Monday, June 1, 2015

The Mind Game, Again

I am often reminded of the incredible power of the mind. Or perhaps it is the incredible importance of the mind. Not to be downplayed, one’s mind state, perspective, beliefs and practice are the crucial components of performing well in the outdoors and, dare I say it, enjoying a wilderness experience as deeply as possible. Reading The Talent Code, by Dan Coyle was like being led through a maze in which every turn yields another nugget of wisdom or truth.  Many of these nuggets seem familiar or as if they are confirming what you might already feel or have experienced.  I suppose that is the beauty of good instruction - and well-researched instruction at that.

I was practicing a subtle, yet essential, skill today out on the trails while mountain biking.  I was playing with the idea of looking further down the trail then I do instinctively.  On the turns I looked further along on the opposite side.  The shift in visual perspective was dramatic and in a few cases it led to a heightened level of flow.  Ah.  That is what I seek after all.  

You might enjoy Dan Coyle’s blog on the topic of his book.  His most recent post addresses a similar topic — practice.  Additional insight can be gained from Cal Newport here.

The Wilderness Divide - Bikepacking Trip

I returned last week from this remarkable point-to-point traverse of the Los Padres National Forest that begins in a desolate valley, climbs to pine covered mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands National Park before descending dirt roads and single track through the iconic foothills of Santa Barbara to the beach.

I also wrote about this tour after a trip last May, but have since done the route differently and covered a longer distance.  In my notes I have started to refer to as "the wilderness divide" since an essential portion of the route passes along the boundary between two distinct wilderness areas.  This characteristic is also one of the reasons this is such a great route and the only viable way to ride bikes in this portion of the Los Padres.

Beginning at Bates Canyon in the Cuyama Valley, this route climbs to the Sierra Madre Road (dirt road) and then follows the ridge line to the magical Painted Rock Camp at Montgomery Potrero.  Incredible Chumash rock art is evidence of an aboriginal settlement at this location.  From there, the route continues along the Sierra Madre Road to the junction with the Buckhorn/Big Pine Road (dirt), which then climbs through pine and oak covered hills to the flanks of Big Pine Mountain.  A long descent through that highlights the change from conifers to the chaparral ecosystem leads to the comfortable campground and Forest Service Patrol Cabin at Bluff Camp.  The Buckhorn Road continues from here and then climbs to near the summit of Little Pine Mountain before a thrilling descent past the Chalk Bluffs to the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains.  Superb camping and numerous options for sweet single track abound. Breaking from dirt for a very short section of pavement at the Santa Ynez River then leads to a dirt road climb to the mountains directly behind Santa Barbara.  Views of the Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands and the Dick Smith Wilderness and San Rafael Wilderness provide remarkable perspective on this portion of Southern California.  A final descent down Romero Canyon (although there are several options for incredible single track descents in this area) leads to Summerland and eventually to the burgers at Padaro Beach Grill, which is a convenient pick-up or shuttle point.

Roughly 105 miles.  We did this route slowly over 6 days and fully immersed ourselves in the beauty of the Los Padres National Forest.  My companions were students from The Thacher School in Ojai and an alumnus of Thacher.

Water was rather thin this year (no surprise), but there was adequate supply at key points.  Information on springs and creeks can be gleaned from

Thank you to Nick for sharing his photos of the trip with me.  My compact camera failed on day one.

Valuable Resources:
Bryan Conant Maps (
Hike Los Padres (
Pedaling Nowhere (

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I had another great season in the climbing program at Thacher.  Joshua Tree, Yosemite, the San Gabriels and our beloved Los Padres were our playgrounds, our training medium and our solace.  I miss this group already!  Looking forward to the spring climbing season.  For now it is the opportunity to develop aerobic capacity, work on our local trails and hope for snow in the hills.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Santa Rosa

Six glorious days backpacking on Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands National Park.  These islands truly are the Galapagos Islands of California.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Los Padres Bikepacking Tour

Sierra Madre and San Rafael Mountains
Over the course of 6 days, 10 students from the Thacher School and I bikepacked the Sierra Madre Rd/Buckhorn Rd route across a section of the Los Padres National Forest.  We departed from Aliso Canyon Campground, climbed to the Sierra Madre Road via the Hog Pen Spring Trail, followed the Sierra Madre Rd to the Buckhorn and the rode some great single track near 19 Oaks Camp as well as the last mile of the Santa Cruz Trail above Upper Oso Campground.  This trip was organized as part of our bi-annual (fall and spring) 6-day expeditions into the backcountry as part of our school’s curriculum.
We had a wonderful tour and enjoyed camping in the solitude of the Los Padres.  This part of California is absolutely amazing; it never fails to delight and surprise.  Conditions were cool, water was readily available and the students were among the most adventuresome and enthusiastic about bikepacking as I have ever experienced.  Some bumps, scrapes and minor crashes were sustained, but my students wore the scars and bandages like badges of honor.  We also had very few mechanical issues, but one of our group bent his front rim badly only 2 miles from Upper Oso Camp.  He was forced to pack up his bike and hike out, but otherwise sustained only a scratch.  “I am just bummed to not be able to keep riding singletrack” was his only negative response after the crash.  Upon reaching the road, one of his comrades gave him his bike to ride the 1.4 miles while he “piggybacked” on the OMM rack of a fellow student.  They bent the rack skewer a bit, but otherwise I have to praise them for coming up with a solution and keeping the band together.  Awesome kids.
Our camps were: Hog Pen Spring Camp, Painted Rock Camp, Alamar Camp (a dry camp, but sufficient water was available at Chokecherry Spring), Bluff Camp, and 19 Oaks Camp.
Water info:

  1. Hog Pen Spring – trough was full, steady trickle from the spring
  1. Painted Rock – used Montgomery # 2 Spring – cattle trough – very fine sediment, supply a little low.  Montgomery # 1 was pooling, but insufficient supply for our group.
  1. Oak Spring – steady trickle as of 5/20
  1. Chokecherry Spring – steady trickle down the creek.  26 oz in 1 minute (5/20)
  1. Bluff Camp – 32 oz in 18 sec. (5/21)
  1. 19 Oaks – ample water in pools in the creek below camp (5/22)
  1. I am deeply appreciative of the superb racks from Old Man Mountain in Santa Barbara as well the support from Channing.  These racks have been solid and are easy for my students to work with in the field (a critical element with a large group).
  1. I used a handlebar bag (a Sweetroll), Gas Tank and Jerry Can from Revelate Designs this spring and am very pleased with how well they install and pack loads on the bike.  For one reason or another I have been skeptical of carrying gear on my handlebars on technical single track, but this bar bag has changed, or perhaps better informed, my perspective on carrying gear in this manner.  Mounted on a Santa Cruz Blur, I didn’t feel that the load on the front was problematic at all while riding.  In fact, I appreciated the way that it allowed me to balance out the bike.
  1. Hammer Gel, Hammer Perpetuem and Endurolytes.  

Essential gear:
thacherbikepacking 1 thacherbikepacking 2 thacherbikepacking 3 thacherbikepacking 4 thacherbikepacking 6 thacherbikepacking 5 thacherbikepacking 7 thacherbikepacking 8 thacherbikepacking 10 thacherbikepacking 9 thacherbikepacking 11 thacherbikepacking 12 thacherbikepacking 13 thacherbikepacking 14

This trip report is also available here on

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mind Game

In preparation for the spring climbing season, I went over some of my notes from the fall and was reminded of a series of interviews with Olympic/World Cup skier and NFL football player Jeremy Bloom from the Podium Sports Journal.  I have found these interviews, albeit brief, to contain insight and bits of wisdom that have been helpful in the sports I pursue.  For example, while riding the Tunnel Trail recently in Santa Barbara, I distinctly felt that while the technical nature of the trail requires certain physical skills, the mental side of riding the trail well, and safely, is perhaps the most important.  I focus a lot on teaching the mental game to my students, although I do find it to be one of the more challenging things I instruct.  In other words, I don't have clear metrics for determining the effectiveness of these teaching tools, but I believe that they make all the difference in the world.  The following video gives a sense of these mental skills.  I you will find it useful as well!

Monday, February 3, 2014


I enjoyed seeing this Vimeo featuring Will Gadd.  If you haven't read his blog, I highly recommend it.  There is a lot of wisdom, insight, inspiration and humor in what he says.  I also really like how much he discusses safety and technique in the mountains.  Really good stuff.

MOVE from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cold Springs and Tunnel Trails

A great morning spent with Weston, Kevin, Grant, Jon and Quincy riding the Cold Springs Trail and the Tunnel Trail in Santa Barbara.  A mountain bike is another great tool for interacting with the landscape and getting to some incredible locations.  I am reminded of the sentiments expressed by Galen Rowell on the topic of man in the natural world, which is something that has always inspired me in my climbing and photography.  Mountain bikes are a way to have similar interactions with the trail, the chaparral and the geology that comprise the mountains.  Not unlike mountaineering, a demanding trail can result in similar levels euphoria and require the type of focus that makes you feel as if time has slowed down.  I am especially appreciative of these opportunities in light of the absence of snow in our mountains.  It has been surprising to me to feel a similar sense of engagement and satisfaction from mountain biking as what I am used to getting from skiing.  Most likely a good portion of that has to do with the incredible trails that are just out my backdoor.  Skis have been traded in for knobby tires, and I am enjoying the ride.

 The Tunnel Trail in the Santa Barbara front country - and a rare smooth section - the Tea Fire burned through here in 2008.
Jon Chang dropping into a section on the Tunnel Trail that characterizes the rocky and technical nature of this trail.  Jon has improved a ton in his riding over the past three years.  He really commits to the terrain and just goes for it.  We first rode together when he was a sophomore at Thacher on a 107 mile backcountry bike packing tour of the Los Padres.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

An inspiring bike and mountaineering tour through Kyrgyzstan -- The Road From Karakol

I just watched the short film of Kyle Dempster's solo bike and mountaineering tour of Kyrgystan in 2011.  The adversity he faces and the adventure he experiences are absolutely incredible.  There is something about the rawness of the footage that really grips the viewer.  I was on the edge of my seat.  What is more, the shots of beautiful mountains and skylines containing even more remote ranges speaks to the desire to simply get out there.  Above is the trailer for the 25 minute film.  I hope you enjoy.

Horse Flats - Angeles National Forest