Tag Archives: quiet

Idaho Riding 2016 – #4

Day 4 of riding in Idaho was great as usual. Dwayne, Chip and I set out on the Little Casino trail around 9:30am or so. Dwayne hadn’t ridden this trail since the re-route they’d done 2-3 years ago. I’d only ridden it once when the trail followed the original route but honestly don’t remember much about it except that there were multiple creek crossings.

About three miles in we stopped and Dwayne said, “This new trail sucks!” He preferred the old route that had less exposed side hill, more creek crossings and a good climb to the top of the ridge. It is not a bad trail, its just not what he’d ridden for so many years. My understanding is that the new route gets you up to the ridge sooner and it never crosses the creek. This is all part of a strategy to keep trails further away from running water thus reducing erosion and sedimentation.

Next stop was a couple logs down across the trail. They weren’t huge so we stopped and cut them with the hand saw. This section of the trail had been cleared recently and whomever did the work certainly earned their wages. Dozens of logs were across the trail just a week or two beforehand and the sawdust piles were still visible from the fresh cuts.

Chip wanted to stop where there is a good view of Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth Range. With that in mind we made our way up the trail looking for the best place to get some photos. A little climb and a few corners later the perfect spot came into play. Ended up being a great view in all directions! Chip got the photos he wanted and I took a few as well.

Chip & Dwayne - Redfish Lake in the Background
Chip & Dwayne – Redfish Lake in the Background

When we headed up the trail from where we were in this photo, I rode Dwayne’s new Beta X-Trainer for about a mile. The bike was very nice for the type of riding that we do. It’s plushness and linear power delivery are perfect for mountain trail riding. Anyone with a short inseam should try the bike as well. Dwayne said it is 10% shorter in both directions which makes it very maneuverable. It is a 300cc engine and all you have to do is dial it back a bit and you’ll be reminded it is a big bore. Oh . . . and electric start too!

This view is along the way . . .
This view is along the way . . .

Onward to the “4-way” where the Casino Creek trails come together with the trail up to the Rough Creek Fire Tower and Martin Creek that leads down to the Warm Springs Meadow. On our way up the hill you pass the junction with Boundary Creek Trail. I went down that trail about a week ago at the recommendation of a local bicycle rider. He said that anyone who can climb up Boundary Creek without stopping on a bicycle has iron lungs and legs!

At this junction we saw a bicyclist coming up that trail. We stopped and talked with him for a few minutes. If I understood correctly, he only stopped once on the way up. One thing for sure . . . this guy was fit! We told him where we were headed and he indicated he’d be going the same way. I’d cleared several logs off the trail ahead the week before so I told him it was probably clear. He waited for us to depart and then headed up the hill.

Martin Creek Trail was the plan so we took the right hand turn and made our way down the trail. I’d forgotten how darn rocky it was. I’d been up it once and there is this one rock step up that is just plain tough. As we approached the Warm Springs Meadow, the downed timber became more and more frequent. Looked like a big game of pick up sticks. That is just the best way to describe it. Forward motion was slow at times throughout this mess.

Dwayne & Chip in the Pick Up Sticks
Dwayne & Chip in the Pick Up Sticks

So we are sitting here on the trail, taking a break after crossing 50+ downed logs, and the guy on the bicycle rolls up. Yep. he’d caught us. Very impressive to say the least. I know Martin Creek is almost all downhill but he’d climb another 750+ vertical feet since we’d seen him and made his way down the trail and across all those logs and over all the rocks. Wow!

We were just getting ready to leave so once again he let us go first. About 20 more log crossings and we rolled into Warm Springs Meadow. What an awesome place! For many years I’d eyed this valley on the aerial photography and topographic maps. It was 2013 before I actually made my way to the valley. Awesome views!

Dwayne on the Beta - Warm Springs Meadow
Dwayne on the Beta – Warm Springs Meadow

About 1/4 mile past the location shown in the photo above you take a right and head up the valley. It is really marshy in that area as beavers are active nearby. We carefully picked our way through the wet spot and as we were getting back on the main trail we saw the guy on the bicycle coming our way. Geez!

Warm Springs Meadow
Warm Springs Meadow

The next mile or so is flat and there were several downed trees along the way to the next creek crossing. This crossing has a “bridge” if you  want to call it that. Essentially, there are about two dozen logs laid lengthwise across the creek. No boards or anything on top. We came to a stop got off and carefully walked our bikes across.

On our heels once again was the guy on the bicycle. He was incredible. Chip told him it was all “downhill” just ahead and onto the Williams Creek Trail. Chip had forgotten there were two more small ridges to traverse before the final descent. Oh well, this guy was in the for the long haul.

Warm Springs Meadow Pano
Warm Springs Meadow Pano

Dwayne took off and I rode just behind his dust all the way to the Williams Creek trailhead just of ID75 near Obsidian. Chip rolled in about 3 minutes later and we took advantage of some shade offered by a pine near the trailhead sign. There were two vehicles parked there and within 8-10 minutes bicyclists arrived, loaded up and drove away. About 5 minutes after that, the bicyclist rolled right up to us. I was amazed! He’d climbed up and over those two ridges and cruised down Williams Creek with ease.

In the end, we learned he was from Washington State and was not acclimated to the high altitude as he lived at about 800 feet above mean sea level. His bicycle was a “Felt” and from what I figured the frame alone cost around $10K . . . yep, just the frame. He’d been “glamping” (his term) with his family at Redfish Lake.  He was impressed with how we got our bikes over all the downed logs but we were blown away with the fact that he’d been keeping up with us for nearly 30 miles!!

Before he pedaled down the road, he took some pictures of us and grabbed a selfie or two. It is about 6.5 miles of flat pavement to the turn off for Redfish Lake from the trailhead. I estimate that the loop he’d ridden was ~36 miles. Wow! Dwayne put it best when he described the guy as “sculpted” . . . you can probably get the picture.

We too made our way up the road and back to the turn off for Boundary Creek. I was looking forward to climbing the trail back up to Little Casino. A group of horses was coming down and we all got off the trail as best as we could. One horse was spooked by the whole thing and almost bucked off the rider. It was kinda scary. Didn’t like it that that happened.

I met a hiker half way up so I shut off my bike. She walked by, said hello and high-fived me! Wasn’t expecting that! The trail was clear up to the junction and all the way back down to the Casino Creeks Trailhead. Simply awesome single track compared to anything we have in Kentucky.

Dwayne had an iced downed watermelon in his cooler so Chip cut it up and we enjoyed it before loading the bikes. What a wonderful way to finish up another great day of riding in Idaho. No doubt I’m fortunate to ride with these guys!

It was good to shed my gear and I was certainly getting hungry. Jumped into the Sprinter and pointed it towards the hotel for a shower and dinner. Already thinking about the next riding adventure!

See you on the trail!

 

Idaho Riding 2016 – #3

Day three turned out to be adventure! Chip and I went out for the day and started right where his RV was parked. The ride began with about 4 miles of asphalt heading out towards Stanley Lake. Another 3+ miles of two-track leads to a frequently used section of single track that traverses some awesome meadows where the views of the surrounding mountains are wonderful. We stopped about 6 miles in where the trail intersects with the Elk Meadow Trail. The photo below shows the view just beyond the trail signs. We have to cross that meadow.

Elk Meadow
Elk Meadow

I’ve only been across this “trail” four times now. Each “crossing” was memorable. The first year, the meadow was flooded with about 7″ to 9″ of water with thick reeds and grasses stretching as far as the eye can see. I was following someone that had been across before and magically we emerged at a 10′ wide running stream where there was a sand bar that made it easy to cross. After that, you turn left and head towards this tall wooden post way down the meadow where the crossing is easier. More than half of this 1+ mile crossing was through the flooded type area I described above. Sketchy.

The second year it was relatively dry and the crossing was not too bad at all. I had the GPS tracks so that made it easier to find the trail and the best crossing points. Year number three was an adventure for many reasons. Check out this video for a cool riding blooper captured on helmet camera in the meadow. Hats off to Philip for keeping the bike out the water!

This year was a challenge. The middle of the meadow was closer to 10″ to 12″ deep. I followed my tracks closely but it just kept getting deeper. We reached the point where the initial creek crossing was supposed to be easy, but that was far from the case. The sand bar was gone and a tall bank had been cut into the far side. (We found out later that beaver dams situated downstream had raised the water level in the meadow.)

Retreat! We turned around, backtracked to the edge of the meadow and started riding along the margins as best we could. Patches of willows, large sinkholes, and narrow but deep creek crossings were encountered. Our goal had been to find that tall pole where the second crossing was marked and finally it was within reach. Some quick searching revealed a place to cross that was easy and wouldn’t tear up the meadow or the opposing bank. Less than 20 yards beyond where we crossed, the tall pole highlighted the path forward.

A mile or so afterward, we were at the base of the mountains where the trail intersects with two others (see below). This was a good opportunity to take a quick break and regroup. I knew that the climb ahead promised to be the next challenge.

Trail Junction
Trail Junction

What we found on the way up was not fun. There were dozens of downed trees and some portions of the trail had deteriorated for a variety of reasons. Not good. At one point, I had to use the hand saw to cut a path so we could move forward. I should have taken my chainsaw on this ride. Bad move on my part.

With some effort, we reached the top of the climb. The last portion wasn’t steep but it sure was rocky. Momentum was the key! Elizabeth Lake is visible from this summit and a good view of the Sawtooth’s is just a few feet away through the white bark pines.

Elizabeth Lake
Elizabeth Lake

We paused for a while to enjoy the view and rest up a bit. What a cool place! I feel fortunate to ride on this great trail system with folks that appreciate it and know it well.

At the Summit - Elizabeth Lake is at my back.
At the Summit – Elizabeth Lake is at my back.

The next section of trail is notoriously rocky. Keeping a good rhythm is tough as there are places where you have to bulldog your bike through the boulders. Reprieves are few and far between until you reach the next trail junction. The scenery is nice and the wildflowers were on display, but concentration on the trail was important.

We forged straight ahead at the next intersection and made our way down Swamp Creek trail. Someone had cleared most of the logs on that route, however some quads had pushed there way up the trail about 2 miles farther than allowed. Irresponsible use of the trail will eventually lead to its closure. The trail ends at the highway where we found a way across the meadow and over to Cape Horn road. After about 3 miles of gravel, we reached the Valley Creek trailhead. There is a short quad section that leads to some single track or another Forest Service road.

We chose the single track! The Forest Service had worked on this trail last summer and it wasn’t too bad considering it burned 2 years ago. The setting is surreal. The ground is seared black as are the trees. Wildflowers are abundant on the hillsides and the creeks in the valley are very lush in comparison. Riding the trail with the trees was certainly better but we still have fun on this slow and steady climb up to Basin Butte road.

A view towards the White Cloud Mountains from Basin Butte Road
A view towards the White Cloud Mountains from Basin Butte Road

Chip and I took another quick break at Basin Butte road. The view above is just a few feet from the trail marker on the opposite side of the road. Afterwards, we coasted down this trail which leads back to the Basin Creek trail. This mostly downhill route is favored by mountain bikers. All was going well until we encountered some downed trees in an old burn area near the end. Getting around a couple of the root balls was not easy and going over was not an option!

Some more nice single track back led us to another Forest Service road and then back to where Chip’s RV was parked. Just under 50 miles once again! Kim was nearby at the RV Park with her friend Kathy so she came over as I loaded up and peeled off my gear. It was about 4:30 and I was ready for beer! Back to Stanley for a shower, some beer, and a good dinner.

Doing a loop like this is nearly impossible in Kentucky. There are few places left in the US where riding like this is an option. I plan to ride as much of it as I can before it is all gone!

See you on the trail!

Mail Order Weekend!

This year, an expanded Prince family made its southward pilgrimage for a Spring ride in the woods of South-Central, Kentucky. I say “expanded” as it was Ryan, Seth, and their father Greg. They’d been eyeing the first couple weekends of April and ended up that the first was nearly perfect. Greg said several times, “You couldn’t mail order a better day for riding!” We all concurred!

The weather was ideal on both Saturday and Sunday but the wind was whipping on Saturday afternoon (that’s another story). It was cool but also sunny which is certainly a great combination for trail riding! Ground conditions were slightly damp in the bottoms but dry on the ridges. Spring was just beginning to put on a show. The redbuds were on the upswing, the maples were pushing out deep red buds, the beeches and hickory were opening up and a variety of phlox, lilies, and violets were blooming on the south-facing slopes.

Blooming Redbud
Blooming Redbud

Unfortunately, I have no group photos to document our Spring event. However, I do have some video footage! Ryan wore the camera for a bit once Kyle got there but his had the small SD card so he didn’t get lots of footage. My camera had a bigger SD card however, my camera was not working well. Luckily, I did capture some decent footage, as did Ryan. Enjoy the clips and read on for an overview of our great outing!

They arrived before 1pm on Saturday and we were able to ride 26 miles that afternoon. The trails we rode were a good sampling of some of the best in these parts. We packed up and headed out around 4:15pm as they had to deal with a kick-starter issue and getting a spare tire for their trailer. They’d booked a room in Danville so there were lots of options for dinner and so forth.

Sunday morning’s rendezvous was at Cracker Barrel in Danville around 7:30am. The group grabbed a bite to eat and rolled on down to the Green River Valley. Kyle was to join us, but he was running about 50 minutes behind. That gave us ample time to gear up and make a little loop before he arrived. A warm up is always nice.

All was good as we rode back up to the parking area to find Kyle nearly ready to go. After some greetings, bike adjustments, and so forth we hit the trail ready for an adventure! Our loops on Sunday included the Razor’s Edge, Goat Trail, Cat Cave Hill, Pencil Ridge, and anything I could use to make a seamless loop. I made sure to stop at the best viewpoints and I tried to keep a decent pace that would keep my more “fast-paced” friends engaged.

The lunch break was brief and it allowed us all to chat a bit with Kyle. It was wonderful to have a such a great group of riders that really appreciate all the time and effort we’ve put into developing such a nice trail system. Riding with a group like that makes all of our efforts truly worthwhile. A special thanks to the landowners that make this all possible. It is sincerely appreciated!

The final loop of day ended back at the parking area with 37.40 miles on the odometer. We’d covered 64 miles in two days and I made sure to include some new trails that needed a bit more beating in along the off camber sections. All was good! Everyone was tired and they must have been dreading their northbound exodus to the land of cold, windy, and icy conditions. (I saw some photos on their phone. Brrrr!) Something tells me we’ll see them again next year or maybe this Fall. Onward!

See you on the trail!

In it for the fun . . .

I’d been contacted a few weeks back by John from the Atlanta-area. We met in 2013 while riding at Red Bird with Charlie and Steve from Indy. I had served as their “guide” around the loop that day and most all of the group made it intact.  That was a good day but unfortunately the weekend ended on a bad note. [Click here to read more about that adventure]

John and his friends Tom, also from Atlanta, and Tim, from down in Pensacola, Florida had a half-week of riding planned. Their itinerary started with a day in Georgia, one in Tennessee, another at Red Bird, and the final day with Jesse and I at our riding area. The forecast had looked great for many days but it turned to hell in hurry. By the week’s end, there was a 90% chance of rain for the area and it had been raining steadily down that way all week long. Saturated is the term that comes to mind.

I touched based with John and he said they rode part of the Red Bird loop in the rain on Friday and were up for more “in the rain” riding on Saturday. Ok. It was a go. We were going to ride rain or shine! John said they were ready for an adventure and Philip commented they were going to the right place!

Tom (GasGas) & Tim (KTM) Riding Red Bird in the Rain
Tom (GasGas) & Tim (KTM) Riding Red Bird in the Rain

The plan was to meet at 9am but I was up and out of the house early. On the way down I noticed the nice, neat rows of golf carts that Kevin had lined up at the golf course. If folks were going to play golf in the rain, then we could surely handle riding in it. It was drizzling at the house and it rained on and off most of the way. But, when I pulled into park at 8:30am it was barely misting. Good deal.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

I unloaded my bike and put it inside to keep the seat dry and got all my gear on. The forecast called for “numerous showers” and a high in the low to mid-50’s. It was 48 when I turned off the truck. I made the decision at that time to not wear my Klim Traverse pants as honestly, I knew they’d be too hot with the level of exertion that I’d likely experience. But my Klim Traverse jacket was a different story, that was the perfect day for putting it to the test once again. It was loaded up with d3o pads in the shoulders and elbows, the back vent was fully opened, the underarm vents were unzipped about 3 inches, and the pockets were stuffed with spare gloves, batteries, paper towels, and other essentials for the day.

The “Southern Crew” showed up right on time and Jesse was not far behind. David stopped by as we were getting ready and got to meet everyone. That was good. We all appreciate the opportunity to ride where we do.

Tom and Tim at the Staging Area
Tom and Tim at the Staging Area

Things got better as when we rolled out, it was not raining. There were no breaks in the clouds, but at least it was not actively precipitating. Yes! This was much better than I’d anticipated.

As we made our way along the trails I noticed how dark it was. Some of the valleys are deep and there just wasn’t much light. A fresh layer of leaves was covering the ground and obscuring most little obstacles like rocks, roots, and logs. The kinda stuff that’ll grab your front wheel and throw you to ground. Caution was the name of the game. Below is a clip of some trail we rode before first break.

We made our first stop around 2.5 miles into the initial loop so I could see how everyone was doing and make sure they were pleased with the pace and trails. All seemed to be good. They really liked what they’d ridden so far and were ready for some more. By the way, we learned at this stop that John was running a new style Yamaha front fender on his “real” Husky WR250. I’d never noticed if he hadn’t brought it up. What happened to his stock front fender? Still no rain.

Our First Break
Our First Break

A notable section of the first loop was our drop into one of the rock-littered, slick-bottomed, washed-out creek beds we like to ride. It is like a jungle down there in the summer with all the lush vegetation. This was one of the first really technical sections we tackled and everyone enjoyed the challenge! Here’s a little video clip of the descent.

We made it back to the staging area around 11:30 with over 13 miles on my trusty Trail Tech odometer. Within a couple minutes, it started raining. Not really hard, but enough that it would not be fun to ride in. The group sat in the dry barn, ate some lunch, and did some bench racing. All of sudden, the sound of rain hitting the metal roof started to subside so we got our stuff together and headed out on the trail once again. Great timing!

The second outing included a small loop on the south side of the property and a decent sized loop on the north end. Both of these included some fun “goat trails” that were a little more interesting due to the wet conditions. I just wanted to make sure these guys got to enjoy some of the more technical stuff. The video clip below from Tom shows a portion of what we call the “Cat Cave Hill” goat trail.

Onward! Still no rain! This was good. Their plan was to be on the road and southbound towards Atlanta no later than 3pm and we were on track to make that happen. I don’t blame them for wanting to get home at a reasonable hour.

I made sure to hit the new switchback downhill and the tight single track up the main creek on the north end and rounded out the loop with the primary goat trail above “the bowl”. There was 21.55 miles showing on my odometer when I pushed the bike up into the truck. Not bad for a nasty-wet day, and based on some commentary, they were more than pleased with the whole experience. Something tells me our friends will be back for another adventure!

One more note about the Klim Traverse jacket . . . that is one awesome piece of gear. It is so tough and perfect for all the briar and branches we endure and although I did get a little warm, my upper body was dry and comfortable. Gore-tex is a wonderful material and Klim knows how to incorporate it into their higher-end gear. You can ride anytime of the year as long as you have the right gear and can get motivated to get out in the nasty elements!

A special thanks to the Southern Crew for having nice quiet 2-strokes and for appreciating the riding opportunity. John provided the photos, Tom contributed some video, and Tim entertained Jesse while he struggled with the MotoZ Mountain Hybrid on the gnarly Kentucky terrain. Great Times!

I’d venture to say that not many folks would have loaded up on a rainy day with a 90% chance of rain to go ride. You really have to enjoy the promise of an adventure and truly be “in it for the fun”. We could have just sat at home but where’s the fun and adventure in that?

See you on the trail!

Riding in the Front

I had the opportunity to ride with three great guys this past weekend. It is interesting how the family of off road riders is intertwined. Through a random set of associations, Michael contacted me about riding in Kentucky. I’d hinted that waiting until later in the Fall would be ideal as the place was really grown up and there were lots of trees down from the Spring storms. So that was the plan, wait until October or maybe after a frost.

However, he and his riding partners had some plans fall through and wanted to know if this past weekend (8-29-15) would work. Sure! But I reminded Michael about how grown up things would be, especially the blackberry briars. They are long, strong, and brutal this time of year. I’d planned on clearing trail all weekend so it was fine with me. They could help me beat down the vegetation that is engulfing the landscape.

Large Oak at the Staging Area
Large Oak at the Staging Area (click to enlarge)

They were in route by late afternoon on Friday and planned to stay in Jamie’s Bus at the Wal-Mart in Danville. Yes, he has a red International school bus that has been converted into a toy hauler (see photo above). Ryan was on his way from West Virginia whereas Michael and Jamie were coming down from the Indy area. I met them at about 7:30 am in Danville on Saturday and we headed south and parked in the back staging area under the massive oak that dominates the field (see photo above).

Since they were driving a great distance, I had to make sure their trip was worthwhile. I wanted to include some loops with the best single track but I knew that many included sections that were grown over with tall weeds and briars. Oh well, that was the only way it was going to work and like I mentioned before, it gave us a good first pass  at beating it down with 4 riders coming through. The bad part about this plan . . . I was the one that would be riding in the front . . . the whole time. Argh!

As anyone that frequents the woods in Kentucky this time of year knows, there are spider webs everywhere, especially earlier in the day. I’m not particularly fond of spiders but if I have all my gear on I can plough through some webs. I just don’t like to see a spider crawling around on my goggles. Distracting at the very least. Look at all the webs on my brake line below. My helmet looks even worse.

Mileage & Spider Webs
Mileage & Spider Webs (click to enlarge)

The crew took off and hit a part of the old course that I hadn’t ridden since late winter. About 1/4 mile in we came to a downed tree and had to duck out through the brush and up to the field to get around. Unfortunately, we had to do that several times throughout the day. I told Jesse, there were several places we’d need his big saw. Regardless, we were able to quickly get around, up, over or under most things but turning around was the only option in a couple instances.

In one case, the alternate route was definitely the coolest. We dropped off an established trail that was blocked by a massive downed tree onto some very old single track that hadn’t been ridden in at least 3 years. There were lots of face slappers but we made it through and dropped into this deep black shale drainage feature. A little shale waterfall is situated above our point of entry and from there it runs down and around a very slick corner and into a tall bank. I looked back and Jamie was “surfing” around that corner with only the slightest control of his bike! He pulled it off quite well though and came to a safe stop. Michael paused for a photo-op with his KTM 200 propped against the bank (see photo below).

Black Shale Creek Bed
Black Shale Creek Bed (click to enlarge)

I told them there were some nice elevation change on this property and several times we were able to navigate trails that went from one extreme to the other. We hit Cat Cave Hill, the Goat Trail, came down and off the recently cleared Pencil Ridge, and took our first break at the overlook that is at least two hundred feet above the Green River Valley. As with everywhere else in the woods, the vegetation was obscuring the best views but you could still tell it was a long way down to the valley (see photo below).

Scenic Overlook
Scenic Overlook (click to enlarge)

The riding was going well and there was 13+ miles of some great trail behind us before it was time to take a break for lunch. Michael and Ryan ran into town to Subway and Jamie stayed behind to re-jet his Husky (Nick Fahringer’s 2014 race bike) as he’d not done it since returning from out West. My “good bike” was pinging (lean) too so I got my other one out of the trailer, pulled the chainsaw mount off, and strapped on a front headlight assembly. I’d ridden it the past three weekends since re-jetting from Idaho and it was doing fine.

After lunch we went to the “new” side of the property where it is really, really grown up with briars and massively tall weeds. You can slowly move through the stuff and knock down the weeds but the briars love to latch on. I’ll have to say, the most awesome jersey for this type of “thrasher” riding is the Klim Dakar Pro. It is truly like wearing armor. That jersey with a wicking under shirt as a bottom layer and you’re set for pushing through the nasty stuff.

At this point it is getting warmer and the vegetation is very thick but we push on. Just like all day long, I’m leading the crew and taking the initial hit. The branches, leaves, briars, weeds, and spider webs were a challenge in most all places unless we’d cleared it within the past three weeks. I reminded them, that I was riding in the front and taking the brunt of it on their behalf!

On the Trail
On the Trail (click to enlarge)

We started off the afternoon by dropping onto the cool switchback trail that works its way down the north slope of Moore’s Branch ridge. Jesse did a great job scoping out this trail over the winter. It is really shady, covered with small rocks, and blanketed with massive ferns this time of year. The trail ends at the banks of Moore’s Branch and wiggles through some tight trees and up the creek bed a bit. This whole area is still a work in progress but I was able to give the group a good sampling of the landscape and what we have to work with.

The rest of day included pieces of the old KORHS course(s) and as much pure single track as I could weave into the loop. In the end, I only missed a few trails that were nice to ride, but they can “experience” those sections next time they venture down to Kentucky for some riding.

I checked my odometer as we rolled back into the staging area and noted we had 31.45 miles logged for the day.  That is not bad when you consider the size of the area we have access to for our adventures. It is the generosity of a few families that allows us to develop a nice trail system. Special thanks to them!

It was around 3:30pm, my bike and I were covered with spider webs, my nose was cut, I was itching all over, and drenched in sweat. Felt like an appropriate time to call it a day, especially since these guys were heading up to Louisville to ride mountain bikes in the Mega Caverns on Sunday. Everyone was tired, but no one was injured and all of our bikes were intact. Success!

It was certainly a good time and I always enjoy taking folks on a little tour of the Kentucky woods. When you’re the host, riding in the front is always a necessity but in last weekend’s conditions, it was certainly a challenge. I now have a nice mixture of bites from chiggers and deer tick larvae to remind me of our little adventure. I sure hope they enjoyed the trails. I did!

See you on the trail!

Freezing in July

I guess it is all a matter of perspective. Was it a good thing? Or a bad thing? Depends on your frame of mind and desire for adventure. This all started on a morning in mid-July. The forecast was for cloudy skies and a 40-percent chance of precipitation. We were situated in central Idaho and the plan was to ride up to an old Forest Service Lookout structure. Regardless of the forecast . . . the ground is dry and any rain that fell would only improve traction and knock down any dust. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it?

The higher the altitude the better the attitude. Onward! The ride started out well and we enjoyed some relatively new single track trail that leads to some very nice sweeping views of the Sawtooth Mountains. It was cloudy, but we could see for many miles down Sawtooth Valley and all of Redfish and Little Redfish Lake in the foreground.

Redfish Lakes from a Ridge
Redfish Lakes from a Ridge

We stopped along the way for a snack at just over 9,000 feet above mean sea level. The views were spectacular in all directions but the clouds did put a bit of a damper on it. As we moved forward up the trail I expected to come across some snow drifts on the north facing slopes. But this year, unlike others in the past, there were no snow drifts remaining. I’d heard it was a bad year for snow but a wet spring. Thus, no snow drifts on this trail in 2015.

The next stop was a 4-way trail crossing. The tree that hosted the classic wooden trail signage was literally, laying on the ground. The signage was intact but the tree had seen better days. I noticed it was getting a little windy and a bit more cloudy as we made our way onto the trail that leads up to the Lookout.

Casino/Martin Creek 4-Way (2012)
Casino/Martin Creek 4-Way (2012)

There are some notoriously rocky sections in this trail and we all had fun negotiating the obstacles. At the end of the rock garden, the trail drops down a bit and the starts a steady, switchback laden climb to the top. This is when the “precipitation” began. It was scattered but hard rain fell for the next mile of the climb and then it turned to hail. The hail was small but you could hear it bouncing off the helmet with authority!

Freezing Precipitation on the Camera (Jesse's View)
Freezing Precipitation on the Camera (Jesse’s View)

A couple switchbacks later, the hail transitioned to sleet. It started to cover the trail as we parked our bikes several short switchbacks below the Lookout structure. It was coming down hard and frankly, we were getting wet and it was chilly. So . . . we ran for it! Right up the remaining switchbacks to the structure. Philip was leading but I actually made it up first and crawled underneath the decking of the Lookout.

Next I noticed the grounding cables on the structure and the rods driven into the granite just 2 feet away. Hmmm . . . it is storming on this mountain and I’m beside the lightning rod. At about that moment, Philip climbed up and got up on the deck. I followed and found him removing a panel in front of the door. The door behind it was OPEN! Yes, we all ended up getting inside and out of the elements.

I’ve only visited a couple of these lookouts and this is the first time that was open, fully accessible. The crew piled into the little 12 x 12 (?)  structure and found a wide range of items. There was a little square shelf/counter in the middle and one table against one of the outer walls. There was just enough room to walk around the counter in the middle and unfortunately, only two “chairs” graced the structure. We settled in accordingly as the sleet was pounding the metal roof and the clouds began to envelope the mountain top completely.

Lookout Interior (Pano)
Lookout Interior (Pano)

Two boxes full of glass panes for the windows were on the floor and a box of caulk and window glazing was against the opposing wall. I’d say there were 12-15 gallons of paint, two cordless drills, replacement belts for a sander, some basic tools, small candles, matches, and coolest of all, a Brunton gas stove with 1 and half containers of propane. We took the half bottle and fired up the stove to dry out a gloves, generate some heat, and provide a bit of light. A couple of the small candles had been employed for light as well.

Propane Powered Glove Heater
Propane Powered Glove Heater

After poking around a bit more we found 1/3 a bottle of whiskey, and empty whisky bottle, a couple tarps, a lantern, latches and other small hardware that would be useful for fixing up the places. By the way, when we left, there was still 1/3 a bottle of whiskey!

What we really liked was this piece of paper that was nailed to the side of the counter. It was a hand-written note professing the grandness of the place we had accessed and the value of the structure itself.

It was still relatively early in the day but after about an hour of rummaging around and watching Jesse and Philip take pictures I was ready to head down the mountain. Unfortunately, it was still precipitating. You know . . . the thing that there was only a 40% chance of occurring?

Jesse & Philip in the Lookout
Jesse & Philip in the Lookout

About 20-25 minutes later it all started to subside and we peeked outside. The sleet had just about stopped but we were “inside” a cloud. Our bikes that were parked a couple switchbacks down were not even visible. It was cold but luckily the wind was dying down and we’d all put on the jackets that we’d been carrying in our backpacks. Prepared!

Trailside Parking
Trailside Parking

The group scuttled down the hill to retrieve our bikes and head back towards the Big Casino trail at the 4-way I mentioned earlier. The ground was now wet which made for awesome traction however all the rocks were wet which made it interesting! We crawled back through the rocks and dropped onto Big Casino.

I’d warned Bo and Philip that Big Casino was rocky. It is not difficult, but in places the rocks are relentless. You just have to stand up and negotiate the obstacles or it will simply beat you up. Think you can just get off the trail and go around? Wrong, the landscape is littered with small to boulder-sized rounded rocks as far as the eye can see. Someone picked the path of least resistance many, many years ago!

Philip Negotiating the Rock Garden
Philip Negotiating the Rock Garden

The trail had been clear all the way down, but about 1/2 mile from the truck there was a small tree blocking the trail. Jesse used his big hand saw to get it out the way and we finished up the ride with just under 50 miles on the odometer.

What an adventure! Everyone really enjoyed the trails and the views but the freezing precipitation on the mountain added some extra excitement. We were all a bit wet and hungry so the loading went quickly back at the trailhead. Getting back to town for some food and a shower were high on the list!

This is one trail ride that we’ll never forget!

See you on the trail!

Taken for Granted . . .

I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was in 4th grade . . . 1976 was the year I started. During that nearly 4 decade period, things have changed significantly. In the early days, I remember us having plenty of places to go and ride. There were trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest, private farms or wooded properties, some pipeline areas, and even empty lots in and around the neighborhoods where I lived.

This Way!
This Way!

Today, only a very small fraction of these places are open for riding. The Forest Service has shut down essentially all trails except for the Red Bird Crest Trail loop. There are some other areas that are open but many are dead end, one way trails that are less than 10 miles in length. No one wants to drive an hour or more to just ride a 10 mile trail. As for private properties, the fear of litigation has stopped all that type of access and riding in residential areas was nixed due to disrespectful actions and idiots who think that louder = faster.

Don’t get me wrong here . . . I too have been “one of those” annoying characters. I’ve drag raced my uncorked IT125 down a residential street with Travis, ridden without the appropriate protective gear, ventured off the designated Forest Service Trail, and stirred up excessive dust and dirt with no respect for those in close proximity. Most of this occurred during my teenage years and even as a young adult.

Don't Take It For Granted!
Don’t Take It For Granted!

Over a long period of time, a broad range of experiences in a wide variety of settings has totally changed my perception of motorized recreation. First of all, if you take the places where you can ride for granted you will lose them. This is especially true in cases where the trail system is of mixed use. That is, the trail system is shared with hikers, mountain bikers, horses, and motorcycles.

Mixed Use Trailhead Signage
Mixed Use Trailhead Signage

In a mixed use trail situation, the motorcyclist is the lowest on the totem pole. You must yield to all other users. It is a matter of respect and simple etiquette. Shut off your bike and if possible move it to the side so that the other trail users can easily get around. Smile, say hello, apologize for interrupting their outing, and make sure they know how many more riders are in your party. Inquire as to how their day is going and if you are carrying a saw (someone in your party should be), ask them if there are any trees down across the trail ahead and let them know that you’ll remove them accordingly. Doing all this goes a very long way to earning the respect of non-motorized trail users.

Trail Courtesy
Trail Courtesy

I have personally witnessed situations where motorcyclists (and even mountain bikers) have not stopped and just blown past a group of hikers or horse riders. This is not an effective way to win friends or garner support for mixed use trails. Frankly, it just pisses them off and gives them the ammunition they need to totally shut down motorized access. Could you really blame them? No one is entitled to act in that manner.

Honestly, there are very few off road riders that have been taught these values. I suspect there are more out West than back East and this is evidenced by the abundance of trails that permit motorized use. Regardless, it is a problem and there are no indications that it is getting any better.

If you want to ride at race pace, roost some dirt, climb straight up every hill you see, or uncork your obnoxiously loud 4-Stroke then go buy your own property in the middle of no where and have at it. However, if you can’t afford to purchase some property of your own then you’ll be riding on public land or on some private acreage. If that’s the case, then you should treat the land and others that use it with respect. Remember that respect earns respect.

Trail Across a Meadow
Trail Across a Meadow

Simply put, taking the places you ride for granted affects us all. I suspect that in another 10-20 years the land we ride on currently will all but vanish. And honestly, it will be the fault of the vast majority of riders and their failure to follow some simple, common-sense guidelines. Think about it . . . do you want to be “one of those riders” that contributed to a land closure?

See you on the trail!

My First Dual-Sport Event

Honestly, I was very apprehensive about this “Dual-Sport” thing as I am not comfortable at all riding on the road.  It scares me. I’ve laid it down going 50+ on a dirt road and can’t imagine hitting the pavement at any speed. But . . . I had been told that this event was closer to an Enduro than any other Dual-Sport event. So with that knowledge we made plans to attend.

The event was staged at Lake Linville in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, the County seat of Rockcastle County. It was a beautiful morning and the forecast called for perfect conditions. There was very little rain the week before so I figured the trails would be relatively dry for the first Saturday in May (Derby Day).

Unloading at Lake Linville
Unloading at Lake Linville

Unfortunately, we missed the Rider’s Meeting as we were trying to get our act together for the day. I had laid out what I thought was the perfect riding gear combo consisting of some Klim Dakar pants, a vented Klim Mojave jersey with my awesome Klim Dakar Pro Jersey layered on top. That Dakar Pro Jersey is so cool. It may be the most bullet-proof garment I’ve ever owned. This was topped off with some Klim Adventure gloves, Gaerne boots, and my trusty Arai VX-Pro 3 with the classic solid white color scheme. Onward!

At about 8:40, riders started leaving the staging area so we followed accordingly. I had my route sheet, the odometer was reset, and my GPS trip log was reset. Ready to go!

Well the first 6.9 miles were asphalt . . . hmmm . . . I’m thinking “What did I get myself into?” Then, we turned onto a gravel road. The gravel quickly deteriorated and at its end was a left onto some single track trail. Very nice. This section was laid out well along the contours of the hillside and emerged at the top of a hill on a gravel road. The last section was certainly more enjoyable than the first 6.9 miles.

There was a “Key” provided on the route sheet that provided two characters codes for each surface type (i.e., BT – Blacktop, DR – Dirt Road, TR – Trail, etc.) which proved to be useful. However, the variance in what was to be considered a Gravel Road was VERY wide. It might be fresh, 1.5″ deep gravel (very sketchy), well-packed gravel, or some washed-out road bed where gravel once existed many years ago. The later actually turned into a little single track trail as riders consistently picked the line of least resistance.

Point of Interest
Point of Interest

There were also “Advanced Sections” scattered here and there. Those were designated with a green Moose arrow rather than the standard issue orange. Those were the best trails we rode all day. If you took the wrong bike on those trails you’d be miserable for sure. Travis rode his DRZ-400’s’ decked out with gnarly knobby tires (IRC VE-33 on the rear) and showed up quite a few guys on pure dirt bikes!

In each of the advanced sections there were places where a bottle neck would develop. Some guy would “fail” at negotiating a hill or creek crossing and a bit of a backup would slow the pace. In most instances we waited very little or creeped around and up through the carnage. The smell of antifreeze (the smell of KTM’s) lingered at the top of every challenging hill as riders struggled and their buddies reached out to help their fallen comrades. Seriously, (most) everyone was very nice and courteous. Certainly a great group of riders!

None of us had any problems at all with the “obstacles” as Jesse employed his Rekluse and displacement to crawl up and over and Travis just attacked each one on that DRZ as it was his only option! Definitely glad I had my “WR” 250 one those sections.

On the Trail
On the Trail

So all of sudden, my odometer is saying that I’m going much faster than I am. Something is up. I slide my Trail Tech odometer out of the holder and back in real quickly. Still reading the same. When we finally come to a stop I see that it has switched to Km/hr and the battery light is flashing. Geez . . . I picked up the older of the odometers. Oh well. So I get a reading from Travis and start tracking it on my GPS. Now I’m doing math on the fly. I’m not an old school enduro rider, nor am I Bryan Bunch. A few stops, turns and so forth on the route sheet and I was done with keeping track of that info.

At one point we emerged on a familiar looking road. Travis asked if I knew where we were . . . Ah hah! We were on the road that goes back to the main trailhead for S-Tree! We continue along that road for a bit and arrive at the Sandgap Community Park. We’ve driven past here a dozen times over the years when riding at S-Tree. There were nearly 100 bikes there when we arrived and they were still rolling in. Lunch was provided as a part of the entry fee but the local Fire Department took donations in a fireman’s boot at the beginning of the lunch line. Good idea for the locals and the event promoter.

Lunch at Sandgap
Lunch at Sandgap

While heading to the end of lunch line, I came across Charlie Williams from Indy. He was pulling in on his GasGas as we wandered towards the shelter house. We chatted a bit and moved forward for some deserved nourishment and bench racing.

Travis was complaining about a certain rider that had left us behind on a trail ride a couple years ago and Jesse said, “Well he doesn’t have anything on Ross!” Charlie chimed in immediately and concurred, “Ross will do the same and he has the right tools to do it with!” If you’d ridden with Ross you would understand!

We saw several riders at lunch that were once KORHS racers. Many asked what had happened with the series. It is obvious that many folks appreciated what we did, but continuing at a loss is just not the way to go. I appreciated hearing all the good comments. I said farewell to Charlie and we headed on down the road to get some gas.

The gas station was a hoot! There were 45+ bikes there at any given moment for I’d say 20-25 minutes. Jeff was topping off the RMX, Travis fed the DRZ and Jesse’s WR300 had sucked down nearly 3 gallons so far! I saw just as many people there as I did at lunch.

The trails during the afternoon were just as good and from looking at the GPS I could see that we were starting to loop back around towards the staging area. The trail traversed some properties that we’d used for racing in the past and it was neat to suddenly realize that we were at that location!

At various points during the day I turned on my helmet camera. I tried to only use it on the best of trails but ended up getting some footage of paved and gravel roads. The plan was to get several 3-5 minute clips out on YouTube and I’m making progress with 4 posted for viewing thus far. Below is the first of the bunch. Make sure to click on the gear and watch it in HD.

Below are the links to the other 3 in this series:

https://youtu.be/8DyEVUYJutk
https://youtu.be/w7SyETywLJk
https://youtu.be/sE38EsagO8U

The afternoon trails provided more great scenery, had some tricky creek beds, and were laid out to wrap up the event in a good way. The promotors did a great job for sure! At the end of the day, Travis’ odometer said 116 miles and my calculations using the GPS and my odometer reading before it gave out was also right at 116 miles. Other folks said they got 125 miles so I’m not sure if we missed a section or what. Regardless, it was a good time!

My regret at this point is that  I did not go back on Sunday. I hadn’t made plans to do so but will next year for sure! Marty said the percentage of trail vs. gravel vs. road is about the same but it is only 80 rather than 125 miles. Jeff said it was well worth the time and highly-recommended by many of the riders that had gone with him in the past.

My plan is to go again next year! Who’s going with me?

See you on the trail!

Just before Spring had Sprung . . .

About two weekends before the leaves fully emerged, some friends came down from Indiana for some non-flat land riding in the Kentucky woods. They picked the perfect day as the weather was awesome. The sky was blue, the temps were cool, and the ground conditions were unseasonably dry for April in the Commonwealth.

Ready to Ride!
Ready to Ride!

We arrived at our riding venue around 9:15 and were on the trail shortly thereafter. The ride began with a nice 12+ mile loop that included a lot of our well maintained single track and provided good opportunities for some rest stops with nice views. Things were just starting to green up and the Dogwoods and Red Buds were in full display.

A Spring View from the Overlook
A Spring View from the Overlook Trail

Some new acreage was appended to our riding area recently and we’d been busy cutting new trails all winter long. We knew that once Spring had sprung, the briars would be too much to deal with. The results of our efforts included a nice new switchback hill, some winding trails along and down off a knob, fresh single track through a new growth area, and a sketchy goat trail that requires caution if the conditions are wet. Our visitors were treated with getting to ride all of the above!

Great Spring Riding Conditions
Great Spring Riding Conditions

The afternoon riding included much of our older established trails and in order to make a good loop we did ride a bit of the morning loop backwards. But like someone said, “Riding it backwards is like riding another trail!”

On the Trail
On the Trail

Everyone was having a great time as we kept things moving and covered as much ground as possible. In the end, we’d clocked over 30 miles of classic Kentucky woods riding. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to ride where we do. It is not something that should be taken for granted.

See you on the trail!

A Fall Tour of the Ky Woods

A young man from Northern Indiana came down to ride with us this past weekend. It’s already getting cold and nasty in his neck of the woods so riding down here in Kentucky was a treat with some warmer weather and great fall colors on display. Below is a photo taken the previous weekend from an overlook we ride past.

Fall Colors in Kentucky
Fall Colors in Kentucky

Currently, all the trails are covered with leaves that easily hide all the rocks, roots, and smaller logs. All those things that will grab your front wheel in a deliberate fashion and remind you to take it easy and pay attention. It is good practice and a perfect time to seek out new trails as the leaves are mostly gone and you can see through the woods a decent distance for a change.

Oak and Hickory Leaves Cover the Trail
Oak and Hickory Leaves Cover the Trail

On Saturday, four us were able to ride together. With two KTMs and two Yamahas in the group the jesting was continuous. Never a dull moment with Jesse and Bo are trading jabs! Our guest didn’t know what he’d gotten himself into but he took it all in stride. The good thing was that we all were riding quiet 2-Strokes as it was the opening day of Deer Hunting Season. Stealth riding with little impact was the goal as we traversed several areas.

The Riding Crew
The Riding Crew
Dropping of a Rock Ledge
Dropping of a Rock Ledge