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Thanks to the bicycle layer of Google maps my attention was drawn to the Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet trail that extends west from Atlanta into Alabama. It would be a perfect activity in conjunction to my upcoming work trip to Atlanta. Since then I decided to purchase a Brompton folding bike and of course being picky I had to special order it. About four weeks before my trip I learned that the factory in Great Britain had a delay and wouldn't ship the bike until the following week. Not knowing how long the shipping would take I started to think what to do if I wouldn't get the bike in time. Other shipments from Europe that I received have easily taken more than a month to arrive. So plan B was born, hiking the Springer Mountain summit from the Amicalola Falls, which is the southern end of the Appalachian trail. The night would be spend at the Springer Mountain camp.
The time of my travel got closer and I found out the week before my trip that the Brompton is in the US but was shipped to a bicycle store in California. John from All Ability Cycles, where I purchased the Brompton, was confident that they could ship it to his store by Friday and that he could get the bicycle ready for me in time for the trip. I still had my doubts but I got a call Friday morning that the Brompton arrived and I could pick it up in the afternoon. I took the afternoon off to go get the bike and start figuring out how to pack everything. Though I didn't had the full evening to get ready for the trip since I had to coach my son's soccer team that had a rescheduled game that night. This certainly proves that you don't need tremendous amount of time to pack.
|Brompton next to a chair. Just to show how tiny it is.|
The next morning I caught the 6am flight to Atlanta. From the airport I took the metro train downtown to the hotel that I'll be staying after the bike ride. At the hotel I repacked what I needed into the T-bag and left the other stuff at the bell desk. Then I headed to the Greyhound bus station. I got the ticket to Oxford Alabama just as they where calling people to the bus. Riding the Greyhound was a pleasant experience, nothing like what I read on the Internet. Finally after arriving at the Oxford stop around noon the bike ride began. In Anniston was a town celebration and bicycle race. Of course they wouldn't allow me to race but I crossed the race track a couple times. The ride between Oxford and the Chief Ladiga trail head isn't too bad if you can keep yourself off the major roads. I needed to stop at Walmart to get an USB charger cable and thus had to ride a few miles on the busy roads there. Instead of locking the bike outside I folded it up and put it in a shopping cart along with my bag. I even asked an employee if it was OK and they didn't complain. Much better than having to worry about your bike especially if you depend on it.
|Artillery, every small towns pride.|
|Sad to hear that it's being used a few times a year.|
Just recently they used it to get to somebody in the forest that shot a police officer.
|The Sunny King Criterium bike race at Anninston.|
There were a few parts that wasn't perfect due to the roots buckling the path but otherwise the Chief Ladiga trail is a nice asphalt trail. I'm sure I would still have complained had I ridden on 26 inch wheels instead of 16 inch. I stopped at a bamboo forest that was right next to the path. I didn't knew that bamboo grew in the US. It was pretty cool as it was mature and I could go into it. On the Alabama trail were mostly local kids that rode their bikes and stray dogs that don't chase bicycles. Instead I scared them when I approached and rang the bell. The whole trail is shaded by trees. On the trail a police car pulled over a four-wheeler since motorized vehicles are strictly forbidden on the trail. Makes me wonder if e-bikes would be allowed. The part through the Talladega national forest was cut through the hills and was a longer stretch that didn't pass through towns. Soon after the national forest I crossed the border into Georgia. At that point I was exhausted and salt covered from sweat. But I pushed forward to reach Cedartown for dinner and then Camp Comet for the night. In contrast to the Chief Ladiga trail the Silver Comet trail is nice smooth concrete. The first section even had a couple of metal awnings setup in middle of nowhere as a rain shelter which would have come handy had it rained.
|At the beginning of the trail.|
|Bamboo forest next to the trail.|
|Somewhere near mile marker 22.5 on the Chief Ladiga trail.|
|The project that never happened.|
|Alabama - Georgia border.|
I arrived in the evening in Cedartown and the local businesses were closed already. I had to go further into town to reach the more common fast food restaurants. Being stupid I didn't fold my bike asked if I could take it into the Subway restaurant. Of course the employee said no and leaving it outside was a no-go for me. So I went next door to a local Chinese restaurant, folded the bike and carried everything inside. They didn't know what to make of it and nobody commented on it. Unfortunately Chinese food wasn't what I needed being this exhausted and the food smell wasn't much help either. I ended up to eat only a little before continuing on.
On the way out of town I filled my water bladder and strapped it on the rack with the tent and sleeping mat. The ride to the Camp Comet camp site dragged out as the sun was setting and the trail was quite hilly, not being on an old railroad track for this stretch. Because of exhaustion I pushed the bike on the steeper hills. I finally arrived the spot where the camp site should have been but the forest there was fenced of from the trail. That didn't look good. In addition to that it was already dark. I decided to ride a bit further than where my GPS indicated the camp site should be and soon found a signage for the camp site and a gate at the fence. I pushed the bike into the forest along the hiking path. Not very far in were the tent pads, nicely build up. But the gravel fill gave me some issue with the tent stake that didn't hold in it.
I'm quite surprised that the folded Brompton fits into the vestibule of the Tarptent Moment without blocking the entry of the tent. The night was a bit noisy with deers coming into the valley where the camp is to drink water at the creek that ran past my tent.
|Tent at Camp Comet.|
(Do you see the bicycle?)
|Entrance to the Camp Comet primitive camp sites.|
While the first day was a bit tough with squeezing a 60 mile ride into half a day, the second day was much easier since I had all day to ride the remaining 60 miles. Riding a bike trail you're kind of isolated from stores and restaurants this also applies to the Chief Ladiga / Silver Comet trail. I did find a Waffle House not to far off the trail where I stopped for a big brunch. Getting closer to Atlanta also meant that there were more recreational users of the path, especially since it was a Sunday. Most of the guys in Lycra on their race bikes weren't going faster than I did. Serious bikers hit the rural roads where they don't have to worry and fight the crowds. Some passed me, I passed others and even played tag with a couple riders that were taking frequent breaks. Six speeds and tiny wheels doesn't mean you're slow.
Riding in Atlanta was quite interesting. The roads are patchy and have lots of pot holes. One road had bicycle chevron painted on it but with the road condition you had to ride in the middle of the road and constantly swerve the pot holes and bad patches.
|Tunnel on the Silver Comet trail.|
|Mile marker zero of the Silver Comet trail.|
On this trip I used my phone to take some videos of my ride. I curious if you'd rather read the blog, watch the video or both.
Below is the full route from the Greyhound bus stop in Oxford, Alabama all the way to the hotel in Atlanta. Added to it is also a loop to Decatur where I went for dinner one evening.
We wanted to do a family backpacking trip at the Paint Creek Unit of the Yellow River State Forrest in eastern Iowa for a while and we made that happen this weekend. Of course I was envisioning going a longer distance than a mile but the kids, especially Oskar isn't to fond of walking/hiking. It's not a physical hindrance. It's a why, it's no-fun kind of thing. He loves camping though, roaming freely the forest and poking in the camp fire.
|Hiking to the camp site|
Saturday afternoon we parked the car at the park head quarter, registered our overnight hike (no cost associated with that) and headed along the trail through the valley to Camp Glen Wendel. Each kid was carrying a small hydration pack with 1.5l water, parts of the kitchen and their sleeping mat. Melissa carried her and the kids sleeping bags, some of the clothing, my and her sleeping mats, and her 2l hydration bladder. I wish sleeping bags wouldn't take up so much volume. I carried 6l of water the food, clothing, and other miscellaneous items.
|Checking the map|
|Smaller, steeper and funner trail|
The first part was an flat and easy forestry road. The part up the hill was a narrow foot trail with a few fallen trees blocking the path. Compared to our return path along the ridge, this one is a bit longer, slightly more difficult and has a nicer scenery. At the Glen Wendel camp we found three tents and I concluded a family or small youth group was camping there. The kids went to the lake below the camp and played on the shore while Melissa tried out her chair and watched the kids. I hiked a small loop, part scouting for a good camp site, part adding a bit more distance to my hike. The Glen Wendel camp is on a hill with little flat area so we pitched our tent on the other side from the fire ring.
It turned out that our neighbors where four experienced backpackers having a fun weekend. They went to Effigy Mounds National Monument to hike for the day. The little kids tent was used as a gear tent, which threw me off. The guys shared a beer and some stories with us. One of the guys was a boy scout leader with enough patience that finally could get a fire started after my failed attempts. Of course I never learn that camp fires and nylon aren't compatible, so my new pair for pants are ruined. The weather for our hike did stay cooler than what I expected and it would have been wiser to wear a pair of jeans instead.
|No hurries getting up today|
We were lucky and didn't get any rain that night. At night we heard the coyotes howling and the next morning we heard the woodpeckers working hard. We took a short morning stroll with the kids in the hopes that the sun would come out dry our tent out but we weren't that lucky. So our trip was overcast and cooler than expected. Just before lunch we headed back to the car via the shorter path over the ridge as mentioned before.
Another great hike in Arizona. This time a work trip took me to Phoenix and I added a hike in the Superstition Mountains to it. When I flew in I saw the Superstition mountains from the airplane with the Weaver's Needle being a prominent peak. Unfortunately I was seated on the wrong side of the plane so I could only glimpse the view across the cabin.
I started at the Peralta trail head at about 3pm after picking up the rental car at the airport, swinging by REI for a fuel canister and to fill the water bladders, and repacking the backpack at the trail head. The trail started right away along a nice stretch through the canyon and then climbing up to Fremont Saddle. On my way there I passed a group of boys with a couple adults that packed in for the night as well. They told me that their plans was to camp at the base of Weaver's Needle.
|Youth group hiking Peralta canyon|
Fremont Saddle gives a great view of East Bolder Canyon and Weaver's Needle. On my hike to the base of Weaver's Needle I must have tripped over a cactus somehow and drove with my left food a big needle into my right leg. It hurt and when I pulled out the needle, blood started to spray out. The needle must have hit an artery. To stop bleeding I quickly put my finger over it and waited a little. The area swelled and the bleeding stopped pretty soon. I limped to a nearby rock to sit and rest a little. With all the cactus and other thorny plants you don't want to sit just anywhere. Luckily my fear of being hurt that I couldn't continue the hike didn't come true and the injury didn't bother me fairly soon.
|View from Fremont Saddle of East Boulder Canyon and Weaver's Needle|
Several nice campsites were scattered at the base of Weaver's Needle on the Peralta trail. But since I still had a little time before sunset and the group of boys probably going to camp here I decided to continue on. The remainder of the Peralta trail didn't look that exciting though. I've been eying the Terrapin and Weaver's Needle Crosscut trails when I was planning my hike and had downloaded GPS tracks for them as well. So I took the opportunity to alter my route. Finding the start of the Weaver's Needle Crosscut trail was quite hard. Lots of brush, finding and loosing the trail until the steep and large bolder ascent. It's certainly not an easy trail but once up there it's gorgeous. I hiked about two thirds of the Weaver's Needle Crosscut when I found a more level area in a bowl that was surrounded by Weaver's Needle and a mountain range with many small needles on top of it. The perfect location to camp for the night. I setup the tent directly on the trail to keep environmental impact low and since it was the best place for it anyway.
|Weaver's Needle Crosscut trail|
|Camp at Weaver's Needle|
At about 6:30pm the night fell pretty quickly, temperatures dropped and the wind picked up. So I pretty early to bed and kept myself warm in the sleeping bag. I ended up not only wearing my sleep layer but also my base layer as the night got colder and the wind blew any warmth out of the tent. In the middle of night I did get up a bit and enjoyed the clear skies, stars and the scenery around me. I even managed to get some photos in. A full sized tripod would have been very useful there. The sun didn't rise until 6:30am so it was a long night. With the cold temperature there was no temptation of getting up any earlier either. I cooked my oats, granola, chocolate milk mix for breakfast and finally got back to hiking at around 9am. Hiking through Terrapin was great and at the top Terrapin Pass I got another awesome view.
|Night sky with Weaver's Needle|
|Campsite in the morning with minor needles|
|Hiking Terrapin trail|
When I got to the Dutchman trail I wasn't totally sure how to continue my hike. I didn't just want to head to Charlebois Springs since I had the whole day available but I also didn't feel up to walk all the miles though the Boulder Canyon/Cavalry trails. I headed west planning to take Bull Pass east bound but pretty quickly decided instead of dropping down to the start of Bulls Pass and then back up again I could just go straight up to Black Top Mensa. Bushwhacking and bolder climbing my way up I had to dodge quite a few cactus. I wasn't the only one to have done that as I identified on some spots foot prints on the steep ascent. BTW, this climb was even harder than the Weaver's Needle Cross cut and should not be taken lightly (probably not at all). On the top of Black Top Mensa was quite windy. I'm glad I didn't plan on staying overnight up there as it would have been even colder. After taking a break and enjoying the views I headed down to Bull Pass trail. That's when I meet the first people of the day that were hiking up to Black Top Mensa.
|My direct approach of Black Top Mesa|
On the Bull Pass I headed east toward Charlebois Springs. Nearly at the bottom of the trail I encountered a dead mule. I guess there is a reason why you need to carry a gun with you if you ride mules in the wilderness. There is not much you can do if your mule breaks a leg that deep into the mountains. The intersection of Bull Pass and Dutchman trail had a nice campsite and ample of water for filtering. Just the large hole of a critter made me wonder with whom you'd share the camp. A little further along Dutchman trail I meet Trish and her friends from HAZ. We chatted a little and took photos before parting in opposite direction. Not much longer I hiked along a couple that are also active on HAZ website. They were heading for Charlebois Springs for their day-hike. We passed a guy dressed like a traditional gold prospector with a big revolver on his belt, two mules and a big ragged dog. He was trimming some brush along the trail and told us that he had his camp at Charlebois Springs. His camp had a large pile of empty beer cans and plenty of mule manure was nearby where they had been tied up. Since I prefer a quiet camp and it was still mid afternoon I continued my hike after filtering water at the Charlebois Springs. The water was very clear and great tasting.
Hiking along the Duchmans trail toward La Barge Spring I meet a group of four that were planning to camp at Charlebois Springs. Then I meet a group of three that decided to camp at a spot along the trail since someone was already at La Barge Springs. I didn't bother checking out La Barge Springs and continued. The Bluff Spring is a steel pipe bringing smelly water out of dense bushes. Another hiker told me the water had a terrible taste as well. There weren't any spots to camp at the spring either so I setup camp at the Dutchman and Bluff Spring trail intersection. The brushy camp site gave protection from wind and my tent stayed fairly warm that night but the scenery wasn't as nice as the first night.
|Dutchman Trail at La Barge Canyon|
|Dutchman trail near Holmes Spring|
|Camp at Crystal Spring|
The next morning I didn't bother to cook and instead had a quick cold breakfast predawn and tore down camp as soon as the sun came up. Hiking out on Bluff Spring trail in the morning was great and quite beautiful. I was at least halfway to the trail head before I encountered the first hiker. Bluff Spring trail gave me another day of beautiful views of Weaver's Needle and a view down to the first part of the Peralta trail and all the hikers that started their hike. I arrived at the trailhead at about 9:30am.
|Bluff Spring trail|
|Bluff Spring trail|
|Barks Canyon with Weaver's Needle in the distance|
|Peralta trail seen from Bluff Spring trail|
My early hike out was driven by a photo of the cliff dwelling at Tonto National Monument. After the hike I drove around the Superstition Mountains on highway 60 and 188 through the copper mine town of Miami, which I found kind of sad because the mines destroys a huge part of the landscape. The cliff dwelling was neat but the highlight was the drive along highway 88, a gravel road that winds through canyons and across mountains. A great way for people to experience the Superstitions if they aren't able to hike them. Of course the driver shouldn't be afraid of narrow mountainous road.
|Arizona highway 88 winding up a canyon side|
|Arizona highway 88, a mountainous narrow gravel road|
On my flight back I choose a window seat on the right site of the plane in the hopes to see Weaver's Needle and take photos of it. As you can see from the photo we went right over it and it brought some nice memories of a beautiful hike.
|Weaver's Needle from the airplane|
On the flight to Atlanta the guy next to me was commenting that flying through Salt Lake City would have been much shorter. Well since this was a mileage run the extra long flights were on purpose. Now I'm a proud Delta Silver Medallion member. Was it worth it? Well,yeah! I got to go backpacking in the Rincon Mountains by Tucson, AZ.
I packed light. The only things I didn't take along on the hike where my iPod,sport shorts (for the hotel pool), a nylon laundry bag (in case the backpack needed to be checked) and a "man-purse". I used the extra bag to keep the backpack within the dimensions of the carry on. It worked well. The pack fit into the overhead compartments of the MD88 and the 757 without trouble. TSA didn't made a fuss about the camping gear either.
Driving to Summithut (an outdoor sports store) to get the camping fuel did take some time. There I also filled my water bladders. I decided to take six liters with me. On the way out I stopped at a grocery and got tortillas, two apples, two cucumbers to take along,and water to keep in the car. I also got a foot long sandwich at Subway. Next time I have to remember not just to skip the mayo and similar toppings off but also the wet vegetables (tomatoes, pickles, etc).
The drive out to the Miller Creek trailhead is a long one. Not just the interstate but also the 16 miles of gravel road. On it though you enter a pretty cool landscape. So even the drive was scenic. I finally got to the trailhead at 3pm. The hard part was then to repack everything into the backpack especially since it was late and I wanted to be on my way.
|Drive to the Miller Creek Trail Head|
|Miller Creek Trail Head|
|First part of Miller Creek Trail|
Right at the trailhead you have to go through a gate. It was the first one of many. The ascent along Miller Creek was nice as it took me past many big holders. A dark thunder cloud came which started to worry me a little. As the first few big droplets fell I stopped to put the camera away and put the rain cover on the pack. Surprisingly that was all that came down. Once I got to the Heartbreak Ridge trail my climb was done and the Happy Valley camp came up quite quickly. It was moved closer and I was expecting it to be at the old location.
|At the Saguaro National Park border|
|View from the Miller Creek Trail|
|Heartbreak Ridge Trail to Happy Valley Saddle Camp|
I checked out the campsites, three in total of which only two have bear lockers. The campsite furthest back was already taken. I looked in the other bear locker which looked like a pantry. People left peanut butter, beer, a whole pound of sugar (what's that for?) and other crap. I decided to go to the old camp site to see if there are bear lockers. Nothing besides the old camp sign was left and it had a note "closed" on it. So I went back and cleared out the bear locker and stuffed all the junk into a barrel nearby.
|Happy Valley Camp|
I had just enough time to setup camp before it got dark. I ate my soggy sub and then headed to the camp site with the two backpacks but no owner. I was about to check their backcounty permit since I was a little worried about them since it was totally dark by now. Just then the owners hiked in with flashlights. They were a young teacher couple that just returned from Rincon Peak. I retired at around 7pm. A few big drops awoke me and I was expecting rain but again that was all that came down.
The next morning I broke down camp and stashed most of my belongings in the bear box. I didn't feel like cooking so I just ate pop-tart and some snacks of breakfast. Then I headed off to climb Rincon Peak.
|Rincon Peak Trail|
|Heartbreak Ridge and Happy Valley Saddle|
The last 1/2 mile of the ascent is quite steep but the view from the peak is quite worth it. Best view of the whole hike. I ate a pack of tuna with tortillas up there while enjoying the scenery. On my way back to Happy Valley camp I meet two guys that were hiking the Rincon as a dayhike.
|Cactus enjoying the view from Rincon Peak|
After getting my stuff and feeding the few but always active mosquitoes at Happy Valley camp I found that there was a toilet hidden on the north side of the camp. It turned out that every camp had a toilet.
I was hoping that the Heartbreak Ridge Trail would continue through the nice forest vegetation but it soon started with a long incline that was mode miserable by the midday heat and sun. That section had only low vegetation, probably due to a fire a while ago, and no shade. That's where my misery for the day started. The view of Rincon Mountain, the Happy Valley and what I hiked in the morning was excellent though. The little side excursion to the Happy Valley Lookout wasn't to rewarding as the view from there isn't great. There is however a toilet behind the building.
|Rincon Peak and Happy Valley|
|Heartbreak Ridge Trail|
I continued on the Heartbreak Ridge train and went to Manning via part of the Fire Loop trail. It seemed like I was going horrible slow since I didn't feel well. I couldn't quite figure out why but it seemed to be an abdominal thing. Short rests didn't seem to help much. Because of that I didn't enjoy this stretch of the hike much.
|Heartbreak Ridge Trail|
|You might get burned|
when reaching for the sky
Near the Manning area, while hiking through the highest part of the trail (8200 feet), thunder clouds with cloud-to-cloud lightning was above me and I wondered when it would hit ground being so close to the clouds. Again I was just being scared by thunderstorm but did not get any rain. I meet a group families hiking from Manning to Spud Rock camp, dressed in rain gear. Because I didn't feel well and wanted to get to my camp I kept the encounter short. It turned out that the ranger and her interns that came back from Spud Rock got hit by the rain. I still can't believe that.
|Fire Loop Trail|
Strangely once I arrived at Manning I started to feel better quite quickly. There I was the only camper besides the ranger and the interns. The sign-in box is quite unique with a deer skull complete with antlers and postcards with photos of the Manning family by the cabin. Thanks to the ranger the toilets even had toilet paper and the one closest to the cabin had a bucket sink and soap.
|Registration Book at Manning Camp|
All staff at Manning has their own permanent tent structure to sleep in. The cabin has the kitchen and dining room. They have a big bench press equipment although the intern girls ensured me that they weren't using it. Apparently the interns hike to various springs with the ranger to monitor them.
|Creek at Manning|
I talked to the ranger about my options between taking the Heartbreak Ridge and Miller Creek trails back or the Turkey Creek trail and hike the four wheel drive road between the trailheads to the car. I decided on taking the Turkey Creek trail even though it was a couple miles longer and I'd hike the gravel road between the trail heads in the midday heat. But it featured a steady decent and a new area of the Rincon Mountains.
|At Turkey Creek Trail|
|Lower part of the Turkey Creek Trail|
|Hikers at the Logbook|
On my way to Spud Rock the Ranger and interns caught up while I was taking a break. I followed them to Spud Rock where our ways split. Except for a slip, which planted my rear on some pokey plant, the decent was quite uneventful. I passed the families that camped at Spud Rock on the lower section of the Turkey Creek Trail. They were heading home as well but had their SUV parked at the end of the four wheel drive road.
|Turkey Creek Trail at the|
Saguaro National Park border
|Rincon Peak, Happy Valley Saddle and Heartbreak Ridge|
The trickiest part of the hike was following the gravel road. At one point an unmarked split came up and at first I took to wrong way. So, when in doubt take the road with the gate. Going toward Miller Creek trailhead I encountered three horses that were running up to me and looking at me expectantly. I also noticed some horse slobber on my car once I got there.
|Between the two trailheads|
|Free roaming horses|
This ended my hike. I drove back to the hotel, washed the car (rental companies don't like it when you take their cars on gravel roads) and my cloths, got dinner and retired. The flight back was uneventful and provided me with plenty of time writing this blog entry on paper.
OK, today's bike ride isn't really worth to blog about since it was just a ride with my daughter to the next town for lunch and back. Yet still it brought something interesting that seems to be a trend: weird small town bars. See our Katy Trail blog entry (yet to be written ... I promise it will happen ... I just don't know when) of the bar with the deer butt and the pile of naked barbie dolls.
|I'm glad I'm not this apple.|
|Every bar needs a stingray ...|
|... and some stuff animals.|
It's done! I'll be riding the California coast from Monterey to LA with my Brompton folding bicycle in 32 days. Flights are booked and vacation has been scheduled.
Now I just have to complete the details. Creating a packing list, which will be minimal since I won't be able to carry much asides the tent, mat and sleeping bag. Food will be my main concern as I can't carry much and the route will be more isolated than the ride I did in Oregon last year. The exact route needs to be determined and uploading it to the Garmin Oregon 450 GPS.
My heart rate is already up. I'm excited with a touch of anxiety since I haven't ridden for quite a while and not been doing anything asides downhill skiing at a tiny local hill. The route should be beautiful and have much less traffic than what I encountered in Oregon.
More to come soon. Watch this space.
Winter time is the time for pondering about crazy ideas. Last year when I was riding with my bike to Webster City, Iowa for lunch I started to get the idea to bike through all towns of my home county on one ride/day.
I picked to ride through all incorporated "cities" of the county, as these towns have their own elected major and some accreditation by the county. Yes, cities is in quotes since most towns have fewer than thousand residents and most of us wouldn't call that a city, but it's the official terminology used. The smallest "city" is Kelly with a population of 309 and the largest one is Ames of 58,965. Ames is home to Iowa State University while Sheldahl with 319 people splits them between three counties. Gilbert with a huge population of 1,082 and 1,364 K-12 students. Maybe during the ride I'll learn about more courtesies of this county.
|Story County Incorporated City Tour|
The ride is a little more than 100 miles which would make it a really long day for me because of my snow speed. Starting from Ames it goes counter clockwise through Kelley, Slater, Sheldal, (Slater), Huxley, Cambridge, Maxwell, Collins, Colo, Nevada, McCallsburg, Zearing, Roland, Story City, Gilbert and back to Ames. Alternatively the route could be taken clockwise, however the head winds would still remain the same. The route mainly follows county highways with the exception of the southern part where it follows the Heart of Iowa Trail which has crushed limestone. Thanks to Nevada the route has to go briefly to the center of the county. It's so tempting to skip the county seat to significantly shorten the day.
The next idea was to create a route that would circumnavigate the county. Funny enough on asphalt roads it's nearly the same route as the city tour with Nevada skipped. But most of the time I'd be riding a couple miles from the edge of the county. But gravel roads nearly perfectly surround the county.
|Story County Circumnavigation|
So this 110 mile route primarily follows the border via gravel roads except on the north west where County Road R38 makes up the border. There is even a short stretch of level B maintenance road in the north. After a route like this I may be on the way for a good start for the Trans Iowa race
The second route would even be tougher than the first with the loose gravel on the gravel roads. I'm not yet sure that I'll do either of them. So feel free to leave your encouragement or comments about these crazy ideas below.
For a long time I was pondering about camping in the backyard during wintery weather. Lately winter here was little or no snow but bitter cold and strong winds. So with the lack of my idyllic romanticized image I wasn't to motivated to do it.
However, yesterday while being out on a lunch date with my wife I realized that this night would be great chance to do just that. It had snowed four inches the night before and the forecast for the night wasn't to bad either with a low of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and a west wind of 10 miles per hour.
|Tracks through the snow|
It has been a long time since I last slept in the snow. As a kid my dad and I went on a backcounty ski tour up a mountain in the alps where we stayed overnight. We build a snow shelter but ended up moving into the adjacent hut early that night as our shelter started dripping melt water on us.
This time though I didn't worry about a snow shelter and just used my moment tarptent. For warmth I doubled up on everything. Two layers of woolen long underwear, two 20 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bags, a self-inflating and a closed-cell mat, a thin balaclava and a beanie hat. Only one thick pair of wool socks though.
|Tent in the snow|
Early in the night I got way to hot with the two sleeping bags. It was still 23 degrees Fahrenheit so I unzipped the outer bag most of the way. As the night went on it got colder which meant cinching down the sleeping bag opening, putting on the beanie and finally zipping up the second sleeping bag in the early morning hours. By the time I got up the temperature dropped to 8 degrees Fahrenheit with windchill around -4 degrees.
Throughout the night I was warm and comfortable. I got lots of great sleep and woke up quite refreshed. Of course I still had the amenity of a warm house near by, which meant I didn't had to eat, do my business or whatever outside. Maybe next time I go somewhere further than my backyard to camp in the snow.
Finally caught up with the blog posts of the Oregon Coast Ride. The night went OK. I setup the tent at dusk behind some trees out of sight from the street and neighbors. I was a little worried about the neighbors not knowing what was going on but nobody bothered me. I got up and tore down the tent at the crack of dawn and left the area. For the morning wash-up I stopped by the public restrooms at the tourist information again.
At the bus stop and Porter Stage Lines office quite a few people gathered to ride the bus. Quite a bit of the discussion was about the bad economy in this area and that the logging restrictions/environmentalism is the major cause of it. It was surreal riding on the bus and seeing how quickly we rode through most of yesterdays ride. In Eugene I purchased the Amtrak bus ticket to Portland and had a delicious brunch at the Morning Glory Cafe right next to the station.
The next week I spend mostly working with my team at the hotel but I did get some nice rides in. One morning I did a loop along the Willamette River. Another morning I rode up to the Japanese and Rose Garden and looped around Washington Park and Hoyt Arboretum.
|Portland Rose Garden|
Oh, and for my next adventure I'll probably start writing daily paper blogs and then publishing them after the trip. Writing blogs on an android phone is near to impossible and I can't upload full resolution photos with labels. Also tweeting caused me issues as so many tweets failed to be send. So I ended up writing most of the blog a couple weeks after the ride which is not ideal. I guess low tech is the way to go in the future.
Bennie and Julie invited to ride with them today. Our speeds are fairly similar. The only times I lagged behind was going down hill. At around 16 mph I top out with pedaling and rely purely on coasting. My bike also didn't seem to coast as fast as theirs but with 16 inch wheels I really didn't need to go any faster. From my GPS track it looks like the top speed was about 28 mph on the monster hill of Thursday.
|Julie and Benny.|
Quite a bit of today's ride was away from the ocean. Either through the forest or behind the large sand dunes.
|Ben and Julie on highway 101.|
At the end of the day we had to cross the Coos Bay bridge. We pushed the bikes along the narrow sidewalk of this huge bridge. At the middle of the bridge I dropped a flower and watched it's way to the water. It was amazing to see how long it took because the bridge was so tall. After the bridge I bid farewell to Benny and Julie as they continued on to the next state park. I kind of envied them for being able to continue on, especially since the next section would be away from highway 101. But I needed to head back to Portland tomorrow and attend to the real business of my trip to Oregon. Yes, I'll have to do some real work.
|Obligatory bike route sign photo.|
|Julie and Benny checking out the monster bridge we need to cross.|
Getting a bus ride is apparently quite simple. You just pay the Porter Stage Line driver and then get the Amtrak ticket in Eugene to continue to Portland.
The tricky part is that the bus leaves at 7:15am and all state parks and campsites are pretty far away. The RV park right next to the Casino in Coos Bay doesn't allow any tents. Neither does the city in any of their parks. Hotels are all full with the exception for some suites that have prices that should pay a taxi to Portland.
|Arrived at Coos Bay|
|Tugboats in Coos Bay|
When asking the pastor at the local Catholic church if he knew a place to pitch a tent, the church had a pretty nice grassy courtyard, he suggested the local shelter.
After having been turned down by hotels and the RV park I was going toward the shelter. On the way I rode through a residential area and saw Tim working on an inflatable boat in his yard. I tried my luck and asked him if he'd knew anywhere or anybody that would let me pitch a tent for the night. I told him my story about having ridden down the coast and catching a bus at 7 in the morning. He offered the open lot across the street. I asked if it's really OK with the owner and he assured that it is.
I went back to downtown and the boardwalk where I could use the public restroom and cooked my last freeze dried meal for dinner before heading back to the open lot at sunset.
With the fog over night nothing dries. Even my helmet pads that were dry in the evening are soaked in the morning thanks to the salt deposits from sweat. Not much one can do about the helmet but to dry clothing you'd just have to hang them out on your bike and become a moving clothing line.
|Daily clothes drying ritual.|
|Views along the road while crossing a monster hill.|
Devil's Lake state park is quite neat as it's nestled in the middle of Lincoln City by a lake. Right across the street (Hwy 101) is the ocean. So after setting the tent up I headed over there to stroll a little along the beach.
|Lincoln City beach.|
|Message to home.|
|Proof that I was really there.|
At the campsite I meet several other cyclist. A guy with a trailer did down and up loop along the coast and was on his way back home. He considered this a training ride for a bigger and more remote ride to come. That at least was his excuse for hauling way more than needed. Surprisingly he slept in quite late the next morning.
Two college guys from Eugene, OR were on their first little tour. Hey went ultra light, as they didn't bring a sleeping mat or tent. They just rolled their sleeping bags out and slept in the open.
Also at the camp site were Bennie and Julie which I meet earlier in the day. They are riding from Portland to San Fransisco. We rode together up and down the monster hill of about 750 vertical feet. Surprisingly it wasn't as bad as I'd expected and we did the up and down in about 35 minutes. All of that on US Highway 101 since the Slab Creek Road route is closed.
|Hiker-biker campsite at Devil's Lake|
The apples, cucumbers, and Subway sandwich were a hit. I'm still packing too much food and too large portions. This is specially true with the oat-granola mix and milk-chocolate mix for breakfast.
The chicken (bag), mashed potatoes (plain flakes), Nido (whole milk powder), and vegetable (Just-Plain-Vegetables freeze dried mix) with pepper was a great dinner. Instead of just adding everything to hot water I might try to add the vegetables earlier so they rehydrate better.
The six liter water worked out great. It's just the right amount to hike to the Happy Valley camp, overnight, climb Rincon and hike to Manning. Although I actually only use up all of the four liters.
Water for filtering at Happy Valley isn't great. There were a couple of stagnant puddles that didn't look very inviting. Manning on the other hand has clear running water. The best place to get it is on the rock by the fence where the water comes out of the holding pond.
The gravity water filter worked great and fast. I used an old nylon sock as a prefilter when filling the bag to keep large derbies out. It worked great with running water as it had enough force to penetrate through the sock. But it might be different for still standing water.
Having a good water source like at Manning is nice. I ended up filtering six liters.
I took just the right amount of clothing. The only thing I didn't wear was the layer of long underwear and rain gear. But both are good to have along just in case.
I had no issues taking only one set of nylon long sleeved/legged hiking shirt and pants for the entire trip. After the hike I washed them out along with underwear and socks.
Besides the sock everything dries quite quickly. For drying don't wring your garmet. This causes stress and might damage the garment. I instead squeeze the water out of it. Hang it on the shower curtain rod for a little bit to let the water drip. Squeeze the garment from top downward, pressing the water out as it hangs. Lay the garment on a bath towel and roll both up. Gently wring the roll, causing the towel to absorb the water while protecting the garment from the wringing stress. The nylon garments should be dry in a couple of hours.
The seams on the REI Sahara pant came undone at the seams. Not yet to the point that it revealed anything but still having a brand new pair fail that quickly is disappointing. Otherwise the pants, just like the matching REI Sahara shirt, fits well and are comfortable and function well. The Tucson REI store offered to exchange them but my size wasn't in stock. I could have traded them for a different pair but the other nylon pants all have zip-off legs which I don't like.
As weird as it is, my cheap Swiss Gear external frame backpack from Sam's Club performed well. The extendible top allowed me to put everything inside the pack, protected from pokey plants along the trails. Though if I wanted I could use the straps on the pack to attach the tent, mat, or ice pick. It carries pretty well and I hardly noticed the difference when it was full or just lightly packed. I did notice some pilling on my nylon shirt due to the pack.
I just like trail runners. These Salomon have a few hikes behind them and are nearing their live expectancy. The next pair of shoes I'll get in a larger size as these are a bit tight. I forgot to tighten them well on the last day for the decent. This caused my toes to touch the front and get sore. For climbs and flats I like to wear them a little loose because they are tight.
I had a couple printouts of the National Park Service map. Multiple maps because printouts easily get destroyed. These are all you really need. All trails are pretty well maintained. Most even have red metal plates nailed to trees. Only at very few places one has to pay a little attention to where the trail is. I had my handheld GPS with me as well. Mostly to tell me the distance I hiked and for the novelty to look at the route I hiked afterwards. I did have GPS tracks of Miller Creek, Rincon Peak, and the Heartbreak trail but none of the Turkey trail. The free Topo map for the GPS was nice with the tracks.
A one and a half day hike up to Happy Valley, camp there, hike Rincon Mountain and back via Miller Creek trail is a great route. During my miserable part on the second day I really wondered why I didn't do that. However, now that the misery is behind me I'm happy to have gone to Manning. That camp would be great for a base while going on the many trails around there.
No matter how lonely it is, you will get caught with your pants down.
The packing list is still a work in progress. I'll update this page as changes are done. Last I weight the pack it was 25lbs most of the stuff but no water. Water adds another 9 to 13 lbs depending on how much I need to take along.
I'm still pondering if I can just take the pack as a carry on on the flights.
Shelter and Sleep System
- Tent (Tarptent Moment), with 4 sakes and window shrink wrap as ground sheet
- Mattress (Therm-a-Rest Guidelite)
- Sleeping Bag (The North Face Cat's Meow 20°F) in compression bag (Sea To Summit eVent 15 liter)
Cooking and Water
- 1x Merino wool mid weight shirt
- 1x Merino wool long underwear bottom
- 2x Hiking socks with merino wool
- 2x ExOfficio brief
- Rain gear
- Terramar silk long underwear top
- Terramar silk long underwear top
- Hiking socks with merino wool
- ExOfficio brief
- REI Sahara cargo pants
- REI Sahara Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt
- Salomon trail runners
- Sun glasses
- Hiking hat
- Hiking neck protector
Essentials and Other Items
- First aid & miscellaneous kit:
- 4 water treatment tablets (Micro Pur MP1)
- Reflective tent line
- 2 clothes pins
- Large finger nail clipper (I won't have a knife due to the airplane flight)
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Small towel
- Toilet paper
- Electrical tape
- Sun lotion
- Lip balm (SPF 15)
- Bug repellant
- Energizer LED Headlight with lithium batteries
- Batteries for GPS
- GPS (Garmin Oregon 450)
- DSL camera (Nikon D70) with extra battery, memory cards and mini tripod
- 2x oats and granola with Nido whole milk powder and Nestle chocklate powder
- Snacks & Lunch
- 3x apple strudel pop tarts
- trail mix mixed with edamane (soybeans) and dried fruit packed in three small ziplock baggies
- 6x Laerbar (fig bars)
- 6x granola bars
- 3x small Ritz cracker packs
- 1x small ziplock bag of butterkekse
- Tuna (pouch) and tortias
- 1x small bag of dried veggies
- Mountain House chilli mac with beef
- Tuna (pouch), mashed potatoes (flakes with Nido), and dried mixed vegetables
- Chicken (pouch) and broccoli rice
Because I'm crazy I'm going to fly to Tucson just for a hike in early October. I'll be arriving at noon, stop by an outdoor store to get the necessities (mainly the camping fuel that I can't take on the plane) and be heading for the trail head for a two night hike. After my hike I'll be spending the night at a hotel to wash up and fly back the next day.
I picket the Saguaro National Park / Rincon Mountains since I already hiked in the Tucson Mountains and the lower parts of Coronado National Forrest / Pusch Ridge Wilderness. The biggest challenge will be water supply. The campsites should have water available for treating but I have to verify that before heading out. I certainly will need a water filtration system. I'm eying some gravity flow solution.
I drafted a route but things could change depending on water availability, flash flooding (which are common there after strong rains and the trail head is on a gravel road that would get washed out), weather and how I feel at the moment. You can follow along at ACME Mapper 2.0.
Day 1: Starting at Miller Creek trail head (marker A, elevation 4200ft) I'll be hiking up to the Happy Valley Saddle campground (marker B, elevation 6200ft). Since I won't be starting till the afternoon I'll be camping here after the 5 mile hike.
Day 2: From the Happy Saddle campground I will ascent to the Rincon Peak (marker C, elevation 8482ft) and return the same way. I'll be continuing north on the Heartbreak Ridge Trail and go west past Devil's Bathtub to the Manning camp (marker E, elevation 8,000ft) where I will spend the night after hiking 12.5 miles.
Initially I thought of hiking to Manning Camp via Rincon Creek, Manning Camp, Douglas Spring, and Cow Head Saddle trails. But that takes me down into the valley, the Rincon Creek trail may be difficult to find, and I have a hunch that that part will not be as interesting as other options. I also wouldn't be able to climb Rincon Peak which is supposed to be nice.
Day 3: The final day I make the run for the peaks. From Manning camp I'll head north past Spud Rock to climb Mica Mountain (marker D, elevation 8664). Then I will decent toward north east, looping south, passing Reef Rock and Man Head. I'll be taking the Heartbreak Ridge and Miller Creek trails back to the car where I expect to arrive at sunset after hiking 14 miles.
The Saquaro Wilderness Area booklet has little more information about backpacking in the region.
The flight is booked. Rental car and hotel are reserved. I'll be sending in my camping permit application this weekend. All I have left to worry about is the water filtration and then packing everything for the flight.
An all new edition of the ABC 33/40 Weather Xtreme video is available in the player on the right sidebar of the blog. You can subscribe to the Weather Xtreme video on iTunes by clicking here. FOGGY START: A dense fog advisory covers basically the northern half of Alabama this morning; some communities have visibilities […]
Oxford & Co is proud to have been a part of the High Point Market. We're looking forward to a great partnership with CR Laine. Thanks, Chad Martin, Whitewall and Co for the beautiful stencils and designs!
Each year, I'm so pleased to deck the halls with holiday decor for extraordinary homes. This year, in party preparation, I added my new holiday table runners and napkins for a most special dinner party. The 'twinkle' pattern surely adds even more glamor to this already exquisite table setting. The table and an abundance of white amaryllis, tulips and peonies throughout the house created the ultimate holiday soirée.
A warm glow.
A commodious buffet.
. . . tidings of comfort and joy.
Happy Holidays, friends!
Birmingham Home & Gardens Holiday edition is on newsstands now. It's a thing of beauty and features an article on Oxford & Company, my Christmas-themed table runners, napkins. . .and me in my updated Studio with new Roman shades and a stenciled fabric covered bulletin board. I have a few bonus shots to share. They didn't make the cut, but they sure are pretty.
A sense of satisfaction.
At work in my Studio.
Christmas trees, of course.
A lovely 'Twinkle' table runner, anyone?
This runner creates an elegant 'Sparkle.'
A bit of blue.
My own personal table.
If you'd like to begin an heirloom collection, please contact me for your own custom table runners and napkins. This is the season for ritual and tradition. One day, my children will be serving their holiday feasts to their children on these linens.
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
Photos: Jean Allsopp