So this past July my wife and I were able to travel Florida and spend some time with my 88 year old father as well as take a desperately needed vacation.
After spending almost a week just hanging out with my Dad and having a wonderful time my wife and I headed over to the West side of Florida which was new to me. Normally we travel south and hang around my old stomping grounds in and around North Palm Beach and Singer Island.
On the West coast we found a wonderful old ‘Florida’ hotel named “Sea Chest” on Treasure Island (Just below Clearwater), a great spot and reasonably priced, since it was right on the ocean, although it was a fair walk to the beach!
The water was warm and for 3 out of the 4 days we were there, very rough with awesome body surfing waves! LOVED IT!
We then traveled over to the East side and found another hotel on the beach on Singer Island. It happens to be the hotel that is very close to a reef I used to spend a lot of time on and was the spot where the Amaryllis washed up during a hurricane back in 1965. (Here’s a link to my blog about this)
The water was perfect! Clear, wonderfully blue, and only a tad bit on the cold side (remember, I’m from Florida and 80 feels cold to me!)
We did some snorkeling at Phil Foster park which is a new man made reef and found it very enjoyable as long as you remember to get there about 30 minutes before high tide which is when the visibility and current is perfect.
We talked about what to do the next day and I had toyed with the idea of doing a scuba dive off of Palm Beach but it had been many years (15 to be exact) since I had last dove. So I didn’t really think it would happen until my wife called me (I was visiting with a old friend from high school over dinner) and said that she was really enjoying the reef off of the hotel and that I should call the dive shop and go. Well, that was enough for me! I called the dive shop and made plans for the next morning at 8:00 AM!
As dives excursions go, you never know where you’re going until you’re on the boat. When I had made the reservation I mentioned that it had been some time since I had dove and that I didn’t want to go too deep. They said they had lots of boats to choose from and would put me on one that would do dives around 60 feet. Gulp…for some reason that sounded DEEP, but I agreed.
So I was up at 6:00 AM, and down to Dunkin Donuts (All scuba divers eat here, right?) I went for my coffee and two apple spice donuts..yum! (Side story: Dunkin Donuts actually have espresso machines but they can only do a limited selection of drinks and an American is NOT one! WHAT? I’ve had about 50% success with explaining how to make one and having someone brave enough to do it….so strange)
I then checked in at the dive shop and gave them my name and NAUI number which they looked up to confirm and said they couldn’t find it. (Funny, I just checked and couldn’t find it either. Guess I’ll have to update their records). They asked for my card and I said I had left it at home, which I had as I really didn’t think I would be able to do a scuba dive. They started getting suspicious. They asked if I had a log book…ah..no. Again I told them I hadn’t planned on doing this. They asked when I had been certified and I told them October 1972 (I know, I know..I’m OLD!) I was 16 when I got certified, just like my son. (But that’s another story for another time)
So they reluctantly took my credit card and gathered all the equipment, however they were still suspicious and when they brought over the regulator they handed it to me and asked that I put it on. AhHA! They’re testing me! Well, I was a little nervous as it had been sooooo very long, but I acted as though I knew exactly what I was doing and successfully put it on while three of the store employees watched. After tightening it, but not too much, I turned on the air and it leaked! Uhoh..I blew it I thought…dang! But what I said was, “Oh, must have a bad O-ring”. The one who had taken my credit card said, “No, that wasn’t it, we check all the O-rings!” So he took the harness and put it on himself and turned the air back on….SSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH..it leaked. (HA! SEE!) No, I didn’t say that, but I wanted to!
So they brought another tank over and had me place it on and sure enough it worked. Whew! I think they felt a little better about me after that.
By this time it was 7:30 and I had to load everything up and get over to the boat dock. After paying the parking meter I walked over to the boat and dropped off my equipment then went over to the back of a pickup and handed the Captain my pass and filled out some paper work. In the spot where it asks about how many hours I had….I just put “Novice”. The Captain read it and looked at me and asked when the last time I dove? I said, “Well, it’s been a while.” “How long?” he asked, I said, “Oh, a couple of years”…gulp. He just looked at me and said they’d be leaving in 5 minutes.
Once on the boat I watched very carefully what everyone else was doing and just mirrored what they did. I was so nervous they were going to find out I was a FAKE! Well, not really a fake but it had been such a long time I probably should have taken a refresher course and next time I WILL!
We slowly traveled through the inter-coastal and headed out the Port of Palm Beach inlet. It was a perfect morning, completely clear sky, not too hot (yet) and the ocean was as flat as a pancake! As we passed the inlet marker I recalled the time I was with a friend and we dove the channel looking to spear a few fish. We entered the water from the rocks on the North side of the inlet and got out to the base of the channel marker. Sheepshead were weaving through the legs of the marker and I took a shot and wound up with TWO of them on one spear! I had to reel them in quick and put them inside my fish bag before the local barracuda’s decided to take a bite out of them.
On the way back to the edge we came across a small anchor and since my friends Dad was building a boat I decided to pick it up and bring it back to him. So I grabbed it, added a little air to my BC (Buoyancy Compensator) and continued on. We were probably only 50 yards away from the edge when I noticed my air wasn’t shooting into my mouth like normal. I looked down at my gauge and I was almost out of air! I quickly decided the anchor was not all that important and inflated my BC with the last of my air and shot up to the top where the dive flag was. This was a busy inlet so I was very nervous about all the boats but the dive flag did its job and no one ran me over!
So as our boat made its way out of the inlet they gathered all 7 of the divers around and told us we’d be doing two dives of around 60 feet off the Palm Beach Breakers and one other spot. There were three of us that were using normal tanks and two that were diving with NITROX and two that were using Rebreather’s. There were two crew members and the Captain. The boat was just the right size, with lots of room for all of us and our equipment with lots of room to roam.
There were two dive masters and both were very helpful and could tell I was a bit nervous. Again they asked how long and how many dives I had been on and I again was a little vague but said I would appreciate any advice they could give since it had been a while.
When we were 10 minutes out from the 1st stop the Captain let us know and we quickly got into our wet-suits and gear. I was careful to watch exactly what everyone else was doing and mimicked them step by step.
One area I was nervous about was how much weight to put on as I had forgotten what I had used in the past. So I did ask one of the dive masters what he recommended and he asked my weight and looked at my body type and said between 14 and 16 pounds. Another diver, one about my age, suggested 16. I decided to go with what the dive master said and took two 4 pound weights and two 3 pound weights and placed one of each in my weight pouch’s which then slide into my BC vest, which I thought was a VAST improvement over what I used back in 1972.
In 1972, the equipment was expensive, just like it is in 2013, so back then we made our own weights AND the backpack that held our tank. How you might ask? We borrowed a backpack from a friend, put car wax all over it, then used fiberglass and resin and slathered it all over the waxed covered backpack. Worked like a charm! We even put color in it, powder blue; to match the resin covered weights! Sure wish I had some pictures of that! But in 2013 this BC vest was slick and with 7 pounds in each pouch I was all set.
I was starting to feel nervous as the boat stopped and the captained yelled, “DIVE DIVE DIVE”. We all waddled over to the back of the boat and I watched as one by one everyone jumped off. I kept fiddling with my mask and looking at all my stuff hanging down, and finally one of the dive masters came over and checked me out. Whew..just what I was hoping!
My dive computer (that’s new) was hanging down so she clipped it onto one of the rings. Then she noticed by BC vest wasn’t hooked up to my tank! Oh brother! What a goober! That would have been very upsetting if I had gotten into the water and tried to inflate it only to find out it wasn’t even hooked up! I’m not even sure if I could have blown it up manually without the air hose plugged in. I would have sunk to the bottom!
They played it off as no big deal. I was distracted and forgot. Ah..no…I JUST DIDN’T REMEMBER I WAS EVEN SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!
Yikes, my confidence was falling fast! Not that I had much of it in the first place!
Finally it was my turn to jump in and all these memories are flying through my head. “Do I jump to the left or right of the last diver? Do I jump or just kick my leg out and fall? Do I hold my mask or my crotch?” AHHH!! JUST GO!!!!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!!!!! I jumped!
It wasn’t the prettiest entry as I led off with my right leg and as I was half jumping and half falling my left leg kind of slipped off the boat. The entrance must have looked rather comical as both dive masters told me to JUMP on the 2nd dive. :-} (This is how it’s SUPPOSED to look)
But here I was in the water, just where I wanted to be! It was cool, but not cold and the 3 mill wet suit was just right. I swam over to the dive flag and waited till we were given the sign to start heading down. This is where I really struggle, getting my ears to clear. I don’t recall having this problem when I was young but the last few times I’ve gone I’ve had difficulties getting my ears to pop without a LOT of pain. I started down by letting all the air out of my BC and remembered what one of the dive masters had told me about holding my nose and ‘lightly’ holding my breath and pushing my cheeks out. He also mentioned tipping my head back and blowing out from my nose and moving my jaw around. I did all those things and still my left ear was really paining me. I stopped heading down due to the increasing pain by adding a little air to the BC. I waited there, maybe even floated up a little until the pain eased a bit. Kept doing this and finally I was able to get down. I looked up to see if I was the last one down and I wasn’t so I thought I’d done okay.
This was a 60 foot drift dive, meaning, they dump you off and then you drift with the current for 45 minutes or so and then pop up and hopefully you’re near where the boat is waiting. So being the experienced diver that I was….I followed the dive master….closely! Which turned out to be a good thing! His name was Alex and he was from Jamaica and he was very good about pointing out all the different and interesting things to see, as well as writing on the underwater tablet as to what we were looking at.
The visibility was pretty good and you could see about 50 feet and there was hardly any current at all. At 60 feet the color is muted a bit so everything has a rather bluish haze to it and colors don’t really pop out at you. But it was still beautiful! It wasn’t cold, no current and lots and lots of stuff to look at. This dive had ledges and one bowl and most all the ledges had lots of life, including lobsters, moray eels, basket sponges, fans, banded coral shrimp (Had to really search to find those as they are tiny), and tons and tons of beautiful fish!
I supposed the highlight of the 1st dive was the large Loggerhead Turtle that we were able to watch. As we came around one of the fingers of the reef sitting on top with its head slightly hidden under a sea fan was a LARGE turtle! Its head was huge! At first I thought it the size of a basketball, but upon further reflection (and because I can’t seem to find any pictures of these kinds of turtles that show that size) I am reassessing and will say its head was as large as a volleyball. Either way, it was BIG!
I was one of the first ones there and was able to get within 10 feet of it and since there was very little current was able to watch with little effort. One by one the rest of the divers gathered around and started taking pictures of this old female turtle. (Back on the boat the dive master said it was female due to the small tail and that it was perhaps 35 years old). It was such a joy to watch this larger than life animal just snoozing on the ocean floor unaware that 8 divers were gathered around watching it. But after a short while it did wake up and slowly looked from side to side. It didn’t seem alarmed or startled, just slowly woke up and swam away. Just beautiful to watch! (Yes..I WISHED I had a camera!)
After scooting along looking at all the beautiful creatures and sea life my 45 minutes were up and my air was down to 900 PSI so it was time to head up. I told the dive master my air was low and I was heading up and he gave me the okay sign. I followed the dive flag string up and stopped at 15 feet and stayed there for 5 minutes to make sure I followed the decompression rules.
Once I came to the top I looked around and saw the boat. I inflated my orange tube they had given me and waited for the boat to come over to pick me up.
I was exhilarated by all the sea life we’d seen and by the fact I completed the dive without any major issues. I did noticed that on my way back up my left ear gave me a fair amount of pain, and once on the boat I tried to clear it and do what I could to help the relieve the pain. It eventually went away.
We stayed on the boat for about 30 minutes before moving to the last location. The two divers who were wearing the re-breathers stayed down and would navigate to the new location on their own. Their dive time would be a solid 2.5 hours compared to our two 45 minute stops and 30 minute surface time, AND since there are no bubbles when they exhale the fish have a tendency to come right up to them! Might have to look into the re-breather option.
At our second dive sight I was much more comfortable having worked out all the kinks of not having done this in many years and even managed to execute a somewhat more graceful entry into the water. I continued to have issues with my left ear as I headed down to the bottom, again, around 60 feet. I was able to get down a little quicker, in fact I was probably the 2nd one down and once I was on the bottom I looked up and watched as the other divers were still descending. So cool watching these wet suit cladded people slowly making there way down from above while the sun sent streaks of light spreading out in all directions. It was a great sight!
The current at the new location was very strong and required a lot of effort to avoid crashing into the reef or each other. I attempted to be conservative with my air but I noticed I was breathing a little faster and deeper due to the extra effort needed to stay in one place.
This dive was similar to the 1st one as there were a number of ‘finger’ reefs and we zigzagged our way in and out of the fingers. The visibility was a little lower here due to the current and finding stuff to look at was a bit more of a challenge as you would need to hang on to something to stay in one place long enough to even notice what was what. And since I had no gloves I didn’t hang onto anything, and actually, I don’t normally do that anyway as I don’t like damaging the reef.
And speaking of that, I was a little dismayed at two of the divers who were oblivious to their hanging computer and air gauges smacking against everything! At one point I thought of going over there and pointing it out, but thank goodness the dive partner realized what was happening and fixed the issue but not before a good size piece of basket coral was broken off…errr!
Now to the entire reason for this rather lengthy post….. The Grouper……. Are two grouper’s called groupies?
We were told before we started the 2nd dive that on the last finger of the reef there is a large ledge and many times there will be a large grouper hiding there.
When someone says, “large grouper” I’m assuming 3 or 4 feet long, perhaps a hundred pounds or so..you know..large. What the dive master SHOULD have said was, “GIGANTIC! ENORMOUS! MAMMOTH! JUMBO! MONSTROUS!!!! Even “BROBDINGNAGIAN!!” (Yup, that’s a word, had to look that one up)
In any case, it is the LARGEST DANG fish I’ve EVER seen my entire life! And to be THAT close!! Woh.
There was a diver in front of me who spotted one of the Groupers and I sidled up next to him and watched as this extremely large fish watched us. There was a ledge and slanted down a little so I was having a tough time getting a good view so I swam above and over the ledge and came down on the other side. As I descended to just below the back of the ledge I was greeted with the largest tail I’ve ever seen! It was huge! The fish sensed I was there, raised its dorsal fins and slowly (probably as fast as a big fish can) turned to warn me off! HOLY SMOKES! HIS MOUTH WAS HUGE!!!!!!!! I swear his mouth was a wide as my shoulders! AND THERE WERE TWO GROUPERS!!! Oh my GOSH! Just amazing! One was looking straight at me and the other was watching the other divers who had joined the 1st one. Both had their dorsal fins up and I think were a little spooked. I know ‘I’ was!
As the Grouper and I looked at each other I was laughing and yet scared at the same time, and slowly started to back away. I had inadvertently gotten within 5 or 6 feet of it due to the current so I moved away as quickly and smoothly as I could. I didn’t want to appear that I was being aggressive or give him/her any reason to come after me. But man oh man, what a sight! To be that close to fish that big…just amazing!
I SOOOO wished I had a camera then! So I’ve looked around the interwebs trying to find a few pictures that would capture what I saw, and although I didn’t find exactly what I wanted here’s a few that hopefully helps you understand what I saw and what I felt:
Grouper under a ledge and a diver close to it: Here
And another one: Here
This one I like as it shows the dorsal fins standing up: Here
Now this is probably what you ‘think’ I saw: Here
This is what my memory thinks I saw: Here
Now that brings up a question I will cover in my next post;, “Can a grouper swallow a diver?”
You’ll have to stay tuned for my next installment as this one has gone on..and on..and on.
Found a wonderful hiking place 15 minutes south of Spokane..who knew?
Wondering where this is?
Hee hee hee..not going to tell you!
April 27, 2013
Today was the 1st time in over 8 years that I have played softball….and man do I feel it!
It was 8 years ago that I had finished recovering from a ruptured Achilles in my left heel caused by playing basketball and decided that I would have to give up all those start and stop sports. It’s when I started lifting weights again and running, lots and lots of running. Then someone at work mentioned I should consider doing that “Triathlon thing”. I had heard of it but really didn’t know anything about it. So I started looking into it but since I was in good shape I decided to pickup my 1st love of sports, baseball. Well…I would have liked to do baseball but that really didn’t seem to be an option at the age of 50, so I opted for an over the hill, ah, I mean over 50 softball league.
Again, didn’t know much about that, but I went to the 1st practice and learned that there were two 1st bases and 2 home plates to prevent collisions and injuries. So I thought..how hard could this be?!
I played like I was a teenager again. Chased down every foul ball, backed up the other players on every play, just none stop hustle. One of the veterans pulled me aside and warned me about doing too much too soon since it was the 1st time I had played softball in many many years. I told him that I’m in pretty good shape since I’ve been training for triathlon, but still he warned me that they lost 5 of their starters last year from torn and pulled muscles. I told him I would be careful, but in my mind I really didn’t listen and just continued to play hard.
The next couple practices I did the same thing and was warned again. During one of the games I noticed my right heel had some pain in it. Afterwards I did the typical check for injured Achilles, and sure enough I had slightly torn the right Achilles! STUPID STUPID STUPID!
Flash forward to today, 8 years wiser and many times slower. But you know what? It’s STILL a ton of fun.
I met only a few of the players today, and all of them are around my age and pretty darned relaxed about playing and winning. They said they usually win about half their games, and don’t really care to do much more. Easy does it, it seems, is their motto.
I’m okay with that. I was able to go out and jog to passed balls, run at an easy gait to try and catch fly balls, and throw the ball (1st time in 8 YEARS!) nice and easy. I think I can live with that. 🙂
Ah…getting older is …..interesting.
Boston Marathon 2013
Congratulations to all the 2013 Boston Marathon runners today!
As I’m watching live today from work, I can’t help but recall it was only two years ago that I was able to run the Boston marathon officially and complete a life time goal.
As I listen to all the cheering and watch as hundreds turn onto to Boylston Street for that final push to the finish line I remember my finishing …..walk.
What a feeling.
My Dad of 86 years and my wife were waiting right at the finish line. It was as I would realize later, the last time I would run.
The above was written just minutes before two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon!
OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!
I AM STUNNED! SHOCKED!!!!! IT IS SO HARD TO IMAGINE!
WE WERE RIGHT THERE! RIGHT THERE TWO YEARS AGO! HUGGING AND CRYING WITH PURE JOY AT FINISHING A LIFETIME GOAL…and now..now..I just can’t believe this is happening.
I’m watching the news right now as stunned runners who have been told the race has been cancelled are walking around with emergency blankets wrapped around them with stunned looks on their faces.
I am so shocked!
I actually worked from home today just so I could check out all the cool sights and sounds (and oh MAN was there sound!) of the construction work taking place on our street.
First I’ll post some of the pictures, then I’ll add links to the video’s that REALLY capture what it was like being next to these large construction vehicles as they went about destroying our street.
So most of those were taken on Monday, but today, Tuesday is when the real work began. Let’s take a look a couple of these video’s. I apologize for the quality of them as I was watching what was going on rather than what was being captured in the camera. And if I could find a free video editing software program I would try and clean them up, like take some of the jitter out perhaps edit out some of the audio….especially the places where I was making the sound…like this monster pieces of equipment need my help in impressive they are.
The reason I went out to look at what was going on was this amazing thudding sound that was coming through the floor of the house. I knew it was the construction but I didn’t know what might be causing it…the video will show you.
Stay tuned for the video..I made it in Movie Maker and it’s taking FOREVER to ‘Plublish’ to Google. The next two I might just copy up.
Did a quick ride this morning in Riverside State Park. I was hoping it would snow while I was out there but I guess that’s not due till later here in Spokane..sigh. Love riding while it’s snowing (or running while it’s snowing..that’s the BEST!).
Parked up above the Bowl and Picture on Aubrey White Park drive and headed down the rather steep hill. Well, it seems steep when there’s snow on it and your brakes don’t work as well as they should and you have to drag your feet to slow your decent. Yeah…need to tighten those brakes!
There was fresh snow on top of old crusty snow on the Centennial Trail (CT) so that made for some challenging riding. You’d be riding along on a track and all of a sudden it would hop you over to a new unseen rut, fun. I found the left side to be the best and went carefully down the steep part of the hill and there in front of me was the 38 ? marker…not sure what that’s for. Certainly not the mileage as the CT trial is only 37 miles and the end is up North and 9 mile. But whatever it is, it marks the entrance to “my” trail and I take it and soon find out how deep the snow is.
It’s actually not too bad. At some point a cross country skier or two has taken this trail and as long as I attempt to stay in their old tracks I’m able to ride, however, it doesn’t take long and I have to stop as it’s too steep.
Here’s what it looks like at his point:
Just before I was able to get my phone out to take these pictures either an eagle or osprey was flying just below the cliff. Sometimes I wish God had given us the ability to zoom in with our eyes. Once I walked my bike up the hill and onto the flats and was riding again the bird flew very close to me and I saw clearly it was an Osprey. Not sure why it was eyeballing me?? Although I might have reminding him of a rabbit as I had to hop on and off my bike to stay on the trail.
I know this trail well and it didn’t take long to get to my 1st destination…My Tamarack Trees.
In the fall these turn a beautiful yellow!
From here I continued riding underneath the cliff until I came to Trail 10 which took me down towards the CT trail at a rather FAST pace! It was pretty scary and I had to ride side saddle and drag my rear foot. I REALLY need to tighten my brakes!
I made my way down all the switchbacks and to the valley floor and meandered through some single and double track trails while tree limbs dumped snow on me as I passed. At one point I saw fresh boot prints which was unexpected as I hadn’t seen nor heard anyone else the entire ride. The only tracks were of a medium sized coyote which I had followed right after leaving the Tamarack tree area. Don’t know why, it sort of spooked me. But just a few minutes later I saw someone off to my right cutting some small limbs down and on the back of his jacket he had a big red cross and the words Search and Rescue. I didn’t want to stop as it would have been hard to get going again but I presumed he was out practicing. He did ask if I was having fun and of course I gave up a WOOHOO! You BET!
I finally found the CT trail and as I made my way South back to my car I saw the coyote running along the ridge right next to the river! So cool! He wasn’t on an all out sprint but he was making good time! You could hear the guns from the range across the river and I would imagine it was spooking him a bit. Again I wish I had a built in zoom. So cool.
Of course I stopped as quick as I could to see if I could get a picture of him but I never saw it again. But what was interesting was the noise from the guns. It was almost like thunder as it rolled across the valley. I’ve been at this same area many times before and never heard this kind of sound. It was like crunching snow or ice but it rumbled all across the area in front of me. At one point I tried to capture the sound by recording a video. Here’s a link to the video/audio: (Here)
All in all, it was a great way to spend Sunday morning, and I was able to get home in time to go out with everyone for breakfast. Now THAT’s TIMING!
Here’s how we started the new year… A brief swim in the VERY cold waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Normally you keep all your clothes on until the last minute then strip down to your swimming suit and run like crazy into the water, screaming the entire time. You have to run faster than everyone else or you’ll not find enough room to dive into the water, and if you don’t dive in or you have to hesitate, then you just might talk your self out of doing it, because once your feet hit the water your mind quickly wants to say woh, stop! But we had made up our minds and in we went…. TWO TIMES! Yup, twice. But not for Rachael, she went THREE TIMES! What a bunch of crazy kids!
Well, I’ve been going through and looking at some of my old post and noticed that I have a few videos and pictures that I’ve never posted. Mainly because my TriMoot blog account was hacked and I couldn’t get into for a year. So the following will be some random stuff that I haven’t posted in some time. Sorry for the long delay.
Centennial Trail 37 mile Ultra Spokane …March 5, 2011
I wasn’t able to run this time due to issues with my knees so instead I decided to do some support along the route and capture some of with the camera.
I love this run and hope to someday do it again. I’ve done it twice and the direction they’re running it in this video is the one you want to do if you ever think about doing it. It is mostly downhill although at the end it’s very hilly UP HILL.
I captured the start and then left them after a 1 mile to go setup an aid station around the 12 mile mark.
This is just before the start: (here)
Here’s the link: (here)
Aid station at Mirabeau Park: (here)
Aid station at Mirabeau Park: (here)
Valentines Day 2011
Just a silly video of my wife and I walking along a trail in Palisades Park (N. Rimrock Dr) just west of Spokane. It over looks Spokane and was part of one of my favorite running trails when starting from the Indian Canyon Golf course parking lot. Besides being silly we were talking about our upcoming trip to Boston to do the Marathon.
Silly walk: (here)
Speaking of silly, here’s a video of my son doing a impromptu rap: (here)
November 3rd. A ‘perfect’ day for riding the trails of falls colors here in Spokane.
Perfect? Define perfect.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t “perfect”…in fact it was down right TERRIBLE! But fun all the same!
So I decided to try an new route for riding the fall colors and headed out to the Iller Creek trail head off of Dishman Mica road out in the Spokane Valley area. Now I had hiked this area with my family and friends this past summer and always thought it would be a great (challenging) area to ride it.
I had mapped out the area with Google Earth and had a pretty good idea of where and how I wanted to go so I headed out there and was on the trail by 9:30ish AM. (Kinda late but wanted to wait for the rain storm to pass by us…bad decision). I wanted to get to the top of Tower Mountain so I could ride the ridge. There are two bowl like areas that have a nice ridge trail and you can look over into the Palouse Valley on one side and the Spokane Valley on the other.
I parked short of the hiking trail head and choose this trail to start:
The area around the trail looked promising but the weather…not so much. Although at the start it was just overcast and cool, but not cold.
As I started up trail, I had gone about 100 yards when I completely ran out of breath! It was a little steep but I am certainly not in the shape I used to be in, so I got off and walked until I had recovered a bit then hopped back on…and rode about…… 10 more yards. Ugh..THIS was going to be a long tough ride!
As I hopped off and on my bike for the next 30 minutes the weather was starting to turn from nice fall weather to wet and slick…not something you want on a steep mud trail, but at this point it wasn’t as steep as it was going to get.
I continued with the off and on again routine of my bike to the point it was silly. I’d ride for about 20 yards, hop off and walk for 10, then hop back on and ride for 10. Finally I gave in and just decided to give the bike a rest and let it walk along side me….HA! So up and up I went walking the bike. As I traveled the trail it zig-zagged up the hill and the rut in the middle became deeper and deeper. Pretty soon my right arm felt like I had it raised to ask a question. The rut had become so deep that my bike towered over me as it rolled along on the smooth part of the trail that was about 16″ above the rut.
During one of my many rest stops I felt like someone was watching me and sure enough there was a buck with tiny horns watching me from above the brush.
Can you see him? You might have to click on the photo to enlarge it, but right in the center is the small buck.
At some point the trial had turned extremely slippery and each step was a challenge and the rain and really started to come down. I was looking for an intersecting trail that I could take that would get me off this ridiculous one that was climbing straight up the hillside! Even if it wasn’t raining, and I wasn’t riding a bike, I’m not 100% sure I could have climbed up this way without needing some hand holds it was that steep! Also, the rut was starting to fill up with water and the more I climbed up the more the water flowed over my trail shoes.
I finally spotted some animal trails off to the right and I climbed out of the rut and headed north on the deer trail. It soon petered out and I found another trail and bush-whacked my way a little further but I wasn’t really getting closer to where I was headed. So I headed back to the ‘rut’ and tried again to climb but it was just too wet and slippery and way too steep. So I took another deer trail off to my left, which was South, and found the going a little easier. Although that wasn’t to be the case for very long.
As I continued my bush-whacking…oh, by the way, I CLEARLY understand that term now, because that’s exactly what I had to do! As I continued on the “trail” (HA!) I had to push my way through bushes and yank my bike through, climb over dead trees, all the while scaring up deer who were at one time, hunkered down to wait out the storm. (Sorry guys). What a bike ride! HaHaHa!!
This picture really doesn’t capture the ‘moment’. I had just struggled through a clump of bushes and hauled myself and the bike over the logs you see there and was completely out of breath…and laughing! Just laughing at how absurd this was. Here I was trying to make it to the top so I could ride the ridge and having to haul my bike through bushes while they were doing their best to yank off my rain poncho! I laughed so hard! I just had to get a picture of it. But of course it doesn’t show how hard the rain was coming down and how the wind was blowing and how cold my hands were and impossible it is to get a ‘smart’ phone to work when everything you own is soaking wet! It was a miracle that I even got this picture!
I continued to struggled upwards to the top. Around 11:15 my wife called and wanted to know my eta as she was heading out and I needed to be home. I told her I hadn’t even made it to the top yet and as far as ‘riding’ goes, I really hadn’t done any! I said I would continue on and if it doesn’t look good I’ll turn around and head back down. (yeah right..that’s assuming I could find a trail that I could ride!)
Finally the bushes started to thin a bit and I could just make out the ark of the hill near the top and I thought I could see some power lines. As I got nearer, yes indeed, I saw power lines! Yahoo! Certainly there will be a trail there and it will be clear. WRONG! Just more bushes and while there was a trail, it was heading down, not the direction I needed.
As I pressed up further up the hill the wind started to really pick up and the rain was pelting my face. I finally took off my glasses as I wasn’t able to see a thing there was so much water. It had become so steep I was having to side steep up, then haul my bike upwards, take another side step up, and repeat. But it seemed the horizon was clear of trees and I knew I was about to break out of this mess.
Finally a tower came into view and then a building and a dirt road!! Whew, what a relief. After almost two hours I was finally able to ride more than a few yards. But the wind was blowing very hard and visibility was about 25 yards as the clouds and fog were covering the top.
My poncho was just about useless as it had gotten torn up while climbing through all the brush, plus it was blowing all over the place and all I could hear was it flapping in the wind.
I stopped under a tree and tried to get my phone to work so I could see exactly where I was and figure out the quickest way down. But with all the water and everything I owned being wet it just would accept my finger touches. I would touch on one thing and something else would launch. I would try and get back to the home screen and email would come up…it was so strange. I wasn’t even able to make a phone call, although I’m not sure who I would have called. I guess someone who could have popped up a Google map might have been helpful.
So I was standing just down hill from the large tower on Tower Mtn. and I kept taking one trail after another trying to figure out which one would be the best. But visibility was nil and and all the small trails I started out on didn’t give me a good feeling. Like, no..this isn’t right. This is a mistake. So then I went back to the small tower thinking I could take the service road down but when I got there the road had been blocked off and it was obvious that it hadn’t been used in quite some time. So I didn’t think that was a good choice, so I went back to the largest tower and decided to take that service road down even though I could tell it was not going to take me in the right direction. I was afraid I would be taken down the other side of the mountain and then I would have a heck of a time getting back to my car. But I needed to make a decision as I was starting to get cold since none of my ‘water proof’ gear was water proof any longer and I was drenched to the bone.
I took the service road down from the largest tower and quickly learned I had little to no brakes. GIVE ME A BREAK! Seriously..I need a brake. HA! As I was heading down the dirt road it quickly became steep and my speed picked up to a point where I was very uncomfortable and I had my brakes squeezed as tight as possible but I was still picking up speed. I finally swung my right leg over to my left side and used my foot to slow my decent. It was actually kind of fun. It’s like when you were a kid and you would ride up to your group of friends, and just to be cool you’d swing your leg over and just glide up to them then hop off. The bad thing was, I had to stay that way for so long my left leg was starting to get tired and my back was starting to really complain!
I finally made it down to a paved road and I stopped in front of a house hoping that perhaps if someone saw me they would ask if I needed help. I mean come on…wouldn’t you? If you saw someone with a torn up poncho blowing allover the place and snot running out of their nose and being blown all over the place, wouldn’t you come out and help? 😉
Again I tried to use my phone but nothing was dry enough to let me wipe off the phone or my hands, so I put it way, looked longingly at the house and rode on.
Finally I came to a major intersection, Palouse and Jamieson but I was cold and confused and didn’t know where I was. Even though the sign said the Palouse, in my mind I still had myself on Dishman Mica and thought if I turned left I’d hit a gas station and that red coffee shop. But the truth was I had come down the other side of the mountain and was south of Moran Prairie area but I couldn’t ‘picture it’.
I was shivering and cold and really couldn’t think straight so I tried to use the phone again and this time I was able to make a phone call and called my wife who told me where I was.
After starting off in the wrong direction I got myself turned around and headed back into Spokane past Moran Prairie school and down 57th to home. Whew.
A long day, with very little riding, but fun.
Oh…yes…I’m going to get those brakes fixed right away!
Yup, it’s that time a year again when I head out to Riverside State Park here in Spokane and enjoy miles and miles of beautiful trails, trees and rivers. What a grand place we live in!
Today was a mild foggy rainy day, just what fall should feel like, although a warm sunny one is good too, 😉
For once I decided to actually research and view the map of where I was planning on going so I could get a better idea of where I’ve been and perhaps where I wanted to go for some new places to see. (Whew..that was a mouthful!) So here’s a link to “Map My Ride” with where I rode: (Here) Not sure what you’ll see if you click on that but hopefully a map of where I rode.
I try to do this each year and it never gets old. I also try and go a little farther each year and explore new places. This year I found an old shack about to fall down, and took some interesting pictures of it. I always love the texture of old wood and this had plenty of that.
Where I started was right off of Government Way and the trail-head put me right on an abandoned railroad track (without the rails) right up against the side of a wall of volcanic rock, with a steep cliff that fell away on the other side. The trail overlooks the state park and you can see the Spokane River winding it’s way through.
Since it was foggy, cloudy and drizzly, it was just perfect for puttering my way through the park and allowing me time to stop and take LOTS of pictures.
I’ve gone this way before, but the first time I found this trail was on foot and I was well below it and had to scramble up the steep hill to get to it. It was one step forward and two steps back for a while and I was on my hands and knees trying to get up the very steep slope. Here’s a picture during that crawl two years ago: (Here) But this time I was able to park right next to the start of the trail and missed all that crawling and grunting.
The first 2 miles were all along the volcanic cliff and the view overlooking the park was great. Like I said before, a bit cloudy but it adds so much to the autumn feeling.
As I continued on, I came to a place that I absolutely love; it’s a tunnel of fall colors and to me it always feels like the grand entrance to my yearly fall ride. (You can click on it to see a bigger version)
At the end of the tunnel is not a pot of gold (although that would be grand!) but a wide open field of wheat and wonderful views:
I stopped here for a break and enjoyed the wide open view. It was two years ago and just a little ways further down the road that I stopped at an apple tree that had beautiful red apples, sweet, juicy and delicious. What they lacked in size they made up in flavor: (Here) Yum! But…for some reason I didn’t see that tree this trip, or perhaps I just blew right by it.
I was continuing on down the abandon rail road track and spied an old shack about ready to fall down, so I hopped off the trail and took a couple of pics:
As I continued down the trial it bends around to the South and one day I will continue going South, although I think I’d only find myself back in Spokane. So instead I hopped off the trail and followed a paved road for a few miles to a dead end with these views:
You have GOT to click on each one of those pictures to get the full effect! Go ahead…I’ll wait until you’re done.
What’s funny about this field is, you can’t wait to tear into riding it, but man oh man is it rough! I mean, rattle all your teeth out, rough! But each year someone mows a large swath that allows us to get out to the edge of the cliff so we can continue to enjoy the views.
So at this point I’m about 9 miles into my 20 mile ride and in the past I usually work my way down to the bottom and head back. But I wanted to go a little further and try and see something new so I continued on, but wow, the going was tough. There was no ‘groomed’ trail and the wheat or hay was way past my waist and even up to my shoulders which made navigation very difficult as I was not able to tell what was underneath all that grass. I was riding slowly since I was right near the edge and I didn’t want to fall off my bike on the wrong side. (That did actually happen, but thankfully I was going very slowly and the bike stayed on the top and only I rolled down a small part of the hill. But it WAS steep! WHEW!
So I carefully made my way through the wheat field and picked up a really cool single track trail that wound through the woods, although I wasn’t able to see the valley except for peaking through a few trees once in a while when the trail took me closer to the edge.
Finally the trail petered out and I found myself in someone’s back yard, so I bushed whacked my way around the back of their field trying to stay as far away as I could and after climbing over some downed trees and a couple of fences I worked my way down to the valley only to find myself stuck on the wrong side of a small river, well, more like a creek with “No Trespassing” signs all over the place…YIKES!
I wasn’t about to climb back up the hill I just came from so I was skirting the edge of the hill side staying as far away from houses as possible. Finally after going back and forth I decided I would just have to cross the river and then figure out how to get back to Riverside SP. Just as I was looking for the shallowest spot, I heard someone yell, “HEY! THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY!! YOU HAVE TO GET OUT!”…uh-oh. I sure hoped they didn’t have a gun with them. Right then my phone rang, but I thought I had better deal with whoever it was yelling at me rather than whoever it was on the phone.
I told the guy (at least I think it was a guy…long hair and pajamas…well, they LOOKED like pajamas!), “Oh, sorry, I am terribly lost and have no idea where I am or how to get back to Riverside Sate Park!”. That seemed to put him at ease and once I crossed over the stream he told me how to get back on track.
So I headed back over to 7 mile and took the cut off for trail #25 and followed that all the way back to my most favorite spot in my fall ride, “The Tamarack Display”
Well, for some reason the slideshow is showing ALL the files I uploaded instead of the ones I told it to…sigh. Too tired to figure it out.
Anyway, a wonderful ride in a wonderful place. Thank you Jesus for Spokane!