BC – Squamish and Whistler Singletrack Bash

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Kventina Tarantina – Gotta love it.  Also love the phonetic spelling of “Bred Pit” 🙂

Quick Life Update:

So yeah,  I’m sitting here at the Square Nine Hotel in Belgrade, Serbia.  Will be here for a couple more weeks.  It’s really grown on me.  Nice people.  Tall people.  Fantastic veggies and salads, so-so beer, lots of MEAT and fantastic ice cream.  Such a beautiful city, culture, and construction and rebuilding everywhere… bombed out carcasses are still prevalent and a constant reminder of the sad war-torn communist history of Yugoslavia.  They are very happy to have Seal Team filming here, and we’re happy to be here.  Anyhoo…

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Waiting for our drinks –  with Todd, Arturo, and Jessica at the rooftop Sinnerman Bar in Belgrade.

My whirlwind family roadtrip vacation from May –  July feels like ages ago… Since then, it’s been crazy times.  I even shaved my homeless man beard.  We’re already a month into Seal Team Season 3 – so here I am… a moment to breathe and reminisce about riding bikes in Squamish and Whistler over a month ago.  So much EPIC.

SQUAMISH:

Do yourself a favor.  If you’re lucky enough to ever be on your way to Whistler, don’t overlook Squamish.  With the mecca of lift-accessed gravity riding only 1/2 hour away, it’s easy to get overshadowed… but Squamish has mtb trails to suit all-comers, and the town is super low-key, and much better bang-for-the-buck than resort-chic Whistler.  Save money on food and lodging and stay longer and ride more!!

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Valleycliffe/Crumpit Woods

First up – Valleycliffe / Crumpit Woods area.  If you’re into a Lord of the Rings / Frodo-style environment, this is for you.  Super easy to lose your inner compass, and get lost and confused.  You 100% should have the Trailforks App or you will 100% will wind up scratching your head and wondering how you wound up wherever you’re not supposed to be.

No freebies here… you’ve gotta pay the piper with steep/techy climbs for every sweet rooty, rocky, chunky, bridge-laden descent you conquer.  So good for slow speed bike handling and skill building.  Hands down, some of the most original/maybe not so PC trail names I’ve ever come across.  Here are a few of my favorites: Endo, The Graduate, 3 Virgins, Sweeter Than Barry, Spencer’s Gay Ride, 7 Stitches, Hairy Bomber, etc –

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Now that’s a trail sign!  Shout out to all the mtb movie buffs

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Trail signs like this just make you take a break and crack a brewski, no?

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My favorite trail in the network was Meet Yer Maker.. sketch balls in a couple sections, I had to walk a bit… but challenging and rewarding… maybe one day I’ll clean it all!

Next up: Alice Lake

Very similar trail character to Crumpet Woods.  The main difference was I went on a Saturday and it was much more crowded.  Still super fun and had a blast.  I rode Credit Line, Jacks Trail, Mike’s Loop, Mashiter, 50 Shades of Green, Tracks from Hell, etc.  Lots of roots and lots of tech on Credit Line.  You really can feel your skills boosting after a few days of BC riding.

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I always love me the “burned out car on the trail” pic

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Other notables in Squamish – Lucy lost a tooth.  Saw my buddy Robert Taylor (plays Longmire) on tv at the hotel… this old movie Vertical Limit was on… hilarious!  The indoor waterslide at the hotel was also a blast, as were the Dr. Ho informercials… Alice and Brohm Ice Cream was the Bomb!!

WHISTLER:

Again, when people speak of “Whistler”, mind-blowing, lift-accessed gravity trails come to mind.  But there are actually FREE local xc trails that are super fun and definitely worth getting into.  No body armor required.  The Zappa Trails – all named for Frank Zappa songs… (aka Lost Lake Trails) have all kinds of options and Lost Lake is fantastic for a post-ride dip and beer and people watching.

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Hangin with the fam in Olympic Village

Some highlights – Toads of the Short Forest, The Torture Never Stops, Fountain of Love, Pinocchio’s Furniture, Molly Hogan, Grand Wazoo, Dwarf Nebula, etc.

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Riding Lost Lake Loop with my girlies

Whether you ride the resort, or the local singletrack – it’s definitely worth hanging out in the Olympic Village (the Whistler Village puts Mammoth to shame… so beautiful and clean and the European vibe is super fun) and chillin with the polly wogs.  Also peep out the Passivehaus and ride Fitzsimmons along the aptly named Fitzsimmons Creek.  Lots of well-planned trails and paths everywhere, so you don’t really need to drive once you’re parked.  On this visit, only 25% of the resort was open, so I chose to hit the local freebie stuff and will come back for a bike park specific trip.IMG_1546

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Chillin at the Lost Lake Beach – Miko was stoked!

After BC – we slipped back in to the US – Bellingham, WA is up next (then lots of Idaho goodness)… not sure when I’ll get a chance to update the journal… hopefully soon!!

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Road Trip Catch Up – Astoria to Victoria

SPOILER – No bike riding in this post!! Feels like forever since I journaled after leaving Hood River, OR.  Quick re-cap on the roadie trip, so these memories don’t fall through the cracks… sorry for the snorey bore, but gotta jot stuff down since my brain’s a sieve:

Astoria, OR (5/28/19 ish) 

  • After leaving John’s House, we had a gorgeous drive along the Columbia River Gorge.  Reached the Pacific Ocean and climbed to the top of the Astoria Column with Lucy and Molly while Angela waited below (claustrophobia and all that).  Carried Molly most of the way up and down.  Feel the burn.  Reminded me of climbing the spiral staircase up the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which I hear you now have to book at least 16 days in advanced).  Anyhoo… great views of the town.

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    Yet another gratuitous group selfieze

  • We didn’t chuck any wooden airplanes off the viewing deck, but watched some other kids get their jollies.  FYI, they sell the little airplanes at the gift shop, and it’s totally legit to throw them off the top… I guess nobody’s been hit by one and sued yet…
  • Frolicked in the grass – Winning.

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    This could be my favorite snap of the whole trip.  Pure happiness.

  • Super fun watching a family of Indian tourists taking a series of those cheesy “creative” forced perspective photos of the Column.  You know, the ones where you look like King Kong doing randomness with said landmark…

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    Wanna have some fun?  Google “forced perspective leaning tower of pisa”

  • Dinner at Buoy Beer Company.  It’s on the water, and is in a re-purposed Bumble Bee tuna cannery.  Pretty awesome chowder and they had a couple great small batch sours on tap – boom!

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    If you’re in Astoria, definitely hit up Buoy if you get the chance.  Great food and beer.

  • Back to the hotel room to watch Goonies with the girls!!!  When I met Angela, she had a nice Toyota Tacoma with a Goonies sticker on the back window.  Fast forward 15+ years, and that truck is now my daily driver with over 220k miles on it.  The Goonies sticker is faded and shredded but still there.  So yeah, Angela has Goonies in her bloodstream and it’s now in our girls DNA!!  The next morning, we went to the “Goonies House” and the “Goonies Museum”.   So much good!!!
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    View off the docks in Astoria

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    Out front of the Goonies Museum aka the Clatsop County Jail

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    Filming of The Goonies in 1985

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    Spending some time in the Goonies Jail

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    Sad face.

After Astoria, we crossed the bridge and it was a beautiful drive up the 101 to Sequim, WA before catching the ferry in Port Angeles to Victoria, BC.

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Sunset shell grabbing mission on the beach of the Sequim, WA / Salish Sea.

The girls were amazed when we drove the car on the ferry.  I forgot how fun this was!  Haven’t been to Victoria since The Buried Life… Secretly, I was craving some Timmy Ho’s.  I know, right?

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Nothing like some Timbits to get ya going!

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On the ferry to Victoria, BC

Boom.  Victoria, BC – such a gem.  So interesting how this tiny island is the capital of British Columbia, even though everyone seems to think Vancouver is.  Study up on Wikipedia…  Anyhoo…

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Sunset stroll along the harbor by the Fairmont Empress Hotel

Butchart Gardens.  Checked it off Angela’s bucket list.  Amazing as ever.  Yeah, yeah, it’s a bunch of flowers, grass and gardens.  But it’s REALLY REALLY good flowers, grass, and gardens.

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Some nice employee took this family pic

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The Japanese Gardens were a favorite of ours

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Syncronized ice cream eating World Champs

Okee dokes – now this fun little jaunt won’t get lost in time and I can sit with my grand kids and read this blog some day and laugh at the ice cream eaters like it was yesterday.

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Saw this dude while driving through Van… forehead distance from windshield award

After Victoria, we took another ferry to Vancouver, and made our way up to Squamish and Whistler for some SWWWWEEETTT mountain biking… which will be my next journal entry hoot!! 🙂

 

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Boyz (and Girlz) in the Hood River

Man.  Just thinkin about how long it’s been since I last saw JK.  At least 4 years because Molly was barely born.  In that time, my good friend, John Kairis, left the “camera biz”, made the move to Hood River, Oregon, and started a small farm.

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Playing with the chickens.  Miko kept running into the electric fence and jolting himself.  Pretty hilarious.

What a co-in-kee-dink… we just happened to be heading to Hood River for Memorial Day Weekend!  Wound up being a magical and memorable time for all of us… What an amazing experience for all the kids and adults as well 🙂

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It had been forever since I’ve seen this guy.  Good times!!

Right off the bat, I had a PBR in hand and we were feeding chickens and grabbing eggs for next morning’s brekky.  He showed us all the fruits and veggies he was growing and we grabbed a fresh mango as a snack.  Elderberry, echinacea, you name it, he’s growing it.  John cooked us a meal (which was soooo nice after eating out every day) and we ate and talked and drank and man it was nice.  The next couple of days were non-stop madness.

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Ronan and Lucy cooking us brekky.  YUM

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Bountiful family breakfast

Ok, let’s fly the drone.  Oops, crashed it in neighbor’s orchard – grab the machete and forge a path to recover said drone.  Check.

Ever ride a “One Wheel“?  Nope.  Let’s go.  Round and round the driveway, endless fun.  Couldn’t get Molly or Lucy (or myself) off once we got the hang of it.  Ronan (John’s 8 year-old) had the One Wheel mastered and the girls just watched him in awe…  while Willow (John’s 3 year-old) cruised around on her scoot bike.  The fun was never-ending.

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Everyone needs a One Wheel.  Gotta get one of these for cruising around set on Seal Team.

Drum set, check.  DJ booth with turntables, check.   Sitting on the back porch and watching the kiddos run around being kiddos = priceless.

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These two were fast friends… Willow’s about to get the drone airborne.

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Check out what we found in the backyard!

So yeah, even with all the activities at Camp Kairis, we still got the itch that needed scratching.  Gotta ride bikes yo.  I mean, JK is only a 10 minute drive from Post Canyon… It would be sacrilegious not to get our groove on in one of the OG gravity trail networks in the world.  Here’s the plan:

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Following John through the damp, loamy goodness!

John and I jam up there in the truck and get riding first.  By the time we’re finishing the climbing up Seven Streams and Heart Attack Hill, Angela and the kids should be making their way up to Family Man.  We descend the goods to Family Man with a fantastic ride already in our legs and spend the rest of the afternoon riding with the Groms.  It wound up being even better than that!  John watched the kids so Angela and I could go ride together, ALONE.  Been so long since we’ve done that.  Forever indebted.

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Enjoying the climb up Post Canyon

Here’s the Strava link to the ride.  So nice to not pull out maps or apps and just follow someone with local knowledge.  Always the best.  Up to the sky we climbed, chatting and catching up on life.  Then it was time for manicured flow trail nirvana all the way down to the pump track and skills course where we found the groms session-ing.  Lots of progressive jump and bridge line options – so cool to see all the kids gettin’ at it.

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The kids built this fortress while Angela and I were riding.

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Sure was nice riding with the wife!

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Chasing Molly around the pump track is one of my favorite past times.

Since JK and I were parked at the bottom, and there was still about 4 miles of mad flow to be had, we brought Ronan and Lucy with us on Middle School, Float On, New School, and Kleeway, while Angela took Molly back to the farm.  This was Ronan’s and Lucy’s first time on any flow trails this technical.  They both killed it!!  It was great that they could “push” eachother, and super special daddy time for John and I, helping our kids progress on the perfectly perfect flow trails.  Smiles for miles at the bottom, and high fives all around.  Still stoked on that as I sit here writing!

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Jammies on.  Winding down and watching the sunset.

Kickstand Coffee for din din.   Burgers all around and a Pfriem Pilsner to wash it down.  Then some stick races in the babbling brook.  Off to “The Hook” to play in the Columbia Gorge and eat some Gelato a Cicci.  Back to the crib – jammies on… yes, Molly, we can hang out on the porch and watch the last of the ambient light disappear from the day.

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Molly snapped this one at Kickstand

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Cross-eyed Lucy

Thank you for your kind heart and hospitality, JK.  Your kids, like you, are beautiful and happy and selfless and we were blessed to spend three nights of mayhem with ya!

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Hangin at The Hook

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The Columbia River Gorge does not disappoint with its beauty.

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Bend, OR – Operation Pedal and Chug

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Buck Norris

So much coolness associated with Chuck Norris.  I had never heard of Buck Norris (although I have heard of Huck Norris) – until my buddy, Mike schooled me. I met up with him Bend, OR.  We worked together on Longmire, and he’s an avid hunter.  Turns out Buck was a revered mule deer in Bend, and was off limits to hunters… but was sadly hit by a car and killed in 2015.  This is the kind of stuff you learn while dispatching beers and nachos at 10 Barrel Brewing after a day of slaughtering primo Bend dirt .IMG_1408

FYI – Tequila is vegan.IMG_1411

Soooo… to the mountain biking.  Original plan – Head up to Tumalo Falls with the fam. After hiking around for a bit, I would leave the girlies to fish then ride North Fork to Mzarek and have a super duper fun descent back to town.  Oops, didn’t even bother to ponder… that there might still be snow up that high.  Yup, after a mile or two of climbing higher and higher on North Fork… boom.  100% hike-a-bike deep snow.

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Hangin with the fam at Tumalo Falls

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Looking down on Tumalo Falls while climbing North Fork… which btw was an amazing trail, too bad I soon hit snow…

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This was the beginning of the snow.  It only got deeper as I continued higher.

North Fork is a one-way trail for mountain biking.  You’re only supposed to climb it.   I was pretty intent on making it to Mzarek, so I kept pushing my bike for over an hour.  I should have aborted earlier, STUBBORN… and there were a lot of hikers out who I didn’t want telling me “this is a one way trail dude”.  After checking the clock, and knowing I’d never make it back to rendezvous with Angela at our stated time (no cell reception either), I finally pulled the plug and hiked down the way I came.  Bummer.

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Pretty cool bike work station at 10 Barrel Brewing

Luckily, there’s no shortage of singletrack in that area.  So… I made lemonade by hitting some other fantabulous trails.  Jumped on South Fork, and started paralleling the water on Tumalo Creek Trail.  Spoke to some locals, got some beta – jumped on Skyliner to Whoops to Phil’s and got some cell service.  I wound up riding into town and meeting the fam at  Thump Coffee behind the high school.  A pesto chicken sandywich hit the spot!  Turns out Mike bought his house from the owner of Thump – small world…

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Paralleling Tumalo Creek on the South Fork Trail

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This lady gave the kids stickers as today and every day is “free sticker day” – Luckily, she had kid-friendly, non-political stickers too.

I didn’t stop to take photos (running late to meet the fam) – but Skyliner and Phil’s were great xc style fast and buff trails.  The terrain reminded me a lot of Uptown/Downtown in Mammoth.  For me, Whoops Trail was the highlight of the ride.  A Chutes and Ladders like man-made flow trail that was silky smooth if you kept your speed.

Bummed I didn’t get Mzarek as I’ve heard so much.   Oh well, glad I got a taste, and lots more riding to do next time I make it to Bend.

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The girlies fishing at Tumalo Creek

Other highlights in Bend:

Hit the McD’s drive thru to get ice cream for the kids… after ordering, and getting up to the window to pay… the guy told us “The ice cream machine just broke.  The belt burned out or something.”  Are you kidding me?  The belt burned out?  Pure comedy.  Had to hit Burger King instead, but they don’t have hot fudge sundaes… first world problems.

Bend Brewing has great food and beer and is right on the Deschutes River – winning.

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Fish Face

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Hangin at the Deschutes River… it was a fish face kinda day

Pine Nursery Park: has a stocked fishing pond for kiddos.  Lucy caught two rainbow trout.  Score!  They were both pretty small, but big enough for Lucy to name Merida and Leroy before we put ’em back in the water…IMG_1412

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Molly didn’t catch any, but still had a blast and was a good sport!

Can’t wait to get back to Bend and spend some more time… but for now… we got places to be… Hood River, next up – spending some quality time on the farm with JK – hoot!!

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Oakridge, OR – A Slice of MTB Heaven in the Cascade Range

 

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Oregon definitely is magic – especially Oakridge.

After hitting Susanville and Ashland, we journeyed to fabled Oakridge, Oregon.  Nestled in the Cascade Range, this old logging town of 3,300 peeps is now a mythical mountain biking mecca.  This trippy small town boasts tons of character and was a nice departure from the bustling college town of Ashland.  We checked into the Arbor Inn and were greeted warmly by the new owner who was very proud of the “comfortable beds”.  He handed us some frozen breakfast burritos that the local food truck makes for him.  “Put ’em in the microwave for about 3 minutes in the morning.”  BOOM!

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Imagine this at full capacity 🙂

The bathroom was hilarious – first time I’d seen a toilet sandwiched by two sinks 🙂 Note: the beds were super comfy.  Anyhoo… we quickly got on our bikes and rode down to Local 180 Brewers Union for din din.  Peeps on Yelp mentioned the reuben, so I went that route.  They specialized in UK beer, so I went with the super smooth ESB – wound up being a great combo.  While we waited for the food, we played Jenga with dominos.

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Cheers!

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Bike parking at the Brewery

 

Our waitress mentioned a pump track over by the train tracks, so after dinner we decided to find it.  As luck would have it, we got caught in a massive rainstorm while out riding.  Once the “fun” wore off, I had Angela and the kids wait under an overhang at the elementary school while I raced to the car and picked them up.  We were all soaked to the bone, but laughing and grinning and quickly warmed up in our cozy room.

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Bridge in Greenwaters Park crossing the Williamette River

By the next morning, there was a break in the rain, so I decided to get out for a ride.  I decided to hit the Larison Rock Loop.  It’s an old school Oakridge ride that gives you a great feel for the local riding.  It’s also rideable straight from town and doesn’t require a shuttle.  But it does require some serious legs and lungs – UP UP UP gaining 2,500′ over 6 miles and then goes DOWN DOWN DOWN.

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Lovin the rainforest vibe through the park before starting the “big” climb

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After crossing the Williamette River and meandering through the gorgeous Greenwaters Park, the big climb begins up Larison Rock Rd.  The smell of the damp ground and trees was intoxicating.  The quiet peace of birds waking up was the perfect soundtrack to accompany my paced and labored breathing.  I couldn’t help but to soak in the blessings of nature and all my surroundings as I reached the turnoff to the singletrack.  Bliss.

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Time to go DOWN!  For how much rain there was, it was amazing how well the dirt handled it.  So tacky!

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Supposedly, this is a great lookout point on a clear day… will have to come back and see 🙂

My kids noticed all the lichen and moss growing on the “furry trees” and I kept thinking of that Asian dude’s crazy long beard from the Kill Bill movies as I sliced my way through the spooky forest.  The rest of the time I was hoping Yoda would pop out from behind a tree as I slithered through Ewok territory as fast as my skills would allow.

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My kids liked all the “furry” trees.

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Right?

LOAM IS LOVELY!  More effortless Oregon flow with just enough tech sprinkled in to keep you from hitting warp speed.  As is becoming the norm, the 6 mile descent was over way too quickly.

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LOAM for DAYS!!

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I pulled over here, weirded out that I had a missed call on my phone, and called Dennis back re: selling the house.  I then sent him this pic to show him where I was… absolutely fantastic!!

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Sun popped at the end of the ride… and so did my dirty teeth…

After the ride, we hit the local “bakery” which was whack.  Couldn’t believe we waited 45 minutes for Angela’s latte and Lucy’s  oatmeal!  Wasn’t even crowded! Oh well… they did have a funky paper with Shatner on the cover… so that was something…

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Holy Shatner

Before leaving town, we hit the pump track to let the girls get some wiggles out.

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Lucy gettin her groove on

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Molly gettin her groove on

I look forward to spending more time in Oakridge and hitting Waldo Lake, Middle Fork, and more epic shiznit… until then, the next leg of our PNW roadie trip… took us through Crater Lake National Park before reaching Bend.  Stay tuned…

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My girlies at Crater Lake

 

 

 

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Ride Report: Endless Velcro Flow Trails in Ashland, OR

“Daddy, I like Ashland.  It isn’t even covered in ashes.” – Molly (my 5 year-old)

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Standing Stone Brewing / Ashland, OR – they give kids chalkboards instead of crayons/paper – BRILLIANT!

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Tempest IPA and lamb burger were the jam! (Angela’s blackberry cider rocked too)

Both my kids just finished Shakespeare class, and thus, were super hyped when I told them of Ashland’s Shakespearean background.  I, of course, was jazzed to visit for reasons of my own … like the renowned gravity-oriented flizzy flowy trails… duh!

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Exploring the magnificent Lithia Park

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Mary Poppins style

Luckily, we had nice weather the first afternoon we arrived.  After that, the weather lived up to the forecast and pretty much dumped rain on us for the rest of the stay.  I rushed to sneak in a I ride before the skies opened up, and it wound up being the right call.  I decided to hit the infamous Jabberwocky Trail with a loop that included some other, less-known, but equally as sticky and flicky gems.  Strava link here.   PS – the Trailforks App is invaluable in Ashland.  Way more detailed than MTB Project in this region, fyi.  

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Taking a break to let the lactic acid out before dropping in on Catwalk

This ride definitely put the burn in the “earn”.  You have to climb 2,600′ over ~ 7 miles to reach the goods.  You can shuttle part of it by parking at White Rabbit, but either way, you’re doing some gruntin.  It’s a gradual, mostly fireroad climb that starts in town and heads behind Lithia Park and continues up Ashland Loop Rd.  

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So much flow, I never wanted to stop for pics – here’s one of the rare “flat” sections that I pressed paused on.

FINALLY, you reach the top.  Unlock the suspension, sip some agua and prep for 2,500′ of dippin’ and jivin’ and smilin’ and singin’ on rollercoaster velcro singletrack descending bliss awaits!!!

Catwalk to Toothpick to Caterpillar to Lizard to Jabberwocky.  In a nutshell, the perfect blend of perfectly manicured flow trails.  Catwalk is chock full of berms and speed and blurry views through velvety trees.  The climb is quickly becomes a distant memory as you’re pedaling for every ounce of speed you can muster… your tires and the dirt can handle it all – every sculpted berm designed to take as much as you can dish out.

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WOW.  That was good.  A quick jaunt on Toothpick has you climbing a little… a chance to think of the tasty pow ahead… a little more granny gearing at the start of Caterpillar, and then it’s click click click down the cassette and non-stop grinnin’ and winnin’ back to town on Lizard and Jabberwocky.  Oh man, that lap is over way too soon. 6 miles of world-class primo singletrack is over in the blink of an eye.   Where’s the car?  One more time, please!!!  Well not today… but what a first taste of Ashland – has me hooked like crack – next time I will shuttle the crap outta this joint and session a few of these trails over and over like the locals were doing who watched me climb Ashland Loop Rd like I was a moron…

JABBERWOCKY.  One of top 5 flow trails I’ve ever ridden.  Hands down, simply a meticulously crafted piece of trail art.  Think Chutes and Ladders at Phil’s World, but 5 times longer and in a rainforest.   Moist and grabby, rarely do you need to pedal or touch your brakes.  Endless lava flow to end an epic ride.

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Views of Ashland through the trees from Toothpick Trail.

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A sample of the rollercoaster flow on Jabberwocky – photo stolen from PinkBike

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Another shot of Jabberwocky – photo stolen from MTB Project

Even though it dumped rain for the rest of our visit, we still had a blast.  NY style slices from Martolli’s Hand Tossed Pizza – BOOM!  The vibe in there is fun with all the Phish posters and related band paraphernalia.  A slice of pepperoni and bbq chicken was all this belly needed after a day of exploring Lithia Park and strolling the town on a rainy day.  Loved the park – green and lush and water everywhere… lot’s of yoga and bouldering and day sleeping and bluegrass being practiced.

Froyo at The Yogurt Hut did not disappoint either!  We spent the rest of our rainy day time at the Hands-On Science Museum making life-sized bubbles, launching soda bottle rockets, and powering a train by riding a recumbent cycle.

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Life-sized kaleidoscope at the Hands-On Science Museum – we had a blast!

We all tasted the nasty yet historical “Lithia Health Water”.  Crazy to think they originally built Lithia Park to be a health resort with “medicinal water” in the early 1900’s.  The park is magnificent, and would probably never have gotten built otherwise.  I kept thinking it was like a mini Golden Gate Park – then I found out the same dude designed both 🙂

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Lithia water flows from these fountains all day, every day – so visitors can have a taste.  Yuck yuck.

Off to Oakridge – hoot!

 

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Slayin Stellar Susanville Singletrack

Today I learned that Nadia Comaneci tried to commit suicide after the 1976 Olympics by drinking bleach.  Heavy.

I also learned that Susanville used to be named Rooptown (until 1857) and nearly half of the population is incarcerated in three nearby prisons.  These prisons also employ half of the non-incarcerated adult population of the town.  No wonder PBS made a documentary about Susanville in 2007 called “Prison Town”.

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So corny, I just had to…

I already knew that there was some stellar singletrack on my “to-do” list.  When we arrived, I was surprised by the town’s quaint historical charm.  The natural beauty of the Susan River and surrounding mountains were an added bonus.

Rolled into town around 5p – headed straight for Lassen Ale Works at the Pioneer Saloon.  Cool historic building, over 500 ranch brands hand drawn on the wall behind the 30′ bar.  Pretty OG

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Lassen Ale Works at the Pioneer Saloon

Got a flight of beer = so-so.  Food took forever.  Burger = so-so.  At least the vibe was pretty cool.

Woke up early the next morning, amped up to start riding!  Town bike path along the Susan River is a peaceful way to get the legs warmed up.  No humans, but I did share the path with Mother Goose and her fam.

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Peaceful morning jaunt on the Susanville Town Bike Path

Next up was the Bizz Johnson Trail – a converted rail trail that winds gradually up the Susan River Canyon.  This is a very relaxing uphill climb at a gentle railroad grade.   The soothing lullaby of the always close river adds to the enjoyment.  Throw in some stellar views and a couple spooky old railroad tunnels and you’ve got a pretty memorable trail 🙂

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This was actually taken at the end of the ride when the sun came out.

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Meandering along the Susan River – Bizz Johnson Trail

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Approaching one of the “spooky” railroad tunnels  on Bizz.  Pretty dark inside and I kept thinking a homeless guy would jump out and shank me.  Ha!

After climbing Bizz for about 6 miles, it was time to jump on to the singletrack South Side Trail that everybody raves about.  My thought was to make a loop (climb up Bizz, cross river, descend South Side).  One hitch.  When the river is flowing too high (i.e. Winter and Spring), they pull out the temporary bridge that allows you to cross at Devil’s Corral.  Oopsy.  The river was flowing strong and deep.  Couldn’t cross.  Bummer, but no biggie.  Rode back down Bizz to a lower connector by the eastern train tunnel.  This connector is 2.9 miles below Devil’s Corral.  Being me, I couldn’t “not” leave without riding ALL of South Side so I did the top portion as an out-n-back.  Totally worth it!

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Hard to tell, but the river is flowing fast and deep.  Normally there’s a bridge here.

South Side is a 7.2 mile gem of a trail.  The skinny singletrack is way more fun to descend than Bizz Johnson, and it keeps a higher line for much of the ride – meaning drastically different views to compliment those found while climbing Bizz.

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View looking down at Susan River from South Side Trail.  If you look closely, you can see the bridge and railroad tunnel on Bizz Johnson trail (where my bike is resting in the photo above).

As you get lower in elevation, the ebb and flow of tacky singletrack along the river is fantastic!  Too much fun to stop for photos 🙂  By the time I reached Hobo Camp, I’d done 23.5 miles and 1,850 climbing.  Time for a break!

I met up with the fam.  Found a nice spot along the river to let the dog play and the girls dip their feetsies in.

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Playing along the Bizz Johnson Trail / Susan River

Then we were off to Susan Creek Ranch Park.  This was the main reason we were here after all.  My buddy Joel Rathje, who is now the Trails Coordinator in Mammoth, built miles of purpose-built singletrack here before coming to Mammoth.

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Molly always wants to lead.  Lucy is such a good big sister.

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Angela and Molly enjoying the beauty.  Bad weather constantly threatened, but it never rained.

 

We started with a family ride on the lower trails, which were a blast for the kids.  Once the girls were spent and wanted to go back to the motel, I explored the southern trails some more.  I particularly enjoyed Beaver Trail, Hot Shot, and Rattlesnake.  Lots of short trails with many options.  Kinda confusing for a newbie, but fun nonetheless.  I eventually started following the “Ridin’ High” signs that were already placed for the upcoming race on memorial weekend.  I always figure race courses offer the “best of the best”.  This did not disappoint!

Next thing I knew, I was climbing Heart Attack Hill into the “upper” trails.  This is the toll everyone has to pay to get to the “goods” and the reward was definitely worth it.

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This is the only photo I took in the upper area – too much fun to stop!  Just followed the “Ridin High” signs and I was high the whole time!

The view to old Susanville is great and the Old Courthouse sits prominently over the town.  Ear to ear grins kept the oxygen flowing easily into my lungs.  It was that good.  Just when my legs started yelling at me, another slithering descent would take over… berms galore, grade reversals, and an endless natural pump track.  Then you climb some more, rinse and repeat.  The only speed limit is your skill set.  Trails of note were Lo Go, Low Flow, Never Sweat, Wild West, Playground, Hi Go, etc – Unfortunately night was creeping up and I knew the girls would be starving… so I pulled the plug on the ride after about 20 miles and headed back to town, ready to EAT!

We hit the Chinese joint in town – Happy Garden.  Loved it!

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I make a lot of mistakes, so hopefully I do something!

We ate like kings and queens.  The owner/waitress (Margaret?) gave the girls free won ton soup, edamame, egg rolls and ice cream.  No joke!!  She was also wearing a t-shirt from Justice (which Lucy tells me only makes kids sizes).  Pretty awesome for a 60’s ish Chinese woman with cray cray eyeliner… The main dishes were fantastic, portions large, and service was spot on.  Perfect post ride meal to end a great, albeit short, trip to Susanville… Oregon bound… stay tuned!

Links:

 

 

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Bye Bye Mammoth = New Chapter

5/15/19 – Benton Hot Springs – Stuff I learned today while soaking and chilling and soaking:

  • No floozies in the jacuzzi before 9pm
  • Nose hair extensions are a thing
  • Leonardo DiCaprio wished he took the role of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights instead of Jack in Titanic.  IMG_1243
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The looks on their faces!  Priceless!  We are gonna miss Benton Hot Springs and sunrise soaks…

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I’m sorry – this is straight nasty!  NOOOOO!!

5/17/19 – Mammoth – House is officially up for sale.  Photographer came by today.  Everything’s packed.  Tomorrow we leave town.  Maybe it’ll sell?  Maybe it won’t… Curious to see how it goes down…IMG_1254

We’ve lived in Mammoth for 12 glorious years.  We got married here.  Both of our kids were born here. It’s been a dream home and has shaped the way Angela and I approach life and the way we raise our kids.  Mammoth is literally one of the most beautiful areas in the world and every night I fall asleep I smile.   Our home has been filled with nothing but warmth, love and happiness, and countless memories.

But it’s time to go.  Why?  Change.  Growth.  Not looking for greener grass, just different grass.  New goals, new dreams, new people… and a new base camp for new explorations.

Tomorrow we leave on a roughly planned road trip that will land us in Idaho via Oregon, Washington (hopefully BC if the girls passports arrive on time) and Montana.  I don’t have to be back on Seal Team until July-ish… so until that time, life will consist of coin flips, “I spy with my little eye”, craft beer, National Parks, world-class singletrack, fishing, fro-yo, spontaneous dance parties, hammock naps, and we’re cool with that.

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Looking forward to what the future brings!

 

Posted in Random

Ode to the Kokopelli – A Fun Overnight Bikepacking Adventure

Mama let me take the Subaru!  Throw Dolphina on the rack.  Don’t stop for $5 gas in Benton.  Don’t run over hookers in Tonopah.  Entertainment options?   Caedmon’s Call cd, financial freedom podcasts, Greatest Showman soundtrack, UFC news updates, sporadic/static infused country stations.  12 hours, and a couple of PB&J’s later… adventure begins.

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Loma, CO – The Kokopelli Trailhead / start of our journey

Spend the night in Fruita.  Ride 18 Road with Brahm.  Eat pizza at Hot Tomato.  Grab Mama a bomber of Hef at Copper Club.  Talk to the Big Agnes peeps at Fruita Fat Tire Fest.  Jam out to Moab.  Meet Kevin.  Grub at The Brewery.  Grab some groceries.  Dial in the bikes/ kit.  Meet Kevin’s homie who’s gonna take us to Loma in the AM.  Watch as him and his buddy desperately try to smoke weed oil out of some high tech electronic deal.    Grub some more at the Blue Pig.  Get some crappy, anxious sleep.

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All smiles.  Let’s go ride a bike.

9:30am, hit the trail a bit later than we should have.  After all, we’ve got 140 miles and 15k climbing to ride.  On the bike, turn pedals.  Simple life.  Ride.  Drink.  Eat.  Take pics.  Eat more.  Soak in the journey.  IMG_1158IMG_1167

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A little HAB on the Western Rim Trail

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Mary’s Loop – check out the rafts in the CO River below

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singletrack bliss

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Kevin snuck in this shot of me – yahoo!

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Whaddaya know?  It’s late afternoon, and we’re just cruisin’ in to Westwater, about 40 miles in.  Kinda slower than we thought we’d be.  So what.   Having a blast.  As we ponder filtering the silty CO River, a dude named Peter in a jeep decides to throw trail magic.  Boom.  Water is topped off, and so are we – onward to Cisco/McGraw Bottom.

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Good to meet ya, Doug

On the way we stopped for a bit and chatted with Doug from Aspen goin the opposite way.  He’s dreamin’ about bummin a beer off some RV’ers when he gets to Rabbit Valley, and gives us beta on the massive snow hike-a-biking in the La Sals.  Rock on.  Homie was carrying 2 gallons of water.  Gladiator spec.

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Forest by McGraw Bottom reminded us of the Willows on Stagecoach 400 route

 

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Magic hour heading towards Yellow Jacket Canyon

Got about 65 miles in and 6k climbing on day 1.  Set up camp at a nice overlook spot.  Drink some gatorade.  Stare at stars.  Listen to cows moo in the distance.  Drift to sleep.  Awaken to dawn’s light.  Invigorated.  Brekky consists of yogurt covered pretzels, an apple and a beautiful sunrise.  Let these moments soak in.  Blessings.  Pack it up.  Leave no trace.  Start climbing.  Easy morning pace.  Chatting about who knows what.  Look around, breathe it in.

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Home for the night

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Morning vibes

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This sunrise didn’t suck.  

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Near Buck Spring – Fear and Loathing formation

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Jackpot.  Clear sping water to fill up on!

After a little treasure hunt, Kevin found a clean pool of cold water seeping out of the rocks.  Joyous.  Filled up and kept movin towards Dewey.  Startled this naked dude drinkin his morning Joe.  Quick chat, ride bikes more.  Now we’re really climbing.  Heat is rising.  Kevin’s pace is really slowing through Cottonwood Canyon.  No biggie.  I wait at the top, eat some snacks, and listen to my thoughts.  Nice and easy.

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The old Dewey Bridge that sadly burnt down

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Hiking down Rose Garden Hill

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Glad I’m not this guy.

Slow gets slower.  Kevin is now walking where he should be riding.  Dry heaving, looking like crap.  Seems like heat stroke.  About 25 miles to Moab, with a bunch of climbing to the high point in the La Sals.  He’s not gonna make it.  Won’t drink.  Won’t eat.  I guide him to Hidden Campground where there’s a stream.  Soak the feet.  Soak the head.  Lie down for a short nap.  Feeling better?  No.  Choice 1 – camp here and see if he’s better in the AM.  Choice 2 – backtrack a bit, and descend Onion Creek Rd to civilization, get cell service and call for a ride back to town.  We chose 2.  Onion Creek Rd wound up being one of the highlights of the whole trip.  A gorgeous 10 mile descent to the Colorado River – an amazing way to give back the elevation we’d been gaining all day, and in hindsight, the best choice for Kevin’s health.

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Luckily, Kevin recovered quickly from heat stroke and the good memories will live on!

He was lookin grim at the bottom.  Got to town.  Burger King drive thru – coca cola.  It’s Cinco de Mayo.  Got a room at the Super 8.  A shower and some spa water from the lobby.  He’s getting color back in his face.  Meet Brahm at Fiesta’s for some food.  Although not feeling well, Kevin’s doin much better, tellin tattoo stories and drinkin a Modelo.  As I write this a few days later, he’s already planning the return trip!

All in all, we rode 107 miles and climbed 12k over two days.  Another great journey.  Destination not as planned but we got there nonetheless.  Thank you Kokopelli, you haven’t seen the last of me 🙂

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Ride Report: Through Riding AZ’s Black Canyon Trail

Spring has sprung, and so has the appetite to explore!  Taking the girls to visit the grandparents and the Grand Canyon was the perfect excuse to slip in an all day adventure at the last minute.  The Black Canyon Trail (BCT) is a 75ish mile / 6k climbing, almost all skinny singletrack, point-to-point trail spanning from Mayer, AZ to near Phoenix, AZ. There are many different segments which are great for shorter rides (check out my previous blogs here and here), or a great point-to-point mega ride / 2-3 night bikepacking route. It is an IMBA Epic after all…

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Gratuitous Grand Canyon poser shot

Most of my riding gear was at home in Mammoth, but luckily, a co-worker gave me a gift certificate to REI, so I was able to grab what I needed to set myself up for success.

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My REI shopping cart – chain lube, water purification tabs, sunscreen, batteries for my Spot Tracker, a bladder for my frame bag, chamois cream, and Sun Legs – which I wish I had on the Tour Divide!

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The big wide open, just a couple miles after the start near Big Bug Trailhead

The Trail:

So frickin good!  Every section was a beautiful chapter of a book you don’t wanna put down and just binge read from cover to cover.  You don’t even wanna take your eyes away from the page to eat food or take a sip of water.  The tread ranges from smooth and buff to rugged and rocky.  Views flip flop between open vistas to cacti strewn valleys and switchbacks.  The terrain always warrants your attention – the second you gain speed and flow,  you’re on the brakes navigating a series of tight turns.

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There aren’t many extended periods of high speed “free” miles.  With that, the 75 miles feels more like 100, and the short, techy climbs sprinkled between flowy grade reversals are definitely more taxing than the sustained gradual breed – although there were a few of those too… climbing out of the river crossings were the toughest.  Don’t forget the cacti and cat claw are always lurking if you lose your line… throw all of these ingredients into the pot and you’ve got one stellar day of riding!!

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The flowing singletrack on Little Pan is a definite highlight of the BCT

I saw lots of cattle, a roadrunner, a snake, a turtle (yes a turtle), lotsa birds, blooming wildflowers, cacti, four humans, and more cacti.  Luckily, only one cholla reached out and touched me.  Lotsa chatter about the “river crossings”.  Obviously, the water levels are constantly changing, so check levels before you ride.  The deepest I encountered was up to my shins.  I just walked through the water.  Didn’t bother taking shoes off.  I’ve had enough experience with wet feet so no biggie.  Merino wool = all good.

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Shell shocked!  I almost ran over this poor little guy near Black Canyon City

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I didn’t bring a fro pick, but luckily nothing dug in too deep.  Pulled my legging away from the skin, and the pricklies disengaged.  Whoosh.

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One of the easy river crossings.  I don’t even think I got wet on this one.

 

Logistics:

I decided to start at the northern “traditional” Big Bug Trailhead (Highway 69 / Mayer) and ride south to Bob Bently Trailhead (Carefree Highway).  As of a few years ago, the trail now extends farther north than Big Bug to Orme Rd / Russian Wells.  I would’ve started there, to get every inch of trail possible, but that TH is more remote and takes much more drive time to reach.  My wife was generous enough to drop me off early in the AM, and I didn’t want to “exploit” her more than necessary – so the Orme Rd / Russian Wells TH was out of the question.  I’ll save that and the newer Copper Mountain singletrack for another ride 🙂

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Don’t bother going to Bumble Bee – nothing doing.

With a 2 mile out and back to the ghost town of Bumble Bee, the 3.2 miles out and back to Rock Springs, and the “getting lost bonus miles”, my ride wound up being about 75 miles with close to 6k climbing according to Strava.  Riding north to south (as most do – since it descends more that way, and has you finishing closer to civilization), is how I’d recommend tackling this one.

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Wildflower Season!

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PS – The most southern 7 miles, from Emery Henderson Trailhead to Carefree Highway, is rarely ridden anymore.  And for good reason.  It’s pretty mundane and unmaintained compared to what you just experienced.  Some sketchy route finding before you pass a prison and reach the “official” end of the trail aka being dumped out on the highway.  Not sure why they even call it Bob Bently?  Anyhoo… you’re better off  finishing at Emery Henderson TH which has bathrooms, parking lot, etc and is a much more appropriate spot to revel in your achievements and crack a coldie, just sayin. 

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I heard this is spring water, just before you cross Crown King / Bumble Bee Rd – Glad it was there, even though I didn’t need it.

 

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I pity the foo that don’t close the gate

 

Route Finding:

The trail is mostly well signed with confidence markers at most major intersections.  There are a few areas where you come off singletrack to doubletrack (and vice versa) that can get confusing.  Also, at the major Agua Fria river crossings (I had four, I think) there could be some head scratching.  No garmin with me, so relied on GAIA / iPhone which I pulled out of my pocket when I wasn’t sure.  Anyhoo, just carry gps and keep your life easy.

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One of the easier Agua Fria River crossings

Water:

I carried 2L water in my frame bag, and had 3 water bottles (2-20oz, 1-24oz) on the bike.  From Big Bug to Rock Springs Cafe, I only went through the 3 bottles, and didn’t touch the bladder.  From Rock Springs to the end, I only drank 2 bottles (although I drank a pepsi and a few glasses of water at Rock Springs Cafe).  Hindsight = definitely should have guzzled more water throughout, as I was pretty dehydrated by the end.  I also had great weather (50ish at the start, and high around 78).  If it was much hotter, I’m sure I would’ve used the full 2L in the bladder.  I was also prepared to treat water from the river, or by the Crown King source, or stop in Bumble Bee Ranch and ask to use their spigot in an emergency.  If you’re prepared, water shouldn’t be an issue.

Food:

I ate trail mix (Trader Joes – cashews, almonds, and chocolate), a couple tangerines, gummy worms, a luna bar, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and grabbed a burger and fries at the Rock Springs Cafe.  BTW, the pie is fantastic at Rock Springs, but I wasn’t “craving” any on this ride.  If it’s your first time to Rock Springs Cafe, definitely grab some pie!!  The burger was what my belly was yelling for this time.

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Bike:

I used Dolphina, my full squish Niner RKT9 RDO.  I went with the 27.5+ wheelset and 2.8 tires. Happy with the setup although regular 29er wheels with beefy tires would be fine too.  No mechanicals.  Super happy with my custom Rogue Panda framebag which maximizes the small space, and my new Bedrock Tapeats feedbag which is HUGE!

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Best.  Urinals.  Ever.  Reason enough to visit the saloon at Rock Springs

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Where the ride should have ended.

Summary:

I’m sick of writing.  Go get some.  Check out the links below to recon your adventure!

Recon Links:

Watch this video of bikepacking the BCT from Rocky Mountain – https://vimeo.com/122393611

Bikepacking.com – http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/black-canyon-trail/

Bikepacker.com – http://bikepacker.com/black-canyon-trail-2/

Brian Lucido blog – https://www.brianlucido.com/bikepacking-arizonas-black-canyon-trail/

John Schilling blog – http://schillingsworth.blogspot.com/2017/02/bct-orme-to-emery-henderson.html

 

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