Idaho Mountain Unicycle Weekend

The Stoltzfus family hosted this year’s west coast (USA) muni weekend in
beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho. Joe and Judy were the gracious host and
hostess and their log cabin home was the hub for 3 days of unicycling
activities. Their house, between the towns of Hailey and Bellevue, has a
back yard which borders the treeless rugged hills which line both sides of
the valley. Riders stayed in local motels or camped in the Stoltzfus yard.
The weather was beautiful: sunny, but not too warm. Occasional clouds and
a sprinkle were confined to the night or after the last ride on Sunday,
leaving the days for gorgeous views and pleasant riding conditions. The
altitude of the trails ranged from approximately 6,000 feet to over 9,000
feet (with apologies to most of the world who use metric), resulting in
some laments about the lack of oxygen at that altitude.

Joe, a carpenter, had spent many hours constructing a variety of trials
obstacles which made their yard a virtual playground for unicyclists: two
teeter totters (the second much steeper than the first), two “snakes”
(narrow boards connected to form a zig-zagging path, one with short
right-angled turns), logs projecting from the hillside, a picnic table,
planks, the “diving board of death” (a plank that came out of the hillside
but angled up before dropping off), concrete stepping stones surrounded by
soft gravel for hopping. The yard also had non-unicycle toys: two hammocks
(which were highly prized by some of the younger unicyclists for nighttime
sleeping), a hammock “chair” which I can’t describe but was very
comfortable, and a “zip line.” The zip line consisted of a cable
approximately 50 feet(?) long strung from a pole up on the hill above the
house to a corner of the porch. It had a pulley with a “T” shaped handle
below it and a sling to support your foot. Starting at the pole, you got
an exciting ride until crashing into the porch (dragging a foot to slow
down or using a leg to fend off the house was necessary to avoid getting
hurt). Hopefully someone will post pictures of some of the “toys.” One of
my favorite touches was the wooden sign posted on the side of the house
above the patio picnic table: “No hopping on this table, it may break; use
other table.”

Due to the tragedy in New York on Tuesday the 11th, none of the
participants arrived via airline. They were either forced to cancel or to
drive. Unicyclists from Washington, California, Toronto, and Boston
decided not to come. However there were riders who still came from
Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, many of whom had to
drive for 8 to 15 hours. We missed seeing a lot of our muni friends, but a
pleasant side effect of a smaller group was the chance to ride and talk
with virtually everyone over the course of the weekend. I didn’t keep an
accurate count of the number of people, but I believe they were close to
25 riders on Saturday and another 5-10 non-riders who participated. Ages
ranged from under 10 years old to early fifties (I won’t name names).
Experience ranged from a veteran of every muni weekend to a newcomers who
just found out about it or had never ridden with other unicyclists!

The unicycling started Friday morning on the Sun Peak Trail. This was
before we got there, so I can’t report much about it except the rumors
that it was very challenging in its 1,300 foot descent over 1.5 miles
(after hiking to the top). There was a competition to see who could have
the fewest dismounts on the way down.

The Friday afternoon ride was a 4 mile loop called the “Chocolate Gulch
Trail.” It started with a mile and a half climb of 600 vertical feet, then
a rapid descent followed by some interesting ups and downs, including some
fun side-hill trail. Due to car trouble, we arrived about a half an hour
after the main group had left the trail head. My twelve year old son,
Thad, took off and caught up with the group, while I “sacrificed” and rode
with my ten year old son, Simon, finishing about an hour behind the main
group. The trail didn’t have any chocolate, but did have spectacular views
of the mountains and valley.

Saturday had an all-day ride on the Oregon Gulch/Easley Gulch trails. All
riders, all abilities, rode together for the first 4 miles as we climbed
approximately 1,000 vertical feet along a dirt road. At the top, we had a
picnic lunch and enjoyed a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding
mountains and valleys. After lunch, the group split into two parts: 8 of
us taking the longer and more extreme Oregon Gulch Trial for approximately
7 miles, with the others opting for the easier and shorter Easley Gulch
Trail for 4 and a half miles. The Oregon Gulch Trail consisted of another
mile and a vertical climb of 200 feet, followed by a rapid 3 mile descent
with a number of technical stretches. The difficulty of the descent seemed
about right for the group, with some riders navigating almost all
stretches, some others content to walk a few difficult parts, and everyone
seeming to enjoy themselves. The last three miles of the trail were smooth
and fast, with a slight downgrade along a stream with a string of beaver
dams (I didn’t see any beavers).

A tired, but happy, group of riders then repaired to the Stoltzfus
residence for pizza, fresh garden salad (courtesy of the Stoltzfus’
garden), beverages and libations, watermelon, banana bread, and homemade
pie (blueberry, wild blackberry, peach, apple, and strawberry/rhubarb).
Those not too tired, had a spirited trials competition on the various
obstacles Joe had built in the yard. After dinner and competition, there
was an awards ceremony. Many great prizes had been donated by unicycle.com
(John Drummond could not attend because he is recuperating from surgery
for a separated shoulder sustained at the Toronto NUC, but graciously sent
prizes to show his support), local merchants, or participating riders. Due
to creative categories, everyone received at least one prize. The evening
was topped off with more trials riding, conversation, or karaoke in the
Stoltzfus’ living room.

Due to previous commitments or long travel times, some riders left for the
trip back to their homes Saturday night or Sunday morning. The remainder
gathered for two Sunday rides (14 riders/walkers for the morning ride and
11 riders/walkers for the afternoon ride). The first was a 4 mile ride
starting at Galena Summit (elevation over 9,000 feet?), climbing
approximately 400 feet, and dropping 1,600 vertical feet. This trail had
fantastic views and a great diversity: uphill, downhill, sidehill, steep,
gradual, forested, open cliffs, water bars, rocks, dirt, gravel, mud, tree
roots, switchbacks, single and double track, stream crossings, and a small
lake (which we rode around). We drove back up to Galena summit for lunch
and a great view, then took a 4 mile ride down a dirt road to the Salmon
River Valley. The vertical drop was 1,200 feet and the view of the
Sawtooth Mountains, across the valley, was impressive. The road itself was
being worked on and was more difficult than our tired bodies were
anticipating. But after less than a mile, we solved that problem by
following Joe as he “bushwhacked” straight down the mountain across the
switchbacks. The terrain was open, soft dirt with a scattering of rocks
and lots of sagebrush. Unable to ride more than a few feet at a time in
openings between the brush and rocks, the consensus was that it was best
to dodge what you could and just try to roll the rest, with everyone
taking occasional unplanned dismounts. Although I enjoyed all of the
rides, I think this cross country ride down the mountain through the
sagebrush was my favorite!

The festivities ended Sunday night with the remaining riders gathering for
a leisurely dinner at a local Thai restaurant. Our many thanks to Joe and
Judy Stoltzfus for their work in planning the weekend, their gracious
hospitality, and a fun weekend!

Scott Arnold Springfield, Oregon

Handlebars are for wimps

Thanks for the accurate report of the weekend. I cannot disagree with any
of the details. Perhaps you would make a good reporter.

The crowd was great and it was fun to have all the kids around. The kids
kept trying even on the tough trails. Everyone was courteous and crowding
here at the house was not a problem. Of course the crowd was small due to
the sad attacks in the East.

Judy and I had a great time and hope to have a sequel in two or three
years. Judy was a great help with the planning and communication.

Idaho Joe

I

Scott, What a great report on the Idaho weekend! It makes me want to go
next year and I don’t even ride. It is wonderful that people like Joe and
Judy plan such weekends, keep it up! Barb Barb K.