Monday, October 13, 2008

June 2008 Western Mountain BikeTrip

my map
June 2nd Entry ----Tomah and Eau Claire, WI. St. Paul, MN
Met up with Paul at his place which is located right at the edge of where the last Glacier went over WI 10,000 years ago. Paul has some pretty radical hills and gullies where he built a trail in his back yard that has just about everything. A couple burner hills, some tight techy stuff with bark gone on a few trees from handle bars and peddles to prove it along with nice fast downhill sections and a few well built bridges. He's done a great job with this and has plans for more. I used my HIFI and Paul ran his FS Specialized. Met Paul and his brother Al at some of the WEMS races in WI over the years. Along with my son, Chris, we've teamed up together for a few 24 hr. races over the years. Al was most of the brain and brawn (he did the welding) when we built the bike rake for my motorcycle last year.

Paul and I then drove up the road a piece to Eau Claire, WI and rode Lowes Creek
This trial is fast and fun. Follows ridge lines and has a good variety of flowing trail. Not a lot of technical stuff unless you call quick high speed turns on flats and descents technical. We did manage to find a rock decent.. We scared up a doe and it"s fawn, as well. We cruised around here for over an hour, covering all but 2 trails and taking a few of them more than once. We both used our 29ers for this. Paul just got a new one this spring, a Specialized.

Drove on to St. Paul and met up with my son Chris at Lebanon Hills
This trail has everything and quite a bit of it. Fast banked downhills, rock gardens, log piles of various shapes and sizes, drops, jumps, teeter totter and just lots of fast furious downhill screamers. Used the HIFI again for this trail. Felt much more comfortable on it than my HT 29er mainly due to the drops as I was able to "take them" as opposed to "just getting over them".
But, I still had some trouble in a couple of the rock gardens. Going too slow combined with some gentle rain that had come down and I just think my upper body was a little tired, as I've aced them before. Due to injuries, this was the first real ride for Chris and he did well...oh, to be 31 again! I've logged around 500 miles for the year compared to about 5 him, but he still was pulling away at times. Guess that baseball thing must be good for cross-training? I'll just chalk it up to being a little tired. Did get a few cramps at the bar after the ride. Had to down a couple waters with Hammer Recoverite before my beer.

Total for the day: 29 miles and a little over 3 hrs. of riding. All singletrack.
June 3rd Entry ----St. Cloud, MN
Woke up to drizzly weather with temps around 58-60. Had a customer visit till about 11:30 so decided not to back track to the Hillside Park trail in Elk River but to hit a trail on my way in St. Cloud called the Jail Trail that I had never done before. It"s quite a bit more techy than Hillside with a number of short 20-30 yard expert loops that reach out to grab a rock or obstacle of some sort. A nice ride with a few surprises that made me dab a few times. The rain held off long enough to cover the whole trail and get in a 45 minute ride of 6 miles. On to North Dakota and hopefully less mesquites!

Bike at the end of the tunnel:

June 4th. Entry----Medora, ND
Got into Medora, ND the night before in time to catch a beer before last call. Asked the barmaid if there were any mtn. bikers in the crowd as there were a few young guys having a beer. One of the guys happened to work at the local bike shop and was very helpful. We discussed a loop ride on part of the Maah-Daah-Hey TrailWoke up to dry and warm conditions, low 70"s. A pretty decent loop that included elk and a short but legal ride on the shoulder of the Interstate. Had to watch out for cow pies on the trail, hate to get that stuff thrown up from the tires. The local shop runs a shuttle for riders who want to ride the whole 120 miles as a one way and will also move the camp for riders to the next camping stop. The guy at the shop even took my cell call when I got out to the trail and needed some final directions. When I got back to town to say thanks and bye, he gave me a pint glass with the store logo on it, maybe it was payback for the beer I bought him the night before at the bar?
Got to listen to the Bosox beat Tampa 2 nights in a row on xm radio and take back 1st place. Also, listened the Brewers beat the D'Backs in a day game today. A nice way to cruise down the road.
Rode about 50 minutes and covered 8 miles, all singletrack. Toto, we"re not in Kansas anymore! (Where did all the trees go?) Instead of the claustrophobic canopied trails of the heavily vegetated mid-west where you're lucky to see 20 yards in front of you, the trail today was wide open big sky, sometimes seeing 2, 3, or more sections of the trail as it winds it's way up or downhill, switchback after switchback. Taking a tight turn too wide can land you inches from a straight downhill of 100 feet or more.
Gone are the log piles, replaced by the cattle guards and fence gates to be opened to allow passage. Expecting my rides to increase in length, distance and degree of difficulty soon.
Tried to drive through the Beartooth mountain pass today, but there are 2-3 avalanches still across the road. Maybe next time out.

June 5th Entry----West of Bozeman, MT

Between a rock and hard place?

Pulled out of the Bozeman Holiday Inn about noon and headed down to the LBS, Bangtail Bikes. It was and had been raining all night, temps in the mid 50’s. I asked about a local trial, Bridger Ridge and the guys said forget it, under 8 ft. of snow. They recommended I head west toward Butte and gave me a map for the Whitetail/Pipestone area. It’s a multiple use area for ATV’s, dirtbikes and mtb. Bikes. There was a mass of trials, but the map was pretty good and there were local markers out on the trail. I stayed as much as possible one the trails designated for 2-wheel vehicles. As I started out on a few short but steep climbs, it seemed apparent at 5500 feet that I hadn’t had time to acclimate totally. My lungs felt the size of sandwich baggies, or could it have been the 5 lb. custom made omelet and hash browns I downed at the HI for breakfast? I either case after about 20 minutes I was getting into the swing of things. The first loop went below a ridge with an exposed rock face, then cut up into them and worked it’s way back to the parking area. This was about 7 miles and it took 50 minutes, or so. I took out on the 2nd loop the mechanic at Bangtail told me about and it was more interesting. Solid rock climbs way too steep to ride up or down. Things were wet so the tires were packed with a nice mud/sand mixture and with loose sand on the rocks, it was made a little tougher. The dirtbikes did a great job making super berms, roller coaster pumptrack kind of sections and also keeping things loose and tore up some. No ruts, though due to the sandy texture of the soil. Both loops had some really good downhill sections which made the climbs worth it. The climbs were mostly doable, not too much hike-a-bike. The 2nd loop took around 1:20 and was about 8 miles.
Total time a little over 2 hrs. and 15 miles.
Got into Missoula about 7PM and headed directly out to Rattlesnake Mt. The local mtb club had just finisher up their weekly ride. A couple guys were kind enough to go through some of the trails for my ride tomorrow. A few years ago when I rode this area I crossed over the mt. by mistake and ended up on a 5 hr. ride. Not that it was a bad thing, but directly after the ride tomorrow, my plan is to drive 8 hrs. to Salt Lake City.
June 6th Entry----Missoula, MT
Got on the trial at about 10:30, after my meeting at the mill. It was raining some but still headed off. It quit soon after and turned out to be a great day. Up through large ponderosa pines thick like I remember the coast of Oregon. The trial soft with pine needles and wet dirt. That clear crisp mountain air that felt like Vicks Vapour Rub from the dense pine scent, as you suck it in trying to get enough oxygen to make the pull without stopping. 2.5 mile climb to start to get to the first turn junction. I ventured toward the top another mile or so and decided to head down. I just decided to pick a couple more right turns, as the guys suggested, then took a left and came flying down over 2 miles into a huge meadow, maybe a mile square. I made a hard right and headed back up a different trail. Maybe a mile or so back up. When I got up to a saddle ridge a couple guys had just got there too and they gave directions down that would take me on 2-3 mile swing out and down through trees, ridges, a small meadow and exposed dropoffs. The hifi was purring like a sleek cougar, bounding down the zig-zag trail as if it was chasing down a whitetail. I tried to hang on as best I could and not hold her back too much! A few small jumps here and there and couple launches off a few waterbars and it made me I wish I had better skills, it would been that much better. Focusing on standing on the outer crank on wide sweeping down hill turns with the bike laying over as much as I dared I was smiling all the way down. Got to the upper parking lot and hit the Ewalk trail as the locals call it as it reminds them of the Star Wars scene of them cruising thru the forest. It was about a mile of really neat bermed single track with hardy any peddling needed nor breaking, just a nice constant speed for conditions. Luckily I didn’t meet anyone. As I looked ahead and saw the trail open to the finishing 2 track I didn’t notice the 2-3 foot drop till the last second Braking wasn’t an option, going too fast and it was too steep. I shifted my weight back as fast as I could and just hit the ground as I was picking up the front, a little wobble off the landing and some 30 yards of 2 track before back on the Ewalk trail for 40 yards to finish up….

1:30 12 miles.

June 7th
Salt Lake City. Bunked in with friends of my son. After Cheryl fueled me up with pancakes I headed out from her and her husbands house to do the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. From what I understand, this is the old shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville, of which the Great Salt Lake is all that’s left. It must have been huge as I was hundreds of feet above the City at times. After getting to the zoo it was kind of a hit and miss to follow the trail to Dry Creek/Gulch. Pulled up through that, whew! and hit the trail crossing over to Bobsled, a steep twisty bermed run down a gulch. A great run! Came across an old 1945-55 car the locals were using for jump. I passed on that one. Got to the bottom of Bobsled and peddled back up to the trail and made my way back to the zoo and home. Some great views of the City and the surrounding mountains. I didn’t realize SLC had sooo many mountains so close. Some cities think they’re the bomb cause they have one or two peaks within view, but there are whole ranges here! After the ride had dinner with Cheryl and Florian, a great tuna dish…then started for CO and Rabbit Valley and Fruita. Ended up camping near a site of 7,000 year old Pectographs and Pictographs near Thompson, UT.

No Ghosts visited me during the night, just some guys from Salt Lake heading to Moab that pulled into camp, same as me. We had a great fireside discussion covering skiing and biking.
3:30 26 miles

June 8th----Fruita, CO
This was the toughest day for riding to date. Did the Rim Trail at Rabbit Valley, CO. It dropped me in, over and though some of the roughest trails I’ve been on. As at Whitetail/Pipestone, the singletrack was shared by dirtbikes. Although there were a few bikes and ATV’s in the parking lot, after 15 minutes of riding, I had the world to myself. It got real big and real confusing real quick. I ended up pretty much trying to follow old mtb. tracks around the loop. Some great rock formations and the backside had a number of views of the Colorado Rive. This was one of the few trails I’ve ever been on where I wasn’t sure if I’d find my way out.
2:25 14 miles
Got over to the 18-Mile, Fruita, CO trails in time to get a late afternoon ride in. Met a couple guys from the Front Range, Denver and Fort Collins. They invited me on a ride. We had a great time on these single track screamers that follow the gulches/ravines downhill for a few miles. Not overly technical, although there were plenty of surprises that awaited one at times flying around the many bermed corners. The trails mainly follow the ribs/spine of hills or chase down the dry creek beds with an uncountable number of slalom/bobsled miles. We had a few beers later in the evening and shared a number of adventure stories from rafting, canoeing to biking.
2:30 23 miles .....for the day: 5 hrs. 37 miles
If you blow this up you may see the 2 riders across the canyon.

June 9th----Fruita, CO
Stayed at 18-mile and started with Chutes and Ladders then decided to climb to the top. This route took me way out and back then up, up and up. Climbed 1200 vertical feet in 10 miles. A little tired after that! Had a great view of 80% of the 18-mile system. Headed back the way I came to do Zippity Do Dah, the “must do” trail of this network. On the way over, I ran into a guy from Gunnison, CO. About 36 or so I’d guess. Had thighs the size of my waist and a waist the size of my thighs. I think the guy could bike Everest if he wanted to, but a great guy who shared trail knowledge freely and enthusiastically. Finished off Zippity Do and it was all it’s cracked up to me. Nobody that’s afraid of heights and/or being out on the edge, should go out there. This baby had some pucker power for sure.
4:30 28 miles

Camped way down below. View at the top of the 10 mile ride.

June 10th
Went over to the Kokopelli Trail a little west of Fruita. Started out with the basics, Rustlers Loop and kept moving up, Horsethief, Pete’s Loop, etc.. It has been in the high 70's most of the time the past few days. I ran out of water this AM. Had to road ride back 3 miles to the heep to get some more, started it up and it was 98! wonder I was sucking down the H2O!! I hung out in the Hot Tomato restaurant in Fruita, had a couple Fat Tire Amber Ales, played on the net till the temps dropped some and went back out for an hour or so.
My assessments and recommendations on how to get the most out of 18-mile and the Kokopelli trail systems:
- go to 18-mile first and setup Camp.
- Find another group and agree to work together to shuttle bikes
- Plan on doing all the trails to the bottom as you shuttle bikes back to the top.
- Suggested order: Prime Cut, Kessel, Chutes and Ladders, Western Zip, Zippety Doo Da. If you still want more, do the Front Side climb to the top and enjoy the view before coming down. If you can’t work out a shuttle, Prime Cut is the normal trail back up….try to stay off the others heading uphill....for obvious reasons!
- These trails are made for speed so get that out of your system
- Go to Kokopelli
- Plan on riding at a leisurely pace and enjoy the views, get off the bike often.
- I’d start with Rustlers Loop and continue on up the line to HorseThief then following Mary’s Loop do Steve's Cutoff and Steve’s Loop followed by Lion’s Loop to Mack Ridge. I didn’t have time to do Moore Fun, but heard it’s slow and technical. All good!
total for the day was 4 hrs. and 27 miles, pretty much covered around 80% or better of the Kokopelli system.

Below is actually the entrance and exit to one of the trails....Horsethief Bench. I didn't try it. Lots of loose scree and the drops are enough to cause some issues.
Watch a guy clean it on youtube

June 11th----Near St. George, UT
Drove most of the night heading to Hurricane and Gooseberry Mesa. Pulled off the I-State and found a spot off a secondary road to throw out the air mattress and sleeping bag, didn’t even setup the tent. Got up when the sun started beating down on me and got to Gooseberry about 11AM.
Riding the slickrock out on the south loop to the point and it is a POINT. The end of the earth just drops off. As for the ride, as long as one stays right on the white dots everything is pretty dang rideable, down for sure and most of the ups. I lowered my seat and had to get over the tire a number of times, but no crashes although a few times I’m pretty sure I used every bit of travel I had in the front. Once I got off the point I started the north loop. Due to time and the fact that my bike wasn’t shifting very well, I turned off at the practice loop. One has to enjoy a constant diet of slickrock riding to enjoy this trail system. There are a few open stretches, but be prepared to use your upper body as much or more than ever before. Not a place for a lot of speed.

2:30 15 miles
That blue sky has not been doctored up, beautiful day.

Looking across to ZION National Park

The next 2 pics are taken from opposite ends of the targets....

June 12th---Las Vegas, NV
Met up with a local (originally from WI) I had never seen before and only talked to on the phone. DD, as he is known as (Dave) and he took me out across the desert starting from the tiny town of Blue Diamond, just 23 miles southwest of Las Vegas. This area is called Cottonwood by the locals. We went on a section of the original Spanish Trail. Many of the single track trails in the area were made by the wild burros and horses that are still common to the area. Watch out for the wild burros, we had a couple trot past the LBS as we were beering up after the ride. Pretty cool.
There are many more trails here from what Dave told me, some epic in length. We started out with 5 guys but soon got separated. DD and I got too far ahead and we didn’t realize one guy had crashed and was also having some mechanical issues, so bottom line, they rode for a bit and headed back in. DD and I doubled back to find them but to no avail so we took off across the valley to do the long sweeping downhill section Dave says was fun. He was right!. We ran into a couple guys from PA that had rented 29er hifi’s at the LBS and one other group, but that was all. These trails would be good with either my 29er or FS. DD and I cruised down some nice fast sections with some rock outcroppings and a lot of loose rocks and shale. Pick your speed! Also, I picked up a couple cactus needles in my shoe twisting through a tight spot. Guess one needs to be real careful ya don’t skewer yourself on a Joshua Tree or roll into a cactus! A real nice break from the slickrock techy stuff of yesterday. For those of you who are looking to ride in the Las Vegas area, don’t despair, there is good riding here, too! IMO.
1:30 14 miles (with a number of stops to just BS, take in the views and get to know one another)
June 14th----Blue Diamond, NV
Got my middle son, Nick, who just turned Captain in the AF, to come on a ride with me on a portion of the trail we did on the 12th . His first time out on a mtn. bike. Clippless and all! He did great! We cruised around for an hr. and he was ready to head in. He spilled once in the beginning on a pretty good uphill but after that he went through a few pretty technical sections with not much trouble. I threw him on the 29er cause the clips aren't as tight, so he could get out easier.

1 hr. 8 miles

Zoom out .........
Zoom in, to barely see Nick.

June 15th
On my way from Vegas to Holbrook, AZ I stopped at Hualapai, AZ County Park east of Kingman, AZ just to get some exercise. A huge uphill to a lookout and I came across these guys (and gal)!
1 hr 12 miles

- June 16th. Customer visit, Snowflake, AZ
Fly back to Indy for work meeting from Pheonix

- June 17th. Customer visit, Indy, IN
Flay back to Phoenix same day
Head toward Prewitt, NM
June 18th---Show Low, AZ
White Mountains, Show Low, AZ. Did Timber Mesa loop out to a connector to Panorama loop and brought a different connector back. Trail obviously received a lot of TLC as all the duff was raked off along with 99% of the loose small rocks. The north connector (Sawmill) had a lot of heave elk traffic during the wet season as it was potholed for 4 miles with 2 to 6” holes made by the elk when it was wet. As the trail was hard now it made for a rough ride. Glad I used the 29er as it is better equipped to span the holes the elk made when they sunk in the mud.
Recommend getting a small $2 booklet of the local trails. White Mountains Trail System, Lakeside Ranger District, Lakeside, AZ.
Got into Gallup, NM in time to see part of a performance from the local Indians. The pic is from the Hoop Dance.
2:50 18 miles

June 19th Customer visit, Prewitt, NM.
Rode one of the options in the Prewitt/Gallup, NM area provided by Mims .
Quaking Aspen south of Gallup, NM. I have to admit, somehow I got screwed up after I left the junction at the top of the gentle 30 minute climb at the first tank/pond. Instead of circling around to the west, somehow I got on a trail that took me east once I got out there. I had my first flat, too. Was bombing thru a great section with some rocks riding the HIFI and was letting the FS do it's thing and poof, I cut the face of my rear tire. I kept going hoping the stans would do it's thing as well, but it didn't so I stopped to throw a tube in....the inside of the tire was dry, no stans!.....gotta talk to my LBS on that one...
Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided to keep going and eventually, after riding back on some trails I took earlier and getting on some that were pretty faint, that ended up being deadends, I ended up connecting to what I thought was Turkey Nest/Run. It was, so I headed back uphill to the big tree/pond where I started the loop a couple hrs. before and then turned around and took Turkey and Y2K back. It was great! All and all I really liked this trail. It was what I've been looking for and expected to find out west. A gentle uphill to a plateau with nice singletrack to open her up on for a few miles, then head back down at a speed one feels comfortable with. I looked down once and saw an 18mph as I was twisting around trees and over rocks….with some riding close to a barbed wire fence, so ya don’t want to tangle with that! I knew I wasn't going to have enough time to do Dawn till Dusk, so taking extra loops at Aspen was fine. It worked out great. Chased a few elk down the trail! When I first heard them bolt all I could think about was the bear logo painted on the local school building driving up to the trail.....pls. God, no grizzlies!!!! Guess there aren’t any so should be more scared of a cougar, but then again, I don’t think they’ll give a guy much warning before they’re on your back.
3:15 29.5 miles

June 20th
Got into Albuquerque, NM (Cedro Mtn. area) about 1AM and aired up the mattress in the Heep. Woke up about 7 and a car came with bikes on it about 7:15 so got up. Found out the whole mtn. was closed due to fire danger. Followed the young couple (the guy was from WI, has been in 'Querque for 7 yrs.) to the foothill trailhead on Copper Street. It was a fun ride with nice singletrack and good diversity, all very close to town. Decided to go see Mims friend Charlie at the local LBS, Two Wheel Drive. We had a great talk!
1 hr. 6 miles

June 21st. Nephew's wedding Norman, OK. Big family shindig

June 22nd. Heading towards the Kansas Crew (after customer meeting in St. Louis)

June 24th----Central MO
Stopped at Rock Bridge State Park. Pretty small area for riding, but had a few good climbs and some decent downhill, just not a lot of either.
45 min. 7 miles

June 24th---Kansas City, MO
Later in the day hooked up with phlatlander from Dirt Rag, professionally known as Kevin Nierman. Got some of his stuff hanging at home, does nice work. We met at Landahl and this ride was great. Had a lot of everything including some damn technical stuff with big rocks and ledges going up and down to navigate, cracks in the rocks that opened up just enough to get a bike thru and some good fast and flowing single track weaving through the trees. Kevin was a great host and guide.
1:40 13.5 miles

June 25th----Madison, WI
Got back to familiar stomping grounds called Blue Mounds State Park. Folks come from near and far to tackle this rocky, technical trail. After all the heavy rains of a couple weeks ago I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I t was brutal, to say the least. I was off the bike due to semi-crashes and just damn tough going more on this trail than any other. Guess it’s true that sometimes what’s in your own backyard is just as good as anything hundreds of miles away. I've been know to race there.

1:15 7.5 miles and one slit sidewall and scratched up bar end.

I purposely didn’t get into all the great people experiences I had on the trip. Just to keep it about bike and the trail. Maybe someday I’ll fill in a lot of the blanks and make more of a story out of it.
- June 28th, WEMS RACE

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