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Methow, and How!

24 May

we found lost river to be lovely in the sun...

Lucky ducks we, in that we went on vacation to the marvelous Methow Valley last weekend! We wound up in a nice cabin in the Lost River area, right on a little offshoot of the Methow River, with a kickass view:

To die for...

The sun was out, the air was springy crisp, I was positively shaking to get out on the hiking and biking trails. After we unpacked, we skeedaddled over to the West Fork trail (just off the road that takes you to Hart’s Pass) for a nice afternoon hike. Starting off from the trailhead it started to rain a pinch, but then it seemed the rain clouds were working their way westward, almost as if we were chasing them until eventually the sun prevailed and the whole landscape opened up in relief, as did our lungs. Scree slopes, snowy crags, wildflowers, pines, lightning-blasted pines, shingle, shale and through it all the roaring water. There were lots of blowdowns on that trail, requiring some circumspect circumnavigations, but gave some nice momentary pauses like these:

I laid down in the dirt for you on this one... I should at least get a thank you.

The pups and SurlyLady and I were happy to get out to stretch our legs after the long drive over Stevens Pass and up the Methow Valley from Chelan. Road trips are so much fun, full of iPod shuffle play, gas station Jolly Rancher candies, letting the dogs out to pee at rest stops, scary locals, slow non-locals, and that perfect feeling of propping your feet up on the dashboard and the crunch of driveway gravel when you get to your destination, the quick tour of the rental, marveling at this and that, the throwing of bags and gear on the bed. I’ll never get tired of them, especially the ones you can take in the Northwest. I love this place so much. You can take yer fancy Euro vacations and… wait, no I like those too.

Mountain climbing, in the Subaru small ring...

The second day we went on an amazing trail, Robinson Creek. There was a lot of climbing, and the views! Oh I couldn’t get enough of them. At one point we came across a washout spot with a roaring snow melt creek that was impassable… we didn’t want the pups to get swept up in the fast current and then off the mountain. So we grabbed a couple of logs and carefully wedged them in a few strategic spots in order to create a little bridge, careful not to worsen the situation by diverting water or further eroding the banks. This allowed us to go on for a few more miles until we ran into a series of snow fields that were progressively wider and deeper. Still a little early in the year for mountain hiking, but I was amazed at how far we were able to go into the Pasayten.

Later that day the SurlyLady drove me and the Vaya down to the Winthrop barn so that I could do some adventure riding. We ran into KonaLad and CannondaleLady (ha!) on the Lost River Road – they were riding up to see if they could find us. After chatting we continued on to Winthrop and I said goodbye to the SurlyGal. I was determined to find some gravel. And I did.

Pavement isn't forever, but solo careers can be...

Wolf Creek Road

Gravel Grinda Panda

I proceeded from the Winthrop Barn up to Sun Mountain and toodled around on the smooth singletrack of the Methow Community Trail. What a lovely ride that is! When the conditions are better (not as much flooding from snow melt everywhere) I want to go back and explore more. As it was I knew I was running out of time and hustled to find a way back up to Lost River. I exited the Methow Community Trail on a road that later became Wolf Creek Road, seen in the pictures above. This is a corker of a gravel grinder, with sharp short hills, rough road conditions and an isolated, beautiful setting. Wolf Creek ends on Hwy 20 and the Community Trail continues west. I hopped onto Hwy 20 to get some speed, and then took the Community Trail when I noticed it left the highway for an interior bent. Strangely the surface of much of that part of the Trail seemed to be made of multi-colored glass pieces; this was disconcerting at first, to say the least, and I spent a few minutes trying to avoid the shiniest spots while thinking, dang that’s a lot of broken bottles. But then I realized the whole trail was sprinkled with the stuff… my guess is it’s some kind of recycled material. This section of the Trail was fun, curvy, swoopy, and plenty dirt intensive, with views of mountains and the river. Soon I came to the Mazama Store and fortified myself, not with vitamins and minerals, but this kind of goodness

Mazama Store baked goods... like crack for a cyclist.

That place is dangerous. If I lived nearby full time I’d gain back all 115 pounds in no time! So ended my gravel adventure ride for the trip. The next day, Saturday, I hooked up with JamisLad, KonaLad and CannondaleLady (sheesh this anonymity stuff is tiring) for a ride up to Washington Pass. The road was still closed, and yet reportedly cleared up to the famous hairpin turn next to Washington Pass proper. Closed road! No cars! Not having to hug the shoulder while 18-wheelers whip past, threatening to blow you off the road entirely with their slipstream!

This ride is, in my mind, what it’s all about. JamisLad and I struck off from our friends who had said they weren’t going to go all the way up… we were yakking along and not really noticing the grade. Before the Lone Fir campground I mentioned, “Once we get past that campground, that’s when the real climbing begins!” which in retrospect was pretty darn funny to say. Up to that point I’d been feeling fine, a little tired as JamisLad and I had come up from Winthrop, but feeling pretty good. That steep grade just past Cutthroat Pass however was a brutal wake up call! But again, that’s what it’s all about for me… pain, suffering, sure a little bit, but adventure and achievement! We coasted to a stop to take a break, next to some gigantic snow crushing trucks, had a snack, and mulled things over. Should we continue up or not? To up the ante, we heard then saw a small avalanche of snow come tumbling down about 50 yards ahead of us. Yikes! But, having relaxed a little, we soldiered on, the scent of the destination in our noses, that feeling of “we’re almost there, let’s do it!”. I think if either one of us had said, “Eh, let’s turn around now” it would have been easy to do just that. JamisLad was kicking butt at this point on his compact double gearing, grinding away slowly, while I felt like Pepe le Peu in my granny gear, bouncing along merrily. Then I saw the hairpin area and got so excited and we started surging forward and ran into this:

Avalanche!

Bummer, we couldn’t go the last 100 yards to the hairpin! Oh well, it was still so worth it because very shortly we turned around and had an absolute ball going back down the mountain. With no cars around I just made for close to the middle of the road, didn’t touch the brakes, and whooped and hollered all the way back to the Lone Fir campground. I wanted to turn around and do it again!

Sunday,  with eyes bigger than my quads and calves, we took off for the Twisp River Road for some hiking. We’d intended to do a shorter route along the Southern rim of that valley, but the snow precluded this within 50 yards of the car. Instead we tried the northern side, the Scatter Lake trail to be exact, even though the 1988 edition of the Mountaineers book we had called it ‘grueling’ (80s hypberbole!). It was fairly grueling, but so much fun hiking with the pups. As we were driving back to Twisp I saw a road leading off to the North, Elbow Coulee, and remembered it from the map as part of a loop I’d like to do someday. We turned and found it to be a lovely little backroad route from the Twisp River Road up to Sun Mountain, bypassing the town of Twisp. Imagine a loop that wanders along the secluded Twisp River Road

Twisp River Road

then over this dirt/gravel combo:

Elbow Coulee

On up to Wolf Creek and then on to Mazama. That would be a fun ‘cross bike day indeed. I can’t wait to go back!

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Tube Tied

20 Mar

Today was going to be the day. Good forecast. I’d exhausted the pups with not one but two excursions on Saturday. Got tons of yard and house work done so the old guilty conscience wasn’t gonna be so guilty no more.

I awoke, made breakfast, walked the pups, and got ready to set out. Then I made a mistake. I changed plans in midstream. Why not take the Poprad? I thought. Yeah, and I’ll put those Rivendell Jack Brown (green label) tires on there, that I’ve had since last fall. Well, it was a stupid thing to do.

First the awesome Continental tubes, which had hardly lost any air since early October (yikes), the one on the front rim blew while I was re-inflating with the new tire. Ouch, that really, really hurts the ear drum. So I knocked around the junk pile and found another tube, a Novara branded one. It developed a leak almost immediately after getting everything put together. A tiny pinhole hole. What? And mind you, getting those Jack Browns on, at least on to Velocity Fusion rims, is nasty. My thumb is literally bruised. And all the ridges worn off – so if ever there was a time to go on a crime spree it would be now. Just have to remember to do everything with my thumbs. Then I stole the spare tube out of my Carradice bag only to realize… it had a Schrader valve. I silently found myself dumbfounded. I had been carrying around a Schrader-valved tube since, oh, I don’t know how long? A year, more? On High Pass Challenge, on Ride around Puget Sound? I had patches, but still. Oy.

So, I went to Plan D and stole the spare out of the SurlyLady’s bag, and lo and behold I got everything put together! Who cares if I have no feeling left in my thumbs! (At this point I think I’d mounted the equivalent of four tires). Let me go to pump this up… what the… ah, no. The stem isn’t long enough for the semi-deep rims. My stand pump wouldn’t bite, and the extender thing I have didn’t work at all. No jokes please, ladies.

So I went and fiddled around in the junk pile in the bike room and finally found a tube with a 48mm stem, got that sucker on there for now the fifth tire mounting and then… noticed a bulge near the stem, oh crap the tire’s bead is outside the rim, quick deflate before it blows!!! And whew it worked out. Undid everything, and put it back together. Yes, the sixth tire mount. At this point I’m sobbing, and the pups look at me with only slightly diluted contempt.

With the tire worked out I quickly get everything else ready and soon I’m hitting the road. To discover that the amazingly voluminous Jack Browns (they’re rated at 33.3333333333333333333333333 or so) are too big for my fenders. The 32 Schwalbe Marathons worked great, but these tires were just too big, every little pebble was getting rattle-stuck. So, back to the garage, and quickly off with the fenders, and now back on the road. A couple of miles later I remember, to my dismay, that the Carradice bag rubs on the tire when either out of saddle or going downhill, when there isn’t a fender to help. It’s a very slight thing, and not noticeable when in the garage, but becomes so irritating on the road to have canvas rubbing accompany every pedal stroke. No jokes please, ladies.

So after only a few miles I regretfully decided fate was trying to tell me something. I turned back, out-of-saddled all the way up Frisbee Hill, noticing how much more lively the Jack Brown tires were, even when not super over inflated (I was experimenting to find the best balance of comfort and speed). I’m excited to give these tires a real test, and will one day soon. One nice thing is they’ll soon have some new friends: I recently noticed that Velo Orange was having an anniversary sale so I bought some nice shiny bits for the Poprad, including hammered aluminum fenders – they should look sweet with the checkerboard tires. Not that, uh, such a thing is important. I ordered two sets of those 45mm fenders, and will use the other on the Vaya. There’s an article in the recent Bicycle Times that literally shows those fenders going on a Vaya, so I figured that’s good enough for me (I’ve had my share of buying fenders only to realize they won’t work with a certain bike, and was particularly concerned about the disc-shod Vaya and Poprad).

When I returned home the pups were so excited to see me, Cooper was literally jumping in the air so much I thought he’d swallowed a pogo stick. What else could I do but take them for a proper hike? So we headed north, to the Lime Kiln Trail. It was a mudpuddle kind of day below, but a little bit of sun above. Best of all, I was able to wear a t-shirt! How long it’s been…

Clearly, I'm the follower in this pack...

When we first arrived the lots were nearly full; worse, we were getting started just ahead of a noisy group of college kids. Quick pups, I said, let’s hoof it! And we did. I’m not super anti-social (okay I am) but nothing’s worse than a large group of hikers yelling and laughing, echoing around, making you regret you just didn’t go promenading at Green Lake.

We managed to stay about a quarter mile ahead of this loud crew as we double timed it. At one point were were jogging through the forest when I heard a vicious growling behind me and, lo!, a miniature doberman was nipping at my heels! We turned and put up a valiant rear guard action until he backed down and headed toward the noisy group. We triple timed it and put enough space between us so we could start to slow down and enjoy the scenery of Robe Canyon:

Is Dis Robe?

We had a lovely time. The dogs really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the PB&J sammich while sitting riverside. Then on the way back I started feeling… odd. Really sleepy, really tired. Could hardly keep my eyes open. We got back to the car after what seemed forever (7 mile roundtrip) and I realized I was seeing some signs of a cold or something.

Tonight then we all sat on the couch, I had lots of hot tea, and we watched some mediocre movies on Netflix. Someday soon though, I will get out there on an adventure ride… I got a taste of it today, the warmth of the sun, the fresh spring breeze, the sound of brifters clacking.