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