Friday, August 16, 2013

What's growing on?

It's been awhile since I put my thoughts down on here but that doesn't mean that nothing's been going on just that I'm a lazy ass. One of the things that has surprised me the most is the success of the volunteer mountain bike patrol. I trained a dozen fine individuals back in June to start the program and they hit the trails in force. In the month and a half since I started the patrol we have put in 106.25 hrs on the trails. I now have a consistent feel for what is going on in the park and that has enabled me to respond to conflicts in concerns almost immediately. This response time is crucial because it lets the public and the organization know that we are on top of things, in the past unfortunately some important issues fell through the cracks. Through the amazing support of the local bicycling community I was able to purchase patrol jerseys, pumps, tools to help maintain and fix bikes, first aide kits and nutrition.

 I believe that this program can and should be used in parks around the country. It's my hope that I can progress it at least within the SoCal area, it just makes good common sense. I get that the IMBA has the National Mountain Bike Patrol, and I am one of it's members, but unfortunately I think that this type of program needs the personal touch and the IMBA is just too far removed from the process to be effective in that area. I have pitched the idea to a couple of groups and have had a pretty decent response. Some groups are just too mired in their own politics to see the program for what it really is. Hint, it's a bunch a people that care about trails and riding and want to promote a safe and mutually beneficial progress of it. Enough on that, again thanks to all involved with the program.

The park is also gearing up for a couple big events. The Freedom 50 will be on tap at the end of the month and the Giro Di San Diego in September. Both are great events but we all know how jittery I get before one. If you don't know please refer to my "Herding Cats" post in this blog. I'm sure the promoters will do me right. On top of that we are gearing up for the first ever, at least in the SDRP, Bike Swap Meet on the 28th of September. I'm pretty excited to see how this will turn out. All the proceeds will go to support the SDRP mountain bike patrol and to help out the Sikes Historic Adobe Farm House that is one of the parks cool historic features. Do some garage cleaning, gather up your old, new and in-between bike parts,and join us out in the park for a fun day.

The condition of the trails in the park are stable but only just so. The lack of rain last season has made for a really dry summer and with that the trails can only hold for so long before they start to give. This coupled with the high amount of traffic we receive in the park make it very important for people to take their time and really be mindful on the trail. Ride within your ability, use the trail that is given to you, don't skid. All of these principles seem pretty basic but time after time after time I see trails destroyed by this very behavior. I have seen a staggering number of trails throughout the county in other parks that have been completely altered. Downhills are being reduced to foot deep silt trough's with four or five ruts even deeper causing people to cut the corners or go farther to the outside to avoid the conditions making a once nice single track trail into an eight foot trail builders nightmare. The uphills are not immune, some people think that if an obstacle on a trail is just too tough they'll take it upon themselves to go around or create a bypass. This again causes irreparable damage. Like I said no rain so there's no time for the ground to recover. Once one person goes that way it just makes it easier for others to follow suit.  I know I've said this before but here it goes again, if you cannot ride the trail, suck it up, walk your bike over the obstacle and carry on. How are you going to know your making any progress as a rider if you continue to cut corners. Here is an appropriate picture that has been making the rounds on FB lately.

I could blame this behavior on all kinds of things but I won't. In the end we all have to take responsibility of the land we ride and actually give a shit once and awhile. If we don't then the trails are going to continue to decline and with that the experience and pure joy some of us get by using them. Please enjoy the trails, just do so responsibly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Trail Tales

Its been an interesting and busy month in the park. Most of the 5k's and half marathons have wrapped up until fall. The Quick n Dirty summer mountain bike racing series has come to an end and the oppressive California heat has started to settle in. I have also launched the SDRP Mountain Bike Patrol and have trained 12 patrollers. Since I a haven't written in here in awhile I decided it was high time for some stories from the trail.

For the most part I don't run into many issues on the trail. Most people come out to the park enjoy the outdoors, go for a hike, a run or a bike ride then go on about there day content. A chosen few seem to have other plans. Usually the culprit of most of my encounters on the trails are those visitors that come to the park with their four legged friends. I've heard it a thousand times, my dog is the best behaved dog in the world, it's an open space park right, he stays by my side the whole time, he's a hunting dog, whatever the reason the rule still states that "Dogs must be on trail and leashed at all times."

That brings me to my first tale or should I say tail. One afternoon I was out on foot patrol on one of the parks more popular trails with people with dogs. It's proximity to the community just plain makes it easy for people to take their dogs for a walk after work and I think that's great as long as they are leashed. I was walking towards one of the parks kiosks when I noticed what I thought were two dogs off leash running on the trail. I started to approach the owner and when I got closer I noticed that these were not dogs and in fact the were goats. I called the owner over and explained to him that he needed his goats on a leash in the park. His first answer was "I heard that hoofed animals don't need to be leashed." not sure where he got that from but it is sadly not true. I told him that in this park you do. His second statement was that "They are very obedient and would never go off trail."  I continued to tell him that for the safety of his animals and other trail users I would need to insist that he now put his goats on a leash. No sooner had I said that, another user was making their way down the trail towards us, as soon as those goats saw him they took off down the trail right at him scaring the living daylights out of him. The whole scene was comical and unfortunate at the same time. I turned to the gentleman and said "That's exactly why I need you to put your goats on a leash." After apologizing to the other trail user he did.

Occasionally I get calls on lost pets, more than likely because there animal was not on a leash and their well-trained dog took off on them. This a however was a strange call. I received a call about a small dog that was stuck in a porta poty in one of our staging areas. My first thought was man this is gonna be nasty. All I could picture was a little dog stuck in the porta poty covered with blue dye (referring to the blue liquid they use in most porta poty)  and who knows what else. I prepared for the worst, latex gloves, baggies and a couple towels. I gathered all the gear and headed out to rescue this porta pooch, all the while the B52's song Quiche Loraine played in my head, "has anybody seen a dog dyed bright green?" or blue. When I got there the door was closed and I approached with caution again expecting the worst case scenario. I opened the door to find a little Chihuahua snarling and heading straight for me. I quickly shut the door. "Thank god it was not in the actual toilet." I got a little water for him and put that and a towel inside and proceeded to call animal control. After a little while they showed up to rescue him and all was good in the world.

Some people think it's perfectly fine to camp in the park. It is an open space preserve and we do have plenty of space. But not for camping! Usually I spot the camp, talk with the people, then they pack up and move on. One lady in particular decided she was gonna stay and stay she did for almost two years. The first time I meet her was on the trail as she was setting up her "camp", this loose term describes the rock wall and tarp she was using to live in. When I approached her to introduce myself and ask her what she was doing I was meet with fury and venom. While she stood about 5'4" and weighed about 110 lbs the language and hate that she spewed towards me would have made a sailor pause. That was enough for me and SDPD was called. They arrived talked with her for awhile and she decided to move on. End of story right? No sir, a couple months later while on patrol I passed by the (at the time) newly constructed bike bridge path over Lake Hodges and noticed the smell of a campfire. I went underneath the bridge to investigate only to find the same lady ready to do battle. I tried to explain the reason she could not live underneath the bridge or anywhere in the park (one big reason was the fact that she had an open non-contained fire) and again she would have none of it. I departed and SDPD arrived this time she was taken away.

This sad saga played out off and on for months, different Rangers had dealt with her and all refused to do so again because of her demeanor towards them. One time I went to try and talk to her and was attacked with a random cup filled with liquid (you do the math) that was thrown at me. If it were not for my ninja like skills she would have connected. Push finally came to shove and I was again tasked with "fixing" the problem. The plan was I would go one last time, try and talk to her and see if I could maybe get her some help, if not at least inform her that she again was illegally trespassing, she could not stay there and the we the SDRP were going to block off the access to underneath the bridge to stop anyone trespassing. When I started to talk with her she now insisted that I didn't work for the SDRP that in fact I worked for the Wild Animal Park so I had no jurisdiction. I told her that was not the case and that I had talked with her many times before. This lead to the most vicious attack yet. As she started to come out from under the bridge swear words a blazing she decided to step it up a notch and hurled whatever rocks she could find at me, (most were softball size and bigger). She also made it very clear to me that her son lived not to far away and when she told him of me he would "Kill me and bury me in a shallow grave!" I retreated to my park vehicle as she continued the verbal and physical assaulthitting the vehicle before I got out of there.

SDPD was called, this time charges were pressed and off to jail she went. I immediately got on the phone with the fence contractor and they built a cage underneath the bridge to stop any further incursions. So far this has worked and from my knowledge we don't have anyone else living in the park. I do however still see this lady from time to time on the outskirts of the preserve and if you ride the trails you probably have too. All I was trying to do was my job which included trying to help this person, unfortunately not everyone can be helped or even want to be helped.

I would never give this job up, for me it's a way of life and a passion but not all days at the office are fun and games. Some days are just truly bizarre!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

International Mountain Bike Association's Regional Trail Summit 2013

I left Thursday afternoon from North County Escondido bound for one of my favorite places, Idyllwild for the International Mountain Bike Associations regional trail summit. I pulled in to town center and checked into my cabin at the IdyllwildInn. It's a cozy little cabin with a lot history. The place is covered with peoples names etched into the wooden walls that have stayed there, the oldest I found was a couple from 1968. I did add my own before I left.

 After a brief rest and stocking up on groceries for the weekend I made my way over to The Hub Cyclery to get the 411. The plan was to ride and have dinner then rest up for the next day. Fuzzy from Niner was just pulling in so Brendan and I decided to wait and hammer with him. Always good to ride with those guys, it was a tough one but hella fun. The night ended at Café Aroma eating Gnocchi in the back room, mm, mm good.

Number 9
What follows is my brief overview of the summit itself, no names have been changed because no one is innocent. A lot of the information given out at the summit can be found on IMBA's website in more detail.

Friday-1st day of the summit.

Those that had not arrived the night before started to slowly filter into town throughout the day. Meanwhile Brendan, Fuzzy and Jason from Shimano decided it was time for some Niner product testing. We all took some Niner RDO Rip9's out and hitched onto a shuttle up to South Ridge trail for some tasty downhill action. Those bikes handled like a dream while I don't think I would ever own one(unless someone gave it to me) I can easily say it was one of the best full suspension rigs I have ridden yet. Nothing seemed too big for it and the power out of the saddle when climbing was excellent. 
Registration and group rides- Registration went quickly and group rides were loosely formed and poorly organized on the IMBA's side of things. A couple of good rides were organized on the fly with help from Brendan at The Hub Cyclery. The ride Brendan and I took out was 20 deep, they all had a great time and they all made it back together. 

The Hub System
Saturday-2nd day of the summit, time to hit the books.

The summit officially kicked off with a nice breakfast put on by the Idyllwild town hall followed by introductions that were held in the basement(kids classroom) of said town hall. Apparently there was a jazzercise class still going on in the main hall. Still it was kinda funny seeing a bunch of grown men and women sitting in tiny plastic chairs. Lots of mtb clubs, a couple of land managers a few concerned citizens and one local "trail gardener" were on hand.
Class is in.

The first workshop was a simplified version of the IMBA's trail solutions plan and dealt with the costs of trail planning, effective trail planning and the benefits of trail systems to the public. When asked about how much it would be to use IMBA's trail care crews to create these trail plans the first answer was "It depends" but the simplest figure was between $500-$700 initially. There was a lot of other costs involved to inflate that number and I came away with no clear picture on costs involved with using IMBA's crews.

Second workshop dealt with what areas the IMBA'S governmental arm deals with. Policy, land management, trail management and trail advocacy. Discussions on PCT usage in sections were talked about in their Long Live Long Rides Project. It ended with one slide explaining how to deal with land managers. Ha! It could have and should have gone into a little more detail when it came to this area as most of the clubs in attendance will be dealing with land managers and local agencies as opposed to the federal government directly.

Brief lunch from Idyllwild Pizza and a chance run in with Jim from Central Coast brewing. After a glass of Catch 23 an excellent Black Rye IPA I was ready for round two.

Third workshop focused on collaborative problem solving between trail advocacy groups and land management aka common sense 101. Good info to use that most don't.

Fourth workshop talked about the IMBA mapping program, the MTB Project. An overall trail mapping initiative. This will give users access to trail maps online and with phone apps. What this will do to local bike shops is unclear since this application kind of cuts them out of the picture. If it were not for Brendan from The Hub Cyclery I would not know half the trails I do in Idyllwild and there have been many other occasions in other cities where bike shops are the go to source for local trails. Of course the app will only list "designated" trails, and some of the follow up questions brought up concerns on just how and who will determine this "designation".

The final workshop of the day was grant writing. Basic "do's and don'ts" when it comes to writing an effective grant proposal as well as where to find said grants. Again good information to know and have for the up and coming trail advocate.

Rides were organized afterwards and fun was had by all. Found out later that some who went on rides got left on the trail, fortunately locals were on hand to guide them back.

The evening culminated in a BBQ and raffle at local eatery Jo-Ann's. The food was solid and the raffle was full of decent swag. Crowning moment was watching the locals karaoke. Elvis was spotted alive and well in Idyllwild.
Raffle time! 

Sunday-Final day of the summit.

No breakfast for me apparently when they said on the summit schedule breakfast at the town hall like the previous day they actually meant somewhere completely different. Missed the memo.

We start with a workshop on how to create a bike park and the management involved. IMBA has a very pragmatic view on the creation of bike parks, not as easy as it would seem. Bottom line get your ducks in a row before you approach an agency with an idea like this.

The final workshop of the summit was on high school mountain biking and why it's a good benefit to local advocacy groups. Program runs thru NICA National Interscholastic Cycling Association that provides grants and guidance to the affiliated leagues. They are not purely race based but more of a high school sport youth development program. All of that translates to trail advocates in the making. Wish they would have had these when I was a kid.  Man they got it good these days.

At the end Patrick Kell from the IMBA presented the Idyllwild Cycling Club with 500 dollars, part of the proceeds from the previous night's raffle. Kind gesture to be sure.

Overall it was a very informative weekend and I got to meet a lot of really good people with some really great ideas on how to progress mountain biking and trail advocacy in the future. I want to give a huge THANK YOU for the kind gesture that was afforded to me by the San Diego Mountain Bike Association. They will be graciously donating 500 dollars to the San Dieguito River Park's Mountain Bike Patrol from some of the proceeds generated from the Archipelago Ride held last April that was supported by the SDRP. It's partnerships and summits like these that will make it easier on upcoming generations of mountain bikers to continue to enjoy the trails we all hold so dearly.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Urge Endur-o-Matic helmet review.

I been getting a lot of questions about the helmet I've been wearing lately out on the trail so hear it is. I happened upon the Urge Endur-o-Matic helmet back in February while working on the Quick n Dirty XC race that I was helping put on in the park. I spotted a friend of mine on the trail sporting it during a pre-ride and was immediately drawn to it. I had been looking at alternative styles of helmets for a while and this one seemed to fit the bill nicely. It has a retro look to it that reminds you of the old school moto helmets, the kind from the Evil Knievel/ Easy Rider days. Look wise I was intrigued, but how would it work.

The nuts and bolts.
It has 8 round vents (30mm diameter) that are positioned in order to create a Venturi effect and the air flow is regulated by internal channels. The weight of the visor is close to 0 grams and its material is flexible, which helps prevent injuries in the event of a crash. Its design contributes to create the internal Venturi effect by guiding air into the vents. As good as that sounds I still had reservations but after 4 months of riding with the helmet it makes sense and really does provide the air flow need to cool your melon down.

Comfort is guaranteed by soft, removable and washable pads. The frontal pad features a very simple and unique innovation: the «Gangsta pad» Passing just under the mould (around15MM) and being in contact with the air while riding, this part of the pad remains dry and absorbs sweat. This is one of the areas the hype falls short. The pads are soft and comfortable and makes the helmet sit nice and snug on the head. This system has no tension mechanism so the various pad sizes help you tune the fit and stays on your head amazingly well. The “Gangsta pad” does adsorb sweat but not to the point that the pad remains dry and I found sweat in my eyes on many rides. I ended up wearing a Halo Headsweat band to control that issue. Works like a charm.
The helmet itself is an in mould one piece design that weighs in at 319g and is extremely durable. I have to admit I did go OTB a couple of months ago and hit my head on a nice well positioned pointed rock. The helmet had a small scuff on it and the visor stayed in place with no harm done. That crash with a traditional helmet would have saved me yes but also would have sent me back to my local bike store for a replacement. Like I said extremely durable. The back of the helmet also extends down past temporal lobe of the skull giving you added protection in that area as well.

The price on these babies are right around a hundred bucks and the color combinations are many and unique.

The Ride.

The ride is great! The weight and vent system make it feel like there is nothing there but the wind blowing threw your hair. I've been on all sorts of terrain and it stays put regardless of the lack of retention system, and the knowledge that the material it’s made of is near bullet proof provides me with great comfort while bombing down the trails. Be forewarned though you may get some people that just don’t understand the benefits of this helmet and will seek to ridicule you on looks alone, but don’t worry too much about that you can take comfort in the fact that you are protected. It’s a small price to pay to be on the cutting edge.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Herding cats

Its been a little over three years now since I helped author the program to allow events to take place within the boundaries of the San Dieguito River Park and man what a roller coaster it has been. While I do admit that in the beginning it was more a way of generating monies for the park that had been taken away by the City's budget issues than anything else, it has grown into much more than just that. I feel that I have been able to create a small but unstable bridge between the meeting the parks goals and the needs and wants of an ever expanding community of riders and runners. But it's not without it's issues.

I like the fact that I can help people come together in a natural setting by holding events, I like participating in events, I like sharing what I think is a great resource (the river park) and I like the joy that the events bring to all the people attending them. But what I don't like are some of the underlying attitudes that come with them.

These attitudes manifest themselves in different ways, some seem to think its OK to tell you one thing then do another.  The old adage of "It's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission." happens too often to ignore. In actuality it only makes it harder for the next guy to hold an event.

Some seem to think it's OK to change features within the park or open space to accommodate what they perceive are lesser skilled individuals. They sanitize the trail by taking out rocks and other features or haphazardly fill in areas they deem to be problems, again without asking permission from the land owner. Now they have not only made it harder on the next guy to hold an event but they have also managed to make it less enjoyable for all those people that frequent the area on a regular basis. More times than not this renegade trail work actually makes things more dangerous.

Others seem to forget who and where they are. They obliviously believe that the money they spent to participate in the event and the mere fact that they're part of an "official" function gives them the permission to run roughshod over the land and not feel bad about it later.   

Like I said I love being able to do events, but when I see the blatant disregard for the environment it causes me to pause and question my motives. This is where I and others work and play, I have dedicated countless hours to try and make everyone's experience an enjoyable one, and most importantly I am trying to preserve and enhance that experience for generations to come. I know my situation is not a new or unique one, I see other areas dealing with the same issues.

Merriam defines an "advocate" as a person who upholds and defends a cause, to speak, plead or argue in favor of. I consider myself to be both an advocate of the natural resources of the park and the trails that reside within, as well as for the enjoyment of said park by both the individual and the masses. It would be a lot easier to be one side of the fence or the other, but for me I believe it's crucial to walk down the middle of the fence and chance having the proverbial shoe thrown at me by a mean ol' man. Play by the rules and I'll be right there with you if anything should happen, side step them or ignore them and nobody wins. Hopefully with education and patience we can continue to walk this road together because I don't even want to think about the flip side.

I want to thank everyone I have met and worked with over the years that have made these events so successful and to all the support for the San Dieguito River Park shown by so many people. Thank you and keep up the good work. See everyone on the trails.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A bike by any other name would ride as sweet.

A bike is a bike right? They have two wheels, a drive train, a way to steer them, brakes to stop them and a frame to hold it all together. For the most part I agree, components come and go, some are very similar in function, some are unique but they are all utilitarian and serve a basic purpose. The frame on the other hand is the key piece to the puzzle, it dictates how all those components will work together. Mess up the basic angles and you have an unsafe machine. Too short and it will be too "lively," twitchy and unpredictable, too long and it will be sluggish and slow. But when all these elements combine to fit the rider the machine will perform perfectly.

I've had some good luck with the bikes I've owned and some bad luck. But after decades of riding I had never ridden or owned a small-batch-production hand-built bike. I'd always just settled for what was hanging on the pegs of my LBS or the deal I could get on Ebay or second hand from a buddy. I had always wanted a unique frame, something that by just looking at it made my hands sweat and my heart rate increase. I recently found that frame.

Siren bikes have been around for awhile. I first noticed them at the first XC mountain bike race I competed in back in 2009 at Balboa Park. I remember talking to Brendan Collier about his frames and admiring the craftsmanship. The way Brendan talked about the fruits of his labor really resonated within me and I told myself at that point that "If I ever have the chance to own a custom frame this would be the one".

Fast forward to February 2013. I had been meaning to get up to Idyllwild for the longest time to ride I had been up there a bunch to rock climb, hike and generally hang out but only a handful of times to ride. I had been to the Hub Cyclery a couple of times and knew they had shop rides but always seemed to somehow miss them. On an odd day in February I managed to get the guided tour of the area from Brendan owner of said Hub Cyclery and Siren frame builder extraordinaire.

Long story short I've become addicted to the riding in Idyllwild. See "Ranger Dave meets the Silver Fox".
As my relationship with the area and the people grew I knew it was time for a Siren, for me the obvious choice was the Siren called the "Twinzer". Born with altitude this steel steed is the epitome of form and function. The twin top tube that runs seamlessly from headset to dropouts is truly unique.

A visit to the Siren shop sealed the deal and after a couple late night meetings fueled by whiskey, beer and pizza I was the proud owner of one Siren Twinzer.

Now all I had to do was choose a color. I did with the help of my wife, she wanted "French Blue" but I wanted more of a gray overtone so I choose "Blue Grey" and off to the powder coater it went. After what seemed like a hundred years but in actuality was only a week it was done and ready for pick up.

Last week I set off for Idyllwild via a quick stop at the powder coater in Temecula to pick up the frame for the build up. The frame came out great and the color was just what I was looking for. The next hour was spent trying to concentrate on the road up to Idyllwild while continually looking at my new frame that was securely seat belted in the passenger seat beside me. Rider and bike arrived safely and the process of preparing the frame was underway.

A little sanding here a little sanding there and she was ready for the final touch the Siren head badge.

Time to get to work. I starting into to stripping my old bike down and systematically building the new steed up. The work went fast and within a couple of hours I was done and ready for the shakedown ride.

What a ride it was. I headed out of town and hit the trail and after a quick seat adjustment I was off. It took a little while to get used to but the ride was outstanding the whole time. Every technical rock section this bike ate up and was hungry for more. It felt solid under me and soon it was like I had always been on it and that this was just a routine run. Every time I told someone I was getting a steel bike they would add that "Steel is Real" heavy that it is. That might be the case but the performance was so buttery smooth that I must not have noticed it. Shake down run in the books, I was one happy camper. Time for a true test.

I was set to ride the Archipelago ride two days later. The Arch ride is a 45 to 50 mile mountain bike ride held in North County San Diego that joins six major open space parks together on trials that test both rider and bike equally. The bike held up great and there were no issues to speak of. I'm gonna be keeping this beauty for years to come. Look for it on the trails around the San Dieguito River Park where it will be on patrol on a regular basis.

Special thanks to Brendan Collier at the Hub for being such a great down to earth dude and for making such a killer frame. I appreciate the time you have taken to help me and the dedication to your trade. If you are looking for a great frame look no further.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trial by Fire-Recovery

No I'm not talking about recovery from a weekend riding in the mountains drinking beer and swilling rye whiskey. I’m talking about fire recovery in specific wildfire recovery in a native ecosystem.  Its been a little over 5 years now since the 2007 Witch Creek Wildfire coupled with the Poomacha Wildfire in the north descended on my park fueled by high Santa Ana winds and drought conditions. I was at work when the fires started on October 21st, 2007 the day before my birthday. It was a Sunday and a fairly quiet day despite the fires that were beginning to gain ground in the backcountry to the north and east. Towards the end of that day I was really beginning to wonder if things were about to change for the worse. The air was thick with smoke and I remember climbing up on the roof of the office to try and get a better look. I saw nothing but white smoke but the reports I was getting seemed to say that we would dodge the bullet as we did in 2003 Cedar/Paradise wildfires that strangely enough started again at the end of October on the 26th.

I continued to watch the news throughout the night and went to bed hoping for the best. I awoke however to TV news reports of the fires march west towards the ocean using the San Dieguito River Parks corridor and abundant fuel source as its path. The air in North County had changed from white smoke to an acrid red hell fire engulfing cloud, ash rained down over Escondido as I wondered how I could access the park to check on the devastation I was sure was happening. The closest I got that day was the outer edge of the park by North County Fair Mall. It was clear at that point that we were losing everything.

The next day I found out the totality of the destruction. The fire had gone straight through the heart of the River Park and nothing was spared. Using my Ranger credentials I gained access to the Highland Vly rd leading to my office, the park was gone, completely. The road on either side was bare, nothing but dirt and burnt out trees, power lines hung in mid air and an abandoned burnt out vehicle sat in the middle of the road a testament to the speed of the fire. I continued on to the office and it too was gone except for a few charred filing cabinets. This story was the same for much of the park. All in all we lost about 75% of the entire habitat within the River Parks open space. We lost 99% of all the parks assets, the only reason I don’t say 100% is because we had a Park truck in the shop at the time. Office, vehicles, heavy equipment, tools, kiosk, bridges, picnic tables all gone.

But this story is about recovery right? Right, since then we have recovered as a park, dealing with FEMA and other agencies we rebuilt most of our infrastructure. It was not easy, and every step we took in the early days was a new one. But we were able to get up and running quickly, by memory and memory alone we replaced most of tools and equipment that was lost. That was us. The park itself took a little longer.

I really debated on how well the habitat would recover. We spent a lot of time in the first couple of years working with various volunteer crews like the California Conservation Corps,  Urban Corp and the good people at American Conservation Experience as well as our own dedicated crews to replant and rehabilitate the habitat. I'm not sure how many plants we planted back in those days but it numbered into the tens of thousands.We got really good at not only planting them but also propagating them on our own. I gained an entirely new skill set during that time. Slowly but surely the habitat rebounded and at this point you would be hard pressed to tell that a wildfire that cost the park 75% of it's habitat had actually happened at all.

Fire is a natural thing and though the losses to the human aspects were great the habitat actually responded positively. It cleared the palate you could say. It got rid of a lot of weedy non-natives that were choking the native habitat and paved the way for a more robust and healthy ecosystem.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ranger Dave meets the Silver Fox

Last friday started like any other friday, I hesitantly rolled out of bed made my way to the bathroom and started getting ready for the day ahead. Like most fridays for the last couple of months my plan was to get an early start and head up to Idyllwild for a weekend of riding and some good ol IMBA advocacy/trail crew work. I got all my camping gear, bike crap, six finley hoend Mcclouds and a Pulaski, (the latter two are used to aid in the creation of trails) all loaded up into the jeep and away I went.

The drive up was uneventful and as always scenic and as soon as I crested the hill into Anza I said goodbye to coastal Eddie and hello to clear skies and sunshine. It was shaping up to be a great weekend. I have been making the drive up the hill a lot lately because I have once again fallen in love with this quaint mountain town. Most of my life I had grown up living in mountain towns, Wyoming, Denver, Colorado Springs and Woodland Park Colorado about eye level with Pikes Peak. I still seem to gravitate towards those mountain towns, especially if the riding is good or climbing or fishing. Downieville, Truckee, Mammoth,  places with a lot of local flavor. Places that both love and hate cyclist, places that on one hand are more than happy to welcome you in and take your money and on the other walk in groups down side streets pointing fingers and laughing at lycra clad cyclists while daring there drunkin brethren to jump from the highest manmade structure in town into a puddle of water doing a belly flop. "E Clampus Vitus" but I digress.

I rolled into town fairly early with plenty of time to set up camp, relax and read a little "Generation of Swine" before heading into town to the Cafe Aroma, billed as "Idyllwilds funnest and funkiest fine dining establishment" for some lunch and a presentation of "Better Living Through Trails" by the Trail Crew representatives from the IMBA. It was a good presentation filled with fun facts and numbers letting all the business owners in town know that mountain biking is GOOD business and just by living next to a trailhead ups your property value. You don't say.

After the presentation I was up for a ride and after talking to Brendan Collier proprietor of Idyllwilds The Hub Cyclery and Siren frame builder extraordinaire I was hooked up with some locals who were set to show me the inner workings of the Hub system. I rushed back to the camp as giddy as a little school girl, I had been to May Valley area a number of times and was starting to get the hang of the trail system on the that side of town but I had yet to make it to the Hub trails. I'd only heard tales of fast flowing single track and "tasty" rock overs that made you feel alive again, but never experienced them. I was already on a high as I raced out of my campsite geared and ready to ride. The directions from camp to the trailhead were basic but confusing at the same time since I'd never been there, fortunately a lifeline to Simon at the shop set me straight and I was soon standing at the trailhead waiting for my guides.

I first met Marlin an unassuming gent that looks what you think a guy would look like from the mountains that rides and works on the trails a lot. Great guy, we small talked as he unloaded his John Henry Siren and waited for the others. A couple minutes later two other fellas pulled in, Scotty whom I met earlier that day at Cafe Aroma and wait for it, wait for it THE SILVER FOX. As they pulled their trusty steeds from the truck I noticed the the Fox too was on a John Henry Siren, singlespeed version. Must be in the water cause every local that I've ridden with or ran into on the trails up here sports a John Henry Siren of some flavor. After a brief howdoyoudo we were on the trail and rolling.

I never knew where I was, not for one second, nor did I care. I followed one wheel after another as the guides switched leads down swooping singletrack that zigzagged thru the pines, down the sides of canyons and on some of the most fun natural features I've come across. I hopped onto the Silver Fox's wheel for the uphills and set into a comfortable singlespeed pace to grind it out. Its a pace I know and one that's always consistent on an uphill run. These mountain dudes got some lungs and my poor flatlander lungs were screaming for the thin air by the top of most the climbs but those were just the dues paid for the eye watering, twisting, machine testing downhills.

After the ride I headed back to camp and the Silver Fox decided to ride back with me. We stopped and I invited him to join me in a little after ride libations. Before leaving North County I had made a stop by the liquor store and picked up a bottle of Corsairs Wry Moon whiskey. A particularly spicy rye whiskey unaged and made in handmade pot stills, supposedly Al Capone's favorite. This is commonly known as moonshine. We talked about the ride and drank and talked and drank and drank a little more and the Fox was off. I got changed and with bottle in hand went to meet Brendan at The Hub Cyclery to talk bike frames.

My Twinzer in the buff!
There was a good sized crowd in the shop when I got there and Brendan was already hip to the fact I was a commin with some moonshine. Good news travels fast in thin air. We talked frames briefly and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a Twinzer Siren(stay tuned for the build up) and summarily invited to pizza with some more locals. It's a good crowd on a friday at the Idyllwild Pizza Company, the place was buzzin. We ordered some pizza and beer and found a seat. I meet some great people and shared some good stories then out of the corner of my eye I see a guy pull up on a bike. Lo and behold the Fox was back and in prime condition. As the beer flowed and trips were taken to my jeep to look at the "moon" it came to pass that the Silver Fox had just been playing with me out there on the trail that afternoon and that he had given me a good run for my money. I told him yes he had given me a run but my lack of directions impeded my natural flow causing me to slow down and wait for directions. He insinuated I was weaker than he and that I need to come to his neck of the woods to take him on in the sand, a real mans challenge. I told him I was down and the heated but funny conversation continued.
The Silver Fox and Brendan.

Most parted ways after a while and the rest of us ended up nestled back in the arms of Cafe Aroma wondering what tomorrows trail crew day would bring(thats a different story in and of itself). Me, I was already thinking about the trip to Blythe I was gonna take to meet the Silver Fox on his home sandy turf. All in all it was a great weekend on the hill spent with some really cool and talented people. If you have not been to Idyllwild lately you are missing something special. As Brendan says "This place is about to blow up!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SDRP Mtb Patrol

"Back when I was a volunteer for the San Dieguito River Park around 1995 I used to enjoy being able to help out the Ranger staff by doing a mountain bike patrol in the park. I have always been an avid rider and to be able to do my weekly ride and assist and educate the public was a perfect scenario.  There were only a handful of us back then and the mountain bike community was fairly small. The park and its trail system has grown and I am now a Senior Ranger. The mountain biking community has also grown tenfold since that time and the mountain bike has become the primary way people access the trails. I want to reconnect that ever growing community back into the park.

I am pleased and excited to announce the reformation of the San Dieguito River Park Mountain Bike Patrol coming this summer. My goal is to involve the bike community on all levels.  We are partnering with local bike companies and shops to bring our patrollers up to date bike specific gear and mechanical knowledge. We will also be working with the International Mountain Bike Association as a National Mountain Bike Patrol affiliate. This will enable our patrollers not only to patrol in the SDRP but other parks. If you are a dedicated mountain biker and want to help out your fellow bikers and your local park this might just be your calling."
Andy with the jersey proof.

That's how it will officially read in the River Parks next edition of the Riverscape. All I can say is it has been a long work in progress and way overdue. 

I want to start by thanking all the sponsors of this program that without hesitation stepped up and donated and were happy to do so. 

Thank you to Erik Dekold and Andy Jasper from Canari for working with me to design some really good looking jerseys. Almost four years ago I met Erik at Stone brewery for a Belgium beer class. It was his birthday and inevitably the quads got to me but I do remember the conversation we had about wanting to do jerseys for a bike patrol I was hoping to establish. I did loose his card right afterwards but managed to meet and become good friends later on. It only took four years.

Big thanks to all the people in the Ranchos Cycling Club these guys and gals have been working together with the park for a couple of years now. Not only have they held great events but they have gone out of there way to donate both money and time. I have have done some great trail maintenance work with this group and can't thank them enough for championing the park the way they do.

Thanks to Kurt Gensheimer and Joe Hendig at Carbon Frame Repair for all there help and support. Kurt has helped put on some great events as well. His knowledge and understanding of the mountain bike community has been a invaluable and he's always up for trail maintenance. Unless he sleeps in. 

Thank you to the guys at Sock Guy, Ben Dieduardo, Jason Fackler and Ken DeCesari. Wonderful guys to know and ride with. Someday I'll talk them into making the Ranger Dave sock, but I'm not gonna push my luck. I appreciate the support and so do my feet. 

As far as local bike shops go the guys at North of the Border bike shop can't be beat. The first time I met them I was going to pick up a race packet for a local race. As soon as I stepped in the door both Doug Wolkon and  Micheal Crowell were very welcoming and offered me a cool refreshing beverage while I waited. They are both very good at what they do and like the park know how to survive on a tight budget. I will be working with them on holding some bike clinics for our patrollers as well as addressing any maintenance issues they might have.

Since no patrol can make it too far without lube on the chain I want to thank Gnar Lube for their donation and supplying the lube so that the everything runs smoothly.

I know I've said that I have been trying to put this together for awhile now but I have been blown away by the immediate response and help form the within the mountain bike community. A positive step in the right direction for both parks and the community. This program is also very unique in two ways, it is Ranger led and supported, so expect to see me on the trails with you and it is 100% funded by the local mountain bike community. Every last penny I get form you will go directly into this program.  I look forward to working, riding and patrolling with all of you. 

Stay tuned for more info on the SDRPMP and what you can do to join. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The trail gods giveth and taketh away.

A couple of weeks ago North County San Diego got a couple of inches of much needed rain. That's great for the park. Not always so for the trails in the park. While I do boost a fairly bullet proof trail system two solid inches of rain in 12 hours is a serious downpour at least in So Cal.
Raptor Ridge before

On to the story. The trail god giveth. I say this because two days after the rain the soil on the Raptor Ridge trail (mostly decomposed granite DG) was in perfect shape for a trail maintenance crew. Early Sunday  morning as part of my monthly trail maintenance crew me and my army of 4 hardy volunteers set off to Raptor Ridge to attempt to take care of some much needed trail work. Passing the bottom sections it was good to see a lot of the previous work held up with only a few failures. Mid way we came to a badly eroded steep section of trail and got to work. Amazingly within an hour and a half the trail had taken shape and all the issues fixed. We fixed another small section after that and a nasty foot deep entrenched section higher up. In the summer time this would be a near impossible task requiring a boat load more volunteers and resources. This shows what a few motivated individuals can do to a trail in a couple hours.

And the trail god taketh away. Meanwhile in the Del Dios Gorge area of the park a section of trail (mostly a loamy clay) took a beating from the rain. We had been doing extensive work in the area weeks before. At the time we were working the soil was very compact and hard making it difficult to move around. But after many hard hours with machine and man we got the trail to bend to our will. We thought the rain would be good for setting in the trail and it would have if it didn't rain two inches. The trail did work amazingly well and the drain dips were effective at getting water off the trail but since there was a lot of soil that got moved around the consistency below the surface of the trail was 4 inches of mud. If the trail goes untouched then its fine it dries out, turns solid and you have a well armored trail. If it rains on a Friday and the weekend is around the corner not so good. I guess because it was raining Friday nobody could get out to ride so people were raring to go by the weekend.

I can see how the first couple riders got caught out in the unexpected muddy conditions. It seems though that after awhile it became a challenge. As soon as it became apparent the trail was in no condition to ride people went everywhere to avoid the mud, in the drains, in the habitat causing considerable damage the likes a which could rival some of the cyclo cross races I've seen. Again this shows what a few motivated individuals can do to a trail in a couple of hours.

The trail has since been repaired to the best of our ability. Those sections of trail will be a constant reminder of how the trail gods giveth, and how they taketh away. 

Oh and please stay off the trails for at least 24hrs after a rain. Thank you.

Ranger Dave

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shimano U10 Hydration pack review.

Recently I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time (Quick n Dirty winter series held right here in the San Dieguito River Park) and received a new Shimano U10 hydration pack. While on patrol in the park it’s essential to have a good all around pack to haul all the necessities of a patrol ride. For the last 2 years I’ve been using a CamelBak M.U.L.E. While I have no complaints with the CamelBak it was getting a little long in the tooth so I decided to give the Shimano pack a try.

My first impression when I was handed the pack was “cool a new hydration pack” followed by “huh? It’s made by Shimano”. Upon further inspection I found that it had some unique elements that could possibly set it apart from the norm.

The Features:
The main compartment was a nice size and I could fit tubes, pump, tools, clothing and I’m sure a lot more very easily( Shimano says 10 liters thus the name U10) . The material is super stretchy and allows for a lot of gear. The side zippers really open the main compartment up making it super easy to load and unload gear and the loops on the zippers make them easy to find and grab with gloves on. There is an outside pocket towards the bottom that I used to store nutrition and keys that also has an elastic cord for extra gear storage. There’s also a nice fleece lined pocket for your cell phone or other tech gear you want a little cushioning for.

The pack straps are adjustable for different rider heights and connect in the front with a single buckle that is slightly below the upper chest line in an x-pattern. This eliminates the chest strap and waist strap found on most packs and was probably the best feature I found on this pack. It really opened my chest up and I found it much easier to breath. The straps include two small side pockets for miscellaneous gear but they take a bit muscle getting into it because of the of the Velcro closure.
The bladder is a 3 liter reservoir that can be filled from the top. The bite valve was adequate and worked but the flow could be improved, it seemed a little restricted.
The Ride:
My first ride on it was a fairly short 17mi ride. The pack felt stable enough but wanted to move around a bit on steep rocky descents. It did vent well but hung a little low on my back at the strap setting indicated for riders of my height. I adjusted the straps a little shorter and really got to load it up for my next ride.

The true test was an all day 65mi ride through some rugged terrain around North County San Diego. The new strap adjustment set up the pack much better on my back and the first set of hills reconfirmed the brilliance of the strap design by letting me get an unrestricted flow of air to my lungs. Throughout the day I was able to get the pack on and off with little to no effort. Most of the ride the weight was not that noticeable and my back and shoulders felt fine during the ride. Again the only downside of this pack so far is that it will move around on you during aggressive riding but not to the point that it will throw your whole ride off. If you tinker with the adjustment of the straps enough you can get to a comfortable stable place.

The verdict:
Since those first rides I have put an additional 150 miles on the pack riding on some pretty diverse trails and my overall impression of it is a positive one. The benefits this pack gives me over other packs outweigh the small issues that I have it. I would be glad include this piece equipment in my mountain bike patrol as well as any other ride for some time to come.

Ranger Dave

Note: Any review of an product given on this blog will only be given if I personally have put at least two hundred miles on said product.

Update:3/24- Ok so I was talking with a friend of mine that also has this pack and we were discussing how the only real problem was the size of the bite valve. The solution would simply be to switch it out with another. While making a pit stop at North of the Border Bike Shop I noticed an valve kit for an Osprey pack. While the tube looked a little bigger I was sure I could make the valve fit. Sure enough with a little pressure it was on. You can see in the picture that it is a lot larger and made a great improvement on the the flow. It also has a magnetic clip that was a little easier to use.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Everything's green including me!

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year to be a park ranger. For a few months in Southern California everything is a little greener, the flowers are in full bloom, and the song birds seem to sing their songs that much louder. The season also stands as a time of renewal and rebirth and it's because of that reason that I wanted to start a blog. So I stand before you as the greenest of blogger greenhorns and welcome the chance to grow, learn, and share.

I want to start off by giving everyone a little background about myself and why I chose the career I did. I am currently the Senior Park Ranger at the San Dieguito River Park located in North County San Diego. I have been working as a park ranger for the last 14 years with the SDRP. 5 years before that I was a volunteer for the SDRP at which time I did everything I'm doing now but with no pay. I also served on the mountain bike patrol in the Laguna mountains as well as the National Mountain Bike Patrol which has done work all over San Diego county.

I first realized my calling to become a park ranger early on in life. My father had the habit of loading everyone into the car every summer to take off for KOA campgrounds unknown. I got to spend a lot of time by myself (no siblings) exploring the wilds of a lot of the country's national parks in my formative years. I remember one time in particular when we were in the Grand Teton area camping and looking out of my tent I saw a Ranger on horseback making his way down the trail for patrol. It was quiet except for the occasional sounds of woodpeckers in the trees and there was just something about his unhurried pace and overall casualness that appealed to me. It was at that time that I said to myself "That is what I want to be when I grow up." 

As time passed and I grew up so did that dream of becoming a park ranger. I was always involved in outside activities and was always looking for a way to make that dream a reality. In 1999 after many volunteer hours and a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, that dream became reality. There are not a lot of people out there that a) Love their job and b) are actually doing the job they want to do. I am fortunate in both areas, this is the job I have always wanted to do and there is not a day that goes by that I do not truly love what I am doing.

That being said I hope to be able to share my thoughts, maybe some interesting stories, trail work issues, outdoor product reviews, mountain bikes, trail running, and whatever other info/issues park/trail related that pops up on this-here-blog-thing.

Ranger Dave