Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Furlough Memorial tour

Looking back to the valley from Point Six at high noon, about half way into the day.
I'm sure most ambitious Missoulians have schemed about logical linkups on the expansive trail network close to town.  For example, check out Bill Martin's audacious RMVQ efforts which are all major extensions of my route.  I attempted a shorter link up two years ago, but was thwarted by fatigue and total brake failure coming down Sheep Mountain.  With a faster bike and a more comprehensive knowledge of the local trails, I picked a logical link up of peaks around Missoula that could be completed in a long day.  I did as much running as possible to minimize the strain of lugging a bike uphill, and added a few additions to the shortest possible route to keep things fun, mainly climbing Butler creek, descending the Beargrass highway trail, and going over Ravine instead of returning to the valley after Point Six.  Since I am on the furlough plan, there wasn't really any good excuse not to give it a try, so I headed out at 5:08 am, headed for Blue Mountain.

The climb up Blue Mountain was fun.  As per normal, I rode up the 3.04 trail, then up the Blue Mountain road to the gate.  I kept the pace slow and just enjoyed the dark.  From the gate, I donned running shoes and ran the last few hundred vertical feet, following the old horse trail.  The sun cast a fiery red pre-dawn light on the eastern horizon as I topped out (7:20 am).  It was going to be a good day!
First light on Blue Mountain.  My appologies for all of the self portraits.
Photographic subject matter was limited.
I ran, then rode down the Blue Mountain road and took trails down through the recreation area.  A strong inversion kept temps reasonable for most of the descent, which was key since I didn't bring many warm clothes.  By crossing the McClay bridge, I was able to keep limit the Reserve street riding to about two miles during the long slog through town.  Also, I stopped at Albertsons for donuts, coke, yogurt and a banana.

I rode out to Butler creek, which takes longer, but is a more enjoyable climb than the Snowbowl road.  Even with the impeccable morning weather, the climb up Butler to the top of the Griz chair was the psychological low point of the day.  It is just a super long and steep grind, and I was experiencing a weird shooting pain in my left knee and calf.  But I made it, and was happy to switch to running shoes for a jaunt out to the summit of Point Six (11:50).  I rode the awesome Beargrass highway trail, then cruised down the Snowbowl road before refilling water in Grant creek.  Maybe it was the GU, or maybe it was just the beautiful day, but something switched during the climb up the Ravine trail, and I had nothing but a good time cranking away on the moderate switchbacks, and I had a huge grin on my face riding effortlessly down into Sawmill gulch.
A shadow closing in on the top of Point Six.
Quick break on top of Ravine.
I refilled water again at the base of the Woods gulch trail and started up Sheep Mountain (2:28).  I had hoped to start up about an hour earlier, but the day was proceeding flawlessly otherwise, so I was in good spirits.  This was my eighth excursion up Sheep Mountain, and I resorted to maximum efficiency tactics, biking to within about 1,000 vertical of the top of Blue point, and running from there.  Once again, I felt great on the climb, and was able to go round trip in just over four hours.  It was fun to run into Blake on his bike high on Sheep Mountain, cruising around in the snow.  He gave me some food, which saved me from bonking.  Thanks Blake!.
On Sheep Mountain!
It was clearly going to be a dark voyage up University mountain, so I stopped in at Rattlesnake Gardens for a few bars and some warm water before riding out to the Hellgate canyon trail.  The sun was setting as I started up the trail (6:50), and I just settled in for a steady, dark climb to the top.  Topping out, I was greeted by a stiff east wind and the beacon casting an eerie rotating beam of light on the trees.  It was time to head home.  Not wanting to risk cramping, I took it easy coming off University, and was soon back at the bike.  A two-mile jaunt through town had me back at home (9:05), excited for beer, warm soup, and bed.
Hazy fatigue celebration on University mountain.
I like my route, and everything worked out well.  As of this morning, I have no desire to do it again, but maybe some day?  Another fine link up would be to add Mount Dean Stone and eliminate Blue Mountain and/or Point six, which would necessitate more biking, but would take about 20 miles off the slog through town.

On a different note, being furloughed is kind of fun, but I would much prefer to be working.  I really enjoy my work.  Also, I like to keep this blog focused on outdoor pursuits, but I must admit that I am sickened by the misguided, deceptive, immature, cowardly, terrifying, and cruel (I could go on) tactics of the conservative media and members of the Republican House.

Total elevation gain (based on topo map): 17,900 vertical feet
Total distance (best estimate):  104 miles
Trip length: 15 hours, 57 minutes, door to door
Accomplices: None
Put in/Take out:  My house
Route: Out to Blue Mountain, up and down Blue, out to Butler creek, up Butler to Point Six road, up to Point Six, down Beargrass highway and Snowbowl road, up Ravine, down Sawmill gulch, up and down Sheep Mountain via Woods gulch, up and down University mountain on foot via the Hellgate Canyon trail.
Equipment of note:  Running and biking shoes, winter gloves, running shorts instead of biking shorts (my butt is sore), light wind gear top and bottom, no puffy jacket.
Sustinance:  About 5L of water (many refills) and about 4,000 calories.  Lots of gels, and Perpetum, three granola bars, salami, three donuts, two king size Snickers bars, yogurt, a banana, one bottle of coke, Hammer fizz.  Also, I treated all my water, so ended up consuming about five iodine tablets
Fatigue factor (1-10): 9.5
Stoke factor:  8 (Note:  virtually impossible to exceed 9 if skis aren't involved)
Memories to suppress:  forgetting my cell phone, weird shooting pain in my left knee and calf while biking, ending in the dark. 

1 comment:

  1. Preach, brother, preach! And take it easy on your knee.