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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Curly Lakes, August 2011 -- Perhaps the Best Mountain Bike Ride on Earth

Curly Lakes is a mountain bike ride in the Tobacco Root Mountains. It's probably the best mountain bike ride I've done and is reminiscent of Porcupine Rim in Moab: a long ride with big views and a long descent.

Greg Hood invited me to come along with he and his buddies, and Jen couldn't help but to ask to come along, as we'd been hoping to do this ride for some time. We went over on Friday afternoon, camped, enjoyed an evening with good company, and did the ride in the morning.

The ride was billed as awesome and it didn't disappoint. What a great trail! The views are epic, the trail is in stellar condition, and the descent is 2 hours long. We were wide eyed after and still are. The pictures say more than I can.

Greg early on in the ride.

Jen early on in the ride.
Jen at the saddle above Curly Lake.

Jen heading to the peak.

Here she's closer.
And here we are on top with the Highlands behind us.

On the way to the car, nearin the end.

Finally back.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sheep Mountain, August 2011

It's fair to say that the Sheep Mountain loop is considered Missoula's test piece mountain bike ride. It is tough and long, with (from my door) about 5900 feet of elevation gain in 37 miles, and it is remote. This makes doing the ride committing on a number of levels, and hence, easy to push off till next week or next season. In fact, just last Sunday I had backed out from doing Sheep yet again, this time with my friend Greg Hood, because it was going to be a hot day, and I had wanted to get an earlier start than we were going to be able to manage. In other words, I wimped out.   
But Sheep wouldn't let go, so I decided mid-week to duck out of a morning's work and bang out the ride. It took me just under five hours to do it, with only a few minutes of stopping and 15 minutes of being lost along the way. In hindsight, Greg and I would have been fine to do the ride on Sunday.
From the Rattlesnake Trailhead, the route goes up to the top of Woods Gulch and then continues climbing along the ridge to a highpoint at Blue Point. It then follows the connecting ridge to Sheep Mountain, descending from Blue Point before climbing again to the Sheep Mountain summit at 7650 ft. From the top of Sheep, it's almost entirely downhill the remainder of the ride. It's a classic long loop, and with 99% of the climbing packed into the first half of the ride, is very strenuous. No other ride I've done in Missoula gives the same sense of backcountry adventure and remoteness. I highly recommend it, but be sure to bring plenty of water.
Ben Horan (a local rider) on the way the Sheep Mtn in the background. Photo by Adam Jensen, from Missoula XC web page.

Another shot from Sheep's summit taken from the web, I believe from the Sheep Heads sight.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Point Six from Town

Since arriving back in Missoula at the end of June, it's been a heady time. Missoula is so easy to come back to -- being away just reinforces what a great place it is -- and getting back into our house has been like warm apple pie and hugs from Mom when I was a boy.
Still, I should have been anticipating the day when the high ended. This past Monday, I got some bad news about the status of a grant proposal I submitted last year. Since I hadn't heard NO yet, I was optimistic that the answer was going to be YES. It wasn't, and I wasn't ready to hear that. Also, our plans for an end-of-summer family trip have been thwarted by circumstance and Alex, who suddenly at 14 and back among his friends, wants as little to do with his family, and as much to do with his friends, as possible.
By now you're asking, 'Okay, what's the point of all of this complaining?' Well, after Monday, I was ready for something long and punishing to 'clear the decks'. In the morning, I walked out the door, looked up to Point Six, above Snowbowl, and decided I was going to ride my bike up there from the house. I left at 9:30am, did it -- not that bad, actually -- and was back home by 1:30pm. It was a nice outing, and one I've wanted to do for a few years. Below are some pictures. 
Point Six from town.
Missoula Valley and Lolo Peak (back right).

Communication towers on the top of Point Six. I wonder if I'm getting pummeled by electromagnetic radiation here.

View north to the Mission Mountains.
View southeast.