Saturday, March 16, 2013

North to Alaska

After a great weekend in Crested Butte I finally headed north, planning to stop on my way to visit good friends in Vernal and then Jackson. Looking west towards Crested Butte from Delta:


Reaching Vernal around 10 on Monday night, I quickly realized that the 5 hour drive to Jackson would need to by postponed until the next day. Of course, driving into Jackson during the day is always a treat:


I spent four days in Jackson with my good friend Erik Mehus. We skied the resort, the amazing Granite Canyon sidecountry, and the sled skiing terrain of Teton Pass' Phillips Canyon. Erik took advantage of one of the few moments of good light over the four days to take this cliff on Teton Pass really really deep:


Friday night I was on the road again, headed from Wyoming through Idaho and into Montana:


That night I made it outside of Butte, and after a quick repacking of my car...


SubaLodge was born!


Saturday morning brought a prolonged Walmart stop in Great Falls before heading into Alberta:


Alberta reminded me a lot of Colorado's Front Range; plains to the east:


and mountains to the west:


At Calgary I turned west, headed for Banff and Jasper. After a quiet and beautiful night in Jasper National Park, the world's largest dark sky preserve, I continued on the Icefields Highway. Unfortunately, light snow obscured some of the views, but what I could see was beautiful:




Some very cool bending and tilting:






By Jasper I was low on gas and relieved to find a gas station. It was in french...


s'il vous plait???


...


...


After Jasper I headed west into British Columbia towards the Stewart-Cassiar highway. The first day in BC was mostly through mountain valleys shaded by tall peaks:




The next day I turned north onto the Stewart-Cassiar highway. The Skeena River:




Almost immediately onto the S-C highway things started to get more interesting:


I began to worry that I was going run out of gas when the "town" I had planned to fill up at did not actually have services; 100 kilometers later I found gas at Last Frontier Heliskiing:


Where this cute dog was busy rolling in the middle of the road:


The S-C highway is a bit wild: there is no shoulder, its largely unplowed, and everyone drives down the middle of the road at 50 kph over the speed limit - OK, I see you have no intention of stopping, why don't you go first?


Hours of this:


Monday night I rejoined the Alaska highway in Yukon, making it just short of Whitehorse. The next day I stopped at the Whitehorse rec center for a break from the driver's seat and a shower. This was by far the nicest rec center I've ever been to, complete with indoor turf fields, 4 locker rooms, and even a Subway Restaurant inside. For future reference, in Canada, weight rooms are "wellness centers"...


For dinner I found this cultural gem, where Betty obligingly sat next to me, watching me eat while educating me on the finer points of geopolitics of today and beyond.


After a delicious maple ham hamburger at Buckshot Bettys, I continued north on the AK highway; passing the Kluane Mountains which harbor the highest mountain in Canada:




On Tuesday I passed Haines Junction, where this large blue serrac hangs over the moraine of a valley glacier:


I filled up at Burwash Landing along Kluane Lake and watched this husky that couldn't have been happier to be playing catch in 5 degree F temps:


Tuesday night I left the Yukon and reentered the US, making it just past Glenallen where, for the first time in my life, I fell asleep under the northern lights. Wednesday morning brought with it beautiful views of the Chugach mountains as I approached the Matanuska Valley.


Reaching Palmer around noon, I turned north away from Anchorage and towards Hatcher Pass. At the trailhead I jumped on my sled and spent a couple hours scoping future lines:


But, finding myself miles from the trailhead and my sled good and stuck in a gully, I started to worry about the momma brown bear we encountered at Hatcher last year. With unrealistic visions of a cold and bloody death, I dug my sled out and I hightailed it back to the parking lot and south towards Anchorage. In Anchorage I met Lauren at 6 PM for a sunset ski on Peak 3:


Thursday was spent running errands in Anchorage before a quick Friday Morning drive to Whittier to catch the Cordova ferry. Whittier is accessed via a one lane highway that is shared with the train:


Popping out of the tunnel, the low gray overcast of the Turnagain Arm had been left behind:


The ferry ride across the Prince William Sound was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life: huge mountains, glaciers, whales and friendly people. Looking back at Whittier:






Maybe the Portage Glacier?






Montague Island:






Looks warm, right?


Almost!


Almost there!


At 8 PM Rachel picked me up in Cordova, and the next day she took me out to ski this!


3,300 miles later my car needs an oil change!