Monday, August 25, 2008

Williams Fork Loop

Finally got a chance to ride the Williams Fork Loop!!!

A new friend and I were able to get this loop completed yesterday. We opted to drive over Jones Pass and start from the Bobtail Mine. This cuts out about 5,000 feet of climbing-half at the beginning and half at the end-and alleviates the fear of getting caught on the wrong side of the pass if a thunderstorm pops up.

The loop was roughly 33 miles, 4,400 ft of climbing and took us about 9 hrs. There was a lot of hike-a-bike (but that was expected) so the stats don’t tell the whole story…

We left the car just before 8am and the sun still hadn't hit the valley floor. The loop began with a VERY COLD creek crossing followed by a couple more while still in the shade. Brian did the first crossing while precariously stepping from rock to rock using his bike for balance, while I just decided I might as well start with cold, wet feet.
First creek crossing
It turned out that there was so much dew and frost on the vegetation that Brian’s feet were quickly soaked anyways. It didn’t take long before I didn’t have any feeling in my big toes. After all the creek crossings were done, we finally made it into the sun, stopped to eat and change socks, then started up the first climb. It’s almost all hike-a-bike to gain the ridge from the creek (~1,500 feet).
Bobtail Drainage
This trail gets so little use that it’s difficult to find at times. We saw no human tracks, only moose and elk for most of the day just to give you a sense of it’s usage.
I think this is the trail
Climb, Climb, Climb
The views to the east at Pettingale were spectacular during the climb.
Some okay trail on the climb
We took the obligatory photo next to the sign at the crest of the ridge.
Top of first climb
The first drop-in over the ridge was a little daunting…
That first steps a doozy
In spots, the only way to identify where the trail went was by the sporadically spaced cairns. It is fun but bumpy riding across the tundra.
Where'd the Trail go?
There were some incredible views and riding along the ridge but the riding goes through many ‘no-fall-zones’.
Tricky Trail
Steelman Drainage
Ridge Riding
There was quite a bit of riding from cairn to cairn along the ridge and it is slow going at times. I remember looking down at the GPS and seeing that it had taken us 3 hours to go 5 miles. Then we reached the drop into the west valley.
Drop into West Fork Drainage
West Fork Beaver Pond
There were at least four creek crossings and only one had a bridge. On the plus side, the trail is MUCH more defined in this valley than the first valley making the riding go much faster.
West Fork Broken Bridge
West Fork Bridge
West Fork Trail
We stopped and refilled our water at the campground where the two forks meet. It was odd to get to a deserted campground and refill at the hand-pump. Since this area was heavily infected with pine beetles, they had done a bunch of logging within the campground. We left the campground and headed for the boardwalk that crosses the swamp/marsh. We saw our first person of the day at this trailhead…Looked like he was going fishing. Then we found out that they had removed the center section of the boardwalk so we had to once again get our feet wet.
What happened to the boardwalk?
Then it was onto the ‘new to me’ Darling Creek trail. In the past adventures on the Williams Fork Loop, we had always crossed on the boardwalk and headed upstream on the South Fork trail. But this time, we headed downstream on the Darling Creek trail.
Beetle Kill
I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that the trail would lead us to the aquaduct road that I had ridden a few weeks prior. This area had been heavily hit with beetles so I was expecting a lot of downed timber. The trail started out really rocky and I was starting to think that this could have been a mistake. After less than a mile, we found out that we could’ve bypassed the boardwalk by starting up Darling Ck trail by the portal for the Henderson Tunnel. There were signs at the portal saying the trails (I presume both Darling Ck and South Fork) were closed for logging operations but we had no option other than heading up one of the two to get back to the car. I was expecting the worst from Darling Ck (since I had never been on it before) and was pleasantly surprised at how much was rideable. As soon as we got around the portal, it actually turned into a decent climbable trail.
Darling Ck
Once the trail crosses the creek and turns up a tributary, it was more hike-a-bike than riding but there were still a few sections worth attempting.
Darling Ck - Brian
Then it was a fast cruise down the aquaduct road.
We saw only 2 people on the entire trip: one at the campground going fishing, and another on the aquaduct trail a couple of miles from the end. The second guy was stashing a bunch of coke cans in a creek and was pulling a Burley trailer loaded with a hunting camp. He asked if we were out there scouting (I think he was afraid that he’d have to share his hunting spot). Somehow, we avoided all the storms in the area.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Copper Triangle

No, I didn't ride the sanctioned Copper Triangle. In fact, I didn't even know it was going on until I pulled off I-70 at Copper only to see a cop sitting at the intersection and the outer parking lots COMPLETELY FULL!!! I asked a couple of guys working the parking lot what was going on and then I asked them about the trails and they replied, "Oh, you won't see anyone up there today." Although I didn't quite believe them, I was at least relieved to find out that there wasn't a race on the trails...But the CTR racers had been through here earlier in the week and it was because of watching the blue dots that I got the urge to ride what I call the off-road copper triangle (although it's really more of a rectangle than a triangle). Anyways, it had been since 2005 that I had ridden this route and on that trip I had my wife meet us at Camp Hale with food and water. I remember it being difficult for me at the time and I really needed the resupply of food from my wife. I remember we had a rough time climbing Resolution Creek Road in 2005 and we had lightning striking around us at the top that made us cower under some trees until the storm passed. I broke one of my wisdom teeth that day requiring me to get it pulled later the next week.

This trip was a solo endeavor with no support. Once I got out of the center of Copper and onto the trail, I was able to enjoy some solitude.
Copper Triangle - Start
Climbing to Guller Gulch was not as difficult as I remembered it being, plus it went by rather quickly. Although I took my MP3 player, I didn't turn it on at the start. I wanted to ride without it for a change but told myself that I could listen after I reached Searle Pass. Instead, I replayed portions of songs in my head...It's funny how you sometimes have complete control over what songs you replay, while at other times you have no control...Today I had control...
Copper Triangle - Guller Gulch
I stopped and talked with a few hikers coming down from spending the night at Jenny's Cabin. I also ran into a family that was thru-hiking the CT (they had planned on taking 7-weeks to finish). It wasn't too long and I was at Searle Pass. When I stopped I noticed an that one of the wings on my new Crank Bros eggbeater pedals was cracked through and twisted. No wonder it sometimes felt sloppy on the climb! Well, there was nothing I could do about it now so I didn't fret over it. I ate a Snickers Bar, refilled my water bottle with Gatorade, and talked with the local fauna.
Copper Triangle - A little friend
Then it was off to Kokomo Pass. I really love this section of trail above treeline. As I crossed the alpine tundra, I wondered if the tracks left in the few muddy sections were from the CTRers.
Copper Triangle - Kokomo Pass
The wildflowers coming down Kokomo Pass were really spectacular. This is such a fun descent!
Copper Triangle - Down Kokomo
When I got to the bottom, I went to shift gears only to have my chain get stuck between the 2nd and 3rd chain rings...Great...I thought I was going to be stuck in Camp Hale. I had lost 2 of the 4 chain ring bolts but luckily I was able to move them opposite each other so I could complete the ride. I also realized that the broken wing had fallen off and now the opposite one was cracked and ready to fall off! I continued on down the CT along the road and spooked a coyote who ran alongside the trail through the sagebrush at almost the same speed as me riding. It was cool to see him cruising along next to me for about 100 yards.

After leaving the CT, I cruised down the road and ate a few crackers/PB. It was a short ride to reach Resolution Peak Road. Then 2500ft up to the pass. I felt really good during the climb and only had to stop once or twice for a couple of seconds to refill my water bottle, grap some more crackers, and wait for jeeps or ATVs to pass.

It was like deja vu when I neared the top. Dark clouds started rolling in and then there was thunder just to the north. I had about 500 ft to get to the top so I stepped on it a little harder knowing I was starting to dig a hole but it would soon be over and I wouldn't have to wait out the storm. I quickly made it over the top (through a herd of sheep...but no sheep dog?) and started dropping into Wilder Gulch. It was packed with hikers which really slowed the descent and then I saw my first mountain bikers of the day less than a mile from the bike path.
Copper Triangle - Wilder Gulch
After I reached the bike path, the Copper Triangle riders were everywhere. I came around one of the first switchbacks to find an ambulance blocking the trail. I guess someone went down and they had him strapped on a backboard. I was really surprised at how slow alot of these riders were going. It seemed like I was passing them all. As I neared the village, the race volunteers were directing all the riders towards the center of the village--and I guess they all assumed I just lost my number so I was grouped in with the rest of the riders. It was interesting to finish off the ride by going through the start/finish line, having strangers clap and say good job to me even though they had no idea of where I went.
Copper Triangle - Finish Line!

(I'll post them up later)

This was the first trip with the Ergon grips I got for my birthday and I really LOVED THEM!!!