Monday, November 23, 2020

Winter Light in the Whites

I love winter cabin trips in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.  This gem is just a quick 30 minutes north of town and easily accessible.  We try to do several cabin trips a year.  We reserved Colorado Creek for Thanksgiving weekend but several weeks ago I saw that Eleazar Cabin was open this past Saturday so we booked that, too.  

We figured we could always walk to the cabin (it’s only 11 miles in) if need be.  But with the big dump of snow a couple of weeks ago and BLM getting out to groom after that, the trails were supposed to be in near perfect condition.  And they were! 

Trail conditions were quite good

Sure, our winters are cold and dark. By winter solstice we only have about 3.5 hours of daylight although closer to 6 hours if you include twilight.  But with the sun so low in the sky all day, the light is absolutely amazing.  Sunrises and sunsets last for hours.  Add in snow and it’s absolutely breathtaking.  It is spectacular to spend all day out in our winter light.

Since the trail report was good we took bikes instead of skis.  We got a late start since it would only be about a 2-hour bike in.  We had an incredible inversion.  Here in the interior, the cold air settles in the low spots.  There can often be a 30-degree temperature range from hilltops to low valleys and that was what we had on Saturday. It was 20F above with 10 mph winds at Wickersham Dome, but it was -5F when we got to the bottom of the Wickersham Wall.

About ready to drop down the Wickersham Wall to colder temperatures

Luckily, we had to climb a mile at the end to the cabin which warmed us up both by the hard climb and the temperature gradually rising.  And the cabin was still warm from the previous occupants. Score!  I stayed at the cabin getting the fire going and melting snow while Eric went out to get firewood.  What a typical division of labor!  I did go out and help collect firewood when my chores were done, just to let you know that I am a liberated woman!

Eric climbs up toward Eleazar's cabin

Eric collecting firewood

We had been to Eleazar’s on day trips but had never spent the night. It is a great spot. You are high on the hillside, overlooking the valley with expansive views.  At night, we could even see the glow from Fairbanks.  The cabin is nice and tight, and the wood stove worked great, so we didn’t get cold overnight and we also didn’t heat ourselves out of the cabin.  It was perfect! And the auroras were out, too.  It really was a wonderful get away weekend.




Failed aurora photo. I need a new phone.  A friend got awesome aurora photos using their iPhone 11 but this is the best I could do with my point and shoot

I have noticed that Eric and I have different styles of packing.  I’m fairly minimalist.  I don’t take much extra (except for lots of warm clothes) as a lighter bike means I can move faster, and I find it more enjoyable.  Eric is the opposite.  He takes panniers and figures that he might as well fill them.  He had 2 headlamps plus 2 lights for his bike just in case (even though we didn’t plan to bike at night).  He brought snowshoes just in case we needed them to get wood- we didn’t.  He brought his own saw (which was way better than the one at the cabin) and 2 large size bags of chips (even though we were only going for one night).  I don’t complain, though, because if he wants to bring all of that stuff, I get to benefit from it, but I would never do that on my own!  Plus, it slows him down enough that we are about the same speed.  I’m faster on the uphills but he is way faster going downhill especially on squirrelly snow. 

Notice the difference in how much stuff is on Eric's bike compared to mine above.

Lots of people were out in the Whites this weekend. We ran into friends both days.  Cathy, Tamara and Jeannette were coming out from Moose Creek Cabin on Saturday.  Ben caught up to us on his bike on his way to Caribou Bluff.  When I contacted him today, he said that he didn’t make it due to soft trails past Borealis Cabin.  He said it was - 25F down on Beaver Creek so he ended up bivouacking higher up on the ridge and then got up at 4 AM to bike back out.  He’s tougher than us.  We slept in until 8, had a leisurely breakfast and then headed out just as sunrise was happening.  

Fun to run into Tamara, Jeannette and Cathy

Fun to see Ben out there, too

All in all, it was a wonderful micro adventure, right in our back yard.  And next weekend, we get to head out to Colorado Creek Cabin. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to spend time in such amazing places.  

Same thing, in and out. Boring Strava, great in real life! 


  1. Fun report. Thanks for posting all of the photos. I definitely fall toward the "Eric" end of the spectrum when it comes to packing for a trip, but I would not pack snowshoes on a bike trip. I've waded through hip-deep snow to gather deadfall; it's not really worth putting on the snowshoes, which tend to get snagged in under-snow brush. Two bags of chips, though ... now that's reasonable.

  2. Haha! We ate 1.5 bags of those chips along with our dinner and home baked cookies Eric brought along too. Reasonable? Not sure, but they all sure hit the spot!

  3. I just really hate post-holing. It's so annoying! But I decided against snowshoes this weekend (Colorado Creek Cabin), since only about 8 inches was reportedly on the ground. Still, I haven't given up on the snowshoes!