Tuesday, July 22, 2014

High Marks

All the creeks and rivers in town are approaching the highest marks in decades. We haven't been in the packrafts together for a long time so we mapped a plan to finish a route we started back in "I love a good disaster". It's sunny, nice, and the bugs are expected to be huge.
 We air up and launch into the main of the Mississippi, under the bridge and into the Vermillion.
 We turn in to the Vermillion or what becomes the Vermillion. We don't see shore for the next 3 hours.
 For the new readers we have our 'shuttle' bikes on the bow of our Alpacka Rafts. The way we tie them on is a personal preference and what bike you have. 
We are completely spoiled with the river all to ourselves. Around this time we lose the proper river waterway because of a huge log jam packed with branches picked up from the flooding making a massive nest. Maybe 200 feet across. We paddle around it but in the flooding we actually traverse into Lake Isabelle (not connected to the river) .
When we discover we are in Isabelle we laugh a little and then start working on a way back to the river. If we could float in, we can float out. I look at the map and see a short pointed bay that must be the exit we need. We were correct and the views through the woods were awesome. The water is maybe 5 feet deep in the photo below.

We need to weave around a few very tight trees and some fences but a short time after we float into Isabelle we float out. This day is working out better then we could have planned. The water is moving us fast enough that we don't need to paddle and the sun is out and the bugs are not so we drift.

 Time for taffy and a long slow raft. We lean back into the boats and 'slow the roll'

 If pictures are really worth a thousand words please don't read out loud, we're relaxing.

 Out of the trees and having a good long siesta it's time time to paddle out. That means we need to dig in deep and paddle hard at the best time to pull out of the current that's been pulling us along.
Popping out of the main current, we make landfall. Within minutes of landing we break out snacks and load up on water because we're about to get on the bikes and this is the best opportunity to lard the fuel you need to ride back and still have fun and not crater and hate the day.
 Eat, pack up and ride out.
We add some miles on the bike because we took out a little early on the rafts. The plan was to go another 3 miles but with the flooded banks the current was too slow and we aren't sure the exit is even above water so we pull out and ride. It's really great to roll out some miles and collect some intel for the next trip.

Back at the starting point and the high marks on the river are matched by the high marks on the rafting adventure. On that, I give high marks to the day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bandit Cross

Always a good time, Bandit Cross! I throw a link back to Bike Jerks so consider visiting. 
 Last night I rode the 15 or so miles to the site of the last Bandit Cross. Hang out with my good buddy Pete (aka QVC) for a few beers and a well connected bike community. They have the coolest gear.
If you know anything about bikes, these are as sexy as they get. 
The staging area is a mess but its like a car show with everything out for show. I really enjoy seeing the custom bikes.
'Le' Custom backyard.
 "On your mark!", or whatever, we aren't keeping track.

 Go, go, gone.
 After the launch I jump in and hammer it up a few dozen places. The hill climb is soft.
 It looks like the worst but it's the best.
 A 'racer' can make a lot of time if you claw your way up the dirt with tenacity.

 Back to the finish after a really bendy section of single track.

I hang out for 30 minutes or so after my one hot (racing) lap before riding home before dark. I don't ever finish these races. I would never know where I finished because a finishing list doesn't exist and I don't know enough of the riders to place myself. On top of that I need my bike in good shape to ride the 15 miles home so don't break your ride messing about in the woods.
Speaking of a messy starting line. This is the average condition of my VanTastic and launch pad and on that it's time to "Go!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Between the larger adventures are novelty adventures. We visit the Hoodoos (it's a State Park) to rappel through a hole in ground and into a cavern of dried mud (actually sandstone but you wouldn't know it)

After a short hike and a lot of navigational errors, we climb down into this mess. It's dirty and loose and I'd put it into the short list of shit climbs I've done over the years. The first being called a "5 10c dirt climb" and ending with this, yet unnamed, dirt slide.

As we get deeper into the 'mud' the climbing gets more and more sketchy. That's climbing slang for dangerous. Eventually we cliff out and have to climb back out and find a line of weakness through the mud that doesn't require lethal exposures. Once we find the proper trail it's an easy climb down to a small shelf with a hole in it that is deep and dark. All the rain that falls in this area drains though this hole and carved out a kind of mud stomach. 

Unfortunately, I was the first to rappel into the void and didn't slow down to take a picture. Death and company rappel after me and this is the three of us at the bottom of the cavern. It's really a ravine with a full roof and skylight. We dropped into the skylight and made the 100 foot rappel to the bottom as a novelty.
Exiting the mud tummy and we are on the main trails used by tourist to get into the cavern without the technical approach, which the park doesn't tell people about unless you ask.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop (if you ask me)

With the rains of the last week, and the intermittent storms, the desert is flowering and life is almost easy to find. The little fella on the right was also walking away from a hole in the ground and saw three large figure in the distance. That's good Hoodoo JuJu. (Gypsie word for luck)