Friday, March 27, 2009

One howler of a Tolovana trip

Last weekend, we (together with our girls' aunt and uncle) made our way to Tolovana once again. It's been a while since we've been back - for sure we went in November 2003, but after that I am not sure. And it was in 2003 or 2002 that the area burned. Since we haven't been back much since then, I don't know whether it is due to the lack of wind protection, but the trail was in bad shape: for large parts of it, there was a snowdrift on the east side of the trail, spilling onto the trail. Sometimes the trail was too narrow, so one had to ski on the snowdrift, oftentimes 2 to 3 to 4 feet above the trail (and once even 5 ft or so); then the snowdrift would peter out and become too narrow for our load, and we would have to go back down onto the trail. And the whole cycle repeated. All in a strong wind hitting us from the side, no longer stopped by the trees that used to be around the trail. Temperatures were around 0F. Took us 5 hours to ski in.

The kids were bundled up. Our original intention was that Sonja was going to ride the dogsled, but with the wind, we just strapped her onto it, and used an empty duffel bag as a wind barrier, with a down sleeping bag and some XXL down pants my dad sent me years ago as the insulation (finally got to use for them for something!). Emilie was in the chariot that I pulled, also surrounded by a sleeping bag, with two water bottles with hot water between her legs. She had the fabric cover I made for it to protect her from the wind, and slept most of the way. Which was good - we did not really stop anywhere except for some extremely brief food stops since the conditions were so bad and there just is not any place to get out of the wind.

(All pictures by Thomas -thanks!)
Cooper helping Martin pull Sonja

A small snow drift on the left side of the trail - nearly nothing compared with the much higher and wider drifts further on.

We stayed one night in the big cabin ("cedar" cabin), then the next night in the new "log" cabin built near the water spring. In both cabins one could hear and feel a bit the wind howling outside, and the gusts that hit the walls. The new cabin is nice, though it is small - only four spaces for sleeping.

View from the new cabin, across the burned forest, and onto the Tolovana river valley:

The stupid dogs managed to find a porcupine within three minutes of me letting them out for a walk (with me) on our middle day - so much for a tranquil afternoon. Considering that they had found one four days earlier in the Alaska Range and had gotten into it there, we did not feel too sorry for them. Thomas laid across the dog, I tried to keep the butt and hind legs from moving, and Martin and Regula worked the quills on the face. Saphira only had five quills, Cooper more like 50, and once we came back to Fairbanks, I had to take him again to the vet. Here is Emilie still bugging Cooper though he still has some ten quills in his nose... He was not a happy camper. Will he learn? Some dogs do, some don't. Do we now have dogs that don't?

Preparing to head back out. Kids are bundled in sleeping bags, everyone else is bundled in wind protection if not sleeping bags.

I think we will try to go next time to Tolovana when it's a bit less windy. Still, glad we went, and even gladder we didn't have any problems along the trail.

1 comment:

Matt Heavner said...

I was thinking of Tolovana trips earlier this week (talking with someone about fun trips around Fairadise)--I really enjoyed reading about your trip went in and glad you had a reasonably good time! The wind and new trail conditions sound a little tough, but the kids looked great. I can't believe Torsten's never been into Tolovana! Our last trip was 2002.

Ah.. dogs and porcupines... What a pain. We haven't had a problem in a good while (knock on wood!).