The weekend of the 23rd January I was lucky enough to get invited up to Willow for some winter riding and possibly some camping, after clearing it with Amanda (without who this trip wouldn't have happened) I said yes.
Adam and Angie live up up Willow, AK and will be some of the first to tell you this is where real winters happen. Whilst Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer and Wasilla are once again struggling for snow and fighting a tropical flow of warm temperatures and rain it seems Willow has highs around 20F and mostly the snow is sticking around, they also seem to be getting a little more snow than we do.
Fat Camp Day 1
Fat Camp started for me when Adam picked me up on Friday morning, we then made the two ish hour drive back out to Willow to begin some winter riding. Adam and Angies friend Eric was also staying and joined Adam and I for some riding. Due to the fantastic network of trails that the Willow Area Community Organisation put in we are able to ride from Adam and Angies (Shilman Quest Lodge*****)
Day one 22miles Shilman Quest Lodge (SQL) to Deshka Su river junction and back.
|Following Adam across long lake|
|Eric and I on long lake|
|Blue sky and hard packed trails.|
|smiles all around|
|returning back to Corral Hill Trail |
from the Susitna river in light snow
After some great local food, good conversation and the start of a really questionable movie choice we all headed to bed for a good nights rest.
Fat Camp Day 2
Today Angie joined Adam, Eric and I for some fun trails and a little snow storm riding.
Once again we headed out from the Shilman Quest Lodge (SQL) and rode some sweet lake and swamp trails before hitting a singletrack gold mine, East red shirt lake trail. This trail follows a ridge line for around 6 miles before dropping out onto red shirt lake.
Day two 28 miles round trip
|watching the clouds|
|the party of four|
|Adam - East Red Shirt lake trail|
|Eric - East Red Shirt Lake trail|
|Angie - East Red Shirt Lake trail|
|End of red shirt lake|
|Red Shirt Lake winter trail|
|Snowing a little heavier|
|Starting to lose visibility|
|High fives for snow|
|Pink flamingo island|
Once back at SQL drinks and food were consumed, Eric had to head back to Anchorage for work which just left Adam, Angie and I until we got a surprise visit from Clint and Laura who due to the snow had decided not to camp out on the Yetna river as planned and came back to stay at SQL (Clint's Blog about the weekend).
Fat Camp Day 3
During the night we experienced a little earthquake, I say little it was a 7.1 which is pretty big, fortunately we were a good distance from the epicentre though I can safely say it was one of the biggest shakes I have felt ever.
After the excitement of the earthquake we all went back to bed and when we woke once again we had an awesome breakfast, SQL really living up to the 5* rating. Adam and I planned for a short day of riding, however Clint and Laura set off earlier and put in a bigger day as Clint is training for the Su100 and ITI ride to McGrath and Laura for the Su100.
Adam had suggested that we go and check out the rolly creek trail which connects up with the Su river since it looks like it will be part of the Su100 course. Since the course is set depending on trail conditions although it was in the plans for last year it wasn't used due to open water. looking at the current map it would appear that again this is the planned trail that will be used. On the way to the trail the fresh snow was ensuring riding was a little tougher. After airing down we ended up finding some interesting trails that were a little soft in places, before we knew it we were on the Susitna and heading back on firmer trails back to SQL.
Day three - 22 miles
|Earthquake results on the lake|
|Interesting clouds and a moose|
|checking out some singletrack|
|Ending up at the river|
|back to solid trails and blue sky|
|Dog team out enjoying the trails|
Once back at the SQL we awaited another member of the Fat Camp to arrive. Kevin had been out riding the river way up into the hills with a couple of other friends. Once we were all reunited we enjoyed some beer, conversation and great food then started planning for the next day. Initially camping was going to happen Sunday night however that plan changed once we had enjoyed a little more food, beer and conversation.
Fat Camp Days 4 and 5
After a great breakfast of Raspberry and cream cheese rolls, they were fantastic Angie! Adam, Kevin and I loaded up and headed out for some winter camping in style. This meant that Adam took a snow machine and towed the tent, food, stove and sleeping things as Kevin and I rode. We headed up the Deshka river, set up camp and rode a little more then camped overnight then packed up and headed back to SQL via an overland trail between the Deshka and Susitna rivers.
Day four and five around 45miles
|winter camping the easy way|
|our guides transport to camp|
|Lake crack and Kevin, Adam on sled in distance|
The trail on the Deshka was a little soft in places and required a significant amount of airing down to keep riding in a straight line. I would guess my tyre pressure was in the 3-4psi range, or very soft. However it worked and we were all able to ride up river on older snowmachine/animal tracks with 2-4" of unconsolidated snow on top.
|A little overflow at the start of the Deshka River|
|one of many moose|
|Catching up to Adam who found a great camp spot|
|packing in the tent space|
|Setting up the arctic oven|
Arctic Oven tents allow the use of a stove inside to heat and cook on this meant that once we had the stove going we had a pleasant 70F inside the tent.
|riding up river setting our own tracks|
|taking in the view|
|Chasing the sunset back to the camp spot|
|camp stove jerry rig due to short chimney|
|ooophs the oven gets hot!|
|morning after packing up camp|
|Frosty bike it dropped to 12F overnight|
|packing up camp|
|riding the previous days tracks|
|wheelie good fun|
|smiles all around|
|back on the Susitna River|
|more river miles|
|riding up Coral hill|
Once back at SQL Kevin and I packed up our gear had another wonderful meal then headed back from winter into a wet spring it would appear.
A huge thanks to Adam and Angie for hosting me, Amanda for looking after Fiona so I could take a holiday and Kevin for coming out and camping with Adam and I and for driving me back into town.