Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom.

For those in the know, the title is probably a bit weird. From the time I was very little, I've called my Mom by her name, Martha, pretty much exclusively. Well I felt today's birthday called for something out of the ordinary. Not being able to be there for birthday's/holidays is a big drawback of living in CO, but it doesn't mean we aren't still close.

So a big "its the new 50" birthday to Martha. We wish we could be there to celebrate with you today, but we'll look forward to the delayed party in a month or so. So to mark the occasion, I dug up some old photos we found at my Grandma's house a couple years ago that show Martha, the younger years...

Grandma Mary displaying the 4th Goodman child, Martha

7 kids and one tired donkey

John, Nancy, Martha and Becky

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The times, they are a changing...

Its a glorious time to be in Colorado. The days are sunny and warm, the nights are crisp and cool and the leaves are starting to hit their golden peaks which makes great trails even more scenic than usual. This time of year I start to go in to panic mode, trying to hit all the high country rides I can as its a gamble as to when they'll get snowed in for the year.

Jill showing focus as she enters the corner

So today's "ride it while you can" trail du jour was West Magnolia near Nederland. The trees in the area are starting to peak, which made this ride even that much better. Jill and I love the trails up there, and we couldn't have had a much nicer day. We did a pretty big loop today, with lots of picture stops.

Jill actually looks like she's enjoying herself

We meandered our way through Root Canal then over to the Hobbit Trails. We encountered a few people along the way, but the trails were relatively empty for such a nice day. The summer traffic has certainly taken its toll on the trails as they are looser and rockier than what I've ever seen before. Sitting under snow for the next 7 months or so will do them some good.

Who is that handsome devil in the reflection?

Jill is all smiles on a fun, rocky downhill section through the blazing aspens

The highlight of the day for me came when we were approaching the final climb on the Hobbit 2 Trail. As I was approaching the climb, I looked back and noticed two guys had passed Jill and were coming up behind me, so I pulled over and let them go by me while I waited. Jill was shortly behind them, and as I saw her I started up the climb. The two younger guys were both on geared, full suspension bikes and both stalled out on the rocky climb and had started pushing their bikes.

I had been at a complete stop at the base of the climb, and proceeded to get rolling again and begin working my way up the climb. I was gaining speed as I lumbered passed these two guys on my rigid singlespeed, cleaning the top section easier than most times.

Jill poses with some golden leaves

This singlespeed thing is a strange phenomenon. My 6" travel bike costs several times more, and is the much more complex, high performance machine. However, when I ride the rigid Niner, people always want to stop and talk to me about it. In Boulder on Friday, a guy riding a $4,000 Yeti AS-R rode with me for 2 miles on the path asking me about how I liked the big wheels. On the Thursday night ride at West Mag, two female bikers we passed gave me the "Go Singlespeeder Go!" chant as I climbed passed them.

A series of photos of me heading into the golden abyss

I like this SS thing, makes me look like I've got some calves!

No I'm not headed off trail, I'm setting up to jump off those small rocks

Why yes I do love the Niner, thanks for asking.

From here Jill and I added another loop to our trail, so we could hit the trail aptly named "Aspen Alley". I figured with the leaves blazing, we owed it to ourselves to add in the extra climb and do this trail. After blazing through the golden canopy, I was certainly glad we decided to ride this. A fast downhill and we were back at the car, loaded up and headed home. I'm definitely going to have to hit up West Mag again before the big snows settle in...

Jill works her way through Aspen Alley

Jill still smiling even though she's climbing? Must be a good day.

OK, I can see why people want to ask about this bike, it is awfully pretty.

She's a looker too...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Get the dogs out

After Baloo's health scare (tumor in his foot) cleared up and he's finally healed up, we decided we needed to get the dogs out this morning. We thought we'd try the dog park first, to see how Baloo's foot responded before taking them to the trails.

Lots of pictures and few words tonight...

Molly proudly displaying her fetched toy

A captive audience when you have the ball

Molly pulls ahead but Baloo doesn't give up the chase

Photo finish

Baloo told me he was letting Molly win

Even when Baloo wins the foot race, he has to defend his prize

Molly wins again

Baloo starts to win on sheer endurance

Molly heads for a water break

But its all smiles on a great day to get out

Friday, September 14, 2007

Night time is the right time (for West Mag)...

Charged up the lights and met up with John "The Punisher" Perry for some night ride action up at West Mag last night. While I've been quite active as of late, I haven't been spending that much time on the bike. While hiking (especially with a 35lb pack) is good excercise, it isn't a substitute for the lung busting nature of mountain biking.

So first ride back after a while and starting elevation around 8700ft, makes perfect sense to bring the rigid SS right? Well no one ever told me I had good sense. Truth be told Betty the Yeti was in pieces in the basement and wasn't trail ready, so I didn't have too many options but I probably would have brought the Niner anyway.

The terrain at Ned is actually pretty well suited for SSing, but there are a couple of places where the climbing is sustained and steep. The Punisher was on his 2nd ride on his newly converted SS hardtail, so I wasn't the only crazy person ignoring the joys of gears and suspension.

So our group was 4 strong, a full suspension geared bike, a geared hardtail, a SS hardtail and then me on my rigid SS. Strangely enough, as we started up the trail it was the two SSers off the front. I actually had pretty good legs, but the lungs weren't used to the cool, 50 degree air and they let me know about it.

On the rolling terrain, I held my own and rode pretty well. After 2 or 3 miles, the climbs started becoming more sustained and I faded off the back a bit as I just tried to settle into a rhythym and ride my own pace. We headed up the School Bus trail to the old mine, and the climbing was tuff. I had a couple sections I had to walk due to the steep, loose nature but I was pretty happy with how I was riding for the most part.

The descent was under the lights and was a lot of fun. Trails change identify and take on a whole new feel under the lights, and the Nederland trails may be the best night riding trails I've ever been on. We took the Hobbit trails back to the car, then loaded up and headed to Main St. Nederland to grab some grub.

We got home much later than I anticipated (as always!), but it felt good to be out under the lights again. Daylight is fading fast and colors are turning, better keep the lights charged up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The pups

Just grabbed the camera to play around with the flash, and take a couple pictures of the pooches. Its getting to be the time of year where light starts fading quickly and the flash becomes integral.

Monday, September 10, 2007

RMNP Part 2 - Off Trail Adventure

The first night of camping never seems to net much sleep. Both Jill and I tossed and turned all night, probably accumulating more sleep than we realized but still not feeling that rested. The sun was up, although not hitting us yet since we were tucked away below the 12,000 foot peaks, so we got up and started getting organized for our attempt at Fifth Lake.

Looking on our map, we plotted out our trip. We would climb up to Lone Pine Lake, then continue climbing to the largest of the lakes we'd see, Lake Verna. Once we got to Lake Verna, the luxury of having an established trail would be gone and we would be forced to navigate our own trail to Spirit Lake. Past Spirit Lake we would hit Fourth Lake and then a big climb to the apex of East Inlet, Fifth Lake which sits in the shroud of Isolation Peak and the Continental Divide. Round trip would only be 10 miles, but a lot of climbing and rough, unestablished trails would make it a formidable goal as this would be our first time to leave established trails in search of a destination.

We packed Jill's backpack as a daypack. I took her backpack and she carried my camera and before we realized it we were approaching Lone Pine lake. As we walked up we saw a lone man sitting on the rocks, and he gestured towards the water. Standing about 30 feet from us on the edge of the lake was a good sized bull moose. He took note of us, but then went about his business of having a morning snack and a cool drink of water. We stood and watched him for about 10 minutes, before continuing our ascent to Verna Lake.

Looking back towards Lone Pine Lake, lake stop #1 for the day

Lake Verna, the 2nd of 5 alpine lakes for the day

By the time we hit Verna Lake, the sun had crested the divide and the temperature was warming quickly. Just as the temps were rising, the trail was diminishing. We encountered a broken sign, propped up on the side of the trail that simply read:

"Unimproved trail beyond this point"

What we didn't realize at the time was that "unimproved" meant virtually no trail. Huge fallen trees around every corner, stream crossings, crossing large boulder sections and general bushwhacking were standard issue. Following game trails as much as we could, we eventually made our way to Spirit Lake. Pausing for to take things in for a moment, we kept moving higher towards our lunch spot, Fourth Lake.

That is one huge elk footprint

Looking towards the Continental Divide across Spirit Lake

Just as we broke through the trees into the flat marsh around Fourth Lake, a huge bald eagle swooped down about 30 feet in front of us. The huge, unmistakable bird flew to the other end of the lake then rested in a tree. As we approached the mountain, it circled countless amount of times just effortlessly soaring through the air. We picked out a large boulder to be our picnic table, fired up the stove and in 15 minutes we were eating pasta primavera.

As we filled our bellies, we talked about how unimaginative "Fourth Lake" was. It was at that point that Jill deemed this lake "Joel Lake" as at that moment in time it truly seemed like we were the only people who had ever been there. Sure I know that this summer there were probably at least 50 or 100 people who made it to Fourth Lake, but the signs of anyone else were long, long gone.

With lunch devoured, we packed up and started our way across the boggy wetlands. Now the real fun would begin.

From Joel Lake to Fifth Lake, which from that point on would be deemed "Jill Lake", was only about a mile, but it would require a rock scramble up a super steep ridge. As we approached the ridge, we tried to develop a plan of attack to reach the top. Pulling our way through waist high weeds and crossing East Inlet probably at least 6 or 7 times, we found ourselves scrambling up a 30 degree pitch any manner we could. We would switch back and forth, increasing mileage but decreasing slope until we finally would break out of the rocks and trees and see the top of the ridge where Jill Lake sat.

Jill stands near 5th, I mean Jill Lake

When we got our first glance at the lake it made it all seem worthwhile. Jill Lake was a saturated green color with crystal clear water. Everything was lush and green which provided an interesting contrast to the jagged peaks that give the impression of a hard living. We again found a big boulder, dangled our feet in the frigid water and just enjoyed the solitude.

Back at our campsite, Jill enjoys a book by the stream

While we enjoyed tremendous weather for the most part, we were reminded Saturday night how quickly things can change at high elevation. Big winds and rapidly dropping temps had us hanging out in the tent even before the sun had dropped. The next morning, we got up and leisurely packed up camp and trekked the 5 miles back to the car. We were approaching the trailhead about the time the day hiking crews were showing up. Perfect timing, and after the scenic drive across the real Trail Ridge Rd, we were back on our Trail Ridge Rd in time to catch the end of the Bronco's game.

One more backcountry trip...

Last year about this time while Jill and I were hiking the North Inlet trail, we noted the East Inlet trail and its series of lakes on the map. Jill stored it away, and then decided we needed to do this trip now, before the weather takes a sudden turn. We threw together some plans, which basically included taking off 1/2 day of work and driving to the West side of Rocky Mountain National Park where we would begin our journey.

The East Inlet trail starts at Grand Lake, and heads up to 5 separate alpine lakes all connected by the east inlet stream. With a starting elevation of around 8500 feet and our camp site having an elevation over 9600 feet, it was clear this would not only be a physical test but that we would also need to be prepared for the rapidly changing conditions in the high country. Our plan would be to hike into our camp Friday night, then day hike to Fifth Lake, an alpine lake nestled against the Continental Divide at nearly 11,000 feet elevation. The following day, we'd pack up and head back down to our car.

Our plans got changed suddenly when we arrived at the backcountry ranger's office. Both our 1st and 2nd choices for camp sites had been taken since Thursday afternoon, leaving us with our 3rd option, Gray Jay. While neither of us were happy with this turn of events, it would turn out to be a huge blessing in disguise.

After driving across Trail Ridge Road to the west side, we hit the trail head around 3pm which left us about 4.5 hours of daylight. Bags packed and car locked, we took our last view at civilization for a couple of days and headed up the trail. The first section took us by Adams Falls, which by our jaded standards wasn't overly impressive. We took a couple quick pictures and then starting up the trail again.

Jill poses by Adam's Falls

The first section was typical of most RMNP hikes, crushed gravel and nicely maintained trails with gentle elevation gains. After passing through an open meadow with a snaking stream running through it, things started to change quickly. The nice, crushed gravel boardwalks disappeared and in their place where large jagged rocks littered across step sections of trail. The hiking was tough, and the gentle elevation gains were long forgotten as things had gotten steep in a hurry.

Jill poses in the open meadow

Views are OK, if you are into that whole alpine beauty thing

Jill pushes up a steep, rocky section

The rough, technical trail took its toll on us, and the frequent up and down nature was taking its toll on us with our heavy packs. After a couple of well timed rest stops, we pressed on passing several other backcountry sites as we made our way to Gray Jay. Jill was having a tough time dealing with the altitude and heavy pack, but soldiered on.

Jill is tired, but determined

We were both grateful to finally arrive at our destination, Gray Jay Group site with about an hour of daylight left. We threw up the tent, which we are getting very proficient at doing, and then turned our attention to dinner. We cooked up Beef Stew for our appetizer and then had Chicken & Rice for our main meal. With high temps in Grand Lake in the high 60s, it would be a chilly night and a good meal would help us get some good rest with our big day hike coming up.

Home sweet home, for a couple nights at least

My backpack showing its medals of honor

Some random pics from around the campsite, then off to sleep at a very early hour so we would be rested and ready for our first "unimproved trail" adventure the next day.