Thursday, June 9, 2016

A quick glance back, before facing the music.


Technically not here yet by the calendar, but step outside anytime in daylight hours and it'd be hard to argue otherwise.  Hot, and dry.  And hot.

A deliciously cool, moist spring lingered until the last of May, showering us literally (and the other way too) with luscious green grasses and intense displays of wildflowers.  No two springs are ever alike in that sense, but the grasses far surpassed the blossoms this year, to our surprise and delight.

About a week ago the first warm temps finally hit, and have continued to intensify daily.  Soil is drying out, flowers have largely wilted and faded.  Jeny and I decided to step out for a leisurely evening ride, the main point of which was to savor, and bid farewell to, the luxuriant greenery.

Peeps that live in less arid places will no doubt look at these pics and wonder where the alleged greenery is, this lusciousness for which I am so gaga.

My only explanation is that things are relative.  This place is a desert, and the difference between now and a month from now is difficult to comprehend if you live someplace with months and months of green, or evergreen. 

96* in the forecast for tomorrow.  98* for the weekend.  We embrace that reality for a few lingering months in exchange for half a year of nirvana spread over spring and fall, and the gamble of dry, mild winters that don't seem so mild, or dry, anymore.

That, and we flee to the mountains every opportunity, all summer long 

So long, spring.  See you next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A deep breath.

June.  Mere days away.

With it comes heat, dust, hot dusty wind, allergies, backtobacktoback weekend roadtrips, and an increasing inability to find enough time to savor all of the above.

^ The dregs of May...

Knowing what's coming, we opted to catch our breath and stay close to home this weekend.  Time spent bonding with the new feline boss was one priority, kicking around in the jungle that is our front yard another.

Botanists we are not, but having some variety at close hand for scrutiny is bringing us more in touch with the world at large.  

Stealth skeeter.  I flicked it into a spiderweb right after snapping this shot.

I spy, with my little eye...

Thanks for checkin' in.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Time flies.

Long overdue in cleaning the random, unused video clips off my hard drive.

Nearly 3 years worth of randomness here, with some true gems.  Enjoy.

Friday, April 29, 2016

River of dreams.

Bailey, Burr, Doom and I recently traversed a healthy chunk of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness via trail and river.

Superlatives can only fall short in describing this trip.

That didn't stop me from using a few in my full writeup HERE.

Thanks for checking in.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fat 'n happy.

5 days and nights of desert travel condensed into 7 minutes.


Still pics and some detail can be found HERE.

Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Heading out.

Jeny and I have been looking forward to a late winter adventure since the temps started dropping last fall.

Riding a few hundred clicks of the Iditarod was the goal, but for many reasons we leaned away from it.  Wanted to stick closer to home, see more of our own backyard.

Little by little we lasered into an omniterrain desert route, in and through Canyonlands and Glen Canyon, out the Dirty Devil.  Roughly equal amounts of distance covered on wheels and in boats. Camping under the stars and all that.

Originally the route included lots of rough jeep trails, and for that we knew that 29+ wheels and tires were ideal.  But then as we tweaked the route, poring ever deeper over every topo and aerial map we could find, we found a way to skip 40+ miles of jeep trail by riding ~30 miles of dry creekbed.  Oh, and maybe a little bit of a slot canyon... What could go wrong?

Lots, actually, including pourovers and impassable-with-bikes cliffs that cannot be seen on the maps, no matter how closely we look.

So we've added a day of food to the larder -- in case we have to backtrack and go to Plan B -- and we've installed 27.5" fat wheels and tires onto the bikes.  "B Fat", as they'll likely come to be known. Jeny has 4.0's on her bike, I have 4.5's on mine. 

With just a few quick shakedown rides on them, my initial impressions are that 26 x 4" just became completely obsolete -- except for kids.  As with the 29" wheels that most of us have come to know and love, the B Fat setup rolls over everything better than 26 x 4.   Where we live and ride, and for where we're heading on this trip, rollover is The Most Important Thing.

Note that I'm talking about non-snow adventures here.  Should Trek come out with a 27.5 x 5" or 29 x 4.5", I reserve the right to try them in the deep and then punt my current 26 x 5" setup if they're no longer up to snuff.

Anyhoo -- here she is, loaded for bear.  6 days of food, 4.5 liters of water, a boat/paddle/pfd, 16oz of denatured alcohol in the bars.  I have a ~12L daypack (not pictured) with 2.5L of water, a stove, DSLR, spare UWA lens, 5 batteries, intervalometer for time lapses, and light puffy jacket.  Oh yeah -- and an iPhone 5 w/Gaia in the Gas Tank for navs -- really slick.

She may look trim, but holy effing eff is she dense.

Back in a ~week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Left field.

Last week I was on my way somewhere else when I drove past the entrance road to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  In SW Utah it's easy to drive (or ride, or walk) past a lifetime worth of must-explore places.  Between Bryce, Zion, Escalante-Grand Staircase, and that little ditch just south of the border, there are simply too many for any one human to visit or delve deeply into, so spending time there necessarily demands triage.

But my original plan got scuttled, so a few hours later I found myself handing over $8 to the Utah State Park Ranger, then unloading my bike and going for a ride.

A cleft between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains causes the prevailing winds to accelerate as they pass through, frequently reaching speeds capable of carrying grains of sand and, over time, forming the dunes.  You might not always be able to feel the wind on your person -- especially when down in the troughs between -- but up on the ridgelines sand was constantly moving from windward to leeward.

The dune area is relatively tiny and, as Jeny put it, "furry" with trees and veg.  While this small park may lack the massive seas of dunes out in the Mojave, there is no shortage of sand and the furred fringes of the park were more appealing from a pure riding perspective.  

Coming off of a long winter riding snow, what struck me most about riding here was how quiet it can be.  Silky is the best descriptor for both the sound and feel of tires gliding across sand.

Before I was out of sight of the parking area I'd stopped three times to drop pressure, ultimately settling around 1.2 to 1.5 psi.  This didn't allow me to ride absolutely everything, but with proper attention to grade and sidehill you could get just about anywhere.

The park is fringed by sandstone bluffs and buttes dotted with piƱon, juniper, grasses and sages.  I saw nothing flowering despite the fact that temps here had been in the 70's for weeks already.

There are no roads or trails proper through the dunes, but there are clearly favorable routes that most of the jeep/atv crowd use with regularity to get from one zone to the next.  Counter to my expectations -- born from decades of snow riding -- just because many vehicles have passed doesn't mean the sand will become more packed or rideable.  In fact the opposite seemed to be happening, where the untracked sand was more easily ridden.  My guess is that every time a vehicle passes the sand is turned over/churned up, and any residual moisture is released.  Thus you sink deeper.

Whatever the cause, plotting and linking rideable routes on-the-fly was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the day.

No surprise that the dunes are popular on spring and fall weekends.  I visited on a Friday and encountered zero other humans in my few hours out, but uncountable amounts of tracks left by bugs, birds, deer, fox, and coyote.

Perhaps the rarest sight in the park was an aspect unmarred by tracks of any sort.  Look closer and you'd discover that the untracked areas were the most affected by wind -- thus they were simply getting wiped clean faster.

When I finished my ride I spoke briefly with the park rangers, whom said they see virtually zero fatbikes, despite the fact that almost the entire park is open to them.  One ranger shared an anecdote about an off-road triathlon that was held on the dunes last year, explaining that almost no one was riding -- everyone just pushed, uphill and down.  He theorized that word spread that the dunes were just too steep or dry to be rideable, and that was simply that.

In the hotter (thus drier) months I bet it can get too dry to be fun, but my guess is that in fall/winter/spring the only thing preventing a good time is a fine understanding of tire pressure.  And that understanding is easily gained -- you just have to take the time to fiddle.  

If I lived closer I'd probably spend a few days out there noodling around every year.