Friday, July 31, 2009

Reno Aces - Minor League Baseball Major League Fun

Last night I went to my very first Reno Aces baseball game. I found it interesting that my local team use to be the Oakland A's, and now my local them is still represented by the letter "A".

The Aces Stadium is located just outside the heart of old down town Reno. On the corner of Lake and Evans. Hidden amongst casinos, I never knew it existed till last night. In fact other than the website, this newly constructed stadium has no presence on the web. No aerial photos or street views show its image.

The stadium was smaller yet retained a true baseball stadium feel . We were a easy baseball's throw from the field. The most interesting aspect was the lack of foul ball protection. It made you feel right there in the game as foul balls drove themselves into the crowd.

Concessions were typical of baseball stadiums. After I purchased my first 6 dollar beer, I was tipped off to the Coors light PARTY ZONE. Up till the end of the third inning, beers flowed at 2 dollars a cup.

Last night our local hero's duked it out with the Tacoma Rainer's losing game three of this 4 game series. A co-worker had some free tickets that she did not use and passed them on to us. I learned that the Reno Aces are the minor league team associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unlike some other sports, the skill and action of these players did not suggest that they were not professional.

Though I am not a true baseball fan, I really enjoy all aspects of going to the ball game. The fact that the team is not in the Majors did nothing to subtract from the experience. In fact lack of crowds and chaos made the entire experience more enjoyable. This will be defiantly one event I do again!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marble Mountain Wilderness

Located in the Klamath National Forest, is a bit of wilderness called the Marble Mountains. Though seemingly unspectacular, being situated between Mt Shasta and the Trinity Alps, the Marble Mountains are in fact quite so. The unique mix is a light colored limestone with a black metamorphic rock gives many of the mountain formations a marble like appearance. At a maximum elevation of 8299 feet, Boulder Peak, Marble Mountain Wilderness does not claim to be the highest of alpine wildernesses. However with 89 lakes and 32 miles of the Pacific Crest trail located within it boundary, it holds its own as a special piece of untamed wilderness.

Not having spent much time in the northern reaches of this state, I planned to explore the Marble Mountains this last Fourth of July. My own place of residence becomes so overwhelmed with tourist, that I seek places of desolation to find relaxation. The nearest town to the wilderness is Yreka, as far north as California gets. In fact it feels more like Oregon then the rest of the state. I drove up after work solo and meet my friends who had departed a day earlier. We meet at a previously undecided location along Scott Creek Road out of Fort Jones. Since cell phone cover was unavailable once there, a ping from the SPOT personal locator device was sent to my cell phone as a text. I received the text while still travel along interstate five, where cell reception is plentiful. I took the coordinated from the ping and located his location on my GPS. The midnight rendezvous worked out flawlessly.

Our destination for this weekend were the Wright Lakes. Upper and Lower. Lower Wright Lake was more spectacular with Boulder peak terminating its base into blue waters. These lakes can be access by two trailheads Boulder Creek Trail, and Big Meadow. Boulder Creek, once the most popular trail to Wright Lake, climbs an insane 3500 feet in 2.5 miles. This trail noted in guide books as one of, if not thee hardest trails of the entire wilderness. This trail head can be access from forest service Road 44N45. However a less physically demanding route was selected. From a trail head off of FS43N23 the Big Meadow trail head could be reached. N41deg35.528' W123deg 02.793'. This particular Forest Service road was a bit rough and should be accessed with a 4wd truck or SUV, though a skilled driver with a 2wd truck or Subi could most likely access it as well. From a brief discussion with a US Forest Service representative, the land which the trail head is on is private property. The landowners are kind enough to allow public access, so please be courtesy, travel at a conservative speed and mind your litter.

Big Meadow is aptly named, a large alpinisk meadow. Views of Mt Shasta to the west were quite inspiring. A glimpse of what we believed to be the Trinity Alps were had to the the East. The trails in these neck of the woods however are not well marks, and not maintained. Have a good topographical map, compass, and diligently navigate your route. An altimeter and GPS are very helpful as well, especially if you are a first timers to this area, since I found my self off trail very often.,-123.066359&spn=0.029531,0.076818&t=p&z=14
Gaining the ridge to the North of Big Meadow, a small sign was discovered stating that Wright Lake was just on the other side. N41 deg 35.409' W 123 deg 3.518'. Upper Wright was soon in sight and passed as we headed to lower Wright. At lower Wright Lake we made camp for the night. Small snow fields on the northern slope of Boulder Peak allowed for post hike cold beers; a treat rarely experienced in the back county.

The fourth of July weekend was hit with a sudden heat wave. The entire month prior was cold and rainy, rare for the West. Temperature in Redding were of 100+ degrees. However at Wrights lake temps were moderate 70's.

Fish were not plentiful in the lake, though evidence of past successful catches were discovered in the form of poorly disposed fish carcases. Although the fish and game department has recently ceased stocking many lakes, the Wrights were not on the list of non-stocked lakes. The non stocking of California Lakes is a result of a law suit to protect the frog populations of many of these lakes. Though the relationship between fish population and frog populations appear to be inversely proportional, no studies have been made to substantiate those claims. The use of lures did nothing to attract fish to their trailing treble hooks. However I did have one fish hook up after a dab of power bait was used. Unfortunately this experienced late season trout, was able to wiggle itself free, once I brought him into the shallows and let up on my line pressure, as I climbed down to the water. One possible explanation of the low fish population was the due to the creature we spotted in the water. Once thought to be the monster of Lower Wright Lake, cooler heads concluded that the creature was most likely a river otter or a weasel of some sort.

To celebrate our countries independence, we decided to climb Boulder peak, the highest point in the Marble Mountains. Though the climb was mostly a hike with a small 3rd class section at the top, it was still the highlight of the trip. I originally wanted to gain the north ridge and climb the ridge to the summit. However I was convinced that a hike around the back would give a guaranteed summit bag, as well as less of a chance of a disastrous epic.

Boulder creek is formed by the water flowing out of Lower Wright Lake. At the mouth area of the lake we found a cleverly built water wheel.

Following the Boulder Creek Trail North along Boulder Creek, the trail eventually settles on the west side of the creek and wraps over the ridge into 2nd Valley. An older couple we meet on the trail described 2nd Valley as paradise lost. Though truly beautiful, the lost part of the phrase describes the trail system more accurately. This is Second Valley with a view of the back side of Boulder Peak. From this angle the north ridge of the peak looks pretty tough. Maybe it was a good decision to do the hike around.

All through the wilderness, there were signs of abundant wildlife (except fish). Bear scat littered the trail. At several dried creek and ponds, we found swarms of butterflies and bear prints. We never had a bear sighting nor did we have an issue with food storage. The mere presence of humans were enough to detract these bears. Hanging our food was sufficient in keeping it safe.

The summit bid consisted of several switchbacks up the SW talus slope, then a short 3rd class scramble to the top. We signed the summit registry and was off for cold beers back at camp. Rather then taking the the east ridge of back to the trail, we did some impulse mountaineering down a steep and loose drainage straight back to the lake.

Though a great weekend was had, I do not foresee myself traveling back to the Marbles anytime soon. I find the lower elevation topography to be less spectacular then the Sierra Nevada's I call home. The next time I trek up to these parts I would like to explore something new. However that said, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in this wild corner of the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Electra Bikes

New bikes these days tend to fall into two extremes. High Tech or Low Tech. On the cutting edge of technology, mountain bikes have multi link suspensions that are often more complicated than the suspension systems found on cars. Road bikes are built of space age materials with tuned harmonic dampeners. However new bikes are still produced that appeal to the classic in some of us. The single speed revolution harks to day of old, when all riders dreamt about was multi speed gearing. Beach cruisers have taken styling cues from the original Schwinn Phantom Bicycles.

Electra bicycles had made a niche for themselves in the classic/retro bike market.
Catering, not to the hard core cyclist, but more to the bicycle lifestyle advocate, Electra carries a full line of bikes that span from antique euro bikes, to bad boy choppers. You won't be winning any competitive races on these fine looking machines, but will be wining style points at your local hipster cyber cafe.

As an ex-bike mechanic at my local shop, I still occasionally make guest mechanic appearances. This last weekend I had the pleasure to building a few Electra Cruisers. Though the "Sparker", with its beach cruiser style frame, giant rear tire, and radially lace front wheel, did little to excite me, the Delivery 3i (pictured above) was a beauty. With the modern aluminum frame material mated to the wood panel rack and delivery basket, the attention to detail was at a level not usually found on a bicycle. Though all of my old bicycles are truly old, and the $730 price tag is something I would not pay, the existence of a company that builds fine modern classic bikes is inspiring.