Monday, October 19, 2015

An end to vegetarianism?

 It has been nearly a year since Drew became a vegetarian and I cut way, way back on meat intake.  I estimate I've eaten meat on average about once every two to four weeks.  Mostly, I am a mostly-vegetarian because the meat available in the supermarket is raised in an environment that does not make for high quality food.  Eating less meat is also one thing I can do to make my impact on this planet smaller.

However, I am also very frugal about food; I hate to waste it.  There has been a Utah-grown grass-fed top quality roast in our freezer for a year.  I either needed to give it to someone who could use it, or use it myself.  I have also been gaining weight and wondering if I should try to reduce my carbohydrate intake.

I'm headed out in the field next week. I get hungry doing field work.  I eat crackers and chips and drink sweetened lattes when that happens.  Perhaps I need a more satisfying snack.

Enter that roast, a 1970s era electric food slicer given to me by my mother-in-law, and my trusty food dehydrator.  In other words, I made jerky.

It turned out pretty good. It's totally natural because there are no artificial preservatives or MSG and I have enough to last for months, especially since Drew is not eating any.  I will use my Foodsaver vacuum thingy to package it into portions that will last about a week when unsealed and then probably freeze it. This will probably get me through the darkest of winter nights when the urge to eat cereal late at night is strong.

And in other homesteading news, I tried out my new yogurt maker today.  My first attempt at almond mile yogurt is culturing now.  It would be nice if it works out, since Drew really misses yogurt since he gave up dairy and the dairy-free yogurt at the supermarket is expensive.

My sourdough starter is feeding nicely too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crested Butte Day 4: Reno Flag Bear Deadmans Epic

For our last big ride day in Crested Butte, we chose to ride a big loop called Reno Flag Bear Deadman's.  The gist is: up, down, up, down, up, DOWN!

Up #1: Reno

Access to the trail head is up Cement Creek.  From the parking area we road up forever on a dirt road called the Reno Divide Road.  After about 5 or 6 miles of mostly forested dirt road climbing, read "Lucy wants to shoot herself", we topped out on Reno Ridge.

Major views from Reno Ridge

Down #1: Flag 

Our first reward was the descent of Flag Creek Trail.
Drew (tiny speck almost to the trees) ripping down Flag Creek trail.
It was so very fun.  Mostly smooth 1-track at a slope where you needed few brakes and few pedal strokes. I love that kind of riding.
We get to go down there, all the way to the bottom and then we will turn right and go up the next drainage.

One of the many beaver dams throughout this drainage.

Up #2: Bear

At the bottom of the Flag Creek drainage, we hung a hard right to head up Bear Creek Trail, which isn't actually in Bear Creek drainage.  Nevertheless, it was a bear of a climb.

A few hike-a-bike sections slowed us down on Bear Creek climb.

More of the climb up Bear Creek Trail. All in all, a nice long climb.

Down #2: Bear

Our second reward was down the actual Bear Creek drainage, still on Bear Creek Trail.

Jean Luc Picard is set to enjoy the ride, or maybe he just likes to sit on my donut head set cover.  All that flying on the helm maybe gave him hemorrhoids.

The top of the Bear Creek descent
I couldn't be bothered to take more pictures of Bear Creek. This descent was phenomenal. In addition to the flowey singletrack int he picture, there were several treed sections with roots and rocks just to the limit of our abilities. If there were an easy way to shuttle this, it would be insanely popular, but since its a bit out there, we saw only two other riders all day, plus one group of motorcyclists.

Up #3: Deadman Gulch

We were 15 miles in, still far from the car, and pretty tired.  At the bottom of Bear Creek, we looked up the Deadman Gulch drainage we had yet to climb and decided to take a little break.  Just then a group of 5 or 6 motorcyclists pulled up and said hi before they blasted off up the long climb ahead of us with the turn of a wrist. 
Motos riding away from us in a puff of dust. Sort of jealous. Not really.
But we knew we were earning our downhill and had the chance to stop now and then to observe nature and lament about our tired legs.
The valley was chock full of beaver dams.
After two and a half miles of thinking we would never get to the top, we finally crested out and began our last descent.

Down #3: Deadman's

The last amazing downhill was gnarly, in a good way. There are 32 switchbacks in about half a mile and they are steep, rooty, and fun.
Descending Deadman's. Rad trail.

It doesn't get any better than this.
What an epic ride! 

After post ride snacks and beverages at the van, we headed back toward Onemile Campground. Since cooking dinner was out of the question.  We stopped at the little community of Almont for dinner at the Almont Resort, a lovely lodge on the East River with good food and friendly service.

Finally, back to the van for our last night of vacation. I try not to use the term "epic" too often, but there is no denying day 4 was epic, which only made the entire trip more epic.

The day's stats: 3 hrs 40 min ride time.  18.5 miles. 3504 feet of climbing.

The end

In the morning, when I tried to roll over on our hard camper bed I massively wrenched my back, which put me in a painful, rigid state all day.  Drew had to pack up camp as quickly as he could so we could make it to our scheduled massages in Salt Lake City that evening.  It was a long drive, with me driving about 100 miles of easy freeway before I gave up and just sat upright in the passenger seat, missing all my usual rubbernecking out the window at rock outcrops. It was a painful trip. The massage was good, but I was laid up for a few more days afterward.  But hey, that's the price you pay for an epic mountain bike vacation when you are out of shape to begin with. 

Crested Butte was great; the trails, the scenery, the town, the camping, and especially the company.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Crested Butte Day 3: 401 hours of fun

Our spectacular Crested Butte vacation was having less than spectacular weather.  I had wanted to save the 401 trail for a blue-bird sunny day, since this trail is renowned for breathtaking scenery and calendar-worthy photos, but the forecast was shutting down that probability, so we just decided to go for it on day 3. 

To do this as a loop ride, we started out at the old mining town site of Gothic and settled in for the long gravel/mud road ride to Schofield pass.

On the road to Schofield pass.

Emerald Lake was more of a turquoise color on this day.
At the pass we caught the trail and then climbed and hiked some more.  The trails were very muddy and dark clouds threatened again.
The top of the ride on the 401 trail above Schofield Pass.

Mount Bellview, and is that a glacial moraine in the foreground? I never noticed it until I looked at this picture.  I was too concerned that day about getting down off the high country.
 After a moderately serious shower, the sun decided to pop out now and then to prove the grandeur of the 401.

That's Gothic Mountain to the right and smiley Drew to the left.
 The trail was mostly intermediate-skill singletrack. There were a few more technical sections, and some parts that we had to "negotiate".
This part of the trail was marked on the map as "impassable to horses". It was damn near impassable to mountain bikers too.

Not many wildflowers in bloom this time of year, but the fall colors were nice nonetheless. The relatively easy trail allowed us opportunity to marvel at the scenery.

Those are some seriously nasty trail conditions.
 We had been rained on, we were tired and thirsty, and the map showed a way back to the main road over a creek crossing near Rustler Gulch trailhead so we checked it out. 
Not a happy place to ford.
 Creek crossing no kidding!  We watched a pickup truck drive through up to its floorboards. We decided we would rather ride another 3.3 miles of trail than swim that one.

I'm a wimp for not riding this, but it was slippery!

Obligatory smiling selfie complete with amazing scenery and goofy bike attire.

We managed to avoid a major deluge and see the grand vistas.
 The last three miles made the warm dry clothes waiting back at the van all that much nicer.

Happy Dewey awaits at the end of the trail.

Mount Crested Butte.
The route back to the van passed directly through the town of Crested Butte, so what else were we to do besides partake in the funky atmosphere and free WiFi of Secret Stash pizzeria before retiring to our Onemile campsite to rest for tomorrow's big ride.

The day's stats: 3 hrs 1 min ride time.  13.2 miles. 2402 feet of climbing.

Crested Butte Day 2: Doctor's Park is what the doctor ordered

Rewind to camping

In my last post I forgot to mention the camping situation.  By the time Drew's schedule for September was finalized, it was much too late to make campground reservations for Labor Day weekend.  Instead, I managed to reserve Sunday night at Onemile Campground, a U.S. Forest Service campground up the Taylor Creek drainage. Friday night, as you saw, we pulled in late to a campground outside of Gunnison. Saturday, our first order of business (after espresso and breakfast, duh) was to find a camp spot for Saturday night.  I was apprehensive that Onemile campground would have any available spots, but it was worth a shot before we forged on up toward Crested Butte and higher elevation, undeveloped camping*.  We were in luck! Site number 9, which just happened to be the best site at Onemile campground, had just opened up as we pulled in, so we snagged it and set up camp.

*Undeveloped means no electrical hookups.  There was a time in my camping career that I would have preferred to be unplugged.  Spending the chilly nights in a cozy van that has an electric heater and electric hot water have changed me. 

Site 9 at Onemile Campground on Taylor Creek.  Excellent flat parking, water hydrant close enough to hook a hose to the van when needed, lots of trees for privacy and well spaced sites, clean restrooms, friendly hosts, quite neighbors; can't do better than that.

Enough about the camping. What about the riding?

For day 2 we chose Doctor Park and did it as a loop from our campground.

Most people shuttle Doctor Park. We chose to ride up the 10 miles of mostly gravel road. We like to earn our beer.

A pit stop to break up the road ride. Drew is fascinated by the rocks.
 The fun begins at the Spring Creek crossing. 

Since we did not have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle like those pansies on the other side, we had to take our two-footed two-wheeled vehicle though the icy cold creek.
 Actually, the fun had not yet begun.  We had to climb up to where the fun starts, and while we were doing that, it rained.
Note the very muddy road.
 It rained a lot. It rained so much that a car that was following us on the road slid off the track. It rained so much we had to push our bikes. It rained so much that when we tried to start riding again, this happened:

Drew trying to un-stick a rock that had wedged itself in his bottom pivot. Meanwhile, I spent a good 20 minutes de-mudding my bike to the point where the wheels would turn again.
 But just like a good summer thunderstorm, that one passed and by the time we reached the tippy top of the trail at almost 11,000 feet elevation, we had sunshine and 90% tacky (10% muddy) singletrack on which to giggle down the mountain.

Doctor Park trail zigs and zags toward the trees. There were miles of this stuff. Happy face.
 Not all the trail was skinny buff bliss, a good chunk was technical rock gardens, just to keep things interesting.

Rock garden on Doctor Park

The last couple of miles of trail lose a lot of elevation, fast.  This is how they do it:

Steeply descending trail using anchored cinder block to armor the trail against wash outs.  Very effective. Very fun to ride.
After hours of trails, we finally popped out at the campground next to the one we were staying at. A mile of pavement back to up our camp took us to frosty cold beers, warm water for washing the mud off, and an evening of cooking and eating the best Pad Thai in the universe.

Modesty while showering from the flexible handheld shower head attached to the kitchen sink is a luxury we can afford in our van.

Nature's kitchen.

The day's stats: 3 hrs 43 min ride time.  22.5 miles. 3470 feet of climbing.

So after that, we elevated the trip to epic status.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Crested Butte Day 1: Dykes rock

For our first day in Crested Butte (CB for short), we chose the Dyke Trail, west of town up toward Kebler Pass.  The reason for choosing this trail; clouds threatened and I wanted to save blue skies (and epic rides and pictures) for a longer day. 
First stop: Lake Irwin, an impounded lake that is an apparently great fishing spot judging by the number of fisherpeople up at 10,000 ft on an iffy weather day.
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Drew at the fancy reservoir outlet.
After about 45 minutes of climbing, singletrack commenced.
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It seemed like miles of flow-y singletrack ahead.
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However, due to 7 days of rain and what we would come to know as typical CB under-maintained remote trail, we ended up hike-a-biking quite a bit as thunder warned us to keep off the ridge line.
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During a previous bike vacation in Sun Valley, we had the unpleasant experience of encountering serious sheep dogs protecting their flocks. Today, we came upon sheep, and heard barking.  We were wary.

But we managed to ring our bells and ride as fast as we could between ridges and thus avoided any canine encounters. We did not, however, manage to avoid rain.  We had showers; the trails, on the other hand, had deluges earlier in the day.  Muddiness. Still, the trails took the rain fairly well and we were able to ride some pretty wild sections.
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Maybe we should have headed the “can be muddy when wet” advice on, but it’s all part of the adventure. 
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Hiding out in the only shelter around at the end of the singletrack.
The trail proved to have miles of fun, remote singletrack, many streamlet crossings, open landscapes interspersed with beautiful and healthy aspen forests, and very, very few people.  Not a bad choice for day one. 
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Post singletrack, we suffered through a long road climb back up and over Kebler Pass. At least there were good views.
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The rain had subsided and our map showed a singletrack up and over the top of Kebler Pass that was a more direct and supposedly more off-road route than the road. The heavy equipment at the turn off to the singletrack should have signaled us that the trail was being turned into a road via an interim mud bog.
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Back to the pavement and finally down to our happily waiting van.
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Hooray for muddy bikes.
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And post-ride snacks.
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Snacks held us until we could properly re-hydrate at Brick Oven Pizzeria. 30 beers on tap! 
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We were so not in Utah anymore. The bartender was friendly and knowledgeable and the pizza was great. Perfect.

Beautiful sunset on Mount Crested Butte and down the valley to our campground.
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The day's stats: 3 hrs 2 min ride time.  14.2 miles. 2415 feet of climbing. 

Day 1 in the books. Epic? Not yet, but there is potential.