Sunday, January 21, 2007

Forgot my snowshoes

Rob and I decided that today was the day we were going to venture to The Woodlot and have a close look at the top of the hill to determine how much snow there was at the 'peak'.

We arrived at 7:30am and were completely prepared for a day in the snow with our bikes. Lots of layered clothing, good boots with gaiters and something warm on our heads. Slow and steady was our plan to get to the top. We weren't in any race and there was no need to get over heated during the climb. As we left our cars to start the climb, another group or early morning riders pulled up ready to ride. during the first part of the climb we were met with about 4 inches of wet crunchy snow and a layer of slush beneath. This was not the sweet light fluffy stuff of last week, but it could have been much worse. Once at the flat section of the climb I was expecting to easily be able to pedal, but the snow was not cooperating and the pedal up was far more work than expected.

Once Rob and I were at Quick Hit we could see that one of the guys in the truck that arrived when we were starting the climb had caught up with us...but without a bike. He was a rider that injured himself last year and is still recovering from a broken neck so he hikes while his buddies ride. At his pace he was easily able to keep ahead of his friends on the climb and on the descent he is able to keep up to his buds in almost all situations. After a brief chat Rob and I depart up the hill. The further up we went, the more snow there was. From what we could tell there had not been any other riders up the hill at all, just hikers in the snow. A good way up the climb in the trees the hiker caught us again so we stopped to have a chat and his buddies on bikes then caught and past us on their way to Tsuga. We were standing there talking so long that we each began to get a little chilly and decided it would be wise to start moving again before we froze.

Onward and upwards it was for what seemed like forever. At Tsuga the snow was starting to get ridiculous with a bike. At the power lines we were seriously considering turning around and riding down the road, but we had come that far so we pushed on. With more than 2 feet of snow at the power lines it was impossible to push the bikes in the snow. It was now time to carry our bikes on our shoulders. So with our gear and helmets on our packs we slung our bikes over our shoulders and marched up the hill.

Rob with his bike on his shoulder.

Me with my bike on my shoulder.

Deep snow.

The picture above somewhat shows the depth of the snow on the climb. All kidding aside, we should have been using snow shoes.

Rob posing doing a One Footer Lander

Rob posing doing a No Hander Lander

As we neared the top of the climb at the power lines it was like mother nature knew exactly when to let the snow fly. The timing of the snow made the last bit of the climb seem like the climax of an epic arctic movie. We didn't pause long at the top and ducked into the trees to get on Krazy Karpenter right away. Once geared up we began the decent / walk on our bikes. The snow was deep, really deep and really heavy so on all but the steepest sections at the top of the trail we were obligated to get off our bikes and walk down a good portion of the trail. Once we made it to Upper Toadstool we were actually able to ride some of the trail and pedal. There was far less snow at this point on the hill, but there was still too much to really ride.

Once at Lower Toadstool we were really able to 'ride'. The trail was is great shape with only a few inches of snow on the line so riding it was wicked. On the bottom third of the trail we met up with Greg and Denise who were out building a new ladder section to enable people to ride over a wet area on the trail. We chatted for a bit and then made our way down to the road.

At the road we realised that Rob had a problem with his bike. His shock was blown and had no control through compression or rebound. He was riding a pogo stick. So to be safe and use our time wisely we rode down the road and down to Shotgun. At the trail head of Shotgun I ran into a guy (Marcus) and his buddy that had contacted me earlier in the week about trail conditions. We passed on the info about the trails (ride the lower ones only) and ducked into Shotgun.

Shogun was a blast all the way to the clear cut. In the clear-cut section the snow really sucked as it was wet and heavy and virtually impossible to 'flow'. However once we were back in the trees that trail was saweeeet! The gap over the log was a sketchy move on my part with the slick conditions, but I nailed it as smooth as silk. A little bit of pedalling and we were at our cars.

After changing clothes and warming up the cars I remembered that I had a little gift for Rob. 2 weeks ago he and I made a bet that I lost so I owed him a 6 pack. Out of my trunk I pulled out an ice cold 6 pack of Prince George's finest TNT beer so we cracked one each and toasted our adventure in the snow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The pursuit of fresh tracks

My ride started in the late morning around 8:30am. When I arrived my car was the only one in the parking area and I had the hill all to myself. After putting on the appropriate clothing for a good long hike and ride in the snow, I was on my way up the hill. After a close look at the tracks in the snow going up the first section of the hill I could tell that I was the first person to bring his bike to the Woodlot since the snow started falling earlier in the week.

Even though the snow was quite deep (12+ inches) it was perfect to hike in. It was very light and dry. The first part of the hike up wasn't bad at all however when I reached the first flatter section of the climb where it is usually an easy pedal I was not able to pedal at all because the snow was so deep. At that point I prepared myself mentally for a long arduous push.

I was pleasantly surprised once I reached the intersection of the skidder roads. There had been an excavator and trucks on the road to clear the fallen trees on the road so there was a nice compact ribbon of snow for me to pedal up on. This ribbon of snow was my friend all the way to Quick Hit where it looks like the work on the road stopped and there were only a few sets of footprints in the snow from there. In the clear cut just past Quick hit the opening in the forest affords you a beautiful view of Mount Baker on a clear day. I paused for a minute to snap a photo before I continued on.

Mount Baker in the snow.

So onward and upward I went into the forest following the tracks of what looked like 2 hikers and a dog. Once I was at the corner where you can turn off to Snakes and Ladder the tracks veered off and the hikers must have taken that route. From that point mine were the only human tracks on the skidder path up. Even in the trees there was a good 10-12 inches of snow but the conditions of the snow were ideal for the climb. It was by no means an easy climb and I earned every inch of vertical on this fine day.

Looking back at my fresh tracks climbing the hill.

It is amazing the number of animal foot prints you see can see in the snow if you look carefully enough. There were tracks from deer, coyotes, rabbits and mice running all over the trail. and fortunately for me I did not see any bear or cougar tracks.

My trusty steed.

At the top of my climb (the top of Upper Toadstool) I paused to snap a shot of my bike perched on a mound of snow. I must say that my Heckler has surprised from the day I bought it. It had easily been the funnest everyday bike I have ever ridden. Every time I ride it I have an absolute blast and it has made it very hard for me to ride any of my other bikes.

So down Toadstool I went kicking up the fluffy white stuff, grabbing a handful of rear brake and drifting through the corners. I just love the snow. The signature feature of Upper Toadstool is the long log-ride about mid way down the trail. I was able to ride up the ramp and along about 10 feet of the log before the laws of physics that govern traction took over and I just slipped off the log completely. I then chose to ride the squid line around the log which is actually quite fun. A few turns later there is a 4 foot drop to tranny that is wicked in the dry or wet but I had never had the pleasure of trying it in the snow. So I figured no better time than now and nailed it smooth as silk. Nothing big, but so much fun in the snow. Very soon after this drop is the end of Upper Toadstool and the beginning of Lower Toadstool. Once on the trail I was soon stopped by a fallen tree which I had to removed from the trail before I could continue. Lower Toadstool is a fun, flowy all natural rip that has seen some recent work by Greg and Denise. The lower section that was a real eye sore has been re-routed with quick switchbacks that flow well and add a bit of fun in the fern lined rain forest. From what I could tell, I was the first person to ride this newly build bridge.

A new built bridge on Lower Toadstool.

Fresh tracks across a bridge are something sacred so I really hope nobody takes offence to me riding this sweet new addition to the trail. A few more turns on the trail and I was on my way over to Hoots. It had been some time since I last rode Hoots but it is a trail that I have liked since my first time at The Woodlot. In the clearcut section I had one of those WTF just happened moments. I was scooting along at a good pace and suddenly I am flying over my bars into the snow head first. I look back and I can see a branch that is now peeking out of the snow that had broke off a tree in the windstorms and landed across the trail. Then snow fell on the branch camouflaging it from my view. I had zero warning about its location but face full of snow is always good for a laugh.

The rest of Hoots was wicked. I did stop twice to cut out some fallen trees on the trail, but the trail was as fun as ever.

Once at the bottom it was a nice easy pedal up to Shotgun and as aways it was a fun rip. I did notice that a VERY large tree had fallen next to the trail and its 10 foot root ball may force a little work to be performed on the trail. Once at the parking area I loaded up my bike and drove home thoroughly exhausted.

I have completely understand why back country skiers and snowboarders are always in the pursuit of fresh tracks in the snow. There really isn't any other feeling quite like it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Chose your route wisely

First ride of 2007 took place at....The Woodlot 8:00am, snow ride. Rob, Dave and I decided that we would get out in the cool weather and head to the top of The Woodlot in a bit of snow for an early morning ride. We were easily the first ones up the hill and once again we made fresh tracks in the snow that had fallen the night before. Last night there had been another large wind and rain/snow storm and we were expecting to be met with allot of fallen trees on the trail. As a precaution I brought my small axe and folding saw to remove any trees that we would encounter on the ride.

The route that was chosen by Rob was Cabin Trail, Snakes and Ladders and finally Shotgun. To get to the top we decided that it would be much easier to hike up Cabin Trail rather than access it from the top. So up past the entrance to Snakes and Ladders we went. We stopped on Snakes to clear one fallen tree near the top of the trail and then continued on up the hill. The nice thing about hiking up a trail is that you can clear all the fallen trees on the way up and ride down in relative comfort.

Once we reached the power lines it was soon apparent that we had likely picked the wrong riding route today. At the power lines there was at least 14" of snow with a hard crust on the top that couldn't quite hold your weight while walking on it. However the view was spectacular with the sun shining and a clear blue sky. So we crossed the power line section and made our way back into the snow covered forest and proceeded up the hill. The push was anything but easy and we stopped multiple times to cut out fallen trees and remove debris from the trail.

Cabin Trail also known as Goldmine was given these names because there really are Cabins on the trail and there is a real goldmine with a shaft that you could descend into if you are daring enough. As we pushed up the hill Dave looked up and low and behold.....a Cabin. His were to the effect of," there really are cabins on this trail!". I had passed these so many times that I thought everyone knew that there are real abandoned gold miner cabins off the trail. So for Dave's sake we stopped to have a look at the cabin.

It wasn't too long after the stop at the Cabin that we decided that we had all had enough of this brutal climb in the snow and that we would turn around and start our ride down. Rob guessed that it was around 10:30am and I guessed it was 9:30am so we bet a 6 pack of beer........Rob won. I was shocked that we had been going for close to 2 ½ hours. So once we were geared up we started our descent, our slow, get off your bike and push unless it is steep descent. This was the first time that a snow ride actually sucked. The snow was not very conducive to riding on anything but a steep downward slope. I was shocked at how hard it was to ride down the hill and lets just say I will never get used to pushing my bike down hill.

Once we were out of the forest and back under the power lines the ride changed for the better. There was noticeably less snow on the other side and the trails have a steeper slope to them so gravity and momentum were now starting to work on our side.

The 3 of us rode to the entrance to Snakes and Ladders and proceeded down the snow laden trail to the rock drop section. Neither Rob or Dave thought I was actually going to do it in the snow but it was actually easier than in the dry. The snow actually helped to slow down the descent on the wood ladder. Further down the trail there were a few fallen trees but everything was able to be cleared by hand.

At the long log ride there was very little snow and the actual log planked section was free and clear of snow so it was a smooth blast down the ramp along the trail. Down the rock faces we went and a short stop at the new ladder section to discuss what exactly we have planned for this part of the trail. We all then made our way down and over to Shotgun.

As always almost nothing bad can be said about Shotgun. Such a great trail that holds fun little hits everywhere and sections to pump and pop off of everywhere. At the cars we discussed the dismal ride on Cabin Trail but grinned about the ride on Snakes and Ladders and Shotgun.

Next time we will pick a better route.