Sunday, April 12, 2015

Laid Back On The Olentangy Trail

This year for my first recumbent ride of the season I wanted to go big and also add a new bike way to my list of trails ridden.  This weekend the weather was perfect so I loaded up the HP Velotechnik and headed south to Franklin County in central Ohio.

I used that popular online map to determine how exactly to get to the northernmost trail head and also to study the route I would be riding south once the car was parked.

The trail follows its namesake the Olentangy River 13 miles to its confluence with the Scioto River in downtown Columbus.  I chose this trail because the Olentangy originates in Crawford County where I am from although it is little more than a ditch at its start.  From Crawford County the Olentangy meanders 97 miles in length and has long been a resource to those inhabiting its banks.

The river was first called Keenhongsheconsepung (Heck with three times -just try to say that once!) by the Delaware peoples who lived in the region.  The word translates to "stone for your knife stream" after the shale exposed along the banks of the creek.  White settlers who moved into the area changed the name of the water to the Whetstone.

The past week of rain and storms has the river running high and muddy.  It's early spring yet and things look pretty brown and dead but the sun is warm and things will start turning green soon.  The grass on this golf course I spotted across the river has got a good start.

The trail switches banks occasionally.  Here's a shot taken on the east bank as I continued south. 

 I like riding in the early season because with out leaves on the trees it's much easier to see things along way.  Alternatively later during the hot dog days of summer the leaves create welcome shade.  For now though exploring a new trail I like the openness.

More evidence of recent rains

Soon into my ride I started finding examples of Columbus' excellent infrastructure catering to park users.  Bridges are a great combination of art and architecture and they always make for interesting compositions in my camera eye.

As I continued on the area along the banks became more urban.  And more bridgey. 

Lane Avenue Bridge

The Olentangy Trail cuts right through the Ohio State University campus.

The Horseshoe

Back on the west bank I came across the first railroad bridge of the ride complete with some vintage antique telegraph insulators.

While the telegraph system those old insulators belonged to was long since retired the bridge was still very much in use. 

At midday I arrived at the confluence of the Olentangy and Scioto not far from downtown.  At this point the Olentangy trail links up with the Scioto Trail.  I rode to the western end of this trail away from town first.  

The Scioto is one of Ohio's longest rivers stretching just over 230 miles across the state until draining into the Ohio River at Portsmouth.

After a couple miles I reached the end of the trail and headed back east towards the city.

Another railroad bridge offers a unique vantage point to the downtown cityscape.

In recent years the Ohio EPA and the city of Columbus have been making improvements to the river front area.  The removal of a damn reduced the width of the river and freed up land along the banks to create parks and green space.

The big white building in the center of the frame above is the Ohio Supreme Court House.  From this spot I took a picture of the ongoing construction.

A big section of the bike trail is closed because of the work and detoured a few blocks through the city.  The detour was well marked and even protected with cement barriers from automotive traffic.  I felt very safe.

I am not a fan of driving in the city.  I'd much rather get around by bike.  As I was pedaling along the detour route I spotted this rack of bike share bikes and stopped for a closer look.  I did see quite a few people out and about on the rental bikes. 

South of the city center the Scioto trails heads along the bank of the river for a few miles before abruptly terminating.  I wheeled around and headed back towards town to find a place to take a break.

On the West Main St. bridge I found a nice spot with a sun warmed bench to sit and eat my snack.

Note the public binoculars on the rail above my bike.  Free! no quarter needed and yes I did have a look.

West Main St. Bridge

This is how bridges should be designed.  The pedestrian and bike deck is just as big as the automobile side. 

I took my time on the trip down stopping often to take pictures and look around.  As the shadows lengthened and I headed back north I settled into a faster pace and used up the rest of my energy.  I like to ride harder on the second half of my rides and this works out well when exploring a new trail.  

It doesn't look like it in my pictures but there was lots of people out enjoying the day. I saw all kinds of bikers, joggers, dog walkers along the trail in the forty miles I covered. Parks and fields along the way were filled with sports teams playing games like lacrosse and softball.

One thing I really liked about the Olentangy Trail is that the designers kept the trail always winding and turning.  It made the ride a bit more fun than the arrow straight runs found on many rail trails that can get tedious.

I couldn't think of a better way to spend the day than laying around on my recumbent bike.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Cycling Update

Well warmer weather has finally come and it's about damn time.  The cold was starting to effect my mood.  But all is good now.  The days have gotten longer and I've been out a few times on my bike and even back to steady commutes on the Ti General Purpose bike.  

The winter seemed extra long this year not only because of the bitter cold but late last year I upgraded a couple of my bike's rider interface components and hardly had a chance to enjoy them.  I was anxious to put some time on the Brooks B67 and really test it out so when the first warm day came around I took off on the bike trail.  I did encounter a few icy spots but most of the trail was dry and I logged 33 miles in two and a half hours.  

My Brooks saddle continues to amaze me.  It just seems unbelievable that a bike seat can be so comfortable.  I hit the trail after two months of not even touching a bicycle and sat for hours with absolutely no discomfort.  Don't worry though I'm not giving up on the recumbent. 

I picked up some new tires during the winter for the Ti GP bike.  These Michelin slicks are a tenth of an inch narrower than the old rubber I was running and much lighter.  My old tires were durable yet heavy and made the bike feel sluggish but as the years past I just got used to it.  

1.40" equals out to about 36mm and on my old 26" mountain bike rims they seem to be a perfect balance between comfort and speed.  I'm happy with the ride quality and the snappier acceleration from lighter tires is very welcome.  They are folding bead and only set me back about forty bucks. 

When I got the Bosco bar I wrapped the exposed alloy with old fashioned cotton bar tape. The tape has a little strip of adhesive on the backside just like modern bar tape to hold it in position.  I learned that back in the day cyclists would mix up a little shellac and coat the tape once their bar was wrapped.  At first I liked the cloth look and just left them as is.  

After some time went by I noticed the cotton was starting to fuzz up a bit and maybe starting to lighten just a touch.  It was staying tight but the more I thought about the shellac the more I realized it might be a good idea to slap a little on the tape.  At the local hardware store I picked up this little pint of premixed clear shellac. Nice! I didn't even have to mess with the raw flakes and denatured alcohol.

I used a foam brush to dab it on.  At first the cotton really soaked it in and once dried the appearance hadn't changed a whole lot.  After a few days I put on a second helping and the wrap picked up a little more gloss.  Now it look great but best of all the the fabric won't fuzz and those wraps will definitely stay tight.

It's been raining all week but the weather is looking up for the weekend so I'll be out there for sure.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Big Lyons Falls Trek

...And it snowed another five inches on top of what we already had here on the ground so what else was left to do but go snowshoeing I guess!  When I have a whole day to kill by myself I love nothing more than to get away and enjoy a long physical soul-cleansing session in the wild.  

The mode of transport doesn't matter much to me as long it's under my own power.  I'll be honest when it's cold I don't like riding bikes much and there are much better ways to recreate in the winter. With nearly a foot and a half of the white stuff snowshoes are the obvious choice.

The previous night I decided to head for Mohican State Park because it is the largest tract of unspoiled land nearest to me.  I parked in the empty campground along State Route 3 at the far eastern end of the park.  My plan was to hike up the Hemlock Trail to the primitive campground, across the covered bridge and on to Lyons Falls to look for ice formations. 

I got an early start for me anyway and hit the trail at 9:30 am. The air was crisp and cold and much of the valley was shaded by the high hills on the south side of the gorge.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining bright promising a good day to be in the woods.

Judging by the three inches of fresh snow covering the tracks of the last hikers on the trail I was the first person to come through the area in a day or two.  In the summer this park is full of people making noise and enjoying the park.  While that is good I like solitude and quiet and I find that in spades when I venture out in the off season.
Just me and the wild life.

The Hemlock trail winds two miles along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River and ends at the primitive camp.  From there its another mile along the camp road to the covered bridge.  Early on the snow was light and powdery and the going was pretty easy.  

When I got to the camp road I found the only tracks were from snow machines.  This gave me a break from the snowshoes and I could walk along easy in my pack boots on the hard pack.

Here's a shot of a picnic table that shows the depth of the snow:

Soon I rounded a bend and the bridge came into view.  It looks great with a thick blanket of snow on top!

View from the covered bridge looking  back downstream the way I had come.
Once across the bridge I put my snowshoes back on and picked up the trail towards Big Lyons falls.  These hills are very old and most have been rounded off smooth over time but in places the sandstone rim of the gorge is still visible.  Another reason I love coming to the park in winter is because the understory is all open and it is much easier to see the lay of the land. 

I stopped often to marvel at the silence. There was no wind at all and tucked down into the valley I couldn't hear any man made sound except for the occasional airplane passing overhead.  What sounds I could hear were the chirps of nut hatches and other small birds who I'm sure could sense the coming of spring.  I saw a few hawks and lots of deer trails but never saw any throughout the day.

A smaller drainage climbs up away from the Clear Fork and up this ravine is where the overhang is that creates Big Lyons Falls.  

I like coming to this place every winter and seeing the difference in the ice formations from year to year.  This time around I found a huge column of ice rising all the way to the rim.  A little more impressive than what I documented a couple years ago. 

There was some water running down the outside of the column but there must have been hollow spaces on the inside because I could hear drips and drops echoing and sounding much like a leaky toilet tank. 

I took a break here and ate my lunch careful not to stand under any of the big icicles which from time to time a small bit would fall and smash into the rocks below. 

Because of the overhang of rock it was possible to walk all around the massive stack of ice and from the cave side the column was back lit by the bright sky.  The aquamarine color was very pretty. 

This view I captured from the top of the staircase visible in the previous photo.  I tried to get a bit of the trees in the frame to show the scale.

It didn't take long to cool down so soon I was back down the trail heading ever so slightly downhill.  The temperature rose during the day and the snow went from fluffy to heavy and wet. If I stayed in the path I cut earlier in the day it wasn't to bad but if I ventured off trail the snow it didn't take long for the wet snow to pack up around the binding straps and in the wire mesh of the shoes.

Off-trail steps displace 4" -5" of snow.
Even with the difficulty of the wet snow I couldn't imagine this eight mile slog with just winter boots on.  Yet again I'm amazed at how perfect the snowshoe is for traversing deep snow.  

Here I easily negotiated a big pile of logs that would have been much trickier with regular foot gear and in any other season.  I've had a blast with these cheap army surplus snowshoes and I've certainly got my moneys worth but with the places I like to go a pair of modern shoes is starting to appeal to me more and more.  The flat fabric webbing of modern shoes would be less prone to packing up with wet snow and a more compact shoe would be easier to maneuver on tight trails and off track also. 

5 hours and 20 minutes later I made it back to the trail head tired but intensely satisfied with the day's adventure.  Every so often a beautiful day full of solitude and natural beauty mixes with the sense of euphoria hard won through long physical exertion and stirs something deep inside.  It's hard to put into words but I know I really dig it.