Star Valley Vacation

After the mountain bike ride and race, and the family time in Jackson, it was back to Star Valley. Sunday we slept in a bit then Jolene and I made a pancake breakfast for everyone (our family and Jolene's sister-in-law and her kids). We just hung out and took it easy at the ranch house.

Okay, I should explain a bit about the ranch house and our connection with Star Valley (Wyoming). Jolene's father was born and raised there but all his children grew up in Provo. Jolene's uncle lives in Star Valley (Afton, to be more precise). Jolene's grandmother (her father's mother) lived in a little house in Afton near her uncle until she passed away. The family decided to keep the house as a sort of family cabin. They call it the ranch house. As we get close everyone strains to spot the distinctive white walls and red roof.

The ranch house interior is covered with all manner of kitschy decorations (The owl clock is my favorite, and it still keeps time).

It's got character.

This is the view out the window.

A cat gave birth to these six kittens in the barn near the ranch house and the kids made numerous visits to see and hold them.

In the evening we hiked to Intermittent Spring. Unfortunately too much water is flowing now so the spring doesn't do it's on and off flow cycle (which I have seen on previous trips), but it's still worth seeing. Here's a shot from the stream.

Me and the kids hiking up to the spring.

A sign by the stream explains the theory of how it works.

A flower shot (Fireweed - thanks for the ID, Alex).

Monday morning Jolene and I went out for a ride - the first real road bike ride for Jolene since we bought a road bike for her in back in May. She did well and we had a good time. The farm roads of Star Valley are nice for road riding.

Riding in style in matching FatCyclist jerseys.

After the ride we cleaned up the ranch house, loaded the van and wandered downtown Afton browsing books, looking at toys, and eating ice cream.

On the drive home we stopped at Evanston to pay a visit to Porters - purveyors of the volatile combination of fireworks and liquor, which oddly works for Wyoming. My 6-year-old boy was in paradise. His eyes had a crazed look as he darted excitedly from one cool explosive to the next. We walked out with only modest pyrotechnics. Anyone interested in a roman candle duel?

Driving down I-80 in Utah the traffic slowed and I wondered if it was a police search up ahead and I'd finally be a misdemean like all the cool kids. But it was just construction.

And thus the Summer family vacation came to and end.

Family Time In Jackson

Saturday after my ride and Jolene's race it was family time.

But first here's a shot of Jolene racing.

And the podium shot - she took 2nd.

Now back to the family.

We thought about going up on the tram, but it would have cost over $100 for our family of six - uh, no.

We drove over to Jackson and as we entered town we could see some carnival rides. We investigated and found it was the Jackson fair. The on-site parking was for exhibitors and the minimal street parking was jammed; eventually we found a place to park.

The first thing we checked out was a kind of animal petting zoo. Here's Jamie and Kade with a big cow.

Here's a Watusi from Africa with Kara pantomiming behind the cow. Those are some serious horns.

Next we hit the rides. The prices were high, but there were no lines - I'll choose no lines every time. Here's Kara, Rachel and Jamie on a hang glider themed ride.

Kade loves the bouncy rooms.

Kara takes a whirl.

We also visited the stock show and looked at the sheep, cows, rabbits and pigs. It was hot so we got some smoothies. Then went through the animal petting tents again. The milking demonstration was going so Kade gave it a try. He did good.

And got a sticker to prove it.

Some didn't want smoothies so we drove over the Dairy Queen for ice cream.

Then drove back to Star Valley and rigged up a totally ghetto home theater (DVD played on laptop with audio jacked out into a cassette adapter and into a 1970's era boombox) to watch Stardust, featuring the strangest role for Robert DeNiro.

Overall a nice half day of family time.

Fantastic Jackson Single Track

Saturday I rode 17 miles of fantastic single-track just minutes from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I had a goofy "this is awesome" grin on my face, a lot. Here's how it played out:

Jolene had plans to do the ICup race in Teton Village. I like the course and was intent on racing it, until I remembered how good the Snow King trails. I found and studied a map and got excited to try a new route with some new single-track. So Jolene dropped me off at Game Creek on her way to the race.

Below is part of the map I used. Game Creek is the two red lines that continue off the bottom of the map on the right side. Here's the detailed PDF map I found at the Snow King Resort website which even includes a mountain biking video.

It felt a little weird to ride solo on a trail I had only done once back in 2007. There's an interesting story to that ride. We were on our way to the Teton race when we were stopped by a traffic jam only 15 miles away. Turns out it was a bad crash up ahead. Jolene's cousin was behind us, also heading to the race, and he told me there was a trail nearby we could ride since we'd missed the race start. So up Game Creek we went and dropped down into Cache Creek. It was a very good ride.

I went up the mile of pavement to the trail head then up old double-track for a mile or less then it turned to single-track. Really good single-track, like this:

The creek is to the left with ponds every so often so the trail hugs the right hillside.

At 4.5 miles I turned left onto West Game Creek across a footbridge and rode up the drainage.

Near the head of the drainage the trail switchbacks up a ridge and follows it's crest for a while.

Next the trail drops off the ridge through some scattered conifers and into a meadow with a trail junction. I went right, heading to Snow King Summit.

Near the summit the trail climbs to the saddle on the left ...

with an incredible view of the Tetons (to the left). From here I went up the Snow King Summit trail which connects into a double-track service road which I took down to the top of the Snow King Resort chair lift. I looked around a bit then returned back up the service road and down the Snow King Summit trail to the saddle, then took Ferrin's trail down.

Ferrin's trail was a bit more rugged, but very fun as it switchback through conifers. (A side note: I had not seen another person on Game Creek or West Game Creek, but finally ran into another mountain biker about a third of the way down Ferrin's - on a Saturday morning!)

Down most of Ferrin's I took a right onto Upper Hagen trail (it was good) then popped down to the Cache Creek trail head to get my bearings, then back up and west on Hagen Highway where I dropped out onto Upper Cache Creek Drive via a sweet little connector trail that looked like this:

I made my way through Jackson and took the highway over to Teton Village for 15 miles of pavement riding.

I found the kids, ate some snacks then found Jolene at the awards ceremony to learn she'd taken 2nd.

I talked with Aaron about my ride and gave him my map - it sounds like he, Kieth, the Holleys and a few others did the most of the same trails with a different route (I suggested) and had a good time.

This ride rivaled the best single-track we have here along the Wasatch. Very good cross-country riding with long, mellow climbs (except for a few spots) and a smattering of technical stuff to keep it interesting. The wild flowers were profuse, as you can see in many of the photos. And the scenery is so striking I kept stopping every 100 yards to take pictures. I'd drive the 5.5 hours to Jackson for this ride right now. Yeah, it's that good.

Ruth Lake Family Hike

On our way to Star Valley, Wyoming for a family vacation, I decided we should take the scenic route (the Mirror Lake Highway) so we could do the short hike to Ruth Lake as a way to break up the drive.

The three youngest children and I did it last year and enjoyed it thoroughly.

These are the wildflowers at the trail head, right off the road.

There are several stunning ponds along the way.

And more wildflowers.

We looked for frogs again this year, but only found this one. Maybe there will be more later.

The Uintas - rocks, conifers and undergrowth on every patch of dirt.

The family.

The kids, with Ruth Lake in the background.

The parting shot - a pond on the way down.

Next post: A fantastically good Jackson Hole mountain bike ride.

Mountain Bike Crash Videos

ROAM is a good mountain biking movie. I have it on DVD and watch it now and then. The riding is amazing. And sometimes I hear my ego say to me:

"You could do that. All you'd need is a big-spring bike, a full-face helmet and armor."

Usually the rational parts of my brain pull me quickly back to Earth, but sometimes the delusional thoughts linger. And that's when I watch videos like this:

After watching the 1 LSI video above, any dreams of trying some burly stunt are gone.

What's LSI? Lost Shoe Index.

Here's a 3 4 LSI video (Warning: screaming death metal soundtrack):

Another effect of these videos: suddenly I'm completely happy with my conservative riding on easy trails. I don't feel as bad about never riding The Pipe or The Stairs in Dry Canyon. I also feel OK only hitting the easy Bobsled stunts. Because life is sweeter when you're not in traction.

P.S. Enjoy your Pioneer holiday weekend, fellow Utahns. I'll be in Wyoming with the family. ICup race on Saturday and hopefully a few other rides.

Park City Up And Down

I met up with Paul, Alex, and Rick (left to right in photo below) for some Park City mountain biking after work.

We climbed up Crescent Mine Grade, Apex and Keystone. Then took a dirt service road over to the top of Apex and went down it, then down Steps. Took Mid Mountain over to Spyro for the final descent, then Silver Spur back to the car.

Good, long climb. We met Grant on the trail and he joined us (and pushed the pace).

The downhill was a romp. To our shock, we bombed Spyro and encountered NO (zero, none, zilch) uphill riders.

(this photo by Alex)

After the ride we went to MacCool's for half-price appetizers. We each had Gravlox and split an order of Bangers and Mash. Good eats.

Stewart Falls Hike

Utah is a dump. Really, why does anyone live in this desert wasteland? And the areas that aren't uninhabitable are festering boils of urban blight. So everyone should go someplace nicer.

OK, you know better so here's the real story: We had a nice family hike from Aspen Grove to Stewart Falls. We escaped the valley heat and found cool refreshment in the mountains after only a 20 minute drive.

Warning: There are big patches of Stinging Nettle along the trail. It was a good opportunity to teach the kids how to identify it.

The boy and I.

Hydration system functional? Check!

Admiring the falls.

The family (minus me taking the photo) and the falls.

Back in the day this trail was open to mountain biking. Jolene and I rode it at least once. Would the Forrest Service open it one day a week to bikes? That would be peachy keen.

After the hike we stopped by Coldstone for ice cream (Cake dough with brownies, Peanut Butter Cup Perfection & Strawberry Blonde). Then we stopped at Harmons for bread and milk and somehow we came home with sushi - it was past its prime, but we ate it (and enjoyed it) anyway.

And what's more, Jolene went on a girl's ride up American Fork Canyon this morning and it was nice, real nice. I'll leave you with some salacious trail shots.