Saturday, June 26, 2010

Manzanita Deathmarch

There's a very remote spot near the headwaters of the North Fork of the American River, right at the start of the Royal Gorge, that Grant and I visited a few years ago. The spot is Heath Falls, and it's quite difficult to get to due to overgrown and unmaintained trails. I went there again last weekend with my dad, who'd wanted to see it ever since hearing about the first visit.

Thinking we'd outsmart the approach that Grant and I took, we parked at a slightly different spot and made our way down into the Gorge. It turns out that Grant and I picked the better parking spot, as we fought with some manzanita in the early parts of the hike. Further down, however, the dark forest floor, piled with deadfall, had some vibrant residents for us to play with.

Baby snowplant

Bigger snowplants

Crunched for time, we pressed downstream where Serena Creek dumps into the North Fork. Not too much longer, the canyon walls got darker, signaling the start of Royal Gorge, and we were greeted with the pervasive sound of rushing and falling water. The reason Grant and I hiked down there was so he could recon the falls for a potential kayak trip down the Gorge. This next photo shows the start of 3 days of largely unportageable Class V+ whitewater, if you're in to that sort of thing.

Heath Falls (that's 50 feet tall, by the way...super wide-angle photo)

Minimal moonscape

Making our way back up through the forest, we found ourselves navigating some larger seas of manzanita than we had on the way down, and it is not the most friendly member of Sierra flora. By a long shot. Stiff, strong, pokey, and scratchy, it grows very densely and is soul-sapping, skin-shredding purgatory. Mind you, this entire portion of the hike was overland, so we didn't really have a trail to follow, and the last 500m to the car took us over an hour. At one point, we were less than 100 feet from a graded dirt road, and it may as well have been miles away, as the mature manzanita was taller than we were and most unforgiving for routefinding purposes. Daylight leaving us, we finally buckled down and forced our way through. Just in case you think I'm exaggerating how awful this stuff is:

D^2 and his legs, posing in front of manzanita

Exceedingly happy to be out of the death shrub, we gathered Ethel at Northstar as her volunteer duties ended and slunk away to an awesome dinner at the lake. A week later, my legs still look like they got caned. It's a special part of the Sierras to visit, but be prepared to pay the price...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Goodnight Lu

One door closes so another shall open...

Last glimpse of a brilliant automobile while my now-primary transportation peeks out

Fare thee well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tour de Nez '10

Reno was invaded last weekend by the Tour de Nez, our long-running professional cycling race. Featuring 3 days of racing, mint juleps, and frighteningly large shaved legs, it's always a fun weekend.

This year, Ethel got invited to be a podium girl, which means that she'd be kissing a bunch of guys who are better bikers than I am. To the winners go the spoils, eh?

The only day I made it to was the downtown Reno criterium, so here are photos from that race. Photo geeks: all shot with a 300mm f/4.

Receiving detailed instructions from race creator Tim Healion; note the laser-like focus

The pack, early on in the hourlong race

This race has always been timed around twilight, which means the lighting conditions change drastically from the start to the finish. As such, a lot of the racers opt for no sunglasses so they can still see things when it gets dark. And by "things," I'm referring to the other racers they're shoulder-to-shoulder with through corners at thirty miles an hour.

Giving chase

Two riders on a breakaway

The pack is a living, breathing beast, silently deciding when to pull back breakaways and when to change the pace. The riders have to stay aware of their surroundings as they suffer endlessly, as crashes in crits can be pretty ugly.

The pack motors along

Some familiar faces get spied on from 6 stories up

Riley acts all professional and stuff

The racing was fun to watch, with a group of 6 or so going off the front and staying away for quite some time. As the sunset turned to dusk, the pace picked up.

The chase pack

A modest lead for the break

As the race ended, Reno's hooligans planned the rest of their activities for the night, downtown cleanup began, and the riders headed off to recover as best they could before the road race at Northstar the next day.

One such hooligan, scheming

Good times.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Our office recently moved from the hospital to a building directly across the street from the Aces' ballpark. There's a vacant space on our 14th floor that will hopefully make for some good viewing opportunities, but this photo was taken from a ledge on the 11th floor of parking.

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The view from the 14th floor is better, but this ain't bad either!

Past Detritus