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May 25 to 28 — Long Beach, California to Alfonsinas, Mexico

This year my two week vacation was to Baja California with my friend Mark and his family in Long Beach. Kayaking the BC coast will have to wait until next year (but I am planning a big 8 day bikerafting trip through the Chilcotins in August, so stay tuned — hey, that’s in a week!)

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The flight goes right by Yosemite.

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Mark picked me up at LAX, then we ran some errands, including going down to the Marine Institute at Los Angeles Harbour…

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… to pick up a bottle of Nitrox we’d use to refill the tires at some point on the trip, after we leave the gravel and get back on pavement (for a smoother ride off road, you air down the tires. But this low pressure isn’t good on sealed roads).

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First wildlife sighting of the trip.

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Long Beach

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Feral parrots are still living in the palm trees at Belmont Pier in Long Beach, right where I used to live.

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Getting my stuff together at Mark’s house. We left 3:30 Sunday morning to avoid freeway traffic and to arrive at our destination not too late.

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We zoomed down to San Diego, then turned east on Interstate 8. Over the pass into the Imperial Valley is windy, and the turbines appeared against the sunrise.

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Dieseling up at Calexico before crossing the border. I’m a conspiracy buff myself, but are they “chem”trails, or just “con”trails from water vapour from combustion in the plane’s engines? C6H14 + O2 –> CO2 + H20

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Marathon in Mexicali

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700 km later, we hit San Felipe for breakfast and did some tourist shopping. Here we are, stuck in traffic on the strip.

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They are paving the road all the way south from San Felipe. Very sad to see the gravel road go, that was a classic. They want “development”. The problem now is you can’t get off the highway down to the little coves we used to go to.

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Finally hitting gravel, and airing down. They have only gotten so far with the paving.

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Once across this arroyo with a bridge, the pavement will continue.

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Shortly afterwards (150 km from San Felipe) we got to Alfonsinas, which is a spit a few kilometers long that has a row of beachfront houses along it. Alongside the spit is a runway and many people fly in rather than drive.

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At the end of the spit is a restaurant / hotel. But the tide was extremely high that afternoon so we couldn’t get over (that’s the runway submerged).

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Oh darn, we had to wait it out on the beach.

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Quincy

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Finally … dinner.

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Looking back down the spit from the restaurant

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Frigate

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These gigantic 2″ wasp things were quite common most places we went.

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We didn’t have a proper bike rack so we just lashed my bike to the front grill. I thought I had put padding on all the rub points…

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Damn! Missed one! Ouch! That was nasty, but it didn’t seem to be in a critical location. The perils of owning an aluminum bike…

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It rides very well on the sand, much better than on snow. The tidal range here is huge, wider than anywhere I’ve seen.

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This one is shorter:

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The palapa I set my tent up in. There are a few reasons it is open on this side, and closed on the other. One is the view of the beach, and the other is…

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That evening, all of a sudden, the winds shifted from a nice gentle sea breeze to coming from the desert, blowing out off the interior. It got stinking hot and ferocious for most of the night. I got to set my brand new tent up in the dark, for the first time, in the windy palapa. I was peppered with a fine dusting of sand that made it through the thatch.

Here are a couple pieces of video stitched together showing the wind and the sand dollars (I don’t have the resources right now to turn them into little movies):

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The sand dollars are a little different down here.

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Up from the beach at the road is a store / restaurant. We were sitting there eating dinner when this monstrosity pulled up.

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It was John and Betti from the UK! They shipped it over to Halifax and drove around Canada in winter, then made their way south through the US. They had just entered Mexico en route to South America. One of the first things he said to me was, “You must really love the sun!” If you’ve seen me in Mexico you actually haven’t seen much of me, because I cover up. You don’t want to mess with skin cancer! There’s a reason the Arabs wear sheets. I’m a pasty northerner, I’m not sand people.

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It’s a Mercedes fire truck that he converted over. He made the box himself.

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Being from the UK, he really doesn’t like Range Rovers. Of course, a whole pack of them pulled up beside us.

We spent a few days at Alfonsinas with some of Mark’s friends from work, and their friends, all marine biology people (all Colombian too). They weren’t going further south though since they didn’t have the time or proper vehicles for it.

Ring Pass, Attempt #2

It was the July 1st long weekend, time to try crossing over Ring Pass again from the Callaghan Valley to the Squamish Valley. I sold my Mukluk fat bike to my friend Mark in California (story to come) so I took my regular mountain bike instead.

This time I drove my electric car up. I went up Thursday evening in the dark and the rain. I brought my generator with me so I was a little careless about wasting battery, and I didn’t even start with a full charge. I camped at the Chase Main where it meets the highway (where the road up to Cloudburst Mountain starts from). The generator wasn’t working properly and after 20 minutes I checked my batteries. It wasn’t charging them, it was draining them! I went from 25 km range left to 15 km! And it was 30 km into Whistler! Luckily I had my iPhone so I could check the internet for towing companies. I wasn’t looking forward to an expensive tow the next morning and I curled up in the front seat at 3 a.m. for 2 hours of uncomfortable sleep.

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I awoke at the break of dawn at 5 a.m. to a train rumbling by. I decided I’d just crawl along the highway and see how far I got.

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Amazingly I got to Whistler Creekside! I pulled into a restaurant at 6:30 and plugged in for 20 minutes. This is the view up Whistler Mountain while I waited.

I felt kind of awkward with the morning guy inside probably wondering why I was plugged into his outlet so I risked the remaining 5 km over to downtown Whistler where there is a proper charger.

I carefully drove that section and as I pulled into the parking lot I lost power, the car totally died. I turned into the closest stall and … I shit you not … it had a plug beside it! What are the chances? It was just a regular 120 V plug, but good enough. I had to charge it for an hour and a half before the thing would even let me move it. But at least I avoided an embarrassing and expensive tow.

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Then I went down to the free Level 2 charger at the City Hall. There are also 4 more chargers across the street in the Day Lots (beside those trees on the very left), which are a bit more secluded and shaded. I’ll go there next time.

So I could have made it to Whistler no problem if I hadn’t blared my radio most of the way, had started with a full charge, and hadn’t wasted 10 km with my broken generator!

It would be another 5 hours for a full charge so I went for a little ride around the Whistler trails. There are tons and they range from easy to more technical but I didn’t do too many technical ones. This was just to scope out my bike and gear and deal with any issues. I had just gotten a frame bag which turns out to be too small, but it still works, and a “gas tank” bag that goes on the top tube. My Nikon V1 fits in there perfectly.

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Lost Lake with most of my gear, minus my packraft and snowshoes and pfd.

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I finally did some basic video editing but the free Windows Movie Maker software sucks. I’m going to get the Cyberlink Power Director which is much better. But here is a sample of the video I typically get, which is pretty poor quality (the original HD is really nice). This is just the raw footage. Actually making a movie will have to wait until I get my new computer and software sorted out.

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This mount under the down tube really works. I’ll try to move the camera over a bit to the right so the tire isn’t right in the middle and you can better see where I’m going. It’s a lot harder to mount a GoPro camera on a bike than you’d think. The issue is vibrations, so it needs to be very sturdy, on a short mount. Plus, anything on the front wheel or handlebars swings too much from left to right. So what are you left with? The down tube, and your chest, basically, and a few other interesting locations that don’t really show the view out the front. Plus when you are loaded with bikepacking gear that obstructs a lot of the views.

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This is “disc golf”, whatever that is. Probably some weird legacy from the Olympics.

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In summer Whistler turns into a mountain biking mecca.

By 1 in the afternoon my car was ready to go, and 5 hours in Whistler Village is more than enough, so I was off, with 11 bars out of 12 on the battery charge. I was heading for the Rubble Creek parking lot at the base of the Black Tusk hike. It is a provincial park so the lot would be good for parking. And I only used 2 bars to get there from Whistler! It’s mostly downhill.

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Since I got there on Friday afternoon before a Monday long weekend I got the best spot in the lot — shaded all day, which is important for keeping the car from turning into an oven which is not good for the batteries.

I was off by 3 and headed 8 km up the highway to the Callaghan Valley.

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Along the way, the Cheakamus River was raging over the Daisy Lake dam.

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At Brandywine Falls there was this map showing the historical native bands. It described them as being excellent mountaineers. I wondered how I’d compare on this trip…

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It was very lightly raining the whole way which kept me nice and cool.

When I got to the gravel mainline up the valley the rain picked up, and it got steeper. This meant I went slower. And the mosquitos were insane. That’s one way to push yourself up a hill faster — trying to outrun a cloud of mosquitos! I was maintaining 6 km/hr but that wasn’t enough. 10 km/hr is needed. After an hour the road got less steep so I was able to outrun them.

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Taking a few seconds off from swatting mosquitos to look back down the road.

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At one point I stumbled onto a big black bear 50 m down the road. He took off into the bushes.

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I got to Callaghan Lake and there were a couple other cars there with campers.

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Callaghan Lake in the rain

I felt pretty proud about fitting all my gear onto my bike; it’s so compact and light … yet functional. I’ve put a lot of thought into getting that gear weight down and I’m noticing the results. I even had my packraft, snowshoes, and pfd on there. But there’s still some weight savings to go…

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I set up camp, had dinner, and then went to bed.

I should also mention how my body is turning into a machine. I am amazing myself at how fast I can climb up the hills. All that cycling and Grouse Grind training is paying off. Just put food in, and I get climbing out. It’s good to have my body back. The good part about being up here is that it’s mostly over 1000 m elevation so I get some mild altitude training.

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The worst bear cache ever, but at least it got the bags off the ground.

The next morning was partially sunny and I decided to go for a little jaunt on Callaghan Lake. The outflowing river is right beside the campsite.

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All the pollen was collecting at this end of the lake.

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The exit from Callaghan Lake

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Thick pollen

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I packed up and headed for the trail I took three months earlier in the snow. Unfortunately it was still half covered in snow, and the trail was narrow and tortuous through the mud and roots.

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I lugged my bike through a few kilometers of that before finally hitting the main service road up.

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That was much better, but the further I went up, the more snow-covered it was, and it was not easy lugging my bike over the snow.

This is me lugging my bike over the snow.

At the 11 km mark (Callaghan Lake is at about 8 km) I decided to switch over to the packraft but there were still bare patches so it wasn’t straightforward at all. Plus all that red algae stuff that grows on melting snow was accumulating on the bottom of the raft and making it sticky.

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I got to the lodge and turned off the trail towards Conflict Lake. I could see that on the other side there were lots of bare patches, being south facing, and that was where I would be going up towards Ring Pass. I could see that the final push up to Ring Lake was very steep and there was no way I’d be able to do it in the time I had. Damn! Thwarted again!

So I decided to set up camp there above Conflict Lake, which was nice. But there weren’t any good spots, and I didn’t want to camp on the snow, it would be too cold.

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But wait! I have an inflatable mattress!

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Perfect!

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Ring Pass. Someday I’ll get there… Maybe in September when there’s no snow.

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The next day I headed back down, along a different trail, the lower “Wild Spirit” trail, which is a rough road suitable for quads. It was hot that day.

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Summer had sprung.

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The farther down I got, the hotter it got and the more luxurient the forest became.

This is me riding down a steep section.

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And the chest mount, which is a bit shakier.

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Very pleasant riding through 10 km of old growth cypress / balsam / hemlock.

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Black Tusk over Callaghan Creek

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Alexander Falls. It’s pretty big.

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The final 3 km was the steep push up to the parking. The lot was very busy, being a summer long weekend. I timed that well. I decided to push myself as hard as I could up the hill, for training purposes, because I had no more cycling to do after that. It was really hot.

I was pretty disgusting after all that so I went and took a bath in Rubble Creek. Except it was just above freezing. The air was 30 degrees and the water was basically zero. I couldn’t even hold my hands in it, it was too painful. But I could stand in it, and I splashed the water over myself. Man that felt good.

I made it back home with 1 bar left on the batteries, no probs. Hopefully soon they will get the chargers installed at Squamish. They have them everywhere now, except the one place you need them — Squamish. Go figure.