Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Final Gravelpalooza of the Season, and the Perfect Quote for the Day

Today was Joy Ride Bikes' Gravelpalooza 14, the last one of the season. Today would be epic! We would climb to the top of Capital Peak! The views would be spectacular! There would vistas along the way where you could look back and see Olympia and Puget Sound. You'd be able to see Mt. Rainier in all its glory! There were even two epic options: 30 miles starting from the intersection of Waddell Creek and Sherman Valley roads (the Y), or a 60 miler starting all the way back at the Skep in town (I'll admit, 60 sounds way more epic than 30). The 60 milers would meet us 30 milers at the Y (they started at 9:00, we started at 10:00). To top it off, Joy Ride was going all out and providing food and beverages! THIS WAS GONNA BE AWESOME!!! The only problem was that someone neglected to order up some sunshine from the Weather Gods. Instead, we got the default weather of...rain, rain, and more rain. Well, what else is new? There was a pretty good size group. I didn't do a total head count, but there were 8 women! I think that's pretty good! We headed off toward the C-line. As the fellas of "Tim's World", gravel riders extraordinaire, say, "It's ALLLLL UPHILLLLLL!" Yes, from the parking area, and for 7.5 miles, it is all climbing. At one point as I was pedaling along with Kalen, I told him it seemed like we had been climbing forever--it had only been 5.4 miles! I think it was maybe on C7000 where most of us finally had to walk. Then, the last push up to the peak was just that...a pusher! But...we made it! Of course, due to rather limited visability, those of us (okay, me) who had never been there before, didn't realize we were at the top until we were practically there! We only spent enough time at the towers to take a few photos. Tim took this one of me and Andy.
Me and Andy at the towers of Capital Peak
It was also a little breezy at the top, so we headed back down. The original plan of epicness had been to descend to Mima Falls trailhead for some food and beverages, then ride back to the cars. However, due to the fact that it was raining, and it seemed like we were smack dab back in the middle of winter (minus the snow), we just took the C-Line back down. Brian had moved the location of the tent with refreshments (and most importantly, a heater!!!) close to the Falls Creek turnoff. While we were standing there, shivering, eating sausages, and various other delicious goodies, I heard one of the guys say through chattering teeth, "What is this, a Parkinson's convention?" Not to belittle a terrible disease, but it was a perfect quote for the day!A special shout-out to Brian Koder for cutting his ride short to set up this amazing food stop for us! Now I can say I've been to "The Peak". I'll have to wait until next time before I can say I've seen the "View from The Peak"!
Huddled around the heater
Nom nom, Cam!

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Last Day Where We Played Tourist

For the last day we returned to where we had gone the first day--Arches National Park. This time, however, instead of riding bikes, we drove. On the bikes we couldn't go out to any of the arches. We joined the sea of humanity as typical tourists. Drive...park...walk to the arch...pose for to the next arch...and so on. We did the following arches--Double Arch, North and South Windows (also known as the Spectacles), Turret Arch, Delicate Arch, and Sand Dune Arch. Of these, the only one I hadn't been to before was Delicate Arch. I had been to the viewpoint, but not the actual arch. Delicate Arch is a 3 mile roundtrip hike with a fair amount of climbing up slickrock. Initially, at Double Arch, it was fairly sunny. Then the clouds rolled in along with winds up to 20 mph (seemed like more than that at times). It wasn't particularly cold, and there wasn't any rain. Except for the wind, it wasn't bad. Here's some photos.
Double Arch
Sitting in Double Arch
Looking down from our perch
Going to North Window
South Window
Karen picking the nose of The Spectacles (North and South Windows)
Turret Arch
Selfie with Turret Arch behind us
The Sea of Humanity on the way to Delicate Arch
Maybe not for those who fear heights
Me at Delicate Arch
Standing under the arch
The bowl near Delicate Arch
After Sand Arch we decided to head back. I had been out to three of the arches at Devil's Campground before, so I told the gals it was up to them if they wanted to go see Landscape Arch, and a couple of smaller arches. They were okay being done. They were tired from their late night the night before, and I think we were all kind of tired of the wind, and all the people. It seems we have more tolerance for a difficult bike ride or hike than wading through a sea of humanity! We came back into town and had a final celebratory meal at one of the Mexican restaurants.
The last Moab
It's been a fabulous week! We did so much! Am I all fired up to get a mountain bike? Even though it was very fun, I don't think so. Since I don't really have a car to get to the trails, it seems silly to get a bike. For anyone planning to visit Moab, I would highly recommend the Jeep Tour. It's worth every penny! Speaking of Jeeps, we are getting out of town just in time. People are starting to roll in for the Easter Jeep Safari. If we thought there were a lot of people here now...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 2 of Pretending to be Mountain Bikers

We had this plan to haul the mountain bikes out to Bar M again for a warm up, then reload the bikes and go up to Deadhorse State Park when it got a wee bit warmer (it is about 10 degrees colder at 6000+ feet). Deadhorse had a reasonable selection of easy to moderate singletrack. At the bike shop, it took about 30 minutes to get the bikes loaded, and that was with the bike shop guy doing most of it! Also, we had to put one bike in the back because only three mountain bikes would fit on a 5-bike rack. We all looked at each other and said, "We're just going straight to Deadhorse." The temperature wasn't to bad at the top, so that was a good decision. We managed to get the bikes off the rack, and figured out where we were going. Right away, on the trail that was considered easy, I thought it was similar to the Lazy EZ (which was easy to moderate). We kind of wondered, if this was easy, what's easy/moderate going to be like??? We would soon find out. First we stopped at the Colorado Overlook. It is a spectacular view down the canyon to the Colorado River. We did our usual photo shoot.
Notice how I'm closer to the precipice of death? The others wouldn't get that close. I don't know why not. After all, we had our helmets on!
Just lounging on the edge.
As we were riding along the trail, I came to a, I don't know what a real mountain biker would call it, but it was a ledge of rock that was about 10" high. I, of course, chickened out and stopped. Karen decided she was going to give it a go. I got my camera ready. Then this couple came by. It was the same couple we had seen yesterday (now we know their names are Sharon and Ken). Ken rolled up to the "ledge", stopped, got off, and picked his bike up. Sharon did the same. Karen goes back to get a running start. As she comes around the corner, and sees the rock again, she squeals, "I can't do it!" I laugh, and tell her Gail is coming, we'll get her to do it. Gail comes around the corner, sees the rock, and rides up it like a pro!
Gail--doing it like a pro!
So now, Karen has to do it! She goes back, and comes at it. She hits the ledge and comes to a dead stop. Fortunately, she didn't crash.
Not quite
Then Cindy gives it a try. She makes it up with the front wheel, but can't get the back wheel up.
Karen goes back to try again. This time she makes it pretty good, only put a foot down a little.
Just a little helper foot
Gail, who was totally successful the first time, goes back to do it again. This time, unfortunately, she overthinks it, and doesn't make it up.
Nope nope nope!
Cindy tried again and mostly made it up.
Karen, bound and determined, tried one more time. I videoed that one. She made it! As for me, I didn't even try. I'm such a chicken!!! We stopped and did another photo shoot at the next overlook (see, this is why we only go 10 miles in 2 1/2 hours).!!!
Nice bit of a drop there
Sure, I'll sit out on the edge of a cliff, but I won't ride up a little ledge!
The riding was trickier than yesterday, but we were doing okay until we got on a trail that was more moderately technical. Had we been going the other direction, we might have been able to ride it. As it was, it was too steep, and too much step-like going up. We walked. As we continued riding, we would catch up to Ken and Sharon (they would get ahead of us because of all our photo shoots, but we were the better riders). We'd stop, chat for a bit, then move on. At the Big Chief Overlook, we took a longer break, talking to Ken and Sharon, and a mom and her two boys. We were at the outer end of Big Chief Trail
We were at the top of the green line (Big Chief) at this point
We decided to continue on Big Chief. It was actually pretty fun, and we were really beginning to get the hang of riding up rocks. Then we came to another tricky looking one and, again, my inner chicken came out. This time, however, I did give it a try. I almost made it. Gail had no problem, and neither did Karen. Cindy did better than me. 
Once again, Gail rides it like it's nothing!
No sweat for Karen!
There were a couple more tricky spots that were too difficult for us to even try, so we walked. Otherwise, it was a pretty fun ride. When we got back to the Visitor Center, we all decided we were good with being done. Besides, we still had to load up the bikes, and who knows how long that would take us! Turns out, not so long!  It was another great day of adventuring! We may not really be Mountain Bikers yet, but we're pretty good at pretending!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Part 2--Four Wheeled Adventure

Now for the second part of today. We had decided to do a Jeep Tour. Dan Mick's Jeep Tours got great reviews, so Karen signed us up for the Sunset Tour. Our tour started at 5:30. None of us really had any idea what this was going to be like other than we would ride in a Jeep to see the sunset. Well, let me tell you, it was WAY MORE THAN JUST A JEEP RIDE!!! Curtis, our driver, said he really couldn't tell us what to expect because we wouldn't believe it was possible. Since we had seen that Jeep out at the Elephant Hill Road in Canyonlands yesterday, I thought I had a pretty good idea what it might be like. I was wrong...soooo wrong!  The "Jeep" we were riding in was only a Jeep as far as the body went. The chassis, and all that, was purpose built to basically scale cliffs. That's right...cliffs! 
Our ride
At the trailhead, we started out by climbing up what they called The Intimidator. In the following photos we were obviously not in the Jeep in the photos, but we were right behind it, doing the exact same things.
The Intimidator 
The Jeep went up and over slickrock that you wouldn't believe (just like Curtis said). I would look ahead thinking, okay we're probably going to go that way because the other option is straight up (or down). Nope, every time it was the most impossible looking way...EVERY TIME!!! Here's some more photos.
We came to a spot where we got out and the guys (Dan, his son, son-in-law, and Curtis) told us about the dinosaurs who used to inhabit the area. This particular spot was a killing ground (as evidenced by the foot prints). Allosaurus and velociraptor, as well as stegosaurus lived in this area. 
See the three toes?
Three-toed Allosaurus foot print
There were several footprints in this area. Honestly, if they hadn't told us what to look for, they would have been hard to spot. It's not like they're in the mud or something. It's rock...all rock. We loaded back up in the Jeeps, and continued our crawling over the rocks. Seriously, it was like we were insects climbing all over the rocks!
Climbed up this one wheel at a time
58% grade
What goes up, must come down!
Seemingly about to do a face plant
After going down a three-drop rollercoaster (each one steeper than the next), we sped through the sandpit, weaving back and forth. As we approached the next "obstacle", the Jeep in front of us said (over the radio) they were going to go high. Curtis said we would go around the other way. Well, the name of the next obstacle was called Hell's Gate. OH HOLY CRAP!!! It was straight down through this narrow wedge! I felt like I was on an extreme amusement park ride!
Kind of hanging suspended in my seatbelt 
We got to the bottom, went around the corner, and came to a virtual wall going up! Curtis called it the Stairway to Heaven. Now we saw what the other Jeep had meant by staying high. The people from that Jeep were sitting at the top on the rocks to watch us come up.
Spectators at the top
The rock wedge wasn't even wide enough for all four wheels to fit through! At the top, as we are climbing up the last bit, Curtis lets it go, and we roll back enough to make us scream (just a little). In our heads we know it's on purpose (Curtis told us at the beginning that they don't try anything out with us. It's all thoroughly planned, and Curtis actually drives the route more by "Braille" than by sight--some of the time you can't see where you are going anyway!), but still it surprises us. At the top, we got out so we could watch the others come up. These photos show how steep it was (one part we had gone up earlier was a 58% grade--this was steeper).
You couldn't hardly walk up that!
Extreme three wheeling 
Even more extreme three wheeling!
The part where they let it slide backwards 
After Hell's Gate we continued going up so steep you could only see sky, and going down so steep to the bottom that you couldn't understand how you didn't just do an endo. At last we reached the sunset lookout. While the sunset itself was not the most spectacular I've seen, the location certainly was!
While waiting for the sun to set, Dan showed us some of his rock/fossil collection. He even had a fossilized slice of tibia from a dinosaur. He had been offered a lot of money for it, but he wouldn't sell it.  Once it got sufficiently dark enough, we headed back. Now we were traveling over the same rocks (mostly, but not Hell's Gate) back to the start, only in the dark. Sometimes, Curtis would drive without the headlights...driving by Braille. It was just as exciting coming back as going out. Funny thing, as we neared the end, the parts we had been so impressed with at the beginning now seemed easy! 
"Rock lights" under the Jeep 
We got back to the garage and thanked Curtis for the great tour. Of the adventure tours in Moab, this is one of the cheaper ones. I would highly recommend it. Even if you are coming to Moab for two-wheeled adventure, you might consider having a four-wheel adventure too.