Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Telluride to Moab- August 2017

Back in August of 2016, my brother contacted me to see if I wanted to reserve a spot on the bike hut trip between Telluride and Moab.  It sounded pretty sweet, but other than that I knew almost nothing about it, so obviously I agreed.  I didn't even know where I would be living or working, but I figured it would work out.  Ryan organized the whole trip, and Jordan was able to make it work too.  Just getting to Telluride is pleasant.  There's delightful scenery with only the occasional festering gash in the hillsides created by the living quarters of the rich and famous.  If Vail or Aspen is too plebian, move to Telluride!  They have dog catcher vehicles everywhere, but they are for poor people.  We were decidedly riff-raff, so we had to be careful not be picked up in one of the town's infamous peasant sweeps.

The hotel owner took one look at me as we pulled in and started dialing the peasant catchers, but I saved the day by looking at him like he was algae, demanding a hotel slave take my bags, and berating him about the lack of valet.  Then I said, "Take me to my rooms so I can change out of these peasant clothes!  We have a dinner with Oprah."  The man, sufficiently convinced we were no mere peasants, looked much more comfortable and did as I said.  Once in our rooms, we hid quietly so we wouldn't be sent to the gulags to be lifties for the rest of our lives.

The next morning we slipped through a still sleeping town to get some breakfast then boarded the gondola and headed up the mountain.  The trip started out with some awesome unearned downhill.  

A quick pre-trip selfie that we could send to friends and family if we were picked up by the peasant police so they had something to remember us by.
 At the bottom of the bike trails at the ski area, Isaac and Ryan split off, looking for a warm-up day before really getting into the sore butts that would come later.  Jordan and I opted for some beautiful and punishing single track that would get us to the same place, but with more pain involved.

Pretty single track

Nearing the first hut with storms over Wilson Peak.  (Or maybe it's Mt. Wilson)

A herd of sheep peacefully grazing and polluting the surface water up near the hut.

Our first hut had a sweet wood stove. 
We made peach cobbler that first night.  Turned out pretty good.
Photo: Ryan
The next day was mostly on dirt roads, but had incredible scenery.  I actually really enjoyed riding the dirt roads.  It was quick, and allowed for plentiful opportunities to gape at the visuals.

The rolling grasslands of the Uncompahgre Plateau are very picturesque.
Photo: Ryan
Isaac riding through a nice grove of Aspen
Photo: Ryan
We got to the hut quickly due to the smooth riding, had some snacks, and then Ryan, Jordan, and I headed out for some single/double track.  Isaac worked on his dissertation.  This was a fun little side trip that involved steep and exciting double track off of the plateau, followed by a session in the pain cave to get back up the plateau to the hut.

Back at the hut, we played some horseshoes.
Photo: Ryan

Making some Asian fusion.
Photo: Ryan

We dined on french toast and bacon the next morning.
Photo: Ryan
The next day started off on some single track, got on some roads for a bit, and then back on some single/double track.  We managed to go between two big thunderstorms, but the trails did not.  That day involved some pretty good muddin' on the single track.  There was an escape route on the roads if muddin' was not as fun as it sounds.  Jordan and I stuck it out, and the trails slowly dried out.

Isaac riding into some aspens
Photo: Ryan

Jordan washing his bike after some good muddin'.
That evening found us at a pleasant hut, a nice spaghetti dinner, and what the route description called some "cool rocks."  Of course, we went to investigate.  We had no idea just how cool these rocks were....

No pasta is complete without a copious amount of cheese.
Photo: Ryan

The coolness of the rocks is hard to describe...just so, so cool....  You can sit on them, you can stand on them, you can stack other rocks on them.  The options are just endless.
Photo: Ryan
The next day had some nice views off of the road, and a few singletrack options including the Bench Trail, which was described as fast and flowy singletrack.  This description was about as accurate as the cool rocks.  We blasted down to the trail and immediately set to muddin' through clay.  It was slick and mildly terrifying, and made for some really fast riding...  Rather than turn around and take the dry road, we decided to slog through the trail.  A short distance we started to encounter cows, so now the trail was muddy, full of fresh cow shit, and torn all to hell by the cows.  I started getting grumpy with the cows.  Upon seeing us they would panic and run down the trail (instead of into the undergrowth), and spray panic diarrhea as they ran.  I was starting to feel pretty pissed off and pretty shit on.  We eventually escaped the stench of the Bench Trail, and climbed up to the road.  As we ate lunch, a cowpolk drove up and we had a nice chat.

Views from the road
Photo: Ryan
Starting through the beautiful aspens on the Bench Trail
Photo: Ryan
Discussing how fun muddin' on a bike is...
Photo: Ryan
These boys say they've had enough of muddin'.
The cow camp at the end of the Bench Trail.  Very idyllic except for the smell of fresh cow diarrhea.
Photo: Ryan
So this cowpolk came driving up, and struck up an hour-long conversation, in which he talked and we nodded agreeably, during which we learned some very important information.
1) What we thought were cows, are in fact dirtbikes.  He told us just how much dirtbikes tear the shit out of the bench trail.  We didn't see any signs of dirtbikes, but we did see a lot of damage from cattle.  The only logical conclusions were that he confused dirtbikes and cattle, or we did.  We are not from the area, so it stands to reason that the expert would know.
2) It is hard to defend calves from hoards of evil, marauding "bear."  He wasn't one using the letter "s" for plural, especially when it came to "bear."
3) He doesn't get down to Grand Junction were much because everytime he does, he ends up "pistol whippin' somebody!!"
4) His wife doesn't let him drive when they go to Denver because he always ends up "a road ragin'."
5) It's hard to find good workers nowadays.  Few people have the skills it takes to mend a fence, and even worse teachers are ruining kids' work ethic by telling them they are princesses.  "I told that teacher to go to hell!"
6) The world has changed a lot in the last ten to twenty years, definitely for the worse.

That evening put us at a nice hut, which was my favorite.  It was an extremely peaceful location at an old ranch.  The horses grazed contentedly in the late afternoon sunlight.  Everything seemed just right.

Jordan blasts down a truly fun section of single track on the way to the hut.
Photo: Ryan
Relaxing at the hut and enjoying the pleasant surroundings.
Photo: Ryan
The next day was one of the best.  It was basically all downhill to Gateway.  There was a good long chunk of picturesque singletrack followed by a fast road down to the town.

Early in the day found us at Big Creek Reservoir

Big Creek Reservoir

Flowers near Big Creek Reservoir
Photo: Ryan

Working our way down the single track.
Getting into sage brush country.  This section was like a bobsled track.  Very fun.
Photo: Ryan
The end of the single track had some nice visuals overlooking Gateway valley.

Then came the long descent into the valley via steep dirt road
This road went downhill for many miles.
Photo: Ryan

The hut at Gateway was toasty, but thankfully next to a river, which was nice to soak in.

Luckily, the hut was also close to this old school bus...
Photo: Ryan
After an evening of sweating and some mosquito bites, we were on the bikes at 6 the next morning so we could regain all of the elevation we lost the day before while climbing into the La Sals.  We had been dreading this climb for the whole trip, but it went by fairly quickly.  It was still fairly atrocious, but we were at the next hut by 11; it could have been worse.
Heading out of Gateway Valley in the early morning light.

The worst of the climb over, we ate through the miles approaching the La Sal Mountains hut.
Photo: Ryan
We spent the afternoon doing some bike maintenance before the long descent into Moab via the Porcupine Rim trail the next day.  The final day was also super fun.  At the beginning, there are some nice dinosaur tracks.  Then a long road descent into Castleton Valley is followed by the last ascent to the top of the Porcupine Rim trail.  After that it is technical ledges and fun sandstone riding all the way to Hwy 128 with awesome views of Castleton Valley along the way.
Castleton Valley. Castleton Tower is always so cool to look at.

At the top of the climb, I saw a critter.

This spot is very commonly photographed along the Porcupine Rim for good reason.



The La Sals make for a nice backdrop when looking back up the trail.
More nice visuals.
Isaac and I rest our butts while looking at the desert scenery.
Photo: Ryan

Isaac navigates down some sandstone ledges.
Photo: Ryan
A short ride down Hwy 128, brought us to Moab and the end of about 250 miles of riding.  After a quick snack at Denny's, and a shower at the rec center, we started our rally home.  This trip was awesome.  It had everything: ferocious climbs, awesome visuals, tasty food, interesting critters, slippery mud, punishing singletrack, peaceful summer evenings, fast-and-flowy singletrack, seemingly endless dirt roads, and good company.  I would definitely do it again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New York Lake- July 2017

In July Tara and I took a short overnight trip to New York Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness.  The flowers and mosquitos were definitely blooming.  About a half a mile in we came across a fork in the trail.  A log was laid across the left fork, so assuming that meant the trail was closed we took the right fork.  We strolled through gorgeous blooming tundra for a few miles, and then realized that we were hiking the New York Mountain trail.  Clearly, the left fork was the correct fork.  In such situations, it is always too late to turn around and take the correct trail.  We were on the ridge directly above New York Lake, and so we decided to bushwhack.  

Xoe is so excited to have her pack on.  She refused to move for several minutes.

A very regal Xoe thinking about eating squirrels and Tara enjoying the summer blooms.

Shortly after taking the right fork.  Xoe on full alert for marmots.
"They could be anywhere.  Be on your guard."

Tara wandering across the tundra.  I really enjoyed the high clouds.  Pleasant patterns.
Looking down into the Nolan Lake drainage.
Naturally, the bushwhacking took a while as we had to pick our way through cliffs.  Xoe was not a fan.  Eventually, we got down to the valley bottom.  The plan was to climb the ridge on the other side of New York Lake and drop into Big Pine Lake, but after looking at the 2,000 feet of steep talus we would have to cross while we ate lunch, we decided to stay put. New York Lake was gorgeous, and no one was there.  I figured we could get a good suffer in with a day hike the next day that did not involve as much talus.

Tara investigates one route down, Xoe investigates the snow.
"Hmmm. This definitely needs to be rolled in."

A nicely placed columbine.

Flowers near the lake with Gold Dust Peak in the background.
Tara enjoying the flowers.  Xoe enjoying thoughts of digging out marmots.
"If I shake it hard enough, it will die."

Xoe surveys the marmot population.  "Those squeaky critters are a danger."

That evening we went for a little stroll around the lake, and found the trail that we should have come in on.  Xoe and I went swimming, though my swim was much, much shorter, and involved no swimming.  Just some squealing and shivering followed by a hasty retreat to warmer environments.  I had such a strong and bizarre feeling of nostalgia walking around that lake.  I guess it just reminded me of a childhood well spent traipsing after my parents.  High alpine lakes were and are their favorite destinations.  All the sights, sounds, and smells just reminded me of similar trips made when I was much younger.  There are few places more peaceful than those lakes.

Xoe is much happier out of the cold water.
"These humans keep throwing the ball in the water, but marmots do not live in the water. Silly humans."
The next morning we decided to climb Gold Dust Peak before hiking back out.  The lake was a placid, beautiful blue color.  Hiking along the edges in the cool morning was exquisite.  From the south end, the lake appears almost to be like a really awesome infinity pool that just sort of reaches to the horizon.  We passed through pretty alpine flowers, and then climbed a snow filled couloir to the top.  This was sketchy.  The snow was surprisingly hard for late July, and Tara went for a ride on the descent.  I was able to grab her before she rocketed into the rocks at the bottom, but I should have listened to that little voice saying "This snow is too hard.  Find a different route."  It's easy to get into real trouble in the mountains even on a seemingly mild hike only several miles into the wilderness.

The morning was downright chilly.

The columbines were really blooming, so we took a photo!
"Things are quiet...too quiet.  Marmots could be planning an ambush while we sit here like idiots."

Wherever we go, there we are.

I really like how the lake seems to just go on to the horizon.

Tara and the lake.

Looking down on New York Lake

Requisite summit shot

Another one.  Xoe strategizing how to heard marmots over the edge of the cliff.

Xoe doing her best impersonation of a badger.  

After returning to camp, we packed up and hiked out.  We managed to follow the trail almost all the way out.  Near a bunch of old mining equipment, the trail got faint and we could see switch backs going up the hillside from quite a ways back.  That seemed like the right way, so off we went.  The trail quickly became nearly non-existent.  As always, there is no possible way to turn back once you've started.  We continued, and the switchbacks that could be seen from several miles back were only apparent from that distance.  Up close, there was almost no sign of the old trail.  We were able to follow a slight depression that wound its way through the cliffs and to the top of the ridge.  Success!!  By five PM or so, we were back at the car.  What a beautiful trip!

Tara nears the top of the ridge after navigating the disappearing switchbacks.
New York Mountain in the background.