Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Singletrack Stanley

Even though summertime has always a time to get outta town and go on vacation, there's double incentive to do so in Salt Lake, because it's dang hot.  Of course, if you are in Phoenix or Vegas then it's a lot more than double incentive because it's a whole lot dang hotter in those places, but still...it's hot in SLC.  So when a window opens to go recreate in one of the annually-averaged coolest/coldest places in the country that is nestled at the foot of craggy peaks that probably should be a national park (but aren't, therefore there's a fraction of the people there), we will load up and head for lovely Stanley, Idaho for it's lonely trails:

I've spent way too much time pondering this question:  why do the mountain bike trails in Ketchum and Stanley seem so much better than those around here?  It could be because the proverbial grass is always greener 350 miles away so you justify the drive to do what you could do 15 miles away, but I think it's also because the riding up there is mostly on trails that were put in by adventurous motorcyclists in the 70's who wanted ingress to adventure in the mountains, not by trail cutting machines manned by folks who are determined to make the trails as easy as possible and create a contrived network in a ski resort.  For sure, that characteristic is limited to the trails out of Park City, and there's a lot to be said for the efficiency and fun of 6%-grade trails and a vast network that provides a plethora of options and soaks up tons of (mostly) cyclists. But in Sun Valley and Stanley the "network" is much-expanded to the point where you aren't sure if a ride you'd like to do is feasible in a day's-worth of pedaling, the trails are narrower, and you really feel like you are "going somewhere" by going up a drainage, up to a pass, across a ridge, down another drainage, up to another pass, etc.  Add the more-technical (versus "bouncy") nature of the Stanley trails and the fraction of riders up there, and it's a veritable Mountain Bike Mecca.

Despite the fact that our smugness about escaping the heat was somewhat mitigated by the fact that monsoonal rains finally pushed as far north as Salt Lake and have kept the valley temps in the rare and very-pleasant 80's for a week, we managed to have a great time up north.  It wasn't too hard to convince the ever-strengthening Colin to join us, though this did push the limits of the new car that has slightly-less room than our Outback:

and we hit up a few awesome rides:  the Big Boulder/Little Boulder Loop, the Little Casino/Big Casino Loop, and the Potato Mountain loop.  The first two involve a fair bit of hike-a-biking (hike-a-biking don't fly in the bike-friendly environs of Park City!) and barely-rideable climbs:
Colin taking his bike for a walk.  this trail is far steeper than it looks......really!  
and the payoffs were long, sometimes-technical/sometimes-blurry fast descents.  The Potato Mountain ride was just recently re-opened after a fire 2 years ago that decimated the area (I am pretty sure that soon enough there simply won't be any more Idaho woods to burn....) and it's a bit more Ketchum-esque in its mellowness and buffness, but it still has a very backcountry feel to it, which I was psyched to be able to experience by riding it one direction and running it the other.  
Ash slaying an all-new trail up Little Casino with the Sawtooths in the distance
And of course we had to do the venerable Fisher Creek ride; I argued that it's one of the more famous trails in the country - along the lines of Gooseberry and Slickrock - because it's a "must-do" ride if you are in that area that already sports a lot of amazing rides, it's been in all the magazines, everyone loves the concept that it seems like you descend much more than you climb, and the descending is not only wicked fun it's also insanely fast and and is effectively a one way trail, so that stupidly high speeds are of little consequence (and now that it too has burned you can see even farther ahead!).  Colin was a Fisher Creek virgin, and it wasn't hard to talk us into throwing in a couple-hour blast on it. 
Reveling in the hills
And the coup de grace of Stanley riding is of course The Stanley Bakery; I'm not necessarily a big goin-out-to-breakfast guy, but being able to conveniently mow into what I would consider to be the tastiest and biggest breakfast I have had  - with plenty of breakfast desserts - within sight of a lot of awesome craggy peaks, killer ski lines, and shredable singletrack is hard to pass up.  

We were also keen to have our old friend Bruce Rogers join us, despite his best attempts not to:  we thought we saw him a hundred yards from our camp one evening wandering around, but it was too far away to be sure and we thought "well, Bruce knows where we are camping, and that couldn't be him just wandering nearby without coming to our camp".  But it turns out he had taken residence in someone else's camp thinking it was ours, fell asleep, and when he woke up and dundered out of his van to say hello to "us" found that "we" were not who he thought we were!   But his newfound friends were kind enough to say "no problem dude, you can camp here with us, and do you want a bong hit?" So all was well.   

Thanks to Colin for making a long weekend happen right after another long weekend, and to Bruce for coming up to meet us and finally figuring out where we were!  

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