Sunday, January 14, 2018

Chasing a Fat Bike

January 2018, from the head of the lake
Last year at this time, we were skiing across this lake.
January 2017, from the foot of the lake
Sadly, we are in a somewhat different situation this year. I count on winter as a time to do less running and hiking and, instead, more skiing and snowshoeing. They are different activities that work different muscles, something you have to think about as you pile on decades of athletic endeavors. 

Unfortunately, there's no such break this year. The trails aren't snowy, but they are rivers of ice. Not just "I can wear microspikes and be OK" ice, but thick, slippery, "I might fall and break something" ice. Desperate to avoid the treadmill, I have been trying to run creatively. Endless loops around the campground, with the state park workers looking on in bemusement, crunching through snow on the moraine....none of it is fast. I'm glad I don't care about my time anymore. I'm just glad I can still run.

Another day I decided to "chase the fat bike." It's a good incentive to keep going up the hills, because sometimes I can keep up and even pass the bike. Sometimes I can't.  The bike can smoke me on the downhills, but sometimes on the flats I stand a chance. It all comes down to footing. On this occasion, the snowmobile club had groomed the canal road, and the conditions were outstanding.

There was just the crunch of my shoes on the corduroy as I climbed the hills. There were also occasional stops as I ran into a friend skate skiing and several friends snowshoeing. Those caused delays in my quest, but I usually managed to catch up. It was one of those times when I remembered why I like to run--the stars aligned for a pain free, lighter than air run.

Eventually I turned around and went down to the ski area to do a shuttle for the fat bike. With the sun beating on the deck, it felt like summer. Which is both scary and wrong, but in the moment, I appreciated it greatly.

I believe this one of the first descents of the ski area on fat bike.

People keep saying the snow will come, but they also say that there is greenup in the canyon. It is way too warm for January. This could mean a smoky summer for us. In seasons past, February and March have been the snowiest months of all. We will wait for snow. In the meantime, I'll incorporate chasing a fat bike as part of my training regimen.

16 comments:

  1. We are equally worried about the lack of snow = wildfires.

    I agree with you that I want snow for selfish reasons too (we usually test snowshoes for Backpacker & haven't been able to!). With that being said, the mild temps are definitely great and I am secretly dreaming of going NOBO on the CDT because of the low snow year. We shall see what the next few months bring.

    Never tried fat tire biking!! I think it would scare me.

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    1. I have a friend going NOBO! Would you do the whole thing?

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  2. Yeah the lack of snow is a real bummer.....the ski areas on Hood have about a 3 foot base. Hardly enough to cover the rocks and stumps. But I've been skiing a little bit, and actually had a good time up on the hill yesterday. Fingers crossed next week's storm delivers!

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  3. That looks like some amazing fat-biking terrain. I used to ride my bike at the downhill ski area in Juneau (on days that it was closed.) So fun! You are missing out. ;-)

    In my region, we don't even need to wait for summer for wildfires to become a huge stressor. The fire danger meter at our local station has been moderate to high for most of 2018. Last night, a neighbor's house burned to the ground (she escaped, and we don't know her personally, but she lives less than a half mile away.) We stood outside watching the flames reach dozens of feet into the sky directly east of us, and realized that if this fire had happened two days earlier, we'd be packing up and running. Just Monday the raging west wind subsided, and two inches of snow fell, which limited the fire to a small area (although it still burned nearby trees.)

    Scary stuff. We're aware and we're not going to move because of it, but we recognize that danger will always be in the background. Even in January.

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    1. Interesting to think a house fire could spread through the woods this time of year. I'd wonder about the fuel moisture and if that would inhibit burning. Maybe if there isn't precip and the RH is low.

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    2. You would know more about that of course. I've only chatted about it with neighbors. Winds were high over the weekend with no snow cover and no significant (more than trace) percip in weeks. That fire did burn several nearby trees and that was with 1 inch of snow on ground.

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    3. Hmm, that's a little frightening. Colorado is due unfortunately. Lots of snow last year, more fuel buildup.

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    4. I know Mary knows this, but while winter snow and spring rains are critical to fill reservoirs, they can also contribute to lots of grass and other fine fuels that are easy to ignite if the summer is dry.

      So much depends on the actual summer weather. Here in Interior Alaska, we've had several low-fire seasons due to it being a little rainier than normal, with most thunderstorms being wet. And a few years ago we had a low fire season even though we had near record warmth: It was so dry we had very little lightning.

      Snow-less winters have a similar problem when there's lots of left-over fine fuels and low humidity--and wind.

      From an earlier post: Canyon vs. Gorge--

      I think they're pretty much synonyms, although I've always thought of gorges as more dramatic--more like the GC!

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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  4. I just finished my first week working out of Chester CA. All rain here too. I drove to Tahoe yesterday (2.5 hours) in order to find enough snow to go snowshoeing (8,000 to over 9,000 ft). It was crunchy but the day was calm and mild and I went with my son and his girlfriend (who grew up in the area so knows it well) and so got a built-in tour guide as well.
    Long drive for a few hours of showshoeing, but it was lovely and the time spent outdoors with family was priceless.

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    1. I am planning a late June hike to Chester (from Tahoe) so I will be interested to hear your assessment of the snowpack before you leave. Isn't Chester a neat little place? I like it.

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    2. Remind me if I forget. I expect I'll be here until sometime in April. I haven't seen a lot of Chester yet, but I did join the gym and the library. Everyone has been very nice.

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  5. So sad to see the lack of snow. Fingers crossed that there are heavy falls before spring.

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    1. Supposed to snow a little this week..let's hope

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  6. First picture is gorgeous! Weather has been so sunny and warm this week I almost thought it was spring. Freezing temps at night though bring us back to reality. Glad you are finding alternatives to skiing and snowshoeing. We do indeed need more snow in the mountains.

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    1. It's starting to snow now, finally. Back to winter.

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