Friday, January 23, 2015

The Last Two Weeks

Doug And Joannie. Jan 2-11 2015
Due to a change in work schedule, and deferment of retirement plans, this was to be my last period of two weeks off consecutively. Damn the bad luck! I felt enormous pressure to make it worth while.

Desperate measures, last minute plans, made, discarded, modified, and finally put in motion. The plans even changed and evolved during the execution. But in the end, as always, good times were had.

We loaded up and headed out of town for Sedona Arizona. The initial idea was to hit some of the great mountain biking and rock climbing in the region while it was cool enough. It turned out to be plenty cool. The system that blew through right before I got off work left the area blanketed in snow. We arrived to several inches still on the ground with the melt out, then dry out still to occur.  And while the local shops were positive it would all be good in just a few days, I was in no mood to wait.

So for the 2nd time in as many years, Vegas provided the back-up plan. A day back tracking then 3 days riding perfect trails in perfect weather. A day was spent busting the technical trails of Bootleg canyon accompanied by our dog Topaz, another doing the mellow Blue Diamond loop, again with Topaz and a final ride on the Cottonwood Valley trail system. Interestingly I took a 'black diamond' variant that would barely make intermediate at Bootleg.

Bootleg Canyon

East Leg trail

Blue Diamond Loop

Sign signifying Old Spanish Trail

Cottonwood trail system
Cottonwood trails video
After Vegas we backtracked some more to Death Valley. We wanted ice cream at Stovepipe Wells. We decided the best way to earn it was to ride our bikes (mountain bikes mind you...the road bikes stayed home) from Furnace Creek. Of course that also meant riding back to Furnace Creek. The ride was as perfect as a road ride can be but we were sorely disappointed to arrive at Stovepipe only to discover that they no longer had ice cream and only had frozen yogurt. Bah!! What's this world coming to. The 25 miles getting there was spent in anticipation of our frozen, sugary reward. We consoled ourselves with GU and a beer chaser and hit the road back to Furnace Creek. The 25 miles back, well. Luckily beer is such a good recovery drink.

The following day was, for me to be a technical canyoneering day. Joannie was going to take a day off, go sight seeing and just enjoy the warmth and serentity of Death Valley.
Topaz couldn't pull off the pose
I knew I had a pretty tough day ahead with at least 17 rappels and plenty of challenging down climbs. She dropped me off at the base of the Black Mtns at 7:30am and watched as I slowly made my way up the crumbling steep slopes toward a ridge bordering the canyon. The climb was miserably loose in some areas but could generally be avoided with careful route finding. I finally found myself on top and eagerly dropped into the canyon. The technical nature of the canyon displayed itself immediately with the first of many rappels. I have only done a few canyons in Death Valley but this one is certainly the best of those I've done. Winding narrow slots, scrambling under (you read that right) boulders, towering hoodoos, challenging down climbs and somewhere around 20 rappels, this canyon has it all. Nearing the end of the canyon I could see the truck parked on the bad water road. From the top of the last rappel I sent a HALLOO!! down toward the truck. Joannie and Topaz didn't hear me. Well at least Joannie. I had asked Joannie to pick me up by 4pm. 4:06 I happily, tiredly, dirtily wandered down the final alluvial fan towards the cold beer. You know, recovery drink!
Deimos Canyon video

The rig on Bad Water Road

Rappel #3

A last night at our solitary plateau campsite outside the park boundry only to awake to a flat tire on the rear of the truck. (Time to refill the Karma bank). The first attempt to jack the truck resulted in nothing more than pressing the jack into the dried clay bed. Eventually I dug and built a rock platform and of course successfully got the tire changed. We stopped at the Olancha dunes on the way home and ran Topaz in the sand, and then was over.