Mountain Flyer Content Trip- Update 8

Mountain Flyer Content Trip

Update 8

Spanish Fork may perhaps not be best-known for its trail-riding in the mountain bike community, with iconic destinations such as Moab and the Wasatch Crest network stealing pretty much all the Utah thunder. Other areas in the St. George areas and freeride zones from Green River to Area99 etc, seem to draw enthusiasts of a different ilk… but if you’re looking for a higher-elevation respite from the heat, yet relatively close to the amenities of SLC, you may need look no further. We intended to find out.

The morning dawned crisp with some high-clouds diffusing the soft daylight, which didn’t exactly send us scrambling out of our sacks. I wasn’t thrilled with the early light (or lack thereof), so I rolled back over and shut down for another hour or so; having had a pretty epic late-evening composition-session followed by a midnight cooking extravaganza out of the back of Samba. One by one, the group awoke, prepared low-effort breakfasts and set about gathering gear, slowly packing up our site a bit, and dressing for a ride. We had a morsel of intel that we’d sourced from a website, but weren’t entirely sure about route finding once out there and underway. We’d heard a scant few vehicles pass us since we’d pulled into the site, on the access road, but hadn’t seen another soul until some Government folk arrived mid-breakfast, with a horse trailer and unloaded to go ride off somewhere (with a rifle no-less). Were they hunting spandex-clad roadies, masquerading as mountain bikers on 29’ers?

The trail we’d set out to ride was a 12mi loop with 1500f climbing and was supposed to top-out at 8400ft. Mellow climbing was in the description, along with an ‘occasional short but tricky steep sections, with incredible views and an awesome downhill’, as being on the menu. We were sold, so we geared up and set out up the hill through the gate that was immediately outside our campsite. We’d ridden quickly the night before, up to an intersection in the trail (nothing marked), and then turned around to go prepare dinner etc. We arrived at the same intersection again now, and reasoned that as this was a ‘loop’ we’d proceed ‘clockwise’ as per-the directions from our internet-based guide. We veered left, and were greeted within about 5minutes with a climb about as subtle as a kick in the face from an startled elephant. Off the bikes… pushing straight up what appeared to be an animal trail through scrub oak, we muttered in disbelief that this was to be considered ‘a mellow climb’. Perhaps we were on the wrong course? Eh…   

We topped out in a grassy clearing and immediately found more double track that led downhill and apparently westward to what seemed to be the main access road we drove in on. We passed a weather station and saw more double track, a corral etc, in the distance, so we forged-on, ultimately ending up back down by the entrance road. This couldn’t be right? Minimal cell-service wasn’t helping our map-acquisition on Google Maps, and we only had vague directions from the trail-description… So we did what guys usually do when unsure about where to go: We chose the road that appeared to climb back up in the direction we wanted to go. Never ask for directions… ever.

Climbing up this other road, we sort of were given the impression that it was regularly somehow trafficked. It was graded in appearance, and moderate of slope, making climbing a bit of a treat so nobody seemed to mind much. About 5minutes into the climb, we were passed by State of Utah Water Department trucks (2 of them), not seemingly in any particular hurry, but they seemed to be bound for somewhere, so we figured we couldn’t be SUPER far off the beaten path. About 5minutes later, we rounded a corner and saw the trucks parked in a fenced-off area with a gigantic vault-door being opened by the workers; water department signs abounded, accompanied by a smattering of ‘no trespassing’ signs.

Hm, I wonder what that’s about? We wondered. ”Did you see the size of that vault-door?’ ‘How many guys you think it takes to open that thing?’ ‘Is that why they had that crane on the back of that one truck??’ We rounded another corner and ran smack into the end of the road. We thought it a bit strange that we were getting some quizzical looks from the water-guys, but chalked it up to the general look mountain bikers get from non-mountain bikers in questionable remote areas bereft of obvious singletrack. Now we understood the ‘where they think they’re going?’ looks.. We somewhat sheepishly rode back down the hill to the intersection, after consulting the map for another minute at the top. We thought we sorted our mistake, and backtracked to the original intersection where the left-turn was initially made. That proved to be the correction we needed, as the route doesn’t veer from the parking lot until you reach an actual signed-trail. Interesting. Why didn’t we think of that?

Sometimes in more remote locations, nothing is marked and trails are derivatives of animal trails (such as some in our valley where we reside). Apparently most of Utah is on a different programme and they actually mark their trails? Good to know we thought! By the time the group was on the apparent ‘right trail’, and after our late’ish start to the ride, I reasoned I hadn’t time to complete the ride; being several days-behind in my blogging, and I was anxious to get to Moab to get some wireless so I could post my back-log of content. I saluted the group, and explained my obligation to my assignment and need to post-up content etc, and thanked everyone for their patience and devotion to the mission… and bid them well on the rest of the exploration up the trail.

This would also coincidentally mark the end of the road for us as a group, as the rest of the gang was Grand Junction-bound for the RanchStyle event the coming-weekend. I would divert to Moab to rendezvous with a bike recently purchased for a loved-one, and then ride with her as she was driving over from our valley for the weekend. I cruised down the trail after saying my goodbyes, packed the truck, and set my course for Moab.

The bond forged among friends through travel and shared adventure holds something incredibly special in the structure of friendship. Shared moments bringing people together, be they meals, route-planning, weather or sport, seem to connect folks at different levels for life. Experiencing different landscapes and our overland travel together, bonded by a love of biking and travel brought us into an intimate circle. Celebrating the joy-of-fresh-fish united us in a search immediately upon arriving in Washington, of sharing a celebratory meal of the freshest and most savory local offerings we could get our hands on. The choices of riding destinations to keep everyone interested and engaged along the way was always a group decision, with everyone offering input and sharing knowledge and concerns, bringing the best of who and what they were at all times, and spreading the joy and love of all-things-bike and travel, everywhere rubber was placed on the ground and Mexican food was served.

To share moments in time with people so incredibly special is something I truly am thankful for. We’re blessed with the ability to create opportunity to travel, work eat sleep and breathe the very things that so many people can only day-dream about in cubicles, classrooms, boardrooms, and anywhere else there’s longing to escape the confines of society. To sleep under the stars is to truly experience perspective in life. We’ve learned to passionately pursue that which empowers us and fuels our personal happiness. We’re committed to being better examples of humanity through our pursuit, and helping others in the process through non-profit work, volunteering, media and the love of the bicycle.

What’s driving you? I’m on-to Moab for more riding, more adventure, more experiences, more of life. I’ll be back.  

Mountain Flyer Content Trip- Update 7

Mountain Flyer Content Trip

Update 7

Overland and interstate travel is awesome right? Well… not always. Over the course of our adventure, travel’s served a purpose of connecting ride-destinations. We set a goal of riding daily in a unique location to break up our passage between the Roaring Fork valley and Port Angeles, WA. On our leg-out, we’d managed to string a few destinations together that made good highway-sense in that we could link reasonable driving stints with ride-locations to document along the way. The journey home provided a bit of a challenge as the seasons weren’t quite lining up weather-wise for us to stay north to access some of the higher-elevation trails.

Our desire was to include a route a bit to the north if at all possible, including riding in either Montana or Idaho en-route back to Grand Junction for the RanchStyle event. What we hadn’t counted on was a cold front accompanied by moisture coming out of the PNW, that was delivering rain and snow to latitudes north of Utah, and temperatures lower than we’d see in WA, which hovered around 50* for a high. NOT encouraging.

A decision was made to skip the proposed overlap with a return through Vernal, and we opted into I-84 through Boise ID to break up the drive, and set our course for a general approach vector the following day to possibly include someplace on the Wasatch ‘front-range’. A night stopover in Boise would give us opportunity to chart progress and for the group to select a destination for the following day.

Yet another late pull-in and a miscalculation on my part; attempting to recollect a campsite in a State Park that I’d passed years ago that it turned out was along a different route, saw us pulling into Boise fairly late…before midnight, but not by much. Our camping options being somewhat limited, the old stand-by is to head straight for a ski-area as the season’s now over, and to slumber in the vacant parking area. We knew Bogus Basin was in the immediate vicinity, so we added the destination to our GPS and began the climb up and out of Boise and towards the ski area.

16miles later and mile upon mile of switchbacks, we finally were pulling into the area. I was eying the drop in temperature as we climbed, certainly not eager to gain elevation and to subsequently lose temperature that we’d sorely missed over the last week or so. The rear of the parking area was out of the way of any immediate traffic, being a dead-end of sorts, so we made that our home for the evening. Just as tents were being deployed and the evening bustle had begun, snow began to fly. Initially nothing alarming, but after about 5min, we had a legitimate dump on our hands. Flys went on the tents, everyone silently went about their business, and pleasantries were jettisoned as we climbed into our cocoons and called it a night with nary a ‘goodnight’ between the group.

The morning was welcomed with soft light and calm. We’d heard a front-loader pass us at around 0700 or so, and thinking that he may need access to the mound of dirt immediately behind where our encampment lay, we hastily packed-up and made our way down towards town in search of breakfast and fuel. Food which ultimately never ended up on our plates. We pressed-on fueled by energy bars and sipping water, determined to arrive in Utah in time for some evening photo-work and to arrive into a camping location with some natural light for once.

The miles ticked by on the odometer as satellite-stations were combed-through on the radio to pass the time. Mile after empty mile, dotted by ranches and feed-lots on occasion served to mark our passage through Idaho as geographic landmarks were few. The temperature climbed a bit, but never really much until we seemingly descended into Utah. Landscape morphed from moderately hilly countryside to take on a more rugged spring-like character of green mountains littered with rocky and occasionally snow-covered summits. As we approached the Wasatch from the north we enjoyed scenery that resembled home a bit more, along with a bump in ambient temperature from the 50’s we’d had for the last week or so, back up into the 70’s, with a corresponding drop in humidity. GREAT news for my bedding in the tent on my roof, that’d been holding humidity and wasn’t ever fully-drying as it was folded up daily while we were in Washington.

Ogden was our first stop in UT, with a late-lunch needed as well as some gas and water (and more food for fridges/coolers). We gassed and ate and then decided upon making our evening destination an area just outside Spanish Fork. We cruised through SLC just as rush hour traffic seemed to be reaching fever pitch, delaying us somewhat, but not enough that we thought we’d miss shooting in some pristine Utah evening light. The cruise south to Provo and the subsequent exit onto 6/50 was already feeling more like home. Often I’ve driven this route at the end of an epic adventure, and the climb back up into the mountains has that gateway-feeling that you get when you’re on the home-stretch after a long journey for some reason. We passed the new wind farm at the bottom of the canyon, and the temps began cooling as we climbed away from the congestion of Provo/SLC.

Another quick climb up into a forest-service area just a few miles up hwy 50, and a left-turn at the first gas-station on Rays Valley Road,had us away from humans once again, and heading back into the hills and on towards another riding adventure (we hoped). We’d consulted a few websites and had what we believed to be solid intel, steering us up and into another riding zone that was more alpine than anything we’d ridden so far on the trip (sans our Elko stop).

A brief combined search-mission to locate our trailhead with both Map, GPS and smart phone, and a quick turn-around on the wrong road, saw us pulling handily into the trailhead area of Fifth Water Ridge trail and enjoying something other than a parking-lot for the evening. Grass, a babbling creek bordering our campsite, and moderate temps, had the group in a completely different mindset. No threat of precipitation, a nice soft area to wander barefoot about camp, and a trail directly around the corner meant we could set up camp before we lost the last precious rays of light, and even had a bit of time to do some exploring on the bikes to survey our surroundings. Perfect.

It was now time for me to get caught up (to date) on the blog-situation. I hastily erected my aluminum camp-table, lighting, fired up the inverter and got out the computers, external hard drives, initiated the task of transferring images etc, and settled in for several hours of composition. It felt good to settle in a bit and to not be driving constantly. Super-late-dinner notwithstanding (it would prove to be midnight this evening), it was fantastic to feel as though I was making some meaningful headway on the editorial segment of my assignment. Getting my bedding dried out in the more arid environment was a godsend for me psychologically as well. The cold and wet was wearing on me slightly, and the comfort of warmer and drier was a blessing.

I would write well into the evening to catch up, and then fed myself a meal just after midnight, after which I promptly went to sleep… Tomorrow would be yet another adventure.  

Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012 Update 6

Mountain Flyer Content Trip Update 6

The prospect of riding fresh, highly-thought of singletrack seemingly propelled everyone out of their sleeping bags simultaneously in the morning as the sun broke-free of the clouds at the Phil’s Trailhead in Bend, OR. The now-familiar routine of packing tents, stowing sleeping bags, preparing breakfast etc, was run through with a new aire of excitement. A chilly start to the morning, gave-way to sparse high-clouds, temps nearing 50degs, and barely a breeze to keep things moving. We’d finally broken free of the murky damp conditions that’d shadowed us through our departure from Bend last time, and off into Washington.

We were excited to have dry weather and moderate temps for what we’d decided was going to be a ‘down’ day… less-work, more play. No riding with insanely heavy camera-packs. No humping lighting gear in its own gigantic pack uphill on foot… just good old fashioned fun for everyone (photographer included).

I did stuff a body and 2 lenses into my hydration pack, as opportunities seem ceaselessly to arise whenever packs are jettisoned. We wheeled across the parking area and oriented ourselves with the substantial trail-map positioned at the trailhead to Phil’s and Marvin’s on the West side of the parking area. We’d heard great things about ‘Whoops’ and Heli-Pad trails, but wanted to see for ourselves. The area is known in various circles for an assortment of things. Glancing at the competitive posted-frenzy that Strava seems to fuel, in hind-sight, you could easily find yourself caught up in competitive climbing-sessions, descending madness etc, but we knew nothing of this setting out. In fact, we forgot to even start the app until about a mile in, when Brian called out from the front, a quick reminder to ‘fire up Strava’.

'Whaaaaaa?' 'oh… yeah, Strava'.

Off into the woods we went. Mile after easy-mile unfolded before us; a beautifully serpentine flowy singletrack through what appeared to be a relatively young conifer-forest… a pine-needle carpet blanketed the ground, muffling our joyous passage as we climbed gently up Phil’s trail towards the far-side of the trail network we’d so eagerly poured over on the map in days-past. Thoughts strayed to the notion of riding the trail back down the hill we were ever-so-subtlety climbing, and eyes were diverted towards the ever so slightly bermed-out corners we found ourselves pedaling up… occasionally between a rock here, or a tree there. Never anything technical, never anything too tight. It was jussssssst right.

Well marked intersections appeared along our way up, demarcating both our passage up Phils and the progress of other assorted trails in the network. Not many landmarks existed, for those of us used to seeing giant rocky-peaks jutting skyward to serve as reference, for our ponderous progress up climbs locally. We ambled through the sunlight-spashed forest, enjoying shadow play among the trees, an easy gait, and some idle conversation about the loveliness of the dirt, the pristine condition of the corners, the friendliness of the locals, blah blah blah.

I’d pretty much given up any notion of an actual ‘climb’ in reference to the suffer-fests that abound locally in Colorado where we hail from, when the trail suddenly veered sharply skywards. We’d connected through several intersections at this point, and we’d decided that we needed to maintain our trajectory outwards to the outer-most portions of the network. We’d heard that Heli Pad and Whoops were under snow, but we wanted to investigate for ourselves (being a stubborn-lot and having also seen no snow anywhere of-yet).

Heli-Pad arrived reasonably quickly after a short series of moderate climbs warmed us up from the amble through the trees. The location signified by an ‘H’ arranged with stones in a perfectly round clearing of trees at the top of a ridge. ‘I guess this is the heli-pad’? We wondered aloud? Onward? What do we connect with? Michael pulled out the photo of the map he’d shot with his iPhone and we consulted with the group. Onward we’d push to another intersection where another decision would be necessitated. This was FUN! Nothing insanely technical. Nothing ridiculously steep. Just pure clean fun mountain biking distilled to its very essence. Twisty fun singletrack, moderate climbs, and then what was to come…

A bit more climbing, then a meandering downhill brought us to another decision-making point. We consulted the trail-head map that was posted at the intersection of the double track we’d descended on, and looked at the marker that directed us either up or down on singletrack that was calling itself ‘Whoops’. Was it for this my life I sought? We decided to climb, guessing that this was the intersection of Upper and Lower Whoops. We wanted to sample Upper Whoops, but after a quick probing-climb, we hastily ran into the snow-line and determined that we’d be better off heading down instead of post-holing upwards.

Upon crossing the intersection, the fruits were reaped for our efforts. What could arguably be THE most fun trail-jump-line ever unfolded before us. Smooth doubles, bermy grippy corners, occasionally linking s-turns snaking through trees, littered with a triple-option here and there to keep you honest. The shenanigans went on for miles. We were stupefied. ‘Should we climb back up and ride it again?’. In the interest of time, we continued down and connected another several trails to swing us back to the parking area. Wow… What’s arguably the most complete network of trails in a single-area that’s SUPER easily accessible and shredable in a reasonable morning of riding, that won’t beat you up horribly. What’s not to like?

Bend gets our double-thumbs-up, and we realize we haven’t even scratched the surface here yet! Amazing!

Lunch was a quick Thai meal locally, and then we hit the road. We had the longer-stretch of our way home ahead of us, and we wanted to make it to Boise at least by this evening to break up the drive. 7+ hours of highway ahead, no riding that we were opting-into, and we were still looking at yet another late-night arrival into another unknown campsite. That’s why we’re out here, no? Y e s… that’s why we’re here. It is our purpose.

Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012 Update 5

Mountain Flyer Content Trip Update 6

The prospect of riding fresh, highly-thought of singletrack seemingly propelled everyone out of their sleeping bags simultaneously in the morning as the sun broke-free of the clouds at the Phil’s Trailhead in Bend, OR. The now-familiar routine of packing tents, stowing sleeping bags, preparing breakfast etc, was run through with a new aire of excitement. A chilly start to the morning, gave-way to sparse high-clouds, temps nearing 50degs, and barely a breeze to keep things moving. We’d finally broken free of the murky damp conditions that’d shadowed us through our departure from Bend last time, and off into Washington.

We were excited to have dry weather and moderate temps for what we’d decided was going to be a ‘down’ day… less-work, more play. No riding with insanely heavy camera-packs. No humping lighting gear in its own gigantic pack uphill on foot… just good old fashioned fun for everyone (photographer included).

I did stuff a body and 2 lenses into my hydration pack, as opportunities seem ceaselessly to arise whenever packs are jettisoned. We wheeled across the parking area and oriented ourselves with the substantial trail-map positioned at the trailhead to Phil’s and Marvin’s on the West side of the parking area. We’d heard great things about ‘Whoops’ and Heli-Pad trails, but wanted to see for ourselves. The area is known in various circles for an assortment of things. Glancing at the competitive posted-frenzy that Strava seems to fuel, in hind-sight, you could easily find yourself caught up in competitive climbing-sessions, descending madness etc, but we knew nothing of this setting out. In fact, we forgot to even start the app until about a mile in, when Brian called out from the front, a quick reminder to ‘fire up Strava’.

'Whaaaaaa?' 'oh… yeah, Strava'.

Off into the woods we went. Mile after easy-mile unfolded before us; a beautifully serpentine flowy singletrack through what appeared to be a relatively young conifer-forest… a pine-needle carpet blanketed the ground, muffling our joyous passage as we climbed gently up Phil’s trail towards the far-side of the trail network we’d so eagerly poured over on the map in days-past. Thoughts strayed to the notion of riding the trail back down the hill we were ever-so-subtlety climbing, and eyes were diverted towards the ever so slightly bermed-out corners we found ourselves pedaling up… occasionally between a rock here, or a tree there. Never anything technical, never anything too tight. It was jussssssst right.

Well marked intersections appeared along our way up, demarcating both our passage up Phils and the progress of other assorted trails in the network. Not many landmarks existed, for those of us used to seeing giant rocky-peaks jutting skyward to serve as reference, for our ponderous progress up climbs locally. We ambled through the sunlight-spashed forest, enjoying shadow play among the trees, an easy gait, and some idle conversation about the loveliness of the dirt, the pristine condition of the corners, the friendliness of the locals, blah blah blah.

I’d pretty much given up any notion of an actual ‘climb’ in reference to the suffer-fests that abound locally in Colorado where we hail from, when the trail suddenly veered sharply skywards. We’d connected through several intersections at this point, and we’d decided that we needed to maintain our trajectory outwards to the outer-most portions of the network. We’d heard that Heli Pad and Whoops were under snow, but we wanted to investigate for ourselves (being a stubborn-lot and having also seen no snow anywhere of-yet).

Heli-Pad arrived reasonably quickly after a short series of moderate climbs warmed us up from the amble through the trees. The location signified by an ‘H’ arranged with stones in a perfectly round clearing of trees at the top of a ridge. ‘I guess this is the heli-pad’? We wondered aloud? Onward? What do we connect with? Michael pulled out the photo of the map he’d shot with his iPhone and we consulted with the group. Onward we’d push to another intersection where another decision would be necessitated. This was FUN! Nothing insanely technical. Nothing ridiculously steep. Just pure clean fun mountain biking distilled to its very essence. Twisty fun singletrack, moderate climbs, and then what was to come…

A bit more climbing, then a meandering downhill brought us to another decision-making point. We consulted the trail-head map that was posted at the intersection of the double track we’d descended on, and looked at the marker that directed us either up or down on singletrack that was calling itself ‘Whoops’. Was it for this my life I sought? We decided to climb, guessing that this was the intersection of Upper and Lower Whoops. We wanted to sample Upper Whoops, but after a quick probing-climb, we hastily ran into the snow-line and determined that we’d be better off heading down instead of post-holing upwards.

Upon crossing the intersection, the fruits were reaped for our efforts. What could arguably be THE most fun trail-jump-line ever unfolded before us. Smooth doubles, bermy grippy corners, occasionally linking s-turns snaking through trees, littered with a triple-option here and there to keep you honest. The shenanigans went on for miles. We were stupefied. ‘Should we climb back up and ride it again?’. In the interest of time, we continued down and connected another several trails to swing us back to the parking area. Wow… What’s arguably the most complete network of trails in a single-area that’s SUPER easily accessible and shredable in a reasonable morning of riding, that won’t beat you up horribly. What’s not to like?

Bend gets our double-thumbs-up, and we realize we haven’t even scratched the surface here yet! Amazing!

Lunch was a quick Thai meal locally, and then we hit the road. We had the longer-stretch of our way home ahead of us, and we wanted to make it to Boise at least by this evening to break up the drive. 7+ hours of highway ahead, no riding that we were opting-into, and we were still looking at yet another late-night arrival into another unknown campsite. That’s why we’re out here, no? Y e s… that’s why we’re here. It is our purpose.

Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012 Update 4

Mountain Flyer Content Trip update 4

Today marks the ½ way point of our trip in a manner of speaking. The mission for the trip was to arrive in Port Angeles with Team Geronimo to report on the race and for the guys to compete in the DH. With the race-weekend over, we had a decision to make concerning return-route, the completion of our Ride Guide for Mountain Flyer was our priority on the way out, and as we were looking at a possible overlap-situation related to stops we’d discussed for our return-route, some further planning was required.

Brian and I had to retrieve and transport a vehicle for one of my clients from Renton, WA back to Grand Junction for us to grab at a later date for an automotive production project, so we needed to get to ARB’s headquarters in the morning. A drive back on the 112 across the NW corner of Washington State brought us to the Kingston Ferry and subsequently out of what was seemingly a rainforest-area in which we’d been dwelling since we landed in Port Angeles. The sun graced us for the first time in days, and I hadn’t really realized to that point, just how impacted I was by its absence. We drove down the slight hill into the quaint seaside village that is Kingston, its main street festooned with cute coffee shops and several bakeries. We’d been provided with some beta concerning a gluten-free organic bakery that we wanted to investigate, so we parked Samba in the lineup, and marched back up the hill in search of a cappuccino for me and some gluten-free treats for Brian.

Miracle Morsels delivered, with probably THE most amazing GF cookie and other goodies imaginable. The owner of the store proved to have some interest in Mountain Biking and sent Brian out the door with a bag of treats to fuel him for the rest of the day, with us promising we’d return again to shop further at a later date. Onward!

The ferry-shuttle deposited us about 20min north of Seattle, where we redirected ourselves through some mid-day traffic, and straight on to ARB’s HQ. I had some wiring-attention I needed to pay to my 2nd battery, mounted astern in Samba that powered my fridge and allowed me to charge lighting gear etc. Brian had to retrieve the 4Runner, and when I realized that I had more work ahead of me (under my vehicle) than just 30min-worth, I sent him on his way to Bend to meet up with the rest of the crew. I remained behind, and spend some quality time on the floor of the ARB warehouse/HQ in the bay, re-hanging my wiring, changing a fuse, and having my fridge tested and getting a warranty-replacement tent. Upon completion of the necessary work and reassembling the vehicle, I joined my friend there for a hasty lunch, and then re-set my course for Bend OR. I had 7+ hours to enjoy some jazz, a dinner in a grocery-store parking lot prepared with love in the back of the truck, and then a night-drive across the flanks of Mt Hood in a snowstorm.

We’ve grown somewhat weary and mindful of the late-night-pull-in for campsites, but this couldn’t be avoided. I descended upon the parking area at Phil’s Trailhead once again, this time with my group already long-asleep, yet not at a completely ungodly hour… doused my lights, and promptly set-about ripping the fly off my tent so I could get some sleep (w/o it flapping away in the breeze). We had some epic riding to enjoy first thing in the morning, from the reports we’d heard over the weekend up at the race. We’d seen parts of the area, but wanted to investigate further. Stoke was running high, and I anxiously forced myself to sleep. Tomorrow would finally be a solid riding day for me (sans 60lb pack of lighting/camera gear).

Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012. Race Weekend Report: Port Angeles, WA.

In life, most often it’s not the result, but the process that defines us… moulding us into positive examples of humanity, driving us ever forward to explore, learn and grow as individuals functioning as a whole. Some would argue that an individual sport like mountain biking wouldn’t lend itself to team-building. I could beg to differ.

The road to Port Angeles has been an interesting one. The voyage we set upon a week ago was ostensibly to get us here for the Port Angeles gravity event. It’s probably the most-stacked pro-event of the season that’s a non-World Cup event on the calendar, in a location best-suited for flying into. We decided to drive, and to document the voyage cross-country with the Buells from Team Geronimo, Holly Turner, and John Hartman.

I’ve been on road trips with the Buells over the years to create content, but never in a group much larger than what we have with us this time, and previously only with content producers and athletes. John came to us as a volunteer professional bike-mechanic from Carbondale, and was along for the ride, and up for some exploration along with Holly. We’ve done several ‘content trips’ over the last several years, but never had the amount of time we’d been afforded this time to actually shoot what we wanted as we could, and weren’t pressed for time.

This time we had a target in the middle of a stretch of production. We had a week to arrive in Port Angeles for the event, and were charged with shooting ‘Ride Guides’ along the way to and from the event. The other component to what I do involves commercial photography for clients within the outdoor industry and off-road automotive industries. I find myself living and shooting in the middle of nowhere, based out of my Overland-equipped truck, sometimes for weeks at a time. Being on the road for production is sort of second nature, however we’ve never had an opportunity to create while not under some crazy self-imposed deadline, related to a mountain-bike destination trip that we could plan ourselves, and then explore while out. This was finally our opportunity!

The road out has been littered with quick-stops, ride-guides being shot and some blog-content being constructed based on our group-experience. Arriving in Port Angeles for the race brought the group together as an even tighter-knit unit, as the pressure to perform was an addition to the equation. John leapt into mechanic-mode and the guys arranged the pit-area to function as efficiently as possible for the race weekend. Bikes were worked-on and tuned to perfection. The racers mingled with other competitors, shared course-knowledge after inspection laps and practice times, and things were coming together quite nicely. A first practice day was broken up with some casual content shooting on-site on a trail that the Buells had been eyeing for the last several years, so we made some more personal work happen there with both photo and video.

Qually was the day following first practice, and the same organizational precision encompassed the schedule among the ranks, with John manning the wheel to ensure mechanical perfection. The weather maintained the low-slung cloud ceiling billowing off the Olympic Mountain range, being pushed by coastal winds and fueling temperatures that soared all the way up into the mid-50’s. The course was tacky and not retaining much water… moderately technical in places, and favouring smoothness and fluidity across the board. Not much line-choice and mostly devoid of anything gnarly and littered with rocks, the Buell’s both felt confident going into the event as the course was a challenge but not to the point of wildly gapping the field.

Michael Buell ‘enjoys the event as being ‘the largest stand-alone DH event on the circuit, drawing spectators and athletes alike, from all over the world, and also being probably one of the most stacked-fields at a non-World Cup event, with all the top DH athletes in the world showing up to partake’. ‘Lots of laps, quick turn around, and the enjoyment of local-trails makes the event highly memorable and a desirable one to attend for us year after year’. ‘Easily one of the best-organized events on the tour, and one we won’t ever want to miss’.

Brian Buell ‘loves the location where the event is situated, lending itself to access for the international field (canadians), which brings added depth to the lineup.’ ‘Knowing going in that he’s going to get muddy and get wet, yet has traction on-demand, helps to maintain confidence in the unique (to the PNW) conditions’. ‘Event organizers (rider promoted and organized) did an amazing job, the course was technical and fast, spectators were awesome with their enthusiasm and heckling, and although the end-result wasn’t what he wanted it to be, he still got in a ton of great riding, he got to support the Juniors on their team, and got to share an all-around fantastic experience’.

Results for Pro Men: 1: Steve Smith 2: Aaron Gwin 3: Mick Hannah

Results for Pro Women: 1: Jill Kintner 2: Miranda Miller 3: Holly Feniak

All in all, a super-fun weekend for Team Geronimo racing… a nice break from our ride-guide experience, and a great way to break up our trip with some racing excitement to add to the mix.

The close to the day saw a change in the weather, bringing the clouds that’d been kept by some mystical-forces at bay, down upon us, with a night littered with rain (torrential at times) to the roofs of our tents.

The morning saw a hasty-pack-up and we scattered. Brian and I to Seattle to fetch a work-vehicle from a client to return-home with, and Michael et.al in the race-rig to head south on the I-5, bypassing the ferry-loop into Seattle, and setting their course for Bend Oregon.

We’re to converge on a network of trails just outside Bend for another segment of the ride-guide, and we’ve got tomorrow designated as an all-day ride. No manic-driving. No late-night arrivals into an unknown location. Just riding, plain and simple. We’ve got the beta on the area now, and have our sights set on developing a more comprehensive ride-experience upon which to report. Now I just have to get MY truck back together here in the warehouse at ARB in Renton WA, and get back on the road. The only late-night pull-in will be done by yours-truly.

Bend OR- Stop 3 Mountain Flyer content trip April 2012

so where were we…?  Middle of the desert.. check…    Riding bikes… check.   Eating delicious meals prepared in the middle of nowhere with friends… check.   No wait, we were putting down miles and getting to somewhere ELSE to ride bikes, right?

Yes, yes, of course…  We were loading back up and pulling out of SnowBowl just outside Elko, and marveling at the scenery, somehow magically devoid of tree’d-matter, when we incited yet another iPhone-powered search for yet ANOTHER burrito-experience.  

Thwarted by a botched-turn, a misinterpreted iPhone directive, and then a decision to go ‘grocery’ on our lunch-programme, we redirected towards a grocery store, where we proceeded to stuff coolers and my fridge with salad-matter, fruits and juices, ripped the vehicles apart in the parking lot, and prepared lunches on the spot and promptly sat down to enjoy.  

Gassed and gone shortly thereafter, we made Bend Oregon our evening target… setting a course upon the road less-traveled, and making our way North from hwy 225>205 straight up through southern Oregon.  Desolate-travel defines us. Interstate travel is best-suited for mini-vans-laden with tantrum-prone toddlers with a hasty-destination, piloted by unimaginative parents guided by needs dictated by frequent food and bathroom-stops.  

We on the other hand, are out to inhale scenic vistas.  To drink in the very essence of the country-side is our purpose.  Connecting on a deeper level with the primordial  scents of landscape, the gentle patina of light upon textures carved by the hands of time, observing life distilled to basics hues and gradients demarcating ingress and egress of day.  We took on the role of observers, punctuating our recreation with deliberate movements across the geographic foundation of our country; the space which defines our place in the world as ‘americans’, as it were. 

Southern Oregon passed as a great expanse of desert, eroding into high-desert punctuated by mountainous-features of which subsequently gave way to a lake-district about the time our daylight was to expire.  Another gas-stop and the final push on to Bend, with a dinner-meal passing in the form of snacks and bars taken-on at the helm,  headlights stabbing into another traffic-less evening across the lonely landscape. 

Bend came around midnight once again (slightly before this time, actually), the final approach entailed dropping down out of the darkness towards the twinkle of incandescent civilization.  Quick work was made of some brief urban navigation taking us to the south and west of town and straight to the trailhead whereupon we made our home for the evening. Phil’s trail was the subject of interest for the morning, and the cloak of darkness obscured what would provide an even greater source of interest than one single-trail could hope to provide. 

0600hrs came quickly, with the air being shredded by the barking of a startled and somewhat antagonistic dog having discovered Michael sleeping on the ground between his truck and mine.  I struggled with the urge to rise, prepare food, and explore immediate surroundings.  I attempted to will the dog away, and to my horror, i heard more and more vehicles making their approach, yet more dogs, and then heard footfalls of runners.  Runners?  Do they KNOW what time it is?  I remembered our proximity to Bend and connected the dots: Runners are obsessive and the fanatics tend to run early. We were close to a super-fit community.  Things weren’t going to get better. 

Indeed they weren’t.  The parking lot population swelled to critical mass, and by 0700 or so, it was time to succumb to the urge to rise. Or maybe it was 0800?

We were up and burning daylight already.   A quick poke about revealed that we had not one trail to explore, but about 8, all departing from the epicenter where we found ourselves parked. No wonder the place was reaching fever-pitch at such an early hour. 

The network of trails we’d ‘discovered’, connected what was a veritable spiderweb of a playground, connected by well-marked and immaculately maintained, seemingly endless singletrack.  

It was time for Brian to do some work on one of his bikes in the parking-area while the group fed on their assorted breakfasts’ of choice, and prepared for exploration. 

What began innocently enough as a quick pedal out of the parking lot, turned into a bit of a full-scale pump/rhythm-track session.  Immediately out of the gate, we’d discovered what’s probably the best-maintained pump-park, dirt-jump area, and slopestyle/slalom park, perhaps anywhere.   Antics ensued, and for a while, the mission was scrapped for the sake of some play; burning off the pent-up energy from logging tedious miles behind wheels of our mechanical carriages. 

With a ride-guide spot looking inevitable, our need to survey more than just the ‘slope-park’ was a given.  Singletrack abounded, yet we remained somewhat fixated on the siren-song of the ridiculously well-maintained slope-park and pump/DJ sections so invitingly-close to the parking-area.   

Having forgot to fire up Strava (our ride-logging GPS-mapping app), some further research will be required to map out exactly what went down after our departure from the ‘slalom-park’.  What we DID find was out of this world.  Serpentine loamy slices of heaven, connected by sections of stimulating yet minimal climbing, idyllically-spaced trees split with the passage of human-powered breezes that carried us through the conifer-forest, twisting and turning our way to bliss as we linked trails together in a way i’ve not been afforded opportunity to enjoy the like of elsewhere, perhaps ever. 

Comically, we’d not even scratched the surface of what was on-offer in the area. A revisit was immediately suggested for the return route to include a hit on the Mackenzie River Trail and perhaps another that was mentioned by some trail-runners we’d encountered on the trail).  

Sad to see vehicle roof-tops in the distance through the trees as we cranked between the last quarter-mile of perfectly-radius’d turns, we knew we’d return to explore more in the area within the next week.  Hi-5’s were given back in the parking lot, and stoke ran high as we realized we’d encountered yet another amazing destination along our route. 

Packed and ready to roll, we pulled out of Bend to address our last concerning chunk of mileage we needed to put behind us to see us into Port Angeles for the weekend.   Directing our attention to the North, we saw our entourage head across yet another Indian Reservation, across the foot Mt Hood shrouded in dense cloud, then down the other side towards PDX and back into non-rainy climes. We gathered for a re-fueling before addressing the tangle of Portland, where we also arrived at the conclusion that in order to properly celebrate our official arrival to the PNW, we needed to celebrate properly with the ingestion of some fish.  

We pushed thru PDX and across the border where the search off i-5 was intensified.  iPhones were out, and passengers in Michael’s vehicle were combing the internet for a suitable first-stop for local fish-sampling.  Just when desperation was setting in and i almost cracked into what surely would’ve been the Big100 bar to send me over the edge, we pulled off the hwy and through Ridgefield, where #Pacific Northwest Best Fish Company greeted us with open arms.  

THE B E S T.   SOOoooooOoO welcome!  Fish was embraced… we dined spectacularly outdoors upon the finest halibut, calamari steaks and whatever else we could source from the award-winning menu, taking in the cool moist Washington air, and reveling in the trillion shades of green that greeted our eyes everywhere we looked across the countryside.  We took in the essence of what was presented: fish, lush greenery, coastal-aire, and a serenity brought about by knowing that we were rapidly approaching our destination for the weekend.  

A scant few-remaining hours of car-time would see the crew arriving in Port Angeles and me in Seattle for meetings; going our separate ways for 24hours, but re-uniting after my quick run into the more-formal commercial/business-world. 

A weekend filled with race-reportage, more photo and video updates, blogging and tweeting and nights dining and sleeping under the stars with dear friends lays ahead. 

Perhaps we can include you on our journey?  More to follow in the coming days!

-AW

#MountainFlyerMagazine 23 April 2012 Update 1

Whew… finally on the road as of later in the day yesterday, after the Buell-rig needed some careful trailer-sorting/loading, and then a departure around 1800hrs from Carbondale. The first leg of the trip took us due west on i-70 to Rifle where we promptly decided we’d had our fill of Interstate and headed north on 13 to catch 64 to rte40 through Dinosaur to Vernal… our final destination for the evening. We’d read and heard about some epic riding (all singletrack, all the time) in Vernal, and decided that this was the ideal spot for our first documented stop, and subsequent documentation for our first ride-guide segment of our trip for #MountainFlyerMagazine. 

After a ridiculously scenic drive up through a desolate-stretch of large-ranch country  along the White River in Northern Colorado to reach the border, we’d decided that we weren’t in the mood for a ton of exploration for a super-ideal campsite, so we headed through Vernal straight to McCoy Flats Rd where a multitude of singletrack loops abound, and promptly pulled straight into a place we decided would suffice for the night… too close to 191 as it turned out… and delivering me about 3hrs of sleep, partitioned by passes of trucks engine-braking as they headed down the hill out of Vernal. As it turned-out, lack of sleep would be forgiven by some of the most epic and deserted singletrack probably anywhere. 

We awoke, fired up a speedy-breakfast, and headed down the road to a pavilion on McCoy Flats Road, where trails branch out like a spiderweb of heaven on both sides of the road. We opted to sample the goods starting on the East side of the road beginning with Cookies>Jackalope>Serpendipity>Jackalope and then ended up back at the parking area.  

At the end of the ride, we ran into Troy who owns #AltitudeCycle in Vernal, and who introduced himself as the guy who’s built the majority of the trails in the area.  We got some local-beta concerning the riding on the other side of the road (we didn’t ride the other side, but hope-to on our return-leg of our trip), and were advised to NOT miss the riding on the West-side. 

Dining-wise, we explored the finest messican Vernal had to offer within shotgun’s-blast-distance from the Dodge dealership, as Michael’s truck has a wiper-motor in need of replacement… so we ambled down a block to Taco el Gordo on the North side of the street and gorged ourselves on burritos, tacos and popsicles.  A quick tour through the Dinosaur museum just across the street, and then a walk back up to the dealership now has us sitting on plush RED naugahyde couches at the dealership, patiently awaiting wiper-motor replacement, to see us on our way down the road.  Destination this evening: Winnemucca NV, where we’ll resume blog-fest and photo-fest April 2012.