Time Warp

W20140322_140359ell it’s spring 2014, and I managed to go an entire year without an update to HYT.  This isn’t without good reason of course.  All I can really say is life happens.  It’s a good thing.  Erin and I had a little girl in October 2013.  For those of you that know me this is old news, but it may provide insight to some as to why there has been a blank, lifeless website at HYT since february 2013.

If ever there was a winter to bring a kid into this world, it’s been this one.  Yeah, I’ve missed some skiing, but I’m not dreading it that much.  Certainly I’ve experienced the talkeetna’s with less snow, but this has been a pretty dismal winter for powder hounds.  On the other hand, if you’re one of the many who’ve taken the plunge and accepted snow biking as a vital substitute for your winter adrenaline fix, well, it’s been pretty rad.  I know I was VERY skeptical, even vainly dismissive of fatbiking, but I’ll tell you, it is badass.  Last week Josh and I got out and rode the new kincaid trails on a pair of fatbacks from speedway cycles.  What a rush to be laying in to berms and rollers in the snow.  With the time crunch of new parenthood, a snow bike may be my next option to get my fix and stretch the legs.

That being said, I have been spending a lot of time at Hatcher Pass, and the new government peak nordic area.  In fact, I can’t believe it, but I spent the whole weekend at the pass.  Evie got in her first pow ski on thousand dollar run, and while she can’t talk, her silence was golden.  Cooing and making noises until she fell asleep on the way up, things changed as we descended the ridge.  As we stood atop Bennett ridge, I ripped my skins, secured the kiddo, assured her of the awesomeness to come, and slid down the mountain.  There was some weird crusts near the ridge, but as we descended the final pitch to the road in boot deep pow, I couldn’t help but hoot and holler.  Sun in the sky, kid on my back, planks under foot, sliding through recycled powder, hooting the whole way to the bottom.  What a day.

20140322_141118 OIMG_1764f course one day is never enough, but I wanted to get out and ride my sled for a day.  There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the merits of the updated Hatcher Pass Management Plan, the evils of snowmachining, and the fairness of sharing powder.  I had to get out and ride, clear my thoughts and get my head above the water on this one. Like myself in the past, so many people have never even climbed on a sled, used one to access the deep mountains, or just ridden to a cool spot and hung out. Snowmachines are not bad, and the majority of people on them follow the rules and just want to have a good time. Often scratching the similar ski addiction itch as others, or just wanting a day out with the family.  There’s nothing more irksome to me than sweeping generalizations and broad statements regarding a whole population of recreation users.

I took my sled over the pass and explored the bowls on the north side of bald mountain ridge, found empty powder fields, fun slopes to rip some sled turns, and stopped for lunch and tea atop a ridge on the backside of granite mountain.  Seeing that I was solo and didn’t need to go any further to the west, I figured I’d head back over to reed lakes to see what all the snowbird poaching fuss has been about.  I was extremely suprised to see that along 99% of the trail corridor, snowmachiners were staying within the boundary, following the rules, and using the trail almost exclusively to access open terrain.  When I approached the reed lakes trailhead, I had planned to head towards the “Good Hope” drainage.  Since this drainage was the reason that DNR left half of Reed valley open, it was my understanding that the reasoning was because people argued it was beginner terrain.  Well, straight up…that’s bullshit.  I’m not going to get on a high horse, but access to good hope is either through a dangerous terrain trap, or via the 35-40 degree benches stepping in to the drainage.  IMG_1774Perhaps once you get there it’s “beginner terrain”, but access there is by no means a simple approach for a new rider.  This leaves me to believe that really, there’s no reason for Reed Lakes valley to be open.  The opening is just too much temptation for skilled riders to easily poach the snowbird glacier.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think sleds should be banned from the glacier, but due to the historical nature of the bomber/snowbird traverse, and the investments by MCA and Alpine Huts, I think moto riders need to work just as hard to get there.  That’s my two cents and I’m sticking to it.  Reed Lakes is just too small a valley to be left half open, with the disengenuous reason that it “accesses” beginner terrain. It’s just a red herring excuse to slowly push the boundary deeper into the valley, and access snowbird via glacier pass.  The riders who’ve been doing this have been pretty cavalier as well, adding insult to injury, insulting skiers, threatening with violence, and generally acting like dumbasses.

IMG_1773We’re all here to enjoy the mountains.  I’ll be skiing and riding my snow machine with my kid, and there’s definitely plenty of room to go around.  I think the experiment of opening reed valley will be coming to an end shortly, but let’s be humble about it.  There’s an air of change at Hatcher Pass and in the Mat-Su, but people are going to be pissed about it for a while.  They’ve lived here a long time, with little rules, and more importantly, a lack of any real population.  So, to keep it in perspective,  do yourself and your brethren a favor; throw a smile and a hello to your fellow mountain traveler, whether you get one in return or not. Share the mountains….You’re not that cool.

2014 PosterWinter is almost dead to me, and I’m heading in to full bike and trail building mode.  Come out to the Valley Bike Film Fest on April 11th!  On the BIG SCREEN at the the Valley Cinema in wasilla!

Tickets are $20 and on sale at Backcountry Bikes Wasilla and Palmer, Rock-On Climbing Gym, Active Soles, Alaska Bicycle Center, and Midnight Sun Yoga Center.  Don’t miss this event!

Funds will directly to the Government Peak Singletrack Project and Palmer Bike Park, both of which start construction this year.  Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers will start the 3.5 miles of new flow trail this June, with the Bike Park beginning late summer or early fall.

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Thoughts from the clouds

What follows is a mid-winter, in-flight contemplation of the past year making life work in Alaska.

kingSomewhere high over the decomposing remnants of granite rock near the California/Arizona line, above the lonesome desert ridges and salt flats of the southwest, a seemingly indifferent landscape instills something inspiring and contemplative in me.   I realize it’s the first time in a few months I’ve really been able to take stock of my winter, the time on the planks with snow underfoot, my neglect of ski brethren and the realization that this winter has been a harsh one. Harsh is a relative term, and one not only used as a way to describe simply snow conditions or the weather. No, harsh is the reality describing every facet of the past year of my life. the cross Of course, I still have my health, the support of an amazing woman, great friends, and in general the amazing life I live every day, so really what do I have to complain about?  Nothing I guess.

I’ve worked harder the last year of my life than ever before.  In some ways I’ve attained amazing things and in others I feel robbed, and burned out.  I finished a master’s program in April, started a new business, tried to support my wife’s new business any way I could, pushed for the statewide progression of trails in Alaska, all while juggling the daily shitshow that comes with attempting to live life to the fullest.  That means a life full of expectations both good and bad while admitting that things are changing and moving along at exponentially increasing rates the likes of which, as a young child, my father’s warnings could do no justice.  He was right.
big light HP Tree Ski

abeDeadlines, commitments, aspirations, sweeping realizations, they’re all part of life; even our most basic motive for escaping to slide on snow or pedal our bikes.  In a rare and upsetting way, each week since the end of November has gone by without even a hint of an update on my website, and seeing that it’s now mid-February, it kills me.  I’ve had but a few ski days, and honestly, hell, I can count my backcountry days this season on less than 10 fingers.  That’s garbage, pure nonsense and it sucks.

The compass of life is beginning to swing.  It still holds true north, but my bearing has changed. Instead of the defined path I thought I had chosen, alternative routes of existence never thought possible are panning out before me like the view of a hidden valley from a high peak. I’m choosing to walk the path, undefined as it is, through that newly discovered valley. For me, it’s about accepting those changes that we like to pretend are out of our control. Out of our control? If only it were that simple. I’m done believing it. We are in control.  WE choose the life we want to live, and to admit this is to begin to understand how precious and amazing our days spent in the mountains are.
BrianNo matter how we look at it, there’s far too little days spent in the mountains skiing powder. Far too many shoulda, coulda and woulda’s. But what about those other days?  How do we fill our time out of the mountains? This is a question people should think about long and hard.  It can’t just be about selfishly getting after it and chasing pow? Those days we spend at home with the family, or earning those extra bucks, or putting in the extra free time to help make your community a better place, those are the things that make my days on the mountains matter. It’s a hard days work that lets you really feel the drop of a knee into boot deep blower.  It’s paying off a stubborn bill that earns you a high five and ear to ear smiles with your closest buds after a thousand feet of Rae Wallace darkness. And, it’s getting your shit together, rolling with the punches of life and sharing that 6 hour tour with your partner. Its knowing not many couples can experience this kind of relationship, or what kind of love that is.  That’s the point of this update.

This past year has been hard, and it’s taken its toll at times, and I should expect nothing else.  This life chosen is not without consequence, and for the first time, I’ve lost a bit of that youthfully exuberant prospect of constant vagabond transience, of looking beyond the horizon of the chugach range to future hypothetical residences, or the next big adventure.   Maybe that constant tickle in our brains stems from the reason that, Alaska is, at its core a transient place, and I say that with no slight to friends who we love, who have left, and who plan to leave.  It’s just the facts of life here in the 49th state.  It’s so amazingly difficult to suppress that overwhelming feeling of movement, of lingering American manifest destiny, of peaking over the next hill.  It’s a part of the human condition, and something that’s brought us to the far ends of the earth, to the very mountain ranges we love to play, live and often die within.

There’s a fear of being defined by what we have done, and a constant, incessant focusing on what we WILL do.  We don’t want to peak.  We must move on.  This hypothetical lifestyle is tiresome.george  When the time comes to listen to that voice of Kerouac wanderlust, if it comes, I’ll embrace it, but for now I choose, like so many others, to accept this amazing valley, this place Erin and I call home, this community that has become such an integral part of our life, and the amazing life we get to share with all of you, no matter how fractioned and separate the timelines and ideas of our lives are.  I doubt Steinbeck would’ve had much to say about the people of Palmer when pulling off the Glenn highway for a rest at the fairgrounds.  But we know better.

There’s something about this little community that cuts to the core, and part of that is the support I get from everyone while NOT updating HatchYourTrax.  I can’t promise all the updates to be so heady, or even filled with amazing descriptions of ski movie style descents. I can tell you that it’s time to get back in to the groove of things.  If we meet in the hills, or along the path of life somewhere, stop and say hello, slow down and share a moment with your fellow ski brethren. I’m always down to share a smile and a handshake. We’re all in the same boat, just trying to live this simple life the best damn way we know how. Much love and see you all in the mountains

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The Never Winter

For this week’s update, we’ve got a sweet edit and we’re going to try something new, a guest writer. Those of us in the valley have been hunkered down, attempting to hold on to any piece of sanity not blown away in the wind.  Jared on the other hand, has been getting after it down south.  The awesome part is, the guy feels bad for us.  Of course, not bad enough to indulge in a full body sandblast of glacial silt. good on ya brother. While the low pressure stacks, and you’re prepping for actual skiing, enjoy a little HatchYourTrax love…

I love Hatcher Pass. I ski there every chance I get. Skiing the Snowbird in August, the Lane in September and October, and Hatch Peak in November; overall it’s been a great early season. I hit some rocks and some tundra, but it was good times as usual. There’s another reason I’m optimistic, in spite of the recent “skipocalypse” at Hatcher Pass. It’s because I’ve been rallying elsewhere, I’m a traitor. I’ve been making the journey south to Turnagain Pass. If you haven’t heardThat’s where the snow’s been lately. Yes, I’m still hitting rocks and most of the two feet of “colds moke” is huge blades of hoar, but the high pressure get after-it weekends are fueling me through another darkening season in AK. There’s tons of exploring to do out there, and here’s the clincher, it’s been windless and sunny.

Thanksgiving weekend was a crazy ski-fest, with a broken bone evac mission on Tincan followed by Bluebird POW on the moto side of Turny. It was great to ski and feast with bunches of friends and especially excellent to ski with my Palmer pals up on Seattle Ridge. Sierra was killin it on some new school fat tele skis while Master Bash was streaming Palmer Free Radio from the summit (That’s Big Cabbage Radio 89.5 Palmer for those of you not in the know). Ryan came out to keep us company on our ski tour and treated us to a night in Hope testing out his sweet new sauna. This last weekend I had to go back to Turnagain for my powder fix and I ended up spending a couple of days really enjoying getting some beginner friends out into the backcountry. I have to give a shout out to Joe, Deb, and Adam for spinning some laps with me. Touring with a group of backcountry newbies is a good test of patience and it’s nice to be reminded you can have fun in any conditions. It’s a good time of year to keep it reeled in anyway…there are a lot of rocks out there. We found some great snow and incredible views, and after all, I watched friends experience the joy of some of their first powder turns in Alaska…I always like to invest in future ski partners. I’ll be back in the Talkeetnas soon, but for now, while granite and tussocks sit in the gusts, coated in several inches of frost and rime, I’ll keep finding partners to head south.

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