I love the desert, especially the Utah desert. I spent a lot of time as a young boy playing around in Moab, St. George/Zion and high desert areas around Bryce Canyon. These are some of the few times I remember fondly from my youth. Maybe that’s why the desert appeals to me so much. During times of trouble in my youth I was able to look out at the desert in awe of it’s high potential for disaster. It is easy to put yourself into a position where you could lose your life. The idea of wilderness is appealing to me, mostly because it is uncontrolled and demands your respect. When you put your guard down you will pay the price.
Let me tell you something. Orderville Gulch and the Zion Narrows deserve respect. I knew this from the start and I reminded myself regularly. I would consider myself somewhat fearless, as long as I know the risks. I may appear fearless in some situations. I will only say that my apparent situational fearlessness is calculated.
Our daughter Missie asked us to go with her and Marie to Zion for the Labor Day weekend. Her ideal was that we would get there sometime Friday, do some hiking and then wake up very early to retain a backcountry permit for 4 to go down the Subway. Disaster struck on Friday. Missie was very sick and at work, Lori and I were trying to stay up on work. Lori and I made the call to be wrapped up with work by 4:30 and get on the road. Missie was going to see how she felt Saturday and then motor down with Marie later int he day. We made it down about 10:30pm on Friday night and found a campsite just off the road going up Kolob Terrace Road thinking that on a Labor Day weekend we would never get a campsite at the South Campground.
The subtle sounds of the North Creek alongside Kolob Terrace Road kept me awake in a good way. Lori and I camped there before a few years ago and so we knew it would work out for a late night arrival. The sky was clear and so there were plenty of stars to keep my attention. Between staring at the stars and listening to the pleasant music of North Creek, I was reading Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. I was reading a section where he was explaining something very interesting told to him by an ultra-distance runner. Fatigue must be embraced and enjoyed. This would be a fortuitous moment for what was to come over the weekend. I fell asleep to the sound of ripples and a book on my chest.
Saturday morning we woke early. We thought we’d just leave the tent alongside the North Creek and come back to stay later that evening. We were waiting to hear when Missie and Marie would arrive but wanted to let Missie sleep as long as possible so we could salvage some effort for her to come down for some hiking. Subway was still our objective. Zion National Park has a system of permitting for backcountry travel. You can plan 3 months in advance and jump in on a lottery for half of the available permits. The other option is to show up for the 7:00am opening of the Backcountry Desk, which in reality means you should be in line no later than 5:45am. These permits are for 16 different Slot Canyon Day Trips.
We stopped by the Backcountry Desk and chatted with a few rangers who sounded very foreboding about every permit we discussed. At the moment, I thought that they were looking at everyone down their nose. It’s understandable since they probably have unfettered access on their days off and have probably hit every backcountry route multiple times. We asked about Subway permits for Monday that we would try to pick up on Sunday morning. The ranger said when he arrived at 6:30am to the office there were 35 people in line. Again, this is a line for 16 different areas, but there are some more popular than others. Subway is one of the most popular.
We asked what other slot canyons were similar. The suggestion was Orderville Gulch. We looked at the Zion Canyoneering book they had available, if only to scare the hell out of potential permit seekers. It suggested the obstacles were easier than Subway and that it was spectacular. To give a quick and dirty review, you drive to approximately 10 miles east of the Narrows and multiple thousands of feet higher. Get out of the car and start hiking down a steep 4WD trail until you drop down the remnants of a massive mud slide and into the beginnings of the most amazing slickrock narrows I’ve ever seen.
Back to the permitting rangers. We asked if there were any permits available for Sunday for Orderville Gulch. Amazingly there were. Maybe that should have been a sign. Maybe it was a dare. It’s been many years since I felt the passion of the idea to preserve wilderness. Maybe I should say Wilderness. I really should. Out of pure respect and reverence. It sounded dangerous, but possible. The route described talked of two major obstacles both of which were bolted with webbing. Lori and I looked at each other and asked for a permit for 4 on Sunday. Maybe Missie would feel better after sleeping all day Saturday and she and Marie would still arrive Sunday evening.
We left with permit in hand and secured a campsite in the South Campground. Next up was jumping on the Zion shuttle heading for the Grotto while searching the Interweb for descriptions of the Orderville Gulch route. At The Grotto we jumped of the shuttle to attack Angel’s Landing and part of the West Rim Trail. I’ll leave this part of the day to a short description. We punched it up Angel’s landing, enjoyed the view, stared at each other passionately, descended to the West Rim Trail, ran it for a while, stared at each other passionately some more, ran some more, talked to some canyoneers who were hiking to do a 900 foot rappel, wanted to hike the final switchbacks to the spring but realized we were running low on water so we ran back down, rode the shuttle back to the Visitor’s Center, walked to the river on our way to the campsite, sat in the river for 15 minutes and then went to the Kolob Terrace Road campsite and broke it down to bring back to South Campground. Great day out. By this time Missie and Marie were on their way and I figured they would arrive around Midnight.
Sleep was on the docket but I was interested in reading more of Born to Run. It was more of fatigue embracing. I like it. Still lots of stars out. Slept well until Missie and Marie arrived but was unresponsive. I think Lori got up to help them set up the tent. Seemed like no time at all passed before Lori was climbing back in next to me. I had set the alarm early to go over and try to grab a Subway permit for Monday. Waiting in line unsuccessfully for 90 minutes without coffee is not a good scenario for me. Oh well. We rolled out by 9:30am towards the Orderville Gulch start. On the trail by 10:45 I thought we were solid. The book said to expect 7-10 hours.
Orderville Gulch starts in the high eastern hills above Zion. We parked the car and excitedly threw on our packs, double checked that we had everything we planned to carry with us and then started down the 4WD road for the first 2 miles. We looked forward to the photos we had seen on our interweb search and the obstacles that would give us a test. The anticipation was killing me. I was so excited to hit some extreme desert terrain with Lori. We tend to share the same level of ridiculous excitement for the desert landscape. Something about being troubled during youth. How amazing to look at your sweetheart and see the same twinkle of excitement in her eye.
The beginning miles dropped us quickly into the canyon. It ranged from 8 feet wide to 60 feet wide. Nothing too technical. On the way you pass the Birch Hollow entrance to Orderville Gulch. Birch Hollow is ends with a dramatic rappel to the floor of Orderville Gulch. We ate lunch. It was quiet besides our excited conversation. We had met up with a group who had come down Birch Hollow and another group working through Orderville Gulch. The group going our direction was about 10. After lunch we got moving again down the canyon. It was amazing to me. Every corner threw out more beauty and solitude.
We were descending deep into the depths of Zion and I started to remember that wilderness is Wild. I realized that the only thing I thought about at the moment was Lori and my daughter and her passion, Marie. The mortgage, work, daily tasks all faded away from me. We had most of what we needed for this trek, and I was carrying my dose of respect for the Wild. There were plenty signs of natural violence in this narrow canyon. Pine trees with a 2 to 3 foot diameter were snapped in pieces. You could look up 600, 800, 1,000 feet to the top of the cliffs above. The colors of the rock clamored for our attention. We definitely were slow taking in all of the scenery, shooting photos and sharing our awe of the wildness surrounding us.
To be continued…
Lori and I had a great trip this week. For those who don’t
know, Lori has been working on putting together a bid for a high school
mountain biking league in Utah. NICA, the National Interscholastic Cycling
Association, is the governing body for high school cycling and they approve new
league bids. This weekend was the California High School Mountain Biking State
Championships. There are two leagues in California, so this weekend was the
culmination of both league’s seasons. We decided this would be the best time to
see the longest running high school leagues in action. This is likely going to
be a long post and I’m sure will be well worth your time. More pictures to come, I’m just a bit too tired to keep working on it right now.
We met some amazing people this weekend. Between the
never-resting NorCal and SoCal league staff, NICA officials, and the supportive
and excited parents, Lori and I were welcomed as friends and coworkers. We
really had no idea how things were going to go and if we would be able to get
involved in the action or not. I figured we would be able to at least observe
how they did things but didn’t know for sure.
The best part of the drive out was our trip up the 101 from
the Los Angeles area to Los Olivos. We did take a bit of a detour from Santa
Barbara up over the mountains to Lake Cachuma and it was beautiful. Looks like
the entire area would be an amazing place to do a lot of both MTB and road
riding. Just a few miles north of Los Olivos is a large area of private
property that is home to a large herd of cows most of the time but this past
weekend was home to over 400 high school mtb racers and their family and
friends. A fun part of the high school mtb race scene is the on-site camping.
The kids get a chance to make and maintain friendships with kids from all over
the league. The parents also get to do some note comparing on how to run the
teams and discuss their kid’s training.
So we pulled off into the race venue and the first person we
met was Matt Gunnell, the director of the SoCal High School MTB League. This
guy has some serious energy and keeps people organized and on task. He lined us
up with a prime parking spot right close to one of the principals involved with
starting the NorCal league, Mark Kintz. Mark and his wife Patty are from
Monterrey, CA. They currently have a daughter racing in the NorCal league. Mark
has been involved with NorCal for 13 years and is one of the league’s Board of
Directors members. He has a great interest in making sure all of the kids are
safe out on the course and is super conscientious about course design and how
the kids will “see” the race course.
Our other neighbors were John and Claudia from Corona, CA.
John has been a cyclist for quite a while and thought that his son and some
friends could have a great time with mountain biking. They formed a composite
team so that the boys who are friends could ride together. Talk about some
enthusiasm about looking for ways for the boys to have fun as well as become
more experienced riders and racers. John is also having a lot of fun getting
out as the boy’s coach and working them over on road bikes. He said that they
school him on the MTB climbs but when he gets them out on road rides on the
Huntington Beach bike path they are no match!
There were many other friendly parents that made us feel welcome
and were very excited to hear about the efforts being made towards a Utah
League. A big part of making it out was so we could get in the mix of helping
to put the race together so we could have an idea of what it takes on race
weekend. Race day was Sunday and we arrived on Friday afternoon just in time to
roll out with Matt Gunnell, Mark Kintz, and Sean McCoy, Mountain Bike Action’s
Managing Editor, who is SoCal’s course setter. Turns out that the course setter
job is on the very important side for high school mountain biking. We did a “slow
roll” of the course to make sure it was to NICA specification as well as decide
what needed to be worked on for the Saturday set up. We were looking for places
that needed clean-up, fill-in, course marshal positioning, and signage. The
signage wouldn’t go up until Saturday morning.
After the “slow roll” lap I did a hot lap and while not
super technical it was a really hard course. The first climb came just under a
mile into the lap. The beginning of the lap was steep with some tough
switchbacks that would definitely be selective. A long, winding descent with a
few technical corners followed leading into a more moderate and steady climb.
Again, the descent was winding and the lap finished with a fairly long
straightaway leading into the winding infield and finish line. The course
measured 5.65 miles total with a fair amount of elevation gain.
A quick reminder is needed. There is a very large herd of
cows on this property. I’m not a huge fan of large animals that make sudden
moves when I’m riding a bike. For the first few hours of riding the cows would
move off the trail well in advance of seeing us. After my fast lap I decided to
roll another. I may have freaked myself out a bit about the cows but maybe not.
Lori and I met up part way through the lap and enjoyed the comfortable
temperatures just before the sun went down. As we were rolling along the long
straight coming back towards the start/finish area I had to repeatedly holler
ahead at the cows to move off. One decided he wasn’t too psyched to move at my
request so I slowed up a bit. I was getting ready to stop with my fingers
lightly pulling on the brakes when he made a lunge towards us resulting in me
grabbing a handful of brake lever and launching over the front of the bars.
Ouch! Fortunately for Sunday race day there were enough people around to
motivate the cows to move to a more remote area of the property.
Saturday morning it got moving! Lori got connected with the
infield set up crew. I rolled out with the course set up crew. There’s nothing
like rolling a lap in jeans with a shovel across the handlebars. Sean from MTB
Action was on his motorcycle making decisions on how to mark the course. As I
mentioned earlier, there is a big focus on keeping things safe. Freshman
through Seniors, beginners through soon-to-be-Pros, compete on the same course.
Sean said he wanted to “over mark” the course since there are many tight turns
on fast descents. While he dropped stakes written with directional arrows or
double and triple down arrows to signify caution points on the course, I was on
the lookout for areas that needed to be smoothed out. It was informative to get
a great idea on how a NICA approved course should be set.
Once the course was dialed in, Lori rolled out with Chris
from NICA to do a lap on the race course. I pulled the road bike off the rack
and took advantage of the quiet backroads between Los Olivos and Santa Maria.
It was vineyard after vineyard for 25 of the 35 miles on the out along Foxen
Canyon Road. The last 10 miles towards Santa Maria included plenty of
strawberry fields and other produce. It was very quiet and relaxing and best of
all I felt great riding at a few hundred feet above sea level. I wanted to make
a loop to the west of the 101 back from Santa Maria but my phone died and I
wasn’t sure of directions. However, going back the same way was a new
experience as well. I love riding somewhere I’ve never been and it was even
better that there was hardly any traffic.
We had another great evening visiting with other parents
from the SoCal league and enjoying their excitement that we are trying to get
the league rolling in Utah. A lot of the parents mentioned how much of a
positive experience it is to be part of a team and how much fun they have as
parents out at the races. It sure seems like everyone pitches in to make it all
happen. There were lots of volunteers to go out on the course set up and a lot
of other parents worked on their kid’s bikes.
Saturday night into Sunday morning brought 5 or 6 downpours.
Fortunately our tent kept the water out but I expected a mudfest Sunday
morning. The ground must have been dry enough because all it did was hold down
the dust for the morning. Lori found her way to the course marshal meeting and
I met up with Chris from NICA and got to be part of the set up crew for the
staging area and the opening straightaway. They have very specific set up rules
for NICA races. Needless to say, I did a lot of hammering rebar with a hefty
hammer. Watch out when I flex the guns! Lori came back over to do some course
taping and I was able to get Felipe from Ventura to give me a hand with some of
We hurried and grabbed some lunch and I got a look at how
immense the compound had become. There is a large pit area set aside for the
teams to set up. They got something like an area of 18’x25’ to put up tents and
trainers to get themselves ready for their races. The kids had been riding the
race course all morning. It looked like everyone was having a ton of fun so far.
After lunch we went back over to see what else we could get
involved with. There were going to be 3 waves of racers. The girls fields raced
first, followed by the Freshman and Sophomore boys. The final wave was Varsity
boys and the two divisions of Junior Varsity. I was able to get in the mix of
racer staging. First off, all of the student athletes were very considerate and
responsive. Again for safety, NICA rules have the kids line up 5 to a row with
no overlapping. Since it was a championship race for California the top-10 from
each league were called up. It was a lot of fun organizing the racers and
seeing their excitement to get out on the course.
Between the race waves I got to view some of the racing
closer to the staging area and visit with Lori while she was observing at the
scoring table. Talk about a great system! NorCal’s original official is still
with them and he has put together a web-based scoring system that provides real
time results to anyone with a device that can pick up WiFi. Yes people, real
time results on your smart phone while you walk around watching the race.
During the Varsity race we hiked up on one of the hills to watch the kids rally
the descent. We got to see a lot of good sportsmanship and encouragement.
After a long day and weekend I felt like we had really
benefited a lot by making the trip to have a good understanding on what it
takes to make one of these races happen. It was great to meet the driving
forces behind NICA and high school mountain biking. Very inspiring to see how
hard the crews work and the commitment they put in to make such a positive
experience for youth. Lori has been motivated and inspired to put in the work
it takes, but I’ve not seen her more excited or motivated than yesterday
afternoon after seeing it all in action.
To continue on the theme of vegan baked goods and pastries I would be remiss to mention again that around the holidays, Cakewalk makes the most amazing vegan peanut butter cups. They are also typically very large. Anyone who has traveled with me or even ridden in my car knows that previous to my vegan eating change that I ate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups all the time. In all the dietary changes I made this is probably the only one that stressed me out a little.
Thank goodness for Kelly at Cakewalk! Missie knew my love for pastries as well as peanut butter cups and brought us a few one day. I can’t remember which holiday it was but I was hooked. Lori brought a Valentine’s gift bag to me this past Monday and she had bought a variety of Dillos as well as 8 vegan peanut butter cups. Oh yeah! This week has been filled with cacao intoxication. Lori told me when she went in to Cakewalk on Monday to pick it up that there were only 4 peanut butter cups in the display case.
Guy at the counter: “What can I get for you?”
Lori: “I want all the peanut butter cups.”
Guy at the counter: “You’re going to make a lot of people sad” as he walks over to a large container with numerous peanut butter cups.
Lori: “Oh, I only want 6, well, maybe 8.”
We take our treats seriously and it’s a good thing we found some vegan options.
In other news, Lori and I are proud owners of mountain bikes! Lori had one before but it was old and beat down. When you see her on the dirt on an S-Works Epic she’ll have a big smile on her face. Wait a minute, that’s what she looks like all the time riding a bike. I’ll be rolling an S-Works Stumpjumper FSR. Yep, full suspension for me too. After my 2 week training camp last fall to get ready to get my butt kicked in the 24 Hours of Moab team ride I remembered how much fun it is to ride the dirt. Lori and I followed that up with a week in Moab over Thanksgiving and I was rehooked! I’ll try to get some photos rolled up on this thing soon.
See you out on the road for now. Oh, and if you see me eating a Dillo, looks like a twinkie, don’t slap it out of my hand. They are pricey and delicious!!!
Every so often I get things that make me smile. Today I logged in to write a blog entry and had lots of ideas running through my head but nothing was materializing. It’s been a great weekend. Got some fun rides done, spent a lot of time with Lori, accomplished some home projects (amazing, I know), got a lot of coaching work done, spent Sunday evening with Lori, Missie and Marie ( I know my grammar is not that smooth here), and felt tired from my week of training. It was a great Valentine’s weekend! By the way, Tyler Riedesel of Canyon Bicycles Racing Team finished 5th OVERALL at Valley of the Sun Stage Race.
So while trying to come up with an idea and staring at the screen I saw that the blogging software shows search engine results related to this blog. I almost couldn’t stop laughing. What was making me laugh so hard? The search engine result listed was: “dave harward doping”. Pretty funny. It made me try to imagine who was searching on that.
So you now no longer have to search for it, I’ll give you all the dirty secrets if you really want them. Over the past 10 years or so I have spent 8 of them eating mostly a vegetarian diet and the past 6 months transitioning to a vegan diet. The best “stuff” out there comes from Cakewalk vegan bakery. Missie dragged me down into the hell-hole of vegan desserts. It falls under the category of Caketastrophe. They are called Dillos, or as Kelly states, think Twinkies but vegan. They come in a variety of flavors: Naked Dillos, Choco Dillos, Raz Dillos, Ding Dillos, and Scribbles.
My favorite by far are the Naked Dillos, just like a good old fashioned Twinkie that I would eat as a rambunctious young monkey. Although my favorite way of Twinkie preparation was to put them in the freezer. My brother and I would fight over them. Check out their menu on the link and you’ll realize how easy it is to become a junkie. Unfortunately the cupcakes are difficult to manage when you are trying to dig them out of your jersey pocket. It’s so frustrating when you get that much frosting all over your race gloves. If you see me eating something that looks like a twinkie during a road race, slap it out of my hand. I can’t help myself.
My other super-secret is dark chocolate, preferably in the form of cacao bean nibs mixed with goji berries. Cacao beans give you that oh-so-pleasant-mellow-dude feeling. Eat a handful and 10-15 minutes later you start talking about how great life is and how good you feel. Unfortunately I recently was shocked to find out that Fig Newtons contain milk and eggs!!! WTH!!! I always was able to get the freebie out on the group ride with Mike Pratt of The Claw since they would buy a large package of Fig Newtons and always offer to share half with me. Fortunately I drink enough beet/fuji apple/carrot/spinach/broccoli/ginger juice to make up for it. Yes, all organic!
So there you have it. I’m a vegan dessert junkie and I honestly think it makes me go faster!
To begin with, Lori had a rolfing appointment downtown yesterday and she was early so she stopped by Cakewalk near 9th east and 4th south in the SLC. They make amazing vegan baked goods but around the holidays they make amazing vegan dark chocolate treats. Lori brought me a hugantic peanut butter cup: peanut butter candy filled with a dark chocolate shell. I ate it just before my afternoon ride. Dark chocolate does amazing things, like make you feel slightly euphoric. I rode along in the chilly sunshine enjoying everything.
While I was riding along the farm roads south of Lehi I almost got run over by this old guy in a 4Runner. He finally pulled over, stuck a camera out the window and pointed a camera up to snap a shot of a bald eagle.
About 6 miles later on the American Fork boat harbor road I had to pull over for these guys.
This week was great and I saw a lot of this. This is what Wednesday through the weekend looked like. Fun stuff for tomorrow too!
Rode out to Five Mile Pass today and enjoyed the fresh air today. From the corner of Redwood Road and I think what turns into Lehi Main Street, you’ve got around 15-17 miles of uninterrupted riding out to the Five Mile Pass area. The shoulder is wide at least until Fairfield. From what I’ve experienced over the past few years riding out that direction is that the drivers are fairly considerate. Last winter I was out near Fairfield solo and hadn’t been paying attention to the bad weather that was building to the northeast. When I turned around at Five Mile I knew it was going to be a blizzard of a ride home. Half way between Fairfield and Cedar Fort I, of course, flatted. As I was changing the flat a truck stopped to make sure I was ok and offered a ride.
Being my optimistic-about-weather-self I declined, imagining that the storm would clear up. I got the flat changed and started pedaling again. As the road turns direct East the snow was blowing sideways. At least it was cold enough that it was just piling up on my tights and jacket. When I got to Lehi I figured it was a rough enough day so far that I could call for the extraction. Unfortunately for me, Lori was with the girls and no one was home. Maybe it was a good thing. I made it home, none the worse for wear and I pushed through when I didn’t really want to.
Back to Five Mile Pass today and my burning question of interest. The south end of the Oquirrhs look like they could provide some decent skiing. Anyone ever ski out there? While I have for the time being turned into a non-skier I always see pitches that look like a lot of fun to ski.
I saw Sohmy’s post about seeing a bald eagle today near Scipio. I wonder how close he came to hitting it!?!?!
Wickie Vom Gleisenauer Schloß is a German Shepherd Dog. She joined the family almost a year ago and will be 8 years old this Sunday. She is, by all accounts, an amazing dog. My life has been changed significantly since she entered our home.
Here is some cool information about her pedigree as well as a cool picture when she was a young lady. You can see some great photos of her at her facebook page, thanks to Marie and Missie. Make friends with her. She occassionally makes updates.
Spending time with Wickie brings a supreme sense of calm. Today Lori and Wickie went for a snow-trail run in Corner Canyon. Wickie and I have had some fun in deep snow hiking/running Grandeur Peak and in Yellow Fork of Rose Canyon.
Happy Birthday this Sunday Wickie!