Monday, June 21, 2010

Solo Mission

A few years ago I heard about a crash site of a B-24 Liberator located above the Flying W Ranch on or near Lone Pine mountain. The plane crashed into the mountainside at night on April 26, 1944. There were seven casualties. Last year, my friend Scott and some of his riding buddies searched for and eventually found a pretty decent route to the wreckage. It wasn't easy but they were determined to get there by mountain bike.
After having several conversations about it with Scott, I decided to find a route from my house through the Blodgett Open Space and West into the Pike National Forest where I would intersect the trail that Scott and his buddies found. It took me three tries but last Saturday I finally had success.
After about 35 minutes of pedaling, I had to hike-a-bike it for around 90 minutes to get to the ridge.

This was my first self-portrait on the high ridge (9000') above my house which I could see for most of the adventure. I was never more than 5 miles from home yet it felt like I could be lost and never found in that forest.

Someone built this pretty cool shelter and there was a good campsite a few yards away with a nice view and a firepit.

This huge rock cliff can be seen quite plainly from my house which is somewhere behind me in this pic.

Spectacular views in every direction. Two steps in front of me is a couple hundred foot drop to oblivion.

After much more navigating along the ridge, I found a sweet single-track which was originally built by General Palmer. I followed the trail and it started to drop steeply down the mountain-side. That's where I started seeing pieces of metal. Those pieces used to be a plane that looked like the above picture.

This is one of the bigger pieces. I think it's part of the landing gear. There was bits of wreckage strewn all over the mountain-side. Also, there was a lot of blobs of previously molten aluminum. This plane went down in a snow storm and it was hard to imagine the amount of heat that was generated to melt the aluminum.

After a snack and more wreckage exploration, I headed towards the reclaimed mining scar above Queens Canyon and plainly visible from most everywhere in Colorado Springs. Once again...I can see my house!

This was a pretty scary and loose section of trail on the way to the scar. One slip and it would be time for search and rescue to find my body.

More sweet single-track and not so sweet hike-a-bike led me to the tip-top of the scar. Guess who's house that is in the background?

Awsome view.

This one doesn't eat sugar cubes but he did have a go at my wedding ring. I saw a herd of the real things literally run down a cliff after being startled by some creature with wheels for legs. It was one of the coolest and most memorable things that I have seen in nature. And it was five miles from my house!

Here's an over-view of my route. It was a meager 15 miles and a healthy 4000' elevation gain. Total time in the great outdoors: almost 5-1/2 hours. Most of that was spent navigating and having near death experiences (just kidding, Dad). 

On the way home, I was riding up a busy 4-lane street and a 250 lb. black bear tried to cross in front of me. He got spooked and turned around so I followed him for a while. I was in the forest all day and don't see a bear until I am 6 blocks from home. Crazy.

And to think I didn't even want to ride when I got up that morning.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let the Epics begin!

The high country snow is finally melted for the most part, so I planned our first big ride accordingly.
 The usual suspects were gathered, while others were off doing things like watching TV or hiking the Inca Trail. 


I chose the route based on my training rides from the late 80's and then mixed in some of the newer trail offerings. We got turned around at one point by machine-gun fire. I figured it was probably best to find an alternate route.

After successfully avoiding any 50 caliber mishaps, we began the climb west towards the Pike National forest. This was taken at the top of the worst part. Definitely sandwich-worthy.

This is a pretty cool still-shot taken from the video descending the Waldo Canyon trail.

Here is the ride profile. There were sections of one climb that had a 30% grade. I may or may not have walked those parts....

Some of the ride stats:

Distance:  55.31 miles

Ride time: 5 hours, 38 mins.

Total time: 7 hours 26 minutes

Climbing elevation: 8764'

Uphill time: 3:07

Uphill distance: 25.6 miles

Did I mention video? I brought the trusty Helmet Hero and chest mount and video'd all of the good bits. Here is the condensed version. Crank the volume to 11 and get ready to groove....

June Epic from Alan Keeffe on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Growler Mtn. Bike race & 3 day weekend

I entered this race in the dead of winter thinking I would surely be fit enough to do a 7 hour race by the end of May.....wrong! I signed up for the two lap, 64 mile option but decided to do the one lap, 32 mile bailout option. I could have done the longer version but leg cramps and fatigue take away from enjoying the sweet single-track that Gunnison has to offer. I figure that 3-1/2 hours isn't really a bail-out anyways...

Here's Doug Johnson (#9) in the lead group up "Kill Hill" with over 300 riders chasing. Doug placed 12th overall (!) after some serious mechanicals. Freak.

Here's Matt Daigle (#65) following former Pro Susan Demattei (#357). I think she had the advantage since her husband, Dave Wiens is the promoter and course designer. Oh, she is also an extremely talented bike rider. Matt would have won the 1/2 Growler in his age group. On three weeks of training. Freak.

A little further's Don Hull (#116) and me (to the left of #341's face). I think there are still around 200 riders behind us. Crazy.

Future Pro Scott Nagelkerke (#173) heading for 4th in his class and 37th overall. Not bad for a former roadie who can run a marathon in 2-1/2 hours on 4 weeks of training. I think he trained for this race for about 3 weeks.... freak. I need to find a lower class of friends. These guys are killin' me.

Here I am tucked in behind the 3rd place overall woman, Jari Kirkland. Really, that's my shoulder and foot.

This is the kind of riding that greeted us deep into the first lap (and second lap for the really hardcore). Awesome!

Here is Don, Scott, Mike and Daniel the night before...sure, they are smiling now. Ha.

This was our room at Island Acres in Gunnison. Kind of a throwback to the 50's motels. A really cool place to stay and pet friendly to boot.

The day after the race, Cindy and I headed to Gunnison for breakfast at the Firebrand. It was very popular and we saw many friends there, including 2nd place overall Travis Brown (super nice guy). Then we drove to the Black Canyon National Park to check out the scenery:

What a nice 3-day weekend.