Friday, November 1, 2013


There's this place to our west, completely unpopulated, infrequently visited, and visually stunning--in a truly visceral way.  

The landscape is utterly unlike anywhere I've ever visited or even heard of.

For various reasons involving winter snow, summer heat and deep-in-fall sand, we typically reserve trips there for spring--after the snow but before the heat.

With near-record rainfall this autumn, I figured the sand would have been rendered less of an issue.  

Plus I just really wanted a fix--I can never, ever get enough of this place.

The riding is brutally difficult no matter who you are.  The more you want to ride instead of push/pull/drag your bike, the more energy you will expend.  Sometimes exponentially more--because traction is often perfect, allowing you to get up anything.  Well, provided your legs, desire, and skill combine just-so.

In ~15+ trips to ride this area, I've had two devastatingly bad days.  Gravity squall kind of days--the kind where your brain is screaming out for you to extract yourself at the first opportunity, before you cut your own head off with a tire lever while fixing yet another flat.  

Curiously, there are 3 opportunities to escape the route, each marked with a can't-miss, painted-on-rock "ESCAPE" and an arrow showing the way.  It has always been at the forefront of my mind that the trail builders (trailpainters?) refer to these as escapes and not shortcuts or easy outs.  The main difference being that the former is needed while the latter is usually just wanted.

The other 13 days out there have been ones to mark down for remembrance in old age.  The kind that can brighten your day many years hence at the mere thought.

My interest was piqued by the near-biblical rains that had deluged this area in preceding weeks and days.  Because the route is entirely rock or sand, an excess of moisture scrubs errant traction-robbing grains from the rock surface and deposits them in the washes.  So not only is the traction on rock at it's absolute maximum, but the moisture in the washes allows you to ride where in drier times you're foot slogging more than ankle deep.

And it was just like that--clean rock and packed washes--as we started out.  Then, not more than 5 minutes into the ride, we were passed by 5 grinning guys on moto's, whom proceeded to lay waste to every inch of every wash we had to traverse.  They were so exuberant as they passed--yelling "what a crazy effing trail!" and "what the hell is this place?!"--that I couldn't fault them for what they did to the sand.  I was once a throttle jockey too and in similar situations would often just turn the bars to lock, rip my right wrist back and dump the clutch, spraying sand while spinning in circles and digging myself into place.  I'd stop when I judged it'd take more than my ownself to extract my bike from the hole I'd dug.  At least these guys were largely keeping it straight.

Still, we were damned to walk every inch of every wash throughout the day.  A good opportunity to look around, we told ourselves, since when on rock your focus cannot waver for an instant.

Currently hoping that the weather holds awhile longer so that we can get back out there once more this year.  Or maybe twice…

Thanks for checkin' in.