Monday, November 7, 2016

Adventures With Jeaph: Back in Black(burn)

Jeaph was gone.  I tried to HTFU and just let go of the brake levers but all of those loose babyheads just tottered maniacally under my wheels threatening to send me to the Broken Collar Bone Hall of Fame.  I’m not ready for that one just yet.  Though at the tail end of our sixteen mile ride I could have almost given up mountain biking for good.  I’d had just that much fun.  Jeaph was gone.  So I let go of the brake levers and let gravity tug me deeper into Spaas Creek.

We met in the pine grove where the Dog People took the wind out of my sails recently.  Just before disappearing into the 4G wasteland that is eastern Powell County I texted Jeaph:  Should get there right at 9:30 meaning our predetermined meetup spot.  

He shot right back: Just now leaving.  Will be a few minutes late.

Ugh.  Last I’d heard Jeaphre was planning on riding from home.  In another time in my life I would have ridden from home too.  But that would have added at a minimum twenty five miles to my day on pavement, and I really wanted to save myself for the grinding that was to come on dirt and gravel.

Not a bad place to kill time (and hide the body)
Pine grove on Spaas Creek

Time would have to be kilt.  I decided I could ride around and get warmed up.  There was frost on the field next to the old falling down barn where the Proofer used to maintain a shooting range.  My blood would have to be pumped and warmed if I was to keep up with Jeaph on the old dirty roads.  I could also hike up to the base of Blackburn as I’ve been wanting to do for a while and revisit the boulders I once climbed there.  But I was dressed to ride, not to bushwhack and boulder.   I didn’t even have time to decide what I was going to do before I saw the Mozhican Suburbaru coming at me through the pine grove.

It worked out good.  Jeaph had lazed around the cabin until he didn’t have time to ride over so he drove. Secretly I was happy that he didn’t ride from home when I had wussed and driven myself. 

Soon enough we were pedaling upstream toward the head of Spaas Creek.  We took each creek crossing and water traverse slow as to keep our feet dry.  It was a bit nipply in the quasi-autumnal morning air.  What with all this climate change its hard to accept that fall has fallen.  We keep having eighty degree days!  But Saturday was pleasant and cool.

Anyway, Jeaph went into deeper detail about his recent Moab trip, and he kept saying that what we were riding was every bit as good as the stuff he’d ridden out west.  He pointed out that a lot of the classic rides they did had a fair amount of doubletrack and it wasn’t all just flowy singletrack, but people still considered it good riding.  Spaas Creek has its share of techy terrain for certain. 

We dodged water and a little mud.  It had rained since my last foray up the creek and oddly enough that made the grit situation better.  The damp sand and mud clumped together, and as long as you kept from splashing muddy water all over yourself and your bike the drivetrain failed to start grinding.

When we reached the final cardio-goat-hill climb I was determined to clean it.  Last time I had flamed out at the crux.  Time before that I had fogged up in my Clark Kents and walked in frustration.  Third time’s the charm.  And it was.  Strangely enough I didn’t feel like I was going to blow up, even though my heart rate was nearly 180.  At the top I just turned right and kept climbing toward Hatton Ridge.  And then I didn’t rest before the crux opening climb of Hatton Ridge Road.  Of course I made excuses to stop at the top and shed layers.  Hey, the sun was up and my radiator was boiling!

I ate and drank a good bit of water then, and we both shed layers which was a good thing because the rest of the day was comfortable in just short sleeves and bike shorts.  As Jeaph and I are wont to do we kept talking and catching up.  We’d not ridden together in a long, long while.  But we get along well and we like the same kind of rides.  I couldn’t keep up with him out the first part of Hatton Ridge.  I can’t say I blamed him.  The morning was perfect for surfing the ridge and he was long gone as I kept trying to find my second wind after the leg sapping climb up from Spaas Creek.  I know if I keep going out and doing this ride I’ll get into phenomenal shape.

I caught up with him at the cemetery.  We’d passed some trucks and horse trailers, but we’d not see a single equestrian all day.  They must have dropped down Powder Mill.  We’d not seen a soul to that point in fact, except two pickup trucks with bow hunters I assumed driving out of Hatton Ridge.

We continued on toward Blackburn.  The ride had a dual purpose for me.  I wanted Jeaph to see the cool overlook and do the short user-created singletrack from the road to the rock, but I also wanted to do the full Spaas Creek to Hatton Ridge to Blackburn Rock ride.  My eventual goal is to bikepack from home and do that ride—overnight—and return.

Of course the overlook impressed Jeaph.  He asked about the trail and I speculated that it had once been a logging road that had overgrown but enough people had hiked it to keep it rideable. When he saw the three foot crack between the main cliff and the big bare flat rock he said he could probably jump it.  The first time I was out there I thought if anyone would or could jump that crack on a bike it would be Jeaph.  So he gave it a try.  And plummeted two hundred feet to his death, bouncing and flopping like a rag doll all the way to the forest floor, his bike a twisted, tangled snarl of metal jammed in the narrow fissure.

Nah, just kidding!  He got wedged about ten feet down and I had to go for help.  It took SAR fifteen hours to extract him and his bike from the crack.

Ha!  No, he actually made it first try.  It wasn’t pretty, but by the fifth time he was getting good air and actually making it look fun.  No, I did not—and will never—try it.

The setup

And the execution

From a different angle

After we got bored of trials riding on the edge of a two hundred foot cliff we decided to head back.  The return out Hatton Ridge was pleasant.  I felt like I could keep up better and we made good time.  And then we dropped into Spaas Creek and Jeaph was gone.  I guess we were a mile into the three mile ride back down the creek before I finally caught up with him again.  On the way out we were no longer trying to keep our bikes or ourselves clean.  I plowed through puddle after puddle and split the creek crossings like Father Abraham on a Pugsley.

It was a good ride.  While I’m sure I’ll grow tired of it soon enough as Spaas is a muddy affair and requires deep cleaning of the bike after every visit—and it’s hard on the drivetrain and brakes—it’s a lot more fun than I would allow it to be over the past three and a half years.  I just kept hating the other user groups who have such a deep impact on the area.  But now I have just decided to accept it for what it is and enjoy the place.  I think you should too.  


  1. Nice job. I can't imagine pedaling the all the way up Spaas Creek. It was hard to push a bike of the steepest section. At least that's the way I remember it.