Friday, March 20, 2015

Sawdust Gulch

Here we are, its not yet spring and we are already in full swing Wednesday nights, now with two rides under our lycra. I missed the kickoff over at Soft Rock and I'm sure it was a smashing success.  For week two we stayed on the east side and headed down for the early season leg burner of Sawdust Gulch. We doubled last week's turnout with a twelve showing up. An extra anti-social Mercedes station wagon driving lone ranger misanthrope slipped in an hour early and slipped back out before the rest of us returned and bumped the total up to bakers dozen. The Lone Ranger reported that a pair of dirt bikers were having a grand time spraying rooster tails of soft dirt while lapping Rocky Gulch, but as he was lacking Tonto he let them be.

After a spell of writer's block the began back in last August, I'm hopefully reenergized for more self flagellation and erudite musings of life, the universe, and everything, or failing at that more potty fingers.

Once again I'm the reluctant and default proud tail gunner.  Even some guy on a new overheard blue carbon Tall Boy who scrambled from tree to tree for breathers out rode me.  No wonder I'm now know as Br'er Rabbit, and not for my fecundity, or my blazing sprints, but rather for the molasses.  I may be molasses, but my feet stayed firmly attached to the pedals.  Tom, after a long hiatus returned, and for his steed brought a rigid single speed.  If I had attempted such a feat, everyone in the valley would have the pop, and Warwick would have found my patella floating along the shores of Lake Blaine. Cory on his second ride after a winter and fall on discontent was back on his bike, riding fearlessly his hip now healed.  We ended up refining last year's route, including the anthill free for all scramble to the top.  While this year's prolonged sidehill on intermittent game trails over and through the sagebrush was an improvement on last year, in retrospect we should have followed the rebel brewmaster instead of our illustrious leader, who in a rare misstep almost lead us into a terrain trap.

For those of you who are still stuffing a sock in your undies to enhance your package or have had a unforutnate encounter with the top  tube, there is hope. The big news for those who don't keep track was the world's first successful penis transplant in South Africa; still the dream of a detachable penis have yet be achieved.  While the rumors are true, and my penis is not currently getting put through its full range of activities, I am hopeful (even if the probability is slim to none) that in the future it might see non micturation action,  so as of this time I'm not willing to take one for the team and donate it to a more worthy recipient.

For those who have been told to grow some, you are still out of luck as the transplant only involves the swizzle stick and not the tea bags, the bat and not the balls.  In other words just the pecker, peter, dick, stick, prick, tube steak,  love rocket, willy, trouser monkey, devils horn, one eyed snake, love machine, staff, cock, dreamsicle, woody, third leg, or the purple headed monster. Not the rocks, stones, nuts, jewels, cojones, or sack.

While reading of last year's ride report, it is clear I sucked just as badly at the beginning of last year, and I'm debating whether I should take solace in the fact that I feel this way at the beginning of every season and this year with my celibacy I should have the opportunity to get in back shape riding Tuesday with Quentin and the roadies, the usual gang on Wednesday, the RML group on Thursday, and with Beau and Caleb on Friday. I was talking to Beau about his Fridays where his usual loop leaves his house, takes the backroads to the Gold Camp side of Coyote Coulee, then to Lick Creek and back Old Darby Rd for 30+ miles.   Not that I really have much to to Friday nights, but I think that might leave me a bit fatigued for any weekend fun time.  Maybe I'll let Beau just lap me.

The premature departure of the sun reminded us that we were here three weeks earlier than last year.  Still with the relatively short evenings we managed 7.5 miles and 2000' vertical.  I had a vague recollection that the last few descents were on the steep side, but I had forgotten that they were that puckering.  Finally two days later  my sphincter has relaxed enough to allow me to crap. Despite a few spills and headers, no blood was spilled.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Blue Joint

Wait, what's with the Blue Joint title?  Wasn't this week's ride Buttercup? Yeah it was, but since I figured you were tired of lame posts, I decided to write about something more memorable.  Not that there was anything wrong with Buttercup.  As usual it was fun and I was meh. I neither crushed the climbs or slayed the descents.  Now that I'm back in a relationship and have a dog, I have lost the angst that makes for more interesting posts and my riding obsession has been muted.

So while Buttercup was pleasant, it will ultimately not be remembered, contrasting with our recent adventure on Blue Joint.  A ride that ended with me having a butt guaranteed to attract every baboon in the vicinity, and being unable to remount a bike for the next several days.  Already in my memory, even before all the skin has returned,  the ride is already evolving into a challenging memorable adventure. No wonder we do such stupid stiff.

So a few weekends ago, while everyone else was glued to their computers watching a bunch of red dots move across the map from Fitzgerald's to Red Barn, I managed to talk Jeff and Rob into a trail clearing day on Blue Joint and Little Blue Joint. I  had been looking forward to trying the loop again. The last time, close to five years ago,  was accomplished with the absence of a rear brake after a stupid interaction with a stump early on Little Blue Joint.

This year we decided to do it in reverse. The descent down Little Blue Joint seemed more interesting that the descent down Blue Joint which we thought would make a better climb. Everthing started out so well.  We had our silkys , great weather, and great trails.  Blue Joint had already been cleared to Jack the Ripper.  Last Year's Gold Pan fire had burned through the Ripper and down around Blue Joint for about a mile of trail.  I had heard tales of a non bikes sign at the junction. If it ever existed the fire took care of it. Up to the meadows, there the usual lodegepoles that we dispatches easily.  Heading past the meadow we kept climbing and about two miles past we ran into a good jumble of trees that we also took care of.  As we kept climbing we started running into more trees, quite a few that seemed to have been there since my last venture above the meadows.  We kept diligently clearing, and the trees kept getting bigger, now running into firs and spruce.  Eventually we realized that if we had any chance of making it Little Blue Joint we would need to give up on the last four miles.

Ahead we plodded, and the more we plodded the worse it became and it short order any attempts at riding we abandoned as climbed up, over, and around over hundreds if not thousands of trees. At one point abandoning the trail for about a quarter mile.  It there that we saw someone else had done the same and  had put blazes on the trees around the detour.  So glad they were carrying an axe, but not a saw.

Eventually we  reached Deer Creek and the dead end road at the upper trailhead.  I had been informed previously that Razorback had been partially cleared, but Jeff pointed out that we didn't know which trailhead for Razorback was the starting point. Not interested in more climbing over endless deadfall we decided we would ride up the trail just far enough to see if it had been cleared.  We ran into trees within 100 yards and wisely decided to take the road back around.

Unfortunately, that wisdom didn't last long.  Riding back towards Woods Creek Pass we noticed a sign for Deer Creek and the trail headed downhill.   There were signs the trail had been cleared at least in the last couple of years, and a quick reconnoiter revealed no downed trees.  The Forest Service website had reported that the bottom four miles of Deer Creek were cleared recently.

With only a couple of miles of road riding, we were already bored and the idea of close to 30 miles and gravel and pavement back to car must have diminished my common sense.  I figured how bad could it be. It's downhill and at least partially cleared.  Rob was also willing. Jeff, on the other hand was reluctant, and that should have raised some alarms. Jeff, always up for exploring an unknown trail, wanted to stick to the road.  I should have realized that if Jeff wants to stick to the road, we should stick to the road.

But no, the lure of the chance of getting some downhill single track during the ride was overwhelming. So off we went, and it was so good. Luring us farther and farther in. Teasing us with the occasional lodgepole, just we could justify this part of the ride as trail clearing.  Abundant huckleberries nourished us. Then slowly and imperceptibly the downfall got heavier, but still just lodgepole. Sounless it was too big to hop, we left it.  Then the downfall started having branches. Then the downfall was a Jenga challenge. It was about then that we realized we were screwed. Miles to go, and the only option was forward. Saws sheathed, water replenished from a creek, and couple more handfuls of huckleberries  tossed back and onward we went.

Over on Blue Joint, some may recall the trail side hilling across fields of loose degenerated granite. Stuff that just sloughs off the hill, giving way on the downhill side, and covering up the trail on the uphill side.  Now imaging those hillsides, but with the trail higher above the creek. Now imagine that hillside never seemed to stop.  Got all of that. Now add Ponderosas. Not the picturesque upright ones, but the the massive rotting, too big to climb over fallen ones.  Good there were dozens of those.  Remember that degenerate granite again, imagine that no one had been on this trail for years since the  the fallen Ponderosas had discourage everyone.  The trail was nearly gone, and were it was still there, you could see where a horse had stepped and the hillside had accelerated its race to creek bottom. At this point the DZ nuts had long wore off and walking seemed to exacerbate the chafing.  Still riding seemed like a appointment with the man in black.

Walking and getting the occasional chance to coast until the next obstacle.  Looking and hoping for that pile of fresh saw dust  indicating that you had reached farthest extent of the rumored trail clearing.

Finally, a freshly cut log. Only four more miles to the road.  The road above Painted Rocks, above Alta, above Hughes Creek.  Only 15 miles back to the car on the other side of Painted Rocks and up by the Blue Joint trailhead.  Getting back to the car twelve hours as the light finally failed.

Why is there a fricking smile on my face writing this?  Damn, I'm messed up.
Monkey Doo

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blodgett Canyon

The other day and noticed my adolescent progeny in the house watching TV or maybe it was videos on an iPad, or texting on their phones, and since it was a particularly pleasant day, I put them in bear hugs and dragged them outside and locked all the offering devices in a safe. All the time thinking, how can you waste a day, there is so much to experience. Don't they know that eventually they will end up decrepit, and the things that are so easy now won't always be so.

Over last year or two, I have noticed lingering aches that never seem to quite disappear like they used to, a tennis elbow that aches despite never playing tennis, an IT band that doesn't like deep squats and lateral movement, a need for reading glasses when trimming my increasing abundant nose and ear hair.  While I can still maintain a steady slog, power and fast twitch movements seem to be in shorter supply.  Not only is my temple showing signs of abuse and overuse I know have friends with titanium hips and ceramic knees; a colleague laid low by Parkinson's disease.  I'm not sure if that means I'm starting to feel my age, but I no longer feel 30.

I have read that the last things to go are your endurance and the ability to suffer.  If I was smart I would be embracing this new reality and be preparing for long slow slogs on gravel backroads between here and the Teton Valley.  Instead I find my self  wishing that Skalkaho Pass was open so that I could spend my weekends on lift assisted laps  at Discovery.

So there I was yesterday putting on pads for the climb up Blodgett, wondering how many more years of rock gardens and guarantees falls I had left, appreciating the irony that now that I final have the skills to enjoy the ride, I may not have the resilience much longer. How much 5 years? 10 years? Probably not much more.

 The summer doldrums were upon us with only the residual core crowd ready to ride, along with Bret, who made the journey down from the big city determined to prove that not everyone was Missoula was  ironic plaid wearing, gonadal atrophic poseurs.

I'm glad to report back to the surrender monkeys who hid at home as if there was a duck and cover drill in progress that while the valley remainder sweltering, up in the hills the clouds had rolled through leaving behind a film of rain.  After playing human squeegee for the undergrowth it cold be described as chilly.

This year we decided to postpone the ride long enough to allow the trail to dry out. As a consequence we renamed the ride above the bridge to West Weasel.  The good news being that the huckleberries farther up the canyon rival Hungry Horse for their size and number.  I can't remember a previous ride with so many frequent if brief grazing breaks.

So for those of you who waved the white flag, just remember that your days of riding Blodgett are numbered even if you  don't realize it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Buckhorn Saddle

When we took off to ride there were only three of us, and I was creating a whole blog on a Three Musketeers theme which would have been great since in coincided with the birthday of Alexandre Dumas.  I was good all the way the searing heat on wet facing climbs and I was good through the rumble of Thor's hammer higher up. I was even good when we reached the saddle, took a break and started the last climb to the ridge.  At that last moment Dean and Jeff caught up, and my post was screwed. One more person I could handle since there are four friends in the three musketeers, but two, nope.  My whole theme blown to crap.

So I guess instead I'll poach some links.  July's epic fails.  Makes my glad I've gained I small amount of wisdom in my old age.  Butte Urban Downhill.  Too bad I'm working today.  Electric mountain bikes?  Hey, I don't mind the occasional shuttle, and I'm not crazy about forest service road climbs, but I still a believer to earning your downhills

Bald Top update. Last weekend we detoured to Bald Top during the Tour of the Bitterroot, and Dean is finally free of his curse.  He made it down in daylight and without a mechanical, and wearing Tevas to boot.  Joel paid for his three week layoff, and promptly returned to his layoff for this ride.  Sorry I missed Sean's half braked idea to also ride Bald Top later the same day.

Palisades Update.  Vince missed the arrow for the short cut last week, probably since I put it there after he had already passed by. Instead he made a visit to the Willow Mountain Lookout and visited with the lookout. I hope she was cute and lonely.

Lost Trail Bike Fest is coming up. Time to sign up.

 I know who hasn't renewed with the BBC and I'd hate to start naming names.  Support mountain biking in the Bitterroot.  More members means more influence with the Forest Service. Want more trails? Want to make sure trails stay open?  We need to be organized and we need your help. Now that we are part of IMBA, you can even get yourself some socks, a T shirt, or a jersey if you donate enough.

How was the Buckhorn and Brennan Gulch. It started hot and I was looking for every bit of shade I could find. Some thunder later on, but no rain unlike town.  Brennan Gulch and the new straight shot to the parking lot need to be ridden in.  The grass was so high in Brennan  Gulch that the kelly humps were hidden and caution lead to a lack of epic fails.

Tired of the long road climbs on the last three rides? Me, too.  Jeff is out of town and appointed me as the picker of the ride. With a predicted heat wave on tap for next week, I'm in no mood for baking in the sun on an east side ride. Calf Creek will be a sandy hell. Instead we will be doing Blodgett.  Letting everyone know now, since I've heard rumors that some Teabaggers may head our way.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I was about to give out either the first FI or WTF award of the year, but decided that would be too harsh. Instead yesterday we had our first Oopsie Daisy award, that I'll give to the group. Yesterday was another one of those long rides where no one wants to linger at the trailhead waiting for the laggards so everyone took of on their own as soon as they were ready to ride.  The effect of this was there were two main groups and and one loner stuck in between.  Unfortunately for the lone V, this was his first attempt of Palisades, a fact not known to the lead group.  So stuck in the gap he missed the gated road short cut and ended up alone on the fire road.  No one saw him for the rest of the ride and when the groups reassembled at the top he was missing with no one having passed up.  After a long wait we hoped he turned around since we were burning the remains of the day, and had to proceed on. On our return his car was gone.  If it hadn't been, a FI award might have been in the offing.  In the future, keep an eye on your buddy, and if this is your first time on a ride, even if seems like a straightforward road climb, make sure you have a buddy.

A bummer that V missed the fun part of the ride.  Having been previously cleared, the trail was in prime condition after the previous day's rain had left the dirt optimally tacky.

Hard to believe, but I used to hate this trail, falling in the mud, walking my bike out in the dark with Dean making sure I made it out alive.  Now this is one of my favorite local downhills. Amazing what a little confidence can do.  Short report today. Go ride.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bald Top

OK everybody, everything is all right. Chad can get out from under the covers and and let go of Tracy's hands. Warwick can open your eyes, get your hands off your ears, and stop saying, "Na na na, I can't hear you.  Joel, unbolt the doors and take the magazine out of your AR-15. The ride to Bald Top is over and no one is going to make any of you go.

We managed to find five brave souls willing to confront this menace.  So feared is this ride that it has been at least seven years since anyone has ventured onto its forsaken terrain on a Wednesday night.  Memories of bloodied faces , thuds and grunts just of the trail on moonless nights, and the possibility  of spooning with Shrek still haunt many of our dreams.

Climbing fifteen miles of fire roads is enough to depress anyone, well anyone not named Beau or Dean, or Fitz-Barn participants, or the Montana Hell Ride organizers.  I guess quite a few people like it, but in the words of Rob. "I don't do roads. I do singlet track," and that is how the Wednesday night ride rolls.

I know I was fearing a searing ride up south facing sun blasted Two Bears road.  I filled my water reservoir to the brim, brought a filter and electrolyte tablets and ended up barely drinking half the water. The clouds that rolled in for the afternoon turned Bataan into a pleasant jaunt.

When I started the ride I had a fantasy, several actually, but only one that applied to the ride.  I had discovered that some Missoula scumbags had come down and created a Strava segment on our turf. One that happened to coincide with the ride, all the up Two Bear to the saddle, and I hoped maybe I could reclaim the KOM for the Bitterroot.  Unfortunately those interlopers were of the fast Thoroughbred variety on skinny tires, and I'm at best a fast donkey. Plus they weren't saddled with one of Leon's lambs that I had borrowed from my pasture (It's not stealing if they are on your land is it?) and now had slung over my shoulders as a sacrifice to the Bald Top Demons.

So when everyone else stopped at the usual pullout on Two Bear to recover, I plodded on, failing to redeem the Bitterroot trailing the KOM by a little over 4 minutes.  If there was any satisfaction was the knowledge that if John or Travis were being timed they would have taken the honor back for us.  John started after me, caught up, took a break, passed  me again and was long gone before anyone else reached the saddle.

Once the rumors of our successful ride and return permeated through the community, people sidled up to me and whispered, "What was it like?  Would you do it again?"  If my name was Dean, probably not.  I would be three for three on coming back out in the dark.  While the lamb seemed to satiate the demons and allowed the rest of us to pass unmolested, Dean seems to have his own personal curse.  Not sure why maybe he used to rock a mullet or has contemplated hair plugs.  This year atop a new Horsethief on it's virgin ride he managed to flat and then puncture the spare tube while attempting to fix the flat.

For anyone else, I'll be honest.  I'll ride it again as long as it has been cleared, maybe not right away, but it is worth a repeat.  On top the trail is sweet between the false summits, and would have been more fun if I hadn't toasted my legs chasing the Strava KOM on Two Bear.  The top of Bald Top has some of the best views I've seen in awhile.  It appears to be the high point of the Sleeping Child area with great views of the Bitterroots to the west and the Kent, Congdon, Fox collection on the Sapphire crest to the east.

The main downhill is one steep mother.  IMBA recommends a grade of 10% for flow trails, and I was recently working on some mapping of our trails and for the ratings a difficult trail (black diamond) has a 15% grade and an extremely difficult (double black) has a 20% grade.  Bald Top maxes out at 40% and averages somewhere around 25%. The last half mile reminds me of the switchbacks at the end Buttercup except looser and steeper.

While hanging my ass way back over the rear tire is fun for awhile, I could have used a few more chances to let my rotors cool down and maybe the chance to make a few turns in the last 2500' vertical.

Next week, another chamois cream ride, Palisades.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

And... Loving It

Would you believe what a fantastic ride we had yesterday on Railroad; plenty of sunshine, mild temperatures and cleared trails? No? What was your first guess? Railroad Creek?  Yeah, it has a notorious reputation, entirely deserved, but not the whole story.  Railroad has a Janus personality and I have ridden it on weekends after it has been cleared and I keep thinking how great a ride it is, and wonder why it so unpopular.  Usually when Jeff suggests this ride, which has been his personal project the last few year he gets at most one taker.  After this week's ride that may be all gets in the future.

At the culmination of the ride, the dreaded word epic was bandied about.  Most of the criteria were fulfilled: inclement weather ( well not great weather, drizzle and a little chilly),  obligate head lamp use, flailing around in the dark, catastrophic mechanical failure.  Still I think there are three more criteria of which at least one of which is obligate to be classified as an epic.  First, no crimes were committed. No breaking and entering cabins. No trespassing.  Second, no bodily injury. Simple, no blood, no epic.  Third, no Shrek. Self explanatory.

So what we are left with is a top 10 Wednesday ride adventure.  Maybe not a bald top, but probably edging out the previous Railroad headlamp ride and a toss up with the White Stallion fiasco.

So what happened?  Much like the White Stallion fiasco it all starts with trees, downed trees, lots of downed trees, lots and lots of those nasty dead half burned overgrown matchsticks. Like nearly every other ride so far this year, we seem be spending more time drawing that riding.  I beginning to think we need to reclassify  our Wednesday night rides as Logger Days training. After clearing the remainder of Weasel and a half hearted effort on #313, we began am aggressive clearing of Railroad, but it was 9:15 before we even began down, and the farther we dropped the more the trail was littered with the remains of a giant's game of Jenga. With that came the realization that the lights would come out, with the only question being how far could we get first. The answer is the end of the worst of the downfall and the beginning of the lower technical drop to the creek.  Two thirds of the way down came the mechanical, my maxle rear axle gave up the ghost and left my rear tire with only a tenuous connection to the remainder of my bike leaving me a hoofing it for the last bit of trail and 3.5 miles of Forest Service Road. Well that should have been the worst of it, except that by the time we reached the short cut at the creek crossing we were far past twilight and well into complete darkness and just "missed it by that much".  After finally gaining the road and waving goodbye to the fading headlamps  I began my nature commune until the rescue was mounted and John's Subaru returned me to the trail head at 11:00 with the lum cooked and grey poupon dijon awaiting.  No epic can end with grey poupon of a grilled dog.

If a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is the whole post in one shot.