So, here's a
new ski route. I had been working on this route, doing
recon, off and on ever since the dam in Eklutna Canyon was torn
down a few years ago. With the dam gone, I figured you could
ski from Eklutna Lake down through the canyon and out to the
Inlet. If the conditions
allowed. Well, now I know that you "can" ski this canyon route. But
it's tricky. It took me 5 or 6 recon trips to figure out
how to get through the canyon, and to pre-check ice conditions.
challenge was figuring out how to get past the shooting ranges
west of the Birchwood airport. I once kayaked from the
Knik River Bridge to the Port of Anchorage, and naively went
past these firing ranges. Not fun. Lesson learned.
You don't want to be down-range from a war zone.
The crux of
this trip was the narrow point of the canyon about 3/4 of a mile
above the dam site. Why was it a crux. One word:
beavers! Some adventurous beavers had moved into the upper
part of the canyon and decided to build a dam to replace the one
that humans had torn down. So the bottom line was ... I had to
bring a pack raft. Just to use it to navigate 20 feet of
water (that was 5-6 feet deep).
at least to me, on this ski was the water pipeline access trail
along the Eklutna River above the canyon. I mountain biked
this road in the 80's when it was first built. Then I
skied it 10+ years ago and it was very overgrown. But in
the last couple(?) of years the trail has been cleared so trucks
could drive it. Super nice skiing ... as long as the
half-dozen river fords are frozen and cross-able.
This ski trip is a type of
skiing I call Urban Backcountry XC (UBXC)
skiing. Elements of backcountry wilderness are mixed with
populated environments. This is a type of skiing that we
can do in Southcentral Alaska that is rather unique. Of
course, this xc skiing sub-genre is off the radar of mainstream xc skiing, and
practiced by only a handful. Or ... maybe half a handful.
Or .. maybe just me. Whatever ... it's a kick
figuring out UBXC ski routes. Have been doing UBXC skiing
projects now and then for years: