Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On top of the Jura (Chasseral ride)

Chasseral is the highest peak of the Jura mountains in Switzerland, towering above lake Biel... well it's really a long, rather beautiful ridge and less of a tower. But there is a tower on top and it's rather ugly. The roundtrip ride from Biel is a bit painful at over 50 km and somewhere between 1600-1800m of total ascent. The other unfortunate thing is that a large part of the ascent is on paved road with a fair number of cars because as it turns out the giant tower on top of Chasseral is something of a tourist attraction.

the road to Chasseral winds through a beautiful forest

But what makes the 30km of "approach" worth it is the more than 15 km of trail that takes you all the way to the end of the ridge. The beginning is rough and rocky with some fun and fast open sections, but all the while you pass through serene meadows full of wildflowers.

Descending from Chasseral -- yes, it was cold. Yes it was also late July. 

Passing through meadows below the top of Chasseral

Molly making friends

Molly after almost 40km of mountain biking

Molly insisted on taking some shots of me... 


There are lots of ups and downs until Le cabane du Jura hut -- but after that the trail weaves down a gentle gradient through the forest toward Frinvillier, turning into really tight singletrack in high grass at times. A really amazing treat after a day of hard work! We were running a bit late so we skipped the really steep last section down to Frinvillier proper and instead bailed down a road to Orvin and from there back to Biel. In Biel we found a lovely restaurant that served deliciously fresh food in the old part of town to finish off the day. A really memorable ride, highly recommended!

Molly lost in the wildflowers

Molly the wildflower

beautiful forest trail toward Frinvillier

ps: I took my 10-22 mm wide angle and a 50 mm prime with me on this trip -- first time I went into the mountains without my regular mid-range zoom. Even though the 50mm prime is the low-cost version (though it's amazing because it weighs nothing) I think the picture quality is far superior to my zoom. When shooting moving subjects the zoom tends to get in the way and I can't focus on composition as much so the prime was a nice relief. I think it'll definitely find its way to my pack again (thanks Axel for letting me borrow it!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jackson, Wyoming (on mountain bikes)

Molly and I visited Jackson for a little while and while there one of my main wishes was to go mountain biking... this is where I tasted real mountain biking for the first time a few years ago and I was hooked immediately. The trails are incredible, and many of them start straight from town. 

Ditch-Creek to Horsetail Creek trail

We rented some sweet 29ers from Fitzgerald's who have now actually moved to Victor, ID -- we're loyal customers I guess. Our first ride started right from Keith and Meagan's in Kelly and across some flatlands onto the Ditch Creek road on the east side of Shadow mountain. We thought the ride would be relatively easy, if fairly long, because of not much elevation gain... but once the singletrack started we were faced with meadow after meadow full of snowmelt mud and mosquitoes. The going was tough... the temps were pretty high but luckily Keith remembered to bring a water filter (and bug repellent!) so we could refill the bladders. The Ditch Creek trail transitions into Horsetail Creek trail where the fun starts -- amazing downhill section of perfect, smooth singletrack with some steep bits to grab your attention. It weaves through beautiful forest and you quickly forget the mosquito-infested mud holes of just 1 hour or so before... jacked up on adrenaline, the beer, which magically appeared from underneath Keith's truck, tasted better than ever. Here's the track:

riding out from Kelly with the Tetons in the background

Beautiful wilderness...

fun little trail to connect to Ditch Creek 

We were pretty sure that fun was just around the corner... oh how wrong we were

Pleasant little trail through the meadows

amazing view of the valley -- we were pretty sure fun was just around the corner

finally, the downhill singletrack we were promised!

Sink-or-Swim to Hagen to Putt-putt trail

We had a 2-day rental so the next day I devised an "easy" loop for me and Molly, stringing together three different trails right out of the town of Jackson. We basically traversed the entire north side of Snowking, starting with the Sink-or-Swim trail, linking into the Hagen trail and ending up on the Cache Creek road to get to the start of Putt-putt trail to return to town. After the previous day's 20-miles we wanted to do something easy so I put together a long-ish route that had multiple bail-out options if we got tired. These trails are amazing given how close to town they are and how much they get used -- really fun singletrack essentially the entire way! The trails meander through sage brush, pine forest, and the putt-putt trail even goes through an occasional aspen grove or two. Halfway through I had the unfortunate experience of having my rear wheel pop off (!?) -- I didn't even think that was possible. Next time, I'll definitely double-check the quick-release when using a rental bike... luckily nothing really happened (i.e. I didn't break my face) except that I mangled the chain pretty badly so the gears kept skipping for the rest of the ride (Fitzgerald's also didn't charge me for anything... not that it was my fault, but still a lesser shop could have been stupid about it). Still, the flowy single-track on Putt-putt was as awesome as I remembered (it was one of the first mountain bike trails I had ridden) except this time I was going much faster (full-suspension) and didn't fear for my life (I've gained some skill since the first time I guess).

Molly on the way up to Sink-or-Swim

Molly cranking through the beautiful forest on the sink-or-swim trail

coming down Hagen

One of the taxing uphill sections on Putt-putt

great trail with great views

Monday, July 2, 2012

Euro 2012 - Spain vs. Italy 4-0

Come on azzuri -- the one time since 2006 I root for you, you completely failed to impress. Where's the magic? Well the atmosphere in Circo Massimo was awesome nonetheless... the giant field a stonethrow from the Colosseum was a proper venue to watch the match indeed. The people were incredible... jubilant, friendly... even towards the odd fool wearing a Torres jersey. I don't envy the Italian team, I can already see the headlines tomorrow...
introducing the spanish team
start of the game
After the first spanish goal...