Cowboy Gambling

Thanksgiving has brought me to Las Vegas.    Besides overeating with family getting out to the Cowboy Trails in the Red Rock area just west of town was on the list.   A series of winter storms was rolling through the area so the weather was a bit iffy.

Rolling the weather dice in Vegas!

Well Las Vegas is a gambling town so I opted to roll the weather dice and hit the trails.   I have ridden here before and near the trails handle rain very well.    When I arrived at the trail head it was quite brisk at 47 degrees and wind gusts up to 20mph.   I have gear so it was go time.

Rolling up Bunny

I was interested in doing some of the trails I had not done before.   Last time out I climbed up a technical bit of desert goodness that is now been named Kibbles and Bits.   I don’t recall that trail being named last time.  This outing I went “Bunny”.    A couple of years ago while working in the Pacific Northwest, I asked a local bike shop guy if bad weather was expected and his response has really stuck with me.   “There is no bad weather, only bad gear.”

Red Rock across the valley. I’m either on Bunny or Kat in the Hat at this point

My gear included a long sleeve jersey base layer, a short sleeve jersey on top of that followed up with a cycling specific windbreaker/jacket.    I had bandanna tied low around my ears.   While I was a bit cold starting out, this was a good combo after a short distance up the trail.    I had on a set of knee warmers and some wool socks.   This was pretty good at the start, but I could have easily gone with full length leg warmers.   I love my wool socks as it is pretty much the only type of socks I wear year round.    On this particular day, the wind was cutting though those socks a bit more than I cared for but it was manageable.

A few snow flurries happened while I worked up Cat in the Hat and Fossil Canyon.
The clouds looking more “snowie”
Looking back the way I came on Fossil Canyon

When I got to the junction of Fossil Canyon I took First Finger as I was pretty sure I had not been on it before.    First Finger was not sheltered from the wind much and I while I was fairly comfortable for the most part my toes were pretty cold as the wind just cut right through my shoes and socks.   The temperature was dropping as well.

The lower end of the SARS trail.

After First Finger, I got onto the SARS trail.    I had been on this trail before and my intention was to get up to the Ridge Trail and then take Bomb Voyage or Bob Gnarly down.

Climbing up SARS

A very short segment of of descending into shallow canyon SARS turns back into a climb.    The snow started to come down pretty solid at this point.   This was not bad at all as I was sheltered from the wind while in this canyon.   My toes were damn cold at this point.   As I neared the top of SARS the wind got to be really biting and my toes were really unhappy at this point.    I pulled the plug on heading up to the ridge and decided to take Boneshaker down.

The descent on Boneshaker in the snow

I have done Boneshaker before and it certainly earns its name.    Now that I had committed to bailing out there was a knew level of calmness in my head since I was no longer having to make those risk vs reward calculations.    This was a good thing as you need your wits about you when working your way down this trail.  The snow was pretty close to horizontal now and the windward side of my face was almost numb.  It was pretty cool to see this place in this state.    I had a surreal moment while going through a series of technical rock moves on Boneshaker when my speed and direction became perfectly in sync with the near sideways falling snow. For a second or so it looked like the snow and I were motionless while the trail moved underneath us.  It was so cool!

Boneshaker dumps off around about 1,000 feet in a mile and it certainly felt warmer as I rolled into the trail head.   The thermometer in my truck read 37 degrees.   Some would say the house won this gamble, but upon further reflection now that I can feel my toes and the windward side of my face, I rolled off that ridge line with some great memories.

The sun is supposed to be out tomorrow!

Rainy Day Banner

One of the things I like about the typical loamy soil of the Pacific Northwest is that it can stand up to some rain.   So a little drizzle or rain is not automatically a ride stopper.

Such was the today’s ride out at Banner Forest.   Here are a few pictures.

Moss moss and more moss

Cool trail names

What would have been a bust in San Diego turned into another fun after work ride up in the Puget Sound area.

 

Ranger Creek/Palisade

Plan A was to ride on the Olympic  Peninsula today but that whole area looked socked with clouds.   Plan B was to head east for the big ride I had planned for the following weekend.   A return to the Ranger Creek and Palisades Trails.

Time for some significant climbing!

I first rode out in August of 2010 and it was fantastic.   This time was still fantastic and slightly different.

Chicken Soup for the MTB Soul

 

The elevation gain be deceptive to the eyes in the forest. You legs and lung will tell you the truth after a while.

As I climbed further up the trail, I could see that some fire damage had occurred in 2017 up near the ridge tops.

Little Ranger Peak

I would guess during the last mile up to where the Ranger Shelter would be, started going through some fire damage along the trail.  The trail was in pretty descent shape

The shelter that was at the junction of the Ranger Creek and Palisade Trails burned during a forest fire. This I pretty much all that remains
When I stopped at the location of the old shelter, I had to deal with some horseflies and gnats. Luckily I was prepared with bug goop!
Mt Rainier in the not so distance

Once I got rolling on the Palisades Trail, the views did not disappoint!

If this looks like it would be awesome to ride, you would most certainly be correct!

What also did not disappoint was the riding on Palisades as well.   Fast, tight and technical root bits made for a banging good time shedding off the elevation gained on Ranger Creek Trail.  One thing is for certain, it did not suck to be me today!

Good Times on the Palisade Trail. Last photo taken before ripping down the trail!

360 Trails, Purdy WA

This trail is located turn the town on of Purdy, WA in the Gig Harbor Area.   It is good example of what good city, county and user group relations can get accomplished.    Here is a link to the park’s map.

Most the forest here is new growth, kinda recently worked land is the vibe I get.    There are is a lot of purpose built MTB trails.  Some of them are even one way.

Most of the trails area XC type trails with a little bit of tech here and there.   There is a pump track as well as pump trail.

Even a wee bit of a log riding as well.

 

Top of the upper jump lines

There is a set of jump trail near the upper end of the trail system that allows for some progression as you develop your skills.

Down near the bottom of the trail system are a couple of serious jump lines (not the ones pictured above)  they are not joke jump lines.  (Marvik and NWT3K)

Not all of the trails are on the current city map of the place, but if you check out Trailforks, you can see the delta.  Interestingly enough trailforks is missing some trails that is on the city map of the place.

It is well worth a visit, but I have to admit, it does not have the same classic Pacfic Northwest trail appeal that I get at some of the other nearby places like Green Mountain State Park and Banner Forest.

Green Mountain State Park

Green Mountain State Park is located within about 15 minutes of where I am working here in the Puget Sound area so it is part of the post-work ride rotation.

The Olympic Mountains seen along the fire road climb.

There are plenty of way to ride the trails out here at Green Mountain State Park.   I have not created a dedicated page on my site for this place yet.    Here you can find some of my previous posts on this area.

Most of the trails in this area are on Trailforks.com.  The Wildcat Trail is one of many trails out in the area.    It is well worth a look see for the network out there.

The Wildcat trail is one of the hardest ways to get up the mountain and it will certainly test your lungs and how well you can handle redlining into the anaerobic end your cardio reserves.   Lately I have been taking a longer series of fireroads up to the top of the mountain and then take Wildcat down.   Well mostly down there are some uphills even on the descent to keep you honest.

Downtown Seattle in the distance as well as Mount Rainier peaking out in the distance.

A great workout with good views on clear days.    A good way work out the stress of a solid day’s work.

 

Mt Saint Helens return

So I am working in the Puget Sound area of Washington for the next few weeks. This is a great time be up in this area of thr country. Last year I went out to Mt Saint Helens and rode the Ape Canyon and Plains of Abraham trails. It was a pretty incredible ride but the weather did not cooperate so my views were quite limited. Here is report from that day

On the top of my MTB list for this trip was a return outing to here when the weather was clear. My first weekend here and the weather report looked good so I pulled the trigger. Boy was I rewarded for it.

Along the Ape Canyon trail looking at the south fsce of the mountain.

I saw a lot more of the mountain than last year even before I got to the trailhead. The climb up Ape Canyon was fantastic and the further up I went the better things got. The tops of Mt Adams and Mt Rainier were even visible in spots.

The view from the top of Ape Canyon

The view when you reach the top of Ape Canyon is incredibly impressive. In the pan shot above you can see the Rainier, Adams and of course Mt Saint Helens.

The south-southeast slopes of the mountain.

It is crazy to think that much of the foreground was forest before the eruption in 1980. The mountain used to have a typical volcano shape to it but the eruption blasted off 1,300 feet off the top. This is just the non-blast side of the mountain.

From here I rode the Plains of Abraham trail over the eastern slope of pumice and lava rock. Riding through here I once again felt very small seeing what the power of Mama Earth can do. There were also lots of wildflowers and other low growing stuff.

The northestern slope as seen on the fireroad out Windy Gap.

The trail takes you around to the northeastern area of the mountain where you can get your first view of the side of the mountain that was blown off. In the picture above you can see the trail in the ridgeline.

Spirit Lake and the “log raft”

The singletrack dumps you off a ridgeline and onto a dirt forest service road. I took that out to Windy Gap and the onward to the Smith Creek trailhead. Here I was treated to a nice view of Spirit Lake and the “Log Raft”. The lake took the brunt of the blast and most of the water was thrown up into the higher elevations in the form of a wave estimated to be about 850 feet high. When the dust settled and water drained back into the lake it was a much larger and shallower lake that had 40% of it surface area covered in the floating trunks of the trees between it and the mountain. Check out this wikipedia article on it. Moat of those trunks are still floating on the lake.

I thought about dropping the Smith Creek trail to do a more epic loop, but I wanted to retrace my steps and descend Ape Canyon to finish the ride.

In the trees of the Ape Canyon Trail

Retracing my steps was plenty of work but I was once again rewarded with killer views and the descent down Ape Canyon was the source of multiple joygasms. What an opener for this trip!

Norcal Roadtrip

So my youngest son, Jake has been accepted to Humbolt State University to finish off his degree in Forestry and Wildland Fire Management. We decide to take the travel trailer up there for a week to get the lay of the land and find him a place to live out in town. First stop along the journey was a overnighter to see my oldest son who lives south of San Jose. It was really nice to have both of my not so much boys anymore in the same spot.

The next made the rest of the way up north and setup shop in Trinidad at a campsite nestled between redwoods.

So everyday we had some chores to do which mostly included scoping out rooms for rent and doing interviews with the landlords/owners.

But that stuff took up less than half of each day so we were about to checkout some stuff.

As luck would have it a good friend, JD, has a brother who lives in nearby Bluelake. After some emails and phone calls his brother Tim took Jake and I out for a tour through the local woods. We even started right from the HSU campus. I do believe Jake is pretty stoked about this.

The last day our planned stay up there we ended up finding “The Place” and put some ink to paper. The next morning we headed out but this time we decided to take a different route we took us inland though some mighty pretty country side. I’m not so sure SoCal is ever going to get Jake back.

We made our way down to Fresno and had enough time to check out thier MTB skills park. It was not bad. I would not make a special trip for it, but if you are passing through, go for it.

The next day we mad our way back to home. A very productive and fun trip.

Last Call at Takatori

My final outing on the mountain bike for this trip to Japan was to head back out to the Takatori area east of Zushi. I passed through here on my lasting outing but it was mostly a transit through it. This time I wanted to futz around a bit.

Coming in from the south
Coming in from the south

I did some street riding from Yokosuka to make may way over to the entrance of the trail system. Like most of the trails in the area, you have to do so grunting immediately after the leaving the streets.

Trail Goodness

I entered the trail system were I had exited on the last outing and I was planning on retracing my way back up to top of Takatoriyama.   I was however going to investigate all of the various spurs that split off of the main trail I was on.

There were a few spurs of particular interest to me as I remembered them as being really cool during my last time on them more than a few moons ago.

I just love these kind of locals helping folks signs.

So much steeper and slick than it looks

I was armed with my GPS loaded up with my personal archive of adventures in this area.    The goal was to jog my memory and avoid a few of the spurs that will quickly dump you off the mountain resulting in pain and/or hike-a-bike to get back up to the prime riding stuff.

Trails old enough to have worn notches through the peaks of the hills.

On my way up to the summit, I did find the junctions that I wanted to hit on the return half of the route.   I even came across about five other mountain bikers out on trail.    One interesting thing I noted about this group was that while most of them while had rather high-end new bikes (Within 2-3 years), none of them were running  single chain rings up front.   Actually most them were running triples up front.    My theory is that most them ride their bikes to the trailhead which according to where you live on the peninsula you can easily end up being 7-10+ miles on the streets/roads.    While my rental rig is pretty much old and has seen better days I find the big rig to be a really welcome feature on it.

Once up to the summit, I hooked up with one of the trails that I used as part of the Takatori to Sengen-yama (Duckpond) connector.   I was not going to take it all the way out to the duckpond trails today but it took me more a couple of minutes to reorient myself at a couple of the trail junctions.    That section was just a good as I remembered.   This was also my first time on the trail during winter so I was able to see a more things than in the past as most of the foliage was dormant.    There were a couple of spots were I had never noticed that I was riding along a ridgeline that was less than 10 feet wide with extremely steep slopes on both sides with homes 100 plus feet below.   Other times of the year the trail is just in a tunnel of green.

More cool Nippon signs

The particularly trail that I chose to peel off on led me to the top of a long series of stairs back down to a street.    Riding these are just part of the mainstream skillset for riding here on the peninsula.   The rental hardtail added some additional fun to this descent.

Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da…

After knocking out the stairs, I did a bit of street riding to make my way back over to the north side of the Takatoriyama area where I then made my way back up to the summit.

Climbing is what this spot is really known for in the area

From the summit I retraced my way (the trail was really fun in this direction) back the spur I had scoped out earlier in the ride.   This trail worked it is way towards the east along a series of ridgelines between two communities/towns.    There are several exit trails off of these ridgelines and according to my archives there was at least one I had not done before.

It is my understanding that most of this section of trail has a history of being a primary pedestrian route between several of the local communities.  (I suspect trains/buses my have lessened that usage in modern times).   One interesting bit is that there are long sections of this trail which have about an 18″ wide section of concrete walkway poured down the middle of it.   Pretty weird to have a “singletrack sidewalk” through the middle of the woods.    The trail/sidewalk in the woods eventually took me off the ridgeline and in an area of the peninsula I had not been before.     It was a bit of an adventure to find my route back to familiar streets which included traversing more topology than planned but it was all good stuff.

My final week of work in Japan end up being more work than I thought it was going to be so I did not get back out onto trails again.   Well one thing is for certain, my fondness for riding a bike in Japan has not diminished after this visit.

Zushi Double Shot!

After a week full of nasty rainy weather the sun was out! I headed to a trail system in Zushi colloquially known as “Duck Pond”. I have been there numerous time before but it has been about eight years since my last time here. I have a GPS track on how to get there, but I intentionally did not have my GPS turned nor did I look at a map to refresh my memory. Instead I opted to use the Swartz on this adventure. I enjoyed aspect of the retracing my steps. On this day I knew I had a right to make somewhere after getting on the backside of the Zushi train station. In this case a barbershop pole jogged my memory and it was smooth sailing from there to the trailhead. I find spinning through the small streets of Japan and route finding to be just as fun as the trails sometimes.

Using the Swartz

The cheery blossoms were going off of the trees at trailhead entrance.

Chery Blossoms thinking about spring

Ye Ole Duck Pond

Duck Pond

To get up on the ridgeline where the trails are require some work from Duck Pond. Nothing like some hike-a-bike get you going.

So much steeper than it looks!

Once up on the top the rolling sometimes contouring singletrack started.

Got Roots?

I was thoroughly enjoying myself getting reconnected with this “old friend” of a trail system. You get to see more stuff during the winter months when the foliage is sparser. In addition to seeing some of the exposure which is otherwise hidden you have more opportunities for distant scenery. On this particular day Mt Fuji could be seen.

Mt Fuji making an appearance along the trail

I did take one trail that started dropping elevation off in a hurry. By the time I realized this was really not the way I wanted to go down, I really did not want to go back up. So I took the trail down to the bottom and would get back up another way. I got back up onto the ridgelines by climbing the Asaina-kirodoshi. It is one of the seven greater notches through the mountains leading to and from Kamakura. Kamakura is surrounded on three sides by steep mountain and the notches served as defensive passages and passes through the mountains back in “the day”. “The day” in this particular case one was 1241. I climbed up from the west and I was quite satisfied with my performance through the technical sections of this climb. The picture below is from the saddle.

From here I did some more exploring/reconnecting with the trails up on the ridge that included passing by the back side of the Kumano Shrine.

Backside of the Kumano Shrine

When done on the trails up top I would come back by this shrine again and connect up with another trail that would drop me down into Asahina. The bottom of this trail rolls right through a community farm space which always makes me feel like I’m sneaking through someone’s backyard.

The trail going through a community farm

From here this was have been a good time just cruise back along the streets. There was however plenty of daylight left so I decided to go through one of my other trail systems I am fond of Takatoriyama.

The road route to get over there was not particularly straight forward. I decided to give Google Maps a shot at getting me over there. After selecting the walking route I was on my way. Well the walking route was the most direct route but it did include a bountiful amount of stairs. Once the route become clearer to me, I turned off the guiding voice of pain in my pocket and worked my way along the streets.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

As I climbed up the street on the north side of the mountain, I pulled off on a side trail I recognized to check out some of the shaded relief carved to the walks of this old stone quarry.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

My legs where getting pretty well cooked at his point so I opted to settle for a long distance view of the budda vice committing to the work to get over to it. Below is a closeup from my 2009 visit here.

The Takatoriyama Budda as seen on a 2009 ride through here.

Once at the quarry/peak it took me a minute or two to get my bearings straight for the connector I wanted. Twenty seconds down the trail I knew I was on the right trail as I recognized the spot where I had one hell of an endo in 2004 which left me with a cracked sternum. The Ghost of Biker Injuries Past has a long memory.

A section of trail on Takatoriyama

I had worked my way south along what seemed like half a dozen plus trail junctions. I ended up resorting to loading up my old GPS files as my legs were doing some serious wanking at this point and I was not up for more bonus mileage. Turns out I was less the 100 yards for popping out where I was expecting too.

It’s not a train!

The final bit was descending some steep little residential streets and then going through one of the largest pedestrian/cyclist tunnels I have ever been through. It is wider than the street I was on. After that it was about 6 or 7 miles of street riding back to the hotel.

What a great day to be out and about!

Ogusuyama Wanderings

For my second outing on the trails near Yokosuka,  I paid a return visit to Ogusuyama.  When I lived here in Japan for most of 2004 this was my twice a week lunch time loop.   On this trip I was loosely going to follow that same route.   That was the plan anyway.   Things went a little off kilter right from the beginning.    I am staying at a different hotel than I have in the past.   Instead of riding from my hotel back to the my well known starting reference point I decided to just cut through some side streets and connect up to my known route “mid-stream”.    So off I went cutting this way and that, cross checking with my phone.  (More on the phone in a future post).   After working through some unfamiliar side streets, I came out to a junction where the memory banks fired off and I knew where I was at and which way to go.    I stopped looking at my phone at this point.     As I am rolling along, visual cue, visual cue, bang, bang, bang, I have been here before kept clicking in my head.   I was rolling.    A fair ways down the road I noticed that the route had not turned uphill yet.   I should have been climbing by now.   I checked on my phone and realized I had been going off a tangent for over three miles.   Looking at my phone I realized there was no corner to cut to get back on track.  Three miles and change back the way I had came was the quickest way.  WTF happened came to mind.  How did my eyes fail me?    A bit of further reflection and it dawned on me.    I was following the visual cues from memory towards the wrong trail system.    I had clued in on the streets I taken in the past to head over towards the Takeyama Trail System.     That is what I get for being too cocky about my recollection of the streets and roads of this area.

So after backtracking and getting onto the route for the trail I wanted to ride on things started clicking properly.   There was climbing to be done and the good news was I was warmed up.

Visual Cues
Bamboo along the side of the street

One thing about riding on the residential street here in Japan as you start getting up in the hills they often will be single lane.   I kind of did a snicker while shaking my head at the thought that many of our San Diego County multiuse “Trails” are nearly twice as wide as these residential streets in Japan.

Ogusuyama looking to the west towards Segami Bay

Once onto the dirt I made my way over to the summit that included some hike-a-bike up some stairs.  Once on top I was surprised to be treated to some signs of spring.   This was quite a contrast to the beginning of the week where it had snowed.

Cherry Blossums
Signs of Spring

After getting my fill of the sights on the summit I backtracked a bit and got on what was supposed to be my main trail to shed off some elevation in nice single track fashion.

I was quite bummed to see the trail I was looking to take was well blocked off.    None of the other options I knew were appealing as they would put me on the other side of the peninsula, involve hundreds of steep steps carrying a bike or go back the way I came.

Ain’t No Engrish here!

There was a map nearby that clearly laid out in Japanese what to do with the situation.  It was a real bummer to see how much of the trail was closed.   I was hoping that the reroute would not be some hike a bike down BS.   Just when I was about to roll out a hiker came up and was looking bewildered into her phone.     She clearly asked me for directional help but my Japanese has atrophied down from his highpoint of bad some number of years ago.   After a couple of  rounds of international charades and collective pointing at her phone I figured out where she wanted to go.    The trail down the mountain she needed to take was no shown on her phone.    It was not much of a back track for me so I rode back with her following and got her on the right trail.    I remembered the trail as it is a calf burning hike-a-bike on the way up that is not easily forgotten.

My reroute goes through here

My good deed for the day done, I started off on my reroute.   The trail it took me on started out quite flowing but soon turned quite steep.   Luckily it was not also slick so some technical roots and crotch riding the rear wheel took me down to a street.   The reroute then took me through what looked like somebody’s backyard farm before I was back on a micro-sized residential street.   After a bit on the street I was off onto a single track and then back to gravel road.  Shortly thereafter I popped out at the bottom of the closure and familiar ground.   While I was bummed about the section of trail I could not ride, the forced route finding and new bits of trail I went on was a nice bit of unplanned adventure.

Such a nice bit of trail

The next section of trail was just as nice as I remembered it and it popped me out near the entrance to a couple of shrines and temples.    Checking these out were not on the agenda today (I have toured them before) so I continued along the remainder of my old lunchtime loop route.

Here is the spot on Google Maps.  There are four pins in area for the shrines and temples that include photos as well.

The remainder of the ride was street riding back to my hotel.   There were not further navigational misdeeds on my part.       It was great day to be wandering around on Nippon dirt!