Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017_06_29 Puyallup/Tacoma to Santa Barbara Trip (Leon Matz & Mike Smith)

Author:  Leon Matz
Here I am 36 hours away from starting our bike trip from Puyallup/Tacoma to Santa Barbara! 
Mike Smith is my companion on this 1,400 mile trip! Mike and I were tennis friends starting when I was 17! Here we are 50 years later teaming up to take on an adventure different from all my other explorations. Our plan is to ride 80-95 miles a day for 16 days and meet up with a long time Puyallup Cyclopath Wayne DuPont! 
As with most adventures I am experiencing excitement and nervousness! Can our bodies handle this kind of daily abuse with no days of rest! The Pacific Coast route follows highway 1 and 101 and hugs the coast most of the way.
My bike fully loaded and hopefully ready for the trek to Santa Barbara.
The bags stuffed with everything we hopefully will need for the trip! 
Mike and I have had a many discussions about what we need! There are number of other things that I would like to have but have run out of room. Many cyclists ride this route each year but most cover a smaller number of miles each day and with periodic rest days! By staying in Motels and Hostels we hope to be able to cover the distance more quickly ! Originally we were going to do it in 15 days but s bridge washout and landslide near Big Sur is forcing us to reroute out trip and ride an extra 70 miles or so! I hope to daily write a blog to keep those of you that have expressed interest in following our adventure ! Excited to see the beautiful Pacific Coast and the physical and mental challenge that will come our way! Please keep Mike and I in your thoughts and prayers! Leon.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sunrise Ride

Author: Les Becker

At 3:30am I was sound asleep. At the same time, Leon had wakened and couldn't go back to sleep, so was getting ready for an even earlier drive to the mountain. I arrived at the base of Sunrise road at 6:40 and Nick Moffit also just pulled up. The closed gate was a sign of choosing the perfect day. The road was open this weekend to bicycles and walkers but not yet to cars. Nick and I got 700 feet of climbing up the road when Leon and Scott Wager came zipping down, Leon with a tire that was going flat. We did an about face to join them. I wasn't sure how many trips they had made as Scott had a tendency at that moment to exaggerate (ha ha), but I assume that was their first.

Nick Moffit just below Sunrise

After swapping for new rear wheel (why patch the flat when you have a spare wheel in your car?) the four of us proceeded up the road again. This was one of many trips and parts of trips up the hill as small groups split and coalesced depending on how fast or how far we wanted to go. Leon stayed on the main hill up to the hairpin turn and viewpoint with 360 deg view to be efficient in getting total feet climbed since he planned to "Rainier". The rest of us rode to the upper parking lot on the next trip. There was a few feet of snow there. We met a rider who was carrying skis on his bike up to the snow. With no cars on the road I took liberty to sit in the middle of the road trying to get good pictures of John and Nick when surprised by a park van approaching - had to skidaddle out of the way.

John Winter, never breaks a sweat.

One trip up we ran into Mark on the upper slopes. He was having a good time in the sunshine. His busy schedule had prevented much training before this ride so I was impressed that he took this on as an "early season" training ride. Another trip, we were surprised to see Mike Smith and Tammy catch up to us. They had ridden Cayuse and Chinook prior. Mike pushed the pace and I never felt the same after that. Thanks Mike!

Me, feeling there is no other place in the world I would rather be.
Toward the end of my riding I had only one speed left: "just keep the bike rolling" but really enjoyed a chance to ride on such a beautiful and peaceful road talking to Leon. After my 9,000 ft I left Leon to finish his impressive 14,500, the first Rainiering, I presume, in the Cyclopath club this year.

Following "perpetual motion" Leon.
Thanks to Leon or Mike, whoever planned this ride to coincide with the bikes only weekend. It was like having our own private playground. Will do it again next year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2017_06_20: A Mount Whitney Experience

Author:  Conor Collins


It all began in February when I was sitting in a coffee shop in Santa Barbara actively searching for a distraction from the day to day grind of college classes. I found myself on the webpage applying for a permit to summit a mountain I had only heard of once before. “Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48,” I thought to myself, that ought to give me some much-needed motivation to get outdoors. A few months passed and I found myself on the train heading to the Burbank airport, heading home for spring break. Around 6AM I get an email from the park service informing me I was one of the lucky 30% of applicants that managed to secure a Whitney Zone permit from the lottery. The preparations began.

My permit was originally for two people, myself and a friend of mine from high school, Joe. I decided I was willing to gamble on permit availability, and invited 3 friends from college to join us in the endeavor before my permit was confirmed. On April 1st, the day to claim your permit and make any modifications to group size, I found myself anxiously waiting, staying up until midnight to stake my claim. The time came, and I was successfully able to increase the group size of the group to 5 people, having only to change the date of our entry by one day, June 20th. The date was set.

We had 12 weeks between the time I claimed the permit and the date of the actual summit attempt. Over that time was spring quarter at UCSB, where I managed 18 units of engineering physics, organic chemistry, vector calculus, and research in a graduate chemistry lab. Thankfully my hiking companions were just as stoked as myself, which made the weekend hiking/ training excursions that much easier to bare despite the constant workload of college courses.

Around two weeks before the summit attempt I found myself checking the trip reports available on the “Whitney Zone” forum for hikers, where I realized this summit attempt wouldn’t simply be a “hike,” but rather a crampon, gator, and ice-axe requiring trek up insane snow fields and untamed conditions. The two weeks before the hike passed so quickly I can hardly remember what I even did during that time.

Two days before the scheduled day for our permit to summit, we drove from Santa Barbara to Lone Pine. We camped at the Horseshoe Meadows campground, about 20 miles outside of town, and at an elevation of 10,000ft. The thought was the use the high-altitude camp as a chance to gauge our readiness for the heights of Mount Whitney, a sort of acclimation to the high sierra. Thankfully the night went by without a hiccup- besides the massive mountain mosquitoes whom were attracted to our gas pool of carbon dioxide (thanks to our deep, sea-level breaths).

The following morning, we woke up to the sunrise at 4:30AM, before picking up our campsite and
heading down to lone pine for a nice breakfast around 8:00. After checking with the hostel, we were told we could check-in at noon, giving us a solid amount of time to explore the Alabama hills- a recreation area where many of the classic John Wayne western films were shot. Once noon rolled around we moved into our room for the next two days, put on some hiking gear, and headed for Whitney Portal. Our plan was to do the first two miles of the Whitney hike (the amount you’re allowed to do without having a permit) as a way to gauge difficulty,

as well as acquaint ourselves with the part of the trail we would be doing in the dark the day of the summit attempt. The first two miles are primarily switchbacks, with the occasional stream crossing. We reached the “Whitney Zone” the area were permits are required for further travel in, where we reached the first major snow patch along the route. Getting an idea of what’s ahead we took a break, went to Lone Pine lake (a lake just next to the trail at the 2-mile mark) and headed back to the hostel for a good night’s rest.

The following day came quickly, and lasted not much more than a few hours. We woke up, made sure our gear was in order, packed our bags, ate some foods high in carbohydrates, took a sleeping pill and were asleep by 3PM; the alarm set for 10:30PM that night. 10:30 came quickly. We assembled ourselves, climbed into the car, and drove to the portal- about 13 miles up the road. Arriving at 11:30, we were on the trail with our headlamps and trekking poles in no time. The first two miles went by with only a small interruption: a set of eyes reflecting our lights off in the distance. Being cautious, we approached slowly before I was able to make out the faint shape of a deer’s body. (The area has a high bear population, and thanks to the multiple warnings by rangers at the permit station, we weren’t about the take any risks.) In what seemed like a few minutes but was actually around two hours, we reached the two-mile mark, were we entered the Whitney Zone.

At the entrance we noticed a small, single, headlamp coming off the mountain as we were taking a short break and strapping on our crampons. We decided to wait to learn more about the trail
conditions, and ask why he was coming off the mountain at such a strange time (around 1:30 in the morning). The lone traveler got to us eventually, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, along with a smaller than expected pack, which is pretty unusual given the mountain conditions and chilly night-time temperature. We questioned him once he arrived, and he shared some pretty disconcerting news about the level and swiftness of the creeks to come. His explanation for the strangely-timed descent down from the mountain was due to his own error, mainly traveling alone, and secondly because he slipped into a creek and soaked his gear after unknowingly veering from the trail. With that advice and some good wishes, we continued our journey up the slopes of Whitney- 15 miles to go.

Shortly after entering the Whitney Zone we came across the first creek crossing the guy mentioned, it was shallow- nothing standard gortex hiking boots couldn’t manage, and we continued on. About a mile later we came across a roaring creek. Trump would most likely use words such as “Very loud. Incredibly loud, the loudest” to describe it. We quickly noticed that this creek (river) would be too large to simply cross. As a result, Joe and I hoisted a large rock and placed it with a little luck in the middle of the river to create the vital missing stepping stone. One by one we made our way across, using our gators to deflect any water that managed to run up the boot. Everyone made it over without so much as getting their feet wet.

At that point, we entered the first “base camp” of Mount Whitney- Outpost Camp. We decided to stop there and grab a quick bite to eat before continuing forward. Just after leaving the camp we encountered the conditions that the solo hiker mentioned earlier, an impassible river crossing. I knew something had to be wrong because I probably spent more hours doing research for this trip then I did studying for the classes in my spring quarter, so I pulled out my GPS with the route I had pre-programmed into it. Sure enough, we made the same mistake he did, we were off course. I took twenty paces to the right, and we were back on the trail.

After no time at all, the trees had disappeared, and the snow fields became the entirety of the dark horizon. One step at a time we carefully placed our crampons into the sub-par snow slope as we inched our way up the remaining 5 miles to the summit. Around 4:20am some faint light from the morning sun began to show on the mountainside. Around 5:30, the time we reached the final basecamp before the summit push, the sun was casting a magnificent glow on the granite walls that surround Whitney. 

At around 12,000 feet in elevation, a few of us were beginning to notice the low levels of oxygen. Thanks to Abby, we each had another pill of Diamox, as well as corticosteroid designed for combating the side effects of AMS. What lay ahead of us was the most intimidating portion of the summit attempt. Called “the chute,” (a portion of the hike up Mount Whitney normally traversed by the “99 switchbacks” a 1,500-foot snow wall that appeared to be nearly vertical loomed just off in the distance.

After collecting ourselves at Trail Camp we decided to break the chute into four parts; we stopped for a breather at the end of each quarter. Surprisingly, I don’t remember much from the ascent of that thing, besides knowing that if I dropped anything, a phone, a pole, myself, anything, it would never be recovered. Thankfully nothing of that nature happened.

At the top of the chute we reached Trail Crest, the point of the trail where you reach the top of the ridge-line that feeds into the Whitney summit. It also is the point where the Whitney trail joins with the John Muir trail. The vista at trail crest was totally incredible. You have a near 360-degree view of the eastern sierra range, as well as a complete view of the western back-country looking into Sequoia National Park. We had 2 miles to go to the summit.

The final two miles were snow-free, but almost entirely above 14,000 feet. Again, my memory is
faded, but the vista was incredible all the way to the summit. I felt like an entirety but following a small rock scramble the summit, and the little shelter at the top, were within an arms’ reach.

We had made it to the summit of the highest peak in the contiguous United States. The views were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Although not as defiant as Mount Rainier stands above the Puget Sound, Mount Whitney lends no doubt that it is far superior to any neighboring peak.

After spending some time “relaxing” at 14,508 feet, we realized we had enough cell service to make phone calls. I managed to call my dad and update him on our success. It was an incredible moment; something I will never forget. After some celebratory photos, we headed back- having only completed half the hike at that point.

The descent was fairly uneventful, with the exception of the glissade down the chute. Something that took up over two hours to ascend, we managed to descend in around ten minutes. Nerve racking? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. After the chute, my mind went into autopilot, having only one goal of reaching the car and taking a warm shower. A juicy cheeseburger was on my mind as well.

Besides the incredible experience- something totally unforgettable, I wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible group of people that accompanied me. Abby, Sydney, Ezra, and Joe - you guys incredible. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Skate Creek Loop 2017 -- by Dwaine

Seven Cyclopaths arrived for the 2017 Skate Creek Loop event in the following order: Leon, Adam, David, Les, Dwaine, Rob, Rex. Mike was not in attendance. The Cyclopath administration offered no official reason but I did hear whispers in the wind that indicated beer or beer making was at the heart of his absence. Leon stepped up and took charge for the day.

The cool air and Leon's gentle reminder motivated us to get pedaling in short order.

A quartet of Cyclopaths flying in formation early in the day.

The gradual gradient leaving Ashford and entering the park was a good fit for getting chilly riders warmed up. The road was still wet but there was only light traffic and we rode at a comfortable and sociable pace. Multiple conversations were in full swing. Adam shared what he had learned regarding current gravel/cross bike offerings. Later Rex and I discussed some of his wheel building experiences. The Cyclopaths seem to maintain a good balance of performance pedaling and social camaraderie and I especially appreciated this balance after my early training season.

Posing in front of the inn at Longmire. No need for hot chocolate, fresh socks, or a warm fire.

After a short stop at Longmire the ride resumed at an increased pace. Conversations continued but we were now into a more scenic and challenging portion of the climb. This section of this long climb is still one of my favorites and it did not disappoint. At one point, as Mount Rainier became visible, I shouted to the group "We'll forget the suffer but remember that view!".

This image shows demonstrates how quickly playing paparazzi can get you dropped. But I wanted to take a step back and let my camera absorb more of the road and trees. These twists and turns are some of my favorites.

As we passed Steven's Canyon Road the group chose to separate a bit. Before long I was following just Leon and Adam. The air was feeling cooler and we were seeing more snow. Adam commented that the air felt thin. I responded that Leon's pace was making my lungs work a lot harder. Leon ignored us and kept cranking the pedals and later claimed that he wanted to test his fitness. He certainly tested mine.

Adam is looking strong here and the blue skies gave us all an little extra to smile about.

After regrouping at Paradise we discussed the idea of descending through Paradise Valley. A barricade read 'Road Closed' but the pavement was bare as far down as was visible. Les cautioned us against the idea. Later we thanked him as we passed the Paradise Valley Road East outlet. Many feet of snow still covered the bottom reaches of the road.

How many times have I asked the Cyclopaths to pose with Mount Rainier in the background? Too many! This day Adam's Giant Defy anchored the shot.

A group photo was planned at Reflection Lake. Neither the mountain, hidden in clouds, nor the reflection, buried in snow, was willing to cooperate.

As Stevens Canyon Road turned down hill the air began feeling warmer and the sun broke through. As we passed Stevens Creek we experienced a number of temporary waterfalls. Water cascaded off the high rock walls and down to the road surface. On a hot climb up in July or August we would have surely cooled ourselves in the water. But this day we enjoyed only their beauty.

The remainder of the descent was uneventful. Just what we hoped for.

Reflection Lake with no reflection. The sky was full of clouds and the lake covered in snow. This photo represents all riders except myself who was twiddling the camera knobs. My silver bicycle 'Huckleberry' stood in for me. This image also gives hints of the not too summery temperatures.

As the air continued to warm we started on the short section of Highway 123. We rode conservatively and enjoyed the marvelous scenery. At least until the Highway 12 junction.

The pace quickened, leaders changed, I followed wheels, and pretty soon just David and myself had a gap on the rest of the riders. David pulled me most of the way to Packwood. Thank you David. It wasn't until the last mile or so that I noticed a rider coming up from behind. Adam had closed the gap and brought Les with him. It was a strong show of power from Adam and we silently hoped it had taken some of his edge off.

As we provisioned in Packwood the sun continued to smile on us. I was able to remove my extra layers. Leon cheerfully and efficiently repaired a front flat. Rob shared some cold water for topping off bottles. And we generally enjoyed the warmth, company, and the choice of messages on patron's t-shirts as they drifted in and out of the convenience store.

I like to bring home the detail shots. Mechanical issues often attract the attention of my camera. Although just a flat front tire, I asked Leon for a smile as he quickly swapped tubes.

As we embarked on the road for which the day's ride was named the discussion of the upcoming climb was broached. Adam seemed unaware that, on occasion, the pace has seemed to elevate on this final climb. I characterized this increase in pace as 'A gunfight' and advised that I, for one, had only brought a blade. At first the pace quickened within reason. Eventually Adam went off the front.

As many Cyclopaths recall this climb is never too steep and the grade tapers. Leon watched Adam ride away and then quickly organized the four nearest riders into a team. "One minute pulls" he cheered. I guessed that Leon was planning that our group of four would loose time on the bottom half of the climb but then share the work enough to make up the difference on the top half of the climb. David, Les, and myself bought into the plan and went to work.

Over time Leon's group dwindled to just Leon and myself. One minute off the front was not enough for me to keep my battery up. Eventually I told Leon I couldn't pull and he seemed to have no problem towing me the remainder of the distance up and over the top.

As fine a plan as it was, we did not catch Adam until Adam wanted to be caught. He turned around to regroup. Nice ride Adam.

At about that same time the sun chose to hide behind the clouds. Cooler temperatures followed us the remaining ten miles as we each chose our own pace to finish the ride. I fought some cramps and Les slowed to shepherd my in. Thanks Les.

As the group trickled in we all seemed to express the same series of emotions. Despair from that final effort, satisfaction of completion, and then gratitude. Gratitude that we can cycle our way up and down the mountains, at speed, with our friends.

During the ride Leon asked me to be this rides photo journalist and I happily agreed. It is an honor to ride with this group and I get to relive the day while I create this document. I am also afforded a venue to share my gratitude with Leon for leading us. Both as the ride organizer and as the pace maker. Thanks Leon.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

2017_06_07 Puyallup Cyclopath Riding Solo

Author:  Nick Iverson

This year, even as a recently retired physician, my schedule of birthdays, more birthdays, baby sitting, visiting grandchildren, and weather have made it difficult to ride with the Cyclopaths on “official” rides.  Being on the waiting list for the Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day (RAMROD), and having survived my 72d birthday, has kept me in training in the mountains, albeit mostly alone.
The mountain rides have been several trips up Mt. Rainier:  one from Ashford then another from Elbe where I was surrounded at the Paradise parking lot as a Celebrity Cyclopath by a bunch of students who had just returned from a hike up the Mountain.  Subsequently I rode with a friend up almost to Sunrise until the snow, then going down to Crystal Mountain Blvd. to ride to the Ski area.  The 45 mph descent was awesome.  My last trip was a solo Skate Creek Loop ride, starting with a trip up to Paradise.
With a gradual weight loss, using the Dr.. Iverson technique:  “no white foods except cauliflower” has promoted good nutrition and eliminated as much sugar as possible from my diet.  Having preached this formula to patients for over forty-one years, the minimal change was simple, but….  I LOVE SUGAR!!  I walk by the sweet stuff in the grocery stores with a full stomach, and took a special formulated product, not available in stores, but if you called 888-Get Thin, between the hours of 1 AM and 1:01 AM January 32, 2017, you could have purchased the formula, guaranteed to help with your weight for the rest of your life.  OBECAL-P!!!  You got three bottles (1,000 doses) for the price of five, plus a couple hundred dollars in handling fees.  The secret?...  The product is placebo spelled backwards, and each dose contains the message:  “Do More and Eat Less.  Maintain Discipline!”
I digress.  June 10th was a scheduled ride I love:  The Skate Creek Loop.  The weather report for that Saturday looked cold and rainy/snowy and the ride was postponed.  The result prompted me to ride at the end of a warm stretch of weather on June 7, three days before the scheduled ride.  The ride is from WA 7 at the turn off to Skate Creek Road, (On our bikes at 5 AM!) up to Paradise (I love that climb), then descend past Reflection Lakes (still covered with snow), a quick stop at the hair pin curve for a Photo op, then on to Ohanapecosh with a short speed bump over Backbone Ridge.  No, this is NOT a mountain pass.  Then the most glorious descent of the ride winds down as fast as possible, ending near the Grove of the Patriarchs.  After the initial smooth portion of the Stevens Canyon descent, the road is a little sketchy, and riding alone, I did not feel comfortable at full speed, but two quick stops for Photos, gazing up and across the Canyon to see the road already descended, and looking backward to see the Mountain (which is not seen unless one rides backwards or stops to look), made the descent much more glorious, and the small waterfalls on the left provided an almost mystical music of nature.  Only a bicyclist has the opportunity to hear these sounds, smell the clear air and the perfume of the trees and flowers.  There was enough snow and run-off that there was some rivulets crossing the road, which was another reason to be careful; however, past Backbone Ridge—no brains and no brakes!
View from Kautz Creek...

Just past Longmire...

As an aside, there was a decision point regarding continuing the ride, as there had been a power outage at the Visitor Center at Paradise, and I did not have enough calories packed to get to Packwood.  After sitting across from the empty food line, and having squeezed past the barrier to this area, I kept pestering the fellow who runs that food service, and he said, “Weren’t you up here last week?”  I said I had been up twice.  Using some cash, he was able to let me buy some Gatorade and salty potato chips, to replenish the fluids, as the day was quite warm, and I had intentionally polished off both bike bottles on the ascent.  The ride was a go.

Reflection Lake...

View from hairpin turn just above Stevens Canyon...

Stevens Canyon Road...
Backbone Ridge...

Continuing down WA 123 until Hwy 12 was amazing, with temperatures rising to be HOT, but this stretch is surrounded by trees, which helps keep the temperature down a little, and I rode this short distance with only one car passing me until reaching the “T” in the road.  At this point I drank most of the fluids remaining, as the trip to Packwood was going to be hot and into the usual headwind.  Knowing that there was not going to be a paceline of Cyclopath riders or Rob C., to blast into the wind, I needed to conserve energy, but eventually I saw the sign “Welcome to Packwood.”  At the Mobil Gas station off Skate Creek, I stopped for about 20 minutes, ate as much as possible, and gabbed with the gentleman running the station, and a motorcyclist who happened in.  “You are riding around this trip on a BICYCLE!!”  Sure, why not.  “MUCH quieter than your HOG,” I said to myself.

Recovered, and fueled up, I stuffed my undershirt under my short sleeve jersey along with my light jacket I took just in case, as I still had 24 hot miles to go to get back to my car, hoping that the windows would not be bashed in.  By this time, it was rush hour, and there were at least TEN cars coming toward me, and three or four pickup trucks passed me on the climb.  Each truck waited to be just along side of me to stomp on the accelerator (the diesel pedal) to be as obnoxious as possible.  Apart from those 13 or fourteen vehicles, I rode the 24 miles with the Skate Creek to my right, and the road had been patched, making the trip up and over in a PR for me.  The quiet ride up the ascent is meditative.  Other than the problem with my new cassette, chain and shifters not working properly, the ride was wonderful.  I wound up doing the entire climb in the big ring in the front, as this minimized the self-shifting cassette.  Amazingly, the weight loss this year allowed me to get up and over the top feeling quite well.  The spin back to the car was a little unnerving, being alone, and dodging a few potholes.  At the car all of the windows were intact!!