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An unexpected turn of events

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by docsabre, May 31, 2021.

  1. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

    Joined:
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    San Diego County
    Motorcycle safety stresses that you should not ride if you are not in a healthy state of mind. But what that doesn’t address is when you are lost on a dangerous jeep trail on top of a mountain in Colorado with your inexperienced buddy and you happen to be riding big, heavy, fully loaded BMW R1200GS (LC) bikes. Your state of mind is preoccupied with the dread of getting off the mountain, and there seems to be no alternative to saddling up and riding.


    We had attempted to take a dirt road from Rifle, Colorado over the mountain to find a back road route to Steamboat Springs. It was supposed to take an hour or two. The day was early and the sights from the top were so beautiful and the double track road so perfect that we were suckered into pressing on.


    CEBD3DA7-DF07-4132-ACC1-C901BBA0740D.jpeg
    (Beautiful sights beckoning us onward)


    In what would later be explained to us and can be used as a general metaphor for life, "we only made ONE wrong turn". Our two hour ride turned into a two day ride when the double track turned into a road to Hell- very steep, rutted, off camber, littered with baby head rocks and roots. Why didn't we turn around? Who knows? We pressed on.


    My buddy managed to find the only mud hole on the entire ride. Digging his bike out used up 90 minutes of daylight. Picking up our dropped bikes ate up more hours. Fixing his broken panniers took even more time until the light was almost gone. We found a decent flat area to camp but worry and anxiety had killed my appetite and our water was getting short. I had trouble falling asleep wondering how we would get off this mountain. Our GPS's were not showing us what we wanted or expected to see.


    E2CAF6CF-94B4-4029-AF4C-7270FDAE970B.jpeg
    (The only mud seen on the entire trail and he can't avoid it)


    We packed up early the next morning. At least it was not raining and the trail was not muddy. After only 400 yards of steep rocky downhill, my buddy dropped his bike in a position that made it impossible for us to get right. He took what he could from the bike, the last of his water, left a message on it telling the direction we were headed with our names, numbers and next of kin, and he began walking while I gently feathered my front brake and paddling my bike to get off the mountain without heading over the edge of the trail.


    It took four hours to go 6 miles. The trail turned into a four foot wide steep switchback with sheer drops. The trail appeared to go over a cliff at times. I would find a place to park the bike and walk ahead to scout a line and push the bigger rocks over the side. My buddy would come walking up behind while I rode down a few hundred more yards at a time.

    6698BF4F-5521-40AC-A22D-E8087731C98C.jpeg
    (The photo can't convey just how steep this trail was. This was part of the tail that actually allowed us to park our bikes safely.)



    The feeling of relief when we reached the valley was short lived. As I rode ahead to find help I encountered a 50 foot wide river to cross. I nearly dropped my bike in the middle but somehow kept the bike upright and made it to the other side.


    My buddy showed up a few minutes later when a passing ATV driver brought him over the river. We encountered a family of women and their little girls who gave us cold water, watermelon and hot dogs. One of the ladies who was a dispatcher for the Meeker, CO fire department called her 19 year old son who went with a friend on his ATV and found my buddy's bike. They righted the bike and brought it down. He rewarded them handsomely even though they did not ask for or expect payment.


    I learned several things from the experience. One, tell someone where you are heading and the route you plan to take. Tell them if they don't hear from you in a day or two to call for rescue. Or you can carry a Spot or similar EPRB device if riding alone on desolate roads for days at a time. Two, know your AND your riding buddy's limitations. Turning back can be your wisest choice. Three, carry good topo maps and check with rangers and locals before heading into the wild. Four, if heading into the wild be sure you are in good shape. It's ugly to find out too late that walking up and down trails at 10,000 ft elevation to help your buddy lift his bike for the 15th time while running low on water requires very good conditioning. Five, going into areas like this solo requires serious thought. It is quite easy to put your bike over the side, injure an ankle or leg, and put you into a situation where your life might depend on only you and your skills. Six, when everything looks bleak, chances are someone may appear and save your hide. If not, the hope of this happening will keep you going and may help you survive.


    Surviving ordeals like our ride in Colorado makes for telling good tales as long as you get home safely. Learning from your mistakes makes you more likely to survive other adventures. Don't be afraid to take back roads you can safely manage and you can be rewarded with beautiful sights and priceless memories.


    4D66FE5C-ABEA-46C3-8507-988F7933C6B8.jpeg
    (After the Colorado off-road experience, I explored this trail off the Beartooth Highway in Montana.)
    #1
  2. Dualsport4ever

    Dualsport4ever Long timer Supporter

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    Glad you and your buddy are OK. Sounds like one heck of an adventure. It is strange how it is so difficult to convince ourselves to turn around in those situations. Making the decision to "abort the mission" is often made by experienced riders/climbers/hikers, rather than inexperienced individuals, often contrary to what many people expect.
    #2
  3. Iron Cross Junction

    Iron Cross Junction Long timer

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    Just above Pott's Camp along Braddock's route, Va.
    A great and timely reminder of our mortality.

    I am unlikely to confront those challenges, but even the lesser ones potentially on my radar can pose serious danger.

    Thanks.

    Bill
    #3
  4. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    When things get crazy I don't have too much problem turning back. Usually it is the "I have to go to work Monday" reasoning, but at the same time I hate excessive mud and learned after a broken ankle that deep loose sand isn't very forgiving either. Learning the limits and staying within them.
    #4
  5. r60man

    r60man Long timer

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    I was riding with three other guys in Vermont and we went off the trail. Soon we were on a steep decent on a river rock. It was pretty gnarly, but we soon enough made it to a road. Why didn't we turn back? Who knows. There were four of us, maybe it was peer pressure but none of us was on a bike made for that kind of riding. But we all agree it was one of our best riding experiences of our lives and a great story to tell. You have one too.

    Glad you made it out safe.
    #5
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  6. gbmaz

    gbmaz Power Newb Supporter

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    One thing I have found is that it is really easy to accidentally plan a route that does not actually work due to land ownership or just does not exist in reality on the ground. Trip planning websites that use use Google maps as they core data sometimes have dirt roads that don’t really exist. I try to check satellite imagery for anything I have questions about, but I have reputed myself into dead ends a number of times.

    Using the Motor Vehicle Use Maps for National Forests would likely have avoided my headaches. Unless you are following a gps track of an actual ride done by someone you trust, always be suspicious of the route and remember that reality on the ground trumps your best laid plans.
    #6
  7. Barry

    Barry Just Beastly

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    Glad you got out OK. Sobering.

    My guess is the combo of at least one novice, big heavy adventure bikes, and what looks to be street oriented tires bit you guys. Maybe not knowing the trail you were on as well??? As in, if you knew the trail you’d know it was getting worse... may have caused you guys to turn around.

    Also, going that far off-road, and into the back country, prudent to always carry food, water, and the gear to stay warm if you are injured and laying on the ground.

    Glad you are both OK, quite the adventure.
    #7
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  8. gbmaz

    gbmaz Power Newb Supporter

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    Was it the Newcastle Buford Road that you were on?

    I am just curious having done some riding up in that area. If you do not want to delve into specifics because this was primarily a reflection on the general situation vs specifics I totally understand.

    I ride solo a lot and I have had a few rather long days on some routes that ended up being different than I expected. I research the hell out of stuff, but still fall prey to the mistakes I mentioned in my post above.
    #8
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  9. Snowbird

    Snowbird Cereal Killer

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    "The photo can't convey just how steep this trail was."

    Agree, photos don't capture grades. Glad it ended well. Thanks for posting. Must reread.
    #9
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  10. Vark

    Vark Long timer

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    That was quite an unexpected adventure. Thanks for sharing the “teachable moment”.
    #10
  11. SuperRat

    SuperRat No Longer Lurking

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    Turn off the paved road
    Motorcycles too large and loaded down for trails like these. I see you guys with 600 pound adventure bikes on trails and in DEEP trouble far to often!!! Glad you and your friend made it out ok.
    #11
  12. Vrode

    Vrode Still half-fast... Supporter

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    I learned some tough lessons in my younger days on much smaller bikes. "Well, we've gone this far, might as well see where this leads." seemed to lead to adventures I'd just as soon missed. I'm not in my 40's anymore and try not to overextend myself.
    At least you got good stories out of it!. Glad you made it out safely.
    #12
  13. Bighammer49686

    Bighammer49686 Been here awhile

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    I had a sort of similar story in Utah south of Provo (almost exactly) 30 years ago. I had stopped in for a coffee and snack along Highway 89 after stealth camping the night before. I got to talking the cashier and another local and when I told them I was heading south to see some national parks, they directed me to ride up Santa Quin Canyon for a route with better scenery and less traffic.

    It was a beautiful steady uphill ride, but at some point up there, the road was completely blocked with wall of avalanche debris. A group of climbers showed up and got out their ropes to go beyond it. They soon had a rope to pull their packs and each other up a (~20' height) near-vertical wall of snow, ice, trees, and rocks. They offered to get me and bike up and over and after some tense moments, I was on the other side with my bike back together and the road to myself.

    I kept gaining altitude and at some point, the pavement ended. I kept climbing and found myself taking photos of the patches of snow in shaded areas. Not too much further up, there was too much snow to ride anymore. I couldn't turn back because there was no way of getting back down with no rope or help. I pressed on. I walked quite a few hours. The road finally seemed to level off and the scenery was beautiful, but pushing a loaded bike thru nearly a foot of heavy wet snow (in cycling shoes) was slow and tiring. As it got dark, I cleared a spot to set up my tent. I thought about bears, but with no food, there was no smell of food and they wouldn't bother me. If there were an encounter, I wondered who might eat who. I made snow soup for dinner.

    I fired up my stove again to melt more snow. I filled my bottle and poured a bit in each frozen shoe, packed up and pressed on. At about noon, I got to an intersection. A right turn would take me south (my intended direction) on the top of the mountains, but a left turn would likely take me north, but downward towards civilization again. The downhill grade made it a bit easier and faster. I was starting to see patches of pavement in places. Even just to coast 50' felt wonderful.

    I enjoyed a nice downhill ride and coasted into a town that I had passed by already. Most of it was closed up businesses, but finally at the far end of town, an open diner broke my ~30 hour fast. I was on the road another 2 months, but I was never without some kind of snack/food in my bags.
    #13
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  14. Deuce

    Deuce Crazy Canuck

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    I always tell people that these heavy 'adventure' bikes will get you into trouble easier than they will get you out of it.

    :1drink
    #14
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  15. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    Good judgement comes from experience.
    Experience comes from bad judgement.
    #15
  16. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    One never knows what challenges we may face. Go for it while you can.
    #16
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  17. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    There are so many times I wish I were on the CRF250L instead of the R1200GS.
    #17
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  18. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    Cool story. I’ve enjoyed a few nights camping in the high western mountains in winter and spring. It really clears the mind. 3770E614-BC70-498D-B9F5-93494C49B58E.jpeg
    #18
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  19. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    Wise words!
    #19
  20. docsabre

    docsabre crusty curmudgeon Supporter

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    I couldn’t say. We headed north out of Rifle and west of the Rifle Reservoir. A few miles ahead we encountered deep sand. My buddy’s side case came loose requiring a trail repair using my bolt and nut assortment. We were using a very bad AAA map and a Garmin SatNav. The GPS suddenly showed the highway we were heading toward was no longer 3 miles away, it was 8 miles away. And the trail we were on was a major trail but unfortunately the SatNav said there was no trail or road anywhere close to us.
    #20