Thursday, October 30, 2008

Numero Cent.

As summer wound into fall I became smitten with a tool (toy?) that one of my riding partners was using--a helmet cam. Saw the on-screen results from his and made the executive decision that Big Wheels, LLC needed one of those to help with...




So I've been fiddling with it and learning what angles work for what kinds of trails (but mostly learning that most angles I've tried look marginal at best) and lighting conditions. I shouldn't be surprised still, but I've also learned that most of the things that scare me with their 'hugeness' or 'technicality' on the trail look like mere curb hops on the computer screen.

See for yourself.

Very close to the end of ^ that video I crashed. Pretty hard, actually. Limped home and took a few days off, then went back out and promptly crashed again. The first crash was more-or-less a fluke. My front wheel got stopped by a forearm-thick juniper branch that I never saw, and over the bars I went. The second crash was minor but drove home the fact that I needed more time off before I was ready to ride again.

How much time off?

More than I've taken off of the bike in...?

Over a decade at any rate. I've been off the bike now for two weeks. I did a very short, very mellow ride last weekend in Moab.

Out for ~2 hours but never really got moving. The overwhelming feeling I had on that ride was that I needed a longer break.

The body seems to be healed, but the mind is not fresh, and hence not ready to be back on the bike. Weird, but there it is.

So I've been hiking (don't hold it against me) and fishing. Trying to get out to do one or the other or both at least 4 times per week. I can say without hesitation that if I were limited to these two activities and unable to ride I'd lose my shit pretty directly. I cannot put a finger on any one thing that I miss about riding, but I'm sure speed, challenge, endorphins and the simple joy of an elevated heart rate all play their parts.

Hiking is neat in that you can look around more, without stopping, than you can when riding. Yay.
Other than that I can't find much that I like about it. I guess I can take a step back and put myself into someone else's shoes and say that yes, being able to hike is AWESOME compared to, say, being bedridden.

Fishing is fishing--I enjoy it regardless of what manner of locomotion delivers me to the water.

Even on days like today when I get skunked.

I guess the honest upshot to hiking is more time spent with L and D.

Priceless, that.

Fall is fading and signs of winter are everywhere. Hoping to get back out on the bike this weekend, for fall is too precious and winter a bit too...? Wintry?



Sunday, October 19, 2008

A day with Fang.

Our dog Doogan is likely the most mellow, docile, sweet, unlikely-to-harm-anything-other-than-a-cricket (and even then only when encouraged) animal on the planet. He rarely growls or barks (and usually when he does either it's in play) and there just doesn't seem to be an aggressive cell in his body. That disposition is one of the things we love so much about him--you can leave him alone with an infant and the very worst thing that will happen is that the infant will get a few nuzzles and licks on the noggin'.

Just plain sweet.

But take him out in the woods and he sheds his everyday garb to become Fang the Beast Hound. Much like most human males, get him in the mountains and he puffs out his chest, runs around like a testosterone crazed idiot, and sets out to prove that he knows more about (hunting/fishing/trapping/hand-to-hand combat) than anyone else, living or dead.

Fang has been begging to go fishing every day this week, and today he got his way. Take no prisoners was our motto, and, well, we succeeded.

A few hours in the alpine yielded bear, deer, elk, moose, coyote, lion, horse, and man tracks left in last week's snow, but nary a one ever showed themselves. Which was just fine with us--we had bigger fish to fry.


Our objective was actually just to spend a day in the mountains and maybe catch a fish or two. I do the casting and fly tying, Fang takes care of fish surveillance as well as water temperature measurement and snow sampling where applicable. Sometimes he helps with lunch if I remember to bring any.

Not too many of these left where we were headed.

Fang leads the way. I've learned that more often than not if I give him a general direction he'll choose an easier/flowier route through the chunk and deadfall than I ever do.

Mandatory pitstop: Fang hasn't seen snow since March.

Some of us prefer winter to all other seasons combined.

Did I mention that he likes snow?

Given that I'd never been to this lake before, and I was told that it was small and hidden and *very* easy to miss, and given that there isn't any trail to it, as well as the fact that there doesn't seem to be an easy route through the ridges and deadfall that stand between where you start and where you want to be, and... and...


Given all that, I still managed to pick a craptacularly awful sidehilling-through-scree-and-snow-and-over-deadfall kinda route. Fang looked at me several times as if to say, "NOOOOO--come this way" but I was unwavering in my pointless dedication. Despite my awful on-the-ground route choice the GPS led us straight to the lake.

And it was good.

Best fishing I've had this year, by far.

Mid-day a wind came up and it seemed like a good time for lunch. Fang kept watch while I dug in the pack for vittles.

With all of the slime on my hands it was more accurate to call 'em fishstachios. They hit the spot just the same.

Just after lunch came one of the highlights of my day. Rare for me to spot a fish, spend a few seconds 'plotting' it's direction, play out enough line, cast accurately, then strip the fly back over the fish in such a way as to entice it to rise and hit. Soooo much to learn, but with this sort of reward who wouldn't be excited about the process?

Not long after that the wind came up and some scud blotted out el sol, making me realize that I was underdressed and the sun was probably not coming back out today. I started packing up but Fang insisted our business was not yet finished. Follow his gaze to see the 10" brookie he'd radar-locked onto.

Tensed and quivering he cast a few sideways glances at me asking permission. He'd been so obedient while I had fun throughout the day that I could see no reason to deny him the pleasure. At a whispered "OK" he started creeping forward (click the pic to play):

DOH! So close!

With that the wind really came up and besides--I was ready to be outta the woods as the hunters came streaming in near sunset. On the way out I insisted that Fang do the routefinding. He blew it repeatedly, and it took me about 10 minutes to realize that he was simply following mtn lion tracks. Bad idea little buddy.

Before I led us back onto level (and dry) ground I turned to see Fang celebrating the day. Not enough pitch on this hill for him to get going--plenty of time for that the next few months (click):

Almost out of the woods and circling the lake nearest the parking lot I couldn't help but to note all of the trout therein. Hmmm... Guess we'll just have to come back before the next snow flies.

Really enjoying the late-fall weather as it lasts. Still warm and dry in the valley but I'm far more smitten with the hills these days...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fading away.

Two weeks ago we had 80 degree+ daytime temps, with semi-cool nights. You know, open-window weather as opposed to the preceding months of AC or the coming months of forced-air heat. About a week ago a storm blew in and rained a bit, the temps dropped and for the first time in months never really rebounded.

With the changing colors it'd be difficult to not notice that fall has arrived, but it never really hits home, for me, until the first frost hits.

Suddenly realizing that the precious short alpine riding season was about to snap closed, I rallied Dreamboat to head up Lands End and do a singletrack loop atop Grand Mesa with me.

We rolled out at a reasonable hour and chatted as we spun through Orchard Mesa. Dreamboat's pace seemed a little too spirited for me given what we were hoping to achieve, so I spun easy and watched as he climbed away from me on the lower slopes.

We regrouped as the pavement ended, then chatted about whatever topic presented itself and simply enjoyed the unfolding scenery. Here's Dreamboat on the lower flanks of the climb:

Leaving the PJ behind and working our way up into oak brush and aspens. The higher we got the more obvious it was how advanced the season really is. Still-green leaves on some of the lower trees in this shot, while higher up many are already denuded.

~2/3rds of the way up we pulled over for a snack and a look-e-loo. Short minutes into that break I was surprised to find myself shivering, and even Dreamboat commented that it was chillier than he'd expected.

Dream-a-rama decided that this was to be his high point for the day, so I continued up alone. Ascending into the alpine always means cooler temps, but on this day it was obvious that the temps were dropping, period, and it was all I could do to stay warm even when climbing hard.

Comic relief moment came courtesy of a man and woman (A couple, I assumed) that passed by in a sandrail as I was taking a picture. Assuming I was photographing them, the woman called out "Don't show that to my husband!" as they motored up the hill.

Snapped this one during a brief break to add a layer on the climb. Love how you can see the sinuous roadbed, as well as the desert below fading upward into alpine. I haven't checked the exact numbers but I think this ride covers a range of ~4500' to over 10k'.

From the base of the climb we'd seen a peculiar whitish spot on the capstone of the Mesa. I was without a theory on what it was, but Dreamboat seemed convinced that it had to be ice. As warm as it had seemed at the base I couldn't imagine how ice could have formed, but as I rounded the next to last switchback, chilled to the bone, it was no longer difficult to imagine.

Not necessary to imagine at all, actually.

Chilled beyond rational explanation now that I had wet hands and feet (from scrambling for closer pics), I topped out on the Mesa and went into TT mode to try to warm up a bit. The cutting wind ripped through my resolve in just a few minutes, turning me homeward without a second thought.

Dropping back through the capstone I searched out a protected-from-wind spot to eat some lunch and try to warm up. This one did the trick.

Although I wasn't more than a stone's throw from the icefall, I was tickled to find these guys clinging ferociously to life.

I could think of nothing other than friends around the world that like to live in denial at the thought of impending winter.

I executed a highly flawed CX remount and started descending, fast. Despite the sunny skies and warm 'look' to the day I had no choice but to stop, twice, and seek out wind-sheltered south facing slopes. I hid from the wind and napped in the sun until I was warm enough to continue, but even after hitting the valley floor I wore every stitch I'd brought all the way home.

Good times. May they happen to all of us more often as we tilt toward the darkness...


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Free (Big) Wheels!

Welllllll... ...sorta.

Definitely free, but only one set, so you better get crackin'.

Go here for the 411.

Midway through the fall color season 'round here and I'm feelin' a little uppity.

Could have something to do with the fact that I've fished three times in the last ~week and haven't caught a thing.

Likewise with pics--I've composed and snapped many autumnesque shots the last ~week and still haven't gotten a keeper.


Guess I'll just have to skip out on work the next few days and try harder...