July 26, 2013
After missing out on motorbike riding yesterday, I wanted a good ride today. I didn’t care where, I only cared that I was on the dirt bike and riding. It was overcast when we started out, but the weather here is so unpredictable, Hal and I decided to go anyway.
We first rode to FR37, the favorite. We wove through the turns, saw a few cows, then we even saw a logging truck. It was weird, though, because it was a regular pickup truck with a giant trailer of full-length logs on the trailer. It seemed like a very heavy load to pull for that relatively small pickup.
At the 37-405 split, we chose to continue riding 37, with the hope that we’d be able to ride 403 at the top. The sky was getting darker and darker by this time, but that seems to be the case lately: the closer we get to Alpine, the greater the chance of rain. As soon as we got to the intersection of 37 and 267, it started to rain. We put on our rain gear while we had the chance, and I put on the newer rain pants that I have with the hope of actually staying dry today.
After putting on the rain gear, we turned onto 267, and it started to rain harder. No surprise, right? Then, we started to get pelted with pea-size hail. I always know it is hail when we’re riding through heavy rain and it starts to really hurt!
Then we reached FR403, a road I love and had hoped to ride. However, we had no sooner turned onto the road than a long slashing bolt of lightning ripped across the sky horizontally right in front of us.
“No no!” I said to myself as I swung that little dirt bike around so fast it hardly knew what was happening. Hal, who was about 500 feet in front of me saw me turn around and he did, too. After yesterday, we were not going to tempt fate (again). The biggest, blackest cloud seemed to be sitting right over 403.
“That is a bad cloud!” I shouted to Hal as he drew alongside me. He agreed that it was foolhardy to continue riding toward the dangerous thunderstorm.
We got back on FS267, which we knew would take us to 249, the Big Lake Rd. that would also take us to just north of Alpine. We sped down the roads, and soon were back in Alpine. Once again, we refueled, just to be safe, and then rode back to the lodge. On the way back, we noticed that in the area around MM249-250 where rocks and debris had washed across the road, there were workers there, trying to make sure the water and debris would channel away from the road. Yesterday it made a huge mess, and the plow from Alpine came out to move the debris. We knew this because on the way to Springerville, the road was a mess, and on the way back, it was reasonably clear. And, we’d passed the plow going out while we were on the way to Springerville, and coming back in as we were going “home.” The erosion has been made worse in the last two years due to the fire, and in some places it has been very destructive.
My hands were super cold when we got back, and I wanted a hot cup of coffee to hold. When we sat down, though, we both discovered how hungry we were, and we got another great Club sandwich, which we split. It was big enough, plus the fries were excellent. All the time we were eating, we watched the weather through the big windows. It was overcast, but calm, and I said, “well, I didn’t get enough riding today, let’s go out again!” So, we did.
This time we rode Hwy. 191 south past Blue Point Vista, on the curving part of the road that drops down in elevation to the Stray Horse area. I forgot Hal was looking for a local landmark, the arrow tree. We had heard that there was a tall dead pine tree at the side of the road that archers had shot hundreds of arrows into. On the way down, I was not paying attention to it, and at Stray Horse, Hal asked if I’d seen it. “Oops,” I said. “I forgot to look.” He rolled his eyes, so we rode back up. We were going to explore more roads on the top anyway. On the way back up, I found the arrow tree, and we turned around, came back down, parked, and shot photos. I was amazed at the amount of arrows in the tree. My brother-in-law shoots archery, and I know those arrows are expensive. I wasn’t sure why people wanted to waste them by shooting them into the dead tree, but whatever. After we took photos, we rode on.
Back at the top, we went down a rocky narrow two-track road that led eventually to a trailhead for hiking. The views of the Rim were spectacular, but a couple of miles down I was tired of negotiating a bunch of rocks, especially since the road was going to dead-end anyway, so we turned around.
I wanted to find the place where Bill and I had come out at the highway yesterday while on horseback. I had an idea where it was after seeing the map, and after looking carefully for a while today, I finally found it. I was able to orient myself (somewhat), but I am still a little confused as to where exactly we were at the end of our ride. Perhaps it was because of the rain in addition to no signs, mile markers, or discernible landmarks, that I was so lost. It is unusual for me to not know where I am; I usually have all the roads mapped in my head, especially after I have ridden them. Being in the wilderness where there are no markers or signs really made it difficult for me to know where I was.
It was getting toward late afternoon, so we chose to go ride FS8312 again, the Aker Lake road. I really enjoy that road; it is short, but fun. Today we saw the same logging equipment up there, but in a different location. It is kind of funny that we see it in a different place each time we ride 8312, but we never see the loggers actually working.
Sunset over Blue Point Vista:
Today ended up being a great riding day, over 100 miles, and comparatively little rain. Best of all, at the end of the day there was pie and ice cream for dinner, and a spectacular sunset to see from the vantage point of Blue Vista.