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by: Tim Kelley

Mid January 2018: Another Unexpected Groomed Trail

Another ski, another unexpected groomed trail.  They're everywhere!  This one was on the Little Susitna River between Hock Lake and the Gasline Trail.  Someone pulled a drag on this stretch of the Little Su.  Made for good skating.  I had never skied on this stretch of the the Little Su before, only on trails to the east and west.  So it was fun to ski this serpentine stretch of river.  The river banks reminded me of the Deshka River.

Location of the Little Susitna River. Winter recreation in the Susitna Valley benefits from the seismic line trails that were cut here in the 1950s in the search for natural gas. A Nome 1049 sign has been at a location in the swamps to the west of the Little Su since the 80s.  The Iditarod Trail once passed by this point.  But it has not come by here in a long time.  This is probably the grand-sign or great grand-sign of the original sign.


Near where the Little Su crosses the Gasline Trail I found this ice shanty, filled with stuff.  Looks like the folks that were dragging it had some mechanical problems or something and were leaving it here for awhile.  I noticed that old Rossignol Concourse Alpine skis were their choice for shanty-skidding skis.


Mid January 2018: Finding An Unexpected Groomed Trail

Recently I was skiing on the Willow trail system.  It was great skiing because the rain and meltdown of the Anchorage area didn't make it up to Willow.  While skiing in this area, I was surprised to find the trail between the Willow Creek Campground and Deshka Landing had been groomed.  Lots of dog sled tracks on the trail, but no snowmobile, ski or bike tracks.  Usually this stretch of trail is a ratty snowmobile track.  So it was fun finding this groomed trail and skiing it.  It should remain in good shape until the next storm.

Location of the trail. Groomed mushing trail between Willow Creek campground and Deshka Landing.  


Early January 2018: Bell Island Channel Surfing

After the December rain-down and meltdown, a small snowstorm moved through Southcentral Alaska.  But due to the whims of weather, the area of Bell Island and vicinity got very little snow.  But for a skier ... this is not a problem.  Because it means there is good early winter crust skiing in the area.

I use these conditions to check out the channels that cut across Bell Island.  This can be a tricky boating area.  The water is murky with silt and you can't see but a few inches down into it.  The channels are shallow and they constantly change.  So it's easy to hit bottom and ground your boat in this maze of murky glacial waters.  So I like to ski this area, do channel research and GPS the best (deepest) channels.

In the past I have gotten comments in the summer like: "How the hell did you get that boat down the West Channel!?"  I usually respond with some quip like: "Well, I guess you just have to know how to read the water."  I don't say that I learned the channels by skiing them.  Most boaters in Alaska wouldn't comprehend what I'm talking about.  So ha! ... let them think I'm a gifted river runner!  ;-)


Definitely some weirdness on the main trail to Alexander Creek this winter.  Where it crosses the Big Susitna River there is a HUGE open hole in the river.  Early January and the hole is still big enough to land a Super Cub on.  Usually this spot is frozen over and people are buzzing over it on snowmobiles.  In 25 years I have never seen an opening like this in the ice of the Big Su at this crossing.  A week ago the temps got into the 40s and a 40 mph wind blew in from the south.  This open hole had 2 foot waves with whitecaps.  And this is January?  Crazy.


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