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).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kettle Crest/Jungle Hill Ride Report

Heading West to Kettle Falls for some riding and camping.  First, grab some local brew to carbo load before the next 2 days of riding.  Mmmm...

So, wake up to awesome views, cool temps and light rain or heavy dew.  Hard to tell exactly, but very foggy and wet.

Head out on a warm up ride with Shadow through the nature preserve.  Some very cool wetlands, wildlife and of course bridges.  Trails had some surprising cool, serpentine-like sections that made for some fun cranking turns at fast speeds.

After the morning ride, it was pancakes, eggs and bacon before the featured ride of the day: Kettle Crest.  I've gone on and on about this trail and this area in general before.  In a word, bitch'n.  Now I love Sandpoint/Bonners.  This is where I was born and raised.  I'm part of 4 generations living here now.  I grew up hiking, fishing, hunting, camping and motorcycling all over these surrounding hills.  The latter half of my life has been spent reconnecting with the areas I grew up on, but now on my mountain bike.  It is hard to beat the Panhandle when it comes to mountain biking.  I only bring all this up to preface that Kettle is really that good.  I could retire there, but then again people in my profession never really retire so probably not.

Fallen needles lined Kettle making for a "Yellow Brick Road" of sorts.  This ridge trail hovers around 6,000-7' most of the time and it snowed lightly several times on the ride.  The crisp Fall air felt great as I grinded away at the climbs and navigated all the rock sections.  Rocks?  Yes, there is a lot of rock in this area making for some technical and challenging riding.  Big, huge rock formations bound from the ground and litter the trail in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Me, I love rocks. 

Camping is available along the trail.  You will also cross a couple sidehill sections that offer great views and sweet riding through the tall grass.  Oh yeah, this grass also feeds range cows (sorry no pics).  Keep your eyes out, they are not your normal cows and encounters will startle you just as much as them.

After navigating the climbs, rocks, sidehills...and cows of Kettle you will be rewarded with a bomber descent down Jungle.  Fast, furious, flowy and cramping hands are a fews words to describe this downhill.  It is really the most fun possible on your bike.  This made for a nice loop ride, although you could continue Kettle and do many, many different rides.  It's like an adult playground.  Now go.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Clifty/Katka Ride Recap

Clifty is a great ride, and a rather descent one if done as a it should be done.  Anyway, I always seem to do this trail late in the Fall and conditions have at times been challenging.  This time around was no different.

Beautiful, crisp, but sunny, Fall day to start.  Ride up to the trailhead featured some light patches of snow at which I chuckled at and took pics.  I worked up a sweat.

I didn't rest long at the trailhead before starting as I was quickly cooling down.  Trail conditions quickly changed as I encountered 9 down tress in the first half mile, snow depth reached about 3" and there was hoar frost.  Now if you haven't ridden on hoar frost, it is a treat.  You hear cracking and popping as your tire breaks through the thin layer on the ground surface and it feels much luck your riding in sand.  There is added resistance and traction becomes an issue.  All these things were making me feel a little frustrated and the thought of actually finishing the loop came into question.

I forged through the snow and really enjoyed the sidehill section in the sun.  The views were amazing with all the changing colors.  This trail has some of the best sidehill section in the my humble opinion.  The downhill at the end was bomber!  This is one of the only trails were I have had an issue with my brakes heating up and acting a little weird.  It is fast and relentless.  However, I finished and drew some blood.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Public Service Announcement: Snow

This is a public service announcement: there is snow up in them there hills.  Yes, you might notice a little white on the mountain tops.  Although it hasn't snowed in awhile, it seems to be lingering at higher elevations.  I have encountered snow above 5,500 feet.  Aspect, exposure and use all play into depth and amounts.  Something to consider before you head out to ride...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

13" Crosstoberfest Recap

So, it happened again.  Cyclocross came to little old Sandpoint in the form of Crosstoberfest last Saturday.  We just so happened to be the very first race in the 10 race series that visits different locals around the Inland Northwest.  Wanna read more about that, go here.  If you don't know what cyclocross is, it's just another form of riding your bike which is it for more info.

So, if you pre-registered then you got a sweet pint glass.  Very nice and worked great for carbo loading.  Sandpoint's course had a Pinwheel in it.  Basically, you ride round and round until you get to the center and then you ride round and round until you get back out.  I guess these are somewhat controversial in some cyclocross circles (no pun intended).  I thought it was rad and so I made some bells.  Other than the pinwheel, the course had some sweet banked turns, some jumps, a log to hop, some cool tree stands, a downhill, a run-up, 2 barriers and a straightaway...where I guess you are supposed to sprint.

Weather was great.  We brought the Greasy Fingers van out with our bike stand and tools.  We helped some people.  We cheered and rang cowbells for a lot of people.  We drank some beer.  We shared some beers.  We meet some new friends, there were like 300 people.  We raced...and we hurt.  There was a lot of swag, we didn't win any.

Ahh, the start/finish.  This was a race.  There were 160 something racers.  I suppose some people did better than they expected.  And I'm sure there were those that didn't do as well as they expected.  And then again I'm sure there were some that did just as they expected.  I fell in between 2 of those statements.
One last note, the Sandpoint Cyclocross group put in a lot of time and effort into the course, promotion and general event to make this such a great day.  Props to them.  The monies for the day went to autism, some $2500.  Props for that.  We had a great time though and can't wait until next year.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

13' Crosstoberfest is Coming

You should do this.
Still not convinced?  Here are a couple pics to motivate you...
sweet starting gate...with bells

spooky tree grove

nicely painted obstacles

awesome bumps to catch some air!

manicured banked turns

pinwheel with local art in the middle (and more bells)

mud may or may not be optional