Lunchtime and Fires

A couple of snaps from a long day working on and hiking trail.  Longer than anyone expected, as the 7.5′ maps didn’t show quite a bit of trail detail (e.g., switchbacks) that we needed to know.

Once the fires started, the trail we were sent to work on, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), was closed to the public so that firefighters could move freely on it.  Not to mention, parts of the trail passed close to the rapidly growing fires.  Since that trail was closed, we shifted gears and tackled a few local trails that had been sorely neglected for quite a few years.

The first was the Long Gulch Trail.  Quite a bit of clearing brush and rebuilding trail that morning, but we were lucky enough to make it to Long Gulch Lake for lunch.  A few folks jumped into the water while most of us just enjoyed the scenery.  Those that swam regretted it later as the chafing set in on a long loop hike back to camp.

Long Gulch Lake

This is the view of the lake a couple of hours later as we worked the trail up to the ridge line.

Here is a map that some folks built of their three day hike of the same loop that we worked and covered in 10 hours.  But to be fair, we only worked the uphill portion of the Long Gulch Trail, then moved quickly through the rest of the loop to get back down into the valley.

Long Gulch Lakes Loop

We moved quickly through the hike portion once we reached the top of the Long Gulch Trail.  We received word from the Forest Service that we were not to dilly dally, as the Coffee Fire was just a few miles away and blowing up in the dry, hot, windy afternoon conditions.  We could see a bit of the smoke plume from the top of the summit, but had a chance to really get a look at it less than 1/2 mile later as we hiked under the south side of the ridge line.

Coffee Fire

The picture makes it look quite a bit further than it really was.

As we dropped down the switchbacks towards Trail Gulch Lake, we had a front row view of the helicopters dropping down over the lake and scooping up water to drop on the surrounding fires.  That made for a complete experience.

Over a week later, the Coffee Fire is still going, having burnt over 6,000 acres, but is 60% contained this morning.  However, our entire area is in a Red Flag Warning for the next 48 hours as another round of thunderstorms, with little rain, spread over the forests.

It’s just that time of year out west.

PCT Sunrise

A perfect response to my last post, Magenta Sunset.

PCT Sunrise

This sunrise was nine days later and about sixty miles as the crow flies, although driving time is a few hours.

This was the view from my tent.  I didn’t even need to lift my head to see it, instead I would roll on my side and unzip the screening for a clear view.  It was a view that I could quickly get used to.

Too bad I didn’t have the chance.

I spent nine days with a work crew on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  The crew consisted of volunteers with the PCTA, as well as young AmeriCorps volunteers working through the American Conservation Experience (ACE).  We were responsible with rehabilitating a stretch of the PCT north of Carter Meadows Summit, which sits on the boundary between the Klamath National Forest to the north and the Trinity Alps Wilderness to the south.  That was the plan.

But plans change.

On the afternoon of our first day of work, thunderstorms popped up.  Quickly we got wet, but then the hail started and a very close lightning strike (within 1/4 mile)  really got the crew on edge.  But not as much as the smell of smoke just a few minutes later.  Within 30 minutes we were hiking off the trail, stepping aside to let the first ground firefighting crew get by.  We spent the rest of the afternoon back at camp watching the activity as smoke jumpers dropped into the very steep terrain, then watched water drops continue until dark.

Little did we know at the time, but we were at the epicenter of the beginning of the 2014 northern California fire season.  Within days, over 20,000 acres in the surrounding forests were on fire.

This view was the next morning, as the fire smoldered to our northwest.  The little bit of smoke in the air really enhanced the dawn.

I was lucky enough to get one more morning of this view at dawn, but then we were asked to vacate our camp to make room for a forward firefighting camp.  After that we were safely down in the valley, but missing the sunrises and sunsets.  And instead of working on the PCT, we spent the rest of our time working on local trails heading up into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.  That turned out to be a good thing, as those trails were very neglected and sorely needed the attention.

Brilliance!

It’s not too often that I talk about companies or products here.  I have talked about some cycling, running and triathlon related products over the years, especially once I’m confident that it’s something that I like.

This is one of those times.

Actually, a moment to rave about some phenomenal customer support from one of the companies.

The company is Light & Motion, creators of personal lighting systems for pretty much any activity you want to engage in, on ground, in the air or in the water.

The story:

I bought a set of Stella 300 Dual headlights back in autumn of 2009.  I needed them for my bicycle commute to/from work in Germany.  If you’ve lived in Germany, the winters are cold and dark.  Very dark.  Especially if you spend a large amount of time riding through the forest, hoping to dodge any deer or boar that want to cross the trail.

Brilliant riding!

They treated me extremely well through 3.5 brutal German winters, including two in a row that the German weather service declared “the worst in 40 years”, followed by “the worst in 41 years”.

Days like this:

Winter Riding in Germany

Except when I was commuting, it was pitch black except for what the Stella would illuminate.  Which on a snowy ride like this, pretty much everything was illuminated for a good 30-40 yards ahead.

Like I said, brilliant riding.

Here in Oregon, I don’t need them for daily commutes, instead breaking them out on occasion, like every Monday to get home from the bike polo game.  A couple of months ago I realized they were not working as they had, or should.  So I contacted Light & Motion.

A bit of talking back and forth and they suggested that I send it in for a look.  Which I did.

They arrived back at my front door today, an almost completely brand new set.

Looking at the work order, it mentions that they replaced the cable (that runs between the battery and the lights) as well as changed out the lights.  In other words, they rebuilt a new set, which is great since they no longer make this model.

So the lights are almost five years old and completely rebuilt.

They covered it under warranty work!

The quote that they gave me prior to the work was extremely reasonable, coming in at around 1/10 the cost of buying a new light kit.  I was pleased with that, knowing that their standard warranty length is two years.  But three years after that point, they still covered it.

Amazing service that was completely unexpected.  Unexpected, but greatly appreciated.

Broadcasting their excellence to the world is the least I can do.

So if you’re in the market for headlamps or headlights or dive lights, buy from Light & Motion.

I know any lights I buy in the future will be from them.

 

Picnic View

The lunch view for three of the past four days.

Picnic View

The first two days were over the weekend as part of the Pacific Crest Trails Association (PCTA) Trail Skills College that I mentioned in my last post.  We did quite a bit of work on this stretch of the PCT and were rewarded with this view to sit and enjoy as we ate our lunches.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I had to go back this week.  I was taking pictures of the work in progress, but forgot to get pictures of the finished product on Sunday afternoon.  Luckily this spot is only a 20 mile drive away, then a mile or so down the trail.

Goddess and I headed there today so I could get my pictures and she could see a bit of our work.

So what did we do?

On Friday, we spent the day clearing quite a few fallen trees, learning how to use a one- and two-person crosscut saws and a few other tools.  A couple of the logs were quite large and took all five of us to move them off the path.  It was tiring, but rewarding, work.

On Saturday and Sunday, we learned different trail rehabilitation methods.  While the sawing has specific techniques that are pretty straightforward to understand, trail rehabilitation requires a bit more imagination, being able to envision how water would flow on, over and across the trail, then control that flow so the trail isn’t damaged.  It’s not only a physical task, but mental as well.  One that I quite enjoy.

Now that the schooling is over, I’ll have to start looking for teams to get out and work with.

Especially if it’s with the great people that I got to meet and work with this past weekend.

 

Movement

A marker to adventure.

PCT Tree

We’re just a few miles from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  You might remember other posts with pictures of the trail marker.

For the past six weeks I’ve been reading all of the blog posts on the PCT Journalist.  The Journalist is the collection of blogs from many of the thru-hikers, many of whom started at the US-Mexican border down in California back in April.  It’s quite interesting to read their stories, good and bad.

Thru-hiking the trail (all 2,663 miles of it) isn’t something that we’re discussing in this house.  Well, there might have been a mention or two, surprising first brought up by Goddess.

I know I’ll keep her.

But we use sections of the trail quite often, especially as I get out in the wilderness and look for places to take pictures.

Anyway, I’ll be giving back a bit this weekend, attending the PCT Association’s Trail Skills College, which happens to be held right up the road.  Close enough that I can be there in 45 minutes, far enough away that it’s a fun little camping trip.

After that, checking the schedules to see where work needs to be done.  We’ve stumbled across tree falls that have blocked the PCT, although I’m sure those are cleared already.  But there are plenty of others, plus trail repairs and erosion mitigation.

All things that need to be done, yet are another excuse to get out in the wilderness.

Good stuff.

———————————————————–

Over the weekend, I’ll be disconnected, which is a great thing.  But I will be thinking about bicycle races.  There are plenty going on right now or starting this weekend that are all pretty impressive in their own rights.  What makes the races even better is that, thanks to technology, we can follow in real time.

  • The pros are racing in France in the Critérium du Dauphiné, where many are using it as their final tune-up race before next month’s Tour de France.
  • We’re just over 36 hours into this year’s Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000 mile fully supported time trial, running from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  The racers sleep but an hour or two a day, otherwise they’re on the bike.  This year’s leader is the defending champion (7 days, 22 hours, 52 minutes) and he’s already put a sizeable lead over the rest of the solo racers.  But it’s still early, as he’s at 700 miles in, near the Four Corners area and hasn’t stopped for a nap yet.  Live tracking here -> http://tractalis.com/raam2014/ .  The teams start on Saturday, and being able to relay across the country, they’ll catch up to the solo leaders about four days later.  It’s impressive to watch.
  • This year’s Trans Am Bike Race started last Saturday in Astoria, OR and wends its way eastward to Yorktown, VA.  It’s longer than RAAM, clocking in at 4,223 miles, but it’s fully self-supported.  No outside help.  The racers carry whatever they need, buying food along the way (with no outside help) or grabbing a hotel room if they need it.  The idea is to work on your own to get from one coast to another.  There isn’t a time limit, so some riders may be out there for over a month; this differs from RAAM, which does have a time cut-off.  Live tracking here -> http://trackleaders.com/transam14
  • Finally, this year’s Tour Divide will have its official kickoff tomorrow, 13 June.  This race runs north to south, crossing both the Trans Am Bike Race and the RAAM routes.  Those races tend towards road bicycles; the Tour Divide leans heavily towards mountain bikes, as it runs the roads at trails that follow the continental divide from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the US-Mexican border in New Mexico.  The Trans Am Bike Race actually borrowed its rules from the Tour Divide – it’s a  solo effort where the rider must be self-sufficient, only resupplying or sleeping in locations that are available to all other riders; no help from friends, family or strangers.  Live tracking here (once they get started) -> http://tourdivide.org/leaderboard

Plenty of goodness there.  Amazing efforts and tests of endurance in each one.

Fun to watch.

But don’t forget to get out there and do something yourself!

Yeah…

Goddess and I moved here a bit over a year ago, initially so I could go to bike school.  Then Goddess started her school and will finish in another month.

Our goal was to use this area as a springboard to look around the western US for a place to settle.  At least as far as I can settle, having never lived anywhere longer than five years.

But the place sure has grown on us.

Especially when this is just 25 minutes from the house, a spot where I saw only two other people in three hours.

Yeah, I could get used to this.

Rogue Sunset

Looking northwest from the edge of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument towards Ashland and Medford, along the length of the Rogue Valley.

Shasta Cumulus

Mount Shasta, California, as viewed from the foot of Pilot Rock, Jackson County, Oregon.

Shasta Cumulus

Very fitting for this vernal equinox.  It marks the end of the winter that never was for us.  It wasn’t much of one for the Shasta area either, although they were able to open one ski run for a week, thanks to man-made snow (the Shasta ski area is low on the mountain, below the snow line you can see above).

If you are tracking to the minute, the actual vernal equinox is today, 20 March 2014 at 16:47UTC.  Click here to see what time that means for your time zone.

Just remember, that doesn’t mean that summer is here.  It just means the next few months are going to be bits of summer and bits of winter.

Just today I was riding my mountain bike on a mountain adjacent to where this was taken, at about the same elevation (5,300′).  The day after this picture was taken, we got snow down below this level.  Today I was in shorts, riding through the forest, snow and mud splashing everywhere.

Cold splats against bare sweaty skin.

A bit of summer, a bit of winter.

Good Fun

Last night was a first for me, playing bicycle polo.

It was quite a bit of fun.

Although I’ll need to get a new bicycle for it if I continue to play.

Oh darn.

It’s fast-paced and frenetic.

Bike Polo

This group plays in a parking garage, so the court is narrow and short, just enough space for six cyclists rushing for the ball, braking, turning and occasionally crashing.  The whole time, laughs echo around the court.

That’s the right attitude.

I’ll be back.

Mud in the Teeth

It’s New Year’s Day.  I’m grinning ear to ear as I drive up to the ski lodge.

Although it should be only have a grin, since I won’t be skiing.

We had what looked like a great start to the ski season with a good dumping in early December.  But that’s been it.  Temperatures on the mountain have been in the 40’s and 50’s since.  There’s patches of ice in some of the shadows, but certainly nothing that anyone with skis would even look at.

But that means the trails are open for biking.  And we’re making lemonade.

Mud in the Teeth

You might recall that I built this bicycle myself, although the last time you saw it, it was much cleaner than this.

I’ve been using and abusing it, trying to get a feel for this bike compared to my old mountain bike.  The change from 26″ to 29″ wheels is huge, especially how quickly the 29er accelerates out of turns and downhill.  Not to mention how it rolls over and through the rock gardens.  It’s an interesting exercise to short circuit the reasoning and accelerate through a section of large rocks; the faster, the easier it is to stay upright.

But all of this riding, through the rocks and off sweet jumps, means that my handbuilt wheels are taking a beating.  I expected that.  As a matter of fact, I did not use any thread-locking compound on the spokes, knowing the wheels would move out of true easier, but the lack of compound would make it easier to true them.  Today was the day that the real wheel let me know that I’d been pushing it pretty well as the tire started rubbing the frame.  A few adjustments and I was back on the trail.  A few more rock gardens and sweet jumps and it was rubbing again.  No matter.  I knew I’d get home.

But my trailside adjustments got me to thinking about how many race reports I’ve read over the years where folks who had spent the better part of a year, thousands of dollars on equipment, thousands of dollars on travel, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears, only to be sidelined during a race because of a simple mechanical.  Simple as in not being able to change a flat, simple as in not being able to recognize and adjust a dragging brake.  It always pains me to read those reports, knowing the expense of money, time and energy to get to a long race.

What’s really odd is it isn’t always the age groupers.  I’ve read more than a few race reports from pro triathletes sitting on the side of the road, waiting for neutral support, because they can’t change out a flat tubular tire.  Even when they are carrying the spare.

I just don’t get it.

Most bicycle shops will hold classes on how to do basic bicycle maintenance.  Nothing fancy, just the skills required to get you back on the ride, instead of hitching a ride home.

BTW, here’s a clean video of one of the local trails, Catwalk.  Not much in the way of rock gardens, except for a small patch at the beginning.  But it’s fast, swoopy, narrow and steep.  In other words, good fun!

And by the time I get home, I have plenty of mud in my teeth too.