Day 1: July 3rd, 2020
Started off the three-day weekend at 03:30 on Friday because a four-hour drive to Mount Hood was on tap. I hadn't skied since March 5th at Mount Hood Meadows, so it was neat to be back at Mount Hood in July for my return to snow. The NOAA forecast was not favorable last weekend, but for the July 4th holiday, it looked great.
Smooth sailing on the road to Mount Hood, not many people are out and about that early in the morning. I got to Hood around 8 and it was 50 and sunny, no wind, prime summer skiing conditions. I threw on a flannel and my bibs and I was good to go. Timberline is handling COVID nicely too, they require a face covering when in the lodge and around the lifts, which is reassuring considering the race camps are still in session and people are traveling from all over to get in some skiing or training.
Views from the top of the Palmer lift, Mount Jefferson in the distance
End of the line
The snow at the top of the Palmer lift was hard and fast, the kind of hard and fast I'm used to skiing back East. Below the Magic Mile lift was soft, not quite corn, but substantially more playful. Pretty incredible what a couple hundred feet can do to the snow conditions.
With the race camps in session, taking up much of the terrain up high, and the parks not quite being fully setup, I opted to stay down low. I found a side-hit where trails merged around a rock pile and decided that I was going to work on 360s for the rest of the day. I shaped a lip and got to work; ski into the lip, jump, land, carve hard left, click out, hike 100 yards back up the trail, click in, repeat. I hadn't spun for about four years so it was a little bit nerve racking at first, but after getting a couple of 180s down and feeling out the speed, I tried a couple of 3s. The first few were severely under-rotated, going maybe 270 degrees and finishing the rotation on the snow, not ideal, need more air, more speed. After ten attempts or so, I finally spun a full 360, landing extremely in the back seat, but a 360 nonetheless. I ended up landing about four or five more, with varying comfort, before my legs started feel the burn from the boot pack. It was probably 60 degrees at this point and I was sweating quite a bit. I was stoked to be on snow and to be back spinning 3s, but I knew not to overdue it.
I made it to the bottom and was considering taking another run, it was only 11:00, but I needed food before anything. I knew going back to the car for lunch may result in the end of my day, but being up for as long as I had been without a proper meal meant I needed food ASAP. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have never tasted so good.
Full parking lot at Timberline, July 4th party just getting started
After sitting on the tailgate of my Subaru for 20 minutes, my legs were feeling heavy so that was the end of the day. No need to push that hard for skiing along in July, had I been skiing with someone that would be a different story, but I decided that I had accomplished what I had set out to do for the day. Plus, there was a four hour drive home.
On that drive home as I saw the skyline of Seattle peaking through the trees, I had the realization that this is my new home. This is home. It hadn't really hit me until then.
Day 2: July 4th, 2020
Not quite the alpine start from Friday, but I was up around 07:30 getting ready to go mountain biking up in Bellingham at Galbraith Mountain, again. It's just too good to pass up. Galbraith will likely be my default weekend ride at this point, I've only explored the south side of the mountain, north side plans are being drawn up.
However, Saturday was different. I decided I wanted to do some pedaling. I ended up with nearly 20 miles, 3600+ ft vertical of climbing, and bike that needs a deep clean.
Longest mtb ride in the PNW thus far
Apparently, I look like a local because a bunch of people were asking me for directions, I suppose the local look is being covered with mud. All over my bike, face, shorts, everything. All mud.
The mud was from what must have been some rain overnight because everything was soaked, and with the cloud cover, the water stuck around. Extra grease on the trails to add some spiciness. I took Evo to start and found some puddles to answer the question of exactly how dirty I was going to get. I opted for the B-line again, wasn't about to tempt those bridges with that slick layer of perilous liquid coating them from top to bottom. The corners were exceptionally squirrely, enough so that Evo lap 2 would need to wait until later.
Unemployment. It doesn't hold water. It was tacky and fast. Yes. More Unemployment. Always. I'll take Unemployment everyday. All the benefits. I ended up riding it five times. Five laps. I'm starting to get the flow of it, hitting the jumps and carrying my speed through the turns better, enough so that I had my PR, second, and third fastest times on Strava.
First berm-transition on Unemployment
I had a couple breaks from Unemployment where I took Autobahn, also full of puddles and super slick, and a lap on Raging Dragon, which is like Unemployment's little brother. It definitely spooked me, lots of jumps, flowy turns, and it was fast, all veiled by overgrown ferns and brush. I rolled through everything, except the one non-avoidable jump, which I promptly cased and used all 160mm of travel in my frame, thought I cracked it at first, but thankfully that was just the sound of the seat getting pushed out of line. I climbed back up for an Unemployment lap followed by Atomic Dog to close out 30km of riding for the day. Once again, mad hungry. All the food was needed and consumed.
Started at ~09:30, long day!
Mud everywhere, my cranks and pedals are black...
Day 3: July 5th, 2020
Tiger Mountain "recovery" ride. The parking lot was quiet at 09:20 when I set off climbing, figured everyone was probably recovering from a long night celebrating the 4th or something like that.
It was cool and calm, there was a hazy fog amongst the trees the whole way up. I didn't see anyone for most of the climb, but fresh tires tracks were on the rocks as I pedaled up the switchbacks toward the summit.
About 3/4 of the way up, I stopped. At first, I didn't know exactly why, but I needed a second. For a moment, it was silent. An extreme sense of serenity rushed over me while I paused on this lush trail. Birds were chirping here and there. Three owls were "hoo-ing", trading secrets I suppose. My breath was visible, rising through the humid mountain air. I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude from being alone in this eerie environment.
Being out in nature alone gives you time to absorb everything around you. You don't have anyone to set a pace with, you're not on a schedule, you are simply existing in nature, seeing, smelling, hearing, all that is surrounds you. It allows for a deeper level of introspection, lets you gain a greater appreciation for the things that you own, friends that you've made, and experiences you've had. This intense feeling of gratitude can only be found when you separate yourself, fully disconnect from day-to-day tribulations, and truly live in the moment, enjoying every second as it quickly vanishes to the past.
I had these thoughts over the course of 30 seconds or so, all while standing sitting on my bike before I started back uphill. It's truly an unexplainable feeling when that happens.
I re-focused on the task at hand, added a few notes to my phone for this post, and continued on upward. The destination for today was Predator. A few people were at the entrance to the final climb up to the Predator drop-in, I asked if I was going to spook myself going on Predator, he said "no, as long as you stop and check out what you're about to drop or ride, you'll be fine. It's the best trail on the mountain." Perfect, off I went.
Ready to roll
Found out that Predator has secondary name, "Shredator". I support this name choice. It shreds. It's radical. It has the gnar. I caught up to three guy who were riding it, one of them hadn't ridden the trail before so the other two were showing him the ropes. I found the right crew at the right spot, the gnarliest feature, which I guess is called "The Staircase". It is a series of 3-4 rolls, or drops, through a 4-foot wide section with the bank on one side, trees on the other, and roots and rocks down the middle, and at the bottom is a another drop. It's pretty steep too. Looking at it from the top isn't so bad, the line is a fairly simple one as long as you keep your weight back and don't hit the roots. Simple. Looking at it from the bottom, it looks un-rideable. No photos yet, probably the next time I ride it, this time I was too excited drop-in.
I dropped in, hit the first roll, ended up too far right, bad line choice, caught a root, and then it was time to bail. Lost footing on both pedals and started doing that fun thing with the bike between your legs running down the hill, hopping over rocks and roots, seemingly no end in sight. It's like a toboggan run. I managed to slow my fall enough so that when I got to the last drop I was able to stamp my feet into the dirt and use some arm strength to throw my bike forward, out of my way so I wouldn't go head-over-heels with it near me. Deep breathe after that one. The guys were watching and cheered for my high quality, low consequence bail. It was sketchy, but a decent result considering the circumstances.
"Nice bail dude, you going again?" One of them questioned as I picked my bike up and straightened my bars out.
"Yup, going up." They must have thought I was nuts, not to mention I slipped a few times on the slope as I pushed my bike up the hill.
This time, I started higher up on the trail, I had watched one of those guys ride it before I dropped in the first time and he had a bit more speed and was able to roll and hop over some of the lower sections. I figured I needed to commit, wasn't going fast enough the first time to carry momentum and roll over the rocks and roots.
I dropped in, picked the proper line on the left, and sent it right through to the bottom. Stoked! All three of them cheered as I hit the last drop. Ended up riding the rest of Predator with them, stopping and checking out features and drops on the way down. The trail has everything. Tech and chop, full send'r sections, a couple of table top jumps, swooping berms, it's an all around party trail. Hence the code name: "Shredator".
Definitely need to re-visit Predator sometime soon. It did bite back, got spiked by my pedals in both calves again, holes in my Darn Tough socks and all. Basically new socks but that's mountain biking. Also, on The Staircase when I threw my bike, turns out I snapped a lever on my SRAM shifter. It was kind of funny because I made it to the parking lot, went to down shift, and that was when I finally realized that option had been deleted from my bicycle. Quick stop at the EVO store in Seattle and I have the replacement parts to get the pony back up and operational.
Broken shift lever is not ideal for shifting abilities
Overall, it was a great long weekend filled with skiing and biking. A few cuts and bruises, some seriously sore legs, and some minor bike repairs are all part of the fun.