Friday, July 1, 2016

Hiking PCT past Eagle Rock

Kayaking Big Bear Lake

I have been to Big Bear a handful of times now, but this is first time I have every spent any time on the lake itself. This was also a good chance to see just how low the lakes water level was.

I got on the lake in town and decided to head east over to the dam. The wind was in my face so I hugged the shoreline and checked out a few of the harbors along the way. I was curious to see the effects of the low water on Big Bear Lake Cable Wake Park, because every time I go to Big Bear this is one of the things I want to do that never seems to work out.

The next place I went to was China Islands, where I did some cliff jumping last summer. I debated jumping again but decided against it, based on the lower water levels and because there was nobody else there. At China Islands I was pretty much at the dam, so I went the rest of the way. From the dam I headed back through the straitest route, strait through the middle of the lake. This was pretty easy with the wind at my back.


Hiking Bear Canyon "7 falls" near Tuson, AZ

This was my second visit to Sabino Canyon. My first visit was during the summer and the heat limited me to short hikes. This second trip in January offered much better weather to hike in. It was also an exceptionally wet and snowy January so the water was really flowing.
We hike just over 9 miles out to the Falls and back, requiring us to cross the very cold stream 14 times.
Visitor Center at the parks entrance
From the parks entrance you hike (or take the tram) east through a large field of Saguaro Cactus and other high desert plants. 

The Saguaros cactus fields on the way to the trail
As you approach the edge of the field, you cross a bridge that takes you over the stream from Sabino canyon. The rain and snow that Tuscon had been receiving meant that the bridge was flooded, just high enough that it couldn't be crossed without getting wet. We removed our shoes and socks and made our way across.

High water was this bridge just before the start of Bear Canyon Trail
Once off the road and onto Bear Canyon trail, the stream crossings did not stop. The high water levels made it so there was no way to cross without getting wet, and so it was once again time to take off the shoes and socks and wade across the cold knee deep water. The bottom of the stream was mostly sand and small rocks which were painful to walk across with your feet so cold. On the way back we decided that taking the shoes off each time wasn't worth it and just hiked barefoot. I wish I had brought my Tevas on this trip.

Just one of the knee deep water crossing of the near freezing water (14 total)

The falls proved to be beautiful and worth the 4.5 mile hike it took to reach them. The combination of cold water and slick rocks meant that I didn't play on the falls as much as I do at other falls (no lele kawa).
The Seven falls at the end of the hike.

Tonto natural bridge

Tree rope climbing in Big Bear, CA

I stumbled upon tree rope climbing accidentally while searching the internet for a new ax. An arborist web site I came across included a bunch of rope climbing info. This lead down a YouTube rabbit hole about tree climbing techniques. Living in the desert I haven't been thinking much about it, until my trip to Big Bear. Tree rope climbing happens to be one of the newer tours offered by Action Tours in Big Bear, CA. It didn't hurt that there was a GROUPON available for this tour.

Pirate Steve was my guide for the day. He had a few ropes set up among two trees in a park in the town of Fawnskin on the lakes north shore. The technique we were using was the double rope tree climbing technique. This method is safe and easy to do, the down side is it can be slow. I caught on pretty quick and made it to the top of the training rope quickly.


Mountain-bike Fern Trail, Big Bear, CA

My first downhill ride in Big Bear was a little loop near my camp site. I followed somebody's Strava Segment that lead across Bristlecone and down Fern trail.

My legs were still sore from the race, so my up hill was slow and painful. The little downhill down Fern trail was enough of an award for pushing myself up the hill.


Camp Tahquitz 6 hour Challenge 2014

Having been a recreational Mountain Biker for a few year, I decided to go all out for my first Mountain Bike race. I signed up for a solo 6 hour endurance race with hopes I could find some friends to join me. Because I had spent most of the year leading up to the race traveling over seas, I was a little under prepared for the race. In all I had about a month of riding in the summer heat of Arizona, and for about half of this time my bike was in the shop for various repairs. To include a last minute replacing of the crank, two days before I departed for the race, because I stripped out a pedal because I didn't realize it was coming loose on a trail ride.

I arrived at BSA Camp Tahquitz early Friday evening, shortly after registration opened. I quickly set up my camp and then took off for a pre ride of the course. Upon hearing that this would be my first race, one of the event organizers offered this advice. "Start slow, and then slow down." On the pre ride, I started to understand how unprepared I was. The course was a loop of around 6 miles, that included a 1,200 foot climb and a loose and dusty down hill of switch backs through the pines. Also the camp lay at around 7,000 feet ASL, much higher elevation than my flat training grounds in Yuma (200 feet ASL). Despite its difficulty the ride was undoubtably beautiful. Riding through pine and sunny meadows in near perfect weather.

When I returned to camp, the rest of the campers had arrived. Most of them from Jenson USA, a title sponsor of the event, riding in the team event and running a maintenance tent for the race. The combination of a ban on alcohol from being on a BSA camp and the early race start in the morning made it an early night in camp.

With my registration done and my bike already set up, I was able to stay in my tent until the race was about to start. When I pulled back my tent flap, I was surprised by all the activity. A few hundred people were now buzzing around ready to race. I grabbed a light breakfast and prepared my aid station.

I took my place at the back of the pack for the mass start. I held no illusions of competing against any of the riders beside myself. The first lap felt pretty good. I kept up with the pack on the flats and even passed a few people on the down hill. At the bottom of the hill I dropped back to the rear of the pack. The second lap went a lot like the first. By the climb of my second lap, many of the leaders were working on their third, I gave way to the leaders as they easily passed me. I made a stop at my aid station to grab some food and top up on water. Once I got started on the third lap exhaustion was already setting in. I took advantage of the Aid station at the base of the climb drinking a few cups of HEED electrolyte and cookies. Once I started the climb my legs were spent and I found myself having to dismount to allow people to pass, especially in the technical sections. The fourth lap even the down hills were a struggle when my legs began to cramp. I made an even longer stop at the Aid Station at the bottom of the hill. Laying down while eating cookies and drinking more HEED, in hopes of curing the cramps before the climb. I crawled up the climb and made it back to the start, suffering the worst of the leg cramps within site of the finish line. I crossed the line at 5:33, relieved that I could stop without worrying that I could still finish one more lap. This race had a hard finish at 6 hours, so any lap that doesn't cross the finish before that time doesn't count, as opposed to races where any lap started before that time will count. I finished 6th of 7 in my age group.

Obstacle at the bottom of the Ravine

Lower Meadow

After grabbing a snack I crashed in my hammock to recover while waiting for the award ceremony. Laying around was exactly what I needed right then. I spent the rest of the day lounging around camp with the Jenson USA guys. Many of them were competing in day two of racing, the inaugural Endure race. In retrospect this is the race I should have done, and if I had anything left in my legs I would have signed up.