Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Snow King Mountain

After a one day break from riding, I managed to squeeze a shortened ride in without getting too wet on Tuesday. So far, we are five for five days of rain. This doesn't mean every day has been a wash out. Far from it. It just means we had to juggle activities and durations around the daily threat of storms this funky weather pattern is still producing.

Tuesday I did a ride right from Jackson on Snow King Mountain trails. I managed to score a late checkout from the hotel so I could get a proper shower before heading over to Sun Valley later in the day. This still meant I had to start wicked early. Just as well, as there was a 30% chance of thunderstorms. Each day has been 30% or greater, and every day we at least hear thunder somewhere during the day. The women were heading into Grand Teton National Park for a short hike up to Taggart Lake.

I rolled out at 7:30am. It was cold, 40's probably. That necessitated some longer layers. A little bit of trail behind town connected me to a paved bike path that took me several miles south to the Game Creek trailhead. Game Creek started out double track, then whittled down to singletrack. I was uber paranoid riding up this so early in the morning. The sun hadn't even broken over the mountains yet. It was quiet, nobody else out there, and I wasn't making any noise. Had no idea how many bear were in this area. The trail along the creak meandered through dense brush. You'd slam right into a bear around the constant blind corners if one were in the trail. I almost did this once and didn't need to repeat it. The only wildlife I saw was a coyote who was curiously interested in me.

When I got up to the burn area on West Game Creek Trail, things open up a bit and I felt more at ease. The climbing got stupid steep near the top, probably over 20%. With my tired legs and altitude, I relented on the last steep pitch and pushed it.

The sky was mostly bluebird thus far. It looked like I was finally going to get the weather I expected for the whole trip. Cruising along at 7500-8000ft on Wilson Canyon Trail was sweet. More work was needed to bring me up to the peak you see from town with the communication towers on it. The view did not disappoint. Birds eye of Jackson and complete panorama of the Tetons. The air was the clearest yet of our trip.

I dropped down to Jose's Ridge Trail, which offers more open views of the horizon before free-falling back to town. This was another one of those death-grip on the brakes kind of descents for me. I probably went slower going down than I did climbing up to 8000ft. I wussed out on a couple switchbacks.  I'd probably clean them all giving it a second go. That was an awful way to give up about 1500ft of vertical. I bet my rotors would have been glowing had it been dark out.

Sink or Swim Trail was taken across the lower flanks of the Snow King ski area. This had some pretty punchy climbs in it as it contoured around 6500ft. I had originally planned to go back up and over to descend Game Creek and pop out at Cache Creek, but I needed to be back by noon. So I picked up Hagen Trail that stayed much lower and headed up one side of Cache Creek.

It seemed in less than five minutes, the sky went from bluebird to dark gray with thunder booming in the canyon. WTF! How does this happen? I was glad I was doing a shortened ride, but now I may have to shorten it even further. I heard thunder and saw lightning in three different directions, west, east and north. I thought surely this would close in on me.

I hit the end of Hagen, crossed over Cache Creek, then began heading back towards town on Putt Putt Trail. Lightning was getting too close for comfort as I began climbing more, hitting exposed areas, and not immediately descending toward town. Not what I expected. I thought seriously about just taking the doubletrack that closely follows Cache Creek back into town, and just maybe I wouldn't trash my bike some more. But no, I had to ride the incredible, canyon hugging singletrack that permeated the area. It was a surreal experience, hearing the thunder booming all around me, yet hauling ass on still dry singletrack that drops a thousand feet in several miles. It started to rain just as I reached the edge of town and pavement. Boy that was close. I did not want to put a muddy bike in the car again. I managed to stay dry even.

I finished with 33.7mi, 4300ft in 3.7hrs on the Garmin. This ride took more out of me than it should have. Not good, with a couple of the biggest rides of the trip planned in Sun Valley in the next couple of days. Here's a few photo's from today's ride.

Heading up Game Creek Trail before sun came over the mountains.

Up top on West Game Creek Trail.

From saddle above Snow King ski area looking south over Wilson Canyon Trail.

From peak above Snow Kind ski area looking over Jackson at the Grand Tetons. This
peak is at 8000ft, town at 6200ft, and Grand Teton at 13,770ft.

Self portrait on Jose's Trail with Teton Range in background.

More of Jose's Ridge Trail. There were chunky sections to keep you on your toes.

One of many switchbacks on Jose's.

Heading up Cache Creek on Hagen Trail. Clouds building.

Heading back to town on Putt Putt Trail. Clouds on left producing lightning. The women
hiked where the darkest clouds are. I hoped they finished before this brewed up (they did).

1 comment:

Brian B said...

Glad you didn't go into one of the photo galleries in town before that ride. You wouldn't have been so concerned about bears...mountain lions are a lot scarier. The gallery has photos of a mountain lion and cubs inhabiting a den on the Snow King. Always was on my mind when riding out there. Gorgeous area. Glad you enjoyed.