Saturday, February 20, 2016

Death Valley Bikepacking - Pictographs, Petroglyphs and HoundAbout spills.

Feb 2016

The notion dawned after having researched some pictographs in Death Valley National Park and deciding I needed to go see them. What better way than to do a bikepacking shakedown ride in preparation for our upcoming White Rim Trail trip in April?

We left town and spent the first night at the wonderful Eureka Dunes site. For the next couple days we had some rain and wind so waited it out at the jumping off point for our bikepacking trip.

On day 3 we finally took off for our first real bikepacking experience. We had the full bikepacking regalia and each bike weighed in at around 70 lbs with all the water we were carrying. Plus I was pulling a Solvit HoundAbout trailer. Topaz is still the most badass trail dog ever but she's getting up in years and has gone deaf. It's good to let her ride from time to time. We made pretty good time on the initial mild downhill for a few miles but then the reciprocal uphill started. Topaz gets to ride all the downhill she wants but when the route goes up... she's gotta make it under her own power, which is never a problem for her. So after cresting a several mile hill, back in the trailer she goes for the downhill. All goes well until the road becomes rutted and rough. Then riding down with a little speed the trailer gets caught in the rut and manages to flip (more of a complete barrel roll) and a relatively unperturbed Topaz bails out the top hatch and shakes it off like a boss. A few more miles of sandy downhill and we arrive at our planned camp. And did I mention the tool horde I hauled in that day? Well maybe not a horde but a not-so-new set of channel lock pliers and a BRAND NEW shovel. This was all going back with me. Let no tool be left behind. My shovel, My shovel, wherever I go iittt goes too...

It was definitely going to be a rather cold night. Let me preface by assuring you dear readers that my wife is not of the 'plus' sized derriere variation of the female form.  She dutifully donned the Fruit Of The Loom long john bottoms we purchased at America's store, WalMart. She got a stricken look on her face and I immediately knew something had gone horribly, irretrievably wrong.
"These things have no butt!" she yelped in surprise.
"What?" I replied warily.
"Look!" she nearly wailed again, then bent over to act out picking something up and sure enough the long johns rode right down over her ass and ended up cupping the bottom of her cheeks nicely. I guess you could say they were bringing up the rear. From that point on, whomever was behind on the trail was "fruit of the looming" by bringing up the rear. But I digress... Now mind you I'm all for a nice provocative article of clothing but in this case I knew it would prove to be a challenging night. We bailed into the tent with Topaz squeezed between us by about 7pm as it was simply too cold to lounge around outside. Did I mention it was cold? All night long as Joannie tried to curl up for warmth I could hear her wrestling with trying to keep the long johns up over her butt and Topaz grunting from being disturbed. I was having a desperate time myself. The effort of not busting out laughing was just too much for me and from time to time I squeaked out a muffled snicker. Through it all she kept a wonderful attitude though, giggling herself when she detected my mirth. All until about 4am.  I awoke to wild flailing and heaving gasps of air coming from the sleeping space my lovely wife currently occupied.
"What, WHAT, WHAT!!?? I barked, my alarm level increasing with every indiscriminate thrash coming from the west.
"I couldn't get out of my bag" she gasped. "I was so cold I pulled in the drawstrings on my bag until there was just a tiny hole over my mouth. I guess I rolled over on my stomach while sleeping and woke up with my beanie cap all the way down over my face and couldn't find the hole in my bag. I got claustrophobia and was trying to breaststroke my way out of the bag half sleep" she explained. Indeed sitting bolt upright with the cap still down over her face she looked like she'd just been wrestling alligators or fending off desert bandits.

As always the sun rose again. And it warmed quickly. Which was good because Topaz's water bowl had frozen - solid. A breakfast of Nutella on Triscuits and a couple corn tortillas with melted cheese and it was time to go art hunting! Joannie was positively purring with the unexpected delight of an unusually edible camp breakfast. We plodded out across the trackless desert toward where I hoped we would find the petroglyphs and pictographs. Our efforts were rewarded when we spotted the first petroglyphs, followed soon by the alcove holding the pictographs. It is truly fascinating to gaze at these panels and wonder about their origin. Are they messages?..newspapers?...merely ancient graffiti? After spending a couple hours looking around for art we returned to camp and packed up for the ride out, my new shovel protruding several feet off to the side of the front roll on my bike.

half frozen

fully frozen

Non-typical antlers found on the return hike

The first several miles were pretty brutal for both of us riding up the sandy road bed and once we got out of the sand we had to climb back up to the crest of the hill separating our valley from where we had parked the truck. Coming down the far side of the hill the protruding shovel handle proved Topaz's undoing as once again the trailer rolled with her in it when the handle caught on a roadside bush. Again bailing out the top hatch, she took off down the hill for Joannie like Ok, that's not fun anymore. But she took it all in stride as just another part of the adventure and got back in without much coaxing. Finally about 5pm we made it back to the truck. Butts sore, it felt wonderful to get off the bikes.

After the ride and making it back to pavement it was, as always in Death Valley, time for an ice cream so off we went to Furnace Creek. As we descended to sea level, the valley became alive with wildflowers belying its moniker Death Valley. We spent that night at our plateau campsite outside the park.

We spent a last night at the dunes again after checking out the old Crater sulfer mine on Big Pine rd. Another great DV adventure wrapped up.

Full moon over Eureka Dunes

My new shovel :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ice Climbing 2016

Superbowl weekend in Ouray! Thursday evening we stayed in the awesome 1929 "Hotel Nevada" in Ely. As long as you scale your expectations it is a really great place in an old historical way. Each floor was themed with old photographs and antique tools.

We arrived in Ouray Friday evening, climbed in the 'New Funtier' area saturday, drove Red Mountain Pass Sunday morning. Drank altogether too much Sunday evening while watching the game at Ouray Brewery. Climbed again in New Funtier and the 'Schoolroom' Monday and left town Tuesday am. On the way home we spent another fun night in the Hotel Nevada.

We met some wonderful folks that we knew through social websites. We also met some new friends serendipitously that we had other friends in common. It was once again a stellar time!

Joannie pickin her way up New Funtier

Ice cam shot