In the last few years I’ve been busy traveling around and have enjoyed quite a few adventures. I’d like to briefly document the most memorable outings.
May 2011 – Bicycle tour of Arizona and Utah where I flew into Phoenix with my bike and gear and rode through the mountains to the east of Phoenix, along the Mogollon Rim, around the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and finished in Grand Junction, Colorado.
April 2012 – Bicycle tour with Dianne around Central Florida. We visited our Mothers and confirmed how congested Florida road can be.
June 2012 – Bicycle tour on the Great Divide Mountain Bike route. I rode from Banff, Alberta to Gunnison, Colorado. I bailed out in Gunnison due to lack of mental stamina. I just got tired of sleeping in the dirt and was bored being by myself all the time.
July 2013 – Bicycle tour on the Great Divide Mountain Bike route. This time starting in Kalispel, Montana with the goal of using the ride from Kalispel to Denver as a training ride to build fitness for an attempt on the Colorado Trail.
August 2013 – Bicycle tour on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Salida. The trail is very difficult and nothing more than a hiking trail. Bikes are not well suited for this trail and I quit in Salida because of a lack of mental stamina and a sore knee.
November 2013 – Three days in Vegas to attend a Canyoneering Leadership Training program in Red Rocks.
May 2014 – Drive out to Zion with canyoneering and climbing gear. Met Felicia, Hank Moon, and Edmund. Did a few canyons but came home early because of lack of partners and mental stamina.
October 2014 – Fly to Zion to canyoneer with Edmund, Jeff, and Josh. We do a few good ones and I learn to not trust Jeff or Josh.
May 2015 – Drive out to Zion for more canyons but the weather does not cooperate, I meet the Olsen brothers and Edmund comes out for a few canyons.
June 2015 – Bicycle tour Olympic Peninsula with Sarah. I meet Sarah through CrazyGuyOnABike and we do a 10 day tour to see if we are compatible for a longer trip to Chile. Everything goes well.
September 2015 – Bicycle tour with Dianne for two months in New Zealand. Fantastic and difficult. Travel is much more fun with Dianne.
January 2016 – Bicycle tour with Sarah and Muck to Argentina and Chile. Ride from Ushuaia to Santiago. Never ride north!! We split after two weeks and I didn’t enjoy being alone all the time but the adventure was worth the effort.
May 2016 – Fly to Zion and Capitol Reef. The Olsen brothers invited me to Capitol Reef and I was happy to go. They were great hosts. Met Edmund and Jeff in Zion for five days of canyons and the amazing Crawford Arch hike. Then did Boundary with Kyle Knight.
You should never let a routine and potentially boring trip to visit an in-law go to waste. When Dianne asked if I would like to go with her to Phoenix to visit her nephew, I didn’t hesitate to say, “yes.” In between visits to the nephew we did the following, highly recommended hikes.
- South Mountain Park
- Peralta Canyon
- Apache Trail
- Tonto National Monument
- The Flatiron
- Not Camelback
South Mountain Park is a huge Phoenix City Park and it is a treasure. Here is the URL for the park. https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/south-mountain Here is the map I carried on my phone while hiking. https://www.phoenix.gov/parkssite/Documents/062880.pdf You could spend days exploring this park but you will get the feel of the place after eight hours of hiking.
Bring your Sonoran Desert guide book so you can learn of the plants and animals on beautiful display. Also, bring lots of water.
There are excellent views of Phoenix and although you will see plenty of other hikers you will not feel crowded.
We had a day off from the nephew and decided to do a little road trip on the Apache Trail. This trail is actually a driving route that has about thirty miles of dirt road that follows along the Salt River and through the Superstition mountains. The trail starts in Apache Junction and ends at the Roosevelt Reservoir and dam and is very scenic and worth the time. Here is a link to a page describing the Apache Trail. http://phoenix.about.com/od/daytrips/ss/apachetrail.htm Once at the Roosevelt Reservoir we headed south to the Tonto National Monument and visited the Salado Indian Ruins that the monument is preserving. The monument also has exceptional picnic areas and is well worth the three dollar admission price. The lower dwellings are open to the public and well worth the short hike. The upper dwellings are only open during certain times of the year and only on days that have scheduled tours, usually on the weekends. Check the monuments website for information. http://www.nps.gov/tont/index.htm
You can now drive home the way you came or if you are too tired to do the dirt road again then continue south and head back to Phoenix by going through Globe and picking up US highway 60 west.
Just thought I might be able to entertain you with my latest trip to Zion National Park.
Now fully embedded into my mid-life crisis I am enthusiastically chipping away at my adult facade and working to return to the fountain of youth. My latest attempt to trade a facade for an illusion has brought me to learn a little about canyoneering.
Canyoneering (Canyoning in Europe) is the act of hiking down a stream’s watercourse and engaging in such activities as rappelling, climbing, rafting, and waterfall jumping. Often rappels are completed using anchors (solid structure from which you attach your rappelling rope) that you construct yourself from debris found in the watercourse (rocks, logs, bushes, etc.).
Being a careful outdoors-man and just naturally enjoying the learning of new skills, I traveled to Zion late last year to attend a canyoneering training course and practice the basic skills with professionals. I read books on climbing and canyoneering rope techniques. Then this summer I drove back out to Zion and was able to meet a few experienced and not so experienced canyoneers and gained a little “real canyon” experience of my own.
Several months ago my training, study, and practice paid off as I was invited to be part of a four person canyoneering team that planned to complete several of the classic Zion canyons. These guys had much more experience than me and I was excited to be the newbie on the team and felt honored to have the opportunity to learn from them. For several months before the trip I communicated with Ted, the leader of the team. We discussed equipment, techniques, emergency gear, canyon selection, and general logistics. Ted was engaged, detail oriented, safety minded, just the type of guy you wanted on the team. The other two team members never participated in the email conversation even though they were always CC’d. Ted assured me that they were good friends of his and were a lot of fun to have around. Last week the trip was completed and I’m happy and lucky to say that I survived the experience and had an overall excellent time. However, We did fewer canyons than planned and those we did were more exciting than they needed to be. So, let me tell you what happened in Zion National Park last week.
I met up with Ted and Mike in Las Vegas where we rented a car and drove to Springdale, Utah. By the time we arrived three hours later, I already had reservations about Mike as although he was hilarious he also never stopped talking and telling stories about his life and just generally making shit up. He was entertaining but needed a mute button. Mike is 33, recently married, and a real estate agent and landlord in Atlanta. He is obviously very smart and will probably be very rich someday. In Springdale, we met up with Robbie, 36, a very interesting landscape artist whose work it seems is quite popular out west. He is a great guy with a family and thriving art studio in Salida, CO. Ted, 42, is a salesman for an office supply company (I think). They are all successful, intelligent, full grown men, and Mike and Robbie are both insane. By the time we reached Springdale the sun was an hour from setting and we stopped into an outfitter to rent drysuits for the next several days. Mike did not think he needed a drysuit and said he was going to just go naked or at most with his jeans and t-shirt. Ted, with difficulty, convinced him that he needed a drysuit. Robbie claimed that he had his wetsuit and was prepared for cold water in the canyons.
With our gear in hand we rushed over to the start of a very easy canyon called “Keyhole.” Keyhole canyon is a lot of fun, has real rappels, cold water, and other slot canyon features but is very short (30 minutes). We decided to do it at night with our headlamps and then lay out on the slickrock at the end with a cold beer and get to know each other. This was a ton of fun and other than Mike constantly ripping apart the silence of the deep blackness, we all worked well together. At dinner, over beers and buffalo burgers, we planned our big adventure.
Kolob canyon is not known as one of the most difficult canyons in Zion but it is known as one of the coldest. The creek that flows through the canyon is dammed up high on the Kolob Plateau and water is released from the damn at regular intervals. If a water release is in progress and it exceeds 3 cubic feet per second, then the canyon is too dangerous to be attempted, many have died trying to push their luck. Luckily no water was being released and no rain had fallen for over a month. To get to the drop-in point for Kolob canyon, we must drive for an hour up onto the Kolob Plateau and park in a wilderness, on a 4×4 road and then hike three miles through this wilderness on animal trails. Ten hours is the best case estimated time for us to complete the technical part of the canyon and then exit out of the canyon back to our car. Therefore, to have any hope of completing this canyon before dark we must be hiking down the trail at 8:30AM.
The agreed upon plan is to get up at 5:30AM, eat a quick breakfast, pack our bags and head for the trailhead. When my alarm goes off at 5:30, I’m up and making some coffee, pack my bag in about 12 seconds, choke down two granola bars with some peanut butter and sit out front of our hotel by the car and wait for the others to be ready. At 6:30, Ted comes out front and says he sure could use some breakfast. So we jump in the car and go get a ridiculously expensive bacon and egg biscuit sandwich at a silly looking coffee shop with wind mills and chimes and Yin/Yang drawings all over the walls. At 7:15 we are back at the motel and Mike is awake and taking a shower. He then would like to have some breakfast. Since we are now late enough to allow us to get tomorrow’s canyoneering permit from the Zion NP office, Ted and I go there while Mike is feeding himself. At 9:00, Robbie finally shows up, he is camping in his own camper at a local campground. We finally pile into the car and drive to the trailhead. Forty five minutes to the trailhead, twenty minutes repacking our bags. At 10:05 we start walking toward the canyon. Ted and Mike start walking one way and Robbie and I start going in the opposite direction. We all stand around looking at the map and reading the text directions. Mike just cracks jokes, Robbie just yells that we don’t know what we are doing, Ted just nods his head. I try to explain to them that the map is upside down and that north is this way. Ten minutes later we are headed in the direction of my choice. The trail is nothing but a game trail and often is crossing the brushy bottom of a small stream until it crosses a very nice logging road heading east. They all start marching east happy to go where ever it might take them. I immediately start explaining how this road doesn’t seem to be headed in the correct direction and doesn’t seem to match any of the text directions we had. It took about a quarter mile but I finally convinced them and we were back on track.
We make it to the first rappel and start to suit up. Robbie busts out his wetsuit which turns out to be a 3/2 shorty with a hole worn through on his left hip. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he is wearing Chacos on his bare feet! When no water is flowing through Kolob, the plunge pool at the base of each rappel is usually filled by a spring. The Water is crystal green in color and as cold as water can be. I’m now thinking that Robbie is going to die of hypothermia and I’m going to be trapped in this damn canyon for three days while waiting for helicopters, or vultures, to start circling.
I check the rope that is tied around a pine tree that we plan to use as a rappelling anchor. I show them that one of the tag ends on the knot has been cut flush with the knot. Mike and Robbie are okay with it. Ted says to retie it if you think it needs it. Now I’m starting to panic. We are two hours late and if all goes well will still not get out of the canyon until dark. And how could all go well if they don’t seem to give a damn about the quality of the anchors and Robbie is going to be unconscious in about two hours. And none of them can navigate and finding the exit point requires a lot of navigation skill. At this point I mention to Ted that we are very late and can’t possibly finish before dark, “maybe we should bail and try this tomorrow.” But he just shrugs and Robbie says to not worry, “We got this!” Mike is telling a story about something but I had tuned him out long ago.
We rap into the canyon and it is spectacular, just a miracle of creation There is such a contrast between the hard, cold, water-polished rock, and the lush jungle of trees, ferns, and moss. We move well through the various rappels and only have one small problem when the rope was 30 feet too short. Fortunately, I couldn’t see the bottom of the rap and insisted we reset the rope and throw all 200′ of it until we could hear it hit the bottom.
About half way through, Robbie is starting to shiver and can’t use his hands any more. We now have to connect him to the rope and then just hope he can control his descent with his numb fingers. We should have been lowering him but he insisted he could do it. Eventually, during a disconnect while floating in a freezing pool, he drops his rappel device into the green abyss and isn’t able to find it.
Now let me digress a bit and tell you about the things we carry and why.
Let us look at Robbie’s equipment list:
- Torn ragged shorty 3/2 wetsuit
- Climbing helmet
- Climbing harness
- Locking caribiner and rappel device
- 1 litre water
- 1 Green bell pepper
- 1 12 0z tub of hummus
- 1 ziploc full of Colorado’s best weed (Smelled nice)
- 1 glass one-hitter pipe
- 1 Bic lighter
All the essentials for travel down a canyon that can kill you if you make one mistake.
Let us look at my equipment list:
- Five/Ten Canyoneero boots
- Kokatat dry suit
- full thermal underwear
- 2mm polyester fleece shirt
- 3mm polyester fleece jacket
- 1mm arimid/nitril coated gloves
- 5mm neoprene booties
- 2 pair heavy rag wool socks
- 1 pair thin polyester liner socks
- Fleece hat
- Climbing helmet
- Climbing harness
- 6 locking caribiners and 3 rappel devices
- 2 tibloc rope ascenders
- 2 prussic loops
- 4 2′ sewn slings
- 60 feet of 1 inch webbing
- 4 5/16 inch quick links
- 3 liters of water
- 4 granola bars
- 1 apple
- 1 ham, cheese, tomato sandwich
- 2 cliff bars
- 2 power bars
- 1 snickers bar
- 1 bag of peanut M&Ms
- Esbit burner and for Esbit tablets
- 4 bullion cubes
- space blanket
- 50 storm proof matches
- 6 square feet of aluminum foil
- Folding knife
- Toilet paper
The warm clothes are important under the drysuit and I had a spare set of warm clothes in case of total immersion or if I wished to change before we exited the wet canyon. The food is obviously important for a 12 hour day of strenuous activity. An extra rappel device seems mandatory as dropping one is very easy during a floating disconnect with numb hands. The Esbit stuff, space blanket, and matches are only needed if an emergency bivy is required. Before the first rappel Mike had to “borrow” my toilet paper and now Robbie is going to need one of my spare rappel devices!
Fortunately, the technical section of Kolob relented before Robbie froze to death and we cruised to the exit from the canyon. The exit is a very strenuous climb out of the canyon over steep, loose rock and dirt that gains 1900 feet of elevation in .7 miles. It was hard but warmed us up. Robbie and Mike took a hit of Colorado’s finest every 20 minutes or so. Darkness didn’t take us until we reached the top of the exit trail so I was much relieved that we actually survived. We still had a two mile hike, over 4×4 roads back to the car but all was good and the sunset on the Kolob Plateau was life affirming.
The Wetsocks team once again presents the list of events that should be on everyone’s training schedule. Pick a few that interest you, train hard, don’t bail, and let us know your results.
January 30, 2011 6 Hours of El Lagarto in Lakeland where one can ride the famous Loyce Harpe (Carter Road) single track as either a solo or in relay teams on either a “red” or a “corporate” course. Another “don’t miss” event. www.redtrailracing.com
January 30, 2011 Florida Challenge Half-Marathon at Alafia State Park. This year there is a conflict with El Lagarto so pick your poison. This is a great trail run as the course covers all the fun single track bike trails including Roller Coaster, Gatorback, and Moonscape. www.tamparaces.com/challenge
February 19, 2011 12 Hours of SANTOS Vortex 2011 Can you image riding the Vortex for 12 straight hours! I think the organizer threw in a few flat sections to let you rest. They have a 6 hour and team classes. www.goneriding.com
February 26-27, 2011 Five Finger Frenzy 5k trail run and Livestrong bike race. Run the fingers at Loyce Harpe Park you will never forget it and never understand why you did it. www.redtrailracing.com
March 5, 2011 BOAR 3 or 6 hour Adventure race. Seminole Ranch WMA & Orlando Wetland Park, Christmas, FL www.pangeaadventureracing.com
March 13, 2011 Squiqqy Classic 6 hour mountain bike race www.swampclub.org
March 19, 2011 FLO Orienteering at Wekiva Springs! This is an excellent event that should not be missed. www.floridaorienteering.org
April 2, 2011 The First Annual Alafia Classic 6 hour mountain bike race. Two race course options: Easy – Riverloop, Rockgarden, Sandpine Advanced – Northcreek, Riverloop, Rockgarden, Rollercoaster. www.friendsofalafia.org
April 9, 2011 Croom Fool’s Run 50M/50K/15M in Croom of course. This is a wonderful course that is mostly a great single track running trail that winds through outstanding Florida terrain and most of the trail even has tree canopy to keep off the sun (Don’t believe it!). This is a race course you don’t want to miss. www.fools50.com
April 16-17, 2011 Classic TOSRV South is back! For 2010 Capital City Cyclists have the same rural vistas, same great road food, and new and improved venues for start/finish in Havana and overnight in Albany. Mark your calendar. www.cccyclists.org
April 30, 2011 Talon Adventure Race at Alafia State Park. Our old nemesis is back and after beating everyone at Talon09, I might like to do it again at the Talon11. I don’t see a website for the 2011 event so maybe they are going to cancel. www.talonrace.com
May 7, 2011 Fort Yargo, Georgia 9/6 hour mountain bike race – Endurance Point Series. Ft. Yargo State Park, Winder, Georgia. www.chainbuster.com
May 7, 2011 HammerHead 100 Solo only. 25 mile, 50 mile and 100 Mile options. Ocala, FL (Santos Trails – Land bridge Trailhead) www.goneriding.com
May 14, 2011 Myakka Mud Slide 3 or 6 hour AR. Myakka River State Park?? www.pangeaadventureracing.com
May 14, 2011 Atomic 24 hour AR, Dawsonville, GA. 110 miles, mountains, mud, rain. I’ve even heard rumors that some team actually finish. www.atomicar.com
May ??, 2011 The Urban Mountain Bike Criterium and 2x Speed Trials. When: 6:00pm Where: Downtown Lakeland, FL (East Iowa & Lemon) www.redtrailracing.com
May 28, 2011 Florida Sunshine 5 or 30 hour AR This is to be Pangea’s signature race. In a yet to be disclosed location. www.pangeaadventureracing.com
June 4, 2011 Ken’s Birthday Party Century This century ride is by invitation only. Be nice to Ken if you wish to join this group rage against the age. www.riskypassage.com
June 12, 2011 “The Intimidator” Florida Challenge Triathlon IronMan 70.3 and Olympic distance triathlons in the hills of Clermont. Sommer always puts on a great race! Gazelle and Ken are already committed to this race! www.floridachallenge.com
June 19, 2011 The SCAR Adventure Race This is a father’s day event so bring your Dad and your cooler. It will be hot! www.pangeaadventureracing.com
July 16, 2011 Santos to Rainbow River Mountain Bike Picnic What could be better than a red hot ride in the blazing sun? Maybe a cool dip in Florida spring. Come suffer in the heat and then revel in the cool waters of the Rainbow River. Bring your lunch and we will have a picnic in the shade.
August 20, 2011 Fool’s Gold 100/50 Mile Mountain Bike Race & Festival. The 2009 event was a treat and the 2010 was a rained out mud fest so don’t miss this edition www.55nineperformance.com
September 4, 2011 8 Hours of Labor- Team & Solo MTB competition Alachua, FL San Felasco Trails www.goneriding.com
September 11, 2011 Inaugural Lake O Bike Tour Take a quick spin around the Lake Okeechobee (125 miles) Clewiston, Florida
September 25, 2011 Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty The Six Gap Century’s ultra challenging route takes you up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains. Test your stamina with more than 11,200 feet of vertical climbing over the 104 mile course. Elevations for the six gaps in this ride range from 1,400 feet to 3,460 feet. The toughest climb, Hogpen Gap, will test even the strongest riders, averaging a 7% grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15%. The Three Gap Fifty’s alternative route offers half the gaps and half the distance, but is nevertheless a demanding and challenging course at 58 miles www.cyclenorthgeorgia.com
October 15-17, 2011 Florida Off Road Challenge (FORC) III Three days of riding the bike of your choice through the last remaining fragments of undeveloped land between Flagler Beach and YankeeTown. Traveling through state parks, wildlife management areas, the Carr Greenway, and possibly jumping fences onto private land. Each night will be spent in the best room available at the nearest Super8 motel. In room alcoholic beverages are provided. No support, bring your headlamp, you rain jacket, your sense of humor, and your appetite for adventure.
November 2-5, 2011 La Ruta de los Conquistadores in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The much anticipated bike tour is actually going to happen. Even to my own surprise the plane tickets have been purchased, the route has been planned, the equipment is ready to go. I’m not sure if I’m mentally ready to slow down and enjoy the road. But let’s give it a try.
My daily journal is to be hosted by CrazyGuyOnABike.
Here is a link to a document that describes proposed day by day distances and camping/motel spots
Day by Day distances
Here are several Google Maps that document the planned route. This route has been selected from the warm softness of my couch and is probably impossible to accomplish, especially the dirt sections.
“Dig there! Do you see them? Wait for the next wave. You’ve got them now.”
He is quick to learn. I point a finger, cock an eye, and he fully understands what is expected. The next wave washes the scene and the fleas are exposed to his amazed gaze. Looking up from his work, his face searching mine for clues, I see joy, curiosity, and a little fear. His face tells me his future. I’m sure that he will succeed in all he attempts.
Having understood my quick nod and large smile he attacks the laughable creatures and plops them into the bucket. “That’s it! Good job!
Okay, try it again. Go through the eye, around the line, 1, 2, 3, 4 times. Now down and through the little hole. Wet it. Pull. Clip it. Done! Very nice!”
Tenderly grabbing a flea he invents his own way to impale it: mine being “too mean.” He throws to his own spot, moves too much, smiles continuously, hopes eternally, and meets with no success.
He knows to shuffle his feet but the school of rays convinced him to keep his knees dry.
A big red sun squats on the water. Puffs of air too warm to matter crawl past. A trickle of sweat glides down his cheek. He sighs and yawns, “Should we go home and tell Mom that I caught the bait?”
“Yes, let’s do that.
Ken and Gazelle had a sudden urge to hurt themselves and therefore decided to ride across the state of Florida on their mountain bikes. Gazelle had heard stories of the heroic deeds done by Ken and Craig on last year’s ATB Across Florida and he too wished to glorify himself. Always up for a stupid adventure and even though it was July in Florida, I joined their little bicycle party.
Once again we stayed the the Ocean Crest Motel in Ormond-by-the-Sea. The motel is nothing special but its rustic 1960’s charm is special in its own way. Our plan was to copy the route from last year but with some minor route changes around Dunnellon and some major route changes through the Ocala National Forest. In keeping with our tradition of trespassing and ignoring all public warnings to “stay out”, we still rode through the Relay Tract of Plum Creek Lumber.
The ride started with the usual breakfast at Alfie’s and then the ride up A1A until we cut to the west through North Peninsula State Park. Once at US1 and with just a bit of reconnaissance, we discovered a better way into the Relay Tract that did not require bushwhacking. Of course we had to ride through a farmer’s yard and jump a gate.
We worked hard in Relay since the dirt roads were very soft from all the rain Florida has had this summer. Wet sand is tough to ride but it is vastly superior to dry sand. By the time we got to the junction of SR40 and SR11, which is the start of the Heart Island Conservation Area, we were already out of water. I still had half a bottle but the blazing summer sun had made it too hot to drink without getting sick to my stomach. Oh well, only ten more miles until Barberville. We rested at the Heart Island entrance, ate a snack, and picked ticks off our legs. Fun, Fun!
We made it to Barberville without trouble and bought plenty of water, gatorade, snacks, etc. from a convenience store. Setting in the sand at the edge of the parking lot in the only piece of shade to be found, we watched the local trailer trash, touristic yankees, and smug cyclists go about their respective preparations for a weekend in the sun. We also debated whether trashy women with mostly uncovered and extremely large breasts where preferable to the stoic, uptight, and I would argue, very passionate type-A professional “angry-elf” women. I lost in a narrow 2-1 decision.
From Barberville we headed into the Lake George State Forest which we crossed easily and without much effort. Popping out at the St. John’s River Rd. we headed first to the south to visit the park at the end of the road that has a nice nature trail and a floating dock on the river. Then cycling back to the north we made our way into Astor where I had reserved a trailer at The Blackwater Inn. The trailer was fantastic. Well maintained and very comfortable, the Blackwater Inn and its adjacent restaurants are worth a stop.
As we rode out of town, we found a little restaurant open and decided to have a good breakfast before braving the sandy hell that is the Ocala National Forest.
This year we changed the route so we could explore some of the forest to the north of SR40 and visit the area around Juniper Spring Run. Our first exploration was done on Blue Creek Lodge Rd. We took this nice clay road to the north off of SR40 and then hooked up with NFS 571. Unfortunately, NFS 571 was impassable. It was nothing but soft, dry, fluffy sand. I walked a half mile up the road but it never got any better and we had to abandon that route. Next, we tried to ride the powerline that parallels SR40 and SR19 but after wasting lots of time and energy I had to admit the effort was not worth the result. The powerline was just too sandy. So we mostly stayed on SR40 and SR19.
When we reached Juniper Run on SR19, we had to take a break and enjoy this spring fed creek. Stripping down to our shorts we jumped in and reveled in the stream’s amazing coolness. Even though weekends turn this place into a crowded nightmare, we had the place to ourselves.
Just north of the Juniper Run is NFS 76A Which takes you back to Sweetwater spring where there is a nice family sized cabin that can be rented, if you are lucky enough to win the lottery that is used to select its next inhabitants. We rode in to check out a possible route into the Juniper Wilderness Area that might be accessible from the end of the road. However, we did not find a clear path and decided to not bother with a bushwhack this early in the morning. Instead we took NFS76 to the west and entered the Juniper Wilderness Area at a spot that reflected its “burned to the ground” best.
Oh, it was hot. The sun beaming on my head, the sun reflected from the white sand, no shade, and the Hiroshima-like husks of blackened tree trunks were sprawled out to the horizon. Ken and Gazelle seemed to manage the sandy hills without problem, but I was already starting to feel the heat and lagged behind, struggling over every hill.
Ken was being nice and came back to get me. He then noticed that the Juniper Run was only about a 1/4 mile to our south and that a quick dip in its cool waters might be nice. We called to Gazelle but he did not respond. He would later report that he heard us but was not about to ride back through sand and heat to see what we wanted. So, Ken and I hiked to the river and found a little spot with clean sand and laid out in the refreshing stream. Thankfully no alligators intruded on us and after about twenty minutes we headed back to the bikes and white hot sand box that is the Juniper Wilderness Area.
Once we hit the ponds that dot the Juniper Prairie, the plan was to continue west until we hit the next north/south road and take it to the north. However, NFS76 petered out at the ponds. It was still visible but was made impassable by fallen logs and brush. I’m sure it was destroyed in the big fire of ’96.
The backup plan was to follow the pond edges to the north until we ran across the Florida Trail. We did not have a map with the recent trail route and only guessed as to where we might find it. The going was very tough at first as we had to push our bikes through palmettos, brush, and the wet reeds around the pond edges. But, even though we managed to parallel the ponds, we never found the trail. Gazelle refused to walk with Ken and I because he did not want to hear us talking about how screwed we were. As we approached the north side of the last pond, I could see that the low area in which these ponds are located was rising back up to the level of the sand scrub. If we hit this scrub and did not find the trail then we would be forced to turn around because the thick underbrush was eight feet tall and completely impenetrable for the next four miles. Fortunately, the Florida Trail was waiting for us at the north end of this last pond.
We grimly road the trail to the north and after jumping over countless blown down trees we broke out onto FR10. Gazelle and I were totally beat down by the heat and tough trail. Ken was just worried that he was going to have to rescue us. Gazelle took a short break; I continued to stagger down FR10. We regrouped after eating a snack and drinking some of our disgustingly hot water and then continued down this good clay road until it hit FR65.
At this point the plan was to continue on FR10 through Hayes Island, which contains the champion Loblolly Bay tree. But FR10 did not look very good to the west of FR65 and I was hot and worried that I was not going to make it to a resupply point before dropping from a heat stroke. I suggested that we bail out and hit the easiest way out of this mess and find some cool water and gatorade. So we headed north on FR65 to FR86 (The Hopkin’s Prairie Road) and headed west to CR314. CR314 was still six mile away and we didn’t know where a store might be located once on it.
Ken and Gazelle seemed to be riding fine but I was dead and could barely turn the pedals up some of the hills. Once on CR314 we headed to the southwest with our eyes looking for a store. Ken stopped to ask some fisherman where the next store might be and they said a few miles down the road. But no sooner than we started going again, we saw what at first looked like a mirage or an antique gas station sign in someone’s yard. But once we got close it was obvious that it was a real, if not very run down, convenience store.
Once stopped, my abdomen and calf muscles immediately cramped up. I couldn’t even get up off the ground without major cramping and lots of pain. As I was flopped onto the dirty cracked pavement of the store, Ken and Gazelle heroically bought beverages and snacks, filled all the water bladders with ice water, and tended to my needs like the finest of nurses.
Finally, as the skies grew dark and the lightening started to flash, I was able to get off the ground and pick up my shoes, backpack , and bike. At this very moment the rain started to come in a torrential down pour. It felt marvelous!
Across the street we noticed a Baptist church with a covered porch and rocking chairs and headed over there to clean up, rehydrate, and enjoy the cool summer storm.
He could have fooled me but Gazelle claimed this ride through Ocala National Forest was one of the hardest physical challenges he has ever completed. I agreed. Ken was not even fazed. He is just too strong for us.
After cooling off, rehydrating, and eating everything in sight, we got back on the road and headed for the nearest motel. The original plan was to go to Ocala and find a motel but Gazelle was adamant that we get to a place to sleep immediately. So we headed to Silver Springs and booked a couple of rooms and life was good again.
After a good breakfast, we headed toward Ocala via the Marshall Swamp Trail.
Here are a few photos from the event. This year we had a 33% increase in the number of participants. In 2011 we may have to close registration early.
The mountain bike lap was probably 8 miles of twisting flat and fast single track through the woods for the first 2 miles with random bits of rocks and roots. Then into the real red trails, Rattlesnake, Ant Hill, and John Brown. Then another couple of miles of flying through the woods on fast stuff, and into the last red trail section on the Sink Hole trail. The first three red sections have a lot of very tough rocky climbs and several squirrelly rocky descents, and several sections where you are riding over boulders. The last red trail was just annoying w/ lots of rocks and roots. Plenty of opportunity to hurt yourself, but no killer climbs.
The week before the race, Ray had sent out an email that the road bike course was shortened to 22 miles (2 laps), but during race registration they took a poll of the riders, and bumped it back up to 33 miles. Classic Red Trail race day change that makes Ray’s races fun.
The 11 mile loop was a short leg to/from the parking area to a hilly square route w/ about 5 miles on rough as a corn cob blacktop road, followed by smoother roads for the last 6 miles, which turned out to be beating against the wind.
Beautiful weather, low 50s at the start to maybe 80 degrees by the end. Tigger & I were each riding solo, while Dianne and Casey had teamed up in the coed team division. Casey was riding his 29er single speed, against my advice, but he said he was so used to his 29er that he no longer felt good on the 26 inch wheels.
The teams used a small painted piece of wood as a baton to be passed between the MTB legs and the road bike leg. Before the race, we were guessing who would come out of the woods first, and we all expected that if things went well for him, that Casey should come out of the woods first, followed by me, then Tigger. There was some half-joking chatter that If Craig came out of the woods close behind Casey, then Dianne was going to soft pedal until Craig could catch on, so that they could work together during the road bike leg. She made no such offer to me. Hmmm….. But Craig told her that if she got on her road bike first, she should grab onto whatever wheel she could find and not mess around waiting for him. At least that’s what he said out loud…
The race started with a mad sprint around the parking lot, and the hole shot into the woods, for the inevitable choo-choo train ride of 60+ riders all on each other’s wheels through the woods till we hit the first climb. The Woodall boys hit the woods in the front of the pack, Casey was somewhere in the first 15 people, I was somewhere around 2/3 of the way back, and Craig was some number of places behind me doing his slow-steady-start thing.
Everyone near me was apparently about where they wanted to be in the train, because there was very little passing in that first piece of trail. I was behind a big guy on a 29er, and for the first mile I was hugging his wheel and having to follow his line because I couldn’t see around him. Turns out, 29er’s ride differently, which is what Casey had been trying to tell me. I followed him off-trail twice as he went on the wrong side of trees because he missed the turn, then when he rolled straight over ^%$#@’ing boulder instead of going around it, and I went straight after him. After that, I dropped back to give him some room, and was able to ride my own line.
We hit the tough section, which starts with a very tough 20..30 foot climb. Boom. Everyone was off their bikes, and for the next mile we did a lot of passing people that were walking over rocks and up tight little hills. The first section was really jammed up, and after about three climbs I passed the cause for that jam: our boy Casey. He was standing on the side of the trail, already bleeding and not happy, and he yelled out as I rode past, “This trail Sucks!”. Apparently on that first climb, he was trying to ride up the hill, and another rider tried to pass him on the climb, and her wheel swept his wheel out from underneath him, sending him tumbling back down the hill. After that inauspicious start to the tough section, his knee hurt so much that he couldn’t push on it, and was forced to walk all the tough climbs, and according to Casey, “I crashed more times that first lap, than I can remember”.
After we left the red section, we flew through the woods, but the field had been strung out so much by the chaos of that first section that I was chasing ghosts and saw no one behind me, and only caught one rider in the woods. The Sinkhole trail was uneventful for me and Craig, but apparently Casey was able to spend some more quality time off of his bike after hooking a vine with his handlebars.
I hit the road bike section first, with about a 4-5 minute lead on Casey. Casey came out of the woods like a trooper, Dianne took the small baton from Casey and shoved it into her back jersey pocket and was off on the road bike. Craig came out of the woods just seconds after Casey, but because he had to do a real transition to a new bike, possibly eat tasty snack, maybe quaff a beverage, and in general piddle around before getting on his bike, he started to ride a few minutes behind her.
My first lap was a classic Ken road ride: All Alone. I saw no one in front of me, and no one behind me. As I started my second lap, and was turning into the square portion, I saw a group of three or four riders in a pack finishing up their first lap. I saw jerseys that looked like Dianne and Craig’s in there, and knew then that if that was them, they were about 4-5 minutes back, and that I was likely going to get run down if I didn’t find somebody out there on the road to share the wind. How could Craig and Dianne be together on the first lap, if she started a few minutes ahead of Craig, and she’s as strong a rider as him? Gentle reader, you must make your own judgment regarding this mystery.
Craig left transition, and immediately jumped on the wheel of a fast rider. Unfortunately very shortly thereafter, she dropped off, and he was all alone for the first 3 miles. Dianne got off to a good start, and hooked up with a couple of other riders early in the lap. But then, according to Dianne, and unverified by any third party, her baton “fell out” of her jersey pocket. She had to stop, and ride back down the road a few hundred meters to look for the baton. It was while she was “looking for her baton”, that who should ride along but her husband! Just as she “found her baton”. Wow. What good fortune!
My second lap was another classic. All alone. I passed a couple of All Mountain solo riders, but no one on a road bike. As I was starting my last lap, I saw a pair of riders about 60 seconds behind me, and again saw Craig and Dianne, about 4 minutes back, this time confirmed sighting with Dianne cheerily waving at me. Grrr. I decided I better soft pedal the corn cob road, and let the two person group behind catch up, but it took them more than three miles to finally catch me. After they caught up, I let them hold my wheel for the next mile or two before we turned back to the north, so that there’d be some good will, and I could catch a break from the headwind we would be facing. But nope. Just as we turned to the north, they dropped off, because the woman wasn’t as strong as the man, he was clearly pulling her around, and she had to back off. Alone again! Then, about 2/3 of the way up that road, they went shooting past me, and I had to stand up to grab on. I caught a brief respite until we turned back to the east w/ three miles to go. He finished a pull, then she did about a 30 second pull, and I started my pull. About a minute later as we hit a small hill he went swooping past me, attacking the hill with vengeance. I stomped up the hill, and as I grabbed back on, he immediately dropped to the left, and backed off. I told him that he had dropped his female, to which he replied, “She’ll be fine.” Eh?!?! Then he attacked again. This time my slow brain engaged for me to finally get it, he was trying to drop me. Thanks friend. I briefly gave chase, but he was hammering and continuing to look back to make sure I didn’t catch on. I decided that it would be stupid to fry my legs chasing bozo down before getting back on the mountain bike. So I let him go, and just finished up the last lap alone again. Just seconds after I left the transition area to begin my last mountain bike lap, I heard cheering through the woods announcing the finish of the first racers at the end of their trip. Yep. I had a solid 40 minutes ahead of me, and the real racers were done. I was able to grunt through the second mountain bike lap, and finally achieved my goal of keeping about the same time as the first lap.
You may recall that the last trail-to-trail at Carter Road, Tigger, and just about everyone not dragging a limb were able to pass me after I’d popped. Casey’s last mountain bike lap included the requisite number of spills and thrills, complete with his wheel coming off, and requiring trail-side mechanic time. He added a few more bruises to his hand, but it sounds like he was better off on this lap, than his first trip through the woods.
Unfortunately all of Casey’s injuries together are nothing compared to Craig’s. Within 1/2 mile of the finish the the road bike section, Craig was on Dianne’s wheel and had the lapse of focus that is all too easy to have. Their wheels overlapped and he went down hard. He said he had plenty of time to prepare for the ground, and when he hit kept his arms in tight, and after breaking free of the bike, tumbled like a log down the road. He had a huge red and blue bruise, contusion on his bicep, road rash and bruise on his hip, and bloodied knee. But thankfully nothing like it could have been hitting that hard on the pavement. After limping in from that horrifying end of a road bike ride, he climbed aboard his mountain bike for what had to be a very painful last lap; leaving behind a clearly distraught Dianne. Amazing that he was able to get on the MTB bike for the last leg, and equally amazing that he finished it as quickly as he did, leaving a faint blood trail along the way.
We may never know the truth of the Baton Incident, but we know it was a heck of tough and fun Red Trail race.
Casey, Dianne, Ken, and Craig made the trip to Santos and competed in the 2010 edition of the “Trail To Trail.”
Ken proved to be the dominant cyclist and easily destroyed the rest of team Wetsocks. Congratulations to Ken for riding strong this entire year. I’m not sure what he has been doing differently than in previous years but whatever it is he should stick with it.
If you don’t already know, the “Trail To Trail” is a race designed to unify the cycling world by having both mountain bike and road bike sections. This years course was an eight mile mountain loop, three eleven mile road loops, and then a final run on the same mountain bike loop.
The mountain bike loop was about 50% twisty, rocky, climby madness and 50% twisty, fast, sandy fun. The road bike loop had some hills and was deceptively difficult. The roads were not the best and finding other riders to draft was very difficult.
This race is run by “www.redtrailracing.com” and they do a great job with all their races.
Ken wasn’t challenged by the likes of this group. He was five minutes in the lead after the first mountain loop, held his lead through three unaided road loops, and then poured on the power on the last mountain loop to stretch his lead to over fifteen minutes. For his effort he easily won his division and the bragging rights for being the best all around cyclist any of us know.
Casey and Dianne teamed up and competed in the co-ed team division. Casey was solid during his two mountain bike laps and won respect from Ken and Craig by doing them both on a 29er single speed! Damn! Casey tumbled down a cliff on the first lap and had his rear wheel drop off on the second lap and he was still able to stay in front of Craig.
Dianne rode three fast road bike laps and even took the time to drop and then recover her team’s relay baton. Craig caught her during the first road bike leg as she was digging in the bushes on the side of the road.
Craig did all he could do but was not even in the same league as either Ken or Casey. He claims to have been caught behind a bunch of slow riders on the first mountain bike loop, held up by Dianne as she searched for her baton, and then blamed Dianne for knocking him to the ground on the last road bike loop. Craig has the road rash to prove that he hit the asphalt but I’m not too sure that Dianne had anything to do with his problems.
It was as much fun as always but we missed all the no-shows and hope to get you back in the action soon. Here are a few blurry pictures taken during the event.