Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gull Rock Trail, Russian Lakes, and Camping in Hope

A year ago this weekend we were living the Fantasy (LINK) skiing mid-winter quality powder on mid-May.
This spring feels like a fantasy too, and a check of the weather, and photos posted by friends back east, reveals that its nicer, and farther along, here, than it is for them.
A somewhat impromptu group ride set off from the end of the road in Hope early on Friday afternoon, to the end of the Gull Rock Trail.
I’ve always ignored the GR trail, as the few reviews I’ve read made it sound both short (less than 5 miles), and too bumpy, rooty, washed out or over grown to make for a worthy ride.
I envisioned a short, sea-level hiking trail with a steep shoreline, swampy low spots, and steep rooty, rocky, washed out climbs through the drainage gulches…plus lots of grown in vegetation. A good hike with a few descent sections of riding, but plenty of pushing.
While I’m told the trail does get grown in as the season progresses, that may be one of the only similarities it shares with other Kenai singletracks.
Basically, for me, I would trade about half of the riding we have on the Kenai (bye bye Res), for another 15 miles of trail like GR.
It’s no secret, the riding here on the Kenai is 95% fast and smooth. Technical skill is rarely required, and even when a technical obstacle is encountered, the trail before and after it is typically free and clear.
GR on the other hand, is a roller coaster of rock gardens and root wads, regularly clustered tightly and demanding Nintendo combo moves for successful passage; off camber trail, steep pitches, and long gradual high speed grades; scree, thick forest, and head-high vegetation round it out.
I don’t think there were any lines in the 5.8 miles I clocked from the trail head to the final overlook that weren’t ridable, but dabbing is just about guaranteed even for a skilled rider.
It was entertaining: many of us, myself included, thought this would be so short and easy of a ride, that we would head up the road afterward and ride some of Resurrection just to pack on a few more miles.
That was hardly needed.
The trail is just as fun and challenging on the way back.
There was one other similarity this trail shares with its neighbors: its views. Everytime you look up, you have to remember, what you’re looking at is someone’s dream vacation.
The Solo poses for another photo shoot. It lost a few pounds after this weekend, so that was good.

Mike and Kerry take in the views at the end of the trail.

Jeremy, Dave, Jessie, and Liz looking out toward Anchorage.

On the way back, Dave showed how much he can drive the power to the pedals, and exploded the carbon spider on his crank!

Dave got the hero award, and ran back. I would have walked.
 A group of us camped out at a choice spot near Hope on the Arm. It was hard going to bed, and waking up and eating breakfast with these views.

Camp d├ęcor.


Saturday I met up with Braun, and we rode out to Upper Russian Lake and back. The trail didn’t have a lot of room to improve from the previous weekend, but the few wet spots there were, were still drier yet, and the vegetation showed little signs of growth. It may be another bland year on the wildflower front, but at least the cow parsnip isn’t enjoying our spring.

Hot trails and cool wheels.

Sunday, I had the hardest ride I’ve had in way too long. I spent the day chasing Adam and Chuck, doing the Russian out-and-back, riding from Cooper Landing to the Snug Harbor trail head and back.
No photos were taken on this ride; I was too busy trying to hang on most of the day while they chatted easily about aquariums, diving, and tropical vacations. All I could think about was how much I was craving salt, a cool swim, and eating fish. Thanks fellas.
To justify my struggles, I’d like to borrow a recently-learned term: “excusematics.” I’m not sure if I’m spelling this correctly, but basically, excusematics is the use of advanced calculus, statistics, any and all forces such as physics, chemistry, biology, and anything else you can pull from a textbook and your a$$, that will help to show why you as a rider were underperforming or not keeping up with partners for any possible reason, except for your own inability.
One can include things like headwinds, tacky trails, and of course, a piece of equipment.
Right now, I’m laying the blame heavily on the latter (of course, I’m not mentioning that I’m the one who made this purchase, as excusematcis allows me to exclude that from the equations as well.)

The Solo came heavy, with a set of weighty tires more ideal for downhilling, and a hefty dropper post I can’t seem to find a use for. It also came hard, with an XTR double on the crank that sported a 28 tooth ring as the lowest gear, and a standard 36T cassette in the rear. On a lighter bike this gearing might not feel so harsh, but on a 31 lbs 5 inch travel rig, it’s been a bit much.
Though this bike is intentionally overbuilt, hopefully some recent mods will begin to address these issues.

Is it next weekend yet?

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