Friday, November 30, 2012

Go to hell!

That's not an order, but I strongly encourage it.

First four words that come to mind when viewing these pics, with the ride still fresh in my mind:





But, believe it--it really does look like that.

Where's Wixom?

The trail is called 5 Miles of Hell.

Why haven't you heard of it before?  Or, more often?

Mostly because it's an ass kicker.  Unless you're a grade-A, top-notch tech rider *and* having a great day, it will kick your ever-loving ass back to wherever you came from.

Don't like tech?  Don't like throwing yourself at a move 4, 5, 6 times before either bleeding, succeeding, or giving up?  Don't have dawn->dusk to (hopefully) cover 20 miles?

Then don't bother.  

Everyone walks on this trail.  Everyone.  It's not about whether you can "clean" the whole thing, because that is simply not possible for any human.

It's about immersing yourself into a spectacular landscape, testing your current skillset, and emerging out the other side having learned and seen... more.

Greg, Skippy, and I spent most daylight hours out there yesterday throwing ourselves at the trail.  I tweaked my knee, lacerated my shin, and bruised my other knee going over backwards, then torqued my lower back, bruised both hands, and dinged my shoulder going over forward.

After each of these incidents I felt even more humbled, blessed, grateful to be where I was.

Skippy gacked his ankle between a rock and a hard place.  Dunno that he was feeling grateful at the moment I snapped this, but I'm sure he's permagrinning today.

Pretty much anyone (like you, right now!) that sees these pics assumes that the photog went hog-wild with the saturation slider when post processing.  I assure you that nothing of the sort has happened here--if anything I have desaturated many of them to make them look more believable.  It really is that stunning out there, helped a bit by low-angle autumn light.

Most of my trips to ride this trail have been in springtime, and difficult though it may be to believe, coming out of winter with more moisture in the soil and rock, the color is even more stunning than what you're seeing here.

Very, very few mtb'ers that I know think of this kind of thing as "fun". 

Brutally technical is the best way to describe it--some of the climbs are so relentless that you simply cannot make it over even one more 1" ledge.  Just out of gas.  

And then you walk to the top, remount, descend, and start again minutes later.  

Some of it is the steepness of the climbs.  Have to see 'em to believe 'em.  The sandstone gives perfect traction, so if you have the leg and the desire they *are* makeable.

Some of the difficulty lies in the heavy bikes we're slugging up those climbs.  Pigs, in a word.

But you'll ride *far* less on anything else.  When I last rode it (6 years ago?) I was on an otherwise capable yet very light 3" travel bike, and I did not think it was much fun.

I won't go so far as to say that you need an FR-type bike to *ride* out there, but I do think you need something FR-ish to *enjoy* it.  

But how many FR-type bikers enjoy steep climbs and hike-a-bike?  For hours?!

And how many moto-geeks have the skill to pilot a ~300# sled through here?

The answers to both of those questions explain why in ~8 trips through, spanning ~10 years of time, I've not yet seen a human other than those in my own group.

If you're technically inclined, like to be challenged, and don't take yourself too seriously, get out there--sooner than later.

Take more food, water, energy, and spares than you think you'll need.

You'll be richly rewarded.

Click HERE to be whisked away to Greg's version of hell.

Or HERE for a Skippy's-eye-view.