Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just what I needed: Bridge of the Gods Century Ride

I took advantage of another gorgeous sunny winter day (people lie about the weather here—they just don’t want any more migration into the state) to do a loop I saw advertised on a great riding site. The ride takes you across into Vancouver, WA and then up the WA side of the Columbia Gorge, over the Bridge of the Gods, and back along the OR side of the Gorge.  I'd only been to the Gorge once, and that was driving over on I-84 on my trip out here, and it was stunning.

The ride was advertised as 89 miles and scenic. I live about 7 miles from the start of the trail, so figured the ride would be just about 100 miles by the time I connected with the 205 bike path trail that leads into Vancouver, WA. I got a bit of a late start, considering the distance and that I didn't really know where I was going, and finally got going by about 11. I figured that I might have a hard time finishing the ride in the light, so grabbed a headlamp on my way out the door. It took me a long time to leave the city and find the bike path over the river into Vancouver and I asked several friendly bikers, about half of whom turned out to be fairly clueless, as I'd head off again in the wrong direction. Anyhow, I finally found the 205 bike trail which takes you down the middle of 205 and over the river. Kind of an odd little bike path, but it took me to where I wanted to go, the Evergreen Highway and eventually to the Washougal River Road. The Washougal River Road is a winding, climbing road, with minimal traffic that seems to keep gently climbing for miles along a beautiful little river.

I set a turn-around time of 2 p.m. in my head, thinking that if I were smart, I'd turn around 3 hours in, in order to be back at my house by 5 p.m. when the sun would go down. Sometime after 2 p.m. I had made it as far as a little store on Hwy 14 and asked the guy how far I was from the bridge, thinking I was probably a couple of miles. He said 5, so I figured it was more like 3, and decided to go ahead and go for the bridge, knowing that I had a headlamp because at this point I would need it for the return. It turned out to be more like 10, but who's counting. I made it to the bridge around 2:45, meaning I had been riding for about 3:45 minutes, and that I had 2:15 to make it home before dark (keeping in mind that the bridge should be the half-way point, more or less). I had several thoughts during the ride, several of them pretty good, but two that came up often were: 1) Amy, you need to learn how to fix a flat, because even though you carry the fancy little patch kit, you have no clue how to use it, and 2) Amy, you need to invest in some decent bright blinky lights, for those times when you're out riding in the dark alone on highways in the middle of nowhere (no worries, mom, I've since purchased some bright blinky lights).

I spent most of the first half worrying about the fact that I should turn around, but once I got to the bridge and accepted the fact that I was just going to have a long ride in the dark, and that if I got a flat I had a credit card along and could always get a hotel room, I relaxed and enjoyed the gorgeous ride home-wards. And it was gorgeous....the entire day was gorgeous with killer views of the gorge, sunny skies, and bright white puffy clouds floating along. One issue in the gorge can be wind, but it wasn’t windy coming or going, so I definitely lucked out there.

Immediately following the Bridge, the turn sheet called for 6 miles on a bike trail, during which time you would need to carry your bike up a staircase. This was true, and there were a few more uncertain spots along this trail, including some rock slides and fallen logs. Where's Gary with the chain saw when you need him? I abruptly came to the end of the trail, but fortunately, I-84 was 10 feet to my left, so I hoisted my bike over the guard rail and proceeded along the interstate. Luckily, the section on I-84 lasted about a mile, before the exit to get onto the Historic Columbia River Highway. Most of the rest of the way home was on this road and the Crown Point Highway, both of which were great windy roads with some up and down. There were lots and lots of trailheads off of these 2 roads, which I'm assuming are the famous gorge trails I've heard much about. Although I do love my bike, I still gawked as I passed those lovely trailheads. Soon, very soon.  At some point I pulled out my headlamp, which thankfully had batteries that were somewhat bright, and I had a small blinky light to hook on my back.  I made it to the edge of Gresham, I believe, about the point that it was getting really dark, and the least exciting part of the day was the ride through the burbs, but the strip malls weren't so unattractive in the dark.  The ride through the burbs, was long, probably 15 miles or so, but I eventually found my way home, although I got a bit lost trying to find the right bridge.  Frustrating to be 2 miles from home with bridges lit up in all directions, but riding around in circles trying to find one.  I did find one, and did make it home.  Hungry, but very happy after a great little adventure and 101 miles in total distance. 

Overall, a fantastic day and a really great loop.   And a couple of firsts for me.  My first century ride, and my first time in the lovely state of Washington.   I hadn't done anything active over 3 hours in a few months, so the long ride felt great.  Not exactly time on my feet, but it felt good to get out and go for several hours and to start feeling like I'm getting back into shape.  On top of the ride, I put in another 35 miles biking and 20 miles running last week.  I'm slowly working my way back into running in hopes of some spring ultras.  My ankle feels OK.  It's not 100%, but I keep getting graston done on it and keep doing stabilization and strengthening exercises and am hopeful the posterior tib tendon issues are behind me.  Although it's fairly tender, I haven't had any of the sharp pain that had been plaguing me this fall/summer whenever I took an uneven step.  I'm still running on roads to keep my foot stable, but hope to work back into trails in the coming weeks.  I ran 6 miles today, which is my longest run to date, so I'm building up gradually, and working up to longer runs.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying my bike, and am feeling much more comfortable and confident on it.  I haven't fallen off of it since I've moved here (eeks, big jinx there), and the clipless pedals no longer petrify me.  And I've been taking advantage every chance I can to get up into the mountains to snowshoe.  I hope to work into a few longer snowshoe treks in the coming weeks, as well.  This weekend I hope to get back on cross country skis for the first time in 15 years and do some snowshoeing, as well. 

This loop will be on the list of to-be-repeated rides.  I still have a hard time believing that I live in such a beautiful place.  I miss many (many) aspects of my life in DC, and DC has a lot to offer in terms of nearby attractions, but so far Oregon is winning me over in terms of stunning beauty.  Big big trees, big views, ferns-lined trails, snow-peaked caps, snow to play in, the gorge, and the potential for forest gnomes.  What's not to love?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What a difference a week makes....

I continued on my snowshoeing binge this past weekend and headed up once again to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood with the plan to do a couple trips up to the top of the ski lift and back down.  It's 2 miles straight up, and 2 miles down.  What a difference a week can make.  The forecast was for snow, and it was indeed snowing.  What had been a solid sheet of ice last week was now covered in several inches of powder and blowing snow made visibilty nill and created nice little drifts that were hard to climb up and over on the way up, and made for some hard-to-see drop-offs on the way down.  I was alone this week, and climbing up a mountain side in whiteout conditions alone is maybe not the smartest move, but I followed the ski lift and saw a couple of people coming down on my way up.  Had I not had the ski lift to follow, I wouldn't have headed up, but I was warm, and could at least see well enough to follow the lift cables.  Just to compare (the top of the lift last week as compared to this week):

And last week's glamour shot as compared to this week's:

Alas, by the time I finished one up and back in a bit over 2 hours, fairly wet and soon-to-be-cold, I decided to jump into Bridget, turn the seat warmers on high, and head homewards. 

I also got in two great bike rides over the long weekend.  A bit over 50 miles on Saturday, and 35 miles on Monday.  I'm hoping to attempt a 90 miler this Sunday if the weather is reasonably warm (45) and not too wet.  And I'm finally working my way back into running....a whopping 10 miles last week, around 15 miles this week, and increasing gently from here.  Miwok on May 1 could still happen....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mt. Hood Snowshoeing from Timberline Lodge

Another weekend, another trip out snowshoeing.  My friend, Sarah, and I had planned to hit Tom, Dick and Harry, a popular trek starting at about 4000 ft, but the snow around that elevation was crap, so we drove up to Timberline Lodge, which sits at about 6000 ft.  While the snow was still kinda crappy, we wanted to snowshoe, and it turned out to be a fabulous day--night and day in terms of snow conditions from the past weekend, but actually much easier in terms of effort.  Although I guess that depends on how effort is defined, as the weekend before, the snow was wet and heavy, and each step caused your foot to sink down a foot, but the trail itself was easy and gently rolling. Whereas this week, the snow was hard and icy, so we stayed on top of the snow, but we were climbing up 2500 ft in 2 miles, so there was definite effort in climbing, especially being that my climbing muscles have been on vacation for the past 2 months.

We left the parking lot with the intention of finding the PCT and hiking on it for a few miles out-and-back.  But it was foggy down low, and we missed the PCT, but realized we could easily follow the outer boundary of the ski area.  So we headed up, and had an easy target of the top of the upper ski lift. 

In short, about 4 miles, 2 up and 2 down, which took us a long while to go up, and next to nothing to come down.  I didn't run going up, but tried out running down part of the down.  I love my new Dion snowshoes!   The views all day were spectacular, with some low clouds, interspersed with clear spots, so that the views of Jefferson in the distance were quite nice.  And while we never got a clear view of Mt. Hood, parts of the top did peak through every now and then.  By the time we got back down, we were once again surrounded by fog.  

This one's a keeper....I plan to go back and do some repeats this weekend, as snow at lower elevations is apparently still crappy.

Some photos from the adventure:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Years Snowshoeing

Got some new Dion snowshoes and hit the mountains with Liz near Hoodoo to try them out.  Beautiful day to be out, although the snow was deep and wet.  Snow conditions and my out-of-shape state made for a great workout, even though we only covered about 4 miles.  I plan to go out again this weekend, and maybe every weekend until the snow melts.