28 May 2015

Stardate 2015.405

Santa Fe, New Mexico, landscape

Tierra del Encanto Parte Dos

Welcome to part II of our trip to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Century bicycle ride. After the ride I enjoyed a cold libation while waiting for Snowcatcher. After we hooked up, we grabbed a bite to eat, swallowed some hermit pills, and withdrew into our cozy shell of a room. The following morning we were heading back to Colorado. However, we wanted to visit several places along the ride route, including Madrid, before leaving.

Santa Fe artwork of large wind vanes.

Some more Santa Fe wind vanes to pique your interest.

Fish wind vanes, Santa Fe, New Mexico

I thought the wind vanes were kind of unique.

This art studio was close to Madrid, New Mexico.

Madrid, New Mexico, artwork

I would like to see the above illuminated during the Christmas season.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, landscape

I bet these hills could tell some tales. Think of what they have seen over the centuries. If you like southwest and four corners history, including early anglo exploration, the following book is a good read.

The Domínguez-Escalante Journal
Their Expedition Through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico in 1776
Translated by Fray Angelico Chavez
Edited by Ted J. Warner
University of Utah Press
Salt Lake City

Looking toward Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico, from the road up Stagecoach Pass..

I'm looking across Madrid toward the northern Santa Fe area and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from below the summit of Stagecoach Pass.

Blooming cacti

A blooming cholla enjoying the spring.

Zia bottle cap drawing

Above is a picture I took of a Santa Fe Brewing Company drawing of a bottle cap that was on the front of their beer wagon. The figure on top of the cap is a Zia. The Zia probably is my favorite symbol. You probably noticed it on yellow flags in part I. To the Zia Indians of New Mexico, it is their sacred symbol of the sun. It's a circle with 4 rays pointing in 4 directions. The number 4 is a sacred number embodied in the following.

Points of the compass (north, east, south and west)
Seasons of the year (Spring, summer, fall and winter)
Periods of each day (morning, noon, evening and night)
Seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years and old age)
Sacred obligations to develop (strong body, clear mind, pure spirit and devotion to others welfare)

The symbol may be found on the Flag of New Mexico, the design of the New Mexico State Capitol, the State Quarter, state license plates and state highway markers. It's seen on numerous other objects.

Well, that's it. The Zia concludes this post. Thanks for reading. I have a lot of stuff coming. Stay tuned.


23 May 2015

Stardate 2015.392

Northern New Mexico landscape

Tierra del Encanto Parte Uno

I'm a May baby from many, many, moons ago. Each May I request a trip to the mountain bike mecca of Moab, Utah, to barter in shells, coral, sage, sterling silver and turquoise. I opted for something different this year – the Santa Fe Century. It would require a journey to the Land of Enchantment – New Mexico. Actually, this ride has been on my radar for a while. This would be the event's 30th anniversary as well. It'd be a hoot! I'm very fond of New Mexico. I even married some Snowcatcher girl who grew up there. Following is our adventure.

Spanish Peaks, Colorado

The ride was on a Sunday, giving us an easy 6-hour, 400-mile drive on Saturday. About 170 miles into the drive we were treated to morning sun sharing its warmth with the Spanish Peaks. Their Native American name is Wahatoya (Breasts of the World), according to summitpost.org. East Spanish Peak (left) touches the sky at 12,683 feet. West Spanish Peak pierces the sky at 13,626 feet. Modern windmills take advantage of local winds.

Run for the Wall fueling in Raton, New Mexico

Our next stop was for petrol, several miles inside northern New Mexico, in the small rail town of Raton. We arrived about 15 minutes prior the Run for the Wall. The latter is a motorcycle "healing" rally for all veterans, POW and MIA. The motorcyclists were doing a northerly route and will ultimately reach the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington DC. Their website is http://www.rftw.org/. About 400 motorcycles stopped in Raton for fuel, a ride break and camaraderie with locals, some of whom supplied free gas to the motorcyclists.

The high plains of northeast New Mexico.

Undulating swells of wide open ranch country make up the high plains grasslands of northeast New Mexico. Yes, very rural parts of our country can still be found.

A deluge just south of Las Vegas , New Mexico.

A deluge gave us a wet eye just south of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Approaching Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As we approached the final little pass before the drop into Santa Fe, it was obvious we were not far below the line of new snow. However, ride day was supposed to be warmer and dryer. Time would tell.

The staging area for the Santa Fe Century.

After an evening of checking-into our room and gathering our ride packets, we awoke to a clear sky and 40 enchanting Fahrenheit's ghosting around. We arrived at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, our starting point, around 6.

Riders are beginning to line up for the start.

As a creeping sun slowly flowed over and down western ramparts of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, riders began finding positions in the start area. The 1,325 century and Gran Fondo riders were scheduled to begin at 7. The 1,166 half-century and Medio Fondo riders would begin an hour behind. There was a 20-mile route as well.

Gran Fondo and Medio Fondo is a Euro-sounding way of providing an officially timed ride. In short, a timed "race;" you have an electronic chip and go as fast as you can for 100 miles (Gran) or 50 miles (Medio). I registered for the Gran Fondo. Early in the ride, I realized I didn't have the legs to continue my pace to the finish. I must still have a lot of winter fat! Hence, I tuned it down, enjoying the ride and water/food stops. Perhaps, I'll try the Gran Fondo again next year.

As miniature, radio controlled drones buzzed overhead, riders began a 10, 9, 8..., countdown. Off we went. The start was neutral, following a police escort for the first 10 miles. The fun part was that the neutral start, designed to get a lot of people through town safely, was averaging over 25 miles per hour. It was on!

Madrid, New Mexico

After 26 miles of rolling, high desert, piñon-juniper landscape, Madrid, the first water and food aid station, popped up behind a hill. The township is an old company coal town where some residents live in train cars. It was interesting to see electrical services mounted on boxcars. There's also an artist population. In fact, much of New Mexico, especially the Santa Fe area, abounds with artisans. Painter Georgia O'keeffe was a longtime resident of Santa Fe.

Looky, looky, I only had 79 miles to go.

Heartbreak Hill aid station is fueling hungry riders.

Madrid sits about halfway up the longest sustained climb of the ride. After crossing Stagecoach Pass, it's a quick downhill to Golden, an extinct gold mining town. The route turns south at Golden and the next water stop, Heartbreak Hill, comes into view at 39 miles. This aid stop is a psyche-yourself-up stop, before tackling a short wall. The aid stops are nice. Water, fig newtons and bananas are always welcomed ride food, especially fig newtons. Normal food is a nice change, or compliment, to the energy food I carry. As a side note, if you were to continue southwest from Golden for another 20 miles, you would run into the eastern flank of the Sandia Mountains. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is directly over on the west side of the narrow but dramatic range.

The road cut for the upper half of Heartbreak Hill can be seen.

Heartbreak Hill is tough – pure and simple. The grade is consistent 16% for about a 1/2 mile. It was a painful, out-of-the-saddle, leg-burning grunt. Some riders zigzagged, while some walked. I thought of doing either of the latter, but managed to coax my legs on — barely. The road cut in the top center of the above photo is upper Heartbreak Hill. At this point, I was still 66 miles from the finish.

Galisteo, New Mexico

The next 25 miles through farmland and pasture of the Estancia Valley was flat and fast. I thought I was going to nail a good time, despite loitering at the stops. Then the route swung north and Eolus showed up. The following 19 miles through rolling grazeland and desert was into a stiff headwind. 82.4 miles into the ride, I wheeled into the small town of Galisteo. Supposedly, there was an indigenous pueblo here at one time. At this point, I joined in with the folks riding the half-century. There only was 25 miles to go, c'mon legs!

From Galisteo, the riding was undulating desert to Highway 285, where we turned north and tackled a 7-mile ascent to the Eldorado water stop. (Yes, Eldorado is named after the fabled City of Gold.) I was only 10 miles from the finish and had plenty of water so I continued on to the finish at the Medical Center.

The beer garden at the Santa Fe Century staging area.

After scraping off salt precipitate and wet-toweling a bit, I visited the staging area to take some photos and have a beer drawn from the Santa Fe Brewery beer wagon, one of many craft beer breweries in the area. It wasn't long before Snowcatcher hooked back up with me. It's a great ride and I'd like to do it again.

Following are stats from the Santa Fe Century website:
130 volunteers
2650 registered riders
45% Century riders
5% Gran Fondo century riders
42% Half-century riders
2% Medio Fondo half-century riders
6% 20-mile riders
63% Men
37% Women

Age 7, youngest rider
Age 87, oldest rider
Age 54, median

Quickest Gran Fondo male 4:24:31
Quickest Gran Fondo female 5:12:28
My speedo ride time was 6:30:40 (moving on bike), not including breaks.

Riders represented 35 states
Top 5 participating states were New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and California
International riders were from Canada, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom

Well, that's it for now. Land of Enchantment Part 2 is in the works.


19 May 2015

Stardate 2015.381

Deer Creek Canyon, Littleton, Colorado

It's Runoff Season!

Snowcatcher and I just returned from New Mexico where we participated in the Santa Fe Century bike ride and Gran Fondo. The following blog has photos from several rides I took prior to heading south. Since it's raining cats and dogs today, I thought some high water pics appropriate. I'll get some Santa Fe pics up shortly.

Thank you Wheat Ridge Cyclery and Team Evergreen!!

Thank you Wheat Ridge Cyclery and Team Evergreen for a much needed surprise!!

Deer Creek Canyon, Littleton, Colorado

Lately, stream flows have been very high, thanks to numerous spring showers and snow melt. Having a BS and MS in hydrology, I like this time of year because it's when things "happen" in stream channels, excluding beaver work. Normally, summer flows are too low to do much from a geomorphic standpoint.

Deer Creek Canyon, Littleton, Colorado

A family of beaver reside along this stretch and they've been very busy this year. However, it appears all their work has been washed downstream. I think they have a lot of large log debris to remove before they rebuild.

Deer Creek Canyon, Littleton, Colorado

We're receiving additional rain today. My guess is Deer Creek still looks like this. I should probably go for a ride and take a gander.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

The following pics are from an evening mountain bike ride up Waterton Canyon. Denver Water is releasing a lot of water from Strontia Springs Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir is filling fast.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

The ephemeral streams are getting a workout this year.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

The Strontia Springs Dam is currently releasing a lot of water. The normal flow gates are at the base of the dam. Denver Water is releasing down the spillway too. Flows of the South Platte River are highly regulated. Maintaining normal and flood flows down a series of daisy chained reservoirs is a complicated process. For example, what happens if one of the reservoirs is allowed to fill completely, and inflow now equals outflow? Hopefully the next reservoir handles it. What happens if all the reservoirs fill completely and rain and runoff continue? Or, the opposite may happen during drought. What if demand is higher than inflow and you can't fill the reservoirs? If the drought continues, more than yards may become thirsty. There are lots of hydrologic tools and regressions based on historic data to help the water schedulers; but, finding a happy medium is not easy.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

It was getting dark while Snowcatcher and I waited out a small thunderstorm. We had a good vantage point for watching lightning dance along the ridgeline.

Up next, a journey to New Mexico.


12 May 2015

Stardate 2015.362

Upper Ute Canyon headwaters, Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument

What do you do when the forecast is 5 to 8 inches of heavy, wet, May snow? Why, you head west to the land of high mesas, volcanic plateaus, multi-colored sandstone, Butch Cassidy, Doc Holliday and myriad other colorful history. I'm very biased toward the west side of Colorado. I grew up there. I miss living there. You don't feel like a bazillion people are crowding you as you do along Colorado's Front Range (Fort Collins, Denver Metro, Colorado Springs corridor).

Being quite opinionated, I think one of the best road bike rides in the state is Rim Rock Drive through Colorado National Monument. On the other hand, I've yet to meet a cyclist who didn't like the Monument. Hence, I didn't have to twist Snowcatcher's arm much. Since there were no scheduled Friday night spinster dances to maraud, Dieter and Wolfgang, the Bavarian bandits, came along as well.

Hair on fire, we tore into the Friday night. After 4.5 hours of snow and sheet rain we rolled into Grand Junction. Saturday's weather was iffy. Since Rim Rock Drive isn't a good area to dodge lightning, I sagged Snowcatcher's ride just in case Zeus made an appearance. After the ride, we did the Mother's Day thingie with my folks. The following Sunday was almost perfect!

Dieter and Wolfgang preparing to ride the Colorado National Monument.

The Colorado National Monument calls home the northern edge of the Colorado Plateau. We began our ride at Wingate Elementary School, at the base of the Monument, close to the Park's east entrance. As we began our ride, Wolfgang and Dieter eyed the climb up Rim Rock Drive. The route would take us through 2-billion year old Precambrian rock, a geologic unconformity (eroded, discontinuous and unknown geologic record), 200 + million year old Triassic sandstone (Chinle, Wingate, and Kayenta formations), 150 + million-year-old Jurassic sandstone (Entrada formation) and mudstone/shale (Morrison formation).

Cold Shivers Point, Colorado National Monument

Once in the park, we immediately begin climbing about 1,200 vertical feet at a maximum grade of 8 percent. 4 miles later we reached Cold Shivers Point. Although more climbing was to come, the steep stuff was finished. It's fun to keep track of the clock while climbing to Cold Shivers Point. It took me 23 minutes to get up the beast this trip. My best time is 20 minutes. The quickest time I'm aware of is very fast – 15 minutes.

Cold Shivers Point, Columbus Canyon, Colorado National Monument

Columbus Canyon is sporting some new green in the bottom. Small springs dot the area, and some small riparian areas are scattered about.

Colorado National Monument

Fresh snow covered higher elevations in the vicinity of the Colorado/Utah state line.

Red Canyon, Colorado National Monument

Once on top, Rim Rock Drive is a sinuous drive along canyon rims. Grand Junction, as seen from upper Red Canyon, sits at the base of the Park. The small protrusion in the ridge behind Grand Junction is Mount Garfield. If you visit the backside of Mount Garfield, or anywhere along the long ridgeline known as the Bookcliffs, you have a very good chance of encountering wild horses. The high flattop mountain in the right background is Grand Mesa, rising over 10,000 feet in elevation.

Red Canyon, Colorado National Monument

Here's another view down Red Canyon into the heart of Grand Junction. Mount Garfield is out of view to the left. Grand Mesa will play host to day two of Ride the Rockies. Riders will ride about 100 miles to Hotchkiss, Colorado. However, riders will have to scale Grand Mesa first. The climb is 5,000 feet of elevation gain over 20 miles. Grand Mesa, by most accounts, is considered the third hardest mountain pass to ride over in the state. I've ridden it a handful of times, and it hurts.

Upper elevations of sage, Colorado National Monument

Take a big breath! Can you smell the sage? There has been a lot of rain and snow, and the scent of sage weighs heavily. This is a Piñon-Juniper ecosystem, providing wildlife forage and domestic grazing. Similar landscapes may be found in New Mexico and Utah.

Scarlet Gilia

Wolfgang and Dieter are into herbs. Here they've found a grove of Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata ssp. formosissima). This flower is a member of the Phlox family and is biennial. During year 1, food is stored in the taproot. For year 2, the stored food is used for fast growth and to reproduce. This is a very prolific flower in western Colorado.

You can figure it out!

At the sign, we're more or less halfway along Rim Rock Drive. There is one more little climb, followed by all downhill. There also is a third road taking off from here into the ranch and graze lands of Glade Park and Piñon Mesa. The high summer pastures of Piñon Mesa offer a nice temperature retreat when Grand Junction temps are triple digit.

Lower Monument Canyon, Colorado National Monument

The lower portion of Monument Canyon is shown in the above photo. There are numerous difficult towers to test aid and free-climbing skills. Two popular towers are Kissing Couple and Independence Monument.

Indian Paintbrush

The herb masters are at it again. They've discovered a stand of red Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). These flowers are members of the Figwort family and also are found in rose (pinkish) and yellow.

Riding eroding sandstone

"Hey, Snowcatcher, watch this."

Getting ready for the descent.

The Bavarians are ready for their big descent.

Redland's return

Our route back took us along the base of the Monument. Even the return was geologic as we paralleled the Redlands fault line. Earlier I spoke of a geologic unconformity. It can be somewhat seen here. Notice where the black rock meets the dark red - that's it. Several hundred million years of geologic information is missing between the black Precambrian formation (several billion years old) and the red Triassic Chinle formation (200 + million years old).

That's it for now. Later gator!

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