Saturday, July 31, 2010

Epic Ride @ SMBA

Long Ride today up at the SMBA trails near Skidmore College.  We wanted to do "Dam" the long trail that goes out extremely far from the trailhead with no support or civilization in sight.  We made it, but it was a struggle.  We started off on the carriage trail, and then we rocked "Swam Pass".  I was feeling rough.  I usually make it without putting a foot down, but today, I dropped it twice.  I'm going to go ahead and blame it on my heavy pack.  I was carrying water, some Gatorade . . . Ahhh, who am I kidding?  I SUCK!!!  Anyway, here's the Video:

After Swam Pass, we cruised on Bee over to the Dam trail.  We knew going in that it was gong to be tough.  We saw a vertical rock wall, and we told each other that it might not be possible.  Fortunately, we were prepared for a long day.  We hiked/biked/hiked/biked/biked our way towards the Dam Peninsula trail.  It was tough going in some spots, but really fun in other spots.  Here's a few pics:

The Fish Eye Lens of my helmet cam gives a little distortion, but you get the idea.  A lot of it was pretty great.  Some of it was pretty Gnarly.  For Example after we rode the Dam, The Dam Peninsula, and then the Dam for a while, we came upon this little treat (called "The Dragon's Back"):

It's this kind of ride that makes me ask myself if I'm a panzy.  I mean, it's a brutal knife edge rock, steeply dipping, with a rooty runout between trees.  When I first started mountain biking (a mere month and a half ago), I never would have even thought about attempting it.  But today, I stood on top and I wondered:  "Can I do this????"  I eventually decided "No."

But I still wonder if I could have gotten it.  The trail today was filled with chances like that.  Times that I asked myself if it was within my ability level, and I either risked it or pussied out (like a boss). When I risked it, I made it a bunch, but I missed it a few times.  Is there a harm in risking it?  I mean, obviously there is the risk of falling on some granitic gneiss (sorry, that's the geologist in me) and breaking my neck, but will that happen?  The times I risked it today I got away scott free (except for a bruised toe where I slammed my foot into a rock).  Will I be so lucky next time?

It seems that the older I get, the more these questions come up.  When I was younger, I wouldn't question riding some rocks, or hucking a cliff while skiing, or starting my life over in a new city.  But now that I'm 30 (ugh), I think about consequences a lot more.  What if I break my neck? Or tear my ACL?  Or go broke?

What is the correct way to think about things?  Is youthful naivete just that?  A stupid thought, that could only be dreamed up by someone who doesn't know any better? Or is there something behind it?  Maybe we should be pushing ourselves.  Maybe we should be expanding our horizons.  Maybe we should be making ourselves uncomfortable.  Maybe, just maybe, the smooth, easy path is the way that everyone else goes, and the only way to truly be great is to conquer the Dragon's Back.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Recent Mountain Bike Adventures

Really hitting the Mountain Bike hard lately (which is a good thing, considering the amount of money I spent on it).  After a so-so trip to Garnet Hill two weekends ago (trails are slightly overgrown and underused), we went up to Lake Placid to see what the Whiteface area had to offer.  We were definitely not disappointed.  On Saturday, Ace and I sampled the "Flume" trails down near the Hungry Trout Restaurant.  The trails are relatively new, and very well maintained:

Really, just a great day.  Rock Garden was a little above our skill level (read: impossible), but we rode all the way up to the Whiteface Kids Kampus on the Lower Connector trail, and then all the way back down on the Upper Connector trail - really, really fun with some technical areas and some stream crossings, but just enough difficulty to make it a challenge.

The next day (Sunday) we tried a little loop right near my parents camp detailed here.  The route into Deer Pond was mixed.  The first half was a really nice, wide-ish nature trail that we had a blast on.  The next part was a series of two plank bridges over some swampland.  Some of the bridges were ridable, but a lot of them weren't.  Between the bridges were some sections with roots, stumps and rocks that tripped us up more than once.  A tough hike/bike experience.  Eventually, through, just as we were getting towards the pond, we were rewarded with a nice downhill and beautiful views of a remote lake.  We didn't really have the map linked above, so we had a little discussion about which way to go out.  Eventually, we decided on the trail that pointed us to "Old Wawbeek Road".  This turned out to be a good decision, since 95% of the trail was perfectly ridable (as opposed to about 65% of the previous trail).  And eventually, we reached the aforementioned road, which turned out to be abandoned asphalt - perfect for our somewhat weary legs.

Finally, we joined some friends for a ride yesterday (Tuesday) up at the Skidmore Stables.  We just did a quick loop of Carriage Trail-Pilgrim-Swam Pass-Here to There-Rock Garden (different Rock Garden)-Carriage Trail.  Ace and I seem to be getting better because sections of trail that we used to struggle with, we are now flying over with ease.  I think the difficult trails that we are subjecting ourselves to are making us better riders.  As hard as the Flume Rock Garden and Deer Pond trails were, we're subconsciously taking what we've learned on those trails and turning it into positive movements on our regular trails.  Kind of like skiing in a way.

In fact, I'll have to remember that this winter.  A great way to get better is to try new trails at new mountains.  Or new trails at old mountains.  Or new lines on old trails.  Even if it's a struggle while you're doing it, subconsciously, you're learning what works and what doesn't.  So eventually, when you get back to the trails you're used to, you'll be rocking them like never before . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gore Update

Once again, Harvey44 is killing it over on his blog, so if you want an update on the happenings at Gore Mountain this summer, click here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trip Report (MTB): Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT

After riding my road bike all last summer, I felt I needed to blow a ton of money on a mountain bike.  So I did.  Ace, not wanting to be upstaged, followed by blowing a ton of money on a mountain bike for herself.  We've been on about 8 rides so far, but this past Sunday at the Kingdom Trails was most definitely the best.

The closest place for us to ride is "The Stables" up near Skidmore College in Saratoga.  It's pretty sweet, but I think "challenging" would be an appropriate word.  Lots of roots, rocks, and technical climbs.  This means that we are spending a lot more time than we would like off of our bikes.  After a couple of afternoons there, we tried to branch out a little.

We tried Moreau State Park off of exit 17, but we didn't really know where we were going or what trails were good, so we kind of did a uphill hike with our bikes, followed by a hairy, technical descent.  We found some nice trails later in the day, but we were pretty spent from negotiating the rocky uphills and steep downhills earlier.  Next, on the way back from Buffalo (where we spent the July 4th weekend), we tried the Finger Lakes Trail at Letchworth State Park.  That was some fun riding.  Nice singletrack, fast and flowy, with a couple of technical stream crossings (some we made, and some we didn't).  Definitely a nice place, but the terrain is slightly limited.  There's only one trail, and it's an out and back route (meaning we rode the same trail twice).

The Kingdom Trails are a world apart.  There were so many options, we didn't know where to start.  There's a big ridge (Darling Hill) in the center, so we rode the East Darling Hill Road up to the top to decide where to begin.  We wanted to warm up a little, so we rode Loop (a green).  We had two options from there, the green Cupcake or the black diamond Poundcake.  I wanted to see what the diamond was like, so we rolled down Poundcake.  The trail was beautiful, and I almost made the whole thing, but I got tripped up at this beautiful stream crossing towards the end:
We found ourselves back on Loop, and from there, we rode River Run along the West Branch of the Passumpsic River.  Once again, it was beautiful.  Perfect singletrack, and awesome scenery:
We did a quick jaunt on Webs, which was our favorite trail of the day.  It was fast, sweet singletrack through a nice hardwood forest:
After another nice section of singletrack along the river, we took Westbranch to Hog Back to Violet's Outback back to the Road.  We rode along the road until we reached the Wildflower Inn, where we saw some goats before dropping back onto Bemis:
After a Chicken Burrito, a Gatorade, and a water refill, we took off on Loop again to find some challenging singletrack.  We found it on Tap & Die:
It was really fun.  Fast, nice banked turns, a couple of challenging sections, but mostly just plain sweet.  After that, we did another run on Webs to Violet's Outback, a loop on Old Webs (where we fueled up on cookies at the top), and a nice section of singletrack on Border.  I was pretty beat by that point, so we just took VAST back to town (with a quick singletrack sidetrip on Culvert Cut).  After a nice rinse in the river and an ice cream cone, we started the long trip back home.  We stopped at the Inn at Long Trail near Killington for a Burger, a Reuben, and a couple of pints of Guinness.  A perfect end to my first "epic" mountain bike day.

What you missed (In Pictures) . . .

Sorry I haven't been keeping up on the blog (I've kind of toned down my internet presence a lot), but here are some shots from March 1st (wow, it has been a long time) through now.

Trip to Whiteface in Late March (first time on the Slides):
Early April Road Bike Ride:
Gore Mountain Adirondack Adventure Festival (or something):
Tulip Festival in Albany:
Late Spring Lake Trip:
World Cup Party at Wolff's Biergarten in Albany:
Mountain Biking at the Skidmore Stables:
Saratoga Beer Festival:

July 4th in Buffalo: