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Spring Skiing Photos - 2005

By Tim Kelley

These are shots from some of my 2005 spring skiing trips.  They are in roughly reverse chronological order.  I like to use spring skiing as a way to check out places I've never been to before.  Firm snow and ice in the spring make exploring places easier and more fun than wading streams and swamps and bushwacking to these places in the summer.

     

** Click on any picture below to expand it **

Derickson Bay, Prince William Sound
May crust skiing at sea level. The prominent peaks west of Deep Water Bay. Derickson Bay has lots of good open terrain for hiking in the summer, and crust skiing in the spring.
Some scenic waterfalls here - cascading over glacier-smoothed granite ledges. Just be careful you don't fall in the falls!  
The Nellie Juan Glacier lagoon at the head of Derickson Bay is unique.  Year 'round ice bergs drift in and out of the lagoon with the tides.
Harriman Fiord, Prince William Sound
Boats, Prince William Sound and skiing are a good mix. You've got to improvise when you forget your wax scraper! Snow to high tide line on a crystal clear May day with no wind - a good time to check out skiing along Harriman Fiord.
Curry Lookout on Curry Ridge
     

It took two tries to get to the Curry Lookout from Troublesome Creek.  The first attempt didn't pan out due to 60+ mph winds (see top 5 pictures).

     
On the 2nd try - the wind was light, but it wasn't as clear.  No view of McKinley.  But skiing was nice.  "Extra Blue" classic skiing on top. The GPS and ski is pointing to the Curry Lookout .75 miles away (expand picture and you will see a black dot in the distance ... that's the Lookout shelter). The Curry Lookout shelter was built by the Alaska Railroad in 1923 as a hiking destination for visitors staying at their hotel at Curry to the east.  For more historical info on Curry - click here.  Back in the 40's bush pilot Don Sheldon would fly skiers to here and they would ski back down to the Curry Hotel.

"Seating Capacity 75"

Always be on the "Lookout" for cool places to ski to in Alaska.

GPS technology has gotten so accurate - that now it can track your ski turns on a descent!

[Left] You know what kind of "tracks" these are?  They are moose lip tracks!  This is where a thirsty moose was munching snow for hydration.  Okay ! - now you've seen it all !!!

[Right] Lots of snow at Trouplesome Creek - should be good skiing until late April / early May.

     
Stampede Trail, Healy
For good trail skiing - the Stampede Trail system out of Healy fits the calling. There are established trails across tundra. And on old roadbeds too.  Expand this picture to see the fox in the middle of the trail.
Very cool trail down along the creeks. The Savage River ice bridges seemed to have collapsed early this year. Very quiet the time I was in this area.  Didn't see another person.
     
Denali National Park, Spring Trail
This didn't turn out to be a very "spring" trail.  Not much of a trail and it was hard to find in places.  Should have gone later.   Classic pattern of wolverine tracks. 

[Left] Note to self: Check freeze dried food expiration dates.  Freeze dried terriaki chicken with an expiration date in the last century ... tastes like meat flavored, musty cardboard.

[Right] On the way out I stopped to make a few turns on this old ski area.  A ski area?  Yep - back in the 40's and 50's a portable rope tow would operate in the spring at this location called "6 Mile".  For more info, click here.

     
Trail Ridge, west of the Big Susitna River

For years I have looked up at the distant cliffs of Trail Ridge while traveling the Big Susitna River and Old Iditarod Trail.  I had this location on my list to check out via spring skiing.  It turned out to be a very unique and intriguing area - rugged terrain that is hidden and off-limits in the summer due to dense brush and swamps.  But definitely a cool place to spring ski.

When doing snowmobile supported spring ski trips - bring extra gas.  Because creeks are in the process of opening up ... and you will likely have to change your planned route. From Susitna Station I skied the Old Iditarod Trail to the first large swamp, and then bushwacked to Yensus Lake (above). Near Yensus Lake there are the Otter Lakes which the lake above may be one of.  There were no cabins on this lake.
This shot shows the waves of pronounced ridges leading up to the cliffs of Trail Ridge.  Rugged terrain ... but fun crust skiing terrain. A big spruce burl ... in the middle of nowhere. A loop tree?  Denaina Indians used to mark trails by bending saplings and tying off the bend with a strip of moosehide to make a permanently deformed branch.  Is this such a "loop tree" that was made 80? 90? or more years ago?

The woods are so dense in this area, you probably can't see much of the surroundings in the summer.  In the spring though, you can see enough to realize the uniqueness of this remote nook in the Susitna Valley.
View from the top of the cliffs There were some groves of large cottonwoods that was fun to ski-cruise through (expand to see tracks). While on long crust skis, I find that waiting for the camera shutter timer to go off is a good time to close your eyes and take a nap.  Trail Ridge cliffs in the background.  Ever been climbed?  Probably not.  But if you try in mid-summer, bring a gallon of bug repellant.  Mosquitos love the Su Valley.
   
     
Wolverine Creek, backside of Mount Susitna

Earlier this year I skied up the north ridge of Mount Susitna (click here).  I went back and skied up Wolverine Creek to check out the backside of Mount Susitna.  On the way back out I skied back up to the top of the north ridge.  Nice day.  No people.  Decent skiing.

Hmmm, I wonder why this place is named Wolverine Creek? Lots of gullies on the backside of Mount Susitna. There was some fun skiing on the backside of Mount Susitna's North Ridge (expand to see ski tracks).
I found a facemask that a snowmobiler had dropped during the winter.  Very sinister looking! On top of the ridge a porcupine had a bad day ... torn apart by a wolf pack. There was no doubt the hide was the remains of a porkie !!!
   
  Good snow for turns in the glades on the north end of the ridge.  
     
Chedatna Pluton

From the air the Susitna Valley looks pretty flat.  But there are a lot of plutons this area.  A pluton is an intrusion of granite or other metamorphic rock.  And in the case of plutons in the Su Valley, they have been smoothed and rounded by the ice sheets of the last continental glaciation in this area.  A favorite pluton of mine is what I call the Chedatna Pluton, a remote rocky bump in the Chedatna Swamps near the base of Mount Susitna.  I've skied and hiked to this location several times.  It's a neat place because you feel a "presence" there.  No doubt for untold centuries these high points were used by Denaina Indians that lived in the area for scouting game.

Late March and trails are barely holding on near Alexander Creek. River otter tracks on Granite Creek. Hop, hop, hop ... belly slide.   Hop, hop, hop ... belly slide.

Looking east at the cliffs of the Chedatna Pluton.  River otter tracks to the left, ski tracks to the right.

Mount Susitna from the top of the Chedatna Pluton.
Chedatna Pluton pictures from 2004 ...
In 2004 I skied to this pluton and noticed this cave up on the cliff.  I climbed up to it (tricky in ski boots) hoping to find lost treasure.  As usual, I only found an old leather pouch of gold nuggets some prospector had hidden here.  And as usual, I had a few too many at Gabbert's Lodge on Alexander Creek and lost all the gold in a poker game.  Easy come, easy go I guess !! In 2004 there was a very heavy and deep snowpack.  Moose were basically trapped on this pluton-ridge.  They were running out of food and forced to eat twigs from saplings right at the edge of the cliffs (see above - I'm standing at the edge of a cliff holding a sapling a moose had grazed on). Unfortunately one of the moose apparently slipped off the cliff while feeding, and fell to its death.  Life is very grim for moose when there is a lot of snow late in the year.
Trapper Creek Groomed Snowmobile Trails

The groomed snowmobile trails in the Trapper Creek / Petersville / Peters Hills area have offered some great skiing this spring.

The East-West Express Trail has some nice rolling terrain.  Trees are sparse enough so you can usually see snowmobilers approaching. Here are some impressive glacial erratics (big rocks that were laid to rest here as the glaciers from the last ice age melted out from under them) that were alongside the East-West Express Trail. This may be the most scenic groomed winter trail, of any kind, in Alaska.  Foraker, Hunter and McKinley can be seen in the distance.
  For a bunch of good pictures of skiing and camping out on the East-West Express Trail in Trapper Creek, check out Cory Smith's pictures at: http://www.xcskiracer.com/gallery/TrapperCreek
  "Reflector Tree" trail junction marker.  
     
Springtime Exploring ... where maybe you shouldn't be exploring ...

Abandoned Mystery Cabin

Since the mid 1980's I've noticed the remains of an old cabin on a ridge north of Flathorn Lake (at the north end of the "Dismal Swamp").  I seemed to always be in too much of a hurry to stop and check it out.  Until this spring ... I finally went up to visit the place.

The place is barely standing, Very delapidated.  Lots of stuff in the cabin.  Beds, old clothes, kitchen stuff, little kid's cowboy boots, luggage.  It almost looks like a family just up and left this cabin in the 50's or 60's?  And left all their stuff there.  Eventually bears got in and tore the place up.  The picture to the right was taken using an old mirror still on the wall.  Vandals would have likely trashed this mirror - so I figure not many folks have stopped by this site over the years.  What is the story of this place?  I'll likely never know ... but the mirror saw it all.

My theory about this place (based on on-site evidence and local geological history) ... Back in the 50's and early 60's there could have been a homesteader's road to this place.  A pioneer road could have come across the "Dismal Swamp" because back then it may have been dry enough to drive over.  The huge earthquake of 1964 caused much land to sink in this area.  So parts of a road to this homestead could have dropped below the water level and became impassable in the summer.  Because they couldn't get to this site anymore, the homesteaders abandoned this place.  Dat's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!  Unless I hear otherwise from someone that REALLY knows the story.

Susitna Psycho Cabin
Yeah, I know that I probably shouldn't have been checking this place out (though I'm sure I wasn't the first to be drawn to this very odd structure by the Big Susitna River south of Talkeetna).  But I wasn't trespassing!  No way!  If you fly a small plane over someone's property ... that's not trespassing.  Same case here - I flew my skis over a layer of crust suspended a foot or two above the property.  I never set foot on the property!  Nope - I sure wasn't trespassing !!!
     
Chedatna Lakes & misc.
Seems like some of the best crust skiing for the 04-05 season so far has been in December.  Go figure!  This shot is from a day of great crust skiing in the Chedatna Lake region west of the Big Susitna River.  December 28, 2004. A huge pack of wolves (20-30 animals) have been roaming the lower Susitna drainage this winter.  Expand this picture to see the trench they leave when the travel in soft snow. The best spring skiing this year is 100 or more miles north of town.  That means a very early start.  How do you get primed for the drive?  Rockstar!   It kicks Redbull ass in the price/performance category.  Get amped and "Party like a Rockstar" !!
     

Skiing past signs of life ...

[Left] Spring skiing brought me to Thomasville this year.  I was in a hurry to leave the place ... I just don't like big cities like Thomasville - way too many people!!

[Right]  Well, who's responsible for the fact that you can't spell ?!

Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing 2009 Skiing Pictures
2008 Skiing Pictures
2007 Skiing Pictures
2006 Skiing Pictures
2004 Skiing Pictures