Rob's Blog Archive

July 28, 2013

The Long Fawn Peak Trail










I set out at noon on a bike ride that I knew would take me more than two hours.  I’d be home before the hottest part of the day, but not by much. 

If you start hydrated, it’s easy to do any one hour workout without needing water.  Certainly biking hard in temperatures between 85 F and 95 F is included.  On the other hand, two plus hours---it ended up being two hours and twenty-five minutes---is usually on the wrong side of the margin for remaining hydrated.  However, the second half of my ride would be almost entirely downhill---the high point is along a dirt road mushers call “Long Fawn Peak.”  By that point, 1400’ of 1700’ total climbing would be behind me.  I might be a little uncomfortable during the second half of the ride, but it wouldn’t affect my time.  I opted to go without carrying any water.  Still, I did down a liter of water before I started.  The old saying, drink until you pee clear, had inserted itself into my thoughts. 

Roads and trails like Long Fawn Peak are the same ones I’ve been training my dogs on since I moved to Seeley Lake.  I know them quite well.  Mountain biking those hills differs from mushing on them, but with all the times I’ve taken them with teams pulling my ATV or sled, a single bike ride reprograms any part of my memory that needs reprogramming.

The route I planned had a single section that I hadn’t yet biked, two miles along Deer Creek and all but the last mile of Long Fawn Peak.  Long Fawn Peak would both take me higher than I had yet been on my mountain bike and include a one mile stretch with a six percent grade. Even in their prime, my dogs would think about balking while pulling the ATV up that hill.  Sometimes I let them take a break, then started in again.  Sometimes I gave the ATV a little gas.  By the time we were sledding, the ATV training on that hill and others had taken and even soft snow didn’t keep them from pulling up without hesitation. 

It took me a little less than an hour to bike the 7 miles and 800’ vertical to the section I hadn’t yet done on my two-wheeler.  From there, the section of Fawn Creek climbed then dropped for short distance before I turned off onto Long Fawn Peak.  On this, it would drop a bit more, then climb the steep section.  Twenty minutes after I started biking the dirt road I hadn’t been on this summer, I started the climb.

Along with knowing the roads I’m on, I get to see one other thing---just how good dogs are at all of this.  The fact is that with my bike, I do ride faster than my dogs pull the ATV.  However, depending on circumstances and what they were training for, their best times while pulling a sled still beat my best times with my bike.  My fastest time doing Archibald Loop, to and from the musher’s parking lot, is 1:27:05.  My dogs’ fastest time pulling the sled is 1:21:20.  I can’t help but be impressed.

And that’s how I felt, pumping my bike up the steep grade of Long Fawn Peak.  It was past one in the afternoon and, thanks to the 2007 fire, through open ground.  I thought about glancing at the view, but knew it would be just as good after I crested the high point of the ride.  Granny gear gives a bicyclist a lot of power and very little speed.  If there are lose rocks, and there were, wheels also displace these.  The physicist in me couldn’t help but be frustrated by the energy the rocks rolling off to the side took away from my climbing.  With this I focused even more on hitting a good line.

Fourteen minutes saw me to the crest—it seemed much longer.  Once at the high point, I only up shifted out of the granny gear, nothing more, and caught my breath.  Twenty years earlier, I would have been able to run it faster than I biked it.  Even pulling my ATV, my dogs would have easily beaten me, too.  But, where I make up time against either a young Rob running or my dogs pulling an ATV is going downhill, and shortly after the crest, that started.  With this, I looked southeast at Placid Lake shimmering in the midday sun. 

I remember being out on one of many 50 mile training runs during the year I ran in the Iditarod.  Toward the end of the run I realized that my team had just taken me on a one week backpacking trip, done it in a single evening, and were coming home strong. 

My experience is that there are things many mushers say that don’t ring true with their thoughts and actions.  That said, the awe each of us has for what our dogs do is honest and universal.  Occasionally, we do have lapses of memory.  Then, something wakes us up to reality.  Thankfully, that didn’t actually happen with me---I never lost any of the awe for what my dogs can do.  Still, it didn’t hurt my feelings to have an extra reminder like I did biking up the steep stretch of Long Fawn Peak.

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