Saturday, November 6, 2010

Snow, Mud, and Downed Trees

Bah--let the snow come. It won't stop ME from going mountain biking. But I did find out that it will greatly slow me down.

Although we'd seen a good amount of snow the previous week, the relatively warm weather and clear skies for the past several days meant that I was itching to get up to American Fork Canyon to see how the trails were faring. I knew that sections of trail would likely be a bit goopy, but nothing too terrible. Well, I was proven wrong for the last 1.5 miles of climbing I had to do for the day...

I started my ride at ~9 AM at the Pine Hollow trail head (the gate allowing access to the rest of the canyon past PH is now closed). It has actually been about 4 months since I had ridden Pine Hollow because as a trail, it is only so-so. BUT, as I came to realize with Tibble Fork, the stronger you become as a climber, the more enjoyable the steep trails are. Paradigm shift. The temperatures were in the low 40s as I began the climb, and I was thoroughly enjoying the morning--practically no trail users meant I could sing the song playing on my iPhone out loud and make a fool of myself to the trees. Bliss.

Not a bad view with the snow capped mountains, eh?

Because it was still very cold from the previous night's freeze, the trails were great; some snow, a little ice, but overall great riding conditions. I made it to Ridge Trail and continued my climb, realizing that Ridge was nearly dry the entire portion I rode. It was marvelous. I encountered a little mud at Mud Springs (d u h) and made it up to AF overlook. An aside: Don't ride all the way up to the end of AF overlook unless you really want to see the view; the last 1/2 mile is extremely rocky and technical and greatly hinders a good cadence. Stop once the rocks begin and enjoy the bomb back down to Mud Springs.

Ridge 157 - dry, fast, and practically no trail users. Awesome.

AF Overlook point - looking down into boring Utah Valley--those people don't know what they're missing

The little version of "Puke hill" on the Ridge 157 was actually muddy, so I hiked up that quickly and got to the four way. I plead with the universe to make SFLDC dry as I hadn't ridden the trail in quite awhile and I wanted to enjoy it one last time for the season. The dirt gods obliged--I had an amazingly fast and furious (like the movie) descent down SFLDC, grinning ear to ear with small amounts of dirt / mud flipping up into my teeth and face. But I didn't care.

"Well," I thought to myself, "a little more climbing up to the summit then I'll bomb back to the car to complete one of the best November rides I'd ever done." The dirt gods were tricky that day, for they evolved into mud gods and decided to pour on the goop from the bottom of SFLDC up to the summit. Nuts.

Since the weather had been warming up quite a bit, the normally frozen ground metamorphatised (those of you who don't believe this to be a word shouldn't look it up, because you'll likely not find any dictionary that provides the definition) into a muddy swamp. Not only that, but I encountered a plethora of downed trees along the trail. Double nuts.

Well, if I wasn't going to be riding my bike, I might as well get some trail work in. Every downed tree I came across, I made my best effort to move. Out of the five trees I encountered, I only couldn't move one (but that tree weighed 2,000 pounds, so I forgive myself). I'd give myself ~500 brownie points for the effort I put forth: clearing out those trees, removing branches, and trying to cover up sections of the trail that mountain bikers / motos had newly created to get around the trees. Kudos to me!

"Eek! A big bad tree in the way of the trail! Whatever shall I do?"

Boom. I backhanded that tree back into the stone age. For those of you who know how weak I am, this was a major accomplishment.

This tree was the biggest baddie of the day. It was still attached to its roots a bit so it took some genius on my part (use a fulcrum / leverage dummy!) to get it out. Mission accomplished.

All in all, by the time I'd cleared all the trees I could and hiked up to the summit (with some intermittent riding thrown in) my bike was completely gunked up. The rear wheel wouldn't spin at all and my bike weighed more than a DH rig. I was able to find some snow to clean it off as best as possible and get it moving again. From the summit it was a see-how-much-mud-I-can-flip-up-on-myself-from-my-tires as I shot downhill. Regardless, I was happy to be moving faster than 2 mph again.

Pobre bike. Covered in Utah mud (aka, cement). This isn't even the dirtiest she got...

Yeah, I complain about the mud, but have you ever tried to pick >100 little burrs out of spandex? NOT FUN.

The rest of the ride was quite uneventful--a quick blast down Pine Hollow (which includes one of the funnest sections of trail ever created--wide trail, tree roots making natural ledge jumps, and plenty of runway to really open up) and I was back to the car.

I was muddy, tired, and covered in burrs, but I was definitely happy to have been riding AF Canyon in November.