Out for an Adventure?
A couple of months ago me and W booked a cabin at Tolovana Hotsprings. We booked it so early and still only weekdays were available. That was ok for us since we work a lot during the weekends, and thus we could compensate. We have quite the collection of hotsprings here in Alaska, a lot of them in the southeast but very few in the interior of Alaska. Unfortunately some of these hotsprings have become expensive resorts for tourist, and these are of course the ones that are easily accessible. So we are left with hotsprings you have to drive quite a bit to get to, and most of the time accompanied by a semi long hike/ski/bike or however you would choose to transport yourself.
Skiing to Tolovana Hotsprings
I knew the distance to Tolovana hotsprings were 10 some miles. Somehow i never quite translate this into kilometers, so most of the time I kind of think of it as kilometers even though I know it isn't. We even had a map, with elevation and distance, although these maps almost never sink into my mind. What I am trying to say is that it didn't quite sink into my head how hard of a ski this could be in the worst conditions. For one, I didn't have any warm wax for our crosscountry skis, yeah that was the first problem I guess. Although it wasn't really that warm so I couldn't quite figure out why the kick wax wouldn't stick with the wax I had. W's friend on the other hand had waxless skis, fishscales. I understand now that the trail conditions can be so extremely different depending on how much snow you have, when it snowed last, how much snow machine traffic and most important the temperature.
Hiking or skiing?
The start of the trail was (as you can see on the map above) pretty steep downhill. Most of that downhill we kind of laughed the whole way. We kept falling and slid all over the place so we decided to hike down the rest of the way. One thing that I already got reported from someone else, is that the trail is a snowmachine trail (a lot of these trails are traplines that trappers made and watch throughout the winter) which is pretty narrow, so not wide enough to snowplow with both of your skis if you need to slow down. That same person also told me that his friend actually broke his leg skiing down that downhill part... After the downhill part there were a couple of miles through the low point. As long as the trail had a slight slope to it, it went fine, but after a while me, W and our friend decided to hike instead. I believe the problem with the kickwax at this point was the icy surface and snowmachine tracks eating up all the wax we had and or water molecules coming inbetween the ski and the snowsurface.. who knows. As the elevation map showed, it was time to start going uphill...We hiked, because unless you had skins on your skis, this would not work.
Hiking it is...
In the picture above you can see how narrow the trail is, and that the snowmachines have been digging the trail down...kind of like a luge. Also, if you look closely, slightly above the trail to the left you can see a a white narrow "trail" kind of looks like a creek going down the hill...well that hill is where we started.
While hiking up the dome it gave such a payoff to turn around and look behind you every once in a while. We were lucky that the weather was kind of sunny. On top of the dome though, you had a beautiful view of the landscape. In the picture below you can see what we had behind us
And this picture below is showing where we were going.
The last part was pretty steep downhill so we hiked the last bit, and finally we arrived. Afterwards I was told that a lot of people going to Tolovana hike and bring a pulk/sled so that they can hike up the hills and then sled down...seems like an extremely good solution.
The tubs are filled with hot water directly from the hot springs through a hose, and likewise semi cold water is filled from the creek. There were two other tubs too, that worked a little different. The view was pretty amazing. I have been to Chena Hotsprings which is a developed hotprings outside Fairbanks, and other than that, only to the boling river in Yellowstone. Now while the boiling river is really nice, I still prefer this setting.
As the sun disappeared behind the hill we went back to the cabin for dinner. We are lucky now, cause the sun doesn't actually set until 9 pm these days, which calls for bright evenings. One other really cool thing about this cabin is that it has it's own windturbine connected to the lights in the cabin. When we arrived at Tolovana we had no wind but the next day it was extremely windy. This is apparently common, since we read the log book and several others had been commenting about the wind. Hence they have a wind turbine. The rest of our time there we ate good, played games, skied and hung out in the hotsprings.
Final picture below, it's from the parking lot. Look straight ahead, and a little to the left...
There is the trail going up the dome, and Tolovana is behind that dome somewhere. Have a great weekend.