Friday, September 12, 2008

Pre-season explorations

Date: Sept. 11
Mileage: 37.8
September mileage: 271.1

It's starting to be that time of year when snow and cold creep into my consciousness. Long before the ice forms and the snow actually flies, I find myself thinking often about winter ... about the transformation of the landscape, the blank slate surfaces and all of the possibilities for new adventures. I want to try harder this winter to access more terrain (and yes, a lot of that will have to be on foot.) But I'm also starting to think about new options for my bike.

So I set out today on a recon trip around the Eaglecrest road. I actually found a few sections of new-to-me singletrack. With endless gloppy mud and big, slippery roots, I have to say these trails don't do much for me in their summer state. But if I were to get ambitious this winter with a pair of snowshoes, the clearings they twist through could provide a fun spur where I could stamp down a snowbike trail.

The singletrack explorations were slow-going, and I became cold enough that I finally just had to get off the bike and jog. For most of the afternoon, it rained really hard. (Camera flash used for emphasis.)

But this was pretty ... (Devil's club: Beautiful to look at, deadly to brush up against.)

I continued up the gravel road, stopping often to survey the sidehills. I think this new road is likely to be mostly rideable uphill during the winter, as long as it's groomed at all (Although I fear the ski resort may just let the snowpack cover it. I'm hoping they decide to groom it as a fun, easy "green" run.) If it is groomed, it will open up a ton of new terrain for Pugsley (Only when the ski area is closed, of course. I don't want to annoy and/or be killed by skiers and snowboarders.) I'm excited!

The construction guys who are building the road tried to shoo me out of the area because they're still blasting. They were really nice about it - too nice, actually - and agreed I could hike around some more as long as I was off the mountain by 3:30. I really pushed my timetable by taking a meandering route up the bowl and starting the climb toward the ridge. By the time I looked at my watch, I realized I only had about 20 minutes to get down what took me 40 minutes to climb up. The terrain was so slippery with mud, runoff and wet groundcover that I could hardly stay on my feet walking down. Finally, I just sat on my butt, pushed off a rock, and slid. You know how mountaineers sometimes glissade down snowfields? Yeah, imagine doing that during the summer. I hit a small rock and it didn't even slow me down. Now I have a bruise in the area where I sit on my bike saddle - but I did make it back to the road by 3:30. There was a construction guy parked at my bike, waiting for me. I felt horrible - and apologized profusely for wasting his time. I was never anywhere near the blast zone. You'd think they were about to blow up the whole mountain ... but I can understand why they have to be careful. (And they should probably just close the whole area off. I won't go back up there again while they're working.)

It was a good day exploring. But, yeah ... I'm about ready for winter.