Monday, April 23, 2012

Some footage of our run down Brice Creek (OR) last Friday. Great weather and flows -- I love the PNW in the Spring time!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mini Huck - Fall Creek Falls (4.1.12)

Recently, for some reason, it always feels like there is either too much or too little water whenever the weekend hits. On this particular weekend, we seemed to have a little too much, but of course that wasn't going to stop us from getting out. On Saturday I headed up north for an awesome day on Hagen Gorge/NF Washougal, but Sunday I was looking for something local. The only person I was able to recruit was Roman, probably my most reliable kayaking buddy. With only a few options, I suggested an exploratory day of sorts, in the Fall Creek drainage. Based on the alternatives, he agreed, and we made plans for our departure.

After meeting up in town we headed east toward the Fall Creek watershed, one of the closest to Eugene. The creek I was looking at was near the top of the drainage, so it took a bit of time to get there. Driving up the creek it looked like it had a really good flow, and after hiking down to take a look at one of the drops, I starting thinking that the run just might be worth it. This would change once the road started ascending in a hurry and peeling away from the run. Since we weren't really prepared for a full-fledged exploratory mission, we decided to cut our losses and run some laps on a 10'er, located on Fall Creek itself, not far downstream.

The falls are situated just above a mile long mini-gorge, which is very scenic but has minimal whitewater. Unfortunately it also has a couple pieces of poorly placed wood, making it not really worth the venture. As for the falls, they aren't very tall, but they do have a perfect lip for practicing your delayed boof -- in fact, it's very similar to Little Brother on The Green Truss, just smaller. It's also about as easy as it gets for lapping, with bank access just above and just below. With that, we geared up and got ready for some good ol' boof practice.

Roman dropped in first

The author on his first attempt
(photo by Roman Androsov)

(photo by Roman Androsov)

(photo by Roman Androsov)

By the time we had tired ourselves out, we had each put in about 6 or 7 laps. Before we headed home I thought it might be worth doing a falls-to-falls run on Portland Creek. Unfortunately when we got up there, we noticed a new log just below the takeout falls, killing any motivation we had to put on the run. Even so, I figured it might be worth running just the top falls (Triple Scoop), so we headed up there to check it out. Since it didn't look like it had good takeout access below, Roman opted out, but also offered to shoot photos. I figured, "what the hell, I'm already geared-up", and ended up running two laps before calling it a day.

The author goes for the single scoop on Triple Scoop
(photo by Roman Androsov)

Although we didn't put in any river miles, I still had a good time. With its relatively close proximity to Eugene, easy access, and good characteristics for boof practice, I'd say it's worth heading up to for some mini park & huck if levels are good -- we had ~2,500cfs on the Fall Creek gauge, located here.

The flow on the day we ran the falls (~2,500cfs)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Moab Part 5 - Porcupine Rim

The map of the whole Enchilada. We actually started at the
trailhead about 1 mile from the bottom of UPS. This map,
along with maps for other rides in the area can be found here.

What can you say about the Porcupine Rim Trail that hasn't already been said? It's one of the most classic trails in Moab, if not the world. Although it's been around for years and many new trails have been constructed in the area, it still remains one of the best, which I was reminded of once again on this, our last full day of riding.

The day started off with some of the warmest morning temps of the trip, and since our shuttle driver wasn't scheduled to pick us up until 11am, we had some time to relax and get all of our gear ready for the ride. Kim and Randy were headed to Fruita for the day, since neither of them had ridden there before and they didn't want to miss the opportunity. Arthur and I spent a bit of time filling them in on a possible ride (in the Mary's Loop area), before they packed up and headed on their way. About five minutes before 11, we grabbed our stuff and made the short walk to the Porcupine Rim parking area, where our driver was planning to pick us up -- I gotta say, camping at the bottom of the trail certainly has its benefits!

Davey and Roland wait for our shuttle

Running about 15 minutes late, our shuttle van rolled into the parking lot, and after a quick greeting session, we loaded up and headed out. The driver was super friendly and talkative, discussing the local scene and his desire to live in Costa Rica with his motorcycle. Passing through the pay station and past the Slickrock riding area, we continued up the mountain toward our trailhead. What we did not know at this point was how far up we would be able to start the ride, based on snow levels. We were fairly certain that we would be able to start at the LPS section, but were hoping we could jump on a bit higher. When we reached the trailhead for LPS it looked fairly clear so we continued another mile or so until the shuttle driver said it probably wouldn't be worth (or wise) going any higher. He also said that we were right next to another trailhead, which would add a mile of Upper Porcupine Singletrack (UPS).

Load 'em up!

The drive up. Notice our tip for the driver,
which is sticking out of the center console...

After unloading our bikes and bidding our driver farewell, we headed down a short bit of road to the trail intersection. The trail started off pretty much as I had remembered it, riding along the edge of Porcupine Rim with spectacular views of both Castle Valley and the La Sal mountains. I would glance over my right shoulder from time to time to catch a glimpse, which caused me to partially ride off the trail a few times. The trail is fairly technical so it's probably best to pull over before taking in the views. Luckily the group, who were mostly in front of me at this point, had decided to stop at an obvious overlook. From this viewpoint we shed some layers and ate some energy food before tearing down the trail once again.

Snow at the start of the ride

Davey rounds the corner at one of the many overlooks to Castle Valley

Arthur fuels up near the start of the ride

The Porcupine Rim

Emily, somewhere on LPS with the
La Sal range in the background

Sandra drops down a fun rock pitch early on

We soon reached a section of the trail that dropped down toward the right and around a couple steep switchbacks. There was quite a bit of snow and ice here, which required us to hike our bikes down with some fancy footwork and teamwork. Even without snow, I'm not sure how possible it would be to ride all of the switchies. After this hike-a-bike section, the trail kept its technical nature along the rim of the canyon.

Teamwork at the hike-a-bike section

Arthur leads the crew down another set of rock stairs

Tait goes for the right line

Emily skirts the rim

More great views that were hard not to look at while you're riding!

The next point the group met up was at a short stepped drop with a couple of line options. The others were already out taking a look when I rolled up. I approached the lip and asked where the best line was -- for which I heard both "left" and "right" from different people. As I tried to inch forward and trackstanded to get a peek, I lost my balance and fell into Roland. Well -- at least I could take a look now... Sure enough there was both a left and right line. The left took the whole drop in one step, with the right dropping over two, with a turn halfway down. I thought the right looked more interesting, so ended up running that side. All went great for me and everyone else, using both options.

Arthur takes the left line...

...Tait goes for the right

Sandra with a nice line down the right

Before long, we reached the intersection with the Porcupine Rim (jeep) Trail, which we would ride for about 6 or 7 miles and would account for a majority of the ride. Although it was jeep road, as opposed to singletrack, it was of super high quality, and in my opinion just as good as anything else on the ride. It contains a bit of everything, from some sustained climbing, to jackhammer descents, to short/technical rock pitches (both up and down) -- this trail throws everything at ya! Once again I did my best to jump out in front of the group to take some shots, but I was far less motivated than during our previous days of riding. Basically I was having way too much fun dropping down sandstone stairs and/or riding in Blue Angel formation with the rest of the crew. Some parts stuck out more than others, but it's pretty much nonstop through its entirety. By the time we reached the part of the trail that transitions back into singletrack my whole upper body was pretty fatigued from all the bone jarring sections of trail.

Arthur treads through one of the tougher
rock steps section of the jeep trail

The author takes his turn
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Game on! Roland, Tait, and Davey play Blue Angels.

The chase continues

Sandra dropping down in good form

Emily and Sandra head down to find some more fun drops

Emily climbs a short pitch near the end of the jeep road section

From here to camp was a technical ribbon of singletrack that rides along the edge of Jackass Canyon, with some severe exposure in some spots. I pretty much walked any technical bits where the price of failure was a freefall to the bottom of the canyon. The second half of this singletrack section has some of the best technical riding of the entire trail. Apparently I had caught a second wind, riding some of the more difficult ones with fairly good lines. After crossing over a small ravine, which required some hike-a-bike, the trail wrapped around a bend, paralleled Hwy 128, and opened up, allowing for a nice speedy descent all the way into camp. I was a bit tired, but was having such a good time I was a little bummed it was all over. On the bright side, pulling into camp and not having to run shuttle was well worth the $20 a person.

Emily skirts Jackass Canyon on the way back to camp

More fun features on the final section of singletrack.
You wouldn't want to come off your bike here...

The only problem with camp was that there was no shade with lots of daylight left. With that, the crew broke up into smaller groups and either ran errands or went sightseeing. Emily and I chose the latter and decided to head back to Arches National Park to check out Landscape Arch. The drive to the trailhead for the start of the hike was fairly long, being all the way at the far end of the park. At the trailhead, we found a wide gravel path that was obviously designed to accommodate the various sizes and shapes of visitors that come to take a look at the amazing rock formations. When we finally reached Landscape Arch, we were not disappointed. Basically it's so thin at the midpoint, it seems only a matter of time before it actually fractures. The sun was just dropping down over the horizon which made for a few nice photos where it was partially blocked by the arch. Once we had gotten our fill, we headed back to the car and started our drive back to camp.

Another arch on our way to Landscape

Our first view of Landscape Arch

Getting a closer look

A cool rock formation on the hike out

Sitting around the fire that evening led to a mixture of feelings; the riding over the past week was unbelievable, but this was also our last night of the trip. We reminisced a bit, ate dinner, and one by one went off to bed. The next morning we ate a quick breakfast, packed up camp, and headed toward the Moab Brand Trails (report here) for one last ride before calling it good. For the drive home we stopped and had dinner with Arthur and Emily at the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City. If you've never been, it's a must stop, and make sure to get one of their famous mole (mo-lay) dishes. Wanting to make some more progress, we continued north and ended up staying in a hotel in Boise. The next day we finished the remaining drive to Eugene, where we were greeted by our two over-excited dogs. It was good to be home, but I was already missing our adventure -- oh well, I guess it's good to leave while still wanting more. Until next time...

The sun drop toward the horizon on our last full day in camp

The group has one last session around the fire

I'm gonna miss this place we called home for a week...

The video footage from our ride:

And, just in case you missed 'em:
Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails
Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)
Moab Part 3 - The Magnificent Seven
Moab Part 4 - Amasa Back

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moab Part 4 - Amasa Back

The fourth day of the trip was the only day that the whole crew would riding together; Roland and Davey had just arrived and Emily (aka Coonabomber) had to get back to Salt Lake for work. Luckily she didn't have to leave Moab until 2pm, which was just enough time to hit one of the true classics, "Amasa Back". Although a majority of the ride is on a jeep trail, do not let that deter you, for it is a technical playground that is equally as good on a mountain bike as it would be in a jeep.

Another morning, another ride...

Before hitting the trail we all had some errands to take care of, so we planned to meet at the parking lot about 1/4 mile from the start of the trail. Since I wanted to do some hiking/sightseeing in Arches National Park, I had actually planned to only ride the jeep trail portion which consists of a 10 mile out & back to a spectacular overlook of Jackson Hole (no, not the ski resort). This option was also the one that Coonabomber was planning to ride since she needed to take off early. The rest of the crew was planning to do the ride as a lollipop by adding the top loop which included the Pothole Arch Trail and the freeride section called "Rockstacker".

Our trails for the day. This map,
along with others can be found here.

The entrance to the Amasa Back starts at "The Stairs", and just as the name implies, it is a series of sandstone slabs that form natural steps. I love these kinds of drops and headed out of the parking lot first so I could scout out the line options. As I was scoping it out, the rest of the crew came up to it and rode down using the far right line before cutting back to the far left at the bottom. Since I really wanted to bag the middle line, I spent some time studying my route so I wouldn't get lost halfway through. Once I felt good with my choice, I hiked back up to my bike so I could drop in. Just as I had pictured in my head, I made my way down the stairs sticking the crux move about halfway down that I had been the most worried about.

The author drops over the crux section of The Stairs
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

The author, happy with the line
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Just below The Stairs the trail drops down to and over a 4' to 5' ledge that all of us mere mortals walked. After this, the trails goes up and over a small ridge before crossing a creek and starting the true ascent. The high temperature for the day was forecasted to be in the high 60's, which was just about perfect since this ride would be a nightmare in the summer heat -- there is basically no shade and heat radiates off the rocks. Since I didn't have either the legs or the lungs of the rest of the crew, I settled into my own pace and made the slow and steady climb up the hill. From time to time I would meet up with the group, take some pictures, fall behind, and settle in again. I'm usually not a huge fan of out & backs, but for a highly technical ride like this it allows you to scout your lines on the way up, assuming you can remember the order of them on the way down.

Em starts the climb up the Amasa Back

Sandra, near the start of the climb

Sandra, cresting one of the many fun technical pitches

A view of the La Sal range along the climb -- spectacular!

Emily continues the climb

About halfway up Amasa Back the trail flattens out a bit and rides along the east rim of Jackson Hole, a large butte in the middle of what appears to be a giant crater, shaped by wind and water. This was a great place to regroup as well as take some pictures before continuing on. At one point in this traverse the jeep trail drops over an extremely technical pile of rocks that is certainly a hike-a-bike for all but the elite. Furthermore, the price of failure here might just be your life, as the exposure on the left drops all the way to the bottom of Jackson Hole. Three years ago when we rode this trail, I got to witness a jeep make his way down this drop, which was incredible to watch -- the guy was either insane or a complete badass, and more likely a little bit of both.

Part of the crew finishing the portage down the exposed steep pitch

Sandra rides the east rim of Jackson Hole

The crew takes a break and enjoys the view of Jackson Hole

Once past the east rim, the trail continues up the hill with more fun technical climbing until it reaches a large area of slickrock that sets up the final pitch to the lookout that would be my planned turn around. This section is steep, but the sandstone provides some amazing traction which allows you to climb up stuff you can only dream of back home. The one thing the rock did not provide was relief to my lungs and legs, which were burning like crazy by the time I crested and made it over to the canyon rim lookout.

Emily (x2) Starting off the second half climb

Roland approaches a fun techie stretch

Sandra also enjoying the terrain

Team Eugene (and Salt Lake City) pose for a group shot

The final pitch to the overlook

At the viewpoint we laid around and ate lunch, with some folks even pulling cell phones to call friends and family back home to brag about the view and amazing spring weather -- apparently there was really good cell service. This was also the point in the ride where the group would part ways. I asked around to see if anyone else would be heading down with Coonabomber and me. Davey bit when I told him I was planning on heading to Arches National Park for some hiking to check out Delicate Arch, one of the most iconic rock formations in the world. After Emily did the round of goodbye hugs, we headed off down the Amasa Back.

Jackson Hole - Ain't she purty

Randy gets in some yoga stretches

Sandra and Tait relaxing at the overlook

Coonabomber loves snack time!

I had asked Emily and Davey if they'd mind if I jumped out ahead from time to time to take pictures at key parts of the ride; both graciously agreed, so I saddled up my steed and tore down the trail to setup. Along the way I was reminded why this was one of my favorite trails from our last Moab/Fruita trip just three years prior. The rock features are some of the best I’ve had the pleasure to ride, with each drop having multiple line options to choose from -- you could make it about as hard or easy as you want, at least relatively speaking. As we continued our descent, leapfrogging our way down, I was grinning ear to ear. About 3/4 of the way down I came off a 2' drop and burped my front tire and flew over the bars, slamming onto the sandstone floor. Although I wasn't injured it did knock a bit of wind out of my lungs and took a layer of skin off a portion of my shoulder, elbow, and back. As I stood up to walk it off and brush the dirt away, Davey and Emily came rolling up and asked if I was okay: "A little winded, but good to go!"

Davey drops a fun rock step

Followed shortly by Emily

Now the real fun begins!

Davey finds some rocks to ride down

Emily at the same ledge

More rock sidewalk

Davey leading the charge

Coonabomber picks her line

After a short rest we continued down with one or two more photo stops before I decided it was time to put the camera away and bomb the trail with the other two, finishing the last stretch of trail in good fashion. Back at the car we could see what appeared to be a parachute dropping into the gully at the edge of the parking lot. I was a little confused by this until I noticed the base-jumping that was going on off some nearby cliffs. I quickly broke out my camera and was able to flip off a couple shots of the next jumper in mid-air – way cool!

Too much fun!

Emily rounds one of the final corners of the ride

Finishing up the ride, which came all too soon...

Look carefully and you'll see the base-jumper in mid-flight

Here too

The base-jumper under canopy over our parking lot

After we were done watching the show, Davey and I said our goodbyes to Emily (sadly), and then headed off to Arches for some sightseeing. Basically I had two locations in mind, Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch. As we drove through the park, I was distracted by all the cool rock formations along the way (e.g. Balanced Rock, Tower of Babel, etc.), which killed quite a bit of time. In the end, I had to decide between the hike in to one of the two arches, and of course I chose Delicate. It ended up being well worth the trip to Arches, and here are some photos to prove it!

Tower of Babel

A pano of the rock formations and the La Sal range

One of The Windows

More crazy rocks and arches

Balanced Rock

A small (relatively speaking) arch on the hike into Delicate Arch

The iconic Delicate Arch

Another view of Delicate Arch

After our hike we headed back to camp where we met up with the rest of the crew for dinner, drinks, and another relaxing social circle around the fire.

A nice sunset lights up the cliff walls near our camp

Another round of chillaxin'

And, just in case you missed 'em:
Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails
Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)
Moab Part 3 - The Magnificent Seven