Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ride on the Trace

Yesterday I was thinking of doing a ride on the Wabash Trace. Just was a little tired so did not ride. This morning at coffee, Dennis said he was thinking of riding the Trace today. Sounded good to me, so we planned to ride from Silver City south (at least to Malvern).

Both of us were looking to take some photos. Stopped at Silver Creek bridge to take a few photos. On down to Malvern were we stopped at the park for snack and water. Both felt good to continue south.

Ended up riding to the West Nishnabotna River bridge. Took some more photos at that bridge and other places along the way. I had my good camera with me, took bracketed exposures to create HDR Photos. One of these, processed as "grunge" by Photomatix Lite and converted to black & white by Microsoft Digital Image Pro is shown on this post.

Weather was partly cloudy, in the mid 80s. Was supposed to be drier air than yesterday, but both of us worked up a sweat. Good ride.

BTW, there was a tree down across the trail just south of Malvern.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trail Condition Report

The last week, I have been busy riding my bicycles and checking the various trails in Council Bluffs. We had some pretty miserable weather over the last week- hot and humid. Add in the regular storms during the week. The weekend turned out nice. Still got in 100 miles in the last 7 days.

Most of the rides have been between Xtreme Wheels and the Western Historic Trails Center. One ride up Dumfries Hill on the Wabash Trace. The last couple days I brought me D-SLR camera and shoot some HDR photos.

The top photo on today's posting is of the Dumfries Bridge on the Wabash Trace.

The Missouri River is up this week. There were heavy rains north (up-river) last week. Word is that the Corps of Engineers is also releasing more water through Gavin's Point Dam. I even heard that river level may rise as much as 3 feet from its current level!

Today, I headed out from the bike shop to the Trails Center. Rode the Lake Manawa Trail and stopped by the mountain bike trails to checkout their condition.

The second photo shows the flood waters over the THOR trails at Lake Manawa. The water is over the road that leads to the river boat ramp. Its going to be a long summer - hope the river drops so we can ride the dirt trails later this year!

Since the river rose back earlier this summer, the Iowa Riverfront Trail has been under water behind the Western Historic Trails Center. The waters have been slowly receding. The folks there have been busy clearing the trails of trees that dropped across the trail.

The next photo in this blog posting shows the water still over Iowa Riverfront Trail. There is a marked detour around that section of the trail.

From the Trails Center, I decided to complete the loop around Council Bluffs. The next section of the trail that was causing me concern was under Harrahs Casino. I had heard that the lower parking lot was under water.

There is water in the parking lot and the trail is flooded along the river. There is no marked path to ride under the parking structure. I dumped the bike on the mud riding past the equipment parked there. Not hurt, just some mud. Be careful riding under the structure - the pavement is slick with river silt mud.

In the final photo on this posting, you can see how high the river is.

Rode on up the trail to the Bob Bridge. Took a few of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos along the way. In the 25 summer seasons that I have lived here, I do not remember seeing the Missouri River that high. Most times when there has been flooding on the Missouri, it has been downstream from Omaha/Council Bluffs.

The next stop was the end of the Iowa Riverfront Trails at Big Lake. The rode there has been flooded and is closed. The trail is high enough that is it dry. Big Lake is "full".

Headed on through town on N 8th and my normal route to Harry Langdon. After over 22 miles under my belt, I was pleased that my legs were strong enough to carry me up the hill there at 10 mph.

Ended up with 26 miles, about 2 hours and a quarter. A good ride, several good photos.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Missouri River At Lake Manawa

I have been watching the Missouri River slowly recede back into its banks. Though the flood waters were contained by the levee, this is the second time this year and the third time in the last 3 years the river has flooded.

Of particular interest to me and dirt riders has been the mountain bike trails at Lake Manawa SP.

The trails were rideable except for the ditch at the black pipe, when the June floods hit. This year was the highest I have seen since I have been riding there. It the photo above, note the stain on the blue trail marker - that was the high-water mark. In the distance you can see a utility pole across the trail. The flood waters floated the pole from the parking lot to its current location.

Most of the parking lot was under water. Those of you that are familiar with the parking lot - you will notice the utility poles are missing or have moved.

I have not been out on the trails here to check them out. Because of what I had seen, I have been spending time riding paved trails or the Wabash Trace. I expect that West Sidewinder it high and dry. One of these days I will wander out and check them out. As long as if it stays in its banks, eventually we should be able to get back on the trails. For now, just consider the mountain bike trails at Lake Manawa are CLOSED.

The high waters are not just a problem here in Iowa/Nebraska. Word is that the Corps of Engineers will be continuing releasing waste from the reservoirs. The third photo is of the Missouri River at the river board ramps - Lake Manawa SP. The docking is still sitting in the parking lot. As you can see, the river is very high.

It looks like the river will be high for most of the year. And the dirt trails have not been the only trails effected.

I had heard that the Iowa Rivrfront Trails was flooding under the Harrahs parking garage. Last report, the trail is passable with a detour. You just will not be riding right next to the river.

That is not the case for the section of the Iowa Riverfront Trail near the Western Historic Trails Center. There is a low spot in the trail that is still underwater. The final photo in this posting is of that trail. You can see the high-water mark on the pavement. There is a signed detour that takes riders on the gravel levee access road. The detour meets up back after the flooded area. I have not ridden this detour because I have been riding my road bike on the paved trails.

For a comparison - checkout the blog posting from Tuesday, July 6th. The water IS receding - slowly. Since my road bike is in the shops for adjustments, I may have to take the hybrid for a ride to checkout the rest of the Iowa Riverfront Trail.

For those of you interested in my personal riding - yesterday I hit the 700 mile mark for the year - 200 miles on the new road bike. While not good compared with the 1500+ miles last year by this time, I am please, with the weather and what Ihave been though this year.

Keep on Pedaling!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Water Released

Yesterday, I observed that the river was receding. That would be good news for those of us that like to ride the Iowa Riverfront Trail in Council Bluffs.

Well, today on the news I heard that the Corp of Engineers is releasing more water from the Gavins Point Dam (near Yankton, SD). So, we can expect river levels to rise again.

There's a surplus of water up stream, in addition to the excess of water in the Omaha area. Don't expect the river to be down (and the trail rideable) for some time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Felt Damn Good

It was hot this morning, humid, and no air moving. I got home after breakfast and picking up held mail. The power was off in the area. So, I loaded the road bike on the car, changed into a cycling kit, and headed to the bike shop for a ride.

As I neared the bike shop, I noticed that the stop lights were not working. Zack confirmed that they have a power outage, too. Word was that the whole area was dark. (The bike shop is about 10+ miles from my house!)

I still needed to get on my bike. It was too long since I last rode (almost a week!) My helmet needed some repair parts, so bought a new brain bucket. When they have the repair parts, the old helmet can be my spare.

Headed out from the bike shop. Damn, it felt so good to be back on the bike! I had one of those emotional moments on the bike. Finally I settled down for the ride.

My first stop was the Lake Manawa Mountain Bike trails. The road is now dry (but the park has a barricade across the road). The trails are still underwater. The top photo shows the water at the exit from the long side.

Still feeling pretty good, I headed on over to the Western Historic Trails Center. After stopping in to sign the guest book, it was time for a granola bar and bottle of G2. Rode up to the levee to check out the water there. The photo tp the right shows that the trail dropping off from the levee, heading towards the river, is underwater.

I have been told that the trail (and lower parking lot) is underwater at Harrahs. Word is that Big Lake is also flooded.

Nothing to note on the way back except for work along Mosquito Creek. When I got to the construction area there, I had to walk the bike because they had sprayed oil over the pavement in preparation to re-paving. That slowed me down a bit as for average speed.

Still ended up with just over 12 mph for the 20.5 mile ride. Felt Damn Good!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - II

After a relaxing day Thursday, I was ready for a day of being "Tourist". Early out from the motel. Stopped in Cherokee, NC for breakfast. then on into the Great Smoky Mountains NP.

Two days ealier I drove up to Newfound Gap. Today, my destination was Cades Cove.

On the way to Cades Cove there are some waterfalls in the Little River Gorge. I bypassed Laurel Falls - not wanting to do the 2.5 mile hike. Stopped by The Sinks and Meigs Falls, both that can be viewed from the road.

While the falls are beautiful, I saw a little falls/rapids in the river. No name, just one that looking nice, with the moss-covered rocks. There is a HDR Photo of this above.

Cades Cove loop road is one-way. Lots of bicycles on the road. BTW, on Wednesdays and Saturdays the road is closed for all BUT bicycles until 10am. I was thinking of staying last night in the area to ride the loop. But, it is a bit hilly - with some very steep climbs.

At the entrances to the one-way, stop by to pick up one of the booklets that describes the cove, the buildings, and the road. Very much worth the $1.

I stopped at the first historic house. Met a park employee that gave me some tips for other places to shoot in the cove. In addition to the building, he suggested a hill on one of the cross-roads. A great spot for a full 360 degree panoramic.

The photo to the right is of the John Oliver House, where I met the park employee (5 exposure HDR photo).

There is one thing that really frosted me during the drive in Cades Cove. There are several signs that suggest that you pull over to let other traffic pass instead blocking the road. While some drivers where not really "stopping" they were driving soooo slow - about 5-7 mph. And, they would NOT pull into a turn-off to let other vehicles pass. At one point I was the 5th or 6th car in a line and I could not see the back end of the line. The lead driver just kept on moseying on. (For reference, the speed limit in Cades Cove is 20 mph.)

There were a couple of the stops along the loop that I missed. At least 1 was an house that meant a bit of a hike. At that point I needed to stop for a restroom break. I found it at the Information Center. There is a collection of building in that area, including a grist mill.

On around the loop, stopping at a couple more houses. By the time i completed the loop, I was getting hungry. Picked up a snack thee to tide me over until dinner.

Back on the loop, for a second tour of the first section. Had to drive that section to get to the Rich Mountain Road which was my way out.

Rich Mountain Road is a one-way road (while in the park). Gravel road the climbs up across the mountain. Stopped one place to take a photo (recommended by the park employee) where I had a wide view of the cove with the Methodist Church.

Other than the un-courtious drivers, and the confusing ordering system at the snack bar - I had a good drive. Thanks to the fellow of Cades Cove Heritage Tours, i was able to log on the make motel reservations for the night. Ended up staying in Knoxville.

With that, I am ready to head home. See you all later this weekend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The North Carolina Arboretum

Finally, I am all caught up on my blogging (with this post). Today is a relaxing day. In the morning, headed to The North Caroline Arboretum. Spent a couple hours walking around and shooting flowers.

Admission to the Arboretum is free. There is a parking fee (currently $8). The first Tuesday of the month parking is free. Check their web site to verify since motel rack cards are out of date.

While the Arboretum opens at 8am, the Baker Exhibit Center, Education Center, and Bonsai Exhibition Garden open at 9am. I was starting early to beat the heat (though that is not so bad as it has been).

I was thinking of walking some of the trails of the Arboretum, but my legs still need the rest. I could have brought a bike to ride on the grounds. Actually, I am feeling its time to load up the bikes for the trip home, too.

Later in the day, it was a nap and packing for the return trip. Glad i spent another day here before heading the road again.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Wednesday, June 30

There are a couple reasons for visiting the Deep Creek area of the Smokies. First. it was on my way from Tsali. There was a short trail to walk. and, the trail brought you to 3 waterfalls.

Its not easy to navigate through Bryson City. Coming in from the SW, came into the "back" way, I got the tour. Fortunately, there are good signs to show the way to Deep Creek.

When I got there, I could see why - tubing. Lots of vendors hawking tubes for floating on the creek.

Picked up the area informational pamphlet ($1.50) trail-side. First was a climb up to Juney Whank Falls From there, you can follow the horse trail (making a loop) or drop down to the Deep Creek Trail. I opted the second.

After a steep decent, I was on the Deep Creek Trail - a very wide trail. It was a short walk up to Tom Branch Falls. This is a small, tall falls where the water drops into the main creek.

Another short hike up along Deep Creek brings you up to the junction of Deep Creek Trail and the Indian Creek Trail. Just up some 200 feet on Indian Creek Trail is the Indian Creek Falls. This was the largest of the falls on the loop. The photo above is of Indian Creek Falls.

From Deep Creek area, I headed to Cherokee, NC, stopping for lunch. Cherokee is at the South end of the Great Smoky Mountains NP and on an Indian Reservation. Its a tourist trap town. Ended up fast food to easy the hungries.

Next, it was a drive on into the park. Stopped to look out the Mingus Mill. Took a couple photos here. Then back up the road. Paused to take some photos at overlooks.

Took the extra 7 mile drive up the Clingmans Dome road. They are doing work on the parking lot. I did not walk up the trail (lots of climbing) to the observation deck. Just too much for my legs. From Clingmans Dome, back on Hwy 441, it was a very short drive to Newfound Gap

The lower photo in this post is a HDR photo of the view from Newfound Gap. This is at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It is also the point where the Appalachian Trail crosses the park road.

By now, it was time to head back to Asheville. It was a uneventful drive back.

Tsali Trails

Tsali Trails (Bryson City, NC) uses a rotating trail use system. I was looking to ride the Right Loop, then I needed to ride Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday. June 30th was a Wednesday so I headed to Tsali.

It was about 70 miles from Asheville to Tsali. Surprisingly, the road is mostly 4-lane divided highway. Only the last 12-15 miles from Bryson City to Tsali was 2-lane.

Another humid day in the Western North Carolina mountains. The good thing is that it was much cooler than yesterday.

I headed on Right Loop, which is listed as the easier loop. (Also, the Right Loop has a couple of "bail out" trails.) The trail is a contour trail, flowing the shore of Fontana Lake. The photo here is of the bike on the Right loop with the lake in the distance.

I was feeling pretty good at the first "bail". But, quickly the trail turn more gnarly. More roots, steep climbs, and heavy erosion. This was the first sections I had to walk. At the second "bail", I had enough. Luckily, the bail trail drops you onto a gravel road (which is also the right loop (and for some sections left loop). It was a quick return to the trailhead.

Wish the trail had stayed like the first section. I could have ridden longer. As it was, I rode 4.7 miles for 57 minutes - better than Tuesday.

After loading the bike onto the car, I headed to Bryson City and the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Tuesday, June 29th

After a shower and change of clothes, I was off to drive a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I started driving up to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center & Park Headquarters. The HQ is Northeast of Asheville on the Parkway.

I picked up some maps, literature, and a t-shirt. Learned there is a detour south of Asheville. Much of the detour was the same type of scenery than the Parkway. The detour took me past Looking Glass Falls.

Most of the rest of the drive was unremarkable. Like the Cherohala Skyway, its a limited access mountain road. Lots of turn-outs and view area. The big difference, you can really see something at the Parkway view areas.

A quick shower came across the Parkway. When the sun came back out, the "steam" started raising from the hills. The photo with this post is a view along the Parkway after the rain. The "smoke" is very evident in the photo.

The South end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, stopped in the visitor's center there to get info. Picked up a couple book to help plan my visit to the Park.

Bent Creek Trails

Tuesday morning I headed out to the Bent Creek Research and Demonstration Forest. I had heard that this is a good ride, specially with its proximity to Asheville.

At BioWheels, I picked up a copy of Western NC Pisgah, Volume II, Off the Beaten Track Mountain Bike Guide Series. The Deerfield-PineTree-Explorer loop was recommended to me. The loop starts from the Hardtimes Trailhead.

After about 0.3 miles on gravel road, the loop turns onto singletrack. This is the Homestead Trail (#3330. This is a wide trail along a creek and on to Lake Powhatan. The photo with this post is of a canopy of Rhododendron over the trail.

The loop takes a left turn and heads up. I had to start walking there. With the humidity, I was feeling miserable. There are no signs at trail junctions, so need at very good map or cue sheet to make the loop.

These factors and with all of the walking the day before at Biltmore, I called it a morning and headed back to the car. A disappointing 2 miles.