Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Dress Code at Tolovana Hot Springs

This past weekend a group of friends made their way out to Tolovana Hot Springs. This is always a great trip...it was the first real trip that I made after moving to Alaska and I have been fortunate to have maintained relationships with everyone and have had many wild times out there since. It is a fairly challenging 11 mile backcountry journey that ultimately lands us at a a few cabins and some poly tubs that are fed by some side hill seeps that produce different temperature water heated from geothermal activity. Trevor and Dan are enjoying a soak in the upper tub while a hawk owl listens in on our conversation from the tree behind us.

Here's a picture of the main cabin. Some of our crew skied in while others walked in and enjoyed some of the finest sledding in the Interior.

"Clean Liven" is the best term that I can use when describing life at Tolovana...below Vlodka writes in her journal while Ed blows us all away with his unbelievable magic tricks.

Sarah, Josie and I went for a mid-day hike between soaks and meals. The weather was great, there was no wind, the snow was steadily falling and temperatures hoovered around ten degrees.

A few rose hips added some color to the landscape.

I'm fairly sure nobody lost weight over the weekend...the food is almost as good as the company.

Saturday night ended up with the most of the crew enjoying a soak...the quality of this photo may have suffered a little since I was cooling off a bit after I left the tub.

The snow had settled lightly on all of the surrounding trees and brush.

The trip out was enjoyable but it marked the end of another trip to Tolovana.

Taken' a Trip Out To The Magic Bus

Our thirst for exercise and adventure was certainly quenched a couple of weekends ago when Ed hatched a last minute plan to ski out to bus 142. This bus has become a shrine for some and a point of contention for others, but after our trip down the Stampede trail I believe that it should stay put and all comers should have the opportunity to share in Chris McCandless's story.

John Krakaur's book "Into The Wild" which was followed by Sean Penn's movie version of the story has peaked interest in the story of Chris McCandless's free spirited travels and ultimate death in bus 142 after being trapped in the wild by the Teklanika River. The bus now acts as a shrine and travel destination for people who have taken an interest in the tragic story. Our visit was not meant to be a pilgrimage but ended up a very memorable experience for a number of reasons. This copy of "Into The Wild" was left in a tattered suitcase under a rusty bed spring in the bus.

After about a mile we found some windblown, south facing trail that was not too conducive for skiing...these conditions did not last long.

About eight miles into the trip we had to deal with our first real uncomfortable hindrance...the Savage River. When Ed brought this trip up to me in the middle of the week I mentioned that the two major rivers that we would have to cross might still be open...he never replied, so I figured that his vast knowledge of hydrology must have left him confident in the conditions. Actually he just figured that if he planted the seed that I would ultimately come around to agreeing to the trip. He was correct, but now we had to deal with some cold feet.

This is some interesting ice on the East bank of the Teklanika River. I don't have any good images of us crossing this river. It was deeper and faster than the Savage, but after some scouting we found an ice bridge that we were able to ski across without having to get wet again.

We had not intended to stay in the bus but once we arrived at the site we were all fairly sweated up and after gathering some wood and started a fire in the barrel stove. We figured that bus 142 provided the nicest accommodations in the area so we rolled out our bags and rested fairly well..I can see how McCandless was attracted to this site. There was a little smoke that escaped the old stove when I took this shot...or maybe we were not alone?
After a relaxing morning and a warm breakfast it was time to get started on our 20 mile ski back to the vehicle. Dan and Ed take one last look before we head out.

There had been some sort of ATV that broke trail for us...a snowmachine would have made for easier going but beggars can't be choosers.
Things got a little hairy once we reached the Teklanika River. Overnight the water level had risen and our ice bridge had about six inches of overflow covered by a thin sheet of ice that I broke through when I tried to cross. My skis stuck between the main layer of ice and the new crust while the icy water made its way into my boots. One of my skis came off when it tried to back out of the situation. It was below zero so I had to hurry up and get my boot back into the binding so it would freeze together instead of freezing up, disallowing me to use my skis for the rest of the trip out. We put plastic bags over our socks to act as barriers between our boots and our insulating layer. This made the rest of the trip out fairly intense causing us to ski hard for periods of time to try to maintain a reasonable level of comfort, then breaking to shove food down in order keep a steady flow of calories in our system while occasionally massaging our feet to insure that nothing was freezing up...I guess that I would call that type two fun.

Great friends, challenging trails, and a phenomenal landscape made this a memorable trip...I guess this inscription from bus 142 says it all.

To read more about this trip check out Ed's blog: http://edplumb.blogspot.com/2007/11/skiing-into-wild-night-at-bus-142.html