our return trip we noticed the bear was gone but there was a wolf nearby!  What a great evening!
There is a bear on a caribou kill in the center of this photo.  You may have to enlarge it to see it.
On our return trip from Toklat we saw this wolf near the caribou kill.  Liz spotted it
Th next morning we awoke to more rainy and blustery weather.  We still had one more night on our reservation, but we decided to leave due to the weather and the fact that Laura could use an extra day to get ready to leave for college at the end of the week.  Besides we'd had a great trip and didn't know how it could have gotten any better than the last day.  So, we took our time packing up and slowly drove out to the Riley Creek Mercantile where we took our first showers in five days.  We're already making plans for next year, because 15 trips and 74 days at Teklanika Campground just aren't enough.