Monday, November 23, 2009

Sovereign Smackdown - The Rest of the Story

In the warm, safe space in front of my computer I downloaded the tracks from my GPS and had a chance to try to figure out what the H-E-Double Toothpicks was going on Friday on the Sovereign Trail when I had a conniption fit trying to follow the Rim Ride Moab track.

Here's the deal:

The green line is the track from Rim Ride Moab '07 that I was following. The red line is my tracklog from the ride Friday.

The arrow at the bottom points to the place where I briefly left the track rather than following a wash that did not seem to have a trail in it. I think there must have been a re-route. And it was a good one. A bit more distance, but I remember liking that bit of trail.

The other arrow points to where I stopped and turned around, and where I had probably come to within about 100 yards of joining back onto the track having taken a climbier and more difficult link (Link 5 it looks like from my photo).

Point is, I was damned close to already back on track (literally and figuratively). I was actually on something of a shortcut. But almost there. And furthermore, I was probably closer to finishing out the Sovereign to 191 by following the track I had been following than I was turning around and going back to 191 the way I came. If not closer sticking with Plan A, the options were at least close to even money.

What can you say? Sometimes perception is reality (well, it always is actually). I perceived that I was getting hopelessly lost and facing the danger of spending the night out there, and my anxiety caused me to take the safe route, so I turned back. Five more minutes and I would have been back on the track I was following and breathing easy.

Ah well. So many chances to gain wisdom in this life. So few actually work out that way.

Koko Catalog

For Sunday I decided to just go ride some known killer singletrack, not exploring just having fun while always knowing where I was and what was ahead. I went to the Loma Exit Trailhead to ride what I call the Mack Ridge Trails, but most know as the Kokopelli's Trailhead.

For the first time I rode Rustlers, just to see it from a trail system designer's standpoint. What a cool resource!

Then it was off to ride from Mary's to Horsethief, then Steve's to Lion's Loop to Troy Built to Mack Ridge...

Images (click on these if you have a big resolution display and want to see them in the full bigness that doesn't show on Team Velveeta™):

horsethief - click for hela-big image
From Horsethief Bench

another horsethief - click for hela-big image
Another from Horsethief

steve's loop - click for hela-big image
Down onto Steves from the last big of Steves up on the bench

view to east from Lion's - click for hela-big image
The big picture from Lion's loop looking back toward Mary's and upriver

When I finished up Troy Built I was suitably tired, and time was getting late since I wanted to drive home that night. So I just took the frontage road back to the TH.

Those trails are my favorite of Fruita. I don't really get tired of them. 18 Road is fun, but not near as pretty, and not as techical and complex.

Good trip. Roughly 200 miles of dirt in 4 days of riding. Tired legs, but a good departure from the rapidly closing winter in Salida.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dirty Onion

I camped at the Onion Creek Campground, less than a mile south from highway 128 about half way to Cisco from Moab.

In the morning I wanted a ride, but a truly mellow ride. The Onion Creek road goes up to Fisher Valley, and it looked to be graded gravel all the way up. No complicated route-finding. No anaerobic short climbs. Sounded like a deal. And I'd never explored the Castle Valley area, so it seemed like a good fit.

I'll just let this series of panorama shots tell the story. Other than one thing: this is a good ride to take somebody else's bike on. You cross Onion Creek 22 times, only once on a bridge. I've heard that it's called Onion Creek because it's so laced with salts and arsenic that it tastes more or less like an onion. Up near the entry to the Fisher Valley, it smells like sulfur, not so much below.

But all those shallow crossings and then the sandy exits spraying wet sand onto the drivetrain make a sloppy mess of grinding paste. My bike was a fugly mess when I finished.

Now, on to the photos:

I came to just the verge of the Fisher Valley. It's the flat platform visible in the middle left.

Parting shot of the Castle Valley as I headed back toward Colorado with my dirty bike loaded up to travel

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sovereign Smackdown

Friday, the day after my WRIAD, which had me on the bike for just shy of 12 hours, much of that time operating at a fairly non-casual pace, I broke camp in the Green River Canyon and drove into Moab. I went to the library primarily to check on a web application I wrote that went into production this month. There had been some fairly major SNAFUs, so I needed to be sure that my customers were not twisting in the wind with another showstopper, wondering why I wasn't answering email.

There were no issues (woo hoo!) so I took a moment to upload my WRIAD photos and post them to Team Velveeta™. Then I ate some lunch and headed to the intersection of 191 and 128 to embark on a Sovereign ride. I had the track log from the Rim Ride Moab loaded on my GPS, and I wanted to ride it on my own without flagging to try to learn a bit more about the layout of Sovereign. During the two trips out there for the Rim Ride, I had just followed flags and other riders without putting much effort into knowing where the hell I was. The other time I rode there, Kathy and I just did a simple out and back following signs. Fun, but not much learning about where to go and how to do a nice big loop out there.

I rode from Moab starting at noon, thinking of a maybe 3 hour ride. I was intending to keep it light. I rode from town largely to have a nice spin to warm up my tired legs before hitting the technical singletrack. It took me a bit under an hour to get to the start of the Bar-M loop. Nice cool day.

From there I started following the GPS. It was a bit disruptive, since there are lots of intersections out there. But it was working well. I saw where I was going without issue, making some surprising and non-intuitive turns.

I got across the big wash and started on the real Sovereign. It was good, but lots of anaerobic efforts that made my legs complain. Such a cool trail--lots of challenging but do-able up ledges, technical drops, great flow.

My GPS was becoming a fairly critical tool. It's a bit of a maze out there. And I was starting to worry about time a little. It was getting close to 3:00 PM and this time of year the danged sunset is around 4:30. Ambient light stays for another hour, but still, I was getting close to the time I had intended to be out there. Also I wanted to be able to find a decent campsite out toward the Castle Valley with at least a bit of light left. And most importantly I hadn't really packed clothing, food, or lights that would allow me to be out there past dark when with hope of getting myself out. The temps drop rapidly after dark, and it was only about 50° F to start with.

Then I came to an intersection. I consulted the GPS, and it showed that I was off the course. Not by much, but off. I backtracked and found that it appeared I should be following a was down. But it was fairly overgrown, and did not look like it had been ridden, maybe ever. Harumph. My track was from the '07 Rim Ride, so I considered that perhaps the trail had been rerouted. I went back to the intersection and took the fork that headed in the general direction that my track line went. Before long, it appeared that I was back on the line, but it took several disruptive stops to confirm that.

Shortly I came to another intersection. I referred to the GPS and it looked like I should go left rather than continuing straight. This made sense too because the straight option appeared to take me right back toward town and I knew that I needed to head farther north. So I took the fork. The following pictures were the only ones I took, and they came from that intersection.

After about 15 minutes I looked at the GPS and I was off the line. Way off. I seemed to be heading left of where the line went. But it was confusing. I did not have much perspective. I was trying to zoom the map in and out, and suddenly my GPS rebooted itself. Grrr!

No real choice but to backtrack. It took longer than I remembered to get back to that intersection, and I saw at least one place that looked to me to be exactly where the intersection was, but no intersection. I started not having fun. Then I came to the intersection where I went wrong, and the GPS was no longer showing my track except for the backtrack. When it rebooted it seemed to have shit the bed in terms of giving me my breadcrumb line back. My temper spiked. Now it was almost 3:30. I looked west toward highway 191, and got into touch with how panicked, disoriented people could commit the worst possible desert country mistake, heading cross country toward where you know you want to be.

I started hurriedly backtracking from memory. The GPS stayed in the backpack pocket. I didn't waste time. I was not smiling. I felt tired and wanted to be back to the tPOD.

It took actually very little time to get back to the big wash. I had been mostly climbing outbound, so I was able to rock along pretty fast back out. Then I got back out to the old highway that parallels 191. I had about 20 minutes of flat to get to the long downhill back into town.

I got back into Moab at about 4:30. Bummer that the ride turned into a bummer. And I was tired. Not what I wanted for a recovery day. I called Kathy and then headed upriver on 128 to find my campsite.

The day ended well. I got a good, private place to set up the tPOD and got a good dinner and good night's sleep.

Friday, November 20, 2009

WRIAD Nov 19, 2009

Vision quest.

I camped (in the tPOD) near the bottom of Horsethief Bench. Got started at about 5:30 AM under a clear starry sky, frost on the rocks and sage. I was going clockwise, so I started out climbing Horsethief and then the long grind up the Mineral Bottom Road. I got to highway 313 around 7:45 AM. Dropped in to Shaffer about half an hour later. The view down toward the Rim in the early light was spectacular.

Once I got to about Musselman Arch, I was more or less committed. No easy way back to the camper, either by continuing on or turning back. And it was mostly deserted on the Rim. Saw one pair of dudes driving back toward Shaffer with bikes on their truck, and a Park Ranger patrolling on his bicycle between Gooseberry and White Crack. From there I was solitary until I saw some goobers on 4-wheelers (AKA Lawn Tractors) just before returning to near the bottom of Horsethief.

The thing I dislike about my Osprey T22 is that I don't seem to be ever able to wear it without it bulging with volume and heavy. I had extra water, and of course all the clothing I needed to start out in 28° F temps. And food... in short I needed to have lots of stuff to be out there. One major mechanical and I might need to spend the night out there walking. But needless to say I got tired of that pack.

Here's where I had my lunch burrito. First glimpse of the Green River (upper left) which I must say I was happy to see.

Finally a shot of pack and bike with Green River in background taken from Hardscrabble. I was worked by this point, and considering with obsessive focus the full description of what I would eat when I returned to camp.

Finished up at about 5:25 PM. I was pushing hard through the gathering cold and darkness. Just avoided needing to stop to put on clear glasses and more clothing.

The food tasted good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunting is Hard

I got an elk tag for the 4th autumn in a row. Nice reminder of how damned hard it is to hunt without horses or other helpers.

My tag was for the Saguache/Bonanza area southwest of Salida. I chose the Cochetopa Hills over by North Pass--farthest place in the game area from the Front Range.

It's really pretty over there but I got skunked. Again. All I left were footprints, all I took were photos. All I came home with was a body sore from walking.

Pretty little park up near 10K elevation ringed by bare aspen

Dawn in the Cochetopa Hills, as seen from my feet after getting an early start

Looking east from up high in the late afternoon twilight, the Sangre de Cristo faintly visible on the far horizon

The sad fact I came home with is that I really don't know much about hunting big game. I kind of think I'm like a flycaster throwing dries in the winter--too ignorant to know how futile my efforts even are.

Oh well, nice hikes in the mountains. Lots of looking and listening.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fruitah Getaway

Finally found an available weekend with acceptable weather to scoot over to the Utah border to sample some red sand.

Visiting the desert country feeds me.

The girl riding a rim.

Single photo taken from an on-the-way home ride on Mary's Loop

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pueblo State Park sanctuary

Took a weekday to just go ride where there wouldn't be any snow or ice. The curvy trails at Pueblo Lake State Park.

Went with Brendan, and we both rode singlespeeds, throttle at about 90% for about 4 hours. We went to ride and that's what we did.