Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dixie 311 June 2010

Dixie 311 Route on Satellite image of southwest Utah

Sculpted tree on the Sevier Plateau

Mike at Thunder Mtn trail
Greg at Thunder Mountain Trail
The other Greg on the race,Greg Bach caught up with us and passed us on the Sevier Plateau

Bonsai on the Pink Cliffs
Virgin River Canyons
Singletrack on way to Pink Cliffs

I had just heard of the Dixie 311 from Scott Morris and then Mike Curiak invited me to tour it, not race it, The route looked fascinating. The route is a loop in the Dixie National Forest near Zion National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument and also taking in the Fishook National Forest and the Tushar Mountains. Views on Google Earth where I could see the trail going on a rim above the Virgin River really sealed the deal, I had to do this ride. Joan got interested too which made it even better. She was willing to meet me periodically to get my feed bag replenished.Joan met me 2 times during the week. The fresh meals, resupply and Joan's company were magic.

I went with my sleeping gear on the bike and a couple of days of chow. The route went some places far from any resupply options. Mike and Greg who joined us were well stocked with freeze dry food.

The ride began in a peculiar way. I was all ramped up to go, I had done tons of preparation having been known as the slow poke on some previous rides. I was trying to repair my reputation. I waited round for quite a while but I was getting cold so decided to ride ahead and let them catch up to me. They did, but in a strange way I had set the stage for the rest of the week. I ended up riding by myself much of the time while Mike and Greg stopped more than I to take photos.Mike and Greg took a few pictures

The nights were pretty good with my well refined bike packing setup

I usually sleep from sundown to sunup so we ended up travelling at about the same average.

I would catch Mike and Greg or they catch me and once we actually camped in the same place. We also shared a wonderful afternoon on a bluff on the Pink Cliffs where we took luxurious naps waking to the worlds best view. The trail kept to the Pink Cliffs along the tops and then plummeted down and rode more Pink Cliffs along the bottom.

very welcome bubbling water after descending Pink Cliffs
There was some hike-a-bike on the Dixie 311

Then the route climbed back into pine forests and lakes and aspen glades. I met Joan a couple of days out at Red Rock Canyon. She had all sorts of groceries waiting for us. Mike and Greg turned down the banquet and rode on into the afternoon. Even though we were "touring" Mike and Greg were not accepting support which could have technically kept them in the race. I was not racing so stayed and enjoyed the time with Joan and the next day continued the ride. There was a sweet lonely valley called Hunt where I scared up a bull elk who was bedded down near the trail.

There were miles of trail littered with downed trees. Sometimes it was a mile an hour or less dragging my bike over that deadfall. Other times I was merrily riding up a clear trail looking at the babbling brook on one side and the lupine and paintbrush on the other. It was all new country for me and the adventure was real.There were some trees down across many sections of trail

There was Adams Head looming above,

after many hours of climbing I circumnavigated Adams Head and passed near a point which showed on my GPS a place where presumably due to the grand view John W Powell had left a survey point to refer to.

There was a fun descent to Circleville and the cafe and resupply awaited. The visit to Circleville was brief and then the great climb into the Tushar's commenced.

Tushar Mountains
Paiute ATV trail in Tushar Mountains
Road out of Circleville climbing into Tushar Mountains

Old Boiler on a rather trying section of nearly non-existent trail but seeing the secret valley and the boiler was worth itCrossing Hwy 20 in Buckskin Valley

A few days later after getting a look at the snow capped Tushar mountains and just kissing the snowbanks I descended to a place where I was going to meet Joan.

As soon as I arrived I knew our plan was in trouble. The road which she was to have come up was too rough for our car. I did not know where she was. There was no cell phone service it was getting late in the day and I was out of supplies. The solution to this conundrum was to plummet to the valley and ride to the town of Parowan. I went to the nearest cafe, ordered a steak and pondered my next move as the sun set. In the end I stayed in a motel, Joan camped in the mountains and we reunited the next day. Joan had a good night camping, I had a worried night in the motel trying to think if I could do something . That was it for my ride. I was tired, I'd had a good run. For me it was the Dixie 270.

Mike and Greg finished all 311 miles, Joan and I motor toured Cedar Breaks and Capitol Reef National Park and then we headed back to Leadville. Ahh, the home bed feels mighty good after sleeping on the ground.

What a route, what a ride. Thanks to Dave and Linda for the route planning, thanks to Mike, Scott, Greg for getting me informed and motivated to do this ride, and thanks to Joan for encouraging and supporting me.

Friday, April 30, 2010

AZT 300 2010

< < Fernando Paz and Lee Blackwell
Mary Reynolds on the trail

The AZT 300 had been penciled in on my calendar. An appointment with fate looming there, taunting with the joyful promise of seeing the wild places once again, visiting some familiar favorite scenes along that 300 mile route. Taunting me with recollections of fatigue and self induced pain. Mary Reynolds called me to go out and take a look at the route. She was going to give it a try for the first time. I looked at the threads on and read of the enthusiastic plans of this year's contingent of racers.

I went out with Mary on a pre ride, we did a little night riding on the course. The ride got me thinking more but I still had not made a commitment to race. A day before the race I suddenly felt inspired.

Fernando Paz offered me a ride to the start, another good omen.

I woke up nauseous. Fernando arrived on time, I puked, then I was ready sit in the pickup while Fernando drove me out to Parker Lake. My feeling sick had put us behind schedule. When we arrived the racers had left 5 minutes before. The Spot tracker which Scott had saved for me was ready. I loaded the batteries shivering in the snow, still feeling a little queasy. I bid Fernando and others goodbye, clipped in and rode off into the snowy forest.

The fresh cool air invigorated me. The silence of the forest was profound.

I caught up with some of the racers. Chatted with some, and later Mary and Tim and I rode together for a few hours.

Arrival in Patagonia was welcomed. Pizza awaited. Some of the faster riders were departing as we rode up. I went to the store to get food to last till Tucson. Tuna in foil, tortillas, cheese, candy.
climbing Salero Road enjoying the sunset I rode into the night.

Found the perfect place to camp and later Tim showed up and we stayed in that nice place till dawn. I had hoped Mary would ride till she found us but I did not see her.

A big climb ensued which warmed me up, then the descent to Whipple visitor center, exhilarating and on to the Elephant Head Mountain Bike trail where the Ocotillos and flowers were in bloom. I had just enough water to make it to Proctor where there is a faucet. I'd lost Tim since he had gone for water at Whipples.

I rode for hours up Box Canyon and onto the new section of AZ trail where Brendan and Matt came into view.

The pace seemed to quicken after they became aware of my approach. Nothing like a little competition to get things going! We then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon riding that great stretch of trail into the Rincon Valley. When darkness came we rode Spanish Trail right into Tucson directly to the Subway for a footlong club. Wow did that hit the spot!

We camped outside Tucson. In the night Matt's aching hip got the better of him. He was in great pain. A night rescue ensued thanks to cell phones and a willing spouse.

Next crisis was on Reddington Pass. Brenden announced with anguish that his frame had cracked. After some discussion Brenden went back down and I continued on alone.

The next big surprise was some trail magic. I hear bells and see a sign, welcoming the AZ trail racers! I accepted a Coke from these trail angels .

Dave See was waiting on Bellota Trail for Brendan. We had a relaxed lunch. I unpacked and spread out my sleeping gear to dry in the warm sun. Thanks for those great cranberry's Dave! They were just the ticket!

The big climb over to the Catalina Highway wore me out. Later the the long climb up to Summerhaven brought on those familiar feelings of extreme fatigue. It is a familiar feeling, is not very fun but I also know that it doesn't usually stop me. Just keep going and enjoy the views. I arrived at Summerhaven at dark and it was cold. I did not think I would have a good night camping in those temperatures. Everything was closed in Summerhaven. No warm cafe meal was going to happen here. A lone figure was walking down the road, Dorothy her name was, after a moment she offered me her extra cabin
She said, " go on up there, make yourself at home, I'll see you in the morning" No name , no suspicion , no doubt, it was so cool! I made a fire and ate my tuna and camped on the hearth not wanting to mess up a bed or cause any work for her after I left. Thanks Dorothy! I probably finished the 300 because of your hospitality!

After that great restful night I was ready for Oracle Ridge and Oracle Ridge was ready for me. Downed timber had been prepared for me and lot's of rocks! High quality Hike-A-Bike!

Oracle came by late afternoon. Time to feed and buy feed for the next and last leg. Next stop for food would be at the end and I was not sure how many days that might be. Oracle Market was a great stop and I headed out with belly full of canned corn and pinto beans, a pound of roast beef in my pack, packages of tuna and tortillas.
Antelope Peak was on my mind. On the way out of town I met Tim rolling in. I thought about hanging out with him but I was ready to roll with daylight slipping so after a call to Scott and Joan on the cell phone I headed north to Antelope Peak. I know this remote trail well so I was ready to see it in the moonlight and the body was still willing as the mind. Just short of Bloodsucker wash I began to feel a genuine sleep call so I found a nice spot and and layed out my kit and had a little roast beef wrapped in tortilla and went to sleep!

Next day Antelope still needed to be passed and it is quite a circuitous piece of trail to get there. Good trail though. Here's the Antelope. It is visible for miles so arrival at it always seems like celebration.

Next was Freeman Road and the water cache. Thanks Jonesy for stocking that water for us

Then the boulders ....

A self portrait.....

A nap hideaway in the afternoon heat...

Then the Gila river and the diversion dam where I crossed.

I always like crossing the Gila river. It is where property descriptions in Arizona begin. " starting at the Gila and Salt River meridian" begins every property legal description. The Gila is also where Mexico began prior to the Gadsden Purchase. the Gila also used to flow freely and the Pima indians farmed. Phoenix diverted the water and Johnny Cash wrote a song about Ira Hayes. He was the Pima indian who raised the flag at Iwo Jima in WW2. Ira did not fare well after the war and the man in black describes it in great detail in the song. Crossing the Gila also means great forward progress for Lee Blackwell AZT 300 racer. Box Canyon was next.
Box was a lovely respite from the afternoon sun. This is a wild playground, motor city for the Phoenix dwellers on the weekends. All the fancy rigs are brought out and parties and general mayhem ensue. Ahh for me though late in the day during the week, one lone land cruiser went by and that was it. I even pumped water to top off my supply for I was not done yet. The Great Orphan Butte was coming and I knew what I was in for.

Box canyon topped out, Weavers needle appeared in the distance, the sun set and the lights of Coolidge, and the valley appeared. My legs felt strong, the heat had moderated. I put my ears on and Creedence and Rhonstadt, Neil and the Bealtles kept me company as my body and bike worked in perfect harmony to ascend that road. I topped out and in the rising moon there was Picketpost Mountain looming above an abyss not yet lit by the moon. I made a cell call and determined that my loving wife Joan was en route to the trails end at the foot of Picketpost Mountain. I descended into the dark abysss with my LED lights beaming brightly. I knew this trail is a tricker though. It appears to descend but in fact has a lot of little trick up hill sections. The climb had exhuasted me so I decided to sit down and have proper dinner though I was so close to the end. The renewed calories served me well on that tedious descent.

There was a light, a stately saguaro lit in the surrounding darkness. I knew this could be only one thing. Joan had hiked up the trail to greet me and was shining her light on this saguaro to make a grand finale for Lee Blackwell confirmed AZT racer. I'd attempted this race twice in previous years. 3rd time was the charm.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Front Range

Lee and Joan went to the "Front Range " to deliver the bike fountain and the yucca fountain. Here I'm setting up the fountain at the Kinning residence in Golden.

When the delivery was complete we made our way to Fort Collins to visit The New Belgium Brewery and just to see Fort Collins..
Then down to Loveland and looked at the sculpture gardens there.
Next was Colorado Springs where we delivered the yucca fountain and also went to the Olympic Training Center.

Leadville looked real nice seeing the clear crisp air as we drove back home after our whirlwind tour of the "Front Range"

Friday, July 17, 2009

all night ramble

I was looking for a ride and Tom Purvis had the idea. Set out at 9:00 pm and ride all night.

Off we rode from Salida to top of Marshall Pass then north on the Crest trail. It was mighty dark and only our light beams were our world. In that blackness and in the complete silence we pedaled up the old railroad route to Marshall Pass. To pass the time I began thinking how the steam engines passed in the night on this route 100 years ago. The engineer watching the track ahead and the stoker keeping the coal in the firebox. I imagined how the passengers would be dozing in the cars on the night run to Gunnison. Later I sang and tried to remember the words to all the train songs I know. Here Cathy, Tom's girlfriend, took our picture on departure from Salida.
Breakfast at first light.

We arrived at Marshall Pass and then proceeded north on the Continental Divide/ Colorado Trail. We made many miles on that crest trail. Nearly at Monarch Pass at 3:45 am in total darkness all I wanted was sleep. Tom was not feeling too frisky either so he said go ahead, take a nap. I layed down on the pine duff at 12000 feet. Instant sleep, like an elixir, relief. Half hour later the cold was creeping into my still body. I had to get up. Much better, I felt good again and a few minutes later the first light began to show on the horizon. It was so great to know the sun was coming. The daisys and lupine showed in my light. Waiting for the sun. We backtracked rode back to Marshall Pass then crossed and continued south to Silver Creek.

The sun came with all the glory of a lit world. Silver Creek was backlit, as we descended the birds twittered and the aspen shimmered, fresh dew on the grasses. We picked up the Rainbow trail and the beautiful flowers nodded as we descended to the warmer world.

We rolled back to Salida and had breakfast. Then the big nap. It was like being in a coma at midday. Wow that sleep deprivation is really memorable.

Vapor 125 coming up. This was a good practice. Tom and I had a really nice time, good conversations and sharing the experience.

Here's a 3d map of the route. I think you can click to enlarge.