Warrior Creek, Beech Mountain & Rocky Knob Park

My son and I are trying to hit all the best North Carolina trails over the summer and made a start last weekend with a trip to the mountains. The wish-list was Warrior Creek (conveniently on the way), a day a Beech Mountain and then Rocky Knob on the way home.

Day 1 – Warrior Creek.

We loaded-up and headed out midday on Friday  with the aim of riding Warrior Creek on the way up to Boone. It is part of the Kerr Scott Reservoir trail system and we recently raced in the Southern Classic at Dark Mountain and heard good things about Warrior Creek. We arrived about 3pm which was good and bad timing; bad because it was still in the low 90F’s and humid; good timing – for reasons I’ll get into later.

Warrior Creek is a really well-designed trail in a really pretty lakeside location; it’s a mix of hard-pack, rock-gardens and lots of huge, fast berms. There’s nothing too strenuous (even in 90F’s) as the trail mostly follows the same contours – just enough rise and fall to make it fun and fast. There were a couple of large trees down which meant we had to walk a two of the faster sections but otherwise the trail was in good condition.

At about mile 9 you can add the extra 1.6 mile Headwaters loop (Black Diamond) – we opted out because we were out of energy and out of water so we headed back to the parking lot. An unfortunate wrong turn towards the end added a couple of (downhill) road miles.

The trail is great – will head back in the fall and do the whole 18+ miles. The parking lot is worth a 5-star rating in itself – bike (or human) washing station, vending machine and bathrooms / changing rooms.

After re-hydrating, loading the bikes we hit the road – just 45 mins to our campsite near Boone. The first rain-drops started as we left the campground parking lot and within minutes we were in a full-scale storm – driving rain, lightning, trees down – probably the worst weather I’ve driven through. After 90 minutes, we arrived at the campsite unscathed but our camping spot had turned into a small river. With rain forecast until 4am; we put plan B into action and after a bit of last-minute hotel shopping, headed back into Boone for the night – most of which was in darkness due to the storm. Many of the restaurants were closed but we found a decent Mexican on the edge of town that still had power.

Day 2 – Beech Mountain

My son has been raving about Beech mountain for months – and it really was the main goal of this trip. Beech is pretty typical of the small ski resorts in the area – a couple of chair lifts and half a dozen runs and in the summer you can park right in the village at the bottom of the mountain. There’s also a bike shop in the village where you can rent enduro / XC bikes as well as protective gear. We decided to use our own bikes though I’d probably consider renting to get some extra travel next time – my Specialized Epic took a real pounding – really not made for the kind of terrain at Beech.

All-day lift tickets are $35, $28 for kids under 12. Loading your bikes on the chair-lift is pretty straightforward and there are a couple of guys to help if needed, you ride in the chair-lift behind your bikes and someone unloads your bike at the top; you can also ride down if you break your bike while on the mountain.

There are 3 green trails, a couple of blues and some black and black diamond – they are interrupted a third of the way down by an access road which allows you to mix and match trails. We mostly stuck to the greens and blues – nice, fast and flowy with a some technical sections – but basically everything was easily rideable; there are a few big drops and tables towards the bottom if you like air. We gave the black and black-diamond a try as well but being in the woods they really hadn’t dried out from the previous days storm – walking / sliding down was hard enough – riding would’ve been suicidal. Gives you some perspective though – these are actual Downhill Championship courses – amazing to see pros. fly down this stuff at full race speed in any condition.

Despite not actually pedaling much – I was surprisingly tired at the end of the day – you’re mostly out of the saddle and on your breaks. We did about 9 runs and a break for lunch in about 6 hours. Fortunately I was able to rehydrate and carb load with a 5506 Pale Ale from the excellent Beech Mountain Brewing Company at the bottom of the mountain and there’s a bike stand and hose to clean your bike – handy if you’re staying in a hotel.

Day 3 – Grandfather Mountain and Rocky Knob

After a lazy morning watching the TDF in bed and breakfast we packed up for our journey home. Just two stops on the way. The first – Grandfather Mountain via a cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a beautiful clear day  and you could see forever. The area was pretty busy due to the Highland Games  (who knew ?) – lot’s of red hair and sunburn.

Next stop was Rocky Knob Park  just outside Boone – there’s about 9 miles of trail here and there’s a bit of everything – some short climbs, rock gardens, skinnies, epic downhill, a skills area and pump-track. We only rode about 6 miles on the main trail – we climbed up Middle Earth and Boat Rock stopping at Stone Binge skills area then raced down the aptly named PBJ (Pump, Berm, Jump) – Jack burped a tire so we had to stop for some field-maintenance midway. Trails were in great condition aside from the large fallen tree blocking the last berm on PBJ.

In the parking lot there’s a fun little pump track with probably one of the best views in the state – Jack spent a good 40 minutes finessing his track skills while I chatted with some other riders from all over the southern US.

This is a really well maintained trail system – kudos to the trail keepers – wish it was in my backyard !

We’re planning another weekend in the mountains – would love to hear some more recommendations – Pisgah is on the list – what else ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DevNation and Red Hat Summit 2016

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It’s that time of year again (OK Summit is actually fairly late this year) but you get my drift. DevNation / Summit alternates between Boston and San Francisco – this year we’re at Moscone North and West in San Francisco.

Two events for the price of one – can’t be bad. DevNation is by developers and for developers. Red Hat Summit is for our partners, customers and prospects and has technical, strategy and business tracks revolving around our commercial offerings.

Would love to catch up with friends, colleagues, customers and prospects.

Here’s where you can find me :

Sunday 26th, 5.30pm – 8.30pm PDT – DevNation Welcome Reception (travel gods willing)

Monday 27th, 9.30am – 11.45am PDT – DevNation General Session

Monday 27th,  8.30pm – 10.00pm PDT – Technical Leadership Meet and Greet, Thirsty Bear

Tuesday 28th, 10.15am – 11.15am PDT – Session –  “The current state of enterprise languages, frameworks, and platforms”, Room 2020

Tuesday 28th, 11.30am – 12.30pm PDT – Session – “Build your game plan for enterprise Java 2020”, Room 3005

Tuesday 28th, 3.30pm – 4.30pm PDT – Panel – “Red Hat containers roadmap”

Wednesday 29th, 6am – 7am PDT Red Hat Summit 5k Run / Walk. In customer, press and analyst meetings all day, then …

Wednesday 29th, 8pm – APBG party (aka the JBoss Party) – you’ll have to use your contacts to get an invite (eg. come to one or all of my sessions above) !

I’m actually around ’til Friday morning and have some spare time on Thursday if anyone wants to catch up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB Mods.

I’ve been mostly happy with my Specialized Epic Carbon 29er except for a few minor niggling things which I’ve corrected over the last year or so.

The stock Formula brakes were not great. Fortuitously I snapped one of the levers off in the first few months and rather than replace just the lever; I fitted Shimano XT brakes on front and rear – they have better stopping power, less fade and are infinitely adjustable. They also use mineral oil instead of the nasty Gycol-based stuff.

The Epic’s stock tires were clearly made for speed above all else – I was never comfortable with the grip at the front. While the bike was having some down-time due to the rear shock getting serviced I added a bit more volume – Maxxis Ikon 2.2 on the back; Maxxis High Roller II 2.3 on the front – the bigger front tire really makes a difference. For what it’s worth – you might just be able to go up to 2.3 on the back and 2.4 on the front . I also went tubeless – I don’t know why specialized fit tubeless rims and tires but also ship with inner tubes – I suspect tire sealant doesn’t travel well and gets a bit messy while in transit.

Another thing I found is that the design of the front QR through-axel means it quickly degrades if too tight to the point where its no longer able to function and you have to use a hex wrench – somewhat negating the idea of a quick release. So I replaced it with the non QR version – the Maxel.

Finally I used the same maintenance window to fit a dropper. Without manually dropping the seat-post – my saddle is constantly butting me in the arse mid-jump – making for exciting nose-down landings. I do realize the Epic is a pure-bred XC bike not a dirt jumper – maybe at some point I’ll buy myself an old beater for the jumps.

Getting the right dropper for an Epic Carbon was a challenge due to i) the 27.2mm seatpost and ii) the shape of the frame which severely limits travel.  The only dropper Specialized will recommend is the Command Post XCP 350mm – which is pricy and only has 3 cm of travel – that’s $15 per millimeter ! I tried the 500mm version but that rode way too high for me and would’ve resulted in a riser; not a dropper.  KS now do a 27.2mm internally-routed  dropper and that might have been a better option but hard to know if the bend in the Epic’s frame would’ve restricted travel. Seems to be a fair amount of trial and error with droppers. Either way, you’ll probably want to have your local bike shop fit it because the internal routing is pretty complicated; but in my opinion – well worth it.

So with these new mods in place I hit the backyard trails before dusk. Nice to have a working auto-sag again (the Specialized / Fox Brain really is a decent piece of engineering) and the front tire running about 30 PSI handled really well – feels a lot more confident.

I hit one of the jump-lines and felt much more in control – no saddle tipping me forward mid-air and the trigger is really smooth – feels natural already.

Feels great to have my bike back working better than ever –  now I’ve got to rack up some miles before it gets too hot and humid !

 

 

The Legendary HyMasa and Captain Ahab

After 5 days of riding, Jack and I still had a bit more ride left in us – our fellow explorers decided to try something different for the day but we were determined to make the most of what Moab has to offer in the shredding department. Our RimTours guides recommended a couple of local rides. The HyMasa / Captain Ahab  and the Mag 7 seemed like the best options and we chose Captain Ahab because Jack thought we really needed to do a double black diamond after five hard days of riding and I’m an irresponsible father.

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We re-rented the same bikes we’d been using for the last four days and were dropped at the start of HyMasa by David – one of our Raleigh compadres. It was around 10am and already fairly busy (probably due to OuterBike).

HyMasa is a slow 3 mile grind  on a mixture of rock and dirt and is mostly pretty straight forward but you have to keep moving to ascend the numerous rock steps that take you up to the start of Captain Ahab. This really is some of the best mountain biking I’ve ever experienced – slow going but fulfilling.

On the way up my son and I passed a pivotal moment in our father son relationship – given his superior fitness going uphill and fearlessness going downhill – he became the leader; and me the follower. Of course he didn’t notice – he was too busy racing some of the local hammerheads to the top of the mountain.

After you’ve enjoyed the amazing view you start the Capt. Ahab descent – it’s all very technical though most of the big drops have an alternative line so you can make the ride as hard or easy as you want – there were only a couple of places we had to dismount and walk. But this really is a very technical and unforgiving trail – if you take a fall you’re going to get hurt and you’re a long way from anywhere – I never ride in knee or elbow pads but would definitely do that next time. Jack came off twice and was lucky to only loose some skin – we slowed our pace after the second tumble.

When we got back to the parking lot (after a short traffic jam due to 4 wheelers) the mountain rescue team were heading into HyMasa with a stretcher – a rider had fallen and broken his arm (compound fracture) – a good reminder that while this is some of the best MTBing on the planet – it’s not without it’s risks.

This is a trail I would definitely ride again – with fresh legs and some armor it would be a blast !

 

 

 

Day 4 – White Rim Road : Potato Bottom to Horsethief

Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport

Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

Read day 3 – White Rim Road : Murphy to Potato Bottom

day4map

After the evening’s star, satellite and ISS spotting we woke to a beautiful calm and clear morning. Being next to the Green River where there’s a little more moisture – we got a mild frost and the Sun took a little longer to rise over the surrounding mesas but once it did we had coffee and a decent last day breakfast in the (relatively) warm morning sun.

First task of the day was to reclaim all the height we lost tearing down Murphy’s with a tough couple of climbs straight out of the camp (Hardscrabble) – no chance to warm up the legs or lungs.

The next 7 or 8 miles along the Green River were mostly flat and fast with some interesting stops on the way to view some old Anasazi Indian ruins and artifacts the guides had discovered over the years.

 

Between us a lunch was our final and toughest climb of the week – Horsethief Bottom up to the Island in The Sky – it’s not technically hard – just soul crushing as the alpine-style switchbacks seem to go on forever. The kids practically sprinted up leaving many of the adults in the dust. My plan was to start last and attack from the back – I didn’t quite pull off the second part of that strategy ;(

Our ride finished with another great lunch in the parking lot at the top of the climb – more stunning views and a great place for some group pictures. But there’s more

 

Day 3 – White Rim Road : Murphy to Potato Bottom

Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport

Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

It was great to wake to a warm sun rising and no wind and a good opportunity to dry and air our gear before packing it away.  Day 3 mileage is about 22 miles but it’s either downhill or flat and pretty fast.

After we’d eaten breakfast, caffeinated and decamped we hit the trail which starts with a fast and long down hill section giving up about 900ft of altitude. At about mile 6 we stopped take take in the views of the Green River and White Crack – a long fissure on the White Rim which is a few hundred feet deep and 6″-12″ wide. At some point a huge section of the White Rim will sheer along this fissure and a couple of millions of tons of rock will crash into the valley below. Fortunately not this day.

 

day3map

At about mile 13 we stopped for lunch and a quick detour to  explore Holeman Canyon – an interesting and fairly accessible slot canyon that ultimately drops into the Green River.

How far you can explore really depends on the level of the floor which rises and falls depending on what storm wash-off leaves behind. Pro-tip for exploring slot canyons – wear regular shoes – climbing in cycling shoes is a little tricky.

I left my phone in my pack so didn’t get any pictures but this Google Image search will give you a good idea of what to expect.

The last few miles roll fast and slightly down hill to Potato Bottom campsite. It was a cold and clear night – perfect for some star gazing after dinner.

 

Day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

Read Day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airpot 

The good news was that my trusty 25 year old 2-season tent survived – but only just.  The bad news was that I had a pretty poor night’s sleep – howling wind, flapping tent fabric, driving rain. So much for an early start – we ate breakfast and scrambled back to our tents until the rain cleared – then quickly de-camped, wrapped up in our warmest, most waterproof gear and headed out. The second day is a tough one – about 30 miles, some tough climbs and some interesting weather to contend with.

day2First an admission and some practical advice. Somehow I ignored the good advice on what to bring on the trip. I have every conceivable piece of outdoor gear to survive practically anything mother nature decides to inflict on me. But I left all of it at home.

Instead I packed pretty lightweight (North Carolina Winter) cycling clothes and very basic waterproofs – we have enough good riding days in NC that I don’t cycle if rain is in the forecast. Jack had to borrow a thicker Waterproof from Beth our guide (hence the color) and we had to put on double and triple layers.

An hour into the day’s ride we were cycling into vertical rain and sleet with a bit of snow thrown in. About 10 miles in (Gooseberry Camp) Jack was frozen and it was clear that no amount of riding was going to warm him up – so he rode in the support truck with Beth until our lunch spot at the White Crack junction 10 miles later. As soon as we crossed over the small ridge we we’re out of the rain and wind and into the sun – we all spread out like lizards to get our toes and fingers moving again.

The next few miles were flat and fast then you hit Murphy’s Hogback – our first serious climb. It’s loose, dusty and a bit of a lung-buster but with the right technique and some stamina – all rideable. The picture below shows our support truck rounding the corner at the top.

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The hard work climbing the Hogback is rewarded. Murphy’s Camp must be one of the most spectacular camp sites on the planet – 270 degree views from 5200ft – just awesome. But it’s high up and pretty exposed so pretty cold – it also gives you a great view of what’s in store the next morning – what goes up …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slickrock

Slick Rock is one of those classic rides just on the edge of Moab you have to do. The area is a mass of undulating sandstone hills that was first a motocross and off-road trail – the Mountain Bikers came later. It’s called slick rock because horses slip on it. Humans don’t – you stop almost instantly due to the sand-paper like texture – if you fall off on this stuff you will loose skin.

We had very limited ride time as we’d hiked  in The Arches in the morning, eaten lunch in downtown Moab and by the time we’d rented bikes (from Chile Pepper) we only had about three hours  including getting out and back to the bike shop. So we chose to limit our ride to the 1.6 mile beginner loop.

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It was a fun ride and certainly a good way to acclimatize the legs and lungs – nothing super technical but a few very sharp, short climbs and a few sand-traps. It’s mostly just a lot of fun as you roller-coaster around the well-marked trail – once you get used to the amazing friction you’ll find you can ride just about everything here. Back near the start of the trail – the kids discovered a decent descent with a little jump at the end so we goofed around there for a while. Half our party drove back into town with their bikes – the other half, including Jack and I blasted down the road back into town and added another couple of fast miles to a fun ride.

Again – great warm up for the week – should I ever get back to Moab – I’d definitely head out there again and do the full 11 mile main loop.

Mountain Biking Moab and the Canyonlands

For Spring Break this year, my 11 year old son Jack, and I and a couple of other dads and their sons spent the week in Utah with the goal of riding the White Rim Road in the Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. The “Road” is a reasonably well maintained “Jeep Trail” mostly devoid of any signs of civilization aside from a handful of primitive camping sites and some rather decent enclosed pit toilets. The camp sites are merely designations – there are no facilities other than proximity to one of the aforementioned pit toilets – they’re mostly just a sign and some markers showing you where you can and can’t pitch a tent.

If you are superhuman and don’t require much water or food – you can ride the 100.7 miles of White Rim Road in a single day – the level of fitness and logistics required to do this are beyond my comprehension. Instead, we opted for the four day, three night tour (there is a three day tour as well). RimTours our well equipped and very capable tour guide company provided a decent range of bikes, a support truck for transporting our camping gear, food and luggage and two extremely competent and affable tour guides.

In addition to the White Rim Road – we  had a couple of days either side of our 4-day tour so we explored some of the local bike trails and hikes around Moab.

If you’re thinking about doing this trip – I’d highly recommend RimTours – my son and I will likely make this kind of thing an annual event and I wouldn’t hesitate in using RimTours again for one of their other tours.

There are 7 parts to this post (including this one). They are, in chronological order :

I’m posting this because I couldn’t find much information on-line – hopefully these posts will provide you with some additional information and inspiration to make your own trip. Enjoy.

 

Day 1 : White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport

If you’re not already awake by the time you start the decent down Shafer (about 7 miles in); you soon will be. It’s a pretty exhilarating 1500ft descent through alpine switchbacks – if you take it easy on the dusty / gravely corners you will probably make it down in one piece.

The rest of the first day’s ride was fairly flat, fast  and easy – following the natural contour that is the White Rim. We made decent progress despite frequent stops to enjoy the stunning views.

My trusty Garmin 800 had few issues in some of the more sheltered canyons but we clocked up a fairly easy 19 or so miles on the first day.

Day1-map

We arrived at the Airport campground mid-afternoon – which left plenty of time set up camp, play some Petanque / Boules, eat dinner and explore  a little and get to know our fellow riders. But mostly we were trying to get out of the wind, which, by dusk had picked up enough to threaten my trusty antique tent (note RimTours provide much nicer, much newer tents). This is the same tent that my wife and I used to back-pack around Greece and Turkey about 25 years ago.

 

 

The camping gear we bought was :

  • 2 x inflatable roll mats
  • 2 x inflatable pillows
  • 2 x 4-season (ie .very warm) sleeping bags
  • 1 very old – 2-person, 3-season tent
  • 2x headlamps
  • 2x solar chargers

In hindsight – I should have bought a newer tent or rented one from RimTours and a large beech blanket or something to throw on the floor of the tent would have added to the comfort. Aside from the first night – we were warm and dry and slept pretty well.

Read Day 2 – Airport to Murphy