Monday, March 25, 2019

A ride, recently: PNW.

Several rides, actually, over the course of a week+, and stretching from as far north as Stabler, east to Prineville, and south to K-Falls.

Those rides were interspersed with some fun creeking since -- you know -- PNW in winter.

Being desert dwellers, we never tired of ferns nor moss, even when dripping from the latest round of moisturizing.

We did one completely blown-out moondusty ride near Bend that was fun enough that no one quit early, but man -- those trails were *tired* and badly in need of a break.

The shot below is indicative of the morning temps, even on days like the shot above.

One of us kept doing this (below), so frequently that the other of us became concerned about being consumed by the primordial forest.

Does zero *really* mean zero?

Ganey nailing a sweet line that I failed to recognize until he did it.

A last minute rally out to the Ochocos resulted in maybe the highlight ride of the trip, mere hours before weather shut it down for the winter.

Kosmo damped it down enough that we could sometimes keep him in sight.

The aforementioned primordiality.

Neat flow-ish trail down south.

Layers of gloam near the Breitenbush.

Tom showing us what decades of experience allow one to not only see, but do.

Jeny above the Gorge, before The Nothing took it away.

A single fire was kindled despite camping most nights, largely because only that much dry wood was carted along from Colorado.

A STIL tunnel near Medfid.

Touristing afoot in the Jed Smith redwoods, because it was simply too sodden to desire a ride.

Grass is always greener and all that, but I sometimes wish we lived closer to see more of this country than a once-a-year trip could ever allow.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Testing one, two: Done.

Last week our backyard mountain received another 37" atop it's already 400" of snowpack.  Finding rideable conditions has been challenging of late.  Perusing weather websites and webcams I guessed that we'd have a bit of a window on Monday afternoon, so I took a good friend and snowbike newb up for a spin.

Honey light came and went through the day, appearing just often enough, and for just long enough, to make you really appreciate it both when it was there and as soon as it departed.

Jeny is out of town thus I loaned her bike to Skippy, figuring he'd be able to ride more on a known-to-be-amazing snowbike.  This also gave me yet another opportunity to observe the Terrene Johnny 5 tires, and to compare them to my Vee 2XL's.

A recent wind event meant that not everything was rideable, and also that we'd have occasion to do some pushing and very, very low pressure riding.

"When I was 49, it was a very good year..."  Sinatra fans might get that one.

A lack of traffic since that recent wind event meant that we got to do a lot of trailbreaking.  Riding packed track is fun and fast, but the silky silence when rolling over inches of fresh snow is a treat to be savored.

Early on I turned Skippy's steering damper off, explaining that since he'd never ridden snow before, and since there were so many other sensations involved that would be new and potentially confusing to him, that having the damper on might just be too much, too odd, too different from what he was used to feeling.  Too un-bike-like.  He didn't protest.  Very shortly into the ride, he caught up to me at an intersection after having augured in, tipped over into waist deep snow, then taken some time to extract himself.  When finally he'd put himself back on top of the trail surface and caught his breath, he cranked the steering damper down tight for the rest of the ride.  I actually saw him check it a few times later on, to see if there might be yet more damping on offer.

They are nifty little units, and for this kind of riding they are invaluable.

The most notable thing, with respect to the tires we're riding and their attendant differences, came near the end of the ride where there is a short, steep, punchy and not always makable climb.  In summer it taxes you but in winter, with the added weight of the bike, added resistance from so much clothing, added drag from massive tires run at unthinkably low pressures, and a distinct lack of hard riding since months ago, this climb is savage.  

Fortunately it's also pretty short.

As it slowly unfolded in front of us I commented to Skippy that, "We ain't leaving until this thing goes clean."  I didn't actually know if that was possible given current conditions, but I like to set lofty goals.  Skippy went first, making it to a bulge near the middle of the hill where his rear tire spun and he dabbed.  Then I gave it a shot, not waiting long enough for him to clear the trail before trying, because when I got to where he was I couldn't get past him and had to dab.  Back to the bottom for both of us.

On my second try my wheel lightly spun at the aforementioned bulge, but I was able to hunker down and scrabble for traction, and made it past there, and then past the off camber crux, and then rolled over the top, gasping.  I leaned over the top tube and caught breath while watching Skippy give it another go.  He spun out at the same bulge that got him the first time.  After a moment of catching his breath he turned and descended for another crack.  And on that third try his rear tire spun at the same mid-hill bulge.  Curious now how much difference the tires were making, I rolled back down to the bottom and swapped bikes with him.

This time, riding my bike with the Vee 2XL tires, he ripped right up, over the bulge, past the crux, all the way to the top.  I followed on Jeny's bike with the J5's, slipping and spinning and barely, just barely making it over the bulge, then continuing to slip and spin and scramble for traction at the crux, then gasping I made it up over the top.  When finally I'd caught breath enough to speak, we agreed wholeheartedly that the 2XL gave much, much better traction than the J5.

Although we have lots of winter left and (hopefully) hundreds more inches of snow to come, there isn't a lot more to say about these two tires, at least in terms of the conditions that we generally ride them in.  If I need a big tire with studs I'll gladly choose the Johnny 5.  For anything that can be done in the alpine, in winter, without studs, the Vee 2XL has proven to be the superior tire across a range of conditions and riding pressures.

Don't hesitate with questions.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Paria River.

An indescribably beautiful mess.

I've been actively trying to float this gem for over 2 years.  It isn't super easy to get to -- almost 8 hours of driving, one-way -- but the main limiter is that the flows are so ephemeral. If you're not standing on the bank, boat rigged and dressed to paddle as the flood pulse comes by, then you probably missed it.

We launched on ~120cfs and dropping, while praying that it'd rain like hell all day.  That didn't happen: We had broken clouds, a few sprinkles, and not enough sun to mobilize headwaters snowpack.  Amazingly the first ~22 miles channelized well enough that although we scraped paddles on every other stroke, we never had to get out and walk.

A thunderstorm lit up the canyon as we crashed in camp at darkthirty.  All had brought packs in case we needed to hike out, and all were secretly hoping it wouldn't come to that.

It rained as we set up tents, rained as we slopped together dinner, then nuked so hard it sent us to our tents early.  And then it was a full-on deluge most of the night.  I heard two separate rockfall events that seemed scarily close, and in the morning the others confirmed that said rocks landed between two of our tents.

By morning the precip had dwindled to sprinkles and the river was up 2 feet.  Something like a 900cfs peak.  We launched early, very close to the crest, and found some full-on whitewater with lots of scouts and a few legit portages.

It was like two different rivers, really: Day one was a scenic float through a slot canyon amidst unspeakable beauty.  Day two was challenging whitewater where it was often hard to appreciate the surroundings, so focused were you on the task at hand.  

Through all of it ran the filthiest water i've ever experienced.  My previous benchmarks for that title were LCR and Dirty Devil.

Having seen Jeff Creamer's vid of Paria at ~120 I expected some manageable drops with a few quick scouts -- as per Jeff's beta.  Nope.  There were a few stomping class V drops that were easy decisions to portage.  And easily portaged.  Plus a bunch of engaging III+/IV- read and run.

I'd go back for 200 - 300: A manageable, mostly read-and-run flow.  But I'm not sure I need to do that to my gear again.  Like an idiot I loaned out a boat and a drysuit to help others make the trip happen.  So now I have 2 drysuits with silt-fucked zippers and 2 boats with the same.  Plus my camera bag zipper.  And my bow bag zipper.  And my camera...

I'd have taken a lot more photos except for the fact that there was no way to keep your hands clean.  Thus very early on my camera body looked like a toddler had gotten into cake frosting -- and, errrm, their own soiled diaper -- and had been playing with it.

I opted to take a self-bailing Gnarwhal, reasoning that I was going to want to take a lot of photos and knowing that it would be easier to get in and out of the boat without a skirt to deal with.  And that was true.

The level of shmeck that ended up in the boat was borderline unbelievable.

There was one portage that might have been ~1/8 of a mile in total.  When I shouldered my boat to start hiking I was surprised at how heavy it felt, given that I wasn't carrying much gear.  I rooted around beneath the seat and foot pad and removed ~7 *pounds* of sand, silt and rocks.  

~12 miles later, at the takeout, there was another ~7# wedged in there again.

Did I mention the water, uh, quality?

Half of the group could have eaten green curry the night before, run a rough, jarring marathon that finished at river's edge, then collectively squatted and defecated into one boat -- and said boat wouldn't have been measurably filthier than with just the river water in it.  Gnarly.

For those contemplating future missions, the basin was completely saturated when we put on, and yet it still drained out in ~half a day.  Of that 900 cfs we had at launch on day 2, we still had 500cfs at the Lees Ferry gauge when we took out.  ~90 minutes later when we got back to the put in it was at ~35cfs.

Last detail?  I think this would be an incredible fatbike overnighter, during the ~250 days per year that it's dry.  You could get there on a reasonable schedule, stop and plant feet and look around at will, even walk back upstream if needed or wanted.  Alas it is currently managed as no bikes and probably not likely to change.

Thanks for checkin' in.