Saturday, September 11, 2021

Decisions, Decisions - A Microadventure in the Nome Creek Valley


Post by Corrine

I stopped briefly to take stock of my situation while hiking off trail near the Quartz Creek Trail. Should I continue up to the high point?  Those are some dark clouds coming in and I can see showers off to my left.  I’ll probably get wet if I continue and I only brought a light rain jacket.  But will I be disappointed if I turn around before I get there?  And if I continue, will I have time to bike all the way to Ophir Creek as I had planned?  What to do?  Keep going or turn back? 

Dark clouds looming as I climb to the high point in the distance

I was faced with this and many more decisions as I set off on a microadventure yesterday. Earlier in the week I had decided that I wanted to return to the Nome Creek valley as it’s such a beautiful place in the fall.  Eric and I were there a week ago finishing up our Trails Challenge in 36 Hours.  I wanted to have more time in the area.  I decided to bike 10 miles on the US Creek Road to the Quartz Creek trailhead, then hike 2 miles up the trail to a high point.  Then turn around and head back.  About 4-5 hours round trip. I asked a couple of friends if they wanted to come along and although there was some interest, nobody could make it on the day that looked to have the best weather.  

Fall colors are so beautiful right now

First decision.  Go when the weather is better by myself or wait and go with friends?  I decided to go by myself as I’m happy to go on adventures alone and I wanted good weather.  This adventure was all about type 1 fun. After that decision was made, I started wondering if I should do an overnight and take my bikepacking gear.  I was torn.  It would be great to camp out.  But the weather forecast was for rain Friday night.  And it would mean a lot more prep and packing.  Was I up for it?

I don’t like that I’m such a fair-weather adventurer.  I’m fine if the weather looks good but then turns bad when I’m out there but it’s hard for me to motivate if the weather forecast is marginal.  It’s usually never as bad as you think it might be, but still I have changed or cancelled plans due to the weather forecast.  Maybe I just don’t like to suffer as much as I get older?  

I also don’t like that sometimes the effort to get out the door stops me from going.  I have a very busy stressful job.  Although I only see patients 4 days a week, those days are non-stop from 6 in the morning until 5 or later at night.  It’s often hard to come home after an 11–12-hour day and immediately start packing for a quick overnight trip.  Usually, I just want to sit down and zone out. We have outdoor gear organized to get out the door quickly, but it can still seem like a chore.  Usually, I can overcome this inertia but lately it’s been harder.  I just want my down time to be relaxing.  I’m always happy once I’m out on the trail but it’s not always easy to get there. 

Sigh. . . what to do?  I decided that if the weather looked good, I would camp.  So, I checked several weather forecasts. They all said the same. 20% chance of showers on Friday but rain likely overnight.  Not good for camping.  So did I just make the decision not to camp?  Nope.  I obsessively checked the weather forecast every 2 hours up until the time I left thinking it might change.  But surprise, it didn’t.  So, I left the camping gear home.  But then I still fussed about my decision on the drive out. Should I just have packed and brought everything along? Would I be sorry that the decision was made?  What if it ends up not raining?  Would I be mad at myself?  Do other people fuss this much about trip decisions?

Despite my self doubt, it was a beautiful drive to the trailhead.  The fall colors along the Steese Highway were just about at their peak and the sun was shining.  I got  my bike out and slowly made my way up the first 4 miles of US Creek Road.  It’s a steady 8-10% grade but my legs were fresh, so it wasn’t too bad.  I came across an ATV trail off to the right.  What to do?  It took me about a second to decide to check it out.  That’s one nice thing about doing trips by yourself.   You can change plans on a whim and nobody objects.  Today was all about exploring so I turned right and rode about 1/2 mile up a steep and rocky trail to a nice look out.  Well worth the extra grind.

Just before crossing Nome Creek there was an unimproved road to the right.  Once again, it was an easy decision to change my plans and check it out. I turned around when the road crossed the creek because I didn’t want wet feet.  I headed back to the main road and then biked the 4 miles to Nome Creek Campground. We used to take our kids camping here until it got overrun by 4-wheelers who would race up and down the road all night. But it was nice and quiet today as most of the hunters were camped back by the river and not in the campground itself.  

Nome Creek

I locked my bike at the Quartz Creek trailhead and headed up the steep and rocky trail for a mile.  I had planned to go left up the ATV trail to a high point but when I got there, I saw I could go right off trail to a different high point.  What to do?  I decided to explore the off-trail option.  I had been thinking about biking the 12 extra miles down to Ophir Campground after my hike, but I didn’t have to do that.  There was nobody to chastise me for changing plans again.  

Quartz Creek Trail - dark clouds already starting to build

Hiking off trail on tundra is slower but I didn’t mind.   Once I got to what I thought was the high point, there was another higher point not that far ahead.  So I kept going.  I had planned on turning around at 2 miles, but at 3 miles I still wasn’t at the highest point.  That’s when I stopped to decide what to do.  I ended up continuing, and as I was making my way up the last hill, the wind picked up, it started raining and then hailing.  I was so close.  I put on my rain jacket and kept climbing. I had planned to eat lunch at the high point, but once I got there, I just took a couple of photos and quickly headed down.  

Wind and rain and hail - what's not to like about that?

I got wet and cold hiking down.  I knew I would still have 10 miles of biking to get back to my car, but I had one more layer of clothes packed on my bike, and I also had dry clothes in the car.  So all was good even if I couldn’t move my fingers and my butt was frozen with just a thin layer of lycra covering it.  By the time I got back down to the trailhead, though, the rain had stopped.  I put on my extra layer and started warming up. Hmm, maybe I should go ahead and bike to Ophir Creek before heading back to the car.  It was only 5 PM.  I should have just enough daylight (I did not bring a light as I didn’t think I would be gone that long) to make it.

View of Nome Creek along the road to Ophir Creek Campground

So once again, I changed my mind and made the decision to ride the rest of the road.  I decided to ride for an hour before turning around or until it started raining again. I even made the decision to check out another ATV trail down to the creek.  I didn’t quite make my hour turn around (I couldn’t stop when I was just a mile from the campground) but it didn’t start raining again until I got back to US Creek Road. I stayed warm climbing for 3 miles but did get a little chilled bombing the last miles back down to my car.

All in all, it was a great little microadventure.  I was able to keep changing the plan as I went, depending on how I felt in the moment.  That’s one great thing about being out on an adventure by yourself with no set plan.  And the only decision I regretted?   I should have thrown my camping gear in the car.  That way I could have car camped after finishing.  Oh well, it was also nice to get home, take a shower and sleep in a warm bed, too.

Bike portion of the microadventure.  52.5 miles, 4100 feet elevation gain

Hike portion - 6.6 miles, 1900 feet elevation gain

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you have been getting out for some great local adventures. I'm with you on making a decision to do an overnighter ... the extra preparation and gear is a strong enough deterrent that I don't get out as often as I'd like.