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Archive for the 'Fog' Category

Foggy ride to Gosport

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Sarah had to work on Saturday. I certainly don’t enjoy it when she has to work overtime, but her schedule gave me a perfect opportunity to get out for a ride. I planned a 57-mile route, based loosely on a local club route, that would take me northwest of Bloomington, up to the small town of Gosport. This route looked particularly interesting because once away from town, it would involve some new roads, and some other roads I hadn’t ridden on for several years. I feel I’ve had a shortage of new roads lately, so I was looking forward to branching out a bit. Here’s a map of my route.

Saturday morning brought a big surprise, in the form of very thick fog. I think fog is gorgeous, and I love riding in it, so I was thrilled!

I checked the forecast for the day — at that time, it was 34 degrees, with a predicted high for the day of 60. That large temperature range is hard to dress for, so I made my best guess and rolled out into the fog, a little chilly, but figuring the day would warm up quickly. The roads were wet — I’m not sure if it had rained overnight, or if they were wet with heavy dew or condensation. Either way, the atmosphere was thick and beautiful, and it felt like riding in rain, without actually getting rained on.

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The roads were quiet, with only a few cars. My main concern when riding in fog is being seen by cars, so I wore bright colors and had lights flashing the entire time. The lack of traffic eased my concerns. The scenery was beautiful basically the entire ride.

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I rode through Ellettsville, the closest town northeast of Bloomington. I meant to take some photos as I rode through town, but there was just enough traffic that I had to stay focused on riding. I rode past Bybee Stone Company, one of the many limestone companies in this area.

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I stopped for a break by a creek. I was thinking the fog would clear up within about an hour or so, but I was an hour into the ride, and the fog was showing no signs of lifting. And, the temperature didn’t seem to have risen at all. I didn’t rest long; the longer I stood there, the colder I felt.

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I turned onto Red Hill Road. I was a little nervous about this one because most roads with “hill” in the name earn the name by having quite a large hill. But Red Hill Road had just a mild climb followed by a surprisingly flat section.

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The road went through a few ups and downs.

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I stopped by a field for a brief break.

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If the temperature had risen at all at this point, I couldn’t detect it. I felt a little chilly, but within reason. One thing riding year-round does for you is lower your expectations of comfort. You can’t ride in conditions like these and expect to be 100% comfortable. You have to be willing to accept being a little chilly, or overly warm. Personally, I’ll almost always err on the cool side.

Knee warmers, wool baselayer, arm warmers, jersey, and vest kept me warm enough, but just barely. My ears were still covered. Normally I uncover my ears around 40 degrees, but it was hard to gauge the actual temperature. The very high humidity made it feel chillier.

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The road dipped down toward Stinesville.

I had ridden through Stinesville a couple of times before. Normally it feels quaint, but on this day, with the fog, it took on a creepy ambiance.  Run-down shacks looked like something out of a horror movie, in the fog.

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I rode directly through Stinesville and continued riding. I reached an interesting intersection.

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I was headed up the hill to the left, but the gravel road on the right sure looked inviting. I might have to return to explore this area. A quick check of Google Maps tells me that the road on the right may just dead end, but it sure looks like it would be fun to explore.

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There was a good climb on Texas Ridge Road, but then it was flat ridgetop riding for a bit, with a river down to my right.

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I dropped down by the river, the West Fork of the White River, and found this cool restored Ferry Bridge. It had been blocked off to motor vehicles. I took a few minutes to explore.

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I could see down the river to the bridge that carried motor vehicle traffic. It had only a fraction of the character of this bridge.

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I found another spot that I thought would have been fun to explore, but didn’t want to take the road bike on this potentially muddy detour. A few minutes later I determined that this dirt road just went through and connected to the main road probably less than 1/4 mile away. Oh well.

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I got back on the road and crossed the newer bridge, the Phillip F. Rogers Memorial Bridge. From there, I had a nice view back to the older bridge.

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After a little flat riding and a climb or two, I found myself in Gosport.

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I found Gosport quaint. According to Wikipedia, it has an area of 0.4 square miles. A small town on top of a hill. Adorable!

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I made my way over to Casey’s General Store. I stocked up on water and also bought a donut and a cup of coffee. The locals gave me some weird looks, but the cashier was very kind to me. After two hours of riding through 40-degree fog, the coffee, while it was merely run-of-the-mill gas station coffee, tasted absolutely divine. The caffeine was most welcome, as well.

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I headed out and my hands felt absolutely freezing. I was wondering if they would ever warm up. I passed an establishment which claimed to have the “Coldest Beer in Owen County.” Another tempting stop, but I pressed on.

I took a meandering path through Gosport, so I could get a bit more of a sense of the place.

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You can’t really read it, but the sign below is for the Gosport Tavern. Someday I have to go back to Gosport and visit this place.

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On my way out of town, I found Goss Road. This is significant as there are Gosses in my family. I believe there are other Gosses in the area. I’m not sure if there’s any relation, but it’s a rather unusual name, and it’s always interesting to find any reference to it.

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Now it was time to head back toward Bloomington. My return trip would be slightly longer and significantly hillier. It took a while, but my hands eventually did warm back up again. But not until I reached a large climb.

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At one point, the road flattened out for a little while. Normally, during a hilly ride, this would be a welcome change, but now the headwind became a real factor. It wasn’t unbearable, but it did slow me down considerably, in this flat, open space.

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It’s hard to tell here, but there were dozens of birds sitting in these power lines, many of which took flight as I rode past.

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Below we have McCormick’s Creek. It’s hard to believe that this tiny thing feeds a beautiful waterfall in McCormick’s Creek State Park (see some of my past shots of the waterfall here).

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For the first time in the entire ride, I started to see a couple of small breaks in the clouds. You can see right behind the tree below a small bright spot.

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The sun was finally starting to burn away the clouds. I thought I felt the air warming up slightly, as well.

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The ride remained hilly … but beautiful.

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Finally, the sun burned through the clouds.

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I kept seeing more and more beautiful ridgetop views.

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The rest of the ride is sort of a blur, but it involved a number of hills — including an especially difficult one on Garrison Chapel Road — a little more sun, and slightly warmer temperatures.

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This last shot was taken on That Road. As you can see it’s fairly hilly — but it’s fast riding in this direction. It was a real pain climbing up this hill first thing in the morning.

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It never warmed up past 50 degrees. By the end of the ride the only layer I had shed was my ear covering. No complaints here. I love riding in cooler weather.

The fog made for an incredible, memorable ride, with beautiful scenery and very little traffic overall. Gosport definitely warrants a return trip, at some point. Hopefully this week will be a great one for riding, with some time off work.

40s and rain

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Last week, I unwittingly had my first rainy ride in the 40s of the year. I was about halfway through my ride when the rain started. Riding in a chilly rain can be downright miserable, but this time, I enjoyed every moment of it. Fortunately, it didn’t rain too hard, and I was dressed warmly enough.

Sometimes I really enjoy riding in less-than-ideal conditions. The roads were quiet and there’s something beautiful (if ominous) about a drab grey sky contrasting with a colorful landscape. And once the rain started, fog started to roll in, shrouding the hills.

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Pinchot Trail, north loop

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Last week, The Blasphemous Bicycler (hereafter known simply as “TBB”) invited me to hike the north loop of the Pinchot Trail, in Lackawanna State Forest on Saturday. If you haven’t read his blog, check it out. It’s an excellent combination of cycling, hiking/backpacking, and of course, blasphemy and other topics. Always an interesting read. Anyway, I accepted the invitation and throughout the week watched the forecast for Saturday get increasingly gloomy. By Friday, the forecast called for temperatures in the 50s and a 90% chance of steady rain throughout the day.

Admittedly, I felt a bit concerned. I had never done a hike this long (10+miles) and I had no idea what to wear for 6-7 hours of hiking in the rain. But I had waterproof* boots and a $2 poncho, so I figured what the heck? Why not? This would be a good way to test rain gear, TBB’s new stove, and our will.

* My boots claimed to be waterproof, but I had not fully tested this claim.

We started hiking around 9:45 am, in moderate drizzle. A short ways into the trail we found a box with a log book and maps. We signed in and took some maps. Our first impression was that our ponchos were working well. In addition to keeping us relatively dry, they covered our packs and allowed some breeze to flow through. The ventilation was much appreciated. They did give us a bit of a hunchback look, with our packs under there, but we made the most of it.

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TBB, rocking the hunchback look. This stream popped up seemingly out of nowhere and disappeared under the rocks, and reminded me of the Orangeville Rise of the Lost River in Indiana

This trail must not see a lot of maintenance, because there were a ton of downed trees around which we had to maneuver. But the defining quality of this trail, at least to me, was all the rocks. I am not used to such rocky trails, coming from Indiana, but in this area long sections of trail basically amount to huge rock gardens. TBB tells me this trail was actually fairly moderate, in terms of rocks.

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One of many fallen trees blocks the trail

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The first of many sections of very rocky trail

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Creek

The trail mostly climbed for the first few miles, but it was mostly very gradual climbing that was fairly easy. There were a couple of short steep sections, but nothing bad. At some point we encountered some dense fog for a good 45 minutes to an hour, making for an even more beautiful hike. We alternated between conversation and quiet hiking, getting lost in the crunch of the leaves beneath our boots, the pitter-patter of the rain drops on our hats and the sounds of the blustery wind rushing through the trees and over our ears. The trail was very straight and flat for some time. We heard a loud noise that sounded like a small engine starting. Startled, I asked, “What the hell was that?” TBB said it was a grouse; a few minutes later he spotted another one, although I didn’t see it.

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Straight, flat, and easy foggy trail

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Bare trees

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Hiking through the fog

We crossed a gravel road, the first of several we would see. We commented that these roads would be great for cycling. Bikes aren’t allowed on the trails, but the roads were smooth gravel and looked extremely inviting.

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Gravel road

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Foggy, mowed clearing

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Tree

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More fog

After a while, the trail got considerably rockier and passed by a cranberry swamp (I think). We climbed a bit more, ending in a large, bare rock face.

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Exposed rock face

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Cranberry swamp

We started a long, difficult rock-riddled descent. The rocks, wet and leaf-covered, were quite slick, and there was no way to get even footing. This made it tricky to move without slipping, and the weird angles punished our ankles. We took our time and made it through safely. TBB’s poncho billowed like a trenchcoat in an action movie.

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Billowing poncho

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Rocks. Yes, that’s the trail.

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Making progress …

We saw a small stream and wondered if it was the creek we saw on the trail map. It seemed like it might be; we were a little disappointed, expecting something bigger. TBB filtered some water from the creek, and we took a break under a hemlock tree that shielded us from the rain so well we thought it’d stopped. Some trail mix and water had us feeling more energized. Only when we started hiking again without our ponchos did we realize it was still raining, and put the ponchos back on.

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Small creek

Now we had more rocks to deal with, this time going uphill. Once we reached the top of the hill, we realized we had another big, rocky descent ahead of us and suspected that the creek we had been looking for was up ahead. We could see a big mountain on the other side of the valley, and wondered if we had to climb that next.

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Rocky climb

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Descending into the valley

As it turned out, we were right. We took another, shorter break by this much-bigger, rushing creek and scouted out some potential campsites there. It was an incredibly peaceful scene, quiet except for the sounds of the rushing water.

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Creek

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Potential campsites

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Another shot of the creek

We lingered for a bit, then decided to move on. TBB said, “It’s difficult to leave a spot like this,” and I couldn’t agree more. The creek was probably the highlight of the whole hike in its scenic beauty and placid setting. There was no bridge across the creek, so we crossed on some rocks. They were very wet and slick, and one was loose. We both got our feet wet crossing the creek, and I noticed a leak in one of my boots after I crossed. Air bubbles escaped from my boot with each step. Hopefully I’ll be able to reseal it.

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Creek crossing

Shortly after leaving the creek we saw a handsome large buck run through the woods ahead of us. Now, we had to climb for quite a while. We encountered a couple of other hikers, who were covering the entire Pinchot trail system over the course of three days. We chatted for a couple of minutes, then moved on. This climb was rocky, but not as bad as some of the places where we had just hiked. We didn’t have to hike all the way up to the top of the next ridge, though, as the trail gradually climbed up the side as the ridge came down a bit. Still, it took a lot of effort to reach the top. Hiking on the ridge, we got some glimpses of surrounding mountains through the trees; just a few weeks earlier we wouldn’t have been able to see very much.

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Climbing the ridge

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Ridgetop hiking

Once we reached the top, it was flat for a while. We soon came to another road crossing and decided to make that our lunch spot. I had a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some Cheez-Its, TBB brought his stove and made some Ramen. The hot meal was an awesome idea; next time I’m on a long, cool hike, I’ll bring my stove. The rain stopped and started back up briefly but we took off our ponchos and for a few glorious minutes, the sun came out. I took my boots off and let my socks and feet air out a bit. I wished I had brought dry socks, something I had considered doing.

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Lunch spot

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Testing TBB’s new stove

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Cooking

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The sun came out for a few minutes

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Ramen

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TBB’s hat, GPS and trekking poles

We started hiking again, this time without our ponchos. We soon came across a bright orange salamander. He wasn’t moving very fast, but he was still alive. It seemed awfully cold to be a salamander. A few minutes later we saw another one that wasn’t as brilliantly colored.

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Salamander

It felt great to hike for a while without the ponchos. They do restrict your range of motion a bit, and also make climbing over rocks more challenging, since it’s harder to see your feet. It’s funny how something you take for granted under normal conditions — hiking relatively unencumbered — can feel like such a luxury at a time like this.

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More brush covering the trail

Sometime around 3 pm it started getting darker. It had been fairly dark all day, but we were surpised at how quickly we were losing light. It was a bit disheartening, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We did pick up the pace a little during the easy stretches. But soon we had a tricky, rocky downhill section. We had some good views as we hit the edge of the ridge and hiked down.

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Reaching the edge of the ridge

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About to descend. A boardwalk is visible below.

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The wooden boardwalk was very slippery

We knew we were getting close to the end of the trail. We had a little difficulty figuring out which way to go. Eventually, we figured it out and before long reached the road, where we’d walk the last mile back to the car. As soon as we reached the road, the skies opened up, the wind blew harder, and the rain began pouring down on us. These were the kinds of conditions I feared we’d have all day. I was glad it didn’t rain this hard earlier in the day. Water was running down the back of my poncho. I put the hood on to stop it, but I was already drenched. We walked along the road fairly quickly, although it made no difference. We were already drenched. This was an important lesson: the ponchos worked fine when it was only drizzling, but heavy rain, especially combined with strong winds, meant we got soaked.

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The road

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Reaching the trailhead. You can see raindrops falling, if you look closely

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TBB by the trailhead sign

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Me

We were glad to be back at the car. It had been a fun hike, despite the conditions, but I think we were ready to be out of the rain, and it was getting quite dark.

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