Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cycling in Healdsburg: the Geysers

Climbing above the valley fog on Geysers Road

Dan and I headed out to Healdsburg in Sonoma County for some riding this weekend. Our target: the Geysers.

On the first climb

Vineyards way up on the hill
I've ridden this loop before, but not since my crash. It features a hard climb in three bits, topping out at about 2700 vertical feet, then a glorious lengthy descent that somehow adds another 1000 feet or so of climbing. It's rugged and remote, with extremely limited car traffic. Wonderful views all around: the Alexander valley on the first climb, the remote Mayacamas Mountains in the middle bit, and the Sulfur Creek canyon at the end.  Detailed route information and profile are here.  We did the route from south to north.

Cattle ranches near the first "summit' of Geysers Road

Looking back on Geysers Road after the ripping descent from the second "summit"

The road becomes rough and often single-laned in the second part of the descent. Really fun, but watch out for the potholes!

Historic bridge that crosses Sulfur Creek

Wonderful rough rural road runs along Sulfur Creek. Often one-laned, the road includes several gravel sections. Super scenic!

Yes, the creek is really this weird green color. The white stuff is sulfur
After a snack and water break in Cloverdale, we looped back to Healdsburg via Asti Road, Theresa Drive, Dutcher Creek Road then Dry Creek Road back to town. What an awesome ride.
53 miles
4200 feet of climbing

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guayaquil photos

City view. The Guayas River was swollen by flood waters
 I spent two days in Guayaquil in February, one day on each end of our Galapagos trip. We got out and took in some of the local sites and a museum. Guayaquil has a very different flavor than Quito, for sure, but our stay was enjoyable and exceeded my expectations.

Resident iguana in Simon Bolivar Park (aka Parque de las iguanas)

Feeding the ducks in the Jardin Botanica. The Gardens are small, but well kept and pretty with a series of theme gardens.

Museo Antropologico y de Arte Contemporaneo, on the Malecón 2000 riverwalk. This was a great visit, especially the precolombian area of the museum.

Historical street near the base of Cerro Santa Ana. A tourist trap, but a pretty street with nice views.

Climbing the 444 steps to the top of Cerro Santa Ana. This hilltop neighborhood is the site of Guayaquil's original settlement. It was relatively recently redeveloped into a tourist (trap) attraction, and the pedestrian only steps were fun to climb. The top features a church, a lighthouse, a military museum, and big views.

Mother and Cannon at the top of the hill

View from the light house atop of Cerro Santa Ana. Nice views!

444 steps! On a hot and humid day.

City view from our downtown hotel. Quite a different feeling that Quito, but we enjoyed our 1.5 days in Guayaquil nonetheless

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hiking in the East Bay: Anza lake with the dog

Tilden Park hike with the dog: shaded trails were nice on a hot afternoon
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining my favorite puppy and his people for a hike in Tilden Park.  Starting out with a swim-fetch session is always a good idea, and Theo was joined in the water by a pair of goldendoodles.

Fantastic gnarled oak trees line the trail near the creek
We hiked on the Wildcat Creek trail, taking an out and back along the pleasantly shaded creek. It is possible to construct a loop, but that involved a more strenuous hike. Senor puppy was tired from an ear infection so we kept the walk to a shorter distance.

Sunny bit near our turnaround point (bonus: water fountain at the trailhead at this end)
Tilden is off-leash legal, so puppy had fun bounding around, fetching his ball, and locating things to sniff in the woods. 
Wildcat Creek Trail hike near Anza Lake, in Tilden Park
Total: 2.5 miles, plus two swims for the dog. Much fun was had by all!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More Quito pictures

Volcano views dominate the landscape in Quito. Photo from my B&B in Quito's old town

 I finally got to looking over my photos from February's trip. Here are some of my favorites from my 3 days wandering around Quito.  See also my earlier pictures from riding my bike in Quito's Ciclopaseo (Bicycle Sunday).

Quito Old Town, viewed from Basilico church tower

I like to climb church towers (see these photos from Zurich, for example). Quito's gothic cathedral, the Basilica con Voto Nacional, does not disappoint in this regard.

After buying a ticket, one takes an elevator up several stories, then walks across the top of the sanctuary on a kind of bouncy wooden path.  It was dark and mysterious, in kind of a phantom of the opera way.

Several flights up internal stone staircases follows, then you emerge on a external walkway. The neat-but-scary bit follows: a series of quite steep external staircases. The steps felt pretty far apart and a little exposed. Not recommended for someone who is afraid of heights!

And then up to the top! The Basilica is known for its grotesques in the form of native Ecuadoran animals (such as tortoises, eagles, iguanas, and the like) and you can see some on top of the tower, below. The views were impressive, even on this cloudy day.

Native Ecuadoran birds (maybe eagles?)  atop of the church tower

The Basilica has three towers, and the next stop was one of the the clock towers. After retracing steps down scary ladders, stairs and back across the top of the sanctuary, the climb into the clock tower began.  This one featured ladders in the bell tower! 

Yes, the rungs are very far apart on this ladder (one of two, if I recall correctly). Note scary open window to the left.

You end up behind the clock faces, way up in the tower. There is a big window with an awesome view as well and you could hit the bells if you wanted (I didn't).

Here's a view of the clock towers from the church tower.  Nice view of Quito Old Town!

Basilico clock towers
I also spent an afternoon walking around Old Town and visiting a bunch of churches and other local sights.

Map of Quito's Old Town

San Francisco Square (will update with Spanish name!)

Inside the church. Lots of gold!
I also went to Quito's botanical garden. It was pretty small but had an interesting carnivorous plant collection. Also, nice roses!

I stayed in the Old Town and this worked out really well as I was walking distance from most of the Old City sights. And the place had a lot of character. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cycling in the Sierra

Heading out to Monitor Pass near Markleeville CA
Quick post to put up some pictures from a short weekend trip in early July. It's been a pretty un-fun July due to excessive work and I am somewhat down about having such a crummy and stressful summer.  These pictures from our long weekend trip up to the Markleeville area in the Sierra Nevada cheer me up.

Nicest campsite ever at Grover Hot Springs SP. Right by the river in the dog-friendly loop.
The big ride for me was the climb to Ebbetts pass, which tops out at about 8700 vertical feet.  I quite enjoyed the first 4/5 of the climb, which I rode mostly alone. I had forgotten how long the climb was, and was very surprised when Dan joined me (having summited already) and informed me that there was ~4 more miles and 1800 feet of climbing ahead. This last bit proved to be a bit of a slog, with the stair step climbing (flat, steep, flat, steep) and my formerly comfortable but now painful shoes making me kind of grumpy. I made it to the summit eventually, and the rest of the ride was fun, especially after I refueled on ice cream at the Markleeville store. Ride stats= ~44 miles, 4300 feet of climbing.

On the way up to Ebbetts pass. I am in this picture, dwarfed by the cliff
 I last climbed this pass on the Death Ride several years ago and I was flooded with memories of that day. Ebbetts is the third climb of the ride, so you've climbed about 6000 feet by the time you hit Ebbetts, the most challenging climb of the ride. My memories are dominated by the physical challenges -- turning over the cranks in the noon heat, already tired from quite a lot of climbing, and the emotion I felt when I hit Ebbetts summit and knew that I'd meet my goals for the ride. 

At the top!
 I had forgotten the spectacular views, which I really enjoyed this time around. I tried to avoid comparison between my current (crummy fitness level and increased body mass) and past fitness levels, and focus on the positive that I was generally making progress up a challenging mountain pass on a beautiful day. Not entirely successful on that front. It's hard to not kind of miss my pre-injury fitness and robustness (no achy knees and back, god what was that really like).

Mountain meadow on Luther Pass road intersection. I hung out here for a while waiting for Dan to get back from a longer ride. Such a pretty spot.
We ended the weekend with a ride out to Blue Lake, which is off of HW88 on the way to Carson Pass. Blue Lake road is really nice and the ride is just beautiful. I was pretty tired from the prior day's ride and didn't make it all the way to the Lake (which involved a fair amount of climbing). Instead, I headed back to the pretty mountain meadow near our parking spot & hung around by the river until Dan's return. A nice end to a mountain weekend. I look forward to doing the entire ride the next time we are in the area.