Wednesday, September 23, 2009

West Elks and credit cards.

Rudy and gang invited the Missus and I to join them on their annual credit card tour. A simple plan and a simple route: Start in Marble, ride up to and through through the Devil's Punchbowl, over Schofield Pass, and down into Crested Butte. Eat like royalty, sleep the sleep of the just. Then wake, eat, and ride back the same way.

No coincidence that they plan this trip during traditional peak color weekend in the alpine. If the weather holds out, what could be better than the alpine at peak?

Blue skies on the first day gave way to thick clouds but no rain.

Day two saw steady drizzle which really brought out the richness of the colors in the surrounding trees, tundra, and peaks. Small price to pay--breaking out the raingear in exchange for even stunninger scenery.

What a great way to end the All Mountain Tour. Thanks to all that played along with.


P.S. YES, the Whistler writeup is still in progress. Computer issues keep foiling attempts at editing video...

The middle of...

...the basin and range.

I woke up in Nevada, not having spent time here (Vegas doesn't count!) in over 15 years.

Little had changed.

Wending my way along a sinuous and undulating piece of tarmac was somewhat soothing on this day. Scant traffic, no wind, just a good rhythm of unimpeded motion.

'Round about Austin I had a flashback to my last trip through. I was SoCal-bound and on my way outta town Willits suggested I stop at this off-the-beaten-track hot spring to camp for the night. I did then, and as I approached the unmarked turnoff this time I had no choice but to do it again.

10 minutes of rolling down a gravel road (guessing at the turns--there are no signs) found me sternum deep in 105* water with this view.

Well golll-lee. A guy could get used to this.

After 15 minutes with only my nostrils exposed to the world I came up for a good gulp of O2, and a new view.

Then back under.

After an hour in the water I felt as relaxed as a human can be and still call themselves conscious. Back into the E, pointed east toward Ely.

Arriving there I found a smiling KRob cleaning chains and kicking tires. Brief discussion hatched a plan, then we suited up and rolled out into a hot (for Ely, in Sept) afternoon.

We climbed generally WSW into the Egan range, ascending steadily through dormant grasses and pungent sage. Sinuous singletrack pulled us ever upward, helped along by KRob's descriptions of what was to come.

A brief break from climbing ensued when we arrived at a few alternate trailside lines. Gotta give 'em a whirl.

Resuming the climb, the grade increased dramatically and KRob simply floated off above. Fascinating to note that neither of us shifted, cadences stayed the same, yet he rode away like I was tethered to a juniper. Fortunately he's a patient guide so whenever this happened (often!) he'd be fiddling with his seatpost or cleaning his glasses and just generally acting like he hadn't been there long when I arrived.

The cliched high lonesome desert still exists in the Egan's. Skinny singletrack devoid of people is a rare treat these days: We rode for 3+ hours and saw no one. I asked K if he feared overcrowding of his trails at some point (for it truly seemed like his own private trail system) and he looked at me askew. "We're so remote I tell everyone I can about 'em, and maybe once or twice a year do people actually come".

I took that as an emphatic 'no'. And one that was hard to argue with.

Afternoon faded to evening as we unraveled more lithe, serpentine skinny. The glaring orb in the sky relented and caressed the landscape with that unmistakeable slanted light that grabs you by the neck and says "Fall is right now upon you".

The only trail name I can remember from the evening came on our last descent. Hard to forget a trail called 'slalom', especially the way that it did.

Still more to come.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On to Oregon.

5 days in BC wasn't enough (could NEVER be enough!) but I needed to at least start heading in a homeward direction.

I have lots and lots to say about the riding, the trails, and the bike I rode in Whistler, but until I find time to edit the ~8+ hours of helmet cam footage I ain't sayin' nothin'. In other words, to be continued...

I dumped Skippy at the airport, drove straight through Washington and found myself in the Cascades--in Oakridge, Oregon to be exact.

If you know nothing else about the Cascades at this very minute (NOW!), know this:

Blackberries are off the hook! Whether on road or trail, riotous ripeness accosts you in every direction. I *loved* Montana's huckleberries, but if forced to choose I'd pick the sweet/tartness of the Oregon blacks.

(I blame the blurriness of the above pic on the super-saturation of berry-derived antioxidants in my bloodstream...)

If you can manage to peel yourself away from the berry bushes long enough to notice a trail underfoot, chances are good it'll look a lot like this:

And if you can somehow coerce your pseudo-guide to slow the hell down for one cotton-pickin' minute, you might find yourself admiring views akin to this:

And all of that would be damn fine, in my opinion.

Not quite sure what to make of this:

Guess I'll have to come back next year to find out...

On to Nevada!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Kill me, Thrill me.

'Bout ten years ago I did a very impetuous thing and followed a woman north to BC. Settled with her in Whistler for about 4 months until it became obvious she was looking for something I didn't yet possess.

In the 4 months that I lived in Whistler I had my eyes punched wide open by the local landscape and the way that trailbuilders had left their signatures on it. So much rough terrain, so much vertical, and so much dead fallen cedar on the ground that if you could imagine it, they had already built it and twice improved upon it. Wet rock, moss, wet roots, loam, and duff are a given on any trail up here, the uniqueness of each is a function of the manufactured stunts and lines that the trailbuilders have incorporated. If you come to Whistler, and you ride, and you stay healthy, your skills go through the roof, fast. No way to avoid it, unless you're simply taking your bike for walks in the woods.

Ten years later I'm back, albeit for only 4 days, and sans crazy woman. Our first day dawned pissing rain (just like old times!) so we dawdled awhile before heading out into it. This was Skippy's first exposure to 'Whistler XC' and it was an eye opener for him, too.

Enjoy--we surely did.

The next three days = into 'the park'. Gads!


Thursday, September 10, 2009


I had a day to kill in Vancouver waiting for Skippy's plane to land, *and* Ken B. invited me to join him on a few North Van classics. I'd have been an idiot to say no!

A handful of random musings, pertinent to watching the video below:
-If you aren't into very slow, very techy riding, don't bother watching.
-Ken is very smooth, hitting most of the lines so cleanly that as you watch you tend to think, "Big deal--my 8 year old could do that!". Not likely.
-Even if you ARE into tech riding, you have to watch closely to see what's so hard about it. VERY limited traction--the trail surface is ALWAYS wet. 100% of the time. Thus, your tires are constantly coated with a layer of water *and* trail schmeg. The result is constant one and two wheel drifts, 99% of which last longer than you'd planned on. Like riding on greased ice. Pay close attention and you'll see Ken's rear wheel slipping sideways all the time. Harder to see but our front wheels were doing the same.
-The clean, crisp smell of being in the rainforest is like none other.
-Stabbing a brake in panic = going down NOW. You're just constantly feathering the brakes, feeling the limit of traction, letting off a skosh and IMMEDIATELY accelerating, then trying to rein it in before it gets steep again. Exhilarating because you're never quite in control.
-There is no such thing as 'railing a corner' here. Ken put it best, "It's quite digital". My interpretation of that is that you have to slow almost to a stop to get around corners: Go straight, stop, turn, straight, stop, turn, etc... Speed is very, very rarely your friend.
-The sequence of trails we rode is on the extremely easy end of the spectrum for The Shore. I'm not sure I'm capable of much more than that. Very interesting to note that most folks out on these 'xc trails' were on 7" FR or 8" DH bikes. Mostly flat pedals, mostly fullface helmets, everyone with knee/shin and elbow pads. Climbing on mellow graded fireroads makes this possible.
-Notice the lack of undergrowth? Not much sun makes it through the upper canopy. Ain't in the desert anymore!
-The helmet cam perspective shows NOTHING of the steepness of these trails. Ken's saddle is dropped, mine is slammed at least 5", and I'd wager we spent 90+% of the time behind our saddles.
-Lots of laughter, usually of the nervous 'ohmygawdI'mstillalive!' variety.


Thanks to Ken's patient education the second lap was faster, more fluid, and more controlled than the first. Awesome.

After post-ride sushi I skedaddled down to the aeropuerto to pick up Skippy. On the drive up to Whistler I tried to give him an inkling of how much fun I'd had on Fromme, but it seemed the more I talked the less he 'got it'.

So I simply summed up by saying that every day of this trip, after today, was gravy.

Did I mention we were headed to Whistler?!


Down in a hole.

Sometimes you gotta spend time between the mountains--down in a valley. Sunday D and I decided that was our best option. He dusted off his fly rod and strapped it onto his Lev, then we rode up Rattlesnake Creek as far as Franklin Bridge.

We each tied on our best guess and proceeded to wade and hopscotch into position.

The creek is mostly small and tight this high up, with lots of overhanging veg that kept you on your toes when casting, or kept you busy unhooking leaves and untangling knots.

The water was crystal clear and visibility down into it was *perfect*, but we were far enough up that I wasn't certain the fish could even make it this high. Despite several great placements and favorable drifts, the first 30 minutes passed without a hit or even a sighting. So I moved lower, and just as I passed D he hooked into a healthy fighter and it was awesome to watch him light up. Among the memorable comments he made while playing this fish were "Remarkable!" and "I never thought I'd catch a fish today!!"

Technically he didn't catch it, as it managed to flop off before he landed it. But the thrill was there and he was glowing and bubbling as I moved to a lower set of holes.

Much wading and looking ensued until I found a small set of holes and pouroffs that looked favorable. I fed out some line, rolled a cast across the creek, then let the current do its thing. Just as the fly passed a small eddy before a pouroff I saw a flash of silver come up, touch the fly, then dart back down as the fly poured over into the next hole. I smiled and retrieved the line--I had someone to play with!

I rolled the cast a touch higher this time, let the fly drift over the hole, and saw the exact same flash, touch, dive. But no hit, no hook. Huh. Sweet--this guy was a bit smarter than the average bear!

Another roll, another drift, another flash, nada. Dangit. I pulled in the line, snipped off that fly, retied another, then rolled the cast out there. Drift, flash, nada. Doh!

In all, I cast twelve (!) times to this same fish, with 5 different flies (!!) before he hit hard and the fight was on. He wasn't much for size but I can appreciate a worthy adversary of any dimension.

The next hour or so was full of similar moments--savvy fish educating me on how things are done around here. I hooked into at least a dozen and landed maybe 7 of them. Great, great fun. When I'd exhausted all of the holes in the vicinity I bushwhacked out to the road and walked back up to the bikes, where D was napping in the shade. We agreed to roll awhile toward home but keep our eyes peeled for another good hole to play in.

As we rigged up and tied back on, D made a comment about not even caring if he caught anything here, since he'd already caught 'that one' above. I reminded him that he'd actually not landed it, explaining that he was still 'technically skunked' for the day. He chuckled and nodded and started bushwhacking down to the creek. Seemed like not 90 seconds later I heard a hoot and looked up to see this:

The fight was on!

Doesn't seem very excited, does he?!!

With that formality out of the way, D headed downstream and I headed up. Big holes, many hits, technical casting--way, way fun. At some point I reversed my course and started downstream, just as D passed me heading up.

Hard to say how much time passed, so engrossed was I in the moment to moment.

Next thing I knew D was yelling to me from above (at the bikes) and held a keeper over his head. That was my cue. I reeled in, hiked up, admired his catch, then we rolled back down the valley toward home.

D seemed positively possessed as we motored homeward--if I wasn't constantly mashing the pedals he'd open a huge gap and those gaps were simply not closable on this day. He was inspired!

Back at the house more pro-class eating ensued, followed by lounging, conversation, another apple tartlet, and more relaxing.

All in all, a brilliant two days. Massive thanks to D and M for entertaining, feeding, and tolerating me. I'll be back--if they'll have me!

Still more to come as the All-Mountain Tour heads north--across the border.



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Seize the 'snake.

Headed north, I stopped in to visit D and M in Missoula. The original plan had been for D and I to do a bikepacking overnighter in the Sapphires, but a busy first week back to school for him and a busy, period, week for me had us rethinking that. Good thing we did--we were both significantly shy of the energy and motivation needed to pull it off.

Instead we laid low, strolled through the Missou farmers market (holy huckleberries, Batman!) ate piles of gourmet food, and managed a several-hour-long ride out in 'The Rattlesnake' rec area north of town.

A few floral stragglers hung tough, despite increasing evidence that summer is gone.

Fun, fast, flowy trails. Nice views out over the valley.

And when it was done, D followed his nose to Big Dipper where we indulged in some fresh homemade.

Hard to beat finishing a ride with ice cream, then rolling back to the casa for homemade pizza with fresh local veggies and a lotta chutzpah rolled into it by M.

Did I mention the apple tartlets M made for dessert #2?


More later.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The All Mountain Tour.

All summer long business has been *good*. Orders flowing in slightly faster than I can attend to them means that there has been a slowly increasing backlog for the last few months.

I don't do well with backlogs. I like to turn out the lights at the end of a day knowing that I'm "caught up" and can breathe easy about the next day's work.

Not possible these days.

So you might say that I've been in a state of denial about catching up for the past few months, and have been desperately trying to do just that. Working nights. Working some weekends. Riding, fishing, relaxing less than a person should.

And just a few days ago it occurred to me that summer is pretty much over. I managed one tour with # back in the spring, and a few weekend trips hither and thither with L and D over the summer. Completely and pathetically unacceptable.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Friday I packed up the E with two bikes, two fly rods, a cooler full of goodniks, and a few buckets of clothing and essentials. I hit the Interstate, shifted into 6th, set the cruise at 81, and managed to punch through the elastic pretty easily.

Utah and Idaho were gone in a blur, and by 5 PM I'd bought a fishing license in Lima, MT. I drove up Big Sheep Creek to where it rips a canyon through the Tendoy's, parked, hiked, and stood at the lip of a pool smiling at the fact that I was finally, finally scratching a 6-years-deferred itch. The browns in this crick have been calling to me since I first ITT'ed the GDR in ought-three.

Painfully relaxing just to stand in the drizzle, ankle deep in ooze, casting to fish that found my attempts at catching them hilarious. One serious hit in three hours out, but I failed to set the hook and with a flash of tail that fish vanished back into the hole.

Suitably relaxed from my first day out, I parked on a ridgeline near Divide, MT, popped the top, and let the incessant whistling wind rock me to sleep.

Much, much more to come.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Several weeks ago Captain Hike-a-Bike sent me a very direct email. He'd just finished the Colorado Trail Race and insisted that I "run, don't walk" down to ride and gawk on the Coney/Cataract section of that route.

It took me 10 days to get it together enough to get out of the shop, but just a few days ago Moobs, Jabroni, and myself made it down there for an overnight bikepacking trip.

The Captain was correct--it is worth running, not walking to.

See for yourself:

We started in Silverton and rode over Cinnamon Pass and down (almost) to Lake City before peeling off onto a doubletrack and climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more to intersect the Colorado Trail, which we then rode (after camping, the next day) back to Silverton.

That climbing paid off with the views you saw above. What the views don't show is the amount and quality of *rideable* singletrack above 12,000 and even 13,000'. I'd guesstimate that we spent 8+ hours above 12k on the CT, and maybe as much as 2 hours above 13k. Just astonishing to be *up* that high and cruising along in your middle ring.

Make no mistake--it's not a cake walk. Lots of hike a bike. Hours upon hours of steep, granny gear climbing. Limited filterable water up high. Huge (potential) exposure to t-storms.

And worth every iota of sweat that it cost. This one will become an annual for me, no doubt about it.