Tuesday, March 20, 2012

That must be spring in the air

The half winter (maybe even quarter winter) that we've been enduring seems to have finally given it's last gasp, leaving us with a gradual, almost unnoticeable transition from brown and muddy to green and muddy.  But the temperatures have climbed into the 70's and the smell of earth is in the breeze.  I can hear the spring peepers calling, the robins (and turkey buzzards) are back, and the daffodils are blooming.  It would be cruel and unusual for winter to stage a final tantrum at this point.  Now if I was still living in Minnesota it would be totally possible, but for northeast Ohio - I'm calling this winter over.

Trail side ruins from the canal days at Beaver Creek.

After watching the weather all week while I was sitting at my desk - indoors - looking out the window at the sun - I'd hoped to have a veritable orgy of mountain biking over the weekend.  But with nice conditions the unmistakable knocking of delayed commitments started to make it's way into my consciousness and I decided to take care of some trail work.  So on Friday I headed down to Beaver Creek with Dave for a ride and trail work day.  I knew there were a bunch of trees down so I strapped a bow saw to my pack and started up Dogwood Trail from the picnic area, ready to play my lumberjack role.  Turns out someone had cut out at least one of the downed trees, but at least one more good-sized one had fallen - so I had plenty to keep me busy.  I think I cut out at least 6 trees and did a bit of on-the-fly drainage work, but there was one tree up near the top that I didn't get to.  It's always more work and takes longer than you think (that should be the Golden Rule of trail building).

Someone else is cutting trees at Beaver Creek too.

But it was nice to get in a ride, even if it was a short one, and the extra danger of riding singletrack with a big honkin' saw strapped to my back made it even more fun.  Beaver Creek is one of my favorite places, where I've spent literally hundreds of hours camping, hiking, kayaking and biking.  That makes it even nicer to give back some by working on the trails.

Panoramic shot of Beaver Creek.
 Saturday morning I'd scheduled trail work on the North Road Nature Preserve project.  With nice weather I'd hoped that there would be a pretty good turn out, but the only one to show up was Bernie.  That guy is something else - 73 years old and full of energy.  We hauled in about a half ton of rock using the trail wagon, then moved some flagstone we found on-site.  After that we went over to the super wet area and started to cut the corridor that is going to be the re-route.  It would have been nice if I would have been smart enough to avoid the trouble area in the first place, but I think that this new line will definitely be an improvement.  We put in three hours of work, then collected up the tools and headed back up the trail with the wagon - just in time to meet another volunteer who was delayed in showing up for his first trail work day.  No worries though, we talked and he'll likely be returning to help (yay).

I wonder how far down that you could ride...

I'd thought about going out for a ride on the rail trail Saturday afternoon, but I was pretty worn out so I just spent some time starting the season's yard and house work.  But I was thinking about what I should do on Sunday afternoon after Diana got off work.  My inclination was to head back over to Moraine and try to lengthen up the loop I'd been riding the last couple of weeks.  But I could still faintly hear those blasted commitments knocking, so I once again loaded up bike and tools and headed back down to Beaver Creek.

Ready to rake and ride.

First I left the bike in the woods at the top of the loop, then I parked at the bottom and hiked back up - which gave me the opportunity to tackle the last blockage near the top.  I managed to tear off a big flap of skin on my hand and painted a good portion of the surrounding trees with my blood, but eventually the huge mass of grapevines that was dragged down by the falling tree was cleared enough to ride through.  I completed the hike and then rode back down the long leg of the loop back down to the bottom (no blockages - hooray!)  Once I got back to the car I packed up the bike, grabbed some tools and headed up to where the new trail is going to be built.  I got the okay to make this trail the week before I fractured my skull in October, so this job has been waiting for quite a while.

Cell phone pic of the brook from the hillside trail.
I wanted to take a chance to start the benching on this project before getting a trail crew out there.  If it was going to be an impossible job to bench the extremely rocky soil then I wanted to know before there were other people there.  But I was happy to see that though it was a tough job, it was something that we could do.  So next weekend is Boy Scout camping, the weekend after is North Park trail work and the NEXT weekend is going to be the first big Beaver Creek work day.  I hope I can get a couple of people to come out and join in, but even if I have to do it myself I'm going to get this new trail put in.

Starting to bench the new trail at Beaver Creek (another cell phone pic).

So instead of three days of riding, this weekend was three days of trail work.  It would have been nice to get in at least one longer ride, but I'm really happy to see progress on my two trail projects.  Because when I get these projects done I'm going to see if they'll let me build some mtb trails at Mosquito Lake State Park - just ten minutes up the road from my house.  I can hardly wait.

Just another gorgeous dawn.

Next weekend though, after the Boy Scout campout - I'm going to RIDE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Variety - photo supplement

When I put together the "Variety" post yesterday I realized that there were a lot more good photos than could be used in a short blog post.  So after a bit of reflection I decided to make another post with captioned pictures, as well as a short video clip.

The restless waters of Beaver Creek

Gathering sap for maple syrup the new-fangled way.

Beside the Greenway in Ashtabula County.

Youngstown Underpass
Contoured hillside trail at Beaver Creek.

Ripple on Mill Creek.

Rain filled hole in a rock beside Mill Creek.

I went for a ride on the rail trail this afternoon (love daylight savings time) and heard the unmistakeable sign of spring.

Spring peepers - the little frogs that let you know that spring is here.  Very, very cool.

Monday, March 12, 2012


My dad used to always say "Variety is the spice of life."  And I had no idea what he meant for years, but eventually I did figure it out.  It's true to different extents in different contexts of course, but at this point in the wheel of seasons I'm ready for something to jolt me out the winter rut.

On Friday afternoon I headed out to Beaver Creek State Park with a friend.  I parked up at the campground and rode the connector trail down to Dogwood Trail.  I followed it down to the creek, then downstream to the picnic grounds and back up the super steep trail to the campground.

This place is awesome, it has such great terrain and so much potential.  The whole problem is that it's located too far from any place with enough population to have a core of mtb riders.  So there's no one to step up and take care of the place, to be a voice for riders.  I'm trying to do this, though I live an hour away, and will start serious work on the new trail  in two weeks.

My knee was killing me Saturday morning, but after some heat and medication it was feeling better in the afternoon.  I figured I'd head out for a quick spin on the Greenway, but instead of riding from Sunside or Oakfield trailheads I headed further north into Ashtabula County.  There's a parking area and access in the little town of Orwell, so I started there and headed north.

The trail is just as nice in Ashtabula County as it is in Trumbull.  Once I rode the mile it took to get out of Orwell it was nice and quiet, with no other trail users around.  The marshy woods alongside the trail were alive with songbirds, always moving on the edge of sight.  I spotted a couple of bluebirds, which is always nice and later even saw an indigo bunting - something of a rarity.

I was busy Sunday morning, but in the afternoon I talked my brother into going for a ride out at Moraine.  He hadn't been on his bike for something like three months, which is just too damn long.  But we had a great day with temperatures in the 60's - the warmest day of the year so far - and plenty of daylight.  So we parked out at Alexander Road and made a loop from there.

Matt was apprehensive that he'd be feeling out of shape for a ride at someplace as demanding as Moraine, but it turned out that he had nothing to worry about at all.  We made a short loop in a leisurely fashion and had a great time.  Shame that I forgot the after ride beers at home.

And that was my variety for this fine weekend - three different rides at three different places.  I should have got some more things done around the house over the weekend, but I don't feel too bad about it.  Life's too short to spend all your time worrying.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


That's right.  The blahs.  Mopiness.  Lack of pep.  Shortage of vim, and also vigor.
Also lacking vigor.

I'm recovering from a cold, which worried me some since it started in my chest.  But after a week it seems that I'm recovering, with no chest congestion and just a bit of sinus hanging on.  But I'm dragging around like I'm running on low batteries - just a temporary effect of being sick I'm sure.
That oughta keep everyone out.

But I've been jonesing for adventure bigtime lately.  I need to have a whole afternoon to spend out riding someplace different, or an interesting kayaking run - something to get me going again.  It's been a long winter - if not a particularly wintry one.  Many cold, wet days.  Lots of mud and clouds.  Short days and long nights.  Even just a nice ride would help, but I'm in need of some serious fun.


I headed out to Moraine on Friday for a ride.  We had 1.25" of rain on Thursday, so I was pretty happy to have a chance to get out on those super durable Moraine trails and pound out some miles.  Out of all the places I've ridden, the one that has the most character is Moraine.  It's just a tough place, that you really have to commit to in order to get the most back out of it.  I had a serious accident out there last year, but it's a really wonderful mountain bike trail system.  Here's a quick video snapshot of one of the rock gardens from Friday.

I  wasn't breathing that great yet after being sick, but I rode pretty good - even a little bit longer than I had intended.  Once again I have to mention that the time that I've spent on the accursed stationary bike has paid off when I'm riding that technical rocky stuff.  It's a great feeling to be able to clean a nice 100' long rock garden, with a bunch of tech moves in a row.  I can still remember the first time I went out there, when I was a beginner rider.  My brother and I stopped out and just walked the trails to take a look at them. As we progressed along the trail I figured I'd have to walk about half of the distance of the first loop.  Now I can ride everything on it.  I haven't managed a no-dab lap - yet - but I'd like to think that I might be able to someday.

A great place for a bike ride!

Recently it's been pointed out that my riding style is, shall we say "leisurely".  And I really have no preconceptions that I'm out there tearing it up - I've seen the young guys and the way they can get 100% more out of the same trails I ride.  But be assured that it takes every bit of energy I can muster to ride the way I do, so I'd like to think that I'm at least somewhat of an aggressive rider when I want to be.  This weekend I went through a TON of video footage from the last three years or so, looking for some decent rock riding clips.  And I put together a "glamour shots" video that kind of almost makes it look like I know what I'm doing.

Temps in the upper 50's tomorrow.  I think I may take my bike to work and ride during lunch.