Pierre’s Hole Recon
So the title of this post is, um…interesting.
But for those of you prepping to race the 50 or 100 mile version of the Pierre’s Hole MTB race next Saturday, the title holds significant meaning – race course beta.
Let me start by saying I don’t think there is a purdier race route out there – it’s definitely the most amazing scenery I’ve raced in.
So the plan for today, was to solo the full 25 mile loop and send back recon data to the Suncrest crew. That was until I noticed on the following note updated on the race site yesterday:
“if you see the grizzly, ride faster. she has two cubs.”
So much for that solo idea. Considering the bear bugaboo, I opted to start my ride at the Teton Canyon parking lot (aid station #2 @ about mile 5.5). This puts you at the base of the first major climb of the race. This climb is a lot like South Suncrest – gradual 6-8% grade up about 1,100 feet in 3 miles to the Dry Creek turn off.
On race day, the course descends the pine covered ridge in the middle of the image below and then ascends the winding pavement.
The descent down the Dry Creek double track is going to be fast with good potential for chaos. There are some tricky rut sections that sneak up on you at high speeds – I almost kissed a lodgepole pine at 25 mph on the way down. Keep your speed in check here, especially on the first lap.
Below is a shot of the descent down Dry Creek Ridge.
Once you roll down Dry Creek you come to Heslin Ranch – an amazing piece of property tucked up in the foothills. This is private property, but the owners are part of the trail council and welcome racers on race day with food and a sprinkler shower to cool off. With this not being race day I wondered how they’d feel about an unexpected guest in tights. I rolled onto the property and made my way up to the ranch house and barn area. The scene was bucolic, but eerily quiet. As I rode towards the barn a sheep dog trotted out friendly enough with a brief glance my way, then made off after realizing a fat guy in spandex posed little threat. I started to roll into the barn when out galloped a young black colt – “holy crap” I thought, “I’ve let their horse out of the barn…how the hell did I do that!?”
I watched the colt make it’s way down to the other horses and thought I better head back to where I saw a 4-wheeler parked down the hill. As I did so I heard the bark of an agitated and much larger dog than the peaceful fella I’d met earlier. Looking across the pasture I could see a large white dog not very happy about something. Cujo made up my mind for me – I was getting off this property and fast.
As I rode back down the drive, I noticed a man out in the pasture holding a metal detector. I asked if this was the Heslin Ranch. He motioned that he couldn’t hear me so I got off the bike and hopped over the split log and electric fence. Walking up I introduced myself and asked if this was the Heslin Ranch. He confirmed it was and introduced himself as Buell – the owner of the place. He was very friendly considering some random stranger had just hopped over his property line in pursuit of idle chatter.
I asked if it was okay for me to ride through his property. He was very nice and told me how to get through the paddock and over to the gate leading to the ATV trail that leads back to the course. He said on race day the gates will be open and his family would be cheering on the racers from the barn. I thanked him for his generosity and asked if I needed to watch the electric fence when I crossed back over – he replied that it wasn’t lit up. But he did warn me about his “other” dog that wasn’t as nice as the first (I presumed he meant Cujo). Said he’d seen that white dog chase off a bear, kill a coyote, and bite the leg of a friend of his. I asked what the best approach would be should I encounter the white dog at close range. “Should I stick out my hand and let him smell it?” I asked. “Ride faster,” Buell said matter-of-factly. “If he gets close, put your bike between you and him and hope that keeps him back.”
Okay then. Thanks for the advice.
Making my way back up to the barn I spotted the gate to the ATV trail on the far side of the paddock. I made my way across only to find the gate locked. I picked up my bike and started to hoist it over the gate when…BZZZT! I staggered back, trying to comprehend why I just felt like someone had rolled out the defibrillator and put about a thousand volts through me.
Buell didn’t mention anything about the FULLY LIT electric fence running across the METAL GATE on the other side of the paddock. Holy shit.
The jolt had not only knocked the sense out of me, but also shocked the bike out of my hands and onto the other side of the gate. After gathering my wits, and as I was looking around for a less hair raising way to get to my bike I heard a noise that made me pee in my pants a little. Cujo.
He had come across the pasture and was none too happy to find me standing inside his property. In fact, he was pissed. And barking. And running. Straight for me!
I wheeled around and ran for the wooden fence post next to the metal gate, thinking I could reach the wood and catapult myself over both the electric ribbon and the fence in a single bound. BZZZZZT! I swear the second jolt was more volts than the first. It felt like my heart had exploded in my chest. I was staggering around like a drunk in a leotard. I didn’t look to see, but I’m sure the horses in the paddock were standing stock still wondering “what the hell is up with this guy.”
After shaking the cobwebs outta my head I started to panic. I had Cujo racing across the yard looking to take a pound of flesh, I’d been blasted back off the fence line twice, and my bike was stuck on the other side of an electromagnetic nightmare! I ran for the barn, hopped an inside fence and then through the corral to another fence with no electric ribbon. I raced across the back pasture and damn near hurdled the property line fence behind the barn. Bushwacked my way back to the metal gate, picked up my bike, took a quick pick of the fence and got the hell out of there. I don’t know where Cujo ended up, but all I heard as I pedaled furiously up the ATV trail was his horrifying bark behind me.
If you ever see a metal fence with a fancy white ribbon like this – it ain’t no Christmas present. Stay away from it.
Bustle Creek Climb
After leaving Heslin Ranch, you face a 1,500 ft climb over the next 4.5 miles of double track. The trail isn’t used much, but Troy (the race director) has cut back the grass and cleaned up the trail well. There are a few short, stiff pitches, but all in all the climb goes by fairly quickly. Maybe not by lap 4, but the first couple of laps shouldn’t be too bad.
Here’s a shot looking back down the Bustle Creek climb:
The Bustle Creek double track takes you back up to Ski Hill Road where you have another 2 miles or so to climb on pavement to Targhee. The best part of the entire course is just north of the resort in Rich’s Basin.
Miles 16 to 22 are by far the best miles of the course, which is saying a lot, because the rest of the course runs through some pretty amazing country. Rich’s Basin holds miles of single track through pristine meadows of wildflowers and groves of aspen and pine. Have a gander at some of the beauty in the area:
Entering into the basin:
Aspen & Pine:
Range east of Rich’s Basin and just south of the Tetons:
An infusion of yellow wildflowers as you work out of the basin:
After leaving Rich’s Basin you’ve technically finished the 25 mile lap, but I started 5.5 miles in so I thought maybe I’d venture out on the new Lightning Ridge Trail that represents the start of the race and leads over to Lighting Ridge and Papoose Creek (where Mama Grizz and her progeny had settled). The trail is new and a little bumpy, but nothing too bad. I made it about half a mile in when the woods start to creep in on top of me and that’s when I started hearing things. You know things like the sound of human bones being crushed in the jaws of a Grizzly. I got spooked. Turned around and headed back to the start line. I know…I’m a pansy. I’m not normally afraid of being out on the trails alone, but the suggestion that a mama had been seen with her cubs really got in my head. With two new cubs of my own coming in September, it just didn’t feel right today.
At any rate, I took a shot of Lightning Ridge from Ski Hill Road so you can see what we have in store:
We’ll ride that jeep road on the first lap and then the single track below it on all subsequent laps. In hindsight, I’m very glad I turned around on Lightning Ridge – as I was developing this film I noticed something in the shot that when you zoom in is pretty darn scary:
Mentally it didn’t feel like I had done much climbing on the lap, but in hindsight I’d climbed about 3,800 feet in 20 miles. The site says 4,100 feet p/ lap – so 16,400 for the race – that could hurt a little.
If you raced the Crusher in the Tushar a couple weeks ago and you were sold on your tire choice then – those will be the perfect tires for Pierre’s Hole. I am going to run the Bontrager XR1 Team Issue again – the rolled well on the pavement and provided plenty of grip on the one and two track.
The horseflies weren’t nearly as bad this year as last year, but they are still out and about – best to reduce the nuisance and sport some bug spray.
If you are bringing your family up for the event there will be plenty for them to do including swimming, hiking in Rich’s Basin, Frisbee golf on the mountainside and rides on the lift. The camping site for racers is a beautiful meadow just below the resort – one of the best race camping sites I’ve seen. There are 8 or 9 Honey Pots setup nearby so you don’t have to run up to the lodge.
I’m thinking this will be one of the best races I’ll participate in this year and maybe ever – at the very least, the scenery will be unsurpassed.
Can’t wait to get going on Saturday.