Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mexico and Bust

We visited the in-laws in Maysville and the wife gave me a free pass to do some exploring yesterday morning. Yesterday's route was an extension of an effort I did in April, '10 on the Quickbeam. I can't imagine how much I walked, because it's a sawblade of sharp hills and creek valleys.  I woke up typically early, got my nasty McDonalds coffee and drove the 25min to Blue Licks Battlefield SP, all while being entertained with some nice morning light.

Stupid smudge on lens.

Sogn along closed Old 68 bridge in morning light.

This is listed as Stoney Creek Rd. among others, but for all intensive purposes, it's a closed road that still exists. The forest rats use it more than any car.

Stoney Creek at the top because a mostly impassible tractor road.

The day took the second of its many twists at this intersection, as best as I can tell, actually,  I don't know what this intersection is. The first gaffe of the day was having my newish Garmin eTrex30 without my previously loaded track. Mr. Crowell had helped me load some additional maps, and in that process the track disappeared. Gaffe#1. Therefore, I'm doing my route from memory and map usage. At this intersection, gaffe#2 took place when the batteries died. It was my fault for not ensuring I had sufficiently charged batteries and extras. I own it, but it still put me deep in the boonies without navigation. Because I'm (overly) confident of my skillz, I decided to venture on.

I had seen this store one time while doing some research, so I stopped at Myers and spent my requisite $5 (for my card) on batteries, chocomilk, and assorted sugar. Thanks to Myers for improving my day.

After the initially hilly out, the day then segued into the mixed terrain portion with a second trip along Mexico Rd. Even cold, this is a great, rough gravel road along the Licking River. I was very good at this point.

Interesting that WMA don't allow bikes, but do allow hiking. Enter at your own risk.

The texture of Mexico reminded me of scenes from DBNF, of rough roads with short, steep portions that I sometimes rode and sometimes walked.

BOOM!!!!! Did you hear that? I thought at first some hunter shot me. Then I noticed my bike wasn't moving anymore. I've done other rides on the Soma Cazaaderos, but for some reason, the rear just BLEW off the rim, quite suddently. BOOM!!! I was only marginally prepared in that instead of a 27.5" tube, all I had was a 29x2.2. Not optimal. Not. After quick snack I changed the tube somewhat slowly, and not easily with temps below 30F at this point. From this point on the rear wheel made me nervous. This blowout on a downhill would create some problems. And I had no more tubes. Patchkit? Ha! Please.

Let's see...I was well onto Gaffe#3 (track, batteries, flat) when I happened upon this creek crossing on Tea Run Rd. It looked like a decent surface, but I imagined my luck having me fall over into the rushing water, all with temps below freezing. I was having a good time, but wasn't the most optimistic at this point. I cross with a couple damp toes but no damage. Neat feature actually. And TeaRun ended up being a highlight of the day, with its smoother surface along a creek valley. It would be doable (with current conditions) with a variety of bike tires; Mexico requires some meat.

I found KY32 and headed towards the barn. The decent along there was *cold*. At the base, in "Pleasant Valley", I found a great proliferation of chasing dogs and then a steepie to get the heart racing. I was feeling the effects of the numerous climbs on the day, but the pavement allowed me to enjoy Abner Mill Rd, again along the opposite side of the Licking River.

I've never seen anything like this. It appears to be a normal house, but it's second floor balcony abuts the railroad. I really don't know what it is. Way station? Resupply? Weird. Just like "Pleasant Valley".

Abner Mill Rd. after a half-mile, 10% climb. At this point I was tired.

Gaffe #4. At the site of this abandoned house, my first set of purchased batteries died. I don't know if they were old it it was cold or the eTrex has a issue, but fortunately I had one more set. Abner Mill seemed reasonable straightforward, but had many little turns off of it. I stayed the course, experiencing a couple more steepies before returning to one more sharp, short climb to the car. It was a fun day, but not the smoothest nor the fittest. I returned safe-and-sound, which I guess is the goal.

Happy New Year and I hope your 2014 was blessed in whatever way you see fit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fatbike Fest

Dave and I went fat-biking a few weekends ago and I forgot to finish the post. Suffice to say fun was had, especially by me. My Mukluk and Dave's Fargo were quite equal to many tasks, but once down along the river, the extra 1.5" of footprint made a difference. Fatbikes were made for such riding, although Dave was able to clear most obstacles.  The pics below tell of a really nice morning spent rambling.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Adventure, right?

The birthday was at hand, and it needed to be celebrated with an adventure. I usually sit around and grouse during the birthday times, but this year I decided to *do* something instead.  For a fair piece of time, I strongly debated doing a road trip down to TX to Pondero's Ramble, but a weather forecast involving colder than expected temps, precip in TX, and more importantly, potential Sunday snow in KY conspired to put the kibosh on that idea. Next year, let's hope.

I prepared a gravel/mixed-terrain ramble of our in the DBNF around S-Tree, an area I've visited via car but not by bike. I intentionally kept our route on the short side so we could go adventuring without too much pain and suffering. "Best laid plans", one might say. We began on top of the ridge where the campground sits, and warmed up in chilly 26F temps. We even had a little sun peek out, which helped warm us as we commenced our adventure.

I spied a clearing to the right of the road behind a gate, and we took a side trip to find an entire hillside with a haircut. Honestly, I don't really know why. It was sort of surreal to have vistas accessible when usually they remain hidden behind dense forests of trees.

Dave peeking out on the trudge back up the hill.

My favorite pic of the entire day. I just love this Fall scene.

Using our various gps units (we had 4 with us, my Garmin 60cx and back-up Edge500, which tends to collect better data and Dave's redundant Garmins), we turned left on either Tussey Hill or Renfro to find an unimproved, leaf-laden path. It followed a ridgeline, and gave us the benefit of plenty of draining and a good dry surface (foreshadowing). This was a really nice stretch, and felt just a little bit more rustic than the maintained gravel leading out of the campground.

After a plunge down the graveled hill, we found our one batch of pavement for the day, along 89, which is marked as a KY highway. What we found was a rather narrow non-lined road along the river. It felt much more like a small side road than a major thoroughfare through the area. Incredible, really. The Mukluk wasn't particularly fun on the pavement, and a creak was driving me a bit daft. Yet, it was a nice run for a bit, aside the dogs. Dave mostly dealt with the dogs.

Our turn was approaching ,but first we had to cross what, for me, was one of the strangest sights of the day, a wooden-topped bridge along a "highway". I mean, I've crossed tiny, little wooden bridges in far forgotten river bergs before, but not along such a thoroughfare. Just strange. It also meant that our turn back onto the dirt and gravel was imminent. Muy bien.

Notice the bike sign just past the bridge. I have to believe that a regular, organized festival ride comes through this area. I noticed, as well, on Strava that certain close roads have numerous trips. I can't imagine regular locals plying their trade.

Horse Lick Creek Rd. provided us a dirt/gravel combo that was pretty agreeable, following the contour of the creek path. We stopped a bit at the intersection of White Oak Branch Rd. to have a snack and prepare for the next batch of texture. We were even passed by our only vehicle of the day on non-paved roads. A friendly wave was traded and soon we were on our way, deeper up the creek run.

A forest service sign mostly in the middle of nowhere. We found a fair amount of signage for such a rural area. I didn't snap one, but this is also the path of the Sheltowee Trace, which is a multi-use path through much of DBNF.

At this point after a somewhat relaxed roll along the creek until we reached the point below where our track and the road both crossed the creek. You may be able to tell that, firstly, it was a pretty wide stretch with a reasonable flow, and more importantly, it was probably below freezing. We might have even seen a Private Property sign on the other side as well. It just didn't seem logical for our "road" to cross a good sized creek. We turned left on another path along the western side and made progress.

I could have/should have taken pics of all the mudholes we encountered. I mean, it seems like we passed hundreds of them. Often they were quite deep, and with the temps we didn't want to get too wet. Sometimes we could work our way around pretty easily, sometimes not so much. Rocks and mudholes. Lots of rocks and mudholes.

After some mudhogging.

This fork would portend an interesting turn of events, although we didn't know it at the time. We followed to the right along our track. At some point Dave had correctly divined that our track should be on the eastern side of the creek. Up to this point we had a usable path. Shortly after this fork, we found the scene below.

Sorry, out of focus.

The path ended and crossed the creek at the first picture. I would estimate that the depth would be at least mid-thigh, and maybe even waist deep in the middle of an active run. Nope. We ventured upstream (second pic) and decided to cross there to minimize our distance. We both removed bottom layers to only cycling shorts and prepared to keep everything as dry as possible. Dave took 2 steps in and said, "No way!". Too cold, with swift water, a surface of unknown slickness and feasibility, and, remember, temps below freezing. Plan B.

We returned to our fork and decided to see what it could do for us in lieu of returning all the way back down the creek road. What we found was an unrideable, rock-strewn haul that went up for a good stretch. It wasn't fun.

After the initial crawl of .2 mile, things leveled out a bit and we were able to ride, on what kind of path I'm not sure. I didn't seem much horse or 4-wheeler damage, but it seemed to be too wide for a foot trail. Whatever it was, we took it.

After a rideable rocky portion, we again had to dismount and push, only this time up a steeper pitch that wasn't much fun. The interesting part, though, was found at the top, a rock bridge and rock house. The natural bridge in particular was a nice find; the paths around it suggest that we weren't the first Europeans to explore there. We didn't stay very long, and trudged the final 100yds straight up hill to the summit where we  found remnants of a campfire. Again, we weren't first.

At this point, while Dave was climbing, I looked around a bit to try and discern where our path led. It wasn't all that apparent, and this was probably the first time of the trip where I felt a little freaky-outy. We were basically lost. Yes, we had gps units and could get back to our original creek path, but it was cold, the terrain challenging, and I imagined that moment when you are adventuring and suddenly fuck up and die. Fortunately, I found what looked to be a continuation of our path and we head on. One thing not photo'ed but noticed were a series of yellow painted intersection that earlier made us think this path did *something* productive. As long as we saw those, we had to go somewhere. At the top of a ridge our path gave us a 'T', and I chose to head right, towards our car. We then began a long, fun descent that was obviously returning to our creek.

After a boulder-strewn descent we found our creek again, only this time with a *MUCH* more passable portion. I went first and managed to cross the entire creek with some wettish feet, but certainly not soaked ones. Dave took a slightly different line than I- I think a little more upstream- only to find himself bogged down and dabbing. The water streamed ;) into his boot, and now we were really pretty damn wet and cold.

At the crossing we found an obvious "spot" with tracks, and followed them out to find an interesting (unphoto'ed) hillcrest with wood and evidence of several campfires. It surveyed the only meadow for miles. We took the opportunity to eat and for Dave to fish out his dry socks (smart work, there). We were back on track and ready to make more progress.

Honestly, at some point soon shit gets hazy. As you can see below, we were traveling in a bog, a partially frozen bog that was starting to wear a bit. Furthermore, for a bit we were "on track". We saw another creek crossing which I avoided, but in turn kept us on this "path" on the high side of the creek, the side we needed to be on as far as where our car was parked. It was not necessarily on the "road" though. We didn't really know what kind of "road" was on the other side, but that was where we were supposed to be. I was pretty insistent that we use our "road" and make progress as long as it let us. We rode through mudholes, around and over rocks, and through a bizarre creek-side path that almost had to be mowed. Or not. I don't know. It was weird 3-4 miles.

Nice ice layer. Didn't I mention that it was cold and that we were wet?

Dwelling. Edifice. Boondocks.


That's our "road" on the other side of the creek. I seriously didn't want to cross through 3ft of flowing cold-as-shit water, and thusly was willing to put up with the "road" we took. Other than Dave almost breaking his face, it worked out.

We finally hit a little infrastructure in the guise of a tired, misplaced culvert. Certainly some fucking civilization must be at hand!!!! Shortly thereafter, well, after some more rocks and mudholes, we spied a fence gate and finally the junction to Raccoon Creek Rd. We had decided long ago that this adventure would have to have a detour given our time out and the failing light. Did I mention that the bikes were starting to freeze up?

These 2 following pics nicely sum up the differences I've personally noticed at S-Tree. Two summers ago Patrick and I tried to bike tour through here. Due to a mechanical mishap and a case of cold feet, we drove through instead of biking, but at that time we had lush forests and trickles of water along the concrete crossings in DBNF. Instead, Dave and I traveled through on two wheels in below freezing temps with water that, for me, was too high to be comfortable when completely sodden and below freezing. I have a new respect for those Alaskan coast fatbiking guys. How do they do it?

Our day was almost complete. We did the best we cold with frozen, failing drivetrains and made slow, steady progress up Racoon Creek Rd. and its 2-mile climb. It was an intense, slow-motion way of ending our adventure. I didn't have to walk, Dave did, but I'm not sure we really traveled at different speeds. We just trudged up and made it happen in the failing light of day.

We marveled at the mountain top meadow several hours previous only to find this nasty scar of a road at the bottom. Not sure what the story is, but it doesn't look good.

We did it. It was an adventure and we broke neither bone nor bike (as best as I know right now). As of the end of the ride I really didn't need that kind of punishment again, what, the mudholes, rocks, and freezing, wet temps.

I'm ready to go back.

FS Bridgestone RB-1-DONATED

*Donated to a young bike-hungry friend. Good luck!* And to acquaint yourself with the Cult of the RB-1: