Alaska Weather Forecasting is a Joke


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Still skiing tree lines exclusively thus far this year. Although today the weather alowed for some teasing views of some nice westerlies that are beginning to fill in.  Hopefully things improve and they can be skied soon.

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The rain turned to snow for a few days and things were pretty good. Unfortunately it seems to be pissing rain at the moment. Only up to 34, so maybe it’ll stay decent up high.

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So warm and gross. I’m alternating between tears and puking. Hard to stay positive when January looks like this.

red koala bear tears

dinasaur existentialism

wind crust

turtle hiding in shell

Since the weather shows no sign of improving (I now dream of the once dreaded partly cloudy chance of snow) I’m going to quadruple down on the negativity and spend all my time complaining.  Bellow is a video of Wilson and I in Summit Lake 10 days ago or so, hopefully things improve soon.


On what may have been the last nice day of summer, Charlie and myself went to hike up to Reed Lakes in Hatcher Pass on Saturday afternoon after work. A quick 2 hr hike led us to some of the most dramatic scenery in the state. More pictures of the trip can be found here.

Summer, despite being a lot of fun, doesn’t really inspire me to post much around here.  In fact, the only reason I’m posting at all is I’ve received a fair number of complaints the last couple days, specifically from Jeff, who was sick of seeing his face at the top of the page.  Anyway, the combination of employment (however easy it may be) and the long days this time of year, don’t exactly encourage me to sit around and update this place.  It’s been hot too. The warmest summer since I’ve been up here, with the type of brutal, apathy inducing, scorching days where the sun has the force of a knife and your left wanting to do nothing more then lay around, read a book, and wait to get out of town on the weekend.

Jeff and I have been slowly improving our weekend camping routine over the last 4 summers, which has made each escape from Anchorage much more enjoyable.  Gone are the days when I’d sleep uncomfortably through the rain wrapped in a tarp or in the back of a fish slimed van with 4 dogs, when weekends were mostly a challenge of enduring consecutive days of little sleep and bad eating.  Jeff and I are doing things more properly now.  We’ve begun traveling around with a small charcoal grill (named Little Red) thats seems extremely durable.  It survived a full weekend sitting in the back of Mikey’s truck while he forded rivers, attempted hill climbs in a gravel pit, and rallied the road to McCarthy at over 80.  And despite constantly forgetting lighter fluid (we”ve had to get it started with lake Louise alder fires) Little Red has allowed us to cook elaborate meals (a typical menu would be bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, with potatoes and onions caramelized in pineapple juice with a quessedilla or hot dog for desert); I’ve generally eaten better on our weekend road trips then I do in Anchorage.

So far we’ve spent our time hanging out in Anchor Point, Chitina (twice), Kasilof, Portage, and Brad’s cabin on Skilak Lake., but I’ll try to keep this brief, and focus on the fishing.  On our first, ponderous trip to Chitina, Jeff and I were greeted by a quickly rising river, and very few fish.  We didn’t even keep our nets in the water for an hour before deciding to spend the trip grilling, playing bocce, and passing out in the sun on a blue tarp.  We returned two weeks with Mikey who’d dip netted in Chitina for years and knew some productive holes.  On the way into town, Mikey got pulled over going 97 in a 55, but the Cop didn’t write him a ticket, told him to “have fun fishing,” and gave him a much needed can of bug dope.

Finding a spot to fish from can be a problem in Chitina, the Copper River is huge, and flows hard enough that it’s almost impossible to hold your net in place without bracing it against a rock or finding a back eddy to hold it in.  Access to the river can be a problem as well, most of the accessible spots are on privately owned land, and the decent public spots require either a 4 wheeler or a boat to reach them.  The state has even narrowed the bridge at O’Brien Creek to keep trucks from traveling the 4 wheeler trail, which is the old Copper River railway bed. When checking the area out on our earlier trip Jeff and I were pretty sure our lack of a 4 wheeler would be prohibitive, but when we arrived, Mikey  drove his truck through O’Brien creek without hesitation, Jeff  followed, and we drove down the trail, receiving strange looks from everyone we passed.  Eventually we hit a narrow stretch, which dropped a few hundred feet directly to the river from the trail and decided to park the cars.  Jeff and I began walking while Mikey used the dirt bike to shuttle gear for the remaining distance.  At one point Mikey flew off the trail over the cliffs in the direction of the river, but luckily he hit a tree and only fell about 20 feet.  A Mormon in the military had to use his 4 wheeler to winch his bike out of the trees and took time to lecture Jeff and I on the “dangers you might not perceive.”  We arrived at Mikey’s favorite spot, a big back eddy at the bottom of a cliff, and found two people already there.  They were friendly though, and allowed us to climb down and fish with them.  The charter operator, Mark Hem, who’d dropped them off, objected to our invading of his clients space, but after a short verbal tussle with Mikey he left, and we spent the day peacefully fishing while listening to stories from Butch, one of the people who’d arrived just before us.  The fishing was frustrating, dipnetters are no longer allowed to keep Kings in Chitina, so we had to throw back all 13 we caught. I’m quite sure it was the first time I’ve ever cursed catching a King.  We caught about 12 reds in about 12 hours, but Butch kept us smiling with stories about his 12 boats, and saying things like “most people quit fishing when they don’t catch anything, I buy a new boat.”  Butch even offered to smuggle our fish aboard his charter, to save us the hassle of dragging them up the cliff and down the trail to our car.  The highlight of the trip may have been seeing Mark Hem’s face after we drove back across O’Brien Creek and collected our fish (that he’d just cleaned, thinking they were his clients) from Butch before driving off.

Hunter, Jeffe, Kim and I went down to the south beach of Kasilof for the extended fourth of July weekend.  We caught 22 fish, but my main impression of the weekend was eating really well, thanks to Kim’s domestic skills and the hard work of little red.  Where on my previous visit Jeff and I resorted to eating steak cooked on a burning soccer ball and  folding chair, this year the food (sitka deer, halibut, fresh salmon) was excellent. We played some long multi set games of bocce (between team Loud Mouth and team Michigan) and even went swimming to deal with the heat.  It was a pleasant change from the normal dip netting madness.  On Sunday, Hunter chose not to use waiters, and with the whole beach staring in surprise caught a fish the moment his net hit the water.  After charging out, tossing his fish on the beach he repeated the trick with another immediate fish to cheers up and down the beach.  People even began calling him Spartacus.

So eventually we’ll have some more stories and pictures posted, but until then keep yourselves entertained with the following.  As I’m excited b

Tuesday, after skiing Tin Can Proper, while Graham and I were sitting around drinking beer, someone mentioned how it was nice that a storm was coming, as it’d give us a couple of days off.  Everything was skiing really well at the time, and I was a little afraid another storm would mess everything up; but I was exhausted and some rest did sound really nice.  Well the storm came, and I took two days off.  I watched a bunch of soccer, and ate a lot of bacon, things were good.  The initial reports were that the mountains had received a mere three inches, nonetheless I was anxious to get out and see how things were doing.  And now I’m looking back fondly on those couple of down days, as after the last 3 days I’m again exhausted.  

Hunter and I took the dogs up Tin Can Friday afternoon, once Hunter returned from a job interview.  We saw the cars of both Graham and the Hope crew in the parking lot, but didn’t see anyone we recognized on the way up.  The dogs are both getting a lot better at skiing, and Hunter, while skiing with Walter, is a mustache away from being Scott Kennett.  We found a lot more than 3 inches, up top the wind had wiped some of it into deep drifts, but generally things were covered by about a foot of featherweight  snow. 

Saturday I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing, eventually I got my act together and began stumbling around my room looking for it.  At least half an hour passed before I found it with a text message from Graham saying “Get Up, It’s Sunny!”  I thought about that for a moment, then looked out the window and realized that it was, in fact,  sunny.  I’m still adjusting to waking up after dawn.  By the time I called Graham he was already on his way to Hatcher Pass, so I woke Hunter (who was sleeping on the couch) and soon the two of us were on our way towards Turnagain.  It was bright and sunny along the arm, but climbing the pass we were met by light fog.  We skinned up Magnum, emerging from beneath the fog as we gained the ridge, and slowly made our way towards our lines, soaking in the afternoon sunshine.  No one had put a track down what we wanted to ski, a pleasant change from last weekend.  I was shocked by how deep the snow was when I dropped in, the cold had kept it from consolidating, which allowed me a couple face shots along the run.  I filmed Hunter’s turns, my hands burning from the cold, I really need to learn to work a video camera with gloves on.  We didn’t stick around long, Hunter’s skins were failing in the cold, we’d attached them with zip ties from the start, and as we began to feel the winter chill of inactivity we weaved or way through powder and alders to the car and headed home.  A phone call with Graham on the drive set my plans for both the night and the next day.  We decided to take advantage of the conditions,  get up early the next morning, and head for Eddies ridge.

Things didn’t follow my plans for an easy night, getting to bed early.  Kim came over and I was again unable to resist drinking beers and playing PES for hours, but when my alarm went off the next morning at seven,  I felt fine, the whole hiding out in my room while trying not to wake anyone routine was reminiscent of  my working days.  As Graham and I drove along the highway near Bird I remembered that it was Super Bowl Sunday, which was the day last year when we skied Proper on a crowd-free sunny day, and I began hoping for a repeat event.  Again we found the pass to be pretty deserted. I’m pretty surprised about the depth football love felt by the AK ski community.

 The approach went really well as I couldn’t get us lost in the Eddies woods, with the skin track so established from the crowds it resembled an arboreal highway.  We were forced to drink out beers on the upper ridge as it was so cold they were starting to freeze in our packs.  They made for a nice treat as we traversed the Eddies ridge, which is very wide and flat and makes for a great ridge walk.  After 45 minutes or so we reached to a rock we couldn’t down climb, and in the process of finding a way around it, Graham kicked off a shallow windslab.  Our proximity to two tasty spines, combined with the other events, convinced us it was time to descend.  I went first, made my way down the bed surface of Graham’s slab, and found my was into the bowl, before cutting over (photo bellow) to my chosen spine.  The snow was light bottomless powder, sluffing lightly in the gullies on either side.  The apron was covered with half buried debris from the last storm cycle,  but that was only a minor inconvenience.  I slid to a halt, sat on my skis, began fiddling with the camera, and waiting for Graham’s run.  Graham sped along his spine before slamming into an alder at the bottom that didn’t slow his progress.  After a couple rounds of pictures we got started on the slow walk home. We were back at the car around 4, so we took about 6 hours round trip.  Another good day completed, but it’s only a beginning, we’ll see what this next storm does to us and get back at is as usual.

 

Interesting stuff on my down day

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