Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Photo Post for the 'Summer'

I've been pretty lax about posting on the blog lately - seems like putting up a post each month is about all I can manage.  But I was looking at some of the photos I've taken lately, and thought I could catch people up with our goings on with a few selected pictures.

Kenny seems to be enjoying his summer vacation.  For him it seems that just having the burden of school homework off his back is (almost) enough to make the whole season.  He's been doing well, and is now officially taller than I am.

He is a joker at heart, but is developing into a fine young man.  This is him posing for the camera after his school honors program.

Our vacation was kind of a washout, since I got sick a couple of days beforehand.  We did manage to fit in a little camping, and then get out for a slightly longer stay a month or so later.  It wasn't quite the experience that we were hoping for. but we tried to make the best of the situation.  Here is Diana and Kenny coming out of MacBeth's at Cooks Forest.

Diana is going to hate that I posted her picture, but she's still my sweetheart, and I love her dearly.

I love this picture (taken by Kenny)
Our time at Cooks Forest was great, even though we've been there dozens of times.  A big part of this trip was letting Kenny spend some time in the kayak on the Clarion River, so he can build some strength and confidence to allow him to continue to develop as a young whitewater kayaker.  Even though the rapids on the Clarion are small, he was grinning ear to ear as he punched through the waves.

Kenny and I at the Arroyo boat launch on the Clarion River.

We also spent some time in the woods, including a hike in the Forest Cathedral area, where the forest has never been cut.

Forest Cathedral
It was a beautiful day in the big trees.  We had the place pretty much to ourselves for almost the whole time.  With the rain we've been having this year the undergrowth was incredibly lush, and the mushrooms and other fungus were popping up everywhere.  Noting the incredible variety of fungus we tried to find an example showing each color of the rainbow.  We had them all - except blue, which didn't look like we would be able to find.  But then almost at the end...

Blue!  We found it.

Take a look at that bright orange fungus behind Diana and Kenny at the Big Trees campsite beside the Clarion River.

We saw the river otters in the Clarion again, this time right from our campsite.  But the only wildlife photo we got was this little camp robber, feasting on cheese popcorn.

Did I mention that it's rained a bunch this summer?

It seems like through June and July it rained at least every three or four days.  The wetlands are loving it - all the water has really brought them to life.

The mountain bike trails have been soft, peanut butter mud for most of the season.  I only managed 8 singletrack rides through June and July, and some of them were on trails that were borderline soft.  Even going to Moraine State Park wasn't a guarantee of good riding conditions.

Soft, but not TOO soft.
So there's been a bunch of rail trail riding for me lately.  I've spent quite a bit of time on the Western Reserve Greenway Trail, cranking out the miles in hopes that it would help me when the singletrack was finally dry.

Waterfall on Rock Creek, as seen from the Greenway.

I'm not the only one on the rail trail though. There have been a lot of people riding & walking this summer.  And the wildlife has been abundant - I've seen deer, turkeys, pheasant, a red fox, and this guy.

There's been some road riding too, but not that much - distracted drivers are WAY more dangerous than the rocks and roots on the mountain bike trails.  But some roads are a little safer than others to ride...

No Trespassing (darn it)
I've also spent some weekend time with my buddy Dave.  He doesn't get around too well anymore, so we've been checking out the accessible trails in our area.  This one at Hogback Ridge Park is a definite favorite.

I've been up to Mill Creek Park for lunch a few times since spring.  It's always a welcome break to get up to the fantastic Fellows Riverside Garden for a bit in the middle of the day.

My favorite lunch spot there is a bench that sits beneath two Dawn Redwoods.  In Ohio.  Too cool.

And then there are the photos that I've taken while just out driving around.  Most are blurry and poorly centered, but there are a couple I like. 
Humidity after the rain.

Farmland in Pennsylvania, near Moraine State Park.

I've got a thing about taking pictures of churches in decay.

One of our local fracking operations.

And one final photo - along with some philosopy - from Fellows Riverside Gardens.

Peace, y'all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer so far

I keep on waiting for that ‘summer feeling’ to hit me, but it just aint happening this year.  I know the calendar says that we’re halfway through the season as of today, but that feeling just isn’t there.
The weather is part of the reason.  The last several years we’ve become accustomed to a slightly wet spring, followed by a dry, hot summer.  But this year we’ve only had a couple of days up in the 90’s, which happened pretty much all in one hot streak.  Most of our days have been much cooler, with many days that have had highs only in the 70’s.  And the night temperatures have been comparatively chilly, with a bunch of nights down in the lower 50’s – and even one or two in the upper 40’s!  I’m not complaining about any of this though.  Back in my youth I was pretty much heat resistant, but now I’m at the half century mark I have to admit that things have changed, and riding a bike during those 90 degree days really takes a toll on me.

The other weather issue that has been – uh, let us say OBVIOUS has been the rain.  We’ve been getting pretty significant rain events pretty much every week.  Some have been fairly minor, but then we’ve had a bunch of multi-day long hard rains.  So where I’m used to seeing brown lawns and empty creeks, this year it’s amazingly lush greenery everywhere, and water levels that are far above the usual summer lows.  But the big impact on my summer mojo has been that this regular rain has kept the dirt mountain bike trails soft for weeks at a time.  REALLY soft.  So soft that you’d have to be a mtb evil-doer to be rotten enough to go out and destroy them by riding.

So there hasn’t been much singletrack this summer.  Where I usually would be getting at least two days of dirt riding every week, this summer it’s been the norm to NOT get to ride dirt at all.  Checking my mapmyride stats shows that there were only 4 singletracks in June, and 4 in July.

I’ve made a couple of trips over to Moraine State Park in Pennsylvania – a trail system that is locally famous for the way that it holds up to rainy conditions.  And I got in good rides when I went, but with the wet weather Moraine has become the ‘go to’ trails for local riders, and all the extra traffic is starting to develop mud holes in the areas between the rocks.  And I got in a couple of rides between the rain out at West Branch, Quail Hollow, and Beaver Creek.  But the trails are just so soft that riding makes deep ruts – and that is a BIG no-no for mtbrs.

What do you do when you’re a dirt rider and the dirt is too soft?  Resign yourself to riding on the pavement of course.  I've put in way more rail trail miles this summer than I ever have before.  And as the miles have added up I've started riding further distances when I have the time.  Usually I have less than two hours of free time – so that gives me time to drive to the rail trail, ride for about 1-1/4 hours and then drive home with a distance ridden of between 12 and 18 miles.  This summer I’ve spent some longer days on the trail, and have several 35 mile days.  And I've noticed that my average speeds are getting faster, too.  So all the pavement miles have been helping boost my fitness so that when I do get on the dirt I’m feeling pretty darn good, and can ride to the best of my ability.

And here we are in August, when the dirt should be hard-baked like concrete – but instead it’s so soft that on my last singletrack ride – out at Quail Hollow this week – revealed the most EPIC (and I don’t get to use that word that often in relation to my riding) mudhole that I’ve seen on a trail.  Four feet wide and twenty feet long of nasty, grey Jello mud with no way around.  Sad.  I was hoping that the five days without rain would have been enough to soak up some of the water.

The weather forecast for the upcoming week: chance of rain today, tomorrow, Friday and Tuesday.  Damn.  Well, maybe it’ll rain enough that I can get a kayak trip in…