November and December: little odds and ends in the Fairbanks area

The drive to get outside comes so naturally during the summer months. But after a long summer rallying as a weekend warrior, I wake up and find that its November, the air is -20oF, and the sun sets at 4:30pm now. As much as I’d like to, I just can’t go out and do as big of things as I once could. Isn’t that like growing old?

Cold and lack of daylight hours limit the outdoor recreation possibilities in the winter, especially in Interior Alaska. One thing I find myself doing is scaling back the intensity by planning day-trips instead of overnighters. It is easier to convince myself to spend a day out in the cold if I know that I’ll end up in a warm bed. Additionally, in these months I will do more of the indoor activities I enjoy such as writing and climbing at the local rock gym; Ascension. Any length of time I manage to spend outside is win no matter how brief. The following are some fun things that have kept me busy and happy in the Fairbanks area this winter.

November 7th and 15th 2020

Sawyer Huffman and I one day, Philip Wilson and I on other day, found an early November dump of snowfall to be in good conditions at SkiLand, one of the ski areas in the Fairbanks area. In the pre-season before the resort opens and the ski lift start spinning, locals will earn turns (ski down then skin back up) provided that they are respectful and don’t interfere with preparations such as grooming, plowing, training, or whatever else may be going on. It’s a great place to warm up the skinning muscles for the upcoming season.

November 21st 2020

After some fun days at skiland, I figured the ole’ McCallum Creek hill (Peak 5475) would be in season like it was last November -> Golden Days! // Backcountry In The Deltas! – YouTube . As it turns out, I was wrong; the early season snowfall previously enjoyed at Skiland was nonexistent in the deltas, likely having been transported away by the wind. But that didnt stop Adrian Jones, his friend Lee, and I from checking it out, digging a snow pit, and enduring an unfortunate walk through (usually buried) alders back to the car.

November 14th 2020

A day-trip mission for some ice climbing at Dragonfly Creek with Philip Wilson. It was in! (Mind for the open water at the base where the belayer stands).

December 20th 2020

Grant Wilson, his fresh pupper Steve, and I went out to Fox Creek. Steve was escorted back to the car when, on the approach, we encountered a decent creek section that required climbing. Steve behaved himself so well in the car while we enjoyed a few laps of ice climbing in the cold cold.

Not pictured, but should at least be listed in this collection of Fairbanks area winter outdoor ideas are: cross country skiing on the Birch Hill and UAF trails, hiking Angel Rocks, soaking in the Chena Hot Springs, hiking to the Castner Glacier Ice Caves, and downhill skiing/snowboarding at either of Fairbanks’ two ski resorts; Moose Mountain and SkiLand.

January 5th 2021

I know, this is digging into January now, but the following goes for November and December too. Watching the Aurora is a way to actually take advantage of the abundant hours spent in darkness. My go-to location is Murphy Dome (pictured below) because I’ve found it to be reliably plowed and it has with good views in all directions. Ester Dome is another spot, but has more light polution, less parking area, and the road is less reliable. Olnes Pond and the Peat Ponds are good locations in the October/November months while lakes are unfrozen and reflection shots are still possible.

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