The Things You See – 4

I may or may not have been busy. Lots of trail days, the Taylor House Ride, and after spending a few days in the back country up on the North Rim with friends and taking well over a thousand pictures… the thought of going through them all to find the best ones to put up was a little daunting. Maybe I’ll do a North Rim photo dump, yeah?

Anyways… a few highlights up until a few weeks ago. More to follow when I pull it off the camera.

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Bzzzzzz…
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Wotan’s Throne, Cape Royal, North Rim of Grand Canyon.
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Sunset at Cape Royal, North Rim of Grand Canyon.
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Fire on the rim from Bright Angel Point trail, North rim of Grand Canyon.
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Agave fractal, Point Sublime, North Rim of Grand Canyon.
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Curt Walters, painting plein air at Point Sublime, North Rim of Grand Canyon. 
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One of the coolest rigs I’ve seen in a long time!

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My Favorite Time of the Year

Well, one of them, anyways.

I love storms. I’m aware that they cause a lot of problems for a lot of people, but out here in Arizona, we don’t get a heck of a lot of moisture from the sky, so I celebrate the storms. I’ll go out in them, hike, ride, work in them, and I’ll get depressed when they go away and the Sun comes back out.

Maybe I should live in Seattle.

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But does Seattle have this?

I love it when the monsoon season starts up in Flagstaff. It’s been a long stretch since the last rain, usually, and the forest is dry and thirsty. It’s hot, It’s dry. Dusty. Most years, there’s been at least one big forest fire, and countless smaller fires, usually human caused. They closed parts of the forest this year because of how dry it’s been. Usually, around the beginning of July, big thunderheads start rolling across the sky, rains, lightning and thunder, hail storms, the occasional tornado. This year? About right on time! They opened the forest this past Wednesday.

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A welcome and scary sight in the midst of a hard drought.

I like to ride up to a thunderstorm, then race it home to see if I can beat the rain. I call it storm poking. Sometimes, the storm wins. Sometimes I’m faster. I like finding a place to sit and watch and listen to the storm, too. That’s my favorite.

Today, I got wet. Very wet.

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Heavy clouds over the Peaks.

I was up on top of Mt. Elden, planning to ride down Sunset, ride some of the trail work that we did before the closure, then hook up with Little Bear, and decide where to go from there.

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Not even five minutes later.

When I saw the rain marching down the slopes of the Peaks towards Schultz Pass, I knew I was going to get wet. Fortunately I brought my rain cape! Unfortunately, rain capes are really only effective if your bike has fenders… Tri lacks the fenders.

The rain caught me on the Catwalk, and I put on the rain cape. It’s all so fun, though, I ended up spraying everything under the cape (So, me, my bike, and everything attached to it) with wet sandy mud. There were points, where the trail drainage needs work, where the water was running down the trail five or six inches deep. Lightning was striking around me, the rain was getting heavy, and I was having a blast. Not even in that retrospective “It sucked in the moment, but looking back, it was kind of fun.” way, I was genuinely enjoying it.

I opted not to go down Little Bear, because of the Schultz Fire, a lot of that trail is totally exposed, which is bad with lightning. I got down to Schultz Pass, and took the road down. As I got to the Y, the rain let up and the Sun came out. I rolled up my (now very muddy) rain cape, dumped about three cubic feet of sand out of each shoe, and headed home, the long way, enticing more storms to come and get me.

It was a great ride. But next time, I’ll bring a rain jacket, not a cape.

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Short fun section of Sunset, above the Catwalk.

I’m planning on riding tomorrow. Will I get wet? We’ll see!

Camera Play

Yesterday I mentioned that it’s important to look up. Not just for hanging branches, or dive-bombing birds, or attack squirrels, but because there’s a lot of scenery up there, too.

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It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love taking pictures.  So much so, that I have a real camera with me in addition to my phone just about all the time. I don’t consider myself terribly good at it, just good enough that luck carries me the rest of the way to some good pictures. I don’t necessarily take pictures to remember scenes, I do it because I go a lot of places that people I know don’t go, and I like sharing.

As a result, I play a lot with my camera. I make it a point when I go out camping to spend some time just snapping random shots of what’s around me. When it gets dark, I’m usually spending time taking pictures of the sky. Moon, stars, planets, nothing’s safe from my lens. I’ve even caught a satellite or two.

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Tree, reaching for the Moon, as was my camera.

Astro photography is something I’ve always wanted to dip my toes into. I’ve got a good telescope and mount for it, so why not? I got a cheap t-ring for the camera, and set up in the backyard Sunday night.

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The Moon
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It almost looks like something out of a book!
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Jupiter! And if you look close, you can see four moons!

What do you think? I’d say it went rather well, for my first shot at it. Next time I’ll play with filters.

Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.
— Stephen Hawking, 1942–2018

It Ain’t Gonna Build Itself!

Currently, it is weathering outside, and I am loving it.

When I say “weathering,” I mean the weather is doing anything but shining sun or starlight or moonlight. So, it could be cloudy, rainy, snowy, drizzly, or foggy. Pigs could even be flying around and it would fit my definition, so long as they were flocking thickly enough to blot out the Sun.

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Or flying deer? Oh deer…

Yeah, I’m a weird one… I look forward to the “inclement” weather, and get mildly depressed when the clouds pass by and the Sun comes back out. But water is life, and the storms are its herald.

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Come on rain!

Anyways. Have you ever wondered how trails get built? A lot of times, by volunteers, donating their time, blood, sweat, and profanity to build a winding noodle of packed dirt through the great outdoors, giving you a path to take to be closer to nature. A lot of work goes into the trails we use, rock retaining walls, drains to keep water from pooling, building on contour to keep erosion minimal, considerations for anticipated users… and all this after extensive studies, analysis, and paperwork. Most people just see the dirt on top, few see the time and effort.

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What you see: Dirt on top. Underneath, a few tons of rockwork to keep the dirt in place.

And then there’s the maintenance. Trails have two main enemies: Water, and users. A well planned and constructed trail will last years with minimal maintenance to clear drains and break down berms. A poorly laid out trail might last a season before it erodes into a trench.

A lot of the trails around Flagstaff need help. Either through poor layout and execution, or just plain use and neglect. New trails are also in the works. We have volunteer trail day events, where anyone can come out and help work on the trails, and it is a great way for the community to get involved, and see what goes into the trail system. But, it’s not enough.

Enter the Volunteer Trail Crew, a.k.a. The Flagstaff Trail Faeries. An autonomous group working to repair current system trails, and build new ones, with approval from the Forest Service. Right now it’s sort of a pilot program to work out the bugs, but so far, things seem smooth. We’ve had a few work days already, on Secret and Sunset, fixing erosion issues, re-building turns, pulling stumps, and closing cheater lines.

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Rock armoring a technical turn and drop, bypassing a section of trail that was eroding out after not even one season.

I’ve been doing trail days for something like ten years now, and I’m excited to be part of a program to work on the trails on a bit higher level than before.

So, next time you’re out on the trails, and you see a group of folks working on it, give them a high five and a thank you! Especially if they’re wearing a bright green Trail Faeries shirt!

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Rider laying tracks on freshly completed construction.

Flagstaff Trail Faeries (Public Facebook Page)

Flagstaff Trail Faeries (Flagstaff Biking Org page)

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That mountain, from another mountain. The view from Hobbit’s Forest, Mt. Elden.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
~ John Muir