In the early morning on Wednesday, I ran outside for a bathroom trip and felt my nose hairs freeze, an indicator that it was approaching -30F; a quick glance at the thermometer confirmed my nose thermometer—it was cold! Wednesday was our “recovery day” of sorts, with a relatively short 9-mile ski to Caribou Bluffs, a lovely little cabin perched on a little saddle looking out at the Limestone Jags. With more time we were able to cut extra firewood, hoping that would give us some extra wood karma for the next day back at Colorado Creek (or any future cabin trip for that matter!). Thursday our group split up with Megan and Uva heading north to Windy Gap, and the rest of us heading northwest on the Fossil Gap Trail back to Colorado Creek Cabin 17 miles away. We were tired and hungry when we got there, but made a big push cutting a bunch of dead snags and dragging them back to the cabin, bucking and splitting them, knowing that Megan was coming through tomorrow by herself after a 20 mile ski/ski-jor. It always amazes me to arrive at a cabin tired, cold, and ready to just sit in warmth and eat, but somehow we find the 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th?!) wind and get to work looking for dead standing trees, wading through waist deep snow with just ski boots to keep our feet warm, using hand saws that often are fairly dull, cutting through 6 and 8 inch diameter trees at times (if we are lucky enough to find them!) into the dark. I’m glad I have such strong, tough, and capable friends and partner.
It was a fantastic week with bluebird skies, midday warmth from the sun, and cold, crisp mornings and nights. We played games, shared food, told stories, and spent our days outside, moving from one cabin to the next. There is something so healing about being out in nature, breathing in fresh air, challenging yourself, and using your senses to take in the lands you explore. We saw animal tracks crisscrossing and using the trails including: wolf, caribou, lynx, ermine, marten, moose, snowshoe hare, shrew, and vole. On our ski out to the trailhead we came across a group of 30-40 caribou that had been digging for lichens in an open boggy area. Watching them reminded me why these public protected lands are so important. Seeing their grace and beauty, feeling connected with the land; we need to experience this awe and wonder, to have a sense of place and vast wild lands. As Ansel Adams said while traveling in the Arctic: “The quality of place, the reaction to immediate contact with earth…is essential to the integrity of our existence on this planet.”
Good news! A little sluggish, but the Forester did start up when we got back to it Friday afternoon. Another successful trip in the Whites!
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Hi! I'm Shannon, the owner and operator of Leaf Out Nature Guides in Fairbanks, Alaska. Trained in biology and ethnobotany, I work, live, and play in the forests and tundras of Alaska. At Leaf Out we provide snowshoe tours and nature hikes in the Fairbanks area for adventurers of all ages and ability levels!