Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Morning: Wing vs. Greenland

A bald eagle watches over Fletcher's Cove

Deer graze near Fletcher's Cove

Another Sunday morning paddle using the wing on the way up and the Greenland paddle on the way back. My trip was from Columbia Island to Fletcher's Cove, about 9 1/4 miles round trip. I wasn't running a GPS but from my timing and distance estimates on Google maps it appears I made about 4.9 MPH with the wing (upriver, but into the wind - both very small influences) and 4 MPH with the GP. That's a significant difference, enough to cut 10 minutes off of my upriver trip vs. my downriver trip. My speed on the return trip was has a little more uncertainty in it (it might be more like 4.1 MPH) as I stopped at one point to photograph some nature. I couldn't resist pulling out the camera - I had deer grazing to the left of me on the DC side and a bald eagle up in a tree on my right on the Virginia shore (excuse the crummy iPhone photos). You might say that even my pictures are "wing" vs. "green land" :)

A nice morning outing - on the water before 7, off before 10. That's whatcha gotta do to beat the heat in mid-summer in DC.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

First Time at Schaeffer Farm

The easy trails at Schaeffer Farm kicked my butt. There, I've said it. Back in April at SK102 Susanita clued me in to Schaeffer Farm Mountain Bike Park, a set of trails maintained by MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts) in a park near Germantown, Maryland. That's not far from where I work, so I've had it in the back of my mind to one day head to the MTB park for a spin before heading home. It only took me 2 1/2 months to put this plan into action, which isn't too bad in my book (actually I had brought my bike once before intending to do this but was foiled by a rainy evening).

After a later-than-expected departure from work, a couple of wrong turns and a quick change of clothes in the parking lot I was ready to ride. I'd read up on the trails - the white trail was the "easy" warm-up trail and was the one which connected with the parking lot and so I figured I'd start out riding the white loop then maybe move on to more challenging stuff.

"Easy" at the parks I've ridden before means fairly broad, flat trails; however, clearly the good folks at MORE are more manly mountain bikers than I am, because this trail quickly turned into twisty, hilly single-track, some of which was a little beyond my skills. For example, there was one point where you bomb downhill, cross a stream and then head straight into a steep up-hill. I slowed down to cross the stream which left me going too slowly to make it up the hill on the far bank.  So I stopped. I considered walking the bike up the hill, but no - I wanted to get this right. I walked the bike down to the base of the hill just past the edge of the stream and tried again, using the tiny bit of flat runway to get started. Well, I must have tried ten times. Sometimes I couldn't get my feet into the clips and get going quickly enough and I found myself on the hill before I even had my feet situated on the pedals. Other times I got part way up the hill but lost traction. Or I was in the wrong gear to push all the way up. Sad to say, I never got it; I finally gave up and walked. 

There were any number of other obstacles and terrain sections which proved too challenging. The good thing about mountain biking is that, unlike sea kayaking, you can always walk the tough parts. When you're in your kayak and you find yourself in four foot breaking waves you can't hop out, drag the kayak 20 feet to calmer water, then hop back in and resume paddling. With mountain biking you can always walk past that log obstacle or crazy jump. I skirted some steep drops into streams and a couple of logs. I fell once and would have fallen two more times had there not been trees alongside the trail against which I could steady myself. More times than I could count I wound up awkwardly grinding to a halt. It stinks being a newbie.

Also, as I had gotten a late start as I was riding the light started to fade a little - there was still plenty of daylight left but under the tree canopy it started to get a little dim. I'm great at manufacturing wilderness disaster scenarios in my mind and so I pictured losing my light and having to walk the bike back to the car in darkness with nothing but the single LED light on my keychain to guide me. This thought pushed me onward and I really kind of cranked as the trail opened up into a meadow towards the end. 

In the end I made it back to the car with plenty of daylight left, loaded my muddy bike (how is it that mountain bike trails are always muddy, even in dry weather?) and headed home. Actually, I headed to Thai Noi where I picked up some veggie pad thai for dinner. I must have been quite a sight, all muddy and scratched, and I'm sure they were happy when I paid for my food and got on my way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Breakfast at Roosevelt Island

On Roosevelt Island

Does six feet make a difference? I have written ad nauseum about paddling on the urban section  of the Potomac up and around Roosevelt Island. How is it that a walk on that self same island – a few feet onto land rather than a few feet out into the water – feels at first like less of a noteworthy adventure? But an adventure it was – or at least an outing worth writing about.

It was a warm, sunny Saturday morning. On Saturdays our usual destination is the Falls Church Farmer’s Market, however this week we knew we wouldn’t be eating many meals at home so we decided to forego the usual acquisition of fruits and veggies in favor of a trip to the river. We grabbed some food and folding chairs (and of course a mug of coffee for me) and headed for Roosevelt Island. 

First we ate breakfast along the shore, watching the myriad watercraft go by – kayaks, SUPs, outrigger canoes, shells, and powerboats. Then we headed across the foot bridge and walked the circumferential path around the island. The river side of the path is a boardwalk through some marshy areas, the prettiest part of the island, in my opinion. It had been a long time since we had taken this walk and as we strolled along we reminisced about earlier trips with the boys when they were little – plopping down on the deck of the marsh overlook to look at the cattails, Teddy mimicking the pose of the Teddy Roosevelt statue for a photo …

By the time we got back to the car the day was getting hotter. We had a deadline to be back in Falls Church by noon and so we hopped into the car and off we went – otherwise I could have lingered by the river for the rest of the day.