Sunday, September 21st, 2008

A Two Week Long Road Trip to BC Canada

Day 1: La Honda, CA to Roseburg, OR
Day 2: MTB North Umpqua Trail: Tioga and Mott segments out and back
Day 3: MTB North Umpqua Trail: Panther and Calf segments out and back
Day 4: MTB McKenzie River Trail out and back
Day 5: Eugene, OR to McKenna, WA
Day 6: McKenna, WA to Squamish, BC
Day 7: The Fix bikeshop, and Lost Lake Trails.
Days 8-9: Dirt Series Camp, Whistler
Day 10: Climbing: Rock On with Debby and p1 of Exasperator
Day 11: Climbing: the Snake with Debby
Day 12: MTB: Cut Yer Bars and A River Runs Through It
Day 13: Climbing: Diedre, Bloomstick, and Ultimate Everything (18 pitches total) with Debby
Day 14: Climbing: Exasperator and Arrowroot with Erik; Whistler to Olympia, WA
Day 15: Olympia, WA to La Honda, CA

Prologue

This was my first real road trip. Erik and I had been looking forward to the vacation for a long time. During the two weeks from Saturday, September 6, 2008 to Saturday, September 20, 2008, we visited his folks in Washington, mountain biked in Oregon and Whistler, and rock climbed in Squamish with our friends Steve and Debby.

Although we store our photos in our gallery for permanent storage, I uploaded the photos with captions to Picasa for easy viewing (they do have a very nice user interface).

The trip reports are organized in chronological order. Some days we spent driving, some biking, and some climbing. You can go straight to any report by clicking on its link at the top, or if you have the time, you are welcome to scroll down and read them in sequence. (You might want three cups of tea for that.) On some days, I put together some related information at the end of the report. In climbing jargon, it's called beta, which might turn out useful someday.

Day 1: La Honda, CA to Roseburg, OR

For a while, it did not seem that we would ever get out of the house. Yesterday, after wrapping up with work, I returned home to pack. It turned out to be an ambitious goal. I ended up spending two hours washing and cleaning my bike, which had accumulated a month’s worth of grime. I remember my chain was rubbing badly the previous few times I rode and when I tried to apply the lube right before the last ride, I was embarrassed to see how thick the grime was in the joints of the chain, but I forced the lube in nonetheless at that time. My bike needed a shower. Thankfully, Erik’s bike did not require cleaning because it had remained sparkling clean since it was cleaned after our last Downieville ride in July. While I worked on my bike, Erik busied himself with chores outside of the house. When he picked tomatoes and pears and sent them over to our neighbors, as usual, the friendly chatting dragged on. So, between our chores and dinner, we only managed to throw a few items that came to our mind as necessary for the trip to the floor in the family room. By bed time, we did not have anything packed, but the family room looked like a bomb just went off. We called it a day.

This morning, when I woke up at 8am, I felt satisfactory with my good night of sleep and thought that was a good start for a road trip because it set the tone – this should be a relaxing road trip. There is no need to stress ourselves out with any agenda, right?

The items on the floor got gathered into various bags and Tupperware containers. The bags and containers made their way into our CR-V slowly along with our mountain bikes. Finally, at noon, we locked the door and started the engine. Our journal had finally began!

It was already unusually warm in La Honda at 90+ degrees. When we stopped to get gas at City of Shasta Lake, it was 109. We saought escape in our air conditioned vehicle. We stopped at Shasta City to take some pictures of Mt. Shasta. Erik was surprised by how little snow there was on the mountain. From certain angles, it almost looked bone dry. He commented that the sight made him feel guilty for doing road trips. I felt guilty as well.

We did not manage to enter Oregon until the evening, and all bike shops were closed by then. I wanted to pick up some maps for the trails we wanted to ride, but now we would have to do without. Thankfully, North Umpqua River is clearly marked on my AAA Oregon map, so we decided to head straight for the trail and find a campground along the way. We turned off I5 in Roseburg onto Eastbound State Hwy 138. Toketee Campground was our destination because it was the trailhead to two most recommended segments: Deer Leap and Dread and Terror. When we pulled into a gas station at Roseburg, it was somewhere around 9pm. It took us a second to realize why a man walked straight to our car and stood next to it – “oh, that’s right; we are in Oregon.” The guy was very cheerful. We started chatting when he asked about our bikes. It was good thing that we chatted because we learned from him that Hwy 138 was just closed before Toketee due to forest fire. That changed our plan. We checked ourselves in to Motel 6 Roseburg and would play it by ear the next day.

Beta:
–Check Oregon road condition at www.tripcheck.com (interactive)
–Also, you can find latest updates to Umpqua National Forest at Umpqua National Forest News Room online.
–Motel 6 Roseburg, OR (541-464-8000) off I5 North is a new building with professional staff. The two rooms we stayed in for two nights were clean and quiet. We paid $60 after tax. Wifi is included. Sharis Restaurant is right next door. Safeway is not far either.

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Day 2: MTB North Umpqua Trail: Tioga and Mott segments out and back

Because the road closure on State Hwy 138 was still in place that prevented us to reach Toketee Lake Trailhead, the place to park for Deer Leap and Dread and Terror segments, we decided to enter North Umpqua River Trail (aka NUT) from the western end near Glide and work our way east.Swiftwater Trailhead is between Mile Posts #22 and #23. It offers a large shaded no-fee parking lot with a well-lit outhouse. There is no drinking water though. When we left the trailhead, it was around 10:30am. The first segment on NUT is Tioga Segment. It starts out as a flat, smooth double-track through a dense forest. There are some wooden bridges/paths that are about 3’ wide and do not seem to cross anything. Some of them have friction stripes about one foot wide in middle. It’s better to ride on these stripes because the wooden bridge can be very slippery. Erik learned this the hard way. It was only a quarter mile into the ride. He was riding with one hand on his handle bar while fumbling with his camera with the other. One moment, he looked down at his camera and his bike approached the edge of the wooden bridge. When he tried to correct it, the front wheel washed sideways on the slippery wood and he fell off the bridge banging his head (helmet) on a tree on the side. This crash left him a stiff neck throughout the 2-week trip, but he did not let it slow him down too much.

When the double track turns into a singletrack, it also starts a continuous ascent towards Bob Butte, the highest point on this segment. After a seemingly never ending ascent, we finally were descending. The terrain changed dramatically. On the other side of Bob Butte was a rocky outcrop that was exposed in the sun and covered by poison oaks that already turned red. But that section did not last too long, and again we were in the forest on a rolling singletrack. 15 miles later, we arrived at the end of the segment, also the start of the next segment: Mott.

Wanting more NUT, we decided to keep going. Mott Segment looks very flat on the trail map, but it is NOT. It is a nice singletrack crossing many creeks along the way. That means the trail frequently drops down to a bridge crossing only to climb steeply away from it. Although only 5 miles long, it turns out to be a bit tiring. When we got to the end, I was ready to turn around. Erik was ambitious and wanted to ride the next segment, Panther, I didn’t think we had enough day light to do that, but agreed to ride the start just to check it out. We turned around after just shy of 1 mile on Panther segment.

My camelpak was sucked dry at this point, but at Mott trailhead there is drinking water, which according to the trail map is the only TH that offers drinking water. Again, we were on Mott, only in a different direction. Now all I remember about the trail is all the ups and downs, many of them. I was feeling tired when we arrived at Tioga segment but thought I could manage to get back via the trail although riding the road back would have been easier. The tougest part was the climb up to Bob Butte on that rock outcrop. Steep, loose, and bumpy. I pushed my bike up and pushing the bike hurt my lower back, but thankfully, it was not too long – after all, we lose about 800 feet from the eastern end to the western end. The double track flowy section at the end was very much appreciated by us two tired riders.

Initially, I proposed that we would go directly up to McKenzie the next day, but after today’s big ride, I proposed we should just do a short ride on NUT the next day and set ourselves up for Mckenzie on Tuesday. So we checked back in Motel 6 Roseburg again.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBNUTTiogaMott#

GPS data: Mei's Garmin Edge 305 and Erik's Edge 301. All in all, we probably rode 44 miles today. We did not see another mountain biker, or mountain bike for that matter.

Beta:
–Umpqua National Forest provides very nice trail map online: http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/roseburg/recreation/umpquatrails/index.html. The same map can be acquired for free at the ranger station in Glide (near Mile post 18 on Hwy 138 East). The trailheads are well marked and it is not easy to get lost. This trail map is all you need really for riding this trail. You get to the trail by way of State Hwy 138 East that goes off I5 in Roseburg, OR.
–Tioga Segment has the most variety in terms of terrain, vegetation, trail surface. It is not mentioned anywhere, but actually, there is a 1.6-mile section of fire road to the east of Bob Butte that connects the singletracks on NUT. There are wooden signs that mark the trails. Mott is all single track with a lot of ups and downs. There is drinking water at the eastern end of Mott Segment.

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Day 3: MTB North Umpqua Trail: Panther and Calf segments Out and Back

We slept in. We seem to do a lot of that lately. *Sigh* We are feeling our age. We walked over to Sharis and had breakfast. But mainly, it was the coffee we really wanted.This time we stopped at the ranger station in Glide on our way to NUT. We mainly wanted to check the current fire status. The road was still closed before Toketee. Also, we read in the published trail map that Calf Segment was supposed to be closed. However, when we mentioned that we might ride that section, the ranger did not deter us. He did caution us that the trail might not be in its best condition.

We head straight to Mott TH, which facilitates drinking water and a super stinky outhouse – even flies die en masse inside, which I believe is due to the poisonous gas. This trailhead is popular to fishermen as we see quite a few of them. Again, we were the only mountain bikers.

Panther Segment turned out to be really sweet. Even though according to the trail map, there was supposed to be a spot called “Gravel Bar,” it was overall very smooth. There are also some ups and downs when the trail crosses creeks, but they are a lot more gentle than those in Mott Segment, and hence quite manageable.

However, when we continued on Calf Segment, the characteristics of the trail changed dramatically. There was a downed tree near the trail head, which was no big deal. But the trail from one end to the other is almost all covered in loose gravel. When you throw in ups and downs, that adds the challenge. I remember pushing my bike quite a few times when riding from western end to the eastern end. The vegetation along the trail is substantially different from what I saw on other segments because of the burn in 1987. The newly grown green trees are not very tall yet. As a result, there was a bit less of tree coverage. However, because the trail is on the north facing slope, I do not remember being in the sun much.

Today’s ride totalled about 17 miles, just a mellow day we had wanted.

When I called the bike shop in Roseburg, it was almost their closing time, and I was still in Glide, 18 miles away. But Joshua and Willie were kind enough to wait for us. Unfortunately, the nicely made trail maps they carry do not include McKenzie River Trail, which was on our agenda for the next day. But because Willie had done it, we were able to get enough information to know where we wanted to stay for the night – we decided to go for Springfield, the town at I5 and Hwy 126, about 55 miles east of Mckenzie River Ranger Station. We also learned from Willie that there is a nice loop, Yellow Jack Loop, that locals like to ride, which is quite close to town. I should ask them for more details if I come back and want to give that loop a spin.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBNUTPantherCalf#

GPS data: Mei's Garmin Edge 305 and Erik's Edge 301.

Beta:
–Having riden four segments of NUT from the western end: Tioga, Mott, Panther, and Calf, I would say Panther was my favorite.
–We saw poison oak on all segments and at spots, they are thick, so we got some rubbing alcohol in town and wiped ourselves down well. Although both sensitive, we did not get an outbreak from these two days' riding.
Fundamental Bike (541-673-1767) is in Downtown Roseburg. They carry a fleet of bikes for sale and for demos. The staff there are very nice and helpful. You can ask them any questions. (More on that later.)

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Day 4: MTB McKenzie River Trail Out and Back

My stomach was churning when I tried to down my sizzling plate at Denny’s. Our last night’s dinner was at the same place because we stayed at Motel 6 right next door. There are only so many meals in a row I can take from these diners. Oh, how I miss the breakfasts we had when we were in China — rice soups, steamed buns, steamed squashes, boiled corns, etc. But now, my task at hand was to finish the greasy food in front of me because I knew I would need all the calories I could get in my body for today’s big ride. Mckenzie River Trail (MRT) is about 26.5 miles one way. Some people arrange shuttle so they only do the downhill direction (southbound). Some people do it in a loop but ride up on Hwy 126, which is smoother and straighter. We did not want to deal with the hassle arranging a shuttle ride, and we preferred trail over highway, so we opted for a third option – we would ride it out and back from the ranger station at the bottom.It took about an hour to get to the ranger station from Springfield OR. Despite our effort to get up early (6:30), between the breakfast, drive, cleaning and lubing our bikes, changing, and getting information from the ranger, by the time we were ready to leave for our ride, it was again almost 10:30am, much later than I had liked.

We were equiped with a 50-cent map from the ranger station, which was a simple, yet comprehensive map just for MRT. It is perfect for a bike ride because it contains only information important for this trail and is fairly small (a little bigger than Letter size) and easy to fold and unfold. As Erik and I agreed, the map was worth every penny (and more) for our ride.

We each packed three bars, one Cliff Shot, and one Hammer gel flask. That’s more than we had ever taken for our previous long rides. My camelpak contained 70oz water and Erik;s, 100oz. We learned from the ranger that there were a few places along the way where we could re-fill our water. I brought a wind breaker, which I never needed (I wore my tank top whole day). I also brought a headlamp, which turned out to be a life saver.

We entered MRT from the ranger station and immediately we were in a dense forest. The trail was flat and wide. Wow! I marvelled at the smooth trails, friendly curves, tall trees, green ferns, and the river sound audible from a distance. Little did I know that this was the characteristics of the trail for miles on end, until it started approaching Blue Pool. The 2 miles leading to the pool is far from being smooth; on the contrary, there are many lava rocks scattered on and by the trail. Gravity did not make it easy either when going upstream. But the regular dismounts are rewarded with a beautiful emerald pool. We stood in awe admiring its color. A hundred yards more of the rough trail north of Blue Pool is followed by a 5-mile stretch of fairly smooth trail through the forest floor again. When the trail climbs up a hillside, the river becomes louder and louder and suddenly, the trail is right next to a water fall raging down the river., That is an exciting view. There is another spectacular water fall of about the same size further up the trail.

Another smooth stretch led us to Clear Lake, which lives up to its name. MRT runs on the east side of the lake and that section is constantly interruped by loose lava fields. A few short paved sections help ease the challenge a little, but I still found myself pushing my bike frequently because it was just as quickly as if I had tried to ride those loose lava gravel sections. We both re-filled our water at a well pump on the trail. When MRT meets with Clear Lake Trail, which runs on the west side, there is only 1 mile left on MRT to its northern trailhead. So, even though it was already late, we decided to cover the trail in its entirety. We took a few pictures of the trailhead before we turned around. It was already 4:20pm and we only had three hours of daylight left.

We chose to ride Clear Lake Trail just to see the other side of the lake, but we were delighted to find that the trail was extremely smooth and well-groomed. It was a pleasant un-interrupted ride, which was a big contrast to its mean sister, MRT, on the other side of the lake.

Having taken too many stops on the way up to take photos, eat bars, and enjoy the view, on the way down, we kept going racing the setting sun except for a few very brief breaks replenishing. The rough section near Blue Pool is a little more rideable in the downhill direction, but I still dismounted frequently because I knew that I might make mistakes when I was tired. I was happy when that section was over and I knew that the rest of the ride would be fairly smooth except for a few rough spots and many log creek crossings that could slow our progress down. We made good progress, but the sun also made good progress sinking below the horizon beyond the boundary of the forests. We rode much of second half in twilight with Erik leading the way in front of me. It was actually fun. Eventually, we had to pull our headlamps out, but we thought we were quite close to the trail head already because we had been riding on the south side of the river for a while. It was there that we saw a wooden sign “to Hwy 126” with an arrow. That must be it! After following the trail a short distance, suddenly we were on the road. It was about 8:30pm, four hours after we turned around at the northern trailhead. We turned left on Hwy 126 pedalling up road towards the ranger station. We rode and rode, and the ranger station never appeared. Finally, after probably about 3 miles, we decided that the ranger station might be behind us, so we turned around and started going the other way. When we passed the Hot Springs below the point where we popped out, we realized that there were still four miles to go to the ranger station. Obviously, the sign led us off the trail before its end But at least, now we knew where we were and it was not that far from our car. We pedalled happily in dark with only the headlamps lighting our way.

It was after 9pm when we made it back to our car. Whew, what a day! We high fived each other with a sense of accomplishment.

As far as I can remember, this is the longest mountain biking ride I’ve ever done. Thankfully, unlike some rides I’ve done around the Bay Area, there is not a lot of elevation changes on this one, so it is not too physically taxing. There are some sections that are technical and see me pushing the bike, but those sections are short. If anything, this ride is too scenic – we made frequent stops to take pictures or just sit there taking in the views. We came across five mountain bikers in total on the trail and a handful of hikers near the ranger station. Erik, faster than me, rode ahead of me and waited for me at intersections, so most of time, I rode alone. It was just the forest, the river, and me. It was surreal. Often times, I caught myself smiling while riding on MRT.

Although having had a great day riding, we were both happy there was no riding planned for the next couple of days. The way Erik put it, “I need a cushion to sit down.” We would be visiting family in Washington instead.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBMcKenzie#

GPS data: Mei's Garmin Edge 305 for the northbound ride only (the battery died soon after)and Erik's Edge 301. According to our GPS data, we estimate that the entire ride was somewhere between 56 and 60 miles.

Beta:
–The best map for McKenzie River Trail can be acquired for 50 cents from the ranger station. The trail in general has a very clear continuity, which does not require a map to guide you. But the map can be helpful to help you figure out where you are. If you go South, do not be digressed by the wooden sign, “to Hwy 126” because it dumps you on the highway about 4 miles up road from the ranger station.
–McKenzie River Ranger Station (8am – 4:30pm open 7 days a week), 57600 McKenzie Hwy, McKenzie Bridge Oregon 97413 (541-822-3381).
–There seems to be very little poison oak on the trail although we both remember seeing small patches of it. Because it did not strike me as a concern, I didn’t bother with thorough alcohol rubbing afterward, and next day, I got some itchy spots around my ankles. That was a lesson I learned.
–If you are not so gung-ho about doing Mckenzie in its entirety, or if you are time crunched, I advise taking Clear Lake Trail (west side) instead of MRT (east side) when you travel the length of Clear Lake. The riding experience is like day and night on these two trails. Erik said he liked the unique lava sections on MRT, but I enjoyed the uninterrupted flow on Clear Lake Trail a lot more.

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Day 5: Eugene, OR to McKenna, WA

Last night, after the late return to our car from our ride, we managed to drive through Portland at night just so we did not have to deal with the traffic the next day. But it was past midnight and we were tired, so we pull off I5 into Best Western Woodland (360-225-1000), which turned out to be a decent place for a night’s stay. The room is very spacious and adequately furnished. There is an indoor pool and jacuzi that look tempting, although we did not have a chance to enjoy them. There is a simple continental breakfast bar, which turned out to be a very nice break from the greasy breakfasts we had been having at Denny’s and Sharis. We rested well before heading to McKenna to visit Erik’s folks.It was a beautiful day. After we arrived, we walked around the farm to greet all the animals with Bev by our side telling us about the things happening around home. Texus King is a beautiful stalion that has lived here for about 15 years, who was happy to see Erik back. Bev proudly showed us her three cute Nigerian goats who showed affection and curiosity to everyone. A geese family of three patrolled the farm tirelessly. The chickens, turkeys, ducks, and more geese busied themselves with whatever tasks they had.

In the house, we were greeted by three dogs and three cats. One other cat is forever hiding, so we never caught a glimpse of him. Occasionally, the doves and peacocks tried to remind us of their existence too. I figured this is a typical American farm house.

Despite the short notice, twelve of the family members and friends made it out to Famous Dave’s in Yelm to meet us for dinner. We told them about our road trip and they told us about the local fair. Lots to catch up before we retreated to bed. Another great day on our trip.

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Day 6: McKenna, WA to Squamish, BC

We woke up to another beautiful day on the farm. We packed up slowly and had a relaxed breakfast that Bev cooked for us. It was almost noon when we pulled out of the gate. Our journey continued.Despite being on vacation, Erik had been checking his work emails and making correspondance on his Blackberry everyday. And today, we would make a side trip to Issaqua so he could work on two servers that had been giving them trouble. That’s an IT admin’s life. I spent the two hours when he was at work in Issaqua Public Library. There I was able to look up online for information about Vancouver.

We crossed the border at Blaine station and did not encounter any delay entering Canada. The officer in his bullet-proof vest threw some questions at us before waving us by and suddenly, I was in another country. For a while, I was quite excited about being in a different country and kept looking around for unique things. It, at least that part of Canada, turns out to be very similar to the US except that there are always two languages, English and French, on all the signs and the mileages are in kilometers.

Debby had forwarded me an email from her friend with recommendations in Vancouver. I was most interested in the ramen place that received good reviews, Kintaro Ramen. They served the ramen fast and I ate it even faster. It was delicious. Although our stomachs were quite full, we went in a dessert place and sat down to enjoy our tea and fruit trifle. That was quite relaxing.

Because a spoke was broken in Erik’s bike, we decided to drive straight to Whistler so we could take it in a shop to get it fixed and maybe get a short ride in tomorrow. I had made a reservation at the hostel in Whistler, Southside Lodge, for a room from Friday for a week, but apparently we were ahead of our schedule. The friendly staff led us into our room nonetheless and did not even bother with charging us for the extra night of stay.

When I unpacked and got our stuff sorted out, Erik went downstairs to treat himself a beer. When he returned, I heard him chuckle while still unlocking the door. While he was walking around the building with his head down, he almost ran into a bear. Well, I had read about bear appearances at Whistler, but still it sounded amazing to me how this happened within the first hour when we arrived. I guess that’ll teach ya, “do no walk with your head down, eh?”

Beta:
–Kintaro Ramen is located two blocks away from Hwy 99. 788 Denman St., Vancouver Tel: 604-682-7568. Not bad for a quick stop on the way.

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Day 7: The Fix bikeshop, and Lost Lake Trails

We got a recommendation from Alli at Southside Lodge for a bike shop that we could take our bikes to, The Fix Inc. It’s in Funcatoin Juncation a few kilometers south of Whistler Village. The shop is a one-man show, owned and run by James Barrett. It turns out he and his bike shop are featured in an article in June 2008 Bike Magazine (see my photos). James is friendly and talkative, and he did not mind us hanging out at the shop and watching him work. Erik’s bike was loaded with issues and my bike’s shifter needed adjustment too, so we spent five hours in the bike shop. The conversation was fun but I became eager to get out and get on my bike in the end.When we got out of the shop at 3pm, we decided to test the water on Lost Lake Park Trails at Whistler. It is a network of trails right off of the day lots in Whistler Village. Alli had loaned us his trail guide, but one could easily get by without one here because there are big maps at many trailheads and the trails are clearly marked. We started on some easy trails smooth with packed gravel surface, but that bored us immediately, so we jumped on the first singletrack that we ran into, Dinah Moe Humm. Lacking the culture background, I was amused by the interesting trail names, such as “Disco Boy”, “Pinocchio’s Furniture”, “Gee, I Like your Pants”, “Son of Mr. Green Genes”, “Toads of the Short Forest”, etc. Erik educated me about Zappa, a singer and song writer, who wrote those songs. I heard that people also call those trails “Zappa Trails”. Although all singletracks we rode are blue, they differ in difficulties. I could clean some of them without any problem, but I dismount often on others. The roots and jagged rocks are unfamiliar to me used to riding the dirt smooth trails around the Bay Area. This was also the first time I rode on board walks – man made wooden paths one to two feet wide, so low on the ground and some elevated. In the beginning, I dismounted at the sight of them, but I started riding them if they did not seem too intimidating. By the end of the two hour ride, I was able to ride most of them at Lost Lake.

We both had fun riding at Lost Lake and started to get a feel how fun the trails are at Whistler. That got us very excited about the Dirt Series camp that would take place the next two days.

In the evening, we stopped by Summit Ski Bike Board in Whistler Village to go through the registration process for the camp. We both got a pair of leg and elbow armors. Erik got a demo DH bike (Rocky Mountain Flatline) for Saturday and I got a demo XC bike (Rocky Mountain EXST 70 with 5” travel) for Sunday. We were all set to go.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBLostLakeTrails#

Beta:
The Fix Inc is a bike shop in Whistler we like. Unit 1A-1006 Lynham Rd, Function Junction, Whistler, BC (604.966.0707)

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Days 8-9: Dirt Series Camp, Whistler

The two day camp started at 8:30 on Saturday morning. Cadence, the founder of Dirt Series, introduced every instructor, most of whom are women. Wade Simmons is probably the most well-known rider, but every instructor has an impressive resume.According to our questionnaires, we were separated into multiple groups and headed up hill on the gondola for our skills sessions. I signed up for a basic skills group and regretted when I found myself bored at drills such as going down a gentle slope using only front brake and only rear brake despite that our instructors Lisa and Janice did a good job teaching. Or maybe it was because I did not get chance to have my morning coffee. The afternoon ride was a bit more fun. I signed up for a ride at Emerald Forest. Our ride leader, Penny, was on a downhill bike, but it did not stop her from clearing technical climbs. And she made some technical descents look like a piece of cake.

When we returned to the shop for our evening’s activites, I saw Erik. Eyes wide, filled with excitement, he was still thrilled about his afternoon spent in the Bike Park. His morning class covered manuals, bunny hops, etc., and he went for Bike Park Air ride in the afternoon. Led by two impressive ladies, Tara and Michelle, his group caught some air riding the downhill courses. He could not containt he excitement from having ridden some drops that he had not expected to ride before the camp. Having had so much fun riding downhill, he changed his plan from riding XC on Sunday to spending another day in the bike park. That meant he needed to rent a DH bike for Sunday. Although our trip’s cost had been higher than I liked, when I saw the smile on his face and the sparks in his eyes, I knew the 80 dollars would be well worth it.

When we returned to the lodge after our camp late at night, our friends Steve and Debby had arrived. Steve and Erik had known each other for about ten years and despite the fact that Steve, working as a dentist in the millitary, had been all over the world, he always found his way to Yosemite and other places where he and Erik scaled high peaks. They had done Half Dome in a day, the Nose in a day, the Rostrum and Astroman in the day among other impressive stunts. Last year, it was Steve who climbed the Rostrum with Erik on the morning of our wedding in Yosemite. So, although Erik had not been climbing much this year and had not been climbing strong, I knew he would be in good hands climbing with Steve. As Steve wrote in one of his emails to me, “Expect Erik to be beat up and useless.”

Debby and I had known each other for a few years. Every time we saw each other, we always had a lot to talk about. We had climbed with each other a few times before, but more often, we just hung out. I really like her because she is one friend who is not afraid of speaking her mind. Once at a crag, she told Erik that he needed more sun. Recently, I had not seen her for a long a time because she moved to the City, so she had travel out of country so we could spend some time together.

Steve, having flown in from Virginia to Seattle, picked Debby up who flew in from SFO to Vancouver. We were happy to see both of them at the lodge when we returned from the camp.

On Sunday morning, Steve and Debby left early for Frayed Ends of Sanity (5.11a without the last 5.12c pitch) and the Great Game (5.10d) on the Squaw. Erik and I got ready for our second, and last, day of the camp.

This morning, the skills session I signed up for was fun. Emily and ??? showed us rope for manuals. Next thing I knew, we were doing small jumps on the downhill courses. The demo bike I had was equiped with more travel than my own bike (5.5” vs 4”) and it was heavier, which added a lot of stability when tackling jumps and corners. I thoroughly enjoyed the rides down B-line. After lunch, I joined the small group led by Suzzi and Michelle in the Bike Park. For other members’ benifit who had not spent time in the bike park earlier, we rode down B-line a couple of times before we got on Crank It Up. I focused on improving my cornering skills and I felt more confident by the end of the day. Again, by the end of the day, I found Erik safe and happy. He had joined the “Bike Park Advanced” ride group in the afternoon and followed Kyle and Kevin down some incredible black diamond and double black diamond runs in the bike park (Ninja Cougar, A-line, Dirt Merchant, Schleyer, Clown Shoes, Upper and Lower Whistler Downhill to name a few). He had some pictures and videos from him and his group mates to show. Even when we returned to the lodge, he still could not help talking about his exciting jumps to our two non-mountain biker friends.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBDirtSeries#

Beta:
–We would recommend Dirt Series at Whistler to anyone interested. Check out their website for more information.

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Day 10: Climbing: Rock On with Debby and p1 of Exasperator

The bike camp ended, but the excitement lingered. However, as the day turned to Monday, Erik and I were required to switch gear – we were rock climbers again. Although Debby had climbed, and climbed well, with Steve the day before, it would be my first time climbing in the area, so Debby and I chose a moderate 6-pitch route, Rock On (5.10a), in South Gully on the Chief formation.Both Debby and I had been climbing with a more experienced partner for most of our outings, so being on our own was both exciting and a little scary. However, we did not have much trouble finding the base of the route, which was a small success in its own right. I took the first pitch. That was the first lead I had done in years, but thankfully, the pitch was easy at 5.7 and I had no trouble getting up it. When Debby came up, she was followed by a free-soloer wearing a big backpack. He is Ignaci from Spain. We let the nice guy pass us when we switched leads. He made a few moves before backing down deciding that he was not feeling good enough to free-solo the rest of the route, so he would rope solo. So, Debby and I continued on ahead of him. Having planned on rappeling from the top of the 5th pitch, we hauled a thin tag line, which managed to cam itself in a crack at one point and refused to be pulled up. We were lucky to have Ignaci right behind us, who helped us free it when went back down to clean his own lead, so we did not waste too much time on the stuck rope. The 3rd pitch I led was supposed to be 5.9 awkward with a chimney section, but I found it fairly casual with a good hand jam in the back and plenty of features to use on the wall. Not wanting to hold Ignaci up, Debby did a great job linking the next two 5.10a pitches together before we rappelled without any trouble. The descent from the base of the route went fast.

We then hiked up to the base of Grand Wall (5.11a A0 8p), a stellar, hard route that Steve and Erik set out to do in the morning. They had not returned, so we hung out at the base. Close to it is a beautiful two pitch crack, Exasperator (5.10c). Two local climbers just came down it. Not wanting to sit around, I decided to give the first pitch (5.10a) a go. Thin crack had never been my forte, but I just wanted to do something. However, 30 or 40 feet off the ground at the crux, I was not willing to make a committing move above my gear. Hanging out, my ankle started feeling very sore due to the twisting motion. I decided to come back down to the ground, give it a rest, and try again. On the ground, I could tell Debby was tempted to give it a go. Having done well the past two days, she had more confidence than me. So I handed her my end and up she went. She got to my high point. After a brief pause, she continued up. She looked solid and finished the first pitch without any trouble. I followed the pitch. Though not having any trouble following, I still found it a little hard and was not sure if I would ever want to lead it again. By then, Erik and Steve had returned from their climb. They did Roman Chimney (with the 10d variation to the 11d chimney pitch, 11a 4p) after the Grand Wall.

The guys were hungry, so we stopped in Squamish to each at Boston Pizza. The food was not bad, but I found the price a little steep.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/ClimbingRockOn#

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Day 11: Climbing: the Snake with Debby

Steve had been doing most of the leading, (I wonder if it had anything to do with me asking him to be gentle on my man), and he had been the one doing all the planning for the two of them. I’d like to think Erik was still in his biker mode, but I knew better – Erik was just in his perpetual absent-minded state. Again, Steve planned a big day even though he kept saying that he should take it easy because his shoulder had been bothering him. He did not listen to his body. They did Unfinished Symphony (5.11b 7p).Debby and I chose an area classic, the Snake (5.9 5p) on the South Apron of the Chief formation. I took the first pitch again, but despite having seen climbers in front of us, I managed to get off route and ended up on a face pitch with horrendous rope drag. It was the rope drag that made me believe that I was on a wrong route because it was impossible for me to make another move towards a two-bolt anchor with slings. Once I downclimbed and got back on route, the rope drag improved substantially. So I continued up an obvious corner that I ignored earlier and caught up with the party in front of us at the belay. We stayed behind the young couple in front of us. Maybe they would have let us pass if we had asked, but we had plenty of time for the climb, so we did not pressure them. Instead, we just enjoyed our little socializing sessions everytime we overlapped them at the belay. It was a comfortable to be hanging out on the wall. When we topped out on Memorial Ledge, Erik and Steve had been sitting there for half an hour after having finished their route. That was an unexpected place for an unexpected re-union. We finished the day’s climbing on Memorial Crack (5.9) in two parties of two.

The boys were starving again. Since the Indian place Steve wanted to go to was closed, we went to Samurai Sushi at Whistler Creekside that I’d heard about. It seemed very popular with locals who came in a stream to pick up take outs. I was happy with my sushi combination, but Debby thought the quality of the food there was poor. Obviously, the food portion was not satisfying because when we got back to our place, almost everyone had to find something else to eat. I guess we would not go back to that place again.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/ClimbingTheSnake#

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Day 12: MTB: Cut Yer Bars and A River Runs Through It

Today is a rest day. Even Steve needed a rest day. Debby too. Erik and I were eager to get back on our bikes, so we did not mind taking a break from climbing. Debby thought it was silly not to visit Vancouver while we were “right there” only two hours away, so she borrowed Steve’s car and headed into the City. Having driven straight through last Saturday in Steve’s rental car, Debby regretted not having a chance to check out Kintaro Ramen. So she grabbed the opportunity.Steve, Erik, and I went downstairs for breakfast at the diner. We went in around 7:40am for their $5 breakfast special offered between 7 and 8am, but we were ignored for a while before we were seated and then we were left sitting there without a menu or coffee for another while. By the time we got our menus, it was past 8am, and “the computer had automatically raised the price.” Hah, sneaky little trick they play, wasn’t it?

After breakfast, we loaded the two bikes in the car and left for Whistler. Erik fitted his bike for Steve and switched the pedals to platform. They took off for some casual riding at Lost Lake Park.
I took the opportunity to go back to the lodge to pick up my forgotten shoes, and stopped by an Internet Cafe to make photocopies of the topos for the climbs we would be doing the next day. They returned to the car with a smile after about two hours.

We sent Steve off with the car. The main goal of today for Erik and me was to check out Cut Yer Bars and the most famous XC trail at Whistler, A River Runs Through It (RRTI). It was my first time riding on our cheap platform pedals (I didn’t think I should attemp RRTI with clipless pedals after having read so much about it). It felt very awkward at first. My feet kept popping off of the pedals whenever there was a bump or a climb. So we stuck to the Blue trail for Cut Yer Bars, which turned out to be quite mellow. We dropped in on Cut Yer Bars right near Lorimer and Nester intersection and came out near the playground.

Following the directions given by some locals, we rode up through Emeral Estates and started on the north section of RRTI. Immediately, I got a taste of the famous trail. When there is no man made obstacles, there are many roots and rocks. Erik did a good job clearning many obstacles when I pushed my bike most of the time. For me, I just wanted to check out the trail to see what all the hype was about. I envied the locals who had access to the trail easily. If I could keep riding a trail like that, my technical bike handling skills would improve dramatically. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of any trail near home that remotely resembles RRTI.

When we got on an easy connector trail (Dark Bart or something) between the two sections of RRTI, we were happy that that section would help increase the on-bike percentage on this ride, but it ended too soon and we were again on the black diamond RRTI. Maybe it was late in the day, we didn’t see more than four riders there, but because the trails winds back and forth through the forest, I thought I kept hearing sounds coming from different directions close to us. Erik rode some more obstacles, but made sensible judgement to skip some that could result in serious consequences. We decided that next time when we come back, we should be equiped with armors and better platform pedals.

Frequently, we were shocked by the crazy pathways that some double-diamond variations take on RRTI. Some are on some elevated skinny logs involving bends this or that way and some are teeter totters sitting on a log and the teeter totter moves side ways when you get on it. We took pictures to show to our friends back home. Near the end, we ran into two guys wrapping up with their work building a brand new boardwalk. We conversed for a little while and we learned that they were paid city employees to build trails. When Erik asked, “how much of this trail can you guys clean?” They first gave that what-do-you-mean look before saying “all of it.” “Even the double black diamond variations?” “Yes, all of it.” Erik and I were blown away by that answer. RRTI was an eye-opener for Erik and me.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/MTBRRTI#

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Day 13: Climbing: Diedre, Bloomstick, and Ultimate Everything (18 pitches total) with Debby

Today would be our last full day in the area, so we all (I mean Steve, Debby, and I) wanted to do some memorable climbing. I proposed Debby and I do Diedre (5.8 6p), Bloomstick (5.7 2p), and Ultimate Everything (5.10b or 5.9+A0, 10p). Steve and Erik would do Freeway (5.11c, 12p).Debby sounded a little wary about the ambitious goal. For some unknown reason, I wasn’t too worried (I normally would). I think the main reason was we could call it a day on top of any of those three climbs on our route. So I proposed we would just go as fast as we could and make a decision before we head up the next route.

So far I have not talked about weather. I should because I had been very happy with the weather we had on this road trip. For what we were doing everyday, it was always the perfect weather. Earlier in the week, the forecast predicated showers on Thursday, but last night when we checked, it did not mention rain. So today, when we were on the rock, it was overcast most of the day until we neared the top. It was a really good feeling to top out in the warming sun.

On the entire climb, Debby and I swung leads with she taking the odd pitches. That would put me on the sharp end for the last pitch, a 5.11c, or 5.9+ A0, or a 5.10b variation. I thought to myself I would get us to the top one way or another.

Diedre was a very nice warm up climb at its low grade. The corner pitches were clean and pleasant. When we topped out, another party also topped out right after us from another moderate 5 pitch climb near by. They were Patrick from Australia and Gail from Kenmore, Canada. On the hike towards Ultimate Everything (UE) after we climbed Bloomstick, we let these two pass us because they seemed pretty fast.

Due to the cloud coverage, we decided to stay on their heels because if we did end up needing to bail due to weather, we would need two ropes to rappel. They also seemed happy to stay together. Patrick went off route on the first pitch and ended up climbing a bolted 5.10-ish face climb up the second pitch that connected back to UE. I made a long traverse to the right and found the second half of the 1st pitch on UE and continued up its 2nd pitch. Other than that, we were indeed right on their heels with occasional waiting here and there. We all climbed efficiently. Finally, the last pitch was right above us. Patrick tried to work out the 5.11c move and he had to hang. Partly not wanting to deal with the aid move, and partly because I normally feel more comfortable with crack than face climbing, I chose to go with the 5.10b variation that traverses left along a horizontal broken crack. Thankfully, this is a pitch that in my opinion that has been rated soft. It was a traverse with either jugs or bomber hand jams all the way with very good protection. We two parties finished the route at about the same time. The entire link up (18 pitches) took Debby and me 7 hours and 11 minutes according to my stop watch. We were really happy to be on top in the sun with plenty of daylight to spare.

The four of us had a little celebration picnic on top. Patrick did not hide the fact that he was impressed by how efficient girl climbers could be. We snapped a few shots in different combinations before we started descending on the well marked, well groomed hikers’ trail.

Erik and Steve went to dinner at the Indian restaurant after their climb when Debby and I were on our way down. And later Debby and I went to a Mediterranean restaurant in Whistler for a satisfying fulfilling dinner.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/ClimbingUltimateEverything#

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Day 14: Climbing: Exasperator and Arrowroot with Erik; Whistler to Olympia, WA

Today would be our last day. Both Debby and Steve were flying out by the end of the day. But we would take advantage of however much time we had before we had to get on the road. They packed up quickly and rolled out to get on Cruel Shoes (5.10d, 6p). It was Steve’s idea. Obviously, he could never get enough of hard climbing. Erik and I had more junk to pack, so we took our time after they were gone. We didn’t have any agenda, but we just wanted to see them before everyone left the area. When we pulled into the parking lot at the viewpoint below the Grand Wall, we could see them clearly on the wall. Erik and I walked straight to Exasperator (5.10c, 2p). Having backed off the first pitch on my first day, and having felt good climbing yesterday, I decided to redeem myself. After some wait for the couple in front of us to get out of the way (they were going for another route further up), I got on the first 5.10a pitch. It was not a casual climb, but I felt solid at it and this time led it without any incidents. Erik came up to me fast and took on the lead for the second 5.10c pitch. He did it in a nice style and did not even breathe hard. When I followed it, I found it exceptionally pleasant – I was able to get sinker finger lock with every move before I got to the perfect hand crack. The rock was abrasive for the feet to stick.Satisfied with that climb and seeing that we still had some time to kill, we moved over to another crack climb, Arrowroot (5.10b, 1p). I asked to lead it. The guidebook says it is hand crack on top, but it is not. It is thin like the first pitch of Exasperator, but I was quite used to it now, so I did not find it harder than that pitch. After we came down, we found them at the car waiting for us.

Erik miraculously stuffed Debby along with her luggage and alpine backpack in our already-full CR-V. We said warm good-bye to Steve and started making our way down to Vancouver. We had enough time to stop at Kintaro Ramen for dinner. Because of its long wait, we ate at its sister shop one block away. I think the food was even tastier because Debby insisted on treating us. Hmmm… yummy.

After we dropped Debby off at the airport, we still had the border crossing to deal with, which was no fun. We were in the stop-n-go traffic (stop meaning turning off the engine) for two hours and twenty minutes before we finally crossed the border. The officer asked us some brief questions before he said to us “welcome home” and let us through. Hmmm… welcome home. It sounded so warm. But still, it was a long way from home. We crossed the border at 9pm, and pulled our tired bodies into Best Western Tumwater (in Olympia Washinton) after midnight. We slept all the way through until next morning.

Beta:
–After dropping off Debby at the airport, we got back on I5 South. That led us to either Peace Arch (on I5) or Pacific Highway (on Hwy15) border crossings. We saw a electronic sign saying the wait time at PA was 90 minutes and PH 50, so we veered off to take Hwy 15 following a string of cars — I assume they saw the same sign.  It turned out to be really bad. It was stop (with engine shutoff for 10 minutes or so) and go (for 20 feet or so) for two and half hours.  Later, I heard from Steve, who took Sumas (on Hwy 13), that he experienced a 1.2 hour delay. Maybe that's what we should do next time. You can get the wait times either online by checking CA bound and US bound or tune to 730AM on the radio.

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Day 15: Olympia, WA to La Honda, CA

It was a looooooonnnnng way home. We stopped in Roseburg, Oregon for lunch. Having stayed here for two nights as a base for riding North Umpqua Trail, we had developed a fondness for this place. Not knowing exactly where to eat, we went back to Fundamental Bike. This time, Willie and Chad were in the shope. Chad did most of the talking when Willie was busy on his phone. They enthusiastically recommended McMenimins in town. When giving us the directions to get to the restaurant, which was about three blocks away, Chad offered to drive us to it. We were blown away by his offer, but told him we were happy to do some walking after having sat in our car for hours.The restaurant was very nice, converted from an old train depot. The service was great and food was delicious. On the way out, I grabbed their cards and was happy to find that they have hotels and restaurants at many locations in vairous states. I would definitely keep them in mind next time I’m on the road.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mudncrud/ClimbingExasperator#

Epilogue

We pulled up to our house after midnight. After having been away for two weeks, it was a mixed feeling to be home. Life was simple when we were on the road because we did not need to deal with anything, but it was always nice to be in our own house too.
This was my first road trip and I consider it a great success. Of course, we got lucky with the weather. We had great company when Steve and Debby came out. And our various destinations were fantastic.

I tried to document this trip for us and for people like-minded who want to visit some of the same destinations some day in the future. I did most of my writing in the car when Erik was driving. Actually, now that I think about it, he did all 2000+ miles of driving. He said that it was because he was always nervous of my driving, but I think he was just that awesome. We listened to three books on the road, Three Cups of Tea, A Man Who Loved China, and The Audacity of Hope. That also means that when I was writing, I was half distracted the whole time. As a result, I won’t be surprised if some of my writing does not make much sense. It’s too long for me to proofread it carefully too.

If you have any comments or any questions regarding any part of this trip, you are welcome to post here.

One Response

  1. Octavia Leffelmanon 22 Sep 2011 at 4:23 pm

    "Sometimes it's a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence." ~ " David Byrne