27 November 2014

Stardate 2014.907

Top to bottom: Mount Adams (in state of Washington), Mount Hood (Oregon's tallest), Mount Jefferson (Oregon's second tallest) and Three Fingered Jack.


Oregon has numerous beautiful landscapes. There are mountains, an ocean, rivers, a desert and lots of forest land. While attending graduate school at Oregon State University, I had the opportunity to summit Oregon's highest peak, Mount Hood, twice. I also had a failed attempt on Oregon's second highest, Mount Jefferson. Top to bottom in the above photo: Mount Adams (residing in the state of Washington), Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack.


Snowcatcher and I are off to Oregon to attend my nephews wedding. It's a cold Friday afternoon at Denver International, and we're happy to be in the concourse. All in all things went well. We didn't wait too long to clear security, although my hat got stuck after passing through the x-ray, and I got in trouble for being on the wrong side of the conveyor to retrieve it. After check-in, we ate some food and took a stroll to our gate. We settled in for an hour or so of airplane and people watching.

Our Airbus 319 arrives at the gate.

Soon our ride taxied up to the gate. It's an Airbus 319. In short, it's a flying aluminum culvert with two engines hanging on the wings.

We were storks for awhile.

The tail section of each Frontier airliner sports a picture of some type of wildlife. We were storks today.

Drag race anyone?

After leaving the gate, we rolled-up next to another Frontier jet. Then we had a drag race to the runway taxi lane. We won!

The pilot was starting to give it the gas.

A Southwest airliner, and a Frontier airliner, line up behind us for take-off.

Front Range, urban sprawl, Westminster/Broomfield area

Our flight flew over the suburban sprawl of Westminster, Broomfield and Boulder.

Boulder Flatirons

A popular climbing area, the Boulder Flatirons caught late afternoon sun directly below us.

14,255-foot Longs Peak, Colorado's 15th tallest, enshrouded in clouds and creating its own weather (top center).

Longs Peak is Colorado's 15th tallest mountain at 14,255 feet. The peak is hiding under clouds and most likely creating its own weather (center top).

It's stormy over Colorado's Front Range.

The weather deteriorated as we flew over Colorado's front range...

Rising above the storm.

...however, we popped into the wide blue yonder fairly quickly

We're somewhere over eastern Oregon.

As we flew across eastern Oregon, heavier, rain-laden clouds floated below us.

Descending into another layer of clouds while on our descent.

As the airplane descended for landing, it pierced several cloud layers.

Dropping out of clouds on final approach to Eugene Airport.

Just as we broke out of the clouds, the pilot hit the throttle, propelling us back up through the clouds for another go-around. It was kind of exciting. The cabin became quite silent.

Just before landing, the pilot gave it the gas for another go around.  At this point, we're banking left for another final approach.  We had to drop back down through a cloud layer again.

Banking left for another final approach.

We dropped out of the clouds again and landed according to plan.

A little air breaking action.

After a little air brake action, we taxied right up to the gate of Oregon's Eugene Airport.

More Oregon to come.


13 November 2014

Stardate 2014.868

13,408-foot Mount 

Historic Argentine Central Grade

The Argentine Central Railway was a narrow-gauge railroad operating between 1906 and 1918. The line served silver-mining operations above Silver Plume, Colorado, at the Waldorf Mine. Moreover, above and beyond the Waldorf Mine, tourists were transported to the 13,000-foot level of 13,587-foot Mount McClellan. From McClellan's flank, tourists enjoyed an exotic view of Grays Peak and Torreys Peak rising to 14,270 feet and 14,267 feet, respectively.

Several miles south of Mount McClellan, the Continental Divide runs the crest of the Front Range Mountains. In this area, easiest access over the Divide is via Argentine Pass. The pass hovers at 13,207 feet and is cradled between 13,850-foot Mount Edwards and 13,738-foot Argentine Peak. The pass is reached from the east via steep 4x4-trail from the old Waldorf Mine. The pass can be reached via bicycle, or foot, from Horseshoe Basin on the west side. I've wanted to ride as far as I could up Argentine Pass for quite some time. Let's see if I can do it this late in the riding season.


Argentine Central  Rail Grade is a former narrow-gauge rail line 
climbing to the Waldorf Mine just below Argentine Pass.

It's a late October morning and I'm beginning a mountain bike ride at 9,100 feet of elevation. I shut the car door as quick as I open it. Brrrr, I'm not ready for winter yet. I change into riding gear in the tiny confines of my small pickup. My objective is to get too warm with my gear on, thus wanting to jump out in the cold. It works almost every time. Soon, the familiar click-click of shoes mating with pedals indicates a new adventure has begun. The historic rail grade begins about a quarter-mile from the pickup and fills in as a nice warm-up.

Who says forests aren't resilient?  Aspens and conifers encroaching the old rail grade.

Forests can be resilient, if given time. Aspen and lodgepole pine are slowly encroaching onto the old rail bed. One hundred-years ago a narrow-gauge steam locomotive chugged (possibly gasped) up this route.

Chimney Remnants

It's cold in the forest, and water scattered along the trail is frozen in flow. However, I've chosen the right mix of clothes, and I stay warm without overheating too much. Several miles later, I huff and puff into a sunlit clearing where an old fireplace has refused to die. The historic grade and the single track end here. The old rail line soon becomes Forest Route 248.1, a jeep road ascending the Leavenworth Creek drainage to the Waldorf Mine.

Riding up Leavenworth toward  Argentine Pass

I'm absorbing the sun as fast as I can. That's just what lizards do. Not only will I be on sunny aspects until late afternoon, the wind hasn't kicked in yet. After shedding an upper layer, my crawl up the rough road toward treeline continues.

Getting closer to treeline

Mount Edwards becomes my stick and carrot as I continue to crawl over rocks and hike-a-bike frozen stream crossings.


Treeline is reached in a respectable time. Despite some ice, snow cover has been minimal and confined to shady areas. Climbing on, I enter my favorite part of the high peaks – the tundra. I keep an eye peeled for mountain goats. Although, as nice as it is, I'm sure any goats are lounging in the sun on surrounding summits.

Jeep road smothered in early drift snow

It's time to tackle Argentine Pass. Wait, let me restate that; it's time to walk up the pass. Not only does the jeep road ramp up steeply, the majority of the trail is covered in drift snow, leaving a sliver of non-rideable loose rock along the downhill edge. There are few rideable segments. I'm about 10 miles from the pickup, and I have the hills to myself. Hence, I decide on a 3:00 p.m. turnaround to get back to the pickup before dark. Descending the rough road won't be as fast as I would like.

End of the line for the day; the Argentine Pass jeep road continues for another 0.80 mile and can be seen in the background.

At 2:30 I call it good. I'm at 12,700 feet; 0.8 mile from the Pass and getting tuckered. I could leave the bike and hoof-it straight up the tundra, but that would still take an hour to get up and back. Besides, the idea was to get a bike up the trail in fall/winter conditions. Having summited many of the peaks in this area, I don't feel too bad about not gaining the saddle.

Looking back down the Leavenworth drainage.

My oatmeal has worn off and I grab a Powerbar; I might as well eat. As often happens, "the hills are alive with the sound of music" pops to mind as I take in this high alpine setting. A lot of rockfall catches my attention too. I wonder if goats are on the prowl. Perhaps, but most likely it's due to thawing.

Late afternoon sun

A windswept Argentine Peak rises above me. The sun is getting low and the afternoon shade, along with cooler temps, are not far off.

Yeah, it's steep!

Yes, the jeep road is steep. Although it looks rideable, it really isn't with the snow.

The pass is up there somewhere.

There are acres and acres of golden tundra waving below the pass. If not windblown, this area might yield some good backcountry skiing next spring. I'll keep that in mind; I need to enjoy winter first.

Frozen tarn

A small tarn just above the Waldorf Mine never did thaw. Yet, the stream draining the tarn did melt some. I wasn't forced to find iceless rocks for crossings, as was required while ascending. Stream crossings can be rather interesting this time of year. It's not a good idea to get wet. I carry several items of dry clothing in case of a water landing.

Waldorf Mine - or what's left of it

Only one out-building remains standing at the Waldorf Mine.

Late in the day and melting snow and water  are icing-up again.

Descending Leavenworth Creek, many of the side-streams were beginning to freeze back up for the evening. I was careful descending in and out of shady areas.

Fast single-track (rail grade)  brings the ride to an end.

Back onto the rail grade, it's a short descent to the car. When I finished, I realized I had misjudged the difficulty of the route because it was a 4x4 road. Had I started an hour earlier, I would have reached Argentine Pass. Nonetheless, I had an entire day to myself. I didn't see anyone up high, not even a billy, a nanny or a kid.


10 November 2014

Stardate 2014.860

Arches National Park at sunset

Ancient Art

Our fourth day is a travel day. While driving through the Professor Valley, we turn onto the Fisher Towers Road for a short side trip up to the Towers.

Ancient Art (left) and the King Fisher

Four prominent towers rise here. They are King Fisher, Echo, Cottontail and the Titan – the tallest. Yet, there exists myriad of climbs on non-distinct formations and connecting ridge lines. In the above photo, Ancient Art and King Fisher collect morning light.

Climber setting protection on the corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

We heard the Cobra formation had lost its head and was no more. Hiking in, we were saddened to see that rumors where true; the Cobra was dead. On the other hand, it's our lucky morning. Directly above us, a pair of climbers was ascending Ancient Art. The climbers were making their final moves onto the exotic corkscrew summit.

Climber on the corkscrew summit of Ancient Art.

Success! Many climbers try to stand on the tiny summit. However, listening to the above climbers' conversation, it was too windy to safely stand.

Good Morning Castleton Tower!

We were hiking in and out of drainages, being showered in niceties such as sun-hit on Castleton Tower, and company (see upper left photo). Left to right: Castleton Tower, The Rectory (large butte), The Nuns and The Priest. The upper right towers in the photo are known as the Sister Superior Group (a.k.a. The Professor and Students).

The King Fisher

King Fisher Tower

The King Fisher (left) and Ancient Art's corkscrew summit

King Fisher and Ancient Art pose from another angle.

Dock Rock

Dock Rock is one of the last to greet the day's sun. Our hike over, we ate a snack, pointed the 4-Runner toward Colorado and with a fair amount of sadness, drove home... sniffle, sniffle.

The Fisher Towers area is unique. I have numerous photos of the area, and I think I may save them for a winter post. The area can be haunting, it can be magical, it can be mystical and it can be miserably cold and wet. Up next, Argentine Pass, Colorado. Thanks for reading!


06 November 2014

Stardate 2014.849

Big Chief Trail, Intrepid Trail System, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

You Can't Beat a Dead Horse
Part II

It's Day Three of our trip; we stroll down to breakfast and fill up on biscuits, gravy, bacon and yogurt. I wish to ride yesterday's Dead Horse Point loops again and Snowcatcher is up for the task. Seeking time and distance, Snowcatcher will ride several trails and then get some road miles in, too.

Viewing Behind the Rocks from the Dead Horse Point State Park, area of Moab, Utah.

I'm riding a little faster today, still admiring the wonderfully eroded topography.

Viewing southwest from the Prickly Pair Trail, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

While taking a breather, I enjoy the view southwest toward the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.

Brutal beach sand

Brutal dune sand tests my balance, strength and aerobic capacity along several segments of the Twisted Tree Trail.

Desert towers

This is the land of towers and spires. Ya gotta love it! Actually, in order to appreciate it, one needs to take some time and visit the area.

One of a myriad of riding conditions found on the Intrepid Trail System.

Fast and flowy segments kept my smile in place. On the other hand, my smile remains ear to ear no matter what riding surface is thrown into the mix.

A yellow Autumn drainage between Moab and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.

Aspen trees adorning the La Sal Mountains have shed their leaves. Many of the lower elevation cottonwoods are approaching peak. Another riding season is wrapping up. It's been a good one, and I hate to see it go. We leave Moab tomorrow; but as we leave the land of sandstone, we have one more distinct stop to make.

Do you like blood-red towers of stone? If so, come back in a couple of days.


04 November 2014

Stardate 2014.844

Viewing Behind the Rocks from the Dead Horse Point State Park area of Moab, Utah.

You Can't Beat a Dead Horse
Part I

Day Two of our trip finds us driving down a spectacular causeway of red and buff colored geologic time. Stopping at our usual camera stops, we get... photogenic.

Fisher Towers, Professor Valley, Colorado River, Utah

A siren emanating from the Fisher Towers area is about as spellbinding as it gets. Four massive desert towers rise out of the desert; it's hard not to turn in for a visit. We decide, once again, to visit this enchanting place on our way home. As is, we're only 20-miles from Moab, Utah, and would like to get a ride in before sunset.

Colorado River, East Portal, Moab, Utah

The tranquil, yet deceptive, Colorado River carries its load of sediment past us and through the east portal of the Moab Valley. Not long after entering Moab Valley, the river will exit the valley via the west portal. The river visits some remote, wild and wooly desert before being stopped in its flow by Lake Powell's slack water. We had rooms reserved in Moab for the next two nights. Hence, we don't worry about finding a camp-site. Off we go to Dead Horse Point State Park to ride the Intrepid Trail System. Neither Snowcatcher, nor myself, have ridden this collection of mountain bike singletrack.

Dead Horse Point Area, Moab, Utah

I'm in heaven! I can't get enough of the canyon country, perpetual erosion at its finest.

Dead Horse Point Area, Moab, Utah

Wingate Sandstone, of the Jurassic Period, erodes into massive, time-diseased cliffs.


Snowcatcher hones her off-road skills on the Great Pyramid Trail, part of the Intrepid Trail System. The riding feels similar to many mid-1980s trails. I reminisce about a Moab of years past, and how far mountain biking technology has come since its infancy. Bikes didn't have suspension, disk brakes or light weights when I started frequenting Moab.

Viewing Behind the Rocks from the Dead Horse Point State Park area of Moab, Utah.

The ancient, rounded fin formations of the Behind the Rocks area always draw my attention. The 12,000-foot summits of the La Sal Mountains, rising in the background, add contrast, especially in the spring when they still have a coating of white.

Whiptail Trail, Intrepid Trail System, Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, Utah

Sinuous, flowy, singletrack of the Whiptail Trail meanders through a pinion/pine forest ecosystem. I end the day riding myriad stone steps and drops along the Twisted Tree and Prickly Pair Trails back to the car. Prickly Pair has two somewhat parallel versions, hence the intentional non-cacti spelling.

With daylight winding down, Snowcatcher and I drove back to our hotel and checked in. After dinner, we slid into the outdoor hot tub, enjoying the cool autumn evening of the high desert.

There will be more sandstone in forthcoming posts. So, check back in a few days.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...