Cache Mountain Cabin, White Mountains
Cache Mountain Cabin, White Mountains

Cache Mountain Cabin, White Mountains

We did an overnight trip with neighbors Scott & Maureen. Originally, llana and I were each going to take a sled and dog team. Scott would have his team, and Maureen would ride a snow machine for support (pulling a freight sled, like in the Serum Run). But due to a dog shortage (as mentioned in earlier posts), we really only had enough for one team, eight dogs: Nicki, Chevy, Roo, Ahab, Capella, Zeus, Asa,┬áSpike. Based on the previous problems, Asa was iffey, and Higgs, Decker and Rocket were staying home. Simba is out with the same shoulder injury as last year; Rattles doesn’t have enough toes. Phanty might be up for it, if we can add some miles. Monkey and Pumpkin, ditto, but Pumpkin doesn’t pull for Ilana, and Monkey gets a cough when she’s out overnight.

Scott and I did recon the day before on the snow machine, to confirm the trail was in, and check out snow conditions. We were doing a 20-mile trip, from a parking area at Mile 42 on the Steese Highway. The trail was in, and had been used a few times within the past week. Snow was sufficient, and the cabin was nice and had plenty of tie-out room for dogs. (The Bureau of Land Management web site hadn’t been updated since December 16, when the trail had not yet been assessed by BLM staff.)

Scott contributed two of his dogs, Nike and Panda (short for Pandemonium) so that we could either have one team of 10, or two teams of 5. Ilana wanted to take Chester, so decided to ski in with Chester as a ski-jor dog. We got to the trailhead around 10:45 Monday morning (as the sun was rising), and Ilana started skiing a few minutes afterward. I left about an hour later, and Scott and Maureen left an hour after that (it takes awhile to get dogs bootied and harnessed, and the snow machine’s sled packed, but we had guessed I would be the slower team). This trail is uphill for about 7 miles — not often steep, and sometimes flat or slightly down, but mostly uphill. Ilana made excellent progress, and had gone almost 10 miles by the time I caught up with her, an hour after I started.

Trail conditions were good. Ilana needed to keep Chester close, so that he didn’t get caught in a trap. Trapping is legal on this federal land, as long as there is signage indicating there is trapping going on (there was). It’s legal on state land, which was the first 7 miles of the trail, without any signage. We saw, and smelled, multiple traps which were often just a few bandwidths off the trail. Yech.

Skiing was challenging for Ilana, and she got blisters early on. I passed Ilana, then Scott passed me. A little while later, Maureen passed me, too. I arrived in camp around 3:00 pm, a little more than 3 hours after starting. Scott and Maureen were there for about 1/2 hour before me, and, surprise! Ilana arrived within another hour. We bedded the dogs in straw, snacked then fed them, and gave them a little rubdown.

The cabin, like others in the White Mountains, requires a free advance reservation. It was snug, with sleeping room for 6 (or more, including a loft). It came with a dual-fuel Coleman lantern, a propane stove, and a wood-burning barrel stove. We stoked the stove and got comfy for the evening. As often happens with winter camping, we were all starting to fall asleep over our dinners by 6:30 pm, but rallied and had a game of Cribbage and some conversation. Still, we settled down by 9:30 or so. Scott had some barkers, so it was tough to snooze soundly all the night through.

I fed the stove before bed, so the cabin stayed reasonably warm all night. Probably close to 50F at dinnertime, then barely below freezing overnight (we left some water out, and it did not ice over). People started getting up by 9:00 am, and after a leisurely morning we were on the trail by 11:30 am. I was the lead team again, and was not passed. I made it back to the parking area by 2:00 pm, about 1/2 hour faster than the trip in. There were fewer Asa shenanigans on the way out (though there were some).

One of the nicest parts, in both directions, was watching the incredibly long sunset, with the moon rising. The sun was setting to the SSW, and the moon was rising almost directly opposite, to the NNE. The moon is nearly full, which means (by definition) that it’s opposite the sun. But from the hilltops, with really long twilight and dawn, we got an unparalleled view of this celestial display. The weather was perfect: clear, with lows around -12F and highs on the hilltops of maybe +15F. We encountered just a couple of people on the trail, who appeared to be workers doing some trail maintenance. The cabin logbook, though, showed that the cabin had been in constant use for the past few weeks.

For the trip home, I took Chester with me. He free-ran for the first 4-5 miles, where we hadn’t seen signs of trapping. After that, I put him on an extensible leash, and kept him close to the sled. Ilana rode in the snow machine with Maureen. They arrived just a few minutes after me, and Scott got there 1/2 hour later. We packed up, and drove home. All the dogs seem to be happy, healthy, tired, hungry and uninjured. Tracey, our dog sitter, had taken care of the home gang. Tomorrow, we’ll be back on the trails of Two Rivers.

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