Humble Pie

On Thanksgiving I had pumpkin, apple and strawberry-rhubarb pie. Today I had humble pie.

Yesterday I thought about trying cyclocross by racing at Wheeler Farm. I doubt I'd really dig cyclocross, but I'm interested enough to want to try it, and who knows, maybe I'll like it. But I had other ride ideas spark my interest so I bagged it. Then I read Sly's report about all the goathead thorns at Wheeler, and since I don't run sealant in my tubes, it's very likely I would have flatted and that's really not fun in a race. (Thanks for the 411 Fox!)

I thought about doing the full Alpine Loop on my road bike, but with temperatures in the valley in the low 40s, I think the cold would have made it less fun - especially on the long descent down American Fork Canyon.

So I decided to take the mountain bike and go play in my backyard (Provo Canyon and the Orem foothills). The thought occurred to me that I've never tried to go up Frank. Frank is a trail that goes up from Canyon Glen Park, past Johnson Hole and up a minor ridge until it joins the dirt service road 500' above the park. I've come down it many times and it's a fun downhill romp.

I never know what to expect from trails that I've come down and then try to go up. Sometimes they are surprisingly good to climb, and other times they are more difficult - rarely do I peg them accurately. Another factor was the hint that Kenny goes up Frank as a training ride - not that I'm in the same class as Kenny, but it meant that it can be biked. Well Frank was more difficult than I expected. It's loose, but I was doing OK maintaining enough traction to keep going forward. I just didn't have the gas to make that first climb up to Johnson's Hole. Not even close. I didn't make the switchback and pushed the bike up the 3 steepest spots. Well, I gave it a good try, but I came up short. And even though I didn't let my expectations get too lofty, I thought I'd do better and I was humbled to discover: 1) I'm not as strong as I thought I was, 2) even though I've conquered other climbs, Frank gives me a new goal to reach for, and 3) I'm loosing fitness and need to get stronger. The ego took a hit today, but hopefully this wake up call will motivate me to train this winter.

From Johnson's Hole it's not as steep and it rolls more, but it's still a good climb. I did better, but still walked 2 times. Another serving of that humble pie. But I cleaned a few tricky and steep slopes and that made me feel like I wasn't a total hack. On the service road I put it in the middle ring and cruised along pondering the decision I needed to make.

What I had completed was lower Frank, and the start of upper Frank was coming up quick. Although lower Frank had worked me over pretty good, I had recovered quite a bit and decided that if I was going to up Frank, I might as well go for the whole thing. I started up and was feeling OK, but I was working too hard and when a steep slope came I couldn't do it. I climbed most of it OK, but had to push the bike 4 times. The last 2/3 of this upper Frank were just steep enough to keep me at that uncomfortable level of exertion - it seemed to never end. I finally made it to the 4-way intersection. There's usually a big pile of rocks here (often called the Altar), but it's been knocked down. Decision time again.

I thought about going straight through. It's a nice trail with some climbing, but nothing brutal, good views of the valley and a fun descent into Dry Canyon. But daylight was wanning (it was already 4 pm) and I wanted to hit some trails off the downhill trail I hadn't visited in a while. The gully crossing was better than usual - looks like someone cleared away most of the loose rock. The trench is still the same and I took the trail to the right to avoid the nasty washed out section below. I noticed a thinner trail staying high where the main trail drops steeply, but I passed it by - next time, I thought. Not far from the bottom of the slope I saw a trail heading right and I just had to see if it was the thin trail I saw above. It was and it ascends much more evenly and will be the route I take from now on. I went back down again and came to another fork.

I'd seen this fork many times and just never taken it. Today I was in the mood. It came to the foot of a hill and cut across it into a small gully where it came to a Tee. I turned right and climbed back above where I had been. Four deer watched me approach from a small clearing until they got spooked and trotted off. The trail meandered along this bench of sorts until it came to a nice little clearing complete with fire ring. The trail climbed a bit steeply to gain the ridge and a view of the valley below. It was a great trail and I couldn't believe I hadn't tried it sooner. But there was more.

As I pedaled toward a minor ridge to the west, I crossed a trail that caught my eye. After taking in the view from the minor ridge, I backtracked and turned down the trail I crossed. It was a bit rough and thin and in some places it was no more than cut grass, but in a dirt spot I saw knobby tracks so that gave me some assurance it wouldn't get too hairy. Eventually it joined with an established trail I recognized. I caught some air off two little humps and soon enough I was on the service road above the water tanks (above the Orem Cemetery). The road had been recently graded and it was very loose so I took it easy on the way down.

Near the bottom I passed two young guys on mini-motorcycles - I shook my head at them, but they ignored my meaning. It bugs me that motor-powered folks still poach this area - it's been closed for years and many of the dug-up spots are starting to recover. If they'd stick to the roads and more sturdy trails, I wouldn't care, but they seem unable to resist the urge to wander all over the hills, spinning their tires and tearing up the ground. This is my backyard and I hope that before I die the ugly spiderweb of two-tracks all over the foothills will be erased and reclaimed. I called the cops on them when I got home.

All in all I enjoyed being out on the bike - after Thanksgiving, no less! It was cold, but sunny. I got humbled and a good work-out trying to go up Frank. I explored some new trails, which is something that always turns my cranks - I'm excited to get up there again and explore a few more forks that intrigued me. Being the season of Thanks, I'm grateful for this network of good single-track only 10 minutes from my house - one of my luxuries, for sure!


UtRider said...

Sweet pics. You need to lose a little more fitness before you head to AZ!

Eat Sleep MTB said...

Maybe you'd a cleaned it if you had eaten less real pie before.

KanyonKris said...

I like that excuse - too much pie. Better than saying I'm too weak to climb it. :-)