Wednesday, August 26, 2009

3 Day Epic (first post in a while....sorry)

Last weekend Forest Trails Alliance (FTA) put on a three day epic mountain bike ride starting in Forest City and ending in Downieville. The adventure was supported by two sag wagons – a VW van and an extended cab pickup. Generally the ride went: breakfast, break camp, 3 hrs of riding, meet up with sag wagons for lunch, 3-4 more hours of riding then the sag wagon would meet the group at the evening’s campsite with camping supplies and dinner.

Staging photo: commence climbing.

The route went from Forest City up the sweet Sandusky Trail singletrak to the Pliocene Ridge Rd Staging Area. From there it followed Pliocene Ridge Rd to some singletrack around Jackson Meadow. From Jackson Meadow, the trip headed north, up Hennas Pass Rd to Keystone Mountain, Campsite No. 1, which was directly across the drainage from the Sierra Buttes. That evening was spent eating tasty grub, producing music in a circle and watching an amazing sunset from the kraggly outcroppings of Keystone Mountain.

Discussing Safety with the Sierra Buttes (campsite no. 2) in the background.

Day two the route descended down an old mining road to the K------- Mine where it intersected an amazing section of single track that plummets to the bottom of the drainage with 15 switchbacks (major thanks to TomE. for walking this trail earlier in the week and getting it in pristine shape for the adventure). After this singletrack, the route headed to P----- Creek campgrounds where we found a wonderful swimming hole and had lunch. After lunch it was off to Sierra City where we began the 3000 ft. climb to the Sierra Buttes where Campsite No. 2 was located. After the grind to the top, camp was made and evening shenanigans pursued.

Captured Spring running out of the mountain near K----- mine.

Looking at the climb from Sierra City to the Sierra Buttes

This artesian well made for a nice, cool stopping point during our climb up to the Buttes.

Sun Setting on the Sierra Buttes – from campsite no. 2

Typical Dinner: Potato Salad, Corn on the cob, and a Grilled BBQ chicken salad.

Day three started with a 500 foot steep climb straight out of the gate to the top of the Sierra Buttes where we intersected another trail that we followed for an additional 8 miles to ------ Lake where lunch was served. After lunch we continued on the perfect cycle trail descending to Hawley Lake where supposedly petroglyphs exist on the rock nearby. From Hawley lake the route took an exciting downward trend to Downieville. Our route: Polly Creek Trail => Butcher Creek Trail => random moto road => 3rd Divide => 1st Divide => Downieville.

Breakfast preparations for Day 3.

Topping the climb near the summit of the Sierra Buttes.

Lunch at ------- Lake.

All smiles after Butcher Creek.

We only had mild forms of tragedy, mostly in the form of flat tires (I got 3! Thanks TomE. for all the extra rubber), with no serious injuries – though Chris Ruedy’s bloody knee was looking pretty rough by the time we made it back to Forest City. It’s safe to say everyone thoroughly enjoyed the ride, sites and company of the weekend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter, birthday, april fools, etc...

Happy Easter! I hope you all had a great day spending time with the family and loved ones. I missed out on that aspect this year but fortunately I received some cards in the mail and a few voice messages yesterday! Thank you.

I spent the Easter weekend the only way I know how, lost in mother nature. Saturday my buddy Dave Ludwick and I hiked up Mount Tallac on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe (

Mount Tallac from Emerald Bay.

I had hiked Mt. Tallac in the Fall several months back, but I heard there was some good skiing to be had off the northeast face, so Dave and I cruised up to check it out. The approach started with a 1.5 mile easy, manageable incline. After that we gained a ridge and followed that to a saddle just north of the peak, another 2.5 miles. From there we boulder climbed about 500 feet to the summit.

Our Route in Blue.

The views were just as impressive as they were months back, only this time I was more interested in the sweet lines off the summit instead of the breathtaking views.

Ludwick and I at the Summit.

The descent was a 3,300 vertical foot drop back down to the car, skiable the entire way – a rarity in the backcountry world. It started with a moderately steep bowl (35 – 40 deg) right off the summit to the northeast. The bowl was a huge snow field about 500 yards long and 200 yards wide, huge. The bowl narrowed at the bottom where it split into a well spaced glade at approximately the same pitch as above to the left, and to the right, several advanced (fatal falls) shoots dropping down the face at about a 45 to 50 degree pitch. I skied the glades and watched as other backcountry skiers (much better than myself) jump-turned (on tele skis!) down the extreme shoots to the right, an impressive sight indeed.

Northeast Bowl, my descent in blue.

The hike was, round trip, about 8.5 miles and took us just over 6 hours, no land speed record, that’s for sure. The snow conditions at the top were phenomenal, fresh tracks in ~8” of newly deposited, wet, large crystal snow over a consolidated, breakable snow/ice crust. Towards to bottom the snow turned to 1-2” of slush on top of unbreakable snow/ice crust – mmmmm, sloshy spring skiing.

Easter Sunday, I met a few other friends, Zachi, Jeff and Orion, bright and early at the coffee shop for an exploratory canyoneering trip down the Rock Creek (, just outside of Downieville near Goodyear’s Bar. The purpose of this trip was to locate a waterfall on Rock Creek worthy of coming back to with bikes for an ‘extreme’ photo shoot of mountain bikers repelling down a cliff next to a waterfall. Why? I’m not really sure, but I’ve never really needed that much of an excuse to go for an adventure. The trip consisted of hiking up a ridge to a point known as Serpentine Rock, where we had lunch, then a repel/scramble from that point down to Rock Creek. On the hike up the ridge we came across an abandoned mine shaft that appeared to be bottomless (from our stick tossing experiment), we scoped out the area and marked it as a waypoint, we’ll be back for more later.

On the climb up we came across this amazing tree, easily climbable, which we named ‘Gnome Tree’.

A little further down the trail we came across this abandoned mine shaft. Who knows how deep it goes, we dropped a couple sticks down which we heard falling for a long time...

We had lunch on Serpentine Rock – a 50 foot tall outcropping of serpentine rock positioned on an already amazing ridge vista.

Once we got down to Rock Creek (about 500 vert feet below) we climbed around in the creek bottom from rock to rock trying not to fall in or get washed away. Even though Rock Creek doesn’t have a high volume flow, the deep pools, long cascades, and numerous waterfalls meandering though steep canyon walls over blocky granite made travel difficult and consequences costly. We managed to snake our way down the creek, repelling and climbing where necessary. And yes, I DID fall in. The water was crazy cold and I fell into a pool just before a waterfall, so I was able to scramble to the shore before…well, I made it to the shore and did NOT go over the falls! Great Success.

The crescendo of the trip was our discovery of an 8 to 10 story raging water fall with near vertical canyon walls on either side! This will be the waterfall for the photo shoot in a couple of weeks. We repelled down the north canyon wall to the mossy green micro-climate that often surrounds waterfalls. After a short while of exploring the area we continued our descent down the creek another ½ mile to the car. We got a few more repel sessions and a few more wet feet in the process.

Jeff repelling down the north canyon wall of the big waterfall.

More random repelling, we did a lot of repels.

So my feet are pretty haggard with blisters and a few bruises, but all in all, I can say the weekend was a success and I am no worse for the wear. The weather is getting nicer here, the snow levels are rising, more and more mountains will become accessible soon! Hallayluya, Christ is Risen and Spring is Here!

Wish I could have celebrated with you all. The Weidinger egg bash and the Krazy Kremer shenanigans were greatly missed. I think I’ll go cook up some ham and bash some eggs on my own head tonight.

Other recent happenings (via pictures, cuz I’m too lazy to type and you’re too lazy to read) from most recent to last post:

Eric and I bought our season’s pass to the Prairie City Race Series mountain bike races ( and had our first race last Wednesday (4-8-09). The PCRS is a 12 week mountain bike race series that races every Wednesday.

Eric placed 10th in his class, 124 overall, and I placed 3rd in the singlespeed class, 74th overall. This was our first race with 11 more to go, we shall see how the competition stacks up. There were around 500 racers last week.

The weekend of the 3rd, I headed for SF with Zachi on an FTA ( publicity mission. We helped the SF Urban Riders construct about 1000’ of new trail on mt. Sutros (UCSF).

I found this little guy while digging up trail…hope I didn’t kill him.

We rode Sunday after helping build trail all day Saturday. The SF Urban riders put on an urban ride for us the linked various singletrack together with city assault riding between sweet singletrack sessions.

Prior to that was my birthday, which was celebrated on the dirt via an out and back on the South Yuba River Trail with Dave Ludwick and new roomie Eric.

On April fools day, the master bedroom of 323 Alta Street received new inhabitants, Eric and Becca, who had just arrived from Denver.

The weekend before that (March 27th), Dave Ludwick and I headed to Dave’s old college stomping grounds of Chico for a Mother Hips show, some socializing, and of course, some biking in the legendary Bidwell Park. The ride was epic.

And finally, sometime before then and sometime after Abdul and I’s Homewood ski trip (previous post), Adele flew in to win the prize of my first MO visitor. We checked out Yosemite Valley with friends Kate and Andy, stayed in a historic hotel in Coulterville, CA, did some serious road tripping, checked out the local hiking trails near GV, and topped the weekend off with a trip to Sugar Bowl for some fresh turns.

Abdul and I played in the bowl just north of the Palisades, which included this awesome 30’ cornice to a fresh powder transition.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Skick Skiing and Super Sweet Single Speeds

After a rather boring day Monday at work, it did not take much convincing by Abdul to get me on board with his midweek Homewood special trip that evening. By 7:00 pm we were saddled up in the Speed 3 heading east to South Lake to stay at Emile's place that evening. We clownged around Monday night at the lakeside cabin with Emile, Justin and Toad, all involved in the skate company Blood Wizard. skiing

Toad and Emile about to settle a fight.

Checking our ski conditions.

We arrived to Homewood around 9:30 and hopped on the first lift. This is the view looking back off the lift.

The Midweek Homewood Special Gang (LR: Toad, Dave, Emile, Abdul, Justin).

Looking back at the Lake on our last ride up.

After the great ski day I was satisfied with my snow desire for the week so I switch focus to bike. My attempt to make a few improvements to the Rig yielded a garage strewn with bike components and a frame with a seat post and rear break...oops. I guess the miles of riding with little bike maintenance in between rides had really taken it's toll. I spent all week applying attention to various issues until finally, friday night, I had a fully functioning Rig ready to cruse down to the bar.

The Rig, better than new, with a new Chris King headset, trued wheels, and back in Sing Speed Form.

Saturday I hit up the Missouri Bar Loop. This was the very first ride I did in Grass Valley when I moved here. I did it on a barley functioning Rig with no front brake and 9 speeds. Rocco kicked my ass all over the trail, all day long, literally, all day long. I was pleased to return to the loop with a single speed 6 months later and destroy it with my best time yet. I guess something can be said about cross training with tele's.

The winter moisture had the trail looking like a painting with popping greens and browns.

Classic Missouri Bar Loop self-portrait from my favorite resting spot.

The river below.

I do not know if we will be getting any more big snow dumps this ski season, but either way I'm perfectly content now that I have a fully functioning bike. Cheers!

Monday, March 9, 2009

lil' Dirt, lil' Snow.

Saturday was our local fat tire organization's monthly group ride. FTA (Forest Trails Alliance - the 'bike cult' I recently joined) saw this as a great opportunity to show support for BONC so that they would hopefully support FTA trail building endeavors. So, we did, but not really. We met up with everyone at the trail head, then went off and did our own ride....not sure how that qualifies as support, but whatever.

One of our many stops along the ride.

The 1st major malfunction.

The 2nd major malfunction....more of a cluster-f#ck.

After the ride, a few of us headed over to Zachi's place to do some work on FTA's webpage design (hopefully soon coming). The meeting was real productive, after Zachi gave us the initial tour of the place, which was incredible mind you. Zachi is a skilled, out-side-the-box contractor constantly coming up with crazy ideas. Check out his offical site.

He equipped his handcrafted house with a tower which we conducted the meeting at the top of.

The vine running up the tower is a ferro-cement sculpture that covers an irrigation system that is used to keep the house skin cool in the summer.

Zachi's personally designed and built house features a "secrete door" as the main entrance.

Of the many landscaping elements encompassing his yard, this handbuilt trials course was my favorite.

Sunday, in efforts to combat boredom, I headed up to Sugar Bowl for the day to work on turns. The Sierra Nevada got dumped on in the earlier part of the week but by Sunday it had mostly turned to classic Sierra Shit (except some aspects of the mountain where the skiing was actually much better than expected). I mostly just wanted to work on technique and all that bull shit for the day, but that got old REAL quick, so I ditched the resort skis and explored the backcountry (side/upper/near-country?) off the Judah lift. The skin up and around Judah were excellent. I got to try out some new equipment so that made the trip all the better.

Looking at the summit of Judah, only moments away. The cornice is 'looking' at Donner Lake to the east.

Castle Peak to the North from Judah summit.

My fat head blocking out Donner Lake to the east.

So the snow wasn't that good in the side country either, but at least I got to try out my new shtuff, and I caught some views.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


February was a much wetter month than January in the Sierra Nevada and that made for some excellent trips to the mountain in the last couple of weeks.

To kick off February, Dave put together a hut trip to the Ludlow hut in the Desolation Wilderness along the Pacific Crest Trail. Our GPS rout in can be found here:

Friday Morning: Dave prepping for the hike into the Ludlow Hut.

The skin in went fairly well, we were staying for 2 nights and three days so we each packed moderately light packs. The snow cover was pretty scarce for the first 500 or so feet and never really got all that impressive at the summit. January was a hard month for Tahoe.

Skinning up to the Ludlow Hut.

The hut was a happening place that weekend. Not only was our party of 6 staying there but also another couple from Grass Valley, a father-son trio from Kings Beach, a couple from the bay and a couple from Sac and a couple of dogs. CA is a full state.

The majority of the Ludow Hut crowd.

The Ludlow hut is a quant little A-frame primitive mountain hut with two small pot belly fireplaces, one on each end, and a loft that sleeps 12-15. It was no Motel-8, but it but it served us well and made winter camping much more enjoyable, almost too enjoyable.

Ludlow Hut and I.

We skinned in Friday, which took much longer than it should, so by the time we arrived at the hut we were pretty beat and just spent the remainder of the day relaxing and enjoying the mountain hut.

Saturday, Nick, Dave and I headed to the top of the only peak around, Lost Corner Mountain, where the clouds broke and we got some good views looking west to the central valley all the way to the Coastal Range.

Is that a member of the Israeli arctic-ops armed forces? No, it's just Ludwick snowshoeing up Lost Mountain.

We (I) skied all day Saturday, in which time I only managed to get two runs off Lost Mountain and One off the south face of SoughDough Hill. That night we defeated our hunger by celebrating canned seafood specials, as depicted in this wonder full ensemble of pickled Sardine, sharp cheddar and trisket:

What would the backcountry be without a little canned seafood?

We skinned out Sunday and headed back to Grass Valley satisfied by the adventure but concerned about the snow depths. Fortunately mother nature smiled upon us during the first couple of weeks in the year of the Ox. Storm after storm brought in ample powder days, most of which were undocumented. Nick had his camera for one powder day in Sugar Bowl a few weeks back:

A Sierra Blue Bird Powder Tuesday.

Jeff, Nick and I enjoying the day at Sugar Bowl.

One thing I've noticed about NorCal riders, they like to jump off shit. And I've found that I do too (fortunately I don't mind eating shit every now and again either):

Cooper, Jesus and I headed to Boreal for some night skiing last Thursday. This gave me a great opportunity to try out several items. I just received some new bindings for my touring skis in the mail the day before, so I needed to give them a go, I just got my new weather-proof cell phone, so I wanted to test it out in some harsher conditions, and I was yet to see what CA night skiing was like. I must say I was impressed, not blown away, but impressed, about everything. My bindings performed great, the phone worked well, and Boreal wasn't too terrible.

Jesus had his first day on the snow and quickly got the hang of snowboarding. It won't be long before he's ready.

Jesus at the top of the hill.

This last weekend Zachi organized a local ride through various parts of Grass Valley open space, of which I never even knew existed. The ride was an interesting twist on mountain biking, more like "adventure biking." There were few trails to speak of, more like true free-riding, and the goal of the ride was to find an abandoned mine.

Half of our 6-member GV free-ride crew (LtoR: Zachi, Dave, Ryan)

The ride consisted primarily of climbing moderate climbs followed by short, but fun drops back down to the valley. Any time a log or natural obstacle was encountered, it was challenged by the group.

Tommy styling a log crossing.

The Grass Valley free-ride scene.

After about an hour of biking and 5 or so miles of trial (no, we were not breaking any land speed records that day) we came across this old mine. The entry had been choked off from a recent small debris avalanche but it would have been neat to poke around in there for a while.

Abandoned gold mine entrance.

After the ride and a lunch filled with Paco's Tacos and Fat Tire we had the first Forest Trails Alliance (FTA) meeting. FTA is a group of adventure seeking mountain bikers united by the common bond of developing Forest City as a hub for mountain biking and backcountry adventure. FTA's primary objective is to establish an intence network (100+ miles) of well designed and built bike/multiuse trail system that will link Bullards Bar to Downieville creating a mountain bike mecca comparable to the North Shore, or at least that's our goal. After the meeting we all took time to familarize ourselves with the trail building equpment.

This little mini excavator had a track width of about 3 feet. I could bearly fit on it.

I was hoping to get some back country in Sunday but snow levels were as high as 8500 ft so most of the good stuff was getting rained on. Good news though, this currnet storm is loading the mountain big time on the order of FEET!