Bikepacking to a Hole In The Ground

Dan mentioned he was going to bikepack from La Pine, Oregon to Hole in the Ground for the 2016 Swift Campout and said I should come. He's a really cool cat that I haven't been able to hang out with enough lately and the trip sounded pretty cool, so I had to make it happen. Plus, I was in need of some bike camping time. The route is just west of the Oregon Outback route near Fort Rock that I had ridden in 2014 and I really liked that area. It was going to be in the mid- to high-80s in the central OR desert, with lows in the mid-40s, so I figured I could get away with packing pretty darn light for such warm temps. Although, I'd need A LOT of water, as there would be no resupply.

I chose my carbon Salsa Beargrease with 29+ for this trip as I have mostly ridden 29+ on my Mukluk Ti and I wanted to see the differences in ride quality for bikepacking/dirt touring. It turned out to be an excellent choice and I love the bike even more now. I took off the Bluto and put on the Bearpaw 150 fork with cage mounts for water hauling. The downtube bottle holster is a velcro-on fire extinguisher holster I got at an auto parts store that I had slightly tweaked. Works great with the wide carbon frame. Bottle above it is attached with Revelate Designs Washboard Straps. Frame bag by Reveleate Designs, as well. All in all, I carried 9L of water, including a 2.5L Platypus bag with hose in the frame bag. Sleeping pad strapped on the bars and bivy & Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer hooded jacket under the seat, all using Washboard Straps. No shelter, bag/quilt, stove, water filter, rain gear...
Best of all - NO BACKPACK!

Dan asked me to make a GPS route and after looking at the map, I mentioned we could just take the powerline trail to and from HITG. He said, 'Loops and zigzags are always just fine too.' So, he got his damn zigzags. We did deviate from this track a bit, but for the most part, that was our route. 33ish miles out, 25ish miles back. 91% dirt with a 1/4 mi hike-a-bike, which was avoidable. Many of the trails on the ground were not on the map I was using in Backcountry Navigator Pro. I had used Google Earth to make a track and saved it as a .kml file, emailed it to myself, downloaded on my phone, and put it into BC N Pro. The app worked great except for LOTS of jumping around (constant 180º flipping) while riding. While stopped, it was excellent. Anyone know why it flips constantly like that? I'm used to a Garmin teeter-tottering back and forth 20º at most, but certainly not entirely the opposite direction. It made navigating very confusing, as I had to constantly re-determine which way we were even traveling when riding.
 

We spent the first night cowboy camping in the national forest just east of La Pine, as we arrived after dark.
We watched UFOs and I howled for wolves. We woke up to 32º and frost. It was magical.

The next morning, we found a place to park at a great diner. Good breakfast + parking = success.

This was Rob's first bikepacking trip, so he was rightfully pretty excited.

Dan kicks up some dirt for the photo.

Dan was pretty excited about wearing his Fat Chance jersey.

Red dirt, similar to that on the Oregon Outback route.

Rob wore his like-new 1980s Shimano bike shoes. He had good style and I was taking notes.

Happy to be rolling on dirt, in the woods, with two great dudes.

Around

Over

Only a couple short sections of soft sand got the best of Rob's 2.1 in tire single speed. Pretty admirable.

These 750mm bars were a touch too wide for truly comfortable dirt touring (and also unnecessary), but the extra space did allow for my phone to be mounted outside the space of the feedbags (bottle on L, X70 on R). Alas, the glare of the plastic of the case made it harder to see the screen in the strong sun. I'd prefer the phone be mounted in normal portrait orientation for navigational purposes. I'll be looking into a mount extension off the bars or stem and Quad Lock mount to do this. The sleeping pad never moved. The cork PDW ergonomic grips were great. Don't ever forget to smile.

A known/expected brief hike-a-bike section left blood running down our legs. Super dry deserty brush and sticks are very stiff and sharp. Hike-a-bike on this route is avoidable, with all the trails, but we just didn't want to turn around since the road was so close and what's a trip without some hike-a-bike?

Much appreciated.

Fort Rock and the Oregon Outback route in the background.

Hole in the Ground!

Rob on the east (and highest) side of the rim.

Riding around the rim, on the west side here.

Hole in the Ground

Rob is a master image maker and Muy Thai kickboxing champion.

Pine cones burn really well! No wood needed, no flying embers, and very hot fire with good coals for cooking.

Dan sports his 2015 Swift Campout bandana

Obligatory

Golden hour

Around the rim trail, heading north on the east/high side.

I love the pink glow of sagebrush country, opposite the sunset.

Swift Campout Sunset

Dan enjoying the fire as the last glow on the horizon fades.

Pine cone fire

Probably the darkest sky I've ever seen, which includes multiple Dark Sky Parks, Alaska, and Hawaii.

The Milky Way was visible from horizon to horizon, making it the first time I actually wished I had a 180º lens.

Fire and the Milky Way

I slept in just a SOL (no, not shit out of luck) Escape Bivy, which is both breathable and heat-reflective, but as I found out, also not fully windproof. If it weren't for the wind, I'd have slept warm and soundly, instead of waking up every two hours to stoke the fire and rewarm. I'm glad I decided to bring my sleeping pad.
Morning wake up at 0430.

View from inside my bivy.

Fort Rock only about 8 miles away.

There were a few soft and steep, but short, climbs on the powerline trail back to La Pine.

Rob was able to ride almost everything on his single speed 2.1in 29er.

I think Dan had enough sun for one weekend.

We rode, we talked conspiracies, we saw UFOs, we told stories around fire, we cowboy camped, and we made memories. Cheers, guys.
@arrowswest / @__daniel_ray / @staysanesleepoutside

This is a great beginner's trip, an awesome overnighter, and is a great blend of fun dirt riding with some interesting things along the way to keep it fresh. If I were going to recommend this trip to anyone, which I absolutely do(!!!), I'd say take 4L of water to go from La Pine to Fort Rock, 8 miles past Hole in the Ground (~40 mi ride), and get dinner and resupply on water at the bar in Fort Rock. Then turn around after you're well fed and saturated and go camp on the summit of the Hole in the Ground rim, on the east side. Then ride the 25+ miles back to La Pine the next day on the powerline trail or via a slightly different route back through the woods on two-track trails and red dirt roads. It's an excellent 24 hour overnighter and I'm very happy Dan asked me to go along. Thanks for the great trip, Dan & Rob!

Go bikepacking. Stay sane. Sleep outside.

All images taken with Fuji X-T1 using Rokinon 12mm f/2 & Fuji 56mm f/1.2 and Fuji X70.

In Hope To Inspire

Awhile back now, my best bud Brett got me into running long distances on trails. I had always enjoyed running, but I rarely did it. He always jokes about 'Sofa to Summit' and that has always somewhat been our situation. Nothing has changed over the years, except my own sense of what I realize the human body and mind are capable of achieving.

Liz Pollak setting a solid pace on the  NUT 50k

Liz Pollak setting a solid pace on the NUT 50k

Last September, I ran the Equinox Ultramarathon in Fairbanks, Alaska. It's 40 miles long and was my first solo foot race (I did the 3-person relay marathon with Brett and his wife Christina two years prior). I hadn't run in three months before the race and I was horribly sick three days prior to the start. In the spring and early summer, I had run only four times, at 7, 13, 16, and 27 miles each, after a cold Fairbanks winter. I finished the ultra feeling great, in 7 hrs 51 min. I was very sore after, but relatively speaking, not at all a wreck.

Finish line of my first ultramarathon last fall.

Finish line of my first ultramarathon last fall.

Since the Equinox, I moved to Eugene, OR, and lost a commute to work in working from home, which means, before this past weekend, I had only run 20 total miles in the last nine months since the Equinox. Life happens. Oh well. My very accomplished buddy, Brian from LA, had long before convinced me to run the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) 100k with him in June, since I had done fairly well with the Equinox. The plan was for me to train, something I apparently still don't understand.

Thursday and Friday before the race, I was (again) horribly sick. A bad cold had zapped me, hard. I had called in sick to work and told Brian I was going to let him and our buddy Josh (also a runner who came to race) take my truck and go, while I sleep all weekend. After picking them up, I was starting to feel a little better and by early evening, I was packing up to go with, maybe with hopes of waking up feeling good enough to, at best, plod along for 50k (31 mi).

Night before the race.

Night before the race.

As the night progressed, all symptoms except deep coughing and a totally blocked nose were gone - it was indeed a hard-hitting 24 hr bug. I slept fitfully, yet hard, and woke feeling somewhat better and that I had no reason not to run, thankfully. I saw them off at the start of their 100k and drove to the start of the 50k, asking to drop down since I was sick and hadn't been running. Not a problem. Off I went. 'Sick on the Sofa to Summit' was my own mantra, once again.

Running felt good. I instantly felt as if I was running out my sickness and remained that way all day. I felt I had power in me, a 180º from the previous two days. The trail was narrow and poison oak reached across it from both sides. I hung back a bit, intentionally only passing when others stopped... until a handful miles in, at the first big steep hill. I was feeling great, so I took normal long walking strides up it, passing a bunch of people taking half steps. I gained a big open trail in front of me and found more people of my own pace. Soon, I found not only a pace but a set of clothing that matched mine. I (strangely) instantly knew it was a pace I not only should, but could, keep all day, as hard as it might be, but I knew it would change my day from just trying to finish to actually trying to race. I settled in.

NUT 100k & 50k profile

NUT 100k & 50k profile

The only other foot race I've done (Equinox), I mostly ran alone. My pace was probably highly varying and it was certainly slowing throughout the race. Even with rough, while running math in my head, I could tell it was precipitous. On the NUT, however, I had found an experienced runner and now my day's pacer in Liz Pollak, a vet from Bend, OR. Soon, Ashley Gerber from Eugene caught back up and tagged on, too, commenting on Liz & I's matching attire. We had a trio that lasted the next 25 miles to the finish. Liz was strong, as it was her third 50k and held a consistent and unforgiving, yet realistic, pace all day long. Ashley was an accomplished marathoner on her first ultra and was full of excitement. I knew that these two would not only pull me along the trail, but also be motivators to not slow down and walk the rest, as I'd probably, and then did, feel like doing. I also thought that if I kept up with them setting the pace, I could try and at least provide some continual positive motivation to keep up the pace and enjoyment of the race, especially for Ashley's first ultra.

After a handful of miles, and me still coughing hard, Liz turned around and asked if I was ok and said if I start coughing up blood, I have to stop. Fortunately, I wasn't quite that bad and didn't get there, either. The coughing got a bit better throughout the day, but not much. I was just glad I was out there and not still feeling awful and horizontal on the couch, like I kinda wanted to be anyway.

Drinking straight from a trailside waterfall. Photo by Ashley Gerber.

Drinking straight from a trailside waterfall. Photo by Ashley Gerber.

After about 20 miles of keeping pace with the two, I was starting to get quite sore and wanted to just walk, but something in me kept saying that I could keep up 'til the finish, even if it hurt. I realized, at 32 and having felt a slight slowing down the past couple years, I was feeling I still had some fight left in me from my youth and ability to push through huge physical challenges. It was a great feeling and an urge I couldn't silence. Every time Liz started running after the trail mellowed out again from a hill, both Ashley and I muttered a soft 'damn it.' Alas, we were having a blast together, pushing and pulling each other along to a finish stronger than each of us would have done alone. What a great feeling and opportunity a race brings.

20-some miles into a 50k and smiling. Always.  Photo by Paul Nelson Photography

20-some miles into a 50k and smiling. Always. Photo by Paul Nelson Photography

After a very hard, nearly all uphill 50k course (and a UTMB qualifier!), we finished the 50k right on each others heels (video), just as we had been for about a marathon distance before, in just seconds under 7 hours. Like at the Equinox, I jumped with joy over the finish line. Once again, I was pretty damn sore, but not a train wreck. Happy, I was, to say the least!
My official stats: 28th out of 80 finishers, in 6 hrs 59 min 51 seconds. Not bad, I think, for now only having run 154 miles in the last 13 months, 71 of which were the two ultras.

The sub-7hr trio at the finish.

The sub-7hr trio at the finish.

Brian (below) and Josh finished the 100k ultra in awesome times of 13:45 & 14:45! What an effort! I am so happy I went along, and both helped and watched them finish so strong.

The North Umpqua Trail is one of the most stunning places I've seen in Oregon. Around almost every bend, all I could say was 'Wow!' So why go any faster? I already didn't feel like I took it all in quite enough, as the trail was rough and required strict concentration, even though my gaze did wander quite often. The place deserves more time - backpacking probably.

Maybe I don't train for 'events' because then I'd get hooked on going fast, ie, hurrying through a place, which goes wholly against my 'Stay sane, Sleep outside' mantra. Why rush through a place, only to finish and wish you were still out there? I enjoy slowing down maybe more so than going fast at times. Either way, I'm sure this isn't my last foot race, as it was so much fun and also really mind-blowing to find out how much farther even I thought I could push myself beyond what I thought previously possible, all in hopes of inspiring others to do the same in their own lives.

You have no idea what you are capable of until you go out and wholeheartedly give it your all, way more than you think 'your all' is. We are all awesome inside and that includes you. Don't miss your chance to live and feel it.

Cheers to Brett, Brian, Josh, Liz, Ashley, the NUT race, all the finishers, and to doing amazing things by pushing yourself. See you on the sofa 'til the next summit.

Well earned.

Well earned.

Dan Bailey Visit

Dan Bailey and his wife Amy were in need of getting out of the poor Alaskan winter Anchorage was having and made a shout out on Facebook, "Who should we come visit during our anniversary trip downstates?" I was the first to respond, so they came to Oregon and stopped by for a couple nights, before flying back to Alaska. I hadn't seen them since last year's Knik Glacier bikepacking trip. Dan is also a Fuji X Photographer and the main conspirator of my switch to and love for Fuji X cameras.

Dan Bailey on the Oregon beach with the  Fuji X70 , shot with my X70.

Dan Bailey on the Oregon beach with the Fuji X70, shot with my X70.

Dan brought me a Fuji X hat!

We of course had to go shooting, at least for a little bit, the first night. A potential aurora show helped to get us out, admittedly.

Double Superstars: Dan Bailey shooting the stars reflecting off water with his Fuji X-T1. Shot with my X-T1.

Double Superstars: Dan Bailey shooting the stars reflecting off water with his Fuji X-T1. Shot with my X-T1.

With temps in the sunny 70s in Eugene, we thought a camping trip on the Oregon coast beach sounded like a good idea. Halfway there, clouds overtook the sky and at the beach, it was under 50 and blowing rain. Alas, a day at the beach is a day at the beach, especially at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

We walked and ran barefoot for a mile up the beach, with the wind and rain at our backs before I said we should turn around, as the storm turned into a real gale and driving rain. We were completely soaked, but warm enough from running.

While not water resistant like the Fuji X-T1 or X-Pro2, I was thankful for my X70, as it's pocketable, including the tiny chest pockets on rain jackets. Pull it out for a photo and quickly stash away, no real need for WR. I wish Fuji made a 50 or 85mm version.

Retreating on our beach walk, back to the car.

Retreating on our beach walk, back to the car.

Frostbite enjoyed the day out, running in the sand and chasing beach birds (on a long leash).

Frostbite enjoyed the day out, running in the sand and chasing beach birds (on a long leash).

Thanks to Dan & Amy for the visit and getting us out despite the conditions.

Check out Dan's work at  DanBaileyPhoto.com

Check out Dan's work at DanBaileyPhoto.com

Jen  braving the gale.

Jen braving the gale.

All images taken with the Fuji X70 unless noted

Wide Angle Wildlife

The rufous hummingbirds have been voracious at my feeder the past few days and each time I refill and rehang it, they buzz me. This got me thinking I should stand there with my camera, the Fuji X70, a pocketable 28mm wide-angle powerhouse.

All images are HANDHELD, straight-out-of-camera, shot as RAWs & converted to JPEG, transferred via wifi Camera Remote app to smartphone, emailed to myself, downloaded, and uploaded to here, unedited. Image resize for transfer set to On.

I used Continuous High drive mode and Continuous Zone focusing, with the electronic shutter and ISO 1600. Lighting was overcast and exposure compensation was set to +1/3.