Monday, June 20, 2011

Riding in the rain forest.

This past weekend (continuing my habit of writing about things a week late) we decided to head over to Fort Bragg for a little dose of the coast. Usually we stay at least 3days to make the 500 mile drive worth it, but this time it would only be for the weekend. We got an early 5am start so we could make it to Davids house by the agreed upon 10am start time. Dave had agreed to drag me around the forest for 6 hours on Sat and Sun and the change of scenery was welcome, not much altitude training going on though.....Mary and Sasha were along for the ride, we've been trying to do something that all of us can enjoy even though we might not be together. Mary is pretty much taking the year off from racing so a trip to the beach and a run along the haul road were here adventures for the weekend, she also joined us for the first couple of hours of our journey on Saturday.

Riding in the Fort Bragg area is very different from what were used to. Lots of nice trails and fire roads interconnected with some really vague trails that only a local would know. We've been riding along the coast for 15 years and only in the last couple of years do I have any idea where I am for the most part.

Yeah, there's a trail in there somewhere....

Dave was looking for a GPX route for an upcoming route being set up for the Fort Bragg Fat Tire Festival so we rode out to the beginning of the route, started the GPS and I followed as Dave led me around to some great new and old trails. The route ended up being about 35 miles and was part of a longer route that Dave was not up to doing today. Getting the half metric mapped out would have to do for today, perhaps I'll go up and we'll get the whole route next time. They are in the process of trying to map the area but I think that is a pretty futile effort given the braided network of trails out there, a GPX track is the only option I see.
Oh I forgot, I was in full bikepacking gear this weekend.

I was supposed to be out for an overnighter as part of the CTR training plan, I've got enough experience setting up and breaking camp so we had rented a motel room and I just rode with my gear on. Navigating the very tight trails with the added weight of gear was a bit unnerving at times but after a couple of hours I was in the flow and couldn't tell the difference. Dave and I had stopped at Harvest market and bought some beer and sandwiches for later in the day, we found a not so sunny spot and had a very nice lunch.
Looking for some sun in the rain forest!

We meandered around the forest some more before ending the ride where we started the GPX route file. From here we still had about 20 miles to get back home. A trip down through the Hare Creek watershed and back up to Hwy 20 finished the day. We had a lovely dinner with Dave and Janet but the night passed much too quickly and the lack of sleep from out 4am start caught up to us.
Sunday the agreed upon start time was 8 am. A call from Dave at 7:30 brought news that his rear disc brake had died. I headed up to see what we could do. Dave had a nice new set of XTR Dual Control brakes so we got to setting them up. An hour later we were off into the forest again. Today's route had no real destination. We eventually made our way out the Woodlands, a large State run day camp with an amazing network of trails. We traveled through parts of the Caspar Classic race course to get to the Woodlands, I came around a corner and found Dave in a heap down off the trail, his hucking skills need to be improved as he caught a tree coming off a log drop.
Got lucky there, lots of sticks to poke you!

The offending log ride, no North Shore BC for Dave!

Today was a little warmer than Saturday and the sun was out in full force, a real treat on the coast in the usually foggy month of June. We made our way up to the observation bench at the top of the Woodlands.
We had another nice lunch, no beer for me as I was pretty dehydrated form yesterdays ride and a fairly hard week at work and on the bike.
Beer and Salmon Salad!

From the bench we headed down the Stair Trail, named for the old redwood stairs that are now barely visible in places. Caught a few people headed down as well, these were the only other souls we saw in over 120 miles of riding this weekend.
Dave on one of the Woodlands trails.

Since we had to drive home today we were on a bit of a mission, yesterdays 6 hours of riding time took almost 9 hours, too many "safety meetings" for Dave :) We motored on along Camp One Rd along the banks of the Noyo River and made good time back to Fort Bragg by 4 pm, still a long day, but over 60 miles were traveled, all on dirt!

At the steel bridge over the Big River

Upper reaches of the Big River

As we rolled into Fort Bragg I called Mary only to find she was at Dave's house with Sasha and Dave and Janet's two little Queensland puppies. She had had a nice day with a run along the ocean and a relaxing time on the beach. All in all a great weekend, a long drive home reaffirmed our reasons for not doing weekend trips out there but we were both glad we made the trip. Trips like this with good people are the reason we got into this, sometimes life gets in the way of remembering the little things that make your life enjoyable and I was happy to be reminded of these special moments that I'll always remember.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Anyone get the number of that truck?

So the weather sucks again this weekend(see last weekends posts). I needed 2-1/2 hours on Sat. and 5 on Sun. and there was no way that was going to be possible in Foresthill.
 After a bunch of office work and filing in the morn. we decided to head for Reno again this weekend, the temps were supposed to be warmer and while there was still a chance of rain, at least it wasn't 50 degrees. We got to Reno about 2pm and got checked into a hotel and left for a bit of an urban assault for a few hours. The chosen route turned out to be a no go for Mary on her road bike, but provided some possibilities for Sundays ride on my MTB. We backtracked and chased the proverbial wild goose, dodged some pretty good showers and fought a persistent 25-30 mph head/tailwind  but we were on our bikes and all in all not a bad evening. A little mexican food, beer and margaritas and we were in bed by 11.

Sunday morn we awoke to a pretty steady rain and my 7am start was going to have to be rethought. A look at the radar showed it was short lived so as Mary headed off to the spa, I got dressed. Waterproof socks, gloves and jacket were the choice for today, no hypothermia this weekend! Mary returned and decided the choice for today was a walk/run with Sasha up at Hidden Valley Park which we scoped out on last nights ride, a nice little regional park up in the foothills where I believe they hold some MTB races.

I got out the door at 8:30 for a proposed ride up to Virginia City, up the Toll Road and then out some back country dirt roads to Fernly and hopefully back to somewhere near the hotel. The last 10 miles or so were a mystery so a call to Mary to pick me up at the freeway was discussed as an option.

The first 10 miles or so were a mixture of city streets and dirt roads that we had seen the night before, this routed me over to Geiger Grade, the highway up to Virginia City. At this point I decided to go up the dirt route, a steep 2 mile 1,900' grunt to a saddle near the summit at 6,700'.

Starting up the Old Toll Road.

Starting to get steep!

Great rock formations out here.

Going up, up, up!
The road going up was super soft, a fore-bearer of things to come. The road is pretty steep in spots, that coupled with the mud had me in a pretty low gear pretty quickly. I crested the hill at the saddle of the Virginia Heights subdivision and headed off on some ATV tracks that led to the hwy at the summit.

I'm headed up over that mountain in the distance
Lots of little flowers all over
I was at those radio towers last weekend.
A drier and less muddy time
From the summit it was downhill to Lousetown Road, I'm sure there's a story there but I don't know it. Loustown Road turns to dirt in a mile or so and I was off on some very remote backcountry roads. The roads continued down a long valley, climbing and descending for about 10 miles. At about ten miles something in the geography changed and the roads became super tacky, gathering up pounds and pounds of mud on my tires, you know when mud is rubbing your Lefty it's pretty bad, I was now riding a 31er!

Starting to get soft!
The mud continued on and off for miles, sometimes it was just too difficult to ride so I pushed my 30 pound carbon bike up AND down hill. I considered turning around, but the thought of going back through the previous mud clouded my judgment about the mud that lay before me.

 The road went out through some beautiful country, the clouds were amazing and the intermittent sun meant I could lose my arm warmers and vest. At some point I arrived at an open gate with no trespassing signs off to the side, I don't usually like to put myself in the position of being somewhere I'm not welcome, but the thought of backtracking and the fact the gate was open and the road heavily traveled made my decision to continue easier.

Heading up and over another muddy little rise.

Came across this beautiful valley before heading up to the final summit at 6,500'

Crappy on the fly shot of some wild horses, I saw a few herds but couldn't get a picture, this doesn't really count as a picture either!
The road got more and more faint as I crossed valleys and hills, I was really out in the middle of nowhere at this point and just hoping that it continued on to Hwy 80, I had been out 3 hrs and returning from where I had come was getting to be less and less of an option the farther East I went.

A whole lot of nothing out here!

After about 40 miles I finally crested what I thought to be the last hill, the GPS showed that Hwy 80 lie about 10 miles in front and 2000' below me, cool!
I was becoming keenly aware of how out in the middle of nowhere I was. I kept repeating to myself to be careful, that even though I had my SPOT with me that help would be a long ways off. I hadn't seen any signs of civilization in 25 miles.

Of course not more than 5 minutes since my last reminder to be careful I found myself in a heap on a very steep downhill section of dirt road. A quick check of myself showed a broken helmet(not good), a decent amount of blood above my eye, a very sharp pain in my left shoulder and knee, right pinky finger and a lot of dirt in my mouth. Well, just great......
A couple hundred feet before my soil sample!

I sat for a bit and tried to gather myself up. I was a little out of it and upon further examination likely got a little concussion out of it. I got myself up and on the bike and proceeded to continue downhill. Blood began to run into my left eye and wiping it away just smeared it over to the other side of my face, my vest and gloves were pretty much covered by now. I managed to get down to a major paved road and continued down to a very welcome Hwy 80. I gave Mary the news and requested a ride outta here. I cleaned up a bit in the Truckee river but really couldn't tell what I was doing so I quit this futile exercise.

Mary had just returned from her run  and had yet to pack up, of course she was freaked out a bit. I tried to reassure her I was O.K. and that I would continue down towards Reno for as far as I could and call her to let her know what exit I was at. After a couple of back and forth calls she arrived at the exit I had just come into and we got loaded up just as the rain started, it would not have been fun to continue on down the hill in the rain so I welcomed the bailout.

The cleaned up version

I'm a bit sore tonight as I type this. I'm not sure how to take this, it seems my training for CTR has been cursed from the beginning. Crappy weather for the first 4 weeks has me really feeling behind the 8 ball for the remainder of the 8 weeks left in the plan. Of course I've got a huge week at work this week, just what the doctor ordered for a very sore body. Oh well, I guess it will toughen me up for my adventure across Colorado if I don't kill myself first.
Hopefully I'm just getting rid of all the possible bad things that can happen in the race beforehand, if I break another bike in two I might consider it a good omen......

A little better prepared....

After todays debacle in Downieville we decided to head over to Reno to try and escape the rain. We hit snow just outside of Downieville at 3000' and it was going pretty good at Yuba Summit at 6700'. We continued through the Sierra Valley through Loyalton and on to Reno, snowing the whole way.

Mind you the weather forecast said partly cloudy and 65 degrees, WTF? We made our way to Davis Creek Campground outside Washoe Lake. It was Saturday on Memorial Day weekend so we were prepared for it to be full, the crappy weather took care of that concern and we pulled right into a nice secluded spot, it's still snowing.....

We settled into bed and hoped for the best. Mary had concluded that her short but wet ride the day before was good enough for her tastes and was set for a hike and possibly a run with Sasha after it warmed up a bit the next day.

After a great nights sleep we awoke to a couple of inches of snow on the ground, but breaks of sunshine trying to poke though. The campground is at about 4500' so the amount of snow on the upper reaches of the mountain were a bit of an unknown. I had plotted out a ride up through Virginia City and back and was determined to go rain, snow or sunshine.

The wind is blowing pretty good, probably 30+ when I head out into the unknown, at least it's a tailwind as I head out and around the lake. As I'm battling into the headwind and maxing out my topend heartrate for the day on the other side of the lake, I see a wee trail going through the fence and up the hill, looks like a whole lot more fun than getting crushed out here on the road!

The trail goes for a short bit and enters onto a dirt road going up towards a ridge above me, cool! The road gets after it pretty quick, I've climbed more than a thousand feet in less than 1.5 miles  and I'm getting hit by the wind pretty good in places, but at least it's dirt, and an unknown place to me, even better! Of course as I crest the ridge the road drops right back down the other side of the hill, I lose all the elevation I just got in a
brief couple of minutes and start to head up the next road to the next hill, a theme for the day.
I was at lake level 2 miles ago!
 The road continued to climb, generally a nice, albeit loose gravel road. It headed up past a few open pit mines and split off a few times. I was off my GPS track at this point so I was just making it up as I went, my funnest days are like this!

Up, up we go. 

One of the many mines along the way. 

Looking out to Carson City and another large mine on the right.
I passed a couple of rock hounds on my way up, but no one else was out on this blustery day. After a bit the road split a few times and I headed up the faintest track I could find, those are always the best. It looked like I was headed up to an array of towers on the top of the hill, not the main route, but it looked like it would get me there. I seemed to remember this area from the IMBA epic many years ago although large parts of Nevada look alike so I was not sure.

Starting to get a bit rougher.

I guess were going up there!

I just missed a herd of wild horses crossing the road, couldn't get the camera out fast enough.

 The temp was really starting to drop as I headed for the top of the hill, I was nearing 7000' and the snow had yet to melt off, I had been lucky so far and stayed dry and fairly warm to this point. The road started to level off a bit as I reached the summit and the radio towers.

Starting to get a bit cold!

Others have passed this way.

A nice little aspen grove, leafless on the first of June!

From the looks of the carvings in the trees, this must be the local party spot.

I finally made the summit and started the decent off the back side. It looked like my destination of Virginia City was going to be met, as long as I didn't hit a gate or private road I should be there in about 15 miles. As I descended off the top it started to snow a bit, by the time I dropped a mile or two the wind was blowing it sideways right into my face. This side of the hill had seen a lot more traffic coming up from Virginia City so it was a little more chewed up and muddy. I was starting to get a bit cold at this point, snow was starting to pile up on my gloves and shoes, nothing like yesterday, but a bit uncomfortable. After a muddy 10 miles or so I made my way to Virginia City, an historic silver mining town that now is a major tourist destination.

Lots of folks were out, parkas and all. I stopped behind a building to try and clean and warm myself up a bit. It was super windy but the sun was out, although from the looks of the water running off the roofs it had just opened up before I got there. I made a call to Mary to let her know I had made it to Virginia City.

Who's doing more damage to their body!

After a bit of sitting in the sun like a lizard I was off to find the Old Toll Road, the original dirt route up to Virginia City. The ride down the Toll Road was a hoot, losing about 1500' in a couple of miles. I made my way through some subdivisions, found some cool connecting trails between roads and eventually made my way to HWY 395. I had originally mapped a dirt route back to camp, but the road I was looking for now sported a big house in the middle of where the road used to be, damn civilization! Hwy 395 rolled out uneventful, this is the bike route down the eastern side of the Sierras so there is a decent shoulder and even on Memorial Day weekend it was no problem.

I returned to camp to find Mary and Sasha back from their hike, a nice affair that saw them heading up towards Mount Rose on trail. We had beer or two by the fire and decided to grill up some burgers on the fire, very tasty! We retired to the trailer as temps started to fall.

All in all a very nice day and a perfect recipe for forgetting yesterday.
Trying to take the chill off.

Sasha, "Can't we DO something!"

Sunset on some of the terrain I covered today.

Cheated death again today....

It's been pretty crappy around here weather wise, weeks upon weeks of rain and snow have put us at over 200% of normal precipitation for the year. Not good for trying to train for a race across Colorado in 3 months. Last weekend was no different, rain on Thurs. and Fri. with showers on Sat. and Sun. We decided to get out of here and head over to Downieville with the trailer for a ride on the North Yuba Trail and then make our way to Reno for  Sunday.

We arrived in Downieville about 10 am and I headed out quickly hoping to get the 32 mile out and back trail done in short order so we could make it over Yuba Summit and on to Reno at a decent hour. It's an absolutely stunning trail, all singletrack for 16 miles and then turn around and head back, simple plan eh?

As I made my way to the end at Rocky Rest I was hit with a few light showers and I realized I had left my rain jacket in the trailer, not good since the temp was hovering around 40 degrees. I hit the end of the trail a little early, a large group of elderly hikers was heading in the same direction and rather than pass them all only to pass them all going back the other direction I decided to turn around a couple of miles early, might have saved my ass!
Pretty much as soon as I turned around the sky opened up. The first few miles were fine, it was mostly uphill and the tree cover was providing some protection. As the miles unfolded I was getting progressively colder, the trees were now dripping wet and all the foliage next to the trail was soaking me as I brushed against it, I was soaked and still had 13 miles and an hour and half out in this. I walked and ran as much as I could as my core temp kept falling, I was shivering uncontrollably on the downhills and most of the uphills were not much better, my body was starting to shut down as I climbed higher and higher and the rain shifted from rain to sleet. The last 4 miles of this trail descend back to Downieville along a series of switchbacks and at this point I can barely walk as I am shivering so bad and my breathing is becoming ever increasingly shallow. The last few miles were a blur, I knew I couldn't stop and at least it was getting slightly warmer as I descended down the trail, the rain was coming down sideways at this point and puddles were everywhere.

I finally reached the truck and to my horror, no one was in it, SHIT I'm going to die trying to keep myself warm in the concrete outhouse was all I could think of! As I rounded the trailer I was euphoric to see Mary's bike sitting outside and the lights on in the trailer. I opened the door and the look on Mary's face said everything, I was not in a good place....

We stripped me down and cranked up the heater as high as it would go and got some warm and dry clothes on me. It took me a bit but my breathing finally came back around and the deep cold left my frigid extremities.The thermometer read 39 degrees at 2200'.

I know better. I've carried a jacket on days I knew I would never need it, I don't know what I was thinking and I was certainly mad at myself. Another hour out there and I was a search and rescue candidate/victim and I will never make that mistake again.

Not one picture from this horrible day........