Monday, August 15, 2011

Biking on the Grand Mesa

With temps hitting the high 90s again this past Saturday we decided it was time to head to the Mesa for a bike ride.  Cooler temps outweighed the fear of mosquitos for once!  In the past, we've biked both the West Bench trail and the newer Flowing Park trail and have found West Bench to be the more enjoyable of the two.  A map and detailed description of the West Bench trail can be found here.

West Bench starts near the Jumbo Lake reservoir/Mesa Lakes area of the Mesa.  It's fairly easy to get to - park down by the lake.  Ride up the paved road past the little ranger station and across the bridge to your left.  There is a sign there that says "West Bench ski trail."  (It's a cross-country ski trail in the winter.)  From here follow the singletrack trail for about 1/2 mile.  Then you'll hit a gravel/paved road and see cabins.  The most obvious cabin is a red one close to where you meet the road.  The trail continues just to the left of this cabin - between it and another one.  There is a post there, but no sign.

The fun begins with a loose rocky downhill and several lava rock obstacle courses.  These can be entertaining and challenging!
Soon the trail opens up with beautiful meadows and a few bogs.  Cruise along between rock sections, bogs, and smooth trail until you get to the first cut off to Powderhorn.  If you start to get confused about the trail, just look for the tall blue-painted poles.  The first cut-off to Powderhorn is around 3.6 miles in and is fairly obvious.  Off on the right you'll see an old wooden building and a spur trail heading that direction.  That will take you to the quad lift.  Continue left through a barely-there section of trail.  It will open up again shortly.  2 more bogs and several downed trees were there when we were and they pretty much kept us from going much further.  You can make this into almost a 20 mile out and bike ride...our's was about 9 due to too many obstacles.

West Bench can be a great ride - but be prepared!  Mosquitos can be out, bogs need to be traversed, and there may just be too many trees down for it to be a lot of fun once you get past the first Powderhorn cut-off.  Still, it was a great day for an awesome bike ride; sitting by a quiet lake enjoying a beer afterwards didn't hurt either!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crested Butte 2011

     If you haven't been over to Crested Butte to hang out for a few days, my question to you is: WHY NOT?  Crested Butte is only about a 3 1/2 hour drive from here - one which winds you around the Blue Mesa Reservoir and up past Gunnison and Almont.  It's a lovely drive and Crested Butte is worth the trip.
Usually we camp on the road to the Taylor River Reservoir. We've discovered a gem of a campground called Rosy Lane, although we have to make reservations at it six months in advance! There are several others on the road though, including North Bank, Granite, and Lodgepole. From here we take the Jack's Cabin Cutoff to Crested Butte. It saves a little time on our often daily trips to/from town. This year we had 3 great days of mountain biking in Crested Butte before spending a little time in Gunnison at Hartman Rocks.

First afternoon ride: Strand Hill.  Turn right into "The Club at Crested Butte" just south of town.  Follow the road until it turns to dirt and you see a signed parking area on the left.  Park here; bike down the road about 1/2 a mile to a singletrack on the right. (You have to go through the gate).  Climb for a while, eventually heading into the aspens, before bombing down to an intersection with the Strand Bonus Trail.  Turn left and head back to the road after crossing a creek.

First ride of day #2: Snodgrass to Washington Gulch.  For this ride it is best to run a shuttle.  We leave a car in town behind the visitor's center and then take another up past Mt. Crested Butte to the Snodgrass parking area.  This is the last parking area on the left before the Gothic Road turns to dirt.  Climb climb climb.  At the fence go up and over the ladder and then head straight down the hill.  Don't turn right!  Follow the trail up a little more before heading into the aspens for some very narrow, shady, ethereal feeling single track.  You'll eventually land on Washington Gulch Road.  Turn left and follow the road back to the highway.  You'll see the bike path on the opposite side of the highway.  If you turn left briefly, you'll see a little dirt path that will take you right down onto the bike path.  Follow this back into town and hook up with the next trail described below.

Head back into town and find Butte Ave.  This is the last "town" road before you head towards Mt. Crested Butte.  There is a gas station there.  If you are standing on the main road looking at the Butte intersection, the gas station will be on your right (most likely).  Turn left (which should be west I think)...away from the bike path.  You'll head through a neighborhood and across a pedestrian bridge.  Keep going.  Soon you'll see a single track trail on the left, just past the last house on the left.  Take this.  Stay RIGHT at all intersections!  The single track will parallel the road to the Peanut Mine.  Eventually you'll pop back out on the jeep road by a cattle guard.  Look left and you'll see a sign that says 'Peanut Mine and Lower Loop area."  Go left and then at the "Lower Loop Single Track" sign, turn right and follow the single track.  Soon you'll cross the jeep road and get on "Upper Lower Loop."  Continue to ride the awesome single track and enjoy the awesome views.  Eventually you will find yourself on a loose gravel double track road.  As soon as you get to the bottom of the hill on this, turn right!  Don't go straight all the way to the swimming hole or you'll find yourself on the wrong side of the creek.  So turn right and follow the jeep road back past the Lower Loop signs (take the single track or wide path) and head back down the Peanut Mine/Kebler Pass road to town.  Find your car behind the visitor's center and enjoy a beer!

View of our awesome Rosy Lane camp. 

Saturday's ride: Doctor's Park.  On Saturday we drove a scant mile down the road to the North Bank Campground parking area.  We left 1 vehicle here and then made the 8 mile drive up Spring Creek Road (right across from Harmel's).  When you've gone about 8 miles, look right and you'll see this area (above).  Park here.  You'll have to ford the creek; taking your shoes off or leaving them on is your choice - the rocks are uncomfortable, but so are wet feet!  Reapply insect repellent!  You'll climb the jeep road for a while.  Stay right at intersections.  It will get easier - mostly 2nd or 3rd gear climbing, except for one spot that gets pretty steep...climb, climb, rest, climb.  The views are awesome!  Eventually you'll go down, back up, and into the woods.  Please please talk loudly in here to make the bears aware that you're there.  The trail does some weird stuff through here - it's rooty and muddy but kind of fun!  When you pop out of the woods, be prepared:  The next section is steep, loose, and technical.  Kudos to you if you can ride it all!  Soon though, I promise, you'll hit some of the sweetest most awesome flowing single track you've ever encountered.  Spend about 20 minutes zooming along before a short climb.  Then there's more zooming, then another not-as-technical steep section dropping you down into the North Bank campground.  Head right to your second vehicle and toast an awesomely entertaining ride!

Ah Hartman Rocks...this place can be confusing if you don't keep a map with you and know where you're going!  Here's a good loop:  From the parking area head up the trail by the bathrooms (on the left) and pick up Jack's Trail.   This trail has a lot of switchbacks and is fairly fun for a climbing trail.  Once you get to the top, head left down the jeep road.  Pass "Technical Beck's" and stay straight for a bit.  You'll pass a road on the right and climb up a hill on the jeep road.  At the top of the hill, turn left.  You'll see a trail post in the distance.  From left the trails are: Technical Beck's (the top of it), Beck's, Rocky Ridge.  Take Rocky Ridge.  This trail has some technical sections (see above), but is fairly entertaining.  Once you reach the end of this trail you'll have options to take Sea of Sage, Buddy Bear, or the Luge Connector.  To make your ride a little longer, you can take Buddy Bear and then turn right at the double track end of Buddy's and head back to connect with the Luge, which will now be on your left.  There are all kinds of loops to make, but make sure to include the Luge as it's a super fun flowing section of single track.  Whatever you do, finish back at Jack's Trail so you can enjoy heading down the switchbacks there.

There are so many trails to ride in Crested Butte and Gunnison...the possibilities for trail runs, hikes, etc. are endless!  You can raft the Taylor river or just hang out in town.  The Brick Oven is a great pizza place in CB.  I highly recommend the Elizabeth Anne pizza and a table on the patio.  Go. Now. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Road Trip!

If you'd like to see the entire album of photos, click here.

    4 days before we were to leave on our annual backpacking trip through southern Colorado, we had a conversation about a friend of our's who had the opportunity to move to Bozeman, MT.  "Bozeman seems great." Voodoo Biker said.
     "Yeah, there's biking, hiking, 2 ski's beautiful up there!"  I said while banging around in the kitchen cooking dinner.  "I wonder how long it takes to get to Bozeman?"
      Voodoo Biker googled something and came up with 8 hours.  Turns out it's about twice that, but that doesn't matter now.  At the time we decided, "let's go!"  Voodoo Biker got out the road atlas and started checking out blue highways between here and there.  Here was our route, start to finish: 
The first 2 days we drove (leaving Friday afternoon) from here to Craig, CO and then to Cody, WY the next day.
From Cody we drove over Beartooth Pass to Red Lodge, MT and then to Bozeman.  After that we headed to Yellowstone for a few days.  We left Yellowstone and spent 2 days in and around Jackson Lake and Jackson, WY.

We left Jackson and drove south over the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, through Vernal, UT and home.

So what did we do?  We drove.  We looked around at the vast desert of Wyoming.  We pointed out antelope.  We stopped at random overlooks and historic sites.  We stayed in Mom and Pop hotels.  I recommend Carter Mountain in Cody, WY.  We watched the 4th of July parade on July 3rd in downtown Cody.  We ate steak and drank local beer.  We drove up and over mountains where feet of snow still live and people still ski.  We took pictures of glacial lakes.  We spent time with acquaintances who soon became friends.  We watched fireworks and drank martinis on Main Street in Bozeman.  We stared in awe at bison roaming around Yellowstone and marveled at how few people ever set foot on a trail there.  We camped and listened to rain falling at night.  We drank cups and cups of warm coffee at camp and watched people wake and make their way through their morning routines.  We drank beer by the shore of Yellowstone Lake.  We sat on the shores of Jackson Lake staring at the Great Tetons and proclaimed that life couldn't get any better!  We ran on "river time" where days mean nothing.  We biked up and down hills and through meadows of wildflowers in Jackson, WY.  We ate leftover pizza on the side of the road overlooking the Hoback River.  We discovered the Fireman's Campground above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and really emphatically proclaimed, "Life can't get any better!"  We enjoyed each other's company.  We enjoyed the trees, wind, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and wildlife all around us.  We lived.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gardening on the balcony?

My dad and sister both have green thumbs. Green hands, in fact. They can grow anything, it seems, if they put their minds to it. Me? I'm one of those "Oh yeah, I'll grow something! Oh...well...I don't really feel like watering'll be alright" types. After a visit home this year I came back with a renewed interest in maybe growing something on our balcony. My friend Carol just happened to bring in a bunch of seeds last week - packages of Heirloom tomatoes, different types of peppers, basil, cilantro...all sorts of things! I took a few lettuce, spinach, tomato, banana pepper, cilantro and basil seeds. I had planned, honestly, to wait until next year because I thought it was too late in the season to try to grow them now, but my sister said, "Just throw them in some soil and see what happens!" I call it "Gardening Kindergarten Style." I threw them in some soil in Dixie cups and watered. Lo and behold...

Left is the pepper plant, which only sprouted earlier this week.  Right are the tomato plants (2 have sprouted in there).  The back ones are spinach and lettuce, neither of which has made an appearance.

I just noticed this today - pretty sure it's the basil, although cilantro seeds were planted in here too.
     I am letting them hang out outside during the days now - and I might leave them out overnight soon.  The basil has been out the whole time, which could account for its slow sprouting...I've poked holes in the bottoms of the Dixie cups so the soil can drain.  This weekend I plan to get some bigger pots for the peppers and tomatoes, and some new potting soil.  Mine is old and I think I need something with more nutrients in it.  We'll see what becomes of these little guys!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Georgia Outdoors

     Last week I travelled to the deep South for a trip home to Georgia.  I stepped off the plane and thought, "Man it feels wonderful here."  It had just finished raining and the air was warm and a little less-humid than normal.  The next morning as I was huffing it up a hill on the family's morning walk I thought, "Am I inside some sort of steam room?"  The moisture and humidity just hung in the air.  Still, it was beautiful.  Georgia is so lush and green that, even when it's hot and humid, I can barely bring myself to go inside.  Eventually though those damn horseflies drive me back in.
     I promised my friend Carol that I'd take pictures of Dad's garden and would also get the answers to a few questions.  So, first the pictures:
The sign above Dad's garden says "Gitmo Garden."  I think the security around it rivals Alcatraz!

Cucumber blossoms


Squash vines

Tomato blossoms

     I do have pictures of the various rows of plants, but I thought these were prettier.  Now for the questions:  When do you begin planting?  What do you start indoors and what do you start outdoors?  As for outside planting, the year starts around the first of Febuary with seeds (planted indoors) for the early spring plants; (lettuce, arugula,mustard, brocclli, cabbage, chard,early tomatos for the upside down planters)... all these will stay in the greenhouse til around March 15.  Around the first of March I plant red potatos and snow peas in the garden  About mid March I plant my seeds (indoors) for the peppers and tomatos,  they take 30-45 days until they are ready to transplant into the garden.  Most of the seeds that I plant directly in the garden are planted in May,  (squash, green beans, okra, cantelope, watermellon).  Some of these I start in pots 2-3 weeks ahead of time to give them a head start, and to give a more uniform stand.  Also I use succession planting , ex  I will plant purple hull peas in the row where the lettuce is when it finishes up this week.  The peas will make and be done in about 60 days (August 15) then I can plant a fall plant in that row around September 1...greens, collards, etc.  I try to chose something different to follow a plant so that you don't have pests and disease from the previous plant waiting on the tender new plants.

Tell me about your composting methods. 
On composting, to be very general, you need: 1. A carbon source, (dry leaves, dry grass clippings, sawdust, tree bark etc)  2. A nitrogen source (green leaves,  green grass clippings, leftover salad, vegetable peelings), and 3. Microorganisims to digest the carbon and nitrogen.  The easiest source of the microorganisms is plain ole garden soil, or compost.  There are commercial compost starters that you can buy, but they are expensive and hard to find.  Start the pile with about even amounts of carbon, nitrogen and soil.  The bigger the better, but at least 3'X3'x3'.  Water it well and keep it evenly moist.  Turn it about once a week to areate it and speed the break-down process...this is where the multiple cell bins are nice, you just shovel the compost into the next cell of the bin.  Once the pile is going, you can add kitchen waste as it accumulates...almost anything of vegetable origin, as long as it's not too greasy.  Also; egg shells (calcium) are great, coffee grounds, tea bags, left-overs.  Compost is ready when all the ingredients have decomposed so that they are un-recognizable (usually 6 weeks to 6 months depending on the weather.  I send mine thru one additional step.. the worm bed  I let the worms hang out in it for several months to really work it over.
Here are a few more pictures from my trip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When all else fails...go to Durango!

Spring fun and camping begin when we make our annual trip to Durango.  This year we headed down Mother's Day weekend, leaving around 1 on Friday.  It was a short trip - almost too short for the harrowing drive over Red Mountain Pass, but it was worth it.  We biked the Telegraph Trail System - the southern end, and stayed at the Junction Creek Campground.  The Telegraph trails are awesome - lots of nice rolling singletrack.  No brutal climbs, nothing super technical... there is a trail head behind the Sonic in town, then about 2 miles further south on Hwy 3 is the Carbon Junction trailhead, then a mile or so further down, behind Wal-Mart on a frontage road (turn off 550 onto Dominguez - left) is Big Canyon Trail head, and finally, at the very end of this frontage road, is the Sale Barn trail head.  That's where we started.

This is a very bad picture of one of the sign post maps on the trail.  Our Saturday route is in orange and Sunday's route is in turquoise.  Both were ridden counter-clockwise.

To get to the campground:  From the north end of town (like you're coming in from Silverton), go south on 550 to 25th street.  There is a sign pointing you towards the Colorado Trail and Junction Creek Campground.  Turn right.  Continue until you reach the campground - about 3 miles.

View of the upper part of the Sale Barn trail

View of the Big Canyon trail

Me on the Cowboy trail Sunday

Our campsite

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Taking what Mother Nature (and old age) give us

Last Monday the weather for this weekend looked awesome:  predicted sun and temps in the 60s.  By Thursday the forecast had changed to a 40% chance of rain on Saturday and a 50% chance on Sunday.  So Friday afternoon I headed out for an after-work ride to make sure that Ellie the bike and I got some one-on-one time together before the rain hit.  We were a mile into our ride when Ellie started to make a bizarre noise.  It took me a few minutes of checking derailleurs, cranks, chains, etc., before discovering this:

Ellie's stay broke away right where the seam was welded.
After a long hike back to the car and some sadness on my part for the loss of a wonderful bike frame to old age, I felt ok.  I'd called a super awesome friend, A, who was going to let me borrow her bike for the weekend, so all was going to be alright.  Until we woke up to this sort of weather:

Hwy 65 headed back towards Mesa, CO

Oh okay Mother Nature.  That's how you want to play this.  It's Easter weekend!  I had plans to bike!  Today was not a planned lie-around-the-house day!  No!  I have to do something...we have to go do something!  (I tend to freak a tad bit when my plans get messed up for reasons beyond my control).  Soon though, we realized that rain here most likely meant snow at the closed-for-the-season ski resort.  Which meant...untracked creamy spring snow!

We gathered backpacks and snacks, beer and ski skins, and pulled out the ski wear (mine hadn't been used in a month almost).  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches fueled us as we headed up a run with the most consistent fall line:  Wonderbump.

It was warm, but super snowy the whole day! This is Voodoo biker on his way up.

The snow was great.  The crust underneath was soft, and the 4 or 5 inches on top were creamy.  Great skiing!

It just goes to show that sometimes you have to take the good with the bad...sure Ellie was broken and I had to shell out some $$$ for a new bike frame, sure it rained all day down here (and looks to do the same today), but we had the entire ski resort to ourselves.  Yes, the slog up to the top was painful, but half-way down I was screaming, "This is so much fun!!!!"

Monday, April 18, 2011

New trails bring humility

It never think you're a super awesome rider until you tackle a trail you've never ridden before.  Then you remember...oh, maybe I'm just average after all.  Yesterday we tackled Troy Built, a trail out near the Mack exit that is technically part of the Loma/Kokopelli system.  Voodoo Biker has ridden it several times and knew it would be less crowded than the more popular Mary's/Horsethief Loops.  We rode it as an out-and-back; the highlighted  (blue) portion here shows our route. 
The section from the start to the Kokopelli cut off is the toughest, technically.

The first portions of the trail (about the first 1/2 mile especially) can be tricky if you've never seen the trail before.  Random rocks in the way, narrow gaps to navigate...then there is a long descent down to the Kokopelli junction before a short exposed uphill.  After this the trail gets really fun, with some technical stuff, some awesome rolling singletrack, and a few portages thrown in just to keep you on your guard.  We stopped where Troy Built meets the hill up to Lion's Loop and turned back.  The ride back was just as fun and actually seemed easier (except for the long uphill that was a fun downhill on the way out...).  I'd definitely ride this one again, especially during high bike tourist season.  We only saw about 12 or 13 other people, as opposed to the 40 or so we'd have seen on Mary's or Horsethief.

View from the parking area for Troy Built

Crazy slickrock portion towards the beginning of the ride.  Super fun going down it at the end!

Junction of Salt Creek and the Colorado River

Our stopping point: The junctions of Lions and Troy Buit.  Lion's continues up the hill and involves several switchbacks.

View from the top of the big hill just before the descent to the Kokopelli junction (on the way out).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Week of Little Rest and lots of fun!

View back down Prime Cut from Chutes and Ladders

This has been a week of fitness if ever there was one for me.  Sunday I biked (and blogged about it) Mary's and Wrangler out in Loma.  Monday I took off from working out.  It's my usual rest day.  Tuesday I walked the Riverfront trail (3 miles of it) with my friend K from work, on our lunch break.  Wednesday I walked with K and R at Sherwood Park, again, 3 miles, then biked after work with my friend A.  We did a short ride out at 18 Road:  Prime Cut/Kessel. 

Thursday I walked again with R and then jogged an extra mile. Friday Voodoo Biker and I headed up Mary's to the Wrangler trailhead and biked that in about an hour.

View of the Colorado River from Wrangler

This morning we fueled up on French Toast and turkey sausage and headed out to Lunch Loop for a quick Clunker, Miramonte Canyon, Ali-Ali, Holy Bucket loop.  We even saw a coyote!  Tomorrow we've yet to determine where we're biking, but since we both have the day off you can be it will be a 2-3 hour ride! 
View of Mt. Garfield and Grand Junction from Lunch Loop