Tuesday, September 21, 2021

2021 Big South Fork - Tennessee Lane

2021 Big South Fork
by Tennessee Lane

We finally got home yesterday from our Big South Fork adventure! What a trip, I was happy to have my mom join me (and Griff, Thor, and RockAFeller.)

Long story made as short as possible... we had a great time and it was awesome to see Tennessee (the state) and the Big South Fork Forrest. My ancestors fell in love with that beautiful area long ago, and while I truly enjoyed emersing myself in the rich flora and fauna of those epic trails, I have to say that I am not at all a fan of the HUMIDITY!!!

RockAFeller was unphased by the climate and we had an absolute blast on the 30 miler on Friday. That gave me a sneak preview of the trails I would be riding for the 100, I must confess that I nearly dropped Thor back to the 50miler afterwards (and in hindsight, I should have.)

The trails are awesome, very fun, technical, and stimulating. It is very ACTIVE riding because of all of the erosion. Along with 2-way traffic there were deep, slogging/suctiony muddy patches all along the way, at least one patch per mile if not a quarter mile at a time. There were also washed out limestone gulleys and shelves that we were sliding or lunging up and down, there were extremely rocky stretches, deep sand stretches, and a few fair climbs and decents. I honestly enjoyed the diversity and the challenge but I had some reluctance about navigating it all in the dark toward the end of the 100, particularly the slick, narrow, sandstone chutes that so many horses (not mine) had fallen in during the daylight.

Nonetheless, since Thor had traveled so well and was so ready, I opted to go ahead and start the 100. Of course the day of the 100 was the hottest day of our entire trip, dangit. Thor did awesome, he was strong and forward and very smart about how he was handling each obstacle. He took great care of himself and me, he ate voraciously and drank well. Because of the heat and humidity, we were taking it at a fairly relaxed pace and just tried to stay in our own pocket all day, away from other riders, but there was some leapfrogging anyway.

Regardless, after about 60 miles, I could tell that he was very hot. He was still performing great and had a great attitude, but when he gets hot, his heart rate hangs high no matter how much you cool him. (I found this out after finishing the 102° City of Rocks ride in Idaho, he hangs out around 65-70 despite being otherwise normal and healthy.)

So after cooling him, I took him to the vets and explained his state and my previous experiences with him at hot rides. We walked away smiling, happy and healthy with a Rider Option Pull, and I have no regrets. We enjoyed our time on trail and were relieved. There is a video of Thor immediately after pulling, he looks great and I am so happy to have pulled when we did. I can't risk my golden dreamboat!

The only heartbreaking thing about this pull is the revelation that I will never take Thor to Tevis, it's just too hot. I will only be taking this champ to cooler rides (or at least, not combining hot AND humid.) Unless for some reason they ever delay Tevis till a cooler month again! Here's hoping for that LOL. HUGE THANK YOU to Celeste Turner, Matt, and Julie Figg for helping my mom crew for me!!!

2021 Cuneo Creek 50 - Nick Warhol

Cuneo creek 50 9-11-21

by Nick Warhol

The pre-ride Carnage!

I like going to new rides for the first time, and these REER (Redwood Empire Endurance Riders) are a great group who are able to do something rare these days- the seem to have fun putting on rides! I was able to do all three of their rides this year- Chalk rock, Redwood, and now the Cuneo Creek for the first time. I have always said my favorite place to ride is in the desert, but this redwood forest riding stuff might be making me rethink that a bit. It is truly incredible riding in these forests, especially in the redwoods.

We sure had some excitement before the ride itself. I drove five hours up on Thursday in the original Pony Tug sans camper again with no issues. Joyce Sousa had the best camp spot in the place staked out and invited me over to their spot in the shade. This horse camp has to be one of the best in the state. In the afternoon a lady walked up and asked if we might help her with her Ram truck. She reported the steering was not working after she heard a big bang while backing her trailer into its spot. I walked over with her to have a look and found a “HOLY S^%$! moment when I saw what was wrong. The drag link arm had snapped in half. This is the arm that goes from the steering box to the front wheels. The thing that makes the wheels turn. She started the truck, and turned the steering wheel all the way in both directions, and the front wheels did not budge! Oh man, if that had happened on the freeway- I don’t want to think about it. I took some pictures of the broken part (that should never have broken in the life of that truck), that we texted to the dodge dealer in eureka. They ordered the part, she arranged for a tow, and would get it fixed on Monday.

On Friday a woman walked up looking for me saying “I heard you are the guy to ask about broken trucks and stuff.” She said she tore a wheel off her trailer while driving in. She sure did- she clipped a redwood tree with her giant living quarters rig on the narrow road in to camp and literally ripped the entire wheel off the axle, snapping it right in two. The giant trailer was there in camp sitting on one wheel with the other wheel in the back of her truck with the other part of the axle still attached. Cripes! All I could do for her was to locate the axle manufacturer and exact part number so she could call a trailer repair place in eureka to get a replacement. I doubt they will have this puppy in stock! And to top it off, a woman pulled into camp with yet another long LQ trailer, cut too close to a post in a turn, and ripped her sewage and plumbing right off the trailer. What next? At about 6pm Jim Biteman (ride manager) came by asking for some help with a tree that had fallen across the trail that day. A park volunteer had come across it on friday afternoon and said it was bad. Uh- yeah it was! Jim, Dennis Sousa, John Neihaus and I drove up to the top of the world with a couple of chainsaws and found it. It was a ride ending tree! The biggest part of the canopy was on the trail, eight feet high, and there was no way around it on either side. It took the four of us about 45 minutes to cut it up and clear the trail enough to pass. Thank goodness that was the extent of the wild stuff that happened before the ride.

Oh yes, the ride. It was fun! I rode most the first loop with Michelle Rowe, Jim Brown, and Molly Quiroz. This ride is known for up and down- yep, that’s what it is. A Long moderate, single track climb from the start takes you 4 miles up to a wide, soft fire road that rolls along for a few miles on top of the mountain. There is more climbing but not too bad. It was nice trotting at a good pace for a few miles up here through the forest. The top was very wet from the heavy fog. We got to our downed tree location, then it was 4 miles straight down the mountain. Long, steep, down on good roads. Michelle and Molly went on ahead while Jim and I jogged down most of the hill on foot. At the bottom we found a flat single track that wound through the redwoods for not enough miles. It was serious fun! Sorsha led Jim and Kid at a very brisk pace, flying along through the dark forest, around trees as big in diameter as my car! We crossed the paved road and had a few more miles of odd trails and rocky creek crossings that finally led to camp. We pulsed down right away, and after an hour hold Sorsha and I headed out with Michelle back up that same climb that we went up at the start. Jim and Molly caught us about half way up, and we got onto a long, hard, gravel downhill road that I was not crazy about going down in a hurry. We did an easy pace to the bottom, then headed for the big climb on the other side of the road.

At this point I let the three of them go; Sorsha and I did the rest of the ride alone and had a blast. Well, except for that climb. It was a whopper, and just kept going up and up and up for too long. The big, brown, girly horse trucked right up it, all alone, with me feeling bad for her, having to drag me up like that. However ugly that climb was, the way down was worth it. We got on to a nice, groomed, well used single track that went down slightly, but the whole thing was trottable, and at pretty good speed. It must have gone on for 8 miles or more- boy it was fun. It took us all the way down to the forest floor where the monster trees were. I’d drive back up there to ride that trail again. We crossed the paved road for the final time, and rode back on those weird trails through the rocky creeks towards camp. I was riding in what I thought was 7th place, when we had some confusion at the finish when I caught Samantha Ellis and her two juniors literally at the finish line.

Huh? How did that happen? They did not pass me, so we talked about it, and could not figure out what happened.

I know she did the whole trail, I did the whole trail, and our ride times were checked by management and were consistent. We agreed that the only possible explanation was that I had gone off trail for a moment, somewhere, and did not realize it, or she had gone off trail for a moment, somewhere, and did not realize it.

Either way- who cares? That’s part of endurance. We all made it in the top ten, with me tenth, so all was great! There was another separate oops when someone told me I was in 11th, so I did not show for BC. It turns out I was in tenth. Oh well. Sorsha was at 44 at her completion and looked great.

I decided to skip day two since my knee hurt, I had gone up and down those climbs enough already, and this way I’ll ride the 50 at the quicksilver ride coming up on Oct 2nd. I can certainly recommend this ride, and would not hesitate coming back. Especially since I realized that the Sunday ride went up that great trail! Next time.