Tolovana Hot Springs

A couple of weeks ago--at the zenith of our colder-than-usual-for-October temperatures--Andrew, Becky, Coe and I (along with Coe's dogs Zola and Baloo) headed into the interior to embark on a trip that had been on my list for awhile. Tucked 11 miles in from the Elliott Highway (and about 100 road miles north and west from Fairbanks), Tolovana Hot Springs are a perfect getaway for those willing to work for it.

A roller coaster of a ride for those on skis, we were able to make pretty good time (a little over 4 hours) pulling our gear sleds and not stopping for more than a quick snack, gulp of water or to change a layer. From what I've read, we were pretty fortunate to only see lows of 5 below zero maximum heading up and over the dome. 20 below or colder is fairly common for an interior winter day--but given the month I'm surprised it even got as cold as it did! Also, we were unsure of whether this was going to be a hiking or skiing trip until the day before we left when good mother nature blessed our trip with skiable snow!

The images below start with some of the late day light we glimpsed past Trapper Creek on the way to Fairbanks.

Andrew tackles one of the drawn-out uphills that demanded some stamina out of a group that hadn't been in ski shape for at least 5 months.

Atop the dome. Fortunately, the wind was merciful.

If you ever make the trip with a smallish group (1-4)...we collectively recommend "Log Cabin." It's tucked away from the trail (unlike the other 2 cabins for rent), beside the drinking spring, right off the trail that connects to the Logjam Creek trail system, and close enough to the tubs.

Coe makes coffee.

Once you get there, its pretty tough living: wake up, take your coffee down to one of the 3 tubs and soak while watching sunrise, go back to the cabin to make breakfast, read, ski, soak after ski, make dinner, play cards, listen to the radio (yes, radio!), soak?, take a post-soak soak, perhaps followed by the pre-sleep soak...or, heck, just overnight in the hot springs!

We stayed two nights.

Becky soaks up the last of the wood stove's heat before facing the wind atop the dome on the ski out.

Moose frozen solid. We're not sure what gnawed at its nose...wolves?

Traveling back to Fairbanks that night, Coe's van gauge said that we hit 16 below in a depression north of Fairbanks. Glad to have missed that atop the dome a few hours earlier.

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