Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Antoine Report

The title sounds kind of, uh, governmental, I know.  Maybe sinister even, if you're of a conspiratorial bent.

If the google machine brought you here to show you Senator Antoine's annual farm subsidy report, or the results of the Antoine Commission's investigation into the CIA's activities in Kiribati, my apologies.  You are in the wrong place.

If, however, you're wondering about midwinter riding conditions in the Antoine Peak Conservation Area, you're in exactly the right place.

I've been a dull working boy these past weeks and months and left work yesterday with a particularly strong jonesin' for some exercise.  I've also been accumulating some soft packs over the winter, as I plan to convert my fatbikepacking setup from a rack-based system to a Revelate-style system, in order to reduce the obscene  weight of my current setup.  And then there's my photographic gear, which has been sitting under a serious layer of dust.  I thought an exploratory trip out to Antoine would be just the ticket for getting a little exercise, shaking down some of the new gear and remembering how to trip a shutter.

I was hoping . . . that because it's so dry down in the valley, that the road would be somewhat rideable to the top.  Boy howdy, was I dreaming.  It was absolutely FILTHY, and not the wholesome-healthy-pure-goodness kind of filthy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

From the parking lot, it looked to be all systems go.

 But less than 20 yards in, the harsh reality smacked me hard.

If you are familiar with Antoine, then you know that the initial rise out of the parking lot is one of the steepest sections of entire climb.  On this particular day, it was the victim of previously foot and paw-packed snow that had subsequently gone through several freeze/thaw cycles and was solid ice that stretched so far from edge to edge, that even at the perimeter, there was no path that offered any amount of reasonable traction.  I couldn't stand on this shit, let alone ride it.  I was wishing I'd brought crampons.  I actually had to bail over the edge and onto the road that parallels this first, short section.

My modified hope, at this point, was that since most of the traffic that had created this ribbon of a skating rink was foot traffic, I might be able to get past the ambulation range and into something that if not pristine untracked snow, was at least rideable.  At the Middle Road fork, things were still pretty icy.  The edges look rideable in this next photo, but they really were not, for the most part.  I was hike-a-biking through all of this, with just barely enough room to walk at the edges, while trying to keep the bike upright on the ice just next to me.

Eventually, I was able to spend some on-and-off time in the saddle and made it to the pond.  I was tempted to ride out on on the ice, but remembered at the last minute that I'm supposed to be smarter than that, at my age.

I thought that maybe at the convergence of the Middle Road with the main road, the
foot traffic would subside and the surface get more rideable.  At first, this looked to indeed be the case.

But then it turned straight to shit again.  My feet had to be on white to have any traction at all.  There was no standing on the ice.  That stuff was for dragging my bike across.

My modified goal was to make it to that first clearing that offers a view of the valley floor.  Modified mission accomplished.  2-1/2 whole miles from the parking lot and one hell of a lot of work.

The most striking thing I noticed about Antoine today was just how dead-silent it was.  I heard a bird two different times and a chipmunk once.  And that was it.  There were lots of ungulate tracks, but none were fresh - they were all cast into the frozen concrete.  No carcasses of poor old fellas that weren't strong enough to endure the harshness of the season, and even the dung piles looked old.  It's like the area had gone to sleep for the time being.  Dog days of winter, I suppose.  This plate 'o beans was the freshest looking piece of wildlife evidence I saw all day.

The sentinel wasn't saying much either.  And quite still did he stand.

I thought the descent might be a different story, but it was just as tough.  All up, I spent maybe 20% of my time on the bike.  Here's a sampling of the crunch . . .


Though the summit attempt was a bust, it was great to get out and bang around on Antoine.  I sure dig that place as just a constantly-changing environment in which to consistently get a good outdoor workout.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The current rate of evolution in fatbike design, especially the 'lightening' of these beasts, is incredible and intoxicating.  Of course there are those who will lament and decry that something "pure" (i.e. heavy steel first generation fatbikes) can't remain static and satisfy every need and want and whim, forever more.

As for me, I'm scheming ways to get my hands on one (fat carbon frame).  And some carbon rims, if possible.  I won't be able to afford the cutting edge technology, by any means, and maybe I won't buy anything carbon at all.  But I'll bet there's at least a fork in my future.  I dig the advancement of technology in general, and especially the advancement of fatbike technology.  Guess that makes me the dentist-wannabe, in the above metaphor.  So be it.  Lame argument, IMO.  Guy's gonna make a great cranky old man, with the awesome head start he has.

Anyhoo . . . I'm not sure where that digression came from exactly . . . but here's some of the exciting shit that's pushing my buttons . . .

The Fatback Corvus . . .

The 9:Zero:7 Whiteout . . .

The Salsa Beargrease . . .

The Borealis Yampa . . . 

The Lamere fatbike . . .

21.52lb Version $5850 (per the website)

Not only yeah, but hell yeah.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Day Four

"Pat S is a douche."  If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times.  And it's an argument that's kind of hard to counter.  I mean, what kind of a scumbag bike blogger would post up three out of four days of his bikepacking trip and then fail to, umm, finish?  For like MONTHS??

It's not like I haven't felt bad about it.  I have.  Terrible, in fact.  But rectifying the situation is not as easy as one might imagine.  Once you've let people down, you can't just suddenly say, "HEY! Here it is!"  That would make you, like, a super douche.

What a guy needs, is a recovery strategy.  And what better opportunity than New Year's Day.

Let it be known then, that I, Pat S, hereby resolve to finish the blogging of the Colockum Quilomene Traverse.  [Right hand held high, as I am sworn in by your overbearing and demanding asses at this exact moment.]  Let us begin immediately, then.

Here's the link to the previous post in this saga, just in case your memory is not overwhelmingly fantastical:  Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Day Three, Part Two


After the wildly windy night, day four would be the conclusion.  In some form, some flavor.  I had somehow gotten it into my head that from Whiskey Dick Bay, we would just cruise a few miles downstream into Vantage on downward-inclined roads, with the wind at our backs.  But as you know, I am a douche.  The actual route back would require a climb over Whiskey Dick RIDGE, as illustrated below, and would therefore require additional monumental effort.  Damn. It.

Yep, that's the I-90 bridge at Vantage on the left.  Bring it to me as quickly as possible, please.

The first order of business would be climbing out of the hole that was Whiskey Dick Bay.  Randy was up for the challenge.  Or maybe, it was the fact that he didn't have any other choice.

Stu was not far behind.  For the same reason, I suppose.

It wasn't long before we had climbed far enough to secure a proper view of the righteous campsite that had serenaded us through the winds from hell.  Meg and Steve had just totally set us up on that frightful night.  What a sweet spot.

We continued to climb and climb.  And climb.  It didn't hurt at all.  I don't have the soundtrack, but Ward was whistling as he rode.  Something from Mary Poppins, as I recall.

Somewhere between the 10th and 20th commandments, as I recall, is one that says you shall not covet your neighbor's (in this case, Meg's) Revelate Viscacha seat bag.  Apparently, then, I am going straight to hell upon my departure.

In the meantime, I think I will be ordering one of these this year.  I really need to cut down on the weight of my bikepacking setup and this solution just makes too much sense to ignore.

Another sweet meadow, if someone were so inclined as to put together a base camp-style adventure in this area, just sayin'.

From there, yet more climbing was done, and on soft and sandy surfaces, no less.  Fat-tire jealously is hard to identify on the trail, as the proprietors are prone to conceal it, but the grinding of teeth could be heard, just barely, if one were to listen carefully.

A home to something fairly big, and because of that, a cause for momentary acceleration.

I have to say, in all seriousness and honesty, that the climb was the sweetest of the trip.  Maybe we were just so beat to hell that we had didn't recognize the difference, but I really think that this particular climb and the accompanying mood was special.  Damn, the view from the top.  The only thing that could make it any better . . .

. . . would be the the juxtaposition of a coupla RAD, tour-tested fatbikes into the scene.  Hot damn!

Hell yeah, timer shot.  The whole fabulous crew, here.  Possibly my favorite pic of the entire trip.

Photo-ops thereby taken advantage of, all riders proceeded upon the downward journey.  All three trailer boys are rocking the descent in this photo.

Things were going swimmingly well . . .

. . . until just a second or two later, Chris had one of his signature trailer-induced moments.  The kind where the trailer would flip over and snag on something, and launch him over the handlebars and into the scrub brush and rocks.  Harsh.

I don't know how to describe how great this view is.  But that's the Columbia just south of Vantage, on the right.  Hopefully the perspective captures the fact that we are going downhill.  We are gonna live.  Life is good.

I know I've said it before, but Chris was amazing.  I rode behind him for a bit, just admiring the torture he inflicted upon his Chinese knockoff trailer and how he made it all look like it's how things are supposed to work.

The Vantage bridge.  Hello, friend.

A sweet corral that caught my highly artistic eye.  Don't like the pic?  Feel free to bite me.

Randy and Ward.  Geez, these two guys rock.  No way this trip would have ever happened without their initiative and knowledge of the area.  My hat's off, gentlemen.

Tarmac felt funny, after all that.  And good.

Yes, that's real blood and I am totally badass.  But you knew that already.

Here's the rad crew that emerged from the wild.  That's Steve and Meg in the middle, who came in from the south and set up camp and delivered ice cold beer.  "Beer fairies."  Look it up in the dictionary.

Here's the six of us nutjobs that went start-to-finish.

Look, I don't want to start bawling or anything, but I just feel totally lucky to live in this day and age where we have the technology to somehow connect with like-minded fanatics and pull something this awesome together.  It's easy to minimize the significance of this trip and what it was, but I think it was REALLY special and something that can't be easily duplicated.  I will always feel like I was extremely fortunate to be involved with this exceptional experience.  Thanks, guys.


So my New Year's Resolution seems to be complete.  Peezy!

Say, uhh, how you doin' with yours???

In all seriousness, I want to wish you a fantastic 2014.  May it be full of really rich and meaningful experiences, whether they be bike-related or otherwise.