Winter Trip Report

 

 

I’m back from my short backpacking trip! The night before I embarked fresh snow fell on the Smokies. It took me around 2 hours and 10 minutes to walk 6 miles to my lair for the night. By the way, I soloed this trip as no one was available to join me. On the way to the campsite there was an older couple and their daughter or granddaughter, the older lady chatted up a conversation with me. We talked for nearly a mile until we arrived at Mouse Creek Fall. She was a sweet lady who told stories of her youthful hiking trips and asked me to share some stories too. It was cool hearing some of her stories as I was hiking along with nothing but sound of rushing water and that voice in my head. I left her at Mouse Creek Fall and proceed to fast paced myself to my liar.

Upon arriving to the lair,  I quickly changed into warmer clothes after I pitched my tent. I find it funny how I was alone at the campsite and I waited until I put my rain fly on the tent before changing; in my defense there were probably a perverted bear lurking somewhere. After I changed clothes I was feeling hungry, so I made Easy Mac. Then after eating I proceed to go on a serious firewood hunt. It was a chore trying find woods that buried in the snow… I found enough wood to keep a fire going for two hours. I then went on photo ops out of boredom, and ended up mostly looking at the mountains instead of actually taking photos.   Around 5pm a 3-person hiking party showed up and proceed to set camp on opposite side from me. We acknowledged each other and proceed go about our own business.  The next day I asked one of the man if he take my picture and he obliged. I proceed to head straight for the car instead of climbing Mt. Sterling. (More on this decision in a later post.) Here are the photos taking with my smartphone:

 

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583 589 592 596 594 604 603 601 588605 599  578

Thanks for reading! I’ll be making some more posts in the near future about what I learned from this trip as well as things I did to stay warm and dry.

P.S. The last picture is Mouse Creek Fall, horrible I know, the sun was directly into my len. I have a better picture somewhere on my computer.

Ready For Sunday!!

Sorry I have not posted in awhile. I have been a little busy and haven’t sat down to blog some stuff.

I’m going backpacking Sunday December 30th!!!! I’ll be hiking to a campsite called Walnut Bottom located on the bank of Big Creek in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This campsite is so unique and popular because it’s located within half day hike to the following locations: Mt. Cammerer, Mt. Sterling, Luftee Knob, Balsam Mt, Mt. Guyot (2nd highest peak in the Smokies.), and some other key places. It’s located within a few waterfalls and deep swimming holes too. The weather says it will be 23 degrees low Sunday night, so I’ll be breaking out my warmest sleeping bag and some extra warm clothes to sleep in. The next day I plan to hike up to Mt. Sterling and check out its panoramic view and descend down Baxter Creek to the car. Baxter Creek is suppose to be a difficult trail, so the plate in my leg will be hating me after this trip…

I’ll be packing the following items:

Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 tent

Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina sleeping bag rated for 15 degrees

Big Agnes insulated sleep pad

Pocket Rocket Stove with a backup solid fuel stove.

Gaiter in-case I have to trek through some soft powder snow on the way to Mt. Sterling.

Trek Poles

Granite Gear Blaze 60 liter pack

Fire starters such as magnesium shaving, dry lint, solid fuel, etc.

A mug to boil water and cook food

Water filter and my 32oz bottle

Marmot insulated jacket with two long sleeves base layer and base layer pants in addition to two mid-weight long sleeves and pants. Wool hat, fleece gloves, and a wind sleeve to protect my face from getting wind chapped, again.

Rain jacket and pant.

Food will consist of 2 bags of Easy Mac, 5 protein bars that has nearly 300 calories each, energy chews, grits, bag of cashews, and a beef stick pack with pretzel, cheese, and beef stick. I’ll also pack green tea and hot chocolate. I will consume a big breakfast/lunch before venturing out.

Also I will pack a pee bottle this time as well as some hand-warmers to throw in my sleeping bag.

A knife

Last but not least, CHAP STICKS!!! I prefer Burts Bees Mango flavor.

 

The trick to staying warm in the cold winter night is consuming a lot of calories and drinking warm drinks. The latter can make you go to bathroom a lot, so males have a distinct advantage: taking a pee bottle so you don’t have get out of your warm sleeping bag or tent. For my female readers, well, I can imagine that would be tricky and I have no advice for you at this time. (Sorry, ladies) I use hand-warmers or body-warmers (it same as the former, just bigger!) in my sleeping bag and it radiate heats that your bag will trap creating a heater. Boiled water in plastic water bottle works just as well. A good sleeping bag means you shouldn’t need this, but if temperature suddenly drops below your bag’s rating it will help you get through the night without freezing to death. (I hope.) By the way this advice isn’t proven in the field, so do not take my word for it but it HAS kept me plenty warm before with very little clothes on in my Mountain Hardwear bag on a 20 degrees night.

I’ll post back either Monday night or Tuesday afternoon with pictures and hopefully a good story to share! I sure hope the bears are not super hungry or in hibernation mode.

Memorable Crash

Yesterday, I was riding bikes on a new trail that has been recently built and opened for mountain biking at a local state park. I nearly went over the handlebars after coming off a rock. Thank goodness I didn’t touch the front brake or I would have had been paying a handsome flesh tax. The reason I didn’t touch the front brake was because of experience, an experience I will never forget if only I could remember what happened.

Picture it, it was a hot July day in 2010 at a wonderful slice of paradise called Tanasi located on the bank of the Ocoee River in Southeastern Tennessee. A couple of months earlier, I met a group of guys at the local state park that were always riding bikes there at time I ride. So, I got to know them and started riding with them and then they invited me to this wonderful paradise for a weekend of camping and 50-100 miles of epic bike riding. There was three of us including me, a fourth one would arrive later that night and ride with us the next day. We arrived to Thunderock Campground in the Cherokee National Forest (Tanasi is part of the Cherokee National Forest) and set up camp. After setting up camp we started loading up on nutrition and water, then prepared the bike for at least 25 miles before dark. And we planned to ride at dark with some powerful lights. Since I have never been here, I was giving a map and a laminated post card with the route for this evening ride in-case we got separated. We rode and we rode, I never got separated from my two riding partners until my rear derailleur decided it wasn’t up for the task. I was having some technical issues with a key component and it was causing the chain to jump all over the cassettes, and one of the guys, we call him Bike Doctor, he had tools on him and we made some adjustments and rode on.  We will call the other guy Goatman, so we all continued riding and I rode some incredible trails such as the Quartz Loop which was amazing, it had cairn stones stacked all along the trails.

Anyway, fast forward to the final 1.5 miles of the evening ride. Goatman and Bike Doctor stopped at the trail head of Thunder Rock Express to give me some friendly advice and warnings. Apparently this trail is 1.5 miles of solid downhill with some nasty placed rocks and humps. They decided to take the lead and I will follow. The first few minutes I’m like this isn’t too bad and once I passed an opening section it was game on. The trail quickly started living up to its billing and I tried to control my speed. After a sharp banked turn, I picked up some considerable speed and then it all happened. I went over a hump and I must have landed on my front wheel with rear wheel off the ground, then proceed to squeezed the front brake. I actually have no recollection of touching the front brakes, hint the reason in the first paragraph I wish I could remember. Something stopped my front wheel, it could have been the brake, a badly placed stump, or whatever. After the front wheel stopped, I FLEW at least 4 yards over the handlebars and hit my head on ground first, then my shoulder caught the ground and I proceed to slide and roll forward on the ground until I was sitting on my ass. (I did say a few cuss words while I was airborne, but that didn’t really help soften the blow of the ground.) As I sat there my head was spinning and hurting; my shoulder was in pain and I couldn’t even move it. My head felt concussed and I knew this because I have suffered a concussion for 3 weeks before. I thought my shoulder was broken or something because I couldn’t even move it. My arm was shredded to pieces as I was bleeding and covered in dirt.  After 15 minutes my head quit spinning enough for me get on bike and roll back to campsite, as I did this my two riding partners came to the rescued. They had been sitting at the end of trail for few minutes and thought something was wrong when I didn’t arrived in a timely manner. I told them all what happened and we roll back to campsite and did some first-aid. My arm was ripped to shred, my hip was also cut up and in pain, I could barely move my shoulder, my head was hurting. I loaded up on over-the-counter pain pills and cleaned the wounds up. We also cancelled the night ride and relaxed under the full moon of a warm summer night.

I didn’t sleep at all that night due to the pain on my entire left side of my body, it was just too uncomfortable. The next morning I was asked if I could do another 20 some miles to other side of Tanasi on a section known as Brush Creek. I got on my bike and had regained movements of my shoulder but the pain still linger and my head was no longer hurting. I proceed to ride 24 miles that second day and at the end of the ride my pains were no longer lingering due to the adrenaline, so I think? I packed my tent up and went home after that ride and soaked in hot bath for 3 days on an ibuprofen binge.

0702002015 yaaaa

The above is pictures of my helmet after the crash and my bandaged wound on the second day.

Introducing My Steed

This is my steed in all of her glory:

Steed

It’s a 2009 Haro Shift R7. Haro does not make this frame anymore, so it’s kind of special. Ha! It’s a shame because the geometry of this frame is nicely done, in my opinion. When I’m sitting in the saddle my arms feel relaxed rather than tightly stretched out. Also the geometry gives me the perfect position feel while riding compared to my hardtail bike.

Component list:

Front Derailleur SRAM X-9
Rear Derailleur SRAM X-0
Shifters SRAM X-7
Brakes Hayes Stroker Ryde (Hydraulic)
Crank Set Truvativ Firex
Wheels Ritchey OCR Disc
Tires Kenda Nevegal
Pedals Crank Brothers Candy
Rear Shock Rock Shox Monarch 3.0
Fork Marzocchi Bomber 44

In case you’re wondering, the big green thing on my crank set is just a bash guard made by Raceface. I took the big ring off my crank set, which means my bike is now 18 speeds rather than 27 speeds. I did it out of boredom and it was cheaper than purchasing a 2×10 drive train. I have upgrade plans available for this bike, but I just haven’t got around to it and also weighting an option of buying a 29ner.

Trust Your Bike

One of my bike riding partner has a saying, “we’ll ride our trusty steeds to glory.” I have ridden my steed with pride and great confidence in its ability as well as mine. Every hardcore riders will tell you that you HAVE to trust your bike. For me, it was as if an aluminum frame birthed out of my private region and became part of my body. Within a month of purchasing my bike, I’ve become at one with my bike. I know its limitation, its shifting prowess, its braking power, the tires ability to stick to the trail, and most of all my mind knows how to hardness the bike’s prowess for epic bike rides.For nearly two years my bike didn’t have a single component failure and then my luck turned.

On a joy ride one day this past summer I started noticing my rear shock was not rebounding back to its original position after it absorb a bump on the trail. So, I checked the air pressure and it was pretty darn low, it needs to be at 95-100psi for my skinny butt to achieve a 20-25% sag,  so I added some more air back to the appropriate level for my riding style. The next day it failed to rebound and I did the air check process all over. That when I noticed a valve has broken and has been leaking air, majorly. I took the rear shock off the frame and take it to the local bike hospital to see one of the best bike doctor in this area. I still had a manufacturer’s warranty on the shock, so a few days later I get a new part and the doctor performed a successful operation. I went back on the trails with my bike and it was as if it was never injured. Fast forward to yesterday, I was riding hard at my local stomping ground and noticed the handlebars getting closer to my body. I looked down to my rear shock and it had sagged more than it was suppose too. I get off the bike press down and it rebounded back to normal, odd. So, I ride on back to the car and noticed my skinny butt was sinking to the ground and the bike felt as if it was going collapse and make a sandwich out of me. (if you have a full-suspension bike, you’ll understand this.) For those of you that don’t, the best I can tell you is the shock is what holds the bike up, without the shock the bike folds.

I checked the air in the shock and the PSI WAS 45!!! It lost nearly 50psi from last time I put air in it which was the day the shock left the bike hospital. I’m losing air, again. I’m not convinced entirely that it an equipment failure, but could have just lost air over the last few months just like your tire loses air. This entire situation is starting to mess with my mind and confidence in the shock. I feel I will be rolling down a bumpy trail and lose air entirely and the bike fold up and send me to a human hospital for a lot of stitches and broken bones. Stay tune for how this situation unfolds over the next few days as I troubleshoot the reason behind the leakage.