Saturday, December 28, 2013

SP to PR via Fat

I've had the dream for 3 years of riding from Sandpoint to Priest River, via the Pend Oreille River.  In other words, I wanted to ride the ice and shoreline for the 25ish miles that separate our 2 towns.  Why you might ask?  Why not?  I'm sure no one has done it before, the scenery is spectacular and I am always down for an adventure.  Plus fat bikes are built for such an epic ride.

A little history.  Two years ago I went out for a leisurely ride with a friend on the river's ice.  We were having a ball and started heading toward PR.  We soon realized that the ice/riding potential was more than we had prepared for that day.  It was a cool 15 degrees.  However, the ice was great with a few fresh inches of snow on it.  It was then I had the light bulb moment.  I decided we would retreat and attempt to ride all the way to PR the following weekend.  Well, it warmed up in that week, a lot.  The ice got shitty and my dream for that winter melted.

Last winter, I waited and waited for some good ice to form on the river again.  There was a small window of maybe a week where things looks decent.  But again it warmed and the thick ice never return.  Another year lost.

That brings us to this winter.  I'd thrown this idea of riding SP to PR out to a few riding buddies and they were down.  The epic ride "seed" had been planted in their heads over several beers at Eichs.  I further fertilized the idea over more beers at Laughing Dog over several months.  Amazingly, we only lost one rider come ride day...not bad, but an important one cause he was gonna take pics.  Hence, you are left with mine.

We had some freezing temps for over a week before the ride.  This combined with the Corp. drawing down the river way more than normal, made for some nice frozen beaches and good ice on the river's edge.  Ride day, the temps were just over freezing and things were thawing a bit.  However, I figured this may be our only shot this winter.  It may never be as cold as it had been for a as long again.  I couldn't really fathom waiting another year to attempt.  So, we ventured out.

To summarize that day's ride, it was everything I hoped for, but cut a little short.  We rode on huge snow covered ice fields.  We rode over beaches.  We hiked over rock walls and eddies.  We ran out of ice and shoreline a couple times and had to hike up the hillside and ride the railroad tracks (a first for me and not really that awesome).  The scenery was amazing.  The perspective on the river and winter shoreline will forever be burned in my mind.  I was smiling so much my cheeks started to ache.  This was easily one of my best days fat bike riding.

That's all the good things of the ride.  But remember I said it was thawing and getting warm?  Well, we crossed several small streams/creeks that ran into the big river.  Some had a thin layer of ice over them, that we easily navigated across.  Others, had no ice and you could see water flowing.  We could easily ride through those as well.  Because the water of the river was so low, the water in these streams and creeks were spread out and we never saw very deep water in any of them.  At most a foot of water was all we saw.  That was until mile 12.5 when one rider went to cross, what looked like one of several small streams we had crossed so many times before, but it wasn't like the others.  The ice broke revealing a stream approximately 4' wide and being 2-3' deep.  He got wet and bloody.  When you get wet...and bloody, well it kinda kills the group spirit.  We bailed out and went and reviewed the ride over beers...planning for our next attempt.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Planting the Seeds for an Epic Ride

Recently I went on an epic biking event with friends.  It was one of those rides, that when I first presented it, I wondered if anyone would actually wanna embark on it with me.  It got me thinking about crazy bike adventures and why some happen and some don't.

Typically I find that my bike adventures start something like this...drink a beer, than another, then you throw out this semi or fully crazy bike idea to your riding buds.  They ask details.  You drink another beer.  Everyone is excited.  Your ideas sounds great and everyone wants to do it.  You feel validated and super smart for thinking of said semi/fully crazy bike adventure.  The seed has been planted in your buddies brains.  At some point the night ends and you all go home.

Now the days that follow this night of bike adventure presentation are very important.  The seed that was planted is very, very delicate and needs nourishing to come to fruition.  You see the alcohol has subsided.  External diseases and bacteria threaten the bike seed in your buddies brains.  These threats to the seed can come in several forms: work schedule, wives/girlfriends (or husbands/boyfriends), conflicts with other events, weather, a riding buddy who lets liquid courage fuel his impromptu decision to throw his hat in only to bail when said liquid courage subsided...there are other threats but these are the tops as I see them.

You will try your best to fertilize the bike idea to your teetering riding buddies.  Extra beers may help.  But in the end, the threats against your idea are great and some will fall.  It is at this point, that you, the great purveyor of the crazy bike idea, might start to question your own idea.  The disease and bacteria that took down your fellow riding buddies may be now attacking you.  You must stand strong and hold to your plan.

When the glorious ride day arrives, it will be you and the lucky few that made it through the idea growth process.  Whether the ride turns out as planned doesn't really matter.  Whether it is viewed as a ride success or a failure doesn't really matter either.  What matters is that you had a semi/fully crazy bike idea, you planted the idea in your buddies brains, you fertilized it and it grew and on the day of harvest you are with friends, riding bikes.  You should feel lucky.

More to come...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Great Scott Fat Bike Race

Schweitzer is at it again.  The first of 2, and possibly 3, fat bike races this season.  Spread the word and come on out to support.  Oh, I guess there will be skiing there as well if anyone is interested...  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Camels Prairie Scouting

Day 2 in Priest Lake for a little fat biking.  Yesterday was a fun and easy day spinning around Hanna Flats.  Today we heading into the hills to find more snow and scout out an overnighter I've wanted to do for awhile.  We headed to the East side of the lake and up toward this little (not really) place called the Echo Bowl and Camels Prairie Hut.

Ride conditions started out great, several snowmobiles had been up the trail and snow was packed great.  Views of the lake, where I just sat and had breakfast a mere 2 hours before, were abundant and beautiful.  Signage at the intersections matched the winter rec map like a charm and navigation was easy.  However, as the snowmobile tracks took off in different directions as we rode further into the hills, so did the easy of pedaling.  In the end, we drove about 4 miles up the road, pedaled about another 4 miles and came about 4 miles short of the destination.  My plan to take this all on in a day may not be achievable.  A sad reality.  I will still go back to ride here...maybe I need more than just an overnighter...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hanna Flats Fat Bike Report

Road trip to Priest Lake for weekend of fat biking.  First up, hit Nordman Store for current Winter Rec Trails Map and Idaho Park N' Ski Pass.  Oh, and a sixer of cold ones for after the ride.  Now you will definitely want the trails map if visiting Priest in the winter, there are over 400 miles of snowmobile trails and something like 80 miles of XC trails.  You will need the Park Pass to park at many of the XC trailheads, that money goes to grooming.  Grooming is good.  OK, now that the administrative things are done, on to riding...

First, we hit up Hanna Flats.  It is one of the Park N' Ski areas.  Although there was some patchy snow and ice, not near enough for them to start grooming yet.  This is a great little area with around 8 miles of trails and all well marked.  We saw some mushrooms, a moose bed, a scratching tree and a rabbit.  We hit almost all the trails in the network (there are maps at the trailhead at North end of airstip).  It was great, but can't wait for more snow to hit it up again.  Tomorrow we head higher up for more snow...

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's with...?

I work on bikes.  Often my conversations involve bikes.  Lately, I hear a lot of the following:

"What's with these 29ers?"
"Why ride a 1x11 speed?"
"How about these new 27.5 or 650b bikes coming out?"
"Should I have a 1x1, 1x10, 2x10, 3x9, 1x11 drivetrain?"
"Steel frame bikes, they still make those?"
"Aren't those fat tires hard to pedal?"

It is a beautiful time we live in.  There are many, many choices in bike set ups.  I have been blessed to have the opportunity to ride a lot of these different bikes.  Some work great and others don't really live up to the hype.  Some work great for our area and others work better in some other areas...I'm guessing.

The bottom line, RIDE YOUR BIKE.  It's fun to chat about all these wheel size, frame make ups and drivetrain debates (especially over after ride beers), but in the end no matter what you ride it should be fun.  Bikes are fun.  So, don't believe the hype (thank you PE).

Here is a little something to shake up the biking "norms" in your little geared head...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trout Creek Refuge Ride Report

Fun is contagious.  Fat Bikes are fun.  Therefore, it is only a matter of time until you have some fat bike fun.  Looks like we might have another fat biker in the fold.

Schweitzer was buried, and I mean literally, so we headed over to Trout Creek to spin around the numerous trails in that system.  This place is cool in the summer, but it takes on a uber cool feel in the winter.

We rode a bridge.  We looked at the rumbling creek and the forming ice.  We watched for wildlife and took in all the special "homes" that have been set up for animals to stay.  We took in spectacular views of the mountains covered in snow.  We took a break by the river bend and watched Shadow swim.  We looked at crumbling cabins.  Then, we rode back to the truck.  All the while we smiled.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Best Fat Bike Practices

IMBA has come up with some great suggestions and guidelines for fat bikers, a great effort to help relations between trail users.  Read on...

Fat Bike Best Practices | International Mountain Bicycling Association

Friday, November 8, 2013

Night Fat

Days are short.  Nights are long.  All this dark and fresh snow makes for great night riding.  Pack some refreshments and hit the trails.  This is how it will be for a while now and I must say that I am happy about that.  Bring it on winter!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

'13 Veteran's Day Cruiser Ride

4th (Somewhat) Annual Veteran's Day Cruiser Bike Ride!!

Who:  Anyone with a bike
What:  Ride bikes and drink barley grenades
Where:  Meet at Sandpoint Marina Parking Lot
When: Mon, Nov 11th @ 6pm
Why: (1) cause we are FREE and we can and (2) pay a little homage to those that have served

We'll meet, cruise the Sagle Bike Path to the end (that's 14 miles RT so start training now if need be) and end at MickDuff's to refuel and tell wars also happens to be MNF.  For those of you needing some pre-ride tips, bring some lights and a helmet as there may be insurgence.

See you there!

Monday, November 4, 2013

And so it Begins...Fat Bikes and Snow

Fresh 4 inches at Schweitzer and that calls for a recon mission.  Snow was surprising light and fluffy.  Packed perfect under the tires and traction was great.  Super fun ride, great to be back riding on the snow.

Shadow loves fat biking in the snow, exactly her speed...which means I am slow.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hoodoo Canyon Ride Report

Day 2 of camping and riding in Kettle Falls.  Yesterday was a great day of riding, even with the cool temps, fog and moisture.  Today is totally different with blue skies, dry air and temps 15 degrees warmer.

I wanna preach more about how cool this area and its trails are...but I will wait until the end so you can skip it if ya want.  Hoodoo Canyon sounded super cool on paper when I was studying the map.  Sometimes sounding cool is all it takes to make me jump.  This trail starts at a little campground on Trout Lake.  After a good climb out of the valley floor, you get to elevation and the remaining trail, until the lookout, undulates along steep side hills.  If you don't like exposure (ie: steep drop offs with little room for error), then don't go here.  There were a few places that if ya had slide off on the downhill side, you would have fell for a long ways and it would probably be terminal.

This is one cool canyon, very deep with a creek in the bottom.  Along the way up the canyon you will pass 2 more lakes, although I never saw them, but I will assume they were there.  Uphill from the trail are massive rock formations that reach toward the heavens.  As I rode along, my mind started to wander, as it often does.  In these rock formations were literally hundreds of crevices, caves and dark spots were I imagined that animals could be hiding.  Animals hiding and looking down at their next meal.  And then I started to think that Hoodoo rhymes with Voodoo.  What does Hoodoo really mean?  Sounds Indian.  Could this be a haunted canyon as well?  Shit, I almost went off the trail.  I gotta pay attention, but thought I should google Hoodoo when I get back to camp.  

When you reach the lookout it's a nice downhill back to the valley floor which features a very cool meadow with yet more camping.  Oh, and the "lookout" isn't much different than many of the other places that look out over the canyon, they are all good views.  There is just one particular one called the lookout I guess...unless I missed something.  Anyhow, flying downhill to the meadow means a grind back up on the return flight.  This was a super fun out and back ride with some unique terrain and views.  3 hours well spent.

And now I am gonna ramble a bit, so tune out if ya want.  I don't do this much, but feel inspired every time I visit this area.  I've thought a lot about what continues to draw me here and why I love it so much.  Here are a few thoughts.  One, it is desolate.  Now back home we have desolate areas as well, but looking at the map for this area and you will see trails in the wilderness that are surrounded by wilderness, surrounded by even more wilderness.  Some of the trails are just way out there, far from anything.  I rarely, if ever, encounter anyone when I ride.  Those I do are mostly hunters, campers and woodsmen who I imagine are more surprised to see a mountain biker out there than they would be to stumble upon a grizzly or cat.  When I reach a peak and look out over the miles of land, I see no civilization in any direction.  I love desolation and solitude. 

I also see this area as largely untamed, rugged and wild.  Whatever all those adjectives exactly mean, I feel a sense of me against nature and like I'm riding the wild when I go out.  I guess I like that sense of unknown and adventure.

Lastly, I would say the area is beautiful (duh).  And the trails are often technical and challenging but mostly rideable...more so than the trails around home.  All good things and just add to the 2 above mentioned thoughts.  Ultimately, just cause I like all these things doesn't mean you will though.  You might hate this area and it's trails.  And that is fine.  But you should explore, make your own conclusions and find your own Kettle.

BTW, I was right...and wrong about the meaning of Hoodoo (it has 2 meanings).