by: Tim Kelley

Oct - Dec Jan - Feb Mar - Apr May - Jun Summer

Mid April 2016: Crust Skiing the Archangel "Two Lake Tour"

For crust skiing in the Hatcher Pass area, I figured I'd try a double-header for something new.  I call this the Archangel Two Lake Tour.  Start at the Archangel trailhead, ski up the Goodhope Creek drainage to the small lake at its headwaters, ski back down to the Reed Lakes Trail, ski up to Upper Reed Lake and then back down and out to the trailhead.  I think Goodhope Creek valley is a cool place and I've been there a few times before.  It's wide, safe and has a lot of fun and ski-able terrain.  You can see this from these pictures, the upper picture is from just above Goodhope Lake (which is buried under snow).  The catch with this double-header is the 2nd climb, up Reed Lakes Valley.  The first 2300' climb up Goodhope hammers you pretty good.  So I found the 2nd 1600' climb up Reed Lakes to be quite brutal.  Oh well, suffering or not ... it's hard to beat a beautiful day of crust skiing in the Talkeetna Mountains.

Wolverine tracks just above Goodhope Lake. Looking up at the Goodhope Towers.  Valley narrows and gets avy-dangerous. Goodhope Creek valley.  Open, lots of safe terrain.  Nice crust skiing venue. Upper Reed Lake, Lynx Peak in the distance.
GPS track: 19.2 miles. Some big glacial erratics on the moraines south of Goodhope Lake.  Idaho Peak is the mountain in the distance to the left of the erratic.  It's a fun summer hike to its summit. Start: 2077', Goodhope Lake: 4334', Jct of Snowbird Trail: 2609', Upper Reed Lake: 4217'
The Motherlode Lodge recently burned down.  But in its place, some swank ski retreats are popping up!

Summer 2015 Photos From Goodhope Creek Valley

  On the shores of mighty Goodhope Lake. Picture above of wolverine tracks is on the small ridge on the other side of this tarm. Joking around.  I'd never actually do this (even if I could).  Glacial erratics are geo-art made 10,000 years ago.  They should never be disturbed, so others can see them as they were left. There are three(?) old mine shafts in this valley with some gold mining remains.  Ski route to Goodhope Lake is in the background.  
Late March 2016: To The Nipple And Back

Last year I skied from Tyone Lake up to the top of Nipple Mountain (aka Nipple Top) and then back to Lake Louise Lodge.  That trip quickly made me set the goal of skiing from Lake Louise Lodge to the summit and back.  And so I did, this year.  This ski started out on a fast groomed snowmobile trail.  But at the end of Susitna Lake my pace slowed down as the trail got softer from the little snowmobile traffic since the last snowfall.  My wife came out on her snowmobile and met me near the top of the mountain, then she went back and skied on trails out of the lodge area.  After she left me a strong south wind came up and I had to buck the wind all the way back.  This wind and soft snow added up to two hours more than I had planned to complete this ski.  So I was running on fumes at the end.  Oh well, the "To The Nipple And Back" ski route is in the books.  A fun day.

Starting out.  No wind.  Powder and icy granular snow.  17 degrees F.  Fast going.  You can see majestic Nipple Top in the center distance. Past Lake Sustina, little traffic since the last snowfall made my pace drop some due to softer conditions. Following wolf tracks towards Nipple Top.
On top, looking north. On top of Nipple Top, pointing to Lake Louise Lodge. On top, looking SW at Susitna Lake and Lake Louise.
GPS track: 51 miles out and back (approximate, because I had GPS reception issues this day). Face wind-burned from bucking a headwind for the last 20 miles.  Body fried from grocery depletion the last hour.  But skier in a state of contentment.  And soon, skier will be scheming the next route that "needs" to be skied.  ;-)
Late March 2016: Checking Out Lake Louise Area Local Trails

Between long days of skiing (see above, and below) I took an easy day to complete the skiing of some trails I hadn't skied yet in the vicinity of the Lake Louise Lodge.  I skied the Misery, North-South Seismic Line and Jan Lake Loop trails.

My wife skiing Lake Louise.  Ice is 30 inches thick. Not the happiest of trail names: Misery Trail. Somebody's broken-down track vehicle on the Misery Trail.
The North-South Seismic Line Trail Unique looking clouds.  Weather change is on the way. Cool terrain.  Lots of moraines with trails that zoom down onto small lakes.
Holy crap!  This must sure be a cool place if is named "Tim Lake"!   ;-) Trails local to the Lake Louise Lodge
Late March 2016: Eureka West Sufferfest

The last remote snowmobile trail I needed to ski to complete skiing all of the mapped Eureka/Lake Louise trails ... was the Eureka West Trail.  This trail is mapped, but half of it is (usually) not groomed or marked.  I started skiing from the Eureka Lodge on groomed snowmobile trails which I followed to the Little Nelchina River (I had actually skied this section a few times before).  Then I started out on the 14 mile mountainous section I had not skied before.  Following miners' trails I skied over the first long ridge down into the Tyone Creek drainage.  Here trails went everywhere and it took some GPS work to get on the right route. 

Due to massive overflow on Tyone Creek, a group of previous snowmobilers had gone over Tyone Ridge to get to the Moore Lake Loop Trail.  So from the valley a brutal climb was in order to get up onto Tyone Ridge.  Here a narrow trail through soft, hoarfrost-ridden snow made the final few miles to the Moore Lake Loop Trail.  I had grand aspirations of doing a loop (I had this same aspiration on a previous attempt of this loop in February).  But I was fried and decided to call it a day.  The trail I wanted to ski was now in the bag and time for my wife, who had come along on her snowmobile, to get in some skiing on our way out.

Yellow shows the route I did.  Magenta is the route from last month.  Distance, with a couple of "oops" side trips - 32+ miles.

Leaving Eureka Side note: Miners use parts of the Eklutna West trail to get to remote gold placer mining claims.  Once I was skiing the Denali Highway and met a famous veteran dog musher.  I introduced myself and he responded: "Are you that Kelley sonofabitch gold miner that f*cks up the Eureka Trails?"  I laughed and said: "Nope, not me."  So apparently, this is Kelley country.  Sonofabitchin' gold miner Kelleys that is.  ;-)
Gunsight Mountain in the distance. Heading towards the Little Nelchina River drainage. Climbing.
Heading towards the Little Nelchina River drainage.  More climbing. Heading towards the Little Nelchina River drainage.  And more climbing.
Starting the climb up Tyone Ridge. View from the top of Tyone Ridge of the Wrangell Mountains Nearing the top of the climb up Tyone Ridge.  Beat.  Brutal climb.
Late March 2016: Eureka Lodge to Sheep Mountain Lodge

GPS track: 16 miles.

The Eureka Powerline Trail along the Glenn Highway.  Gunsight Mountian in the distance.

Freshly groomed snowmobile trail.


If you are traveling to the Sheep Mountain/Eureka/Lake Louise area to stay overnight and then do a long ski, a moderate length trip to throw in the day you drive up from Anchorage ... is to ski from the Eureka Lodge to Sheep Mountain Lodge.  This route follows snowmobile trails from Eureka along the Glenn Highway.  Eventually the trail goes over a ridge near Gunsight Mountain to the Squaw Creek Trail and then follows an abandoned section of the Glenn Highway and trials to Sheep Mountain Lodge.  A scenic ski when the weather is nice.

Looking back towards Eureka Top of ridge before dropping down to the Squaw Creek Trail Squaw Creek Trail leading down to the Glenn Highway Ptarmigan wing tip marks in the snow
Start of the abandoned section of the Glenn Highway.

"Hey dumbasses, I think you missed a spot!"
An abandoned section of the Glenn Highway.  The last time I skied this was in the first Oosik Classic ski race in 2002 (?) ... the legendary first Oosik that was billed as a 50 km race, but turned out to be around 65 kms (on very soft trails).  I was a close second to UAA coach Trond Flagstadt, third place was 13 minutes back.  Winning time was a little under 4 hours.  Lots of tired puppies after that race. Ski trail leading to Sheep Mountain Lodge.  A picture of a groomed ski trail?!  Geez, this website is going downhill!
Mid March 2016: Sheep Creek Trail ... And A "Trail Bagging" Milestone

A trail that had been on my list to ski was the Sheep Creek Trail.  This trail goes from the Sheep Creek Lodge on the Parks Highway to a shelter cabin on the Rabideux Trail.  I stopped in at the Sheep Creek Lodge to ask about the trail.  The lady running the place said she had been on the trail the day before, but turned back because of open water.  But she said some Trapper Lake folks had come in on the night before to get "take-out".  Knowing that folks had been across the trail, I decided to give it a go.  I'd later figure out that the Trapper Lake folks that came for take out were some pretty hard-core sledders.  Or else they were willing to risk travel on a sketchy trail because the lodge take-out food was so good.  I guess I'll never know.

This trip was a milestone of sorts for me.  It was the last trail I needed to check off skiing all of the mapped winter trails in the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys.  I've been working on this project for quite a while (as you can probably tell from this web site).  And its been a lot of miles (which I haven't and probably never will add up).  At this point, I have skied all the trails that are mapped by: the Curry Ridge Riders, Mid Valley Trail Club, Willow Trail Committee, Lower Susitna Drainage Association, Susitna Valley SnowTRAC, Nancy Lake State Recreation Area, Haesller-Norris Trail System, Big Lake Trails Club, Point Mackenzie Recreation Map and the Mat-Su Borough Trails Department (which maps trails for areas like Talkeetna, Montana Creek, Butte, Sutton, Chickaloon and Hatcher Pass).

There are of course still trails I haven't skied in the Su Valley.  Mostly the remaining ones are unofficial snowmobile routes out beyond the marked trail systems.  I've skied a lot of such trails (as can be seen on this web site).  But there are more to ski.  And of course, they are on my list.

Reflections on skiing all of the Mat-Su mapped winter trails, and "trail-bagging"?  I'm the type that doesn't like doing the same thing twice.  So being able to ski places I have never skied before keeps my excitement up for skiing.  "Trail bagging" in the Su Valley is perfect for me.  I'm also the type that doesn't have the patience to slog in heavy gear up a mountain, just to get in a 5 minute ski run.  Being able to skate ski, cover a lot of ground and see lots of new sights is more fun for me.  And that's what Su Valley trails are all about.  Finally, I don't like being in herds of people.  So being able to spend decades skiing thousands of miles of trails and rarely every meet another traveler is heaven for me.  Just like with this trip.  A beautiful day, great skiing ... and I did not see a single person.  I love the Susitna Valley.  Always have, always will.

Years ago this trail was used more than it has been recently. Trail goes through a nice birch forest at the start. Sketchy ice.  I double poled like crazy person across this. Sketchy ice.  I smartened up and skied through the woods to get around this.
Nearing the west banks of the Big Susitna River. Junction with the Rabideaux Trail. Shelter cabin at junction.  Kinda nasty cabin, but if it saves your life ... The last trail I needed for "trail bagging" all of the Mat-Su mapped trails.
GPS route.  I skied 28 miles this day. Here is a GPS track of the "blind leading the blind".  I came in from the east (right), got to a "Y" and went right.  The snowmobilers whose tracks I was following couldn't find a safe way across the Big Su.  So they backtracked, and so did I.  The takeaway point: sometimes the most traveled trail looks that way because a group of travelers went out AND back on it. When I realized it was a dead end .. I started laughing.  What the heck.  A beautiful day skiing in a cool and new place ... no problem if you get in a few bonus miles.

Oct - Dec Jan - Feb Mar - Apr May - Jun Summer
Alaska Backcountry XC Skiing