Thursday, June 30, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour: Yakutat to Glacier Bay on fat bikes and packrafts

Over at the the captain's blog is a bit on a trip so rich and so good that I can not write adequately.

I shot essentially no photos, only these "accidents": Be sure to click on them and see them in their big glory. MC has posted some beauties.

But lots of video: 70 gigs of video -- and that's just mine. All with the new HD GH1 and Go-Pro.

I can offer up some stats:
  1. 225 miles total.
  2. 135 miles riding every sort of beach sediment you can imagine.
  3. 65 miles paddling lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, sloughs, oceans, bays, fiords -- we used our boats 25 times.
  4. and 25 miles of mostly stumblef*cking.

The powerhouse Lost Coast Pugsly team of Eric Parsons and Dylan Kentch, with Mike Curiak of fatbike Idita-routes and "Doom" Steve Fassbinder got me through with humor, at least two fires a day, and cowboy coffee every morning.

We saw more eagles than sea gulls. Enough bears to make it interesting, but not so many as to be stimulating. We saw sea lions and whales, suspensefully close.

We saw no one else for days, but got a note from Gordy and Thai deep in the wilderness. They walked the coast to Gustavus and then skied the Fairweather Range back, we heard. No word yet on their trip completion.

For me this was among the top ten trips, ever, and would make for a long challenging Wilderness Classic.

Our camps read like a geography of this wild coast: Situk River, Dry Bay, Grand Plateau Glacier, Cape Fairweather, Lituya Bay, La Perouse Glacier, Icy Point, Graves Harbor, Taylor Bay, Icy Straight.

The bike and boat combo was the only way for us to go. We looked forward to the miles and miles of sand and gravel, even cobble beaches, as they were all rideable. Only when the boulders got to be the size of American sports balls (hardballs, softballs, footballs, basketballs) and cliffs of ice or rock met the surf did we set on pushing and portaging our bikes or paddling our boats.

There are highlights:
  1. Watching Dylan eat his 3 lbs of cookie dough straight out of the gallon ziplock while bobbing in 4 foot swells in his packraft.
  2. Hearing Mike share stories about a mutual friend whose initials are RR and who lives a bit north of Anchorage.
  3. Following Eric's lead into the Pacific breakers off La Perouse Glacier, his Surly Pugsly bravely crashing surf on the bow of his old leaky Alpacka.
  4. Riding with Doom on bedrock and cobbles and sea grass bear trails as far as we could go without dabbing.

We were treated to wonderful weather, spectacular scenery, ever-changing terrain on what is quite likely the wildest coast in the USA.

The riding on either side of Icy Point was pretty much among the best wild riding I can recall, improbable and delightful with the aluminum 907 with its one brake and two gears, a rear rack and a backpack, ideal. Thankfully our food loads were light at that point.

Another watershed moment came with tidewater paddling. I now know how Hig and Erin stuck with it from Seattle north: it's so much better than the alternative. Heading into Glacier Bay we moved at 5 mph. Matching travel to tidal flows was super satisfying.

We averaged 3.3 mph on bike (including rest breaks), 0.6 mph stumblef*cking on the boulders or f*cksticked bear trails, and 2.3 mph on the paddling stretches. That's with the fat bikes on board.

Alpacka made a four pound "Super Scout", six inches longer than the normal Scout. It included a spray deck.

Such a great and perfect boat for me on this trip, although a bit spooky with the 60-70 pound load at the start.

Maybe I'll get some video together to give a taste.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Every Poet is a Thief

Yesterday was sweet.

I joined JT, Luc, Brad, and Ben on Little Susitna at about 450 cfs.

I had my new 2011 Alpacka Llama with custom skirt and thigh straps, a new Werner Powerhouse one-piece carbon paddle (197 cm -- a bit longer than my 194 and mo betta).

And my two new cameras.

One's a Go-Pro and after seeing a CarpeyBiggs and a Ben Brown kayak video, each with Go Pro on the bow, I had to try it.

Feels a bit narcissistic, but if I put it on Timmy J's or P. Schauer's boat it'lll look super cool.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Old School

A sure sign of age is when your favorite techniques are revealed to be "old school".

I have discovered that I am old school.

I like rain pants and hard shells, sharing a tent, meals, and a big cook pot with others.

I wear sleep clothes.

Call me old school, but when skiing on the Harding Icefield, it's hard for me to give up my sled for just a pack, and planning a "bikepacking" trip I find it hard to give up my rear rack.

As visible above my rear rack holds my Sawyer paddle shaft and inside that compression stuff sack (vintage 1996) is 10 days' dinner and breakfast and a gallon cook pot.

That little bit of blue foam will serve as insulation and a packraft seat when paddling. Right there it's keeping the rack from wearing a hole in the bags and makes it easier to get a good tight load, which I need for riding.

On top of the food bag is a Go lite shelter for three.

Notice all the straps. They'll be handy for getting the bike on the boat when bikerafting and for setting up tent (I carry no stakes).

While I may be an old dog, I am still learning some new tricks.

There's that Epic Designed Revelate thingy up front holding an 8 pound Alpacka 2011 model Llama with thigh straps.

I went and rode some bumpy local root wad trails with this and found that the packraft holder thingy bounces around a bit.

I must have put it on wrong, but with another single lash strap, I reefed on that bundle and tamed it so my handling was far more nimble than you'd think of fat ole me on my fat bike with a 30 pound load (that's for ten days) split between pack (10 pounds), rack (15 pounds), and bars (5 pounds -- this raft is not the one I'd use for bikerafting -- it's just a test load).

The pack is my last Cascade Designs Seal Pack (vintage 1997) with a 25 L P.O.E. dry bag holding a Go Lite Quilt, sleep clothes [Patagonia wool base top + bottom, socks], rain gear [pants + anorak], wound kit, lunches, Skurka cat food can, and other stuff I'd need a spread sheet to post properly, I guess.

I like to portage with my head through the main triangle and the rear rack resting on my pack, so I haven't gone to a frame bag just yet. And I do like my rack cause it holds twice the volume of a seat bag.

Not sure I can put 15 pounds in a seat bag, can I?

Anyway, here's an old story I wrote and maybe had published in the UK back in the mid 90s. It's pretty obvious who our sponsors were and it does seem pretty dated.

But with the new stoke on about bikerafting and "bikepacking", some readers might find it pertinent today.

Plus it's a good review for an upcoming bike trip!

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