Metabolic Acidosis (aka Bonking) on the Colorado Trail and Elsewhere

Mountain biking in Colorado
Mountain biking in the Tarryall Mountains

Ryan had never bonked before, at least in the metabolic shock overexertion sense of the word. When he started to bumble around and kept losing more and more of his edge, I knew that something was up and figured that’s what had happened. Not really realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that still littered the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing since they ultimately turned us all around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13-year-old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached, regardless of whatever difficulty he faced.

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The Ride Down to Sorata

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Mountain biking

We topped the ridge on the dirt road and began dropping quickly on our mountain bikes into the valley. We all knew that it’d continue to get warmer and greener as we descended from the Bolivian highlands, but our thoughts at that moment were mostly focused on what awaited us at the end of the ride. For each person, those anticipated rewards were different- a warm bath, a cold beer, hot coffee, a dry room. And so, we thought of those things and little else as the town of Sorata came increasingly into view.

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The Rattlesnake in Palo Duro Canyon

mountain biking
Group Mountain Bike Ride

The Rattlesnake had just woken up from its long winter’s nap and was just trying to slither peacefully over to the big flat sunning rock when all hell had broken loose. As it was, just moving anywhere until he’d had a little time to unwind was hard enough, but the still sleepy reptile had tried to giddyap especially quickly across the trail opening once he’d felt the vibrations approaching. Unfortunately for him, lethargy was all he could muster along all four feet of his bone, sinew and diamond patterned skin and moving any faster was just not something he could do at that particular moment.

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Lost and Found on the Silver Trail

“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”

Mountain biking the Silver Trail

By this point, we were probably some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town that we’d been through but were theoretically about to come to another. Jerry had the best maps of the area available loaded onto his GPS, but it only told us where we were in relation to the relatively paltry data that it was loaded with. The realization that we might actually be the first people ever out in that part of Mexico’s Copper Canyon trying to figure out and quantify where the hell the old trail went left me with the feeling of simply being overwhelmed. The old adage of, “garbage in, garbage out” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said, “no data available.”
I was momentarily depressed as I looked at the convergence of three trails, all of which seemed to head up toward the top of a wrong ridge. Just as we were each desperately searching for any sort of clues about it all, I was saved, once again, by the quote- “you’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”

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The Meatgrinder and Puke Loop

Two trails, seven years later…

Base Camp area trails
The Puke Loop

Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.

Their names did, and still do, an excellent job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. While their heydays of being a few open and pleasantly flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, horrendously steep climbs, and complicated descents have long passed, the poorly angled roots, cactus, unfortunately placed rocks and riding/hiking/trail running memories remain. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day and undoubtedly there are those that still think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.

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The 24 Hours of Moab

Interesting events late at night during a 24 Hour mountain bike race.

A dirt road via mountain bike
Mountain biking

Things got progressively weirder as the Utah mountain bike race/event known as the 24 Hours of Moab continued. At some point in the middle of the night, two tandem bikes with riders dressed as frogs rode in from a direction that I was certain had nothing to do with the race course. During the first lap, I’d been concerned when another racer didn’t correctly yield the trail to me on a long climb, but by the time the frog thing happened, nothing of that sort was bothering me. I was just pleased that the creatures stopped and were waiting off to the side of the trail for me to pass before continuing on. From that moment on, as I passed and rode on up toward the crest of the hill and far end of the race course each time, I was consumed by the thought that the frog riders might just turn onto the same 15 mile long trail that me and several hundred other riders were in the midst of riding. As I rode on, I hoped that if so, they’d at least go in the same counterclockwise direction as the rest of us.

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Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

Pingora
Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well- known, long, and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges, and spires in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular Outpost Wilderness Adventure trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7, via different routes that both came in from the east to Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp. Once there, we set up two close, but separate camps each located between the lake and mountain with the plan to use them as a base from which to explore the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be a lot of people in the general area, but that few, if any, would venture into that particular neck of the woods. Our plan included a non-technical ascent of the nearby mountain, fishing in area streams and lakes, and a special Fourth of July supper, which was to include freeze-dried hamburger patties- a cutting edge item back in the ’80s.

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Mountain Biking The Trail of Death

An interesting turn of events while mountain biking some Copper Canyon singletrack.

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The Trail of Death

Afterward, we began to call it the Trail of Death.

For the longest time, Batopilas, Mexico was connected to the small town of Cerro Colorado by just a little bit of dirt road and seven or so miles of trail, just barely wide enough for local burro traffic. Then, a few years back, that same dirt road was bulldozed all of the ways from Batopilas into the little Copper Canyon town. Most of the old trail was “improved” for vehicle use,  although the last mile or so of it still exists where the road took an easier route. The remaining section of trail is a testament to human ingenuity and persistence and literally clings to the rugged mountainside, almost 100 feet above the intermittent waters and ever-present boulders of the Rio Cerro Colorado.

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Resbaloso

Resbaloso, which is a Spanish word meaning slippery in English, is “that” word and also the name given to an infamous trail descent into the town of Creel.

The Resbaloso
Riding down the Resbaloso during the La Onza bike race in Creel.

Just seeing the word, much less speaking or hearing it, causes my pucker reaction to kick into high gear. Resbaloso, which is a Spanish word meaning slippery in English, is “that” word and also the name given to an infamous trail descent into the town of Creel. Continue reading “Resbaloso”

The Ride Up from Batopilas

A race of sorts via mountain bike to the top of Batopilas Canyon in Copper Canyon, Mexico.

La Bufa Switchbacks
The road from Batopilas up to Kirare in Copper Canyon.

Part 1

I set off from Batopilas, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, intent on riding my mountain bike up the 40 or so mile gravel road ascent to the intersection with the paved highway, as fast as I could. The unofficial record for doing it was 4 hours and my goal was to beat that. Whether or not my quest was realistic, will forever remain to be seen. Continue reading “The Ride Up from Batopilas”