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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Another Epic Mountain Bike Route: Deer Creek--Turah--Allen Creek Road--upper-Deer Creek Road--Pattee Canyon

In studying the maps for the Miller Peak ride I described in my last post, I notice Allen Creek Road (Forest Service 355), which comes up from Turah and reaches the divide at the point where the single track begins on the Miller Peak route. Since I had figured out the route from upper-Deer Creek Road to this point on the divide, I knew that there was another big, fun loop to do, coming up 355 from Turah and descending down to Pattee Canyon.

Unlike Miller Peak, this route has no single track, until you enter the Pattee Canyon trail system, but it also has almost no pavement. It's a fine ride at near 40 miles and 5000 feet of climbing. Here is my Strava route, and below is the route beta.

Warning: this description is vague and comes with no guarantees. Also, it is extremely easy to get lost on the middle sections of this ride, so be very careful if you try it and take a friend.

  1. ride out Kim William to Deer Creek Road, climb up the hill, pass the turn off for the Deer Creek Sneak, descend to Deer Creek, and after the sharp right, take the logging road on your left all the way to Turah;
  2. once in Turah, after the pavement starts, the road T's, turn right and a mile or so later, right after the road turns to gravel, look for a gravel road on your right with a Forest Service 355 sign down the road 20 yards;
  3. settle in for a long (~10 mile, 4000+ ft) climb, staying on the road most traveled until near the top where you'll see the saddle up and to the left and at a three-way intersection (~8 miles into the climb) you'll take the left fork that heads toward it;
  4. at the saddle there are two options I've used to get to Pattee: (i) take your first right and at the first bend in the road (after 50 yards or so) get off your bike and hike up the faded trail on your left straight up a clear cut slope to a logging road, where you'll turn left and ride for about a mile, looking for a stack of sticks with flagging, at which point you'll turn left again and follow an old jeep road/trail down the treed ridge; or (ii) head straight over the other side of the divide and immediately turn right onto an old logging road, which you'll ride to it's end, then get off your bike and hike up the steep old road grade (or skid track) on your right until you see the jeep road/trail mentioned above on your left, just below the stack of sticks with flagging mentioned in option (i);
  5. descend on the jeep road to it's end, where it turns to single track, bears right, and quickly joins a dead-end road, where you'll take your first left, and within half a mile you'll join upper-Deer Creek Road, which is a gentle descent all the way to upper-Pattee Canyon.
PS: I did this ride again with Jen a few weeks later. It seemed even harder than the first time. Also, I think option (i) in part 4 of the description is the easier way. And finally, for the adventurous, note on the Strava route, the alternate route down part of Upper Dear Creek Road.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Epic Mountain Bike Route: Pattee Canyon--Miller Peak--Miller Creek

Over the past two weeks, I've adventured up above and south of Pattee Canyon three times, looking for a route to Miller Peak on the maze of logging roads. Last fall I hiked Miller Peak from the south side, so I knew if I could get there, I could get out. It was tricky and strenuous getting there, requiring three attempts, the last on Friday. 

There's this point on a ride like that where you're low on food and water and your unsure what lies ahead. A part of you wants to play it conservative, turn around, and cut your loses, but you keep going. This was one of those rides. 

It's an awesome, hard ride, with about 5,000 feet of climbing and 40 miles. It feels similar to Sheep Mountain in that it's committing, strenuous and you feel like you're riding through the middle of nowhere, but unlike Sheep it's mostly on logging roads. Of course, I forgot my GPS this ride, but the Thursday night MTB ride has one posted on the web here.

Below is the route beta (it's actually not that complicated). 

Warning: this description is vague and comes with no guarantees. Also, it is extremely easy to get lost on the middle sections of this ride, so be very careful if you try it and take a friend.

  1. from upper-Pattee trailhead, ride south up the left-hand, wide trail/road, staying left, until near the top where you'll follow the single track on the right, taking you up and over the ridge onto upper Deer Creek Road; 
  2. follow the road up to a saddle, where you'll see Miller Peak to the south, with radio towers, and views to the west;
  3. continue on the main fork, left, climbing gently for several miles (3-4?), until you come to the next east-west ridge to the north of Miller Peak;
  4. on the ridge you'll come to a fork in the road, with the right fork heading down, stay left, then soon right, climbing, then right again to a dead end turnaround, where you'll follow faint single track briefly to an old jeep road; 
  5. climb steeply on the jeep road up the ridge until it intersects a logging road, where you'll turn right, heading south until you come to a road junction, or, as was the case for me, you see the road junction 100 yards below and have to down hike to it;
  6. at the road junction you'll see the single track on the far (south) side, get on this trail (look for intermittent flagging) and stay on it for several miles, crossing several roads, until you reach the ridge containing Miller Peak;
  7. the single track ends at a dirt jeep road on the ridge, with Miller Peak on your right, but you are a bit too far from Miller Peak to start the descent, so turn sharp right, climbing up 100 yards to the ridge top, then follow the road left, traversing to the Miller Peak road/saddle; 
  8. and finally, turn left at the road junction (straight takes you to the top of Miller Peak) and follow this winding road all the way down to Miller Creek. 

PS: On a whim, I raced Missoula XC the day after I did this. Not a good idea. I got spanked and was wasted for a day after. Someone please remind me that I'm 40.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Empty Mansions (The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune), by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell

Being from Butte, I had a keen interest in this story of the life of Copper King W.A. Clark's youngest daughter Huguette, who died in 2011 at the age of 104. She lived in Butte for a short time when she was young, while her father built a massive mansion on 5th Avenue in New York; the book even has a picture of her sitting with her dolls on the porch of the Copper King Mansion, on Granite Street in Uptown Butte. But most of her life was spent in Manhattan and France. She was a daughter of great privilege and was extremely rich to the end of her days, which allowed for some pretty extreme eccentricities to develop, making her story unusual and interesting.

The first part of the book focuses on W.A. Clark's rise from a prospector in the mines of Virginia City, to a merchant, to a Banker in Deer Lodge, to a mining engineering and owner of the massively profitable Butte copper mines. As with any story of great success, he was in the right place at the right time: the electrification of the U.S. required huge amounts of copper wire. And he didn't stop there, opening another massively profitable copper mine in Arizona, and putting in the first railroad between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, along which he founded Las Vegas as a rail stop. He had two families, the first raised in Butte, and the second (after his first wife died) when he was much older. Huguette was born when he was 67. Both of his wives hailed originally from Butte.   

W.A. died when Huguette was in her early 20's. She had a very brief marriage and then spent the rest of her days living on 5th avenue, first next door to her mother Anna, then when Anna died, alone, and finally, for the last 20 years of her life, she lived in a hospital room. This is when the story becomes a bit strange. She gave away huge sums of money to her nurse, totaling around 30 million dollars, and to others who helped her closely: her lawyer, accountant, and personal assistant. She gave lavishly to many others as well. 

In the end, her will was contested by her distant Clark relatives, none of whom she knew. In the settlement, these relatives ended up getting about $35 million in total. Her lawyer, accountant, and nurses ended up getting much less than the will originally stipulated. It's a very fascinating story. She was very eccentric and very giving. The reader is left with the notion that she was a good and generous person, and a great lover of art, who didn't do a bit of harm in the world, but whose actions were strange indeed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nas Interviewed on the 20th anniversary of Illmatic.

For those who aren't familiar, Illmatic is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. It taught me how to appreciate Rap music. For a fan of rock, I think it provides a straightforward entry into hip-hop. Due to the 20th anniversary of the album, Nas has been getting interviewed. Here are two I've seen that I think are worth the time.

And Illmatic has been reissued. Here's an awesome remix of One Love that's on it, and one of my favorites from the original album: The World is Yours.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Helsinki, Summer 2014

Where I live when I'm in Helsinki.
Another sojourn to Helsinki has come to a close. Over the past couple of summers, I've lived in the buildings you see above for 2-3 weeks. The towers are owned by the University of Helsinki and Aalto University and are for housing foreign academics. The rooms are spartan but comfortable, and the neighborhood is great; it's near downtown with trams accessing everywhere you want to go. Helsinki is a beautiful city. I love it. 

During the two weeks I was here this year, now just ending, UM Math Dept Chair Leonid Kalachev was also visiting. He was working with the same guy, Heikki Haario. Both Heikki and Leonid are unique, exceptional, guys, and I feel blessed that I am able to spend time with them and talk about life and Science (which is what we call our research).

We had several discussions about Science during this trip, and not just specific research, but more generally. For example, how the progression of ideas and work is mysterious; how important meeting face-to-face is for the development and continuation of work; and how Science is a calling, at least for those who are really good at it. 

If you feel that you have a calling for something, on the one hand, you must answer, or eventually it will stop. On the other hand, important questions arise, like: How important is what you are doing in the grand scheme? How much of yourself do you give? How much is reasonable to ask your family to sacrifice?  I don't think these questions have definitive answers. I strive to put myself in the gray area between too little and too much.

Anyway, I do feel a calling to do research. I'm not sure how I got here, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. This was not a part of the plan, and yet here I am, grateful, but also striving to find that right balance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

I have to admit that I'd been avoiding this book. I had read two of Gladwell's previous, 'Outliers' and 'Tipping Point', and was inspired by them. But after reading Daniel Kahneman's 'Thinking Fast and Slow', which is a similar kind of book, but written by the scientist that had actually done the work he was writing about, I started to think that Gladwell has a tendency to overstate and sugarcoat his case. This approach makes his books fun to read, and it has made him hugely successful at bringing his interpretation of certain psychological ideas into the mainstream. But I can't help but wonder if I'm getting the whole story.

Anyway, it was with some skepticism that I approached 'David and Goliath'. But I enjoyed the heck out of it. Gladwell starts by arguing convincingly that the interpretation of the biblical story of David and Goliath as the archetypal story of the underdog is a wrong interpretation; that actually if you study the story carefully, David is the clear favorite (David is agile with an accurate weapon versus Goliath, who is big and slow with heavy clunky weapons and armor). He then goes on to tell many stories of successful people who've overcome great odds -- from dyslexia, to horrific childhoods -- to become great successes in life. When he delves into these cases in detail, he shows that these individuals did more than simply survive their hardships, they developed unique gifts and strengths that they then used to their advantage in their later careers. The notion, which I know is true from my own experience, is that hardship can yield big rewards. What Gladwell fails to point out, however, is that for every one of the great successes, there are many more coming from hard backgrounds who live sad, and even tragic, lives. 

Gladwell also spends a fair amount of time talking about power and its limitations, likening power wielded wrongly to Goliath. He tells the story of the British occupation of Northern Ireland in the 70's and 80's as a classic example. He also writes about the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, AL and how the organizers (M.L. King and others) were crafty, eventually manipulating the Birmingham authorities into attacking them, because they believed that there would be public outcry. And they were right! 

He talks about education too. Particularly, how a good deal of misbehavior of K-12 students stems, actually, from poor teaching skill, which he likens to a teacher's misuse of power. And then, of particular interest to me, he shows the stats of publications in top journals past the PhD of graduates from lower, middle, and top-tier schools, which show that students graduating at the top of a lower-tier PhD program do better past the PhD than those graduating from the middle of top-tier PhD programs.

Anyway, the book was fun and inspiring. If you identify yourself with the underdog, you'll especially like it. Still, I'm not sure that I trust completely the warm and fuzzy feeling I get from Gladwell's message.