Monday, September 28, 2009

So long, friend

Like many of you, I've been eying our foothills lately, a city dweller's attempt to gauge Autumn's march thru the high country, points north. Despite my careful scheming, my glorious plan to eke out one more family backpack trip lay in shreds about me Saturday as I instead found myself plodding thru (yet another) conference, bemoaning the fact my darlin wife was in for much the same the weekend next. Meanwhile, high country aspens wait for no man, sigh.
high country beckons

Paying only half a mind to the seminar at hand, I let my subconscious fish brain (you have one too, you know, you just have to learn to harness it!) hatch the workings of a Plan B: to pay my respects to the high country one last time before the snows of winter shut 'er down for another season. And what a plan, indeed!

So Sunday finds me and man's best friend gearing up streamside, marveling at the newly minted golds, coppers, russets that have replaced summer's heady greens. And the sky! Cloudless, horizon to horizon, of that deepest azure that signals the onset of autumn in god's country. Temps into the 70's, a picture perfect, maize and blue day is upon thee!
maize and blue day

(Well that was me marveling I guess, Scout's more like, Hey! is that a cookie?!!)

I could not buy a fish for the first coupla hours, the cold canyon water held them tight to the bottom cobbles. I know this, as there were a coupla holes where I could count the cobbles, and the fish, the stream runs that clear. But while I could see them finning the depths, I had not come to fish with indicator, nymphs, weights. Nope, if this is to be the last high country trip of the season, I will fish it as befits the occasion, and today that means on top, with a dry fly, lightly dressed: black Ant, #16. Replete with that cute tiny sailor hat, kid you not. (No not the author, the ant! Not that there's anything wrong with that...)
dark canyon

My morning proved luckless in the canyon, with one notable exception: dark silhouette glides upwards thru the water column, cautiously studying a tiny, hapless insect, curiously sporting a rather unfashionable white hat. More out of charity than anything, this big-headed brown ventures a taste, and is promptly stung for his kindness. He repays the favor by effortlessly parting the tippet, carrying his tiny black souvenir back down to the depths. An honorable demise for a sailor such as he, no? Whoa, nice fish Scout, didyasee that?!

Midday, has us finally arriving at my planned destination: that snaky meadow water that should be every brown's vacation poster come fall. The water is a mere ghost of its summer self however- most runs that in the summer average 8-12" deep are lucky to be sportin 4" this fall, whoa. Skinny water indeed, with holding water few and far between. So trusty Scout and I spend our time meandering up the streambed, snapping photos, taking in the scenery, congratulating ourselves on our cleverness to steep ourselves in a day such as this.
pockets of gold

Whoa, dude, get a load of that!
A coupla nice browns cruise a good run, this way and that, perhaps looking to bed down, or just maybe for some lunch. In goes the ant, the left twin dashes over for a looksee, easy take, fish on!
17" torpedo

Wash, rinse, repeat. Additional opportunities prove hard to come by, much meandering and daydreaming, only to stumble upon gold once again. Jackpot! Look there buddy, under that bush! Nice brown holds tight under cover, much like a scene repeating from a year ago, gratifyingly enough, on this very same stream. Schweet, if I can just manage the cast...

Which I do, expertly enuf, to the surprise of both Scout and I. Dry fly and dropper bracket the target upstream, just as they outline in the books. 1. Fish at Point A, under overhanging bush. 2. Deliver fly at Point B, avoiding upstream snag, overhanging bush. Caution: do not line the fish, else game over, repeat hour long search for next quarry...

Done! But instead of the solid hookup promised by the gameplan, our adversary scoots outta there as the tippet between fly and dropper line him, yes line him!, as he inspects the top fly. Dammit, now he's under the bank. Nice work, that, bummer.

Gonna have to wait him out boy, don't know when I'll get another chance like this. Sure enuf patience being what it is (a virtue!), he cautiously works himself back into position over the next five minutes. Let's try that again, in goes the pitch, now hungup on the bush, dammit. Fly's out!, he's still there, planets align, one more I have him!
autumn gold

The gorgeous afternoon wanes, first mergansers, then a raptor wheeling skyward to entertain faithful Scout and I. The water at times acts as a perfect reflecting pool to the streamside show, I'm left wishing yet again for the photographic skills that could render the scene justice.
wheeling raptor
merganser flight
autumn reflections

Scout and I eventually approach Days End, that sweet pocket water that marks the end of our angling day. We connect with our first rainbows of the day, the first a postcard of rainbow perfection in coloring, if not in size. The last, perfection in stature, tenacity, and utter decisiveness in his rise from the depths to inhale the fly. Bravo!

Scout and I sit streamside awhile, sharing a neglected lunch, watching the shadows lengthen down the valley. Occasionally, a breeze shakes loose a shower of aspen leaves reminding me this perfect moment will not last, our day is near done, and winter is coming.
gold prospecting

Our hike back to the truck takes longer than usual, seems there's always one more photo to snap, one more grove to explore, as the day, the season draw to a close.
season's end

All too soon we make that final stream crossing that says the truck is just around the bend. I linger a moment trying to sear into my memory the events and my lord the sights of the day. I reluctantly turn away, back to truck, to civilization, the road most traveled.

So long, friend! Until we meet again...

captura y libera- mjh

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Signs of Fall

New Mexico State Fair

let's hold on to summer just a bit longer, shall we?

Amazing what some guys can do with a sponsor. And a film crew. With proper equipment. And a budget.
........And righteous skilz! :-0

tip o the hat to Catch Magazine

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

this just made me laff

Reminds my darlin wife of a certain someone working the keg back in the day lol. I could soo take him!

tip o the hat: Ann's Rothstein

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

this just made me laff so far as I have stared this very staircase in the face. And flinched! ;-)

MTB Rule #1: Discretion is often the better part of valor.

I suck from Keith Lay on Vimeo.

The dropin to Horsethief Bench, Fruita CO.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


As yet another high country season draws to a close, my mind's eye wanders back to favorite places. Expansive meadows awash in color, cool mountain breezes, sparkling waters, cutthroat trout on the rise.

I shall return.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Winsor Trail: in Technicolor!

another vid fresh from the cutting room floors at Over the Bars Studios.

Winsor Trail from ABQ RoughRiders on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In The Fly Box: Humpy

You oftentimes notice how a fly seems to catch better the more chewed-up it gets throughout the day? Well this week's installment has that sorta panache, in spades. The venerable Humpy: floats like a cork, right out of the box it has that new-years-day-hungover look preferred by four out of five browns, according to recent field surveys. You want to impress other anglers, stick to your quill bodied CDC's. You want to catch fish, tie on a humpy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tale of Two Trails Part II: Winsor Top to Bottom

Trail begins just below peak @ center
Wow, 3,400 vertical feet drop. In 10 miles! Down thru aspen groves, ponderosa forests, stream crossings even. Winsor Trail's reputation certainly precedes her, here in the Land of Enchantment. We've been trying to figure how to get this legendary trail in the bag for some time now: it's always seems a bit dicey to take the family out on a trail I haven't ridden before, the shuttle logistics never seemed to fall into place for a solo exploratory ride.

Labor Day weekend rolls around, various planets align, looks like we're finally gonna make it happen, sight unseen. Schweet!

So Sunday has us gearing up at the SF ski basin parking lot, on the verge of another family mtb Adventure of the First Order. What's the tread gonna be like? Will the kids be able to make it all the way down? Wonder how confusing the trail junctions are- will there be adequate signage? Nice and cool today, hope those storm clouds don't get us...We all had a ton of questions, most answered only by jumping in with both tires.

And away we go! The first leg proved fun enuf, if you discount the killer climbing at the end to get to the next trailhead down the trail. Seems you plunge down alongside Big Tesuque creek only to then make the climb back up to the Norski TH, a total bear! More evil genius at work, so thanks for that! Kids were not sure what I had gotten us all into after suffering that hike-a-bike. Luckily, Winsor then begins its real descent down towards Tesuque, the remaining few climbs proved brief enuf. But man, those downhills kick! I mean ear-to-ear, bug-in-the-teeth-grinning FUN!

Upper stages showed blue diamond intermediate on the map, the other ABQ Roughriders will attest to the accuracy of that rating: my darlin wife most especially. She later tallied 3 OTB's in the first 3 miles alone, only to jump up, dust off, (somewhat dizzily?) wave I'm allright!, get back on the horse. What a trooper! (Oh she's fine, seeing the Dentist this week to get fixed right back up. But I kid! Apparently it was my turn to offer blood to the trail gods, both shins took a beatin on the stream crossings down trail.)
See- she's fine! I was kidding!
So anyhoo, we were maybe 2 miles in before we ran across our first fellow mtbr, hikabiking his way up a gnarly stretch. We exchange pleasantries, think no more of him, as we wind our way down. Not 30 minutes later, we pull to the side to let this same guy rocket past, skipping over the boulder gardens on a sweet, jet black Yeti. In a blur, he's gone. Wow, that's some gonzo riding! So we four re-queue our datdatdaddudydat circus music and continue on our merry way. Come around the first corner and we see this same gonzo dude with his bike to trailside, wrestling, what a snake? that's his chain! He catches sight of us, nods rather dispiritedly down to the broken chain he's holding in both hands, we coast to a stop.

Turns out he's 3 miles away from nearest TH (uphill!) with a $3K steed sans functioning chain, chaintool, repair links. Holy smokes, he's lucky a dad came upon him when we did- we're always prepared! Chaintool? oh, sure, no problem buddy, should have some quicklinks too. Audible sigh of relief.

We make quick work of the repair, are thanked profusely, and he shoots off down the trail aiming for the nearest bike shop to replenish his emergency repair supplies, I'm sure. Karmic deed-for-the-day completed, we were free to once again re-queue our circus music and head on our merry way.
Hiker and mtb traffic increase as we approach first major trail intersection, the kids receiving kudos from hikers and bikers alike- not many kid shredders on Winsor we're thinking. But I must admit with just a bit of fatherly pride the kids have come a long way the past coupla years. Blue diamond? No problem!
The tread improves after the first 3 miles, losing most of the rock, the grade moderating a bit. The trail becomes a little duffy like those sweet trails we rode in Hood River last summer, first aspens then ponderosas whizz by as we let off the brakes. USDA Grade A Prime Ton O Fun!
duffy tread
I have to remind everyone we should stop for lunch, before we completely rip thru the trail. We find a sunny pocket meadow exactly 5 miles in, the creek gurgling to one side, aspen groves shimmering on the other. We tank up, shoot a coupla family photos, hit the trail for more ear-to-ear fun.
Stream crossings litter the last three miles. We must've crossed 10 times in those few miles alone, the kids trying their level best to soak the photographer with their bow waves, the rascals.
yet another stream crossing
All too soon, we transition into Santa Fe ranchero country, multi-million dollar homes signaling the end of the trail draws nigh at last. Trails end, we look around, every last Roughrider with an earsplitting grin still plastered on their mudsplattered faces. Dad, do we have time for another go?
Trail's End


Friday, September 11, 2009

Taming The Dragon

Another Peabody award-winning mtb video wherein the ABQ Roughriders tackle the Dragon's Back trail on White Mesa near San Ysidro, NM

Dragon's Back from ABQ RoughRiders on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tale of Two Trails Part I: The Dragon's Back

Labor Day weekend, schweet. Just how are we gonna uphold tradition by packing 12 pounds in this here 10 pound weekend? Lemmetellya:
Friday Night Lights: with the long-anticipated UM football season still an excruciating 18 hours away, we opted to get the party started by cheering vicariously for our favorite local HS team. The #1 v #2 matchup did not disappoint in its lead changes, dynamic playmakers, overall intensity of play on both sides. Unfortunately our team came up short on their final drive to retake the lead- committing a hot-headed penalty on the 8yd line, then throwing an INT in desperation as the clock ticked down. Our disappointment was quickly put in perspective, however, by the sights and sounds of the celebrations on the other sideline and in the opposing stands. The newly crowned #1 had won a hard-fought battle, leaving it all on the field. Wow, you won't find that kind of passion in the NFL!
Game Day Saturday: given over to college football, but of course. I did sneak out for a much-needed mtb ride in the ABQ North Foothills prior to the UM kickoff. Ran the GPS and documented the route with the camera phone, for future installment of Singletracks. Found myself running late as a consequence, was riding hellbent-for-leather back to the trailhead, got a rather insistent phone call, repeating when I did not answer. Hit the brakes to find the boy on the phone excitedly telling me of Navy's impending defeat of those hated Buckeyes. Dad, you won't believe this, but you know Navy? Well they’re gonna score a TD in justa second to beat the buckeyes. Oh yeah? Tell me about it, I luv to hear about OSU taking a beatin! His excitement precluded an accurate play-by-play, I finally connected with my darlin wife to get the scoop. Not much better there, as the field action proved too fast and furious for her to keep ahead either......and now Navy throws an interception and the buckeyesarerunningitbackforascore! Ah darnitall, disappointed twice now in two days. Fingers crossed this isn't some kinda sign of things to come this afternoon.
Game Time: No worries Mate. Apparently, with hard work :-o comes great rewards, as the boys in blue came out head hunting straight from the opening gun. Final score proved 31-7, however the more telling score of the day: UM:1, Overflowing-Fountain-Of-Criticism-On-National-Stage: zero. Good work boys, you'll be back on top in no time, schweet.
Sunday: Did I tell you how absolutely perfect the weather is here, this time of year? Temps only into the 80’s, puffy clouds maturing into distant TBoomers, the high desert beginning to bloom yellow, gold all over hill and dale. Might just be 1-0 record for the first time in 3 football seasons, but man did Sunday dawn bright and cheerful! In celebration of the moment, we loaded up the bikes, hit the road to the White Mesa trail network NW of ABQ. Our goal: ride the crown jewel of the White Mesa network: The Dragon’s Back, hisssss!

White Mesa trails were developed and are currently maintained by a local trail advocacy group, Friends of Otero, on BLM land near San Ysidro, on the doorstep of the Jemez Range. Their evil genius has you riding exposed ridgelines for most of its length, and I mean exposed! Dropoffs approach 150’ on either side, the ridgetops sometimes narrow down to 3’, with a rather steep penalty for failure in losing the tread, if you get my meaning. Think Joe's Ridge Trail, minus the 8 hour drive to Fruita, CO. Taking it all in, the kids were all bug-eyed in wonder, I could swear my darlin wife looked a little green in the gills.
But she’s a gamer allright, almost as much as the kids- I’m a lucky husband and father both.
We lollygagged the Dragon’s Back (hissss!), stopping often to film, take in the views, catch our breath at the beauty that is New Mexico in the fall. All too soon, we ran out of ridgetop tread after five miles of heaven, and plunged switchbacked in brake-squealing starts and stops down to the valley floor below: Valle del Muerto as we affectionately coined it that afternoon.
Turns out Saturday’s rains had absolutely saturated the valley’s caliche soils, settling into the two-track ruts in an endless chain of unforgiving adobe bogs. I at least was a bit familiar with the phenomenon, mostly from last year at this same time, not so the rest of the team. The kids looked to blast right thru the puddles in great fun, only to bog down, immediately sunk to the gunnels in rich, red adobe paste. The mud clogged rims, brakes, even the fork crowns in a viscous gob of clay, quickly removing all the joy from Mudville that afternoon, lemmetellya. The scene of we four scraping and slogging our way was made all the more comical by the turkey buzzards circling high overhead, kid you not. Curse you mtb-hating angry mud gods! Curse you!

But survive we did, the initial hard slog finally giving way to drier tread and eventually…is that a mirage?... the truck- a trying five miles as we’ve ever ridden. Nothing a Sonic Cooler (large) back in town couldn’t cure I’m happy to report- you kids wanna ride the mountains tomorrow?
Next up: Tale of Two Trails, Part II: Top to Bottom on the Winsor Trail!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's morning in America again...

University of Michigan Wolverines win season opener 31-7 behind the stellar play of true freshman QB Tate Forcier backed by a smothering defense.

Singletracks: Mary's Loop, Fruita CO

ABQ Roughriders

Casting about for some mtb tread for Spring Break 2009, our team cartographer soon latched onto Fruita, CO area trails. On paper, Fruita seemed to offer plenty of singletrack of the adventurous sort, but less technical than Moab- we ought to be able to find something for the four of us to ride allright.

Yes indeed.
Ovelooking the Colorado River

Mary's Loop proved to be the backbone of the Kokopelli trail area, serving as a sweet 8.5mile loop in its own right, but also as a connector to other trails in the network: Rustler's Loop, Horsethief Bench, Steve's Loop to name a few...
Overlooking Horsethief Bench

Mary's starts off with a stiff climb up a forest road, down, then climbing again up a 2-track in the first 2 miles. Topping the second climb, you ride the mesa rim with jawdropping vistas of the Colorado River and the adjoining benches: Rustlers, Horsethief, Steve's in that order.

The tread offers little by way of technical difficulty, it's the dropoffs that'll kill ya. Literally. There are a coupla heartstopping cliffside skinnies to negotiate, one in particular where just imagining negotiating the tread was enuf to make your head spin.
there's a trail over there? Seriously.
this is the wide, safe part.

The entire loop is one prolonged vista, giving you plenty of excuses to catch your breath. ...wheeze ...What, me? I'm just taking in the view- gaak. Excellent signage posts all major turnoffs, getting lost is the least of your worries, so you can really enjoy the total experience.

Supporting any Fruita expedition, you will find the good folks of Over The Edge Sports bike shop. Refuel at the best burger shack in town: corner of West Aspen and Cherry.