Friday, January 11, 2008

Tolovana Hot Springs 2008

For the last few years John and I have been going out to Tolovana Hot Springs as a nice mid-winter trip. This year we went just after the first of the year. We were joined by John's twin sister Theresa, her daughter Kaija (age 2) and dog Kuma, our friend Casey, and for the first night our friends Ian and Sheri and their dog Canvas.

Day 1:
8 AM - We all met at the intersection of the Steese and Elliott Highways and convoyed the 93 miles to the trailhead. Casey, John, and I were in "The Crummy" (John's 1982 Diesel Suburban), and of course I made John and Casey listen to the CW McCall classics Convoy and 'Round The World With the Rubber Duck because, well, I could. Heh.

10:30 AM - We arrive at the trailhead. When we plan for these trips, I'm in charge of logistics. Did I mention I have a MS in Science/Project Management? Well, I do. It makes me bossy, but really dang organized. Usually. You know how you should always pack your own parachute? Well, it turns out that you should pack your own winter gear too. When John was hauling our bag of winter gear to the car, he moved my coat to get at the handles of the big duffle, and left it behind. At the house. The house that is about 130 miles away. @#$@#$!!! Well, it could be worse. I have my insulated Carhartt bibs (that were with my coat!), and I opened up the gear bag and put on every extra stitch of insulated upper body clothing John and I had packed. Theresa had an extra parka, so I wore John's two jackets over my five shirts, and he wore Theresa's parka. It all worked out fine.

11 AM - On the trail! Sunrise is here, and it is beautiful.

11:30 AM - Casey and Ian have to stop periodically to keep their machines from overheating. While waiting for them to catch up, John discovers a fuel leak on his machine, so we end up repairing it on the trail.

1 PM - We made it to the cabin! We took awhile on the trail. Ian's machine had it's electrical system fry. It was very sad.

Well, Theresa got the fire started, I unloaded the gear sled, and John went back to ferry in Sheri, Canvas, and Ian. If they couldn't get his machine fixed (they didn't). We got the cabin organized, everyone in off the trail, and hot tubs thoroughly explored. We all relaxed and enjoyed the evening.

The next day Ian and Sheri had to leave, they had things to do back in Fairbanks. But not without enjoying some time in the hot tubs! After a morning in the hot tubs, it was time to go. Casey and John warmed up their machines, the gear sled was hitched to John's BearCat, the dogsled was hitched to Casey's Firecat, and they were off to the trailhead. Ian's Skidoo was loaded onto John's gear sled, and it was towed out. Sheri and Canvas rode with John, and Ian rode the dogsled behind Casey's machine. Edited to add: John and Casey realized they forgot to take a picture of Ian's Skidoo being rescued by two Arctic Cats. Boys, toys, etc...

The rest of our time was spent eating, reading, hot tubbing, and enjoying being off the grid and away from everyone and everything. I'm not sure how much relaxing one gets to do with a two-year-old around, but she actually was really good company.

Final Day:
Tania notices it's getting lighter out, announces that it's time for everyone to get up. Because she's bossy that way. Mostly, because she wants to be on the trail during the 4 hours of daylight, in case we have any problems.

11 AM - We're loaded and ready to go. Theresa brought along a funky pull behind carrier for Kaija that she could use if she ended up having to ski out. John packed two sleeping bags and hot water bottles into it, and strapped it on top of the gear so we could easily get to it in case of emergency. Apparently John was taking the "don't kill my grandbaby" phone call we received before heading out to Tolovana very seriously. *grin*

The trip out is the smoothest we have ever had. Maybe because we haven't had much snow this year, maybe I'm more used to the trail. I don't know. The trip out was great. When we got to the trailhead the cars were frosted over, and the wind was blowing. It's always blowing at the trailhead. Theresa's Subaru started right up. John's diesel was not happy, but it eventually started, with some timely assistance from a co-worker that happened to be driving by right when came up to the trailhead. We had a plan ready to get the engine warmed, but thanks to Warren, we didn't have to use it. Theresa and Kaija stayed warm in Warren's truck, Casey and I unloaded gear, and John and Casey and Warren fiddled with the cars and did manly things that manly men do. You could smell the testosterone, even with the strong wind.

As usual, I ended up with a variety of interesting bruises. I'm especially annoyed that I got bonked on the head three times, in completely random and unexpected ways. A week later, my head still kinda hurts when I brush my hair or wear my hat.

So, the important things:

The Food
02 Jan Dinner Chicken Soup with dumplings
03 Jan Breakfast Pancakes and Bacon
03 Jan Dinner Carbonara and Garlic Bread
04 Jan Breakfast Eggs Benedict
04 Jan Dinner Chicken Enchiladas
05 Jan Breakfast Potato and Boursin Frittata
05 Jan Dinner Ham and Bean Soup
06 Jan Breakfast Breakfast Burritos

The Pictures (with more to come, as I round them up. Click on the thumbnail to go to the album)
Tolovana Hot Springs 2008

And most importantly - will we do it again, and with the same people? Of course!!


Jim Wright said...

Cool. Too bad about the fried snow machine, did you manage to get it out?

And the menu made me hungry, thanks a lot.

Can't access the pictures. I assume that is by design.

Tania said...

Thanks Jim! I fixed the pics link. You know how it is, works when I look at it...

Anonymous said...

I wore John's two jackets over my five shirts

Why does this remind me of the scene in White Christmas when Danny Kaye arrives in Vermont?

As for smelling the testosterone as manly men did manly things with engines... My dad was a mechanic and did some work at home. I never could get the hang of it though, which probably disappointed him a bit. Oh well... I do other kinds of manly-man stuff. Like what? I take the garbage out, I landscape the backyard and haul the resulting dirt up the hill.

That being said, I'm glad you had a good time. Thanks for the hilarious report.

Shawn Powers said...

When Jim says, "Fried snow machine," it almost sounds like some exotic Alaskan treat. :)

The trip sounds like it was great. Snowmobiling into "Hot" springs offers quite a pleasant sensory treat. Like the "salty sweet" of vacations.

Thanks for the report, it makes me want to go outside and play in our snow, before it melts again. (Our winter has been... diverse, weatherwise.)

Jim Wright said...

Saw the pictures this morning. Excellent. Thanks for sharing, Tania.

Tania said...

Serge - It was exactly like Danny Kaye. Pretty funny, all things considered. Or as we say around here, if not one died and/or was permanently injured, it was an adventure, not a fiasco.

Tania said...

Shawn - I'm sure my husband would quip back that Ian having a fried snow machine was quite a treat - for him!! Ian is a great guy, and a good friend, but that doesn't mean that we all don't get a little competitive.

Part of the fun is being in the hot water while your hair is iced up. That's why I'm wearing a hat, my ears were getting cold. The rest of me was in 100+ water.

Tania said...

Jim, thanks for looking.

Anonymous said...

Tania, sounds like you had a fun trip.

We've never been to Tolovana - only Chena Hot Springs - but those are fun in winter too.

We also didn't get into snowmachining when we lived up there, just too expensive for all four of us. Plus, living in ANC, we couldn't ride them locally. (Although people did in the Sand Lake greenbelt we lived next to)

I admire folks who take on adventures like yours!

Anne C. said...

Fun adventure! I love the photos, particularly the landscape dominated ones.
I also love that you made your travelmates listen to C.W. McCall. I thought my siblings and I were the only ones who listened to him on road trips. :)