Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zion National Park (Utah)



Ever since our trip to Vegas last year, Rebecca and I have planned on returning for an extended trip to Zion National Park. This year we were fortunate enough to score free airfare from my job to attend Conexpo in Las Vegas. I flew out for the show on Monday and Rebecca arrived on Wednesday night after I'd toured the event for two days.



The next morning we headed North on Interstate 15, arriving at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center around 10am. After grabbing our backcountry permit, we drove to the Weeping Rock parking lot to organize our backpacks and set off toward the East Mesa Trail.



The hike was roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles - through a series of switchbacks winding up the sides of the Echo Canyon. Once we'd reached the top of the mesa, we began searching for a suitable site to pitch our tent. Eventually we'd established a site and were heating our dinner while we watched the sun set over the spines of distant ridgelines.



The next day's hike was a breeze, although Rebecca had a sizable blister to deal with as we stomped down the trails we'd trudged up previously.



Since our progress was so quick, we took the opportunity to take in the sights during our descent, even stopping to filter some water to refill our canteens.



We celebrated our hike at the car before heading to The Park House Cafe in Springdale for our compensatory coffee.



That afternoon we checked into our AirBnb in Hurricane, UT before returning to the park to explore the Riverside Walk, which approaches the beginning of the Narrows "trail." The Narrows are not an actual trail, but a hike along the North Fork Virgin River. We terminated our exploration at the point that dry land ends, choosing not to dunk our boots in the cold water.



The next day we drove to the Kolob Canyon to check out the other side of the park.



We drove until snow covered the road, then turned around and headed to the Taylor Creek Trail. The 5-mile roundtrip hike terminates at the Double Arch Alcove. It is also a trail created by the flow of water, zigg-zagging along the middle fork of the Taylor Creek. By my count, the trail crosses the shallow creek 59 times.



Satisfied with our exploration of the park (given the time of year), we said goodbye to the rocky cliffs and drove back to Las Vegas for our second AirBnb reservation just south of downtown. In the morning we packed up and headed into the city for food and last-minute relaxation at Sunset Park before returning the rental car and flying home overnight.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

DHSE #1, Bailey Mountain (Marshall, NC)

Neko Mullaly's Downhill Southeast (DHSE) series has been a great kickstart to the season. This year's course was a an improvement upon an already ripping track, with berms and jumps added throughout.



Ruprecht and I left Richmond on Friday afternoon to find the gate closed at the entrance to our camping spot from last season. With Bailey Mountain slated as the third stop of the series last year, I suppose the entrance was closed until the first day of Spring - which was coincidentally that weekend. Despite the closure, I found a suitable lot to park for the night and sleep in the car.

The next morning I woke early and headed to Bailey to walk the course with Angelo before shuttles began. The ground was frozen, but Angelo and I knew it would quickly thaw into a layer of mud. For most of the amateur practice that was the case, but eventually the sun dried the ground and traction began to improve. After watching the pros slay the dry course, I formulated a few line changes in the case of suitable conditions the next day.



As luck would have it, the trails maintained their traction for race day and two practice runs cemented those strategies. As far as my run was concerned, I was happy with my performance aside from one line choice that led me to stop and reset on one of the berms. The short course suited my [lack of] fitness level, and I made it to the finish line with a time of 2:36 - enough to place 11th (of 65 riders) in the amateur category.



I intended to film some of the pros from above (with the Phantom), but I was distracted by a dead battery in my Fiesta and missed my opportunity. To add insult to injury, I loaded footage from pro practice only to realize I'd been shooting in the time-lapse mode by accident!

Arriving home later that night, I quickly unpacked from the race and repacked for the next trip - backpacking in Zion National Park!

As luck would have it, Pinkbike chose a photo of me in their race recap - purple pants and all!



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Monday, February 13, 2017

Gimbal Test

I recently bought an EVO SS Gimbal to try producing more stabilized videos. I had my doubts after pulling the rather heavy contraption from its box. That suspicion persisted when I mounted it to the GoPro Chesty and felt its mass shifting as I moved around on the bike. Surprisingly, though, the footage came out smooth and stable. There were a couple of instances with some shake, but that was only during the quick spurts out of the saddle to jump or pump transitions. I may try to alter my chest mount in order to keep it from bouncing around, but for now I'm pleased with the outcome.



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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Snowshoe (West Virginia)



My buddies Tony and Tobje joined me for a day trip to Snowshoe on Saturday. We shoved off from Richmond around 6am, made great time on the drive and were in the parking lot by 10am. We were met with blue bird conditions and decent snow. Making our way across the basin side, we eventually hopped aboard the shuttle bus to Silver Creek, where we grabbed lunch and continued riding. Two of the three terrain parks were open at Silver Creek, so we explored the features for a moment before settling in on a series of slopes with excellent snow near the border of trees. We could hear the other riders scraping their way down the bare slopes, all the while hooting and hollering as we carved through the snow they'd pushed to the edges.

Silver Creek offers night skiing, so we were already in the perfect spot when the sun went down. Our riding wrapped up around 7pm and we were on the road home about an hour after that. I needed two energy drinks to make the haul home after such an eventful day of riding and the next morning I was absolutely drained, staying in bed as long as I could before groggily emerging.

Tobje and I bought the 3-For-All passes, so we'll most likely try to get back on the snow ASAP. Next time perhaps I'll bother bringing along the goPro to capture some shots.



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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Transmission Time



After my transmission failed last weekend, I was left with the task of swapping it. I, of course, headed to my local junkyard to find a donor. Although I couldn't determine the vehicle's mileage, I did choose to remove the transmission from a 2004 (mine's a 2002) WJ - one that had been wrecked instead of showing up in the yard due to some mechanical failure. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be a reliable replacement.



The Fiesta did rather well lugging around the transmission, floor jack, jack stands, and tools!



The extended control arms of the Rough Country kit made dropping the crossmember a bit more involved, but eventually I had it, the transfer case & driveshafts, and transmission sitting on the floor. Installing the replacement went rather well, especially after I discovered the alignment dowel which had stayed in the donor transmission - interfering with the existing dowel still inserted in my engine bellhousing ;-)

This weekend I'll be snowboarding at Snowshoe, so the rest of the install will have to wait until next week. Once the transmission is installed, I'll also be touching up the bondo and applying paint to a couple areas, as well as pressing a new bushing into the upper control arm above the rear axle. Once those are complete, I'll test the Jeep and list it for sale.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Quick Fire

I filmed my fire from Lumber River State Park on the way to the Keys. It's sped up 8X, which makes for a brief break from reality and a reminder to get back into the woods. Enjoy!



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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Conley Cabin (Stanardsville, VA)

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Despite staying a stone's throw away last weekend at Johnson Cabin, I just couldn't turn down an invite from my friend Elmer to stay at Conley Cabin during the inauguration weekend. In fact, the trip would only be an overnight stay during Friday night since the cabin was rented for the weekend. For Elmer and his friends which live in DC, though, they'd be staying at the cabin during a critical time to GTFO of town ;-)

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My friend Dan and I left Richmond Friday afternoon and made it to the cabin just before dark. I'd never been to Conley Cabin before, but was pleased to find it included two wood stoves and ample room for a large group of people. We only had six, but I believe the cabin would be suitable to hold up to ten.

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Elmer and his friends were prepared with plenty of food for the group as we feasted on stew, cheese, and prosciutto!

The next morning we searched the woods to restock the cabin's firewood supply, tidied up, and hauled our gear to the parking area before saying goodbye to friends old and new.

On our way home, Dan and I had planned on eating at Hamilton's in Charlottesville before meeting our friend Joey for an XC ride at Walnut Creek Park. Unfortunately, my Jeep's transmission decided to implode just as we reached Charlottesville and we were forced to limp it into a parking spot within a nearby neighborhood. Instead of our original rendezvous at the park, Joey rescued us from Charlottesville and I returned on Sunday to retrieve the Jeep. Hopefully it'll need no more than a new torque converter to be back on the road.

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