June 19, 2013
This morning dawned mostly sunny with a few fluffy clouds drifting casually across the sky. It was time to ride! I pulled on the famous camo pants I got yesterday, and got my Under Armour shirt on, my usual riding gear. We ate granola bars on the porch and dispensed with a long drawn out restaurant breakfast.
Geared up, including the camo pants!:
Soon we were on the way, south on 191 toward FR59, taking up where we’d left off the last time we rode in the area. I found the surface of the road much more user friendly this time because rain and logging trucks had compressed the gravel and rocks. We rode into the sun, it was warm, and I felt great. The bike felt great, too, but then it always does. That is Little Beast – always pleasant to ride. The last time I had her out was the problem-filled day when we went to Milk Point Ranch, and Little Beast was the hero of that ride for sure.
Up on FR59, it was a little rocky, but otherwise beautiful. We went farther this time and did not turn around. I must have been tired the last time I rode it because I found it more difficult then. It’s an easy road. Our plan was to take it to another numbered road and then loop back to Hwy. 191, but we’d also been told by another rider that 59 goes back to the 191. So, we followed it along, and 10 miles and a short time later we were back on 191.
“What do you wanna do now? Hal asked, smiling.
“How about going back to 403?” I said, knowing full well he was probably thinking the same thing.
“Yeah, I was just thinking that,” he answered. See what I mean?
We were a couple of miles south on 191 from where we’d gone in, and so we turned north. We almost flew by the entrance to FR403 because it is unmarked, but Hal saw it at the last minute. We turned onto it. I thought it was an amazingly beautiful road today, even more than last time. The aspens were green and abundant, their leaves “glittering” in the breeze. I thought to myself, is it just me, or are those aspens even taller than last time? I’d thought they were around knee to hip level on me that time, but now they were at least my height (just over 5 feet) and taller. They are growing like crazy up there because it is the rainy season. Not only that, but they are still jubilant that the fire released them two years ago when it came through.
Aspens on FR403:
At the end of 403, there is a “T” in the road where FR267 starts. It goes either north or south, and either way, you eventually meet up with FR249. We chose the south way because it was longer. I wanted some good miles today with no shortcuts. So, we followed 267 around to 249, then got on 249. We knew that one way (west) led to Big Lake, but the other way led to FR81, which was a road that I figured would be narrow, and would take us back to Nutrioso, farther north on the 191. So, we merrily got going on 249, headed east.
We were able to travel quickly on all these roads because they are all in good shape. FR249 might as well be paved, at least until we intersected with the other end of 267 where the forest service put down deep gravel. It was not as bad as that big, deep stuff they put on FR25. Either that or I am used to it by now because it didn’t even faze me. We flew along 249, stopping only at a small trailhead we’d seen on the map. It was a trail for mountain bikes, and we saw the blue diamonds at the beginning of it. Then they disappeared, and I couldn’t follow the trail with my eyes from the road. Dirt motorcycles are obviously not allowed on singletrack meant for mountain bikes. So, we kept going on FR249, trying to look for FR81, but I missed it because the next place we came out was on the 191 again!
“How did we miss the 81?” I asked Hal when he pulled up. He just shrugged his shoulders, but I didn’t think he realized we were at the end of 249 where it leaves Hwy. 191 and goes toward Big Lake. When he saw the sign, though, after we turned around to go back, he understood. We looked at the sky.
“Want to try to find 81 and take it up and over?” I asked. I still was not done for the day, even though the clouds were definitely building in the west. I was sick of sitting around, after yesterday.
“Sure!” he said. We agreed, though, that we’d better keep an eye on the sky.
We went west to try to find 81. It wasn’t too far past the mountain bike trailhead where we’d stopped earlier, but I was correct, it looked narrow and less traveled. A quick look at the sky told us we’d better make a decision because the clouds to the west were getting darker and starting to hover over the mountain we were about to climb. A sign said, “steep, narrow road,” as we started up FR81.
It climbed quickly and steeply, and was only the width of a car, double track. We kept climbing and climbing, and overhead I sensed the darkening sky. Off to the north, where we were headed, was sunny with big fluffy clouds, so my intuition told me that we would be okay. We climbed for a while, then we started to descend toward Nutrioso. We were on a wide ledge, far below us was a divide between two mountains. We still traveled quickly, though, and there were only a few rocky spots. By this time, we were in darkness because the thick clouds covered the sun to the west, but ahead there was still in sun. It wasn’t long before we reached the place where the road leveled out, and the next thing we knew, the road widened out, became “manicured” gravel, and the road number changed to 2269. A few miles later, it even became paved. “Crap!” I said. It used to be that I’d be so relieved to find pavement again, but now I prefer dirt. We were passing several cabins, and the speed limit dropped to 25, so that was the reason for the pavement.
Up ahead was another stretch of dirt, and I figured we were close to Hwy. 191. Sure enough, about a mile later, we were there.
“Do you want to go back up and over, where we came from?” asked Hal. I guess he wasn’t really done riding, either.
Time to get “home”:
“As much as I want to say yes,” I answered, “look at the sky.” He turned around on his bike seat. I sensed more than saw a black cloud, and then we both saw it. We agreed that it was prudent at that point to take the 191 back to Alpine. After last weekend’s storm experience, I wasn’t very excited about getting into another crashing thunderstorm on a mountaintop.
We cruised back to Alpine on the 191, which was a distance of about 10 miles. We were not back at the lodge for more than 25 minutes when it started to rain. Then it rained harder. And harder. And harder. We stood on the porch and watched the rain. It closed in so much that we couldn’t see more than 100 feet and people were slowing down on the road. The wind was blowing sheets of rain, whipping across the open areas. It was torrential, and soon little pellets of ice were dropping near our feet. Lightning flashed, thunder cracked loudly.
“I am so glad we came in!” I shouted. Hal could only nod, the rain was so loud.
It rained like that for over an hour, and when it started to slow down, there were streams rushing in the nearby fields. It was an amazing storm, and one that would have been very difficult to ride out. Our dirt bikes would really have been too small to fight that storm, and we’d have had to pull over, stand there and get soaked for about an hour.
The afternoon was made for reading and drinking coffee on the porch, and we were both so glad we were not caught out in that terrific storm!
Later in the evening we walked for a while in the cool air, then chose the Bear Wallow Café for dinner. The food there is wonderful, and it’s all homemade. Hal had a piece of blueberry pie for dessert, and of course I had to taste it. Wonderful.
Tomorrow, more riding. Last week of fun for almost a year!