The Outdoor Junkie
The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.
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By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Other than winter's brief false start this has been the fall that keeps on giving. The leaves have been blazing yellow and orange for weeks and the weather has been gorgeous - downright balmy and bluebird skies. Although technically not an Indian Summer - the definition being a warm sunny period after the first frost and before the first snowfall - it might as well be. For sure it qualifies for being taken advantage of. Now that the clocks have changed I have been forced to play hooky from work twice this past week. Twice! I just can't help myself, it's so good out there. Both times I hit up the Kokopelli Loops out in Loma. It was not difficult to persuade others to join me in milking the final days of our Indian Summer with some sweet sunny singletrack riding. The pictures speak for themselves:
Krissy Steele leads the way on Horsethief Bench
Kate Belknap and Lenore Bryant above the Colorado River as it winds through Ruby Horsethief Canyon.
We watched a couple of rafts enjoying a fall float - lucky them too! And now I've had my desert riding fix, I am ready for winter. Bring it on!
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The White Rim is a 100+ mile long four wheel drive road around the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. It's very popular with mountain bikers and can be ridden in anything from one to four days depending upon one's priorities. Although I have once done the fairly masochistic one day ride, the four day trip is infinitely more fun with copious quantities of food and drink carted around in support vehicles. For a group of friends the four day White Rim is an annual event. Although I couldn't join for the full trip, this weekend I decided to make my own two day version and meet them half way. I also theorized that since I would have to ride a fair distance the exercise would offset the feasting that would inevitably take place. Arriving at Canyonlands Saturday morning, the temperature was below freezing and snow was on the ground. Since I was decked out in my Halloween costume I bailed on attempting the 70 miles by going anti-clockwise. Instead I decided to ride down Shafer and see if I could find them at the usual third day lunch spot, around 35 miles away. Initially I was quite leary of any speed fearing my honey bee costume would disintegrate. But as I buzzed down the switchbacks my wings levitated off my Camelback and created a very special visual effect, sufficient enough to garner hoots and rounds of applause from several vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
With confidence I put the pedal to the metal and hammered out 30 miles to Gooseberry Camp. Here I stopped and reviewed my attire. Costume malfunction was minor. The black and yellow striped stockings were obviously not designed to stay up after 2+ hours of hard riding. My stinger was also a little crushed by the seat, but otherwise the bee was in good shape. I was, however, famished. Luckily just five miles further on the trail I found the motley bunch of various costumed characters setting out the lunch table. Perfect timing! I filled up on turkey sandwiches and birthday carrot cake leftovers. The plan that evening was to camp at Airport so after a leisurely lunch we set off. For me this meant retracing 15 miles of my morning's ride.
The distant La Sal mountains were plastered with snow as we wound our way along the White Rim. The pace was more sedate and interspersed with a few cold beverages at favorite scenic spots along the way.
Arriving at camp the sag wagons disgorged their loads including, I was astounded to see, a set of bocce ball! There was plenty of time to enjoy the sunset on the rim above the river after setting up the tents, though we never did play with the bocce.
Pre-dinner cocktails were accompanied by homemade smoked salmon. The entree was a spicy chicken, chipotle and lime stew with tortillas and dessert included a massive bag of M&M's washed down with a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Trick or treat? Only treats were available as the halloween festivities carried on well into the night.
The final day we had a slow start, with only 18 miles to the end of the ride. After a long breakfast we rode 10 miles to Musselman Arch. Here we stopped for another snack and we goofed around on the narrow band of rock hanging above a canyon, creating pictograph-like shadows.
The ride ends with a stiff climb up Shafer where a narrow shelf road switchbacks as it cuts through over 1,000 feet of red rock walls to reach the Island in the Sky.
By the time we reached the top it was time for another meal. I committed a White Rim foul by dropping the gallon size bag of M&M's on the ground. But after dusting them off they tasted just fine. I checked out the views from whence we came while cleaning up the mess I had made.
Here I summized that the one flaw with any White Rim trip is the calorific intake always exceeds that which is expended. Despite my shortened version and 70 miles of riding I still could not escape the inevitable. A White Rim trip always delivers a treat and never a trick and especially so on Halloween.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, October 26, 2009
As I mentioned in my previous post I have been trying to get out as much as possible and enjoy the last few days of the fall. The weather has been really fantastic here in the Grand Valley for the past couple of weeks. Too bad I spent three of those days working on the Front Range where I was unable to escape outside. Still I made up for it whenever I could. Here's a few photos from a number of different outings: Solo post work mountain bike ride out at Mary's. The cottonwoods along the Colorado River were spectacular despite the cloudy skies.
The riding's pretty great too.
A couple weekends ago I got in a nice long hike in the McInnis Canyons area to the west of the Monument. I devised a 10 mile loop up through the East fork of Pollock Canyon and crossing over into Flume Canyon on an unmarked old shepherders route. The cottonwoods in Pollock were outstanding of course.
I was all alone, at least from the two legged kind. As I ran round a corner I glanced up to see this large big horn ram keeping an eye on me.
Finally, I went out for a great mountain bike ride at 18 Road with my friend Susan Kishegyi. We were very pleasantly surprised to find the parking lot only half full and met very few other riders out on the trail. Given the popularity of the Grand Valley at this time of year it can get a little busy at the trailheads. I heard everyone was over at the Lunch Loop - great! more room for us. We rode my favorite trail combination, the Double A, heading out west, up Zippety and then back across the Frontside and down Kessel Run - as always a super ride.
So now the weather forecast is looking distinctly wintery, with snow flurries forecast here in town. It wont be long before the skis are dusted off but I am glad I enjoyed the final days of fall as much as I could.
By Ann Driggers
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The clock is ticking. Only 16 days left 'til the end of Daylight Savings and the clocks turn back an hour. Although it gives us a little more light for the morning run, the post work outings are pretty much kaput after November 1. And that is a bit of a bummer because this time of year is the best for getting out in the Grand Valley, what with the weather so fabulous and the leaves turning. So I have made a Fall resolution. Like a New Year's resolution, but applying to the next two weeks only: I will attempt to get out and do something every day after work. I made my Fall resolution just this afternoon. So this evening I rode up to Cold Shivers Point in the Monument and then watched the sunset on Mount Garfield and the Bookcliffs as I descended. It was beautiful. The cottonwoods in the canyons are really starting to pop and the color show seems to be much better than the aspens in the mountains this year.
So the pressure is on. Right now is perfect and there are so many things to do before the clocks change - riding over the Monument or through the Palisade vineyards, mountain biking at Mary's, 18 Road or Lunch Loop, running the river trail, hiking in McInnes Canyons or Mount Garfield.........whatever it is, just get out there!
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The timing is darn near perfect. No sooner have the leaves dropped in the high mountains, than the searing summer heat of the deserts vaporizes for good. With moderate temperatures and glorious sunny days, late fall is the primo time to be a desert rat. We have plenty of opportunities for that in our neck of the woods. This past weekend Chad and I spent several days ferreting around the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and immersed ourselves into the quintessential desert south west landscape. Despite its relative remoteness the area is rich with history of human habitation from 2,000 year old petroglyphs to 100 year old cowboy camps. On our first day we rode our bikes around the park roads visiting the points of interest along the way.
On our second day we made a foray deep into the stunning landscape. There’s a huge amount to see so we tried to pack in as many sights as we could and set out with a fairly ambitious itinerary but with options to cut it short if needed. Leaving from the Elephant Hill trailhead we first hiked 5+ miles to Druid Arch. For the most part the ‘trails’ were cairned routes across slickrock and along canyon bottoms making for a more backcountry experience than we had expected from a National Park. Although the morning had started with a downright chilly 24 degrees, it wasn’t long before the desert sunshine had us stripping down to t-shirts. Upon reaching Druid Arch we stopped for lunch and basked in the warming sun for half an hour.
Next we backtracked 2 miles to the reach the cutoff over into Chesler Park. Along the way we found a fissure in the rock and decided to follow it. It was a bit of a squeeze - if any part of your body is more than say 34 inches around or 7 inches wide, you are not getting through - but definitely worth it as we happened upon an incredible place.
I was excited to finally arrive at Chesler Park, a grassland area surrounded by needles and other rock formations, having seen so many beautiful photos of the area. It lived up to my expectations and more.
At this point we were feeling pretty spry and made the decision to continue hiking on the Chesler Park loop trail which would add a few more miles to our day. The first section was the Joint trail which followed a ‘joint’ or crack between the rocks. Although not as tight as the previous slot and it was nonetheless a fun part of the hike with some scrambling involved.
We finished up the loop and started on the trail back towards Elephant Hill, arriving back about 7 hours after we set out. We covered 15 miles, but surprising to us was the amount of elevation gain. Our GPS reported 3,400 feet of climbing on the route. I guess there were a lot of ups and downs between the canyons, parks and mesas. Luckily a summer of mountain adventures had prepared us well for being desert rats.