Friday, June 28, 2013

A Bicycle Race Runs Through It

About a week ago we started seeing bicycles, loaded down with gear, flying down the railroad grade trail through our campground.  One, a young man from Arizona named Matt, stopped long enough to tell us about the Tour Divide Bicycle Race.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is a continuous long distance bicycle touring route from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, USA. As of 2010, the route is 2745 miles (4418 km) long.  The official name of the race that follows the entire route is the Tour Divide.

Per Wikipedia, the race clock runs 24 hours a day and the riders are allowed no outside support other than access to public facilities such as stores, motels, and bike shops. The record time to complete the Tour Divide in its 2012 routing is 15 days, 16 hours and 14 minutes and was set in 2012 by Jay Petervary.   The race, which has neither entry fees nor prizes, usually starts in the second weekend in June - at an event called Grand D├ępart.  This year’s Grand Depart was June 14, with 143 riders (all men) at the starting gate.  As of today, 104 are still riding.

Another rider from Los Angeles told us a little more.  The race, he said, is about navigation, about planning and preparation, about resourcefulness, about being able to ride alone for a long time.  He told us he broke his left forearm early in the race and lost a day having it set in a soft cast.  The doctor told him to stop riding.  He pushed himself even harder to catch up with the rest of the riders.  He told us the riders pick up the railroad grade trail that comes through Warm River at Sawtelle Mountain Resort in Island Park.

We have had several riders come through.  Some have spent the night with us; others have stopped briefly to refill their water and kept racing.  These are an amazing group of athletes.  We cheer them on and wish them well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Marathon Runs Through It

Lower Mesa Falls
When I first started researching the Warm River area in preparation for our summer here, I stumbled across a reference to the Mesa Falls Marathon.  I was delighted – a certified race right here in my new home-away-from-home.

Warm River Spring
The Mesa Falls Marathon and Half-Marathon is this running camp host’s dream come true.  The marathon begins at the Warm River Spring – the source of the river that runs through our campground.  It runs down the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, past upper and lower Mesa Falls, and then takes off on the Railroad Grade Trail into the Warm River Campground.  That’s right – the Mesa Falls Marathon runs right through our campground!

Railroad Grade Trail
This year’s marathon is scheduled for Saturday, August 24.  You can learn more about the Mesa Falls Marathon at mesafallsmarathon.com.  Here’s the brief description of the courses.

Marathon
The Marathon course features a unique blend of running surfaces including 9.8 miles of gravel roads, 2.8 miles of packed trails along Warm River, and 13.6 miles of pavement and provides spectacular views of the Targhee National Forest, the Teton Mountains, Lower Mesa Falls on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, and Warm River. The course starts at an elevation of 6135 ft. and is generally downhill. There is one significant uphill climb from mile 17.1 to mile 19.9 with an elevation gain of 300 ft. in 2.8 miles. The race finishes at 5253 ft. for an overall course elevation loss of 882 ft. Aid stations are located at approximately 2 mile intervals beginning at mile 2.

Half Marathon
The Half Marathon begins at Bear Gulch and features 2.8 miles of packed trails along the old railroad bed paralleling the spectacular Warm River.  The remaining 10.3 miles are on pavement and feature views of
Tetons from the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Wyoming’s Teton Mountains and the rolling farm fields in Idaho’s famous potato country. The course starts at an elevation of 5746 ft. and is generally downhill with the finish line at 5253 ft. for an overall elevation loss of 493 ft. There is one significant uphill section from mile 4 to mile 6.8 with an elevation gain of 300 ft. in 2.8 miles. Aid stations are located every 2 miles.

The spectacular Warm River – yep, that’s the river that runs through our campground.  The significant uphill section is the climb out of the campground toward the city of Ashton.  I’ve been running this hill since I arrived at Warm River.

Both my husband and our area manager have given me the go-ahead to take Saturday morning, August 24, off work.  I’m planning to run the half-marathon.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Being Miss Trunchbull

 Warm River Campground has a group site consisting of a large pavilion, five tent sites, and lots of parking.  The site is available by reservation only, and from June forward is pretty much reserved every day until Labor Day. 

The first group to use our group site this year was a father-son campout.  About eighty dads and sons of all ages converged within a very short time on our pavilion, parking lot, and tent area.  I think there is an unwritten rule of any father-son outing that no one should be able to tell the fathers from the sons.  For one night only they ALL get to be little boys.

It seemed that with this group, all I said was “No.”

                “No, you can’t park there.  We need to leave space for other vehicles.”
                “No, you can’t put your tent there.  That spot is reserved for another camper.”
                “No, you can’t build a fire in another campsite.”
                “No, you can’t take your ATV off the trailer.”
    “No, you can’t take your ATV off the trailer and drive it outside of the campground.”
                “No.  No.  No.  No.  No.”

One of the dads called me on it.  “Don’t you hate always having to be the bad guy?”  He went on.  “I’m going to call you Miss Trunchbull.”  For those, like me, who had no idea who Miss Trunchbull is, she is the wicked headmistress in the film, Matilda.  I still haven’t seen the film, but the Wikipedia review refers to her as sadistic.  Ouch.  I suppose it could have been worse.  He could have called me Professor Umbridge.

The Forest Service imposes rules within the campground.  These rules are for the safety and comfort of the campers and to ensure the safety and preservation of the local wildlife.  If that means I have to be the wicked headmistress to get campers to comply, I guess I’ll wear the label gladly. 

The good news is that both the Forest Service and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department have my back.  The better news is that we captured our “lessons learned” from this first group and incorporated them into our process for checking groups in.  (There I go again, talking like a process engineer.)  We've had no problems managing the group site since. 

Of course, we haven’t had another father-son campout since.  Wish us luck on the next one!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Smarter than the Average Bear

Our campground may look like a city park, but we are smack dab in the middle of bear country.  The Caribou/Targhee National Forest is home to both Black bears and Grizzly Bears.  I use the word home quite literally.  We are the visitors, and as such it is our responsibility to ensure that their habitat remains the way nature intended.

What does this mean to us as campground hosts?  The National Forest has a very strict Required Food Storage Order.  The order “is intended to reduce adverse human-grizzly bear interactions, thereby promoting human safety and the protection of bears…”

The order requires that any unattended food, refuse, and attractants be stored inside hard-sided vehicles, in bear-resistant containers, or hung above the ground out of reach of bears.  The list of “attractants” may surprise you.  Bears are attracted to food, of course, but they also like deodorant, toothpaste, cosmetics and lotions.  Another surprise – coolers are not bear resistant.

Bears canvass their area searching for food.  Sometimes they run across a campground.  If they don’t find food, they move on.  Unfortunately, once a bear finds easy food in a campground, he tends to keep returning.  Once this happens, the Forest Service can attempt to relocate the bear, but more often than not they end up killing the bear.  It’s true – a fed bear is a dead bear.

We are required to enforce compliance with the Required Food Storage Order.  We do this to protect our campers.  And we do this to protect the bears.  Grizzly bears are protected in the lower 48 states.  Killing a grizzly bear in the lower 48 is both a federal and a state offense that can bring criminal and civil penalties of up to $50,000 and a year in jail. 

Here at Warm River we have places to store food for tent campers who have no hard-sided vehicle.  We also have bear-resistant dumpsters.  The bins are secured by a clasp through a ring – much too small for a bear to open. 

It took me a minute, but I did figure out how the clasp works.  I guess that makes me smarter than the average bear.  Let’s all be smarter than the average bear and make sure we don’t inadvertently attract bears into Warm River - or any campground.