Thursday, August 27, 2009

Final Thoughts

Final reflections from Howie,

Well we rode our last trail and now we are heading back to Pennsylvania. With 3 days of driving it gives me a lot of time to reflect over the trip. This was my 14th mountain bike trip out west. Over the years we have been able to do the premiere rides in Colorado (Crested Butte/Gunnison, Vail, Fruita, Winter Park, Boulder, Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs/Aspen, Durango, Colorado Springs, Leadville, Salida, Buena Vista) Utah (Moab, Park City, Vernal, St George area, Bryce Canyon area), Oregon (Bend, Mt.Hood) Washington (Methow Valley, Spokane, Wenactchee, Mt. St. Helens area, Cle Elum) Montana (Bozeman, Big Sky) Wyoming (Jackson Hole, West Yellowstone) Idaho (Sun Valley, Stanley, Victor, Driggs) New Mexico (Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque) California, (San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Downieville) Arizona (Sedona) NV (Las Vegas) and Whitler BC , Although this may seem like a pretty good list of places to mountain bike I feel like we have only scratched the surface as there are so many other places to explore. (BTW if anyone would like any help planning a trip to any of these destinations or would like to come along with us next summer please be in touch.)

The first 11 trips we went to particular destinations and would ride there for a few weeks and often explored some nearby areas and National Parks. While doing these trips we commented on more than one occasion how great it would be to get a 5th wheel RV and then be able to go to a lot of different destinations while we were out west. We knew we could drop off the RV at a campground and then use the tow vehicle to get us to the trail heads. Well I’m not getting any younger so in 2007 I decided to stop dreaming about it and actually went out and got the truck and 5th wheel toy hauler. The garage in the toy hauler allowed us to put in a bunk bed as well as bring along an outfitter tent, cots, mattresses etc. as well as store additional bikes, tools and supplies. So we were ready to go and could accommodate up to 12 people at a campsite. Since 2007 we have had our 3 best trips with each of them lasting about 7 weeks. We keep learning new things and continue to work on doing things better. This year was probably our best trip.

This summer our goal was to visit some areas we knew from previous experience had some outstanding rides (Fruita, Moab, Crested Butte/Gunnison, Durango, Park City) as well as explore some new areas (Buena Vista/Salida, Vernal, Bozeman). This year we had outstanding weather and had only one day that we could not ride because it was raining in the morning. (We actually could have ridden that afternoon if we wanted to but we chose to rest instead.) Kevin and I were able to do 38 rides (36 each) and covered about 900 miles of trail on our bikes during this trip in some of the best locations in the west. I took close to 4,000 photographs along the way and although some of them turned out well, not a one of them can come close to capturing the beauty of actually being there and experiencing it first hand. We stayed at 9 different campgrounds and one of them we visited on two different occasions. The bike carnage along the way included one frame crack (Yoda’s), one rear shock blown (my Intense Spyder), and one suspension link (my S-Works Stumpjumper). We are grateful that no one was hurt as there were only a few minor scrapes and bruises. When we arrive back in State College we will have driven about 8,000 miles. Here are some of the highlights of the trip along with some comments and pictures

Top 5 rides we repeated from previous trips (“CT” stands for Colorado Trail)

Monarch Crest/CT/Silver Creek/Rainbow (between Poncha Springs and Gunnison)

Enchilada/Porcupine (Moab starting from Hazard County this year. Last year we started from Burro Pass)

401/Snodgrass (Crested Butte area) this is a fun ride linking these trails together

Kokopelli (Fruita)

Mid Mountain/Wasatch Crest (Park City)

Top 3 New Rides

Curly Lake (near Bozeman)…this is now one of my top 5 rides ever…spectacular!

CT Kenosha Pass to Goldhill (Near Breckenridge)

CT Hotel Draw to Junction Creek (near Durango)

Biggest Death March Ride

Roaring Judy/Cement Mountain/Deadmans Gulch/Doctors Park near Gunnison (welcome to altitude Scott Corbin…he was a good egg to put up with us but he did agree to do it!) Below is a picture of Kevin as he finishes the final climb....not a real happy camper

Best Desert Ride

Tie between Ehchilada/Porcupine (1rst picture) and Kokopelli (Marys, Horsethief, Lions, Troy Moore Fun 2nd picture) The Vernal UT desert riding was fun but it is not in the same league as these 2 rides.

Best Meal

Chicken Enchilada at Montana Ale Works (thanks Eric…that was great!)

Best Bicycle Shop

Absolute Bike Salida CO….outstanding inventory and service

Top 2 Tails for tread

Rainbow (near Salida CO)

Mid Mountain (Park City)

Funniest Sounding Trail Names

“More Hoes” and “ (More Pimps” in the McCoy trailhead system near Vernal UT

Biggest Disappointment

Not having my son David and nephew Alex make it out to ride this summer. We had a great time with them the past few years. But this summer they decided to take some classes at PSU…jeez where are their priorities? And where does David get this from? Hope you guys can make it out next summer. We really missed your humor.

Person that made us laugh the most

Without a doubt…Scott Samplin…looking forward to riding more with you buddy. In the first picture he is sticking his leg out when we begin our downhill. The second picture is him just goofing around.

Best Nickname “Tall Horse” given to Dave Pontzer (pictured below) by Scott Samplin after seeing 6’4’’

Dave on top of his new XL 29er… a pretty imposing sight! We used to and still call him "Pooh Bear"

and we won't go into how he got that nickname. But whatever you call him...the boy can ride!

Best Alpine Lakes

Lake Ramshorn near Porcupine Creek close to Big Sky MT

Emerald Lake (Hyalite Reservoir area near Bozeman)

Lake Desolation near the Wasatch Crest Trail (Park City area)

Little Molas Lake CT Trail near Molas Pass

Best Wildflowers

Without a doubt Crested Butte particularly on the 401 trail. Some of them were over your head.

Second place CT Molas Pass heading southwest on the trail

Best Aspen Groves

401 (Crested Butte)

Doctors Park (Gunnison/Crested Butte)

Twin Lakes (Near Buena Vista)

In addition to the aspen groves there were excellent groves on Snodgrass (Crested Butte), Deercreek (Crested Butte), and Mid-Mountain (Park City)

Most Heinous Hike-a-Bike

Roaring Judy to Cement Mountain (yeah…let’s do that again…not)

“Best” Dressed Riders

“Tall Horse” and Terri showing up with matching jerseys two days in a row….and did it intentionally…awe wasn’t that cute. At least it was better than the “belly shirts” he used to wear out on the trail. And look at the size of that belly in that picture…it looks like he is about 6 months pregnant.

Top 3 Gritty Performances

1) Ted Hackman on Hotel Draw to Bolam Ted is from the Phoenix area and has only been biking for 6 months. Before starting to bke he described himself as a classic “couch potato”….that was awesome to see you do that ride….keep it up!

First picture is Ted early in the ride followed by the second picture of him later in the ride

1) Yoda on Hotel Draw to Junction Creek. The first 20 miles was a suffer-fest for him but he kept going. Then he got his 2nd wind on the next twenty miles into Junction Creek. (I didn’t take a picture of him suffering…a rare moment of compassion)

2) Terri Rudy (pictured below)….she did great on all her rides and has less than a year of experience. To be able to do those rides, particularly the Monarch Crest ride, was truly remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is that she can put up with “Tall Horse”

Best Views

Castle Valley (Moab)

401 (Crested Butte)

Curly Lake (Near Bozeman)

Monarch Crest (Between Poncha Springs and Gunnison)

St Elmo Tin Cup (Near Buena Vista)

CT Kenosha to Gold Hill (Near Breckenridge)

CT just north of Kennebec Pass (Near Durango)

CT Blackhawk Pass (Near Durango)

CT Molas Pass (Near Durango)....nice flowers eh?

Best Meadow

401 (Crested Butte) I love this place. I’ve probably done this ride 10 times and I never get tired of it.

Largest Snow Field crossing

St Elmo Tin Cup (Near Buena Vista)

Longest Ride in Mileage

CT Hotel Draw to Junction Creek at 40 miles and 99% singletrack

Most Climbing

Curly Lake (pictured below) and the Roaring Judy Death March were both over 5000 ft

Best Downhills

Doctors Park (Gunnison/Crested Butte) you can carve out your turns through spectacular aspen trees and not even touch your brakes

Hermosa Creek (Near Durango)

CT Kenosha Pass to Goldhill (Near Breckenridge)

Bear Trail in the Reno, Flag, Bear, Deadmans loop (Gunnison/Crested Butte)

Enchilada/Porcupine (Moab)

Wasatch Crest going north

Curly Lake (Near Bozeman) about 5,000 ft of descending over 11 miles!

I didn’t include any pictures because I was having too much fun riding them!

Most Exposure (“Oh no...I better not fall here!!)

Porcupine Rim (only if you do something stupid and don’t control your speed)

Kokopelli (Marys Loop)…it probably is no coincidence that one of Kevin’s favorite songs is “Close to the Edge” by Yes

Corral Draw (Near Durango)

In the words of John Lennon “I get by with a little help from my friends”…well in my case I need a lot of help and some great friends pitched in to help out that I would like to thank.

Scott Samplin….advice on photography

Yoda helping pull up my bike on rocky ledges

Eric and Kevin taking care of my bike..... “stay away from the tools Howie”

Kevin driving the truck so my back won’t bother me and helping out with the RV

All of the dedicated volunteers that work to keep the trails open and in good shape. In particular I would like to thank the good people in the Colorado Trails foundation.

My wife Joanne for being a good sport and letting me take these trips

Although there is a certain sense of sadness that the trip is over I am very grateful to have such a great opportunity to do this trip. We had great weather, rode some outstanding trails, and saw some spectacular scenery and were able to share the experiences with some great folks. This was the first time both Eric and Yoda were able to join us out west and it was great to be able to ride with them. Both of them were a tremendous help on and off the trail.. One of my greatest experiences on this trip was to see their expressions of awe and joy when they were blown away by seeing some incredible vista or some pure alpine lake. Those experiences are truly priceless and will be remembered for the rest of their lives. Even though this is my 14th trip I still feel the same way when I come upon such beauty displayed in God’s creation. It is truly awesome to see Him reveal his power, beauty, and majesty in things like crashing waterfalls, spectacular vistas, beautiful wildflowers, rushing rivers, pristine alpine lakes, and high alpine tundra meadows. I feel thankful and humbled to have the privilege of being able to see His handiwork and share it with such good folks. I hope our blog encourages you to get out and explore some of these beautiful places. They are priceless treasures that we need to insure remain open to mountain biking. I also would like to share these experiences with more of you next summer and will send you out the itinerary for the summer of 2010 as soon as I put it together. I hope you can join us. Keep in touch.

Happy Trails,

Howie...aka "The Harpseal"

(a nickname my son gave me. He was quick to point out that the Harpseal has the highest blubber content of all the seals. Now that I can't catch him anymore on the climbs or for that matter the downhills... he can get away with calling me that!)

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