Monday, April 23, 2018

Plan C - And It Kinda Sucked!

The plan when I set out this morning was a leisurely bike ride up the Colorado Bend State Park’s 3.5 mile River Trail which, as you’ve probably guessed, sticks pretty close to the river. At the end of that trail is the relatively short hike-only Gorman Springs Trail. After doing a slow and contemplative one-mile foot-born ambulation on this very pretty trail I would retrieve my bike and pedal the River Trail back to camp where I would put in some serious chair-time with a good book.

Things didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

Plan A fell apart about a mile and a half up the River Trail when I realize I haven’t brought my hiking sticks. . .

Yep, despite the carefully laminated checklist sitting right there inside The Van’s side door, on which the final item is Hiking Stick, I have neglected to bring them anyway. I mean that’s about as bad as a skydiver forgetting to bring his parachute and not realizing it until the plane is nearly at jump-altitude!

Gorman Springs Trail is not especially rugged, but it does include two creek-crossings and despite giving my bum leg the day off yesterday it's still pretty bum and I'm not too keen on attempting to splash around on slick rocks without my sticks.

And yes, sticks as in plural. I’ve been a one-sticker ever since I nearly fell off a cliff in Alaska back in the 80’s, but I’ve recently migrated/upgraded/devolved/downgraded (pick your ‘ed’ of choice) to two sticks. But that’s a story for another post. . .

So I've come up with a new plan for the day that doesn't include backtracking to retrieve said sticks.

This new plan, Plan B, keeps the leisurely-ride-up-the-River-Trail part from the original plan, but even that soon went to hell as well.

Long before I get to this spot, which is a little less than three miles from the campground, I have Stopped and Walked Bike several times already.

And when you add up 36 pounds of Quad-B (My Big Box Beater Bike) and 25 pounds of hiking gear, that sucker takes a lot of walking, up or down hill! And yes, my rule of solo-biker self-preservation out on the trail is that if I would have to walk it uphill, I walk it downhill as well. Doubles the walking but greatly improves the survival chances.

Recently another blogger commented that if you don’t have to get off and walk your bike a few times you picked the wrong trail. Which sounds all well and good, but he’s speaking as an accomplished, and perhaps somewhat crazy, (He hikes at 10,000 feet in knee-deep snow wearing shorts for crying out loud!!) single-tracker on a $1200 bike!

Me? I’m clodding around on a $120 bike, on which I’ve only had a few hours saddle time since last October, and with only one and a half legs! I'm sure if he knew what constitutes a 'walking section' for me he would be rolling on the floor with laughter.

Just as I’m sure little kids and most old men can handle riding down this short little rocky drop one-handed while carrying on a conversation over their shoulder, but it has me grabbing for the brakes and awkwardly dismounting, trying desperately not to drop the too-tall, top-heavy Quad-B in the process.

I sure don’t remember this trail having so many steep ups and downs!

This one I do remember. Except back in 2014 the trail went over the top of this old steam boiler casing which has been repurposed as a culvert. Clearly the water has washed it out one too many times since then


and now the trail has been permanently re-routed around it. Which makes for even more of a slog to push the Quad-B up and out of here. (Just like size and right-hand side mirrors, things are steeper than they appear in photos!)

As for that Stop-Walk sign, I was expecting that one too.

This is where the trail dips across the top of the opening to Gorman Cave, but back in 2014 you could still go into the cave, which I did back then, at least for a few feet. (But that isn't part of Plan A, or Plan B this trip. Just not that into caves.) Now it’s been gated off to protect the bats.

Besides being quite a dip to get down to the cave-crossing, there’s also this narrow ledge over the cave's opening to be negotiated.

Notice the crooked little tree in the center of the photo growing out of the ledge?

I don’t remember having to deal with that last time I was here,

but a check of my 2014 photos shows that it was there then too.

It hasn’t grown a whole lot since then, which is a good thing since I have to try to fit myself and the gangly Quad-B between the tree and the rock face. You know, the one with a cable anchored into it to help keep you from falling off the narrow ledge!

I especially don’t remember this section of ledge being missing! This leaves a 3’ vertical drop between where the Quad-B is and where it has to go next, and pretty much nothing to stand on to lift it down but air!

But looking back at the old photo it’s clear that the ledge was incomplete back in 2014 too. Of course back then I was on foot so wasn’t trying to horse 60 pounds of awkward, wheeled crap across the gap either!

OK, let’s just say that by the time I've left the River Trail behind and horsed the Quad-B up the Gorman Falls Trail to the Park Road near the north end of the park, about where the arrow is pointing, all thought of Plan B, piecing together a return route back to the campground from various trails roughly paralleling the road, has died as my wobbly legs dump me on my back where I lay in the hopes that someone will trip over me and perform a little recessitation.

Instead, after self-reviving because apparently no outside help was to be forthcoming, I capitulate, give up on Plan B too, and do the entire return trip, head hanging in shame, on the road.

And not even that is going to be easy! Aside from carrying the extra weight of humiliation on my shoulders, there’s several low-water crossing on this road and each one marks a steep up-hill, every one of which will soon defeat my legs, forcing me to walk while pushing that stubborn behemoth of a Quad-B up every hard-gained foot of altitude.

Back when we lived in the city our neighbor proudly brought home a $2000 road bike.  For that kind of money the thing was so sweet that all he would have to do was think about climbing on and that bike would effortlessly shoot off down the road without him.

I've done a little analysis and it turns out that though the Quad-B does have a little bit of bike DNA swirling around it's gears, it's actually much more closely related to a dump-truck. A loaded dump-truck!

Though the overall trend of the Park Road from entrance to campground is downhill, all the downhill is saved up for that last little bit of twisting, white-knuckled, brake-squeezing, butt-puckering road right at the end.

That last photo was taken about from where the left arrow is pointing.

The Van is sitting in site 45, where the right arrow is pointing.

In between the road falls over the edge of the bluff and reaches the river in the shortest, and steepest, possible way.

Are we having fun yet?

Even with Plan C, that long walk/ride of shame, saving me a half mile or more over Plan B, I still end up covering about 11.5 miles for the day.

Yep, a whole 11.5 miles on a bike, the most energy efficient transportation system man has ever come up with! I can remember the days when I could knock off 20 miles of relaxed, wind-in-the-face, wheeled bliss in less than two hours without even trying, and I'm pretty sure that right now, at this very moment, there's a whole gaggle of old English ladies pedaling, with long-skirted upright dignity, their basketed single-speed cruisers at least that far for a bit of tea and crumpets, but back at camp when the wind blows the 21 speed Quad-B over, I don’t have the energy to get up out of my chair, hell I don't even have the energy to hold my book up into bifocal range! So I just leave her lay there. . .

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