(Continued from yesterday)
About 4 o’clock on Saturday morning, I woke up. The sky was that gunmetal blue color that precedes the dawn, and light was beginning to seep from the edge of the world. The same bird (I swear it was!) that I heard last summer called in his unique four-note song, over and over. It is a sweet, inimitable sound, clear and high, silver in the pre-dawn light. Just before dawn, there was absolute silence and it got very cold. I can always feel when it is that magical time. At last, the top edge of the sun tipped over the horizon, and a golden beam lanced through the blinds that I thought I’d closed tightly the night before. I turned over into the delicious warmth of the heavenly bed and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.
Breakfast was at 8 o’clock, but I had to get up at 7 in order to be ready on time. Today was the day of the dual sport ride that Hal and I would lead. I hoped that the riders that chose to go with us would have a good time, and that the route was a perfect one for them. At first, it was difficult to choose the roads we’d ride, but we settled on a few segments to link into an approximately four-hour ride.
After breakfast, Hal and I made sure we had enough fuel in our bikes, and geared up. The other riders were doing the same, and after a short explanation of the route, we rolled out at 9:30. We went almost directly into the dirt, onto FR576, which grew more difficult as it went west away from the lodge. Near the intersection with FR24, the riders saw all the areas where logging had taken place. Part of 24 is closed due to fire damage, the part that goes to the northwest, and has been for three years. The segment that is closed is short, but it necessitates a 20-plus mile detour. No problem, we were out there to ride anyway.
FR24 can be rough, or slippery during a rainstorm, but this time it was no problem. There were a few rutted areas, and a little gravel, but the scenery was spectacular, as always. We went down, down, down, a steep drop-off on our right. High above us were many burned trees, and I thought again of how they were clinging precariously to the soil, deteriorating dead wood that could come crashing down at any moment. Off to the right was a large rock fall of black boulders that I doubt anyone really noticed since they were paying attention to the condition of the road at that point. FR24 is spectacular in this area, and I was looking everywhere. As I said, no matter how many times I ride an interesting road, I always see something new. We climbed up a short distance, then dropped down, then climbed back up toward the intersection with FR25, our next segment.
FR25 is a dirt super highway, although there were areas where the gravel was thick. I think they had put some of it down between last weekend when we pre-rode it, and this weekend. This is something I learned from experience that they do every year in early summer. A month from now it will be all ground in, but will keep the roads from turning to mud during the rainy season that starts in July. We followed FR25 all the way around to the west, over the West Fork of the Black River. We also passed very close to where the Wallow fire started. The fire was named for its origin in the Bear Wallow Wilderness; its genesis a campfire that was not completely extinguished.
At the intersection of FR276 and FR25, we took FR276, which followed the East Fork of the Black River (its proper name). This road is one where you could stop every few minutes to photograph the beauty, except it is narrow in many places, no safe place to pull over and be out of traffic. So far, we had not seen any other traffic on this ride, but many people use 276 because it follows the river. It was much busier, lots of other vehicles, mostly pickups. There are many places to camp and fish along this stretch of road. The group stopped for a break at a small pullout near the river. We took a group photo there.
I was covered in dust, as I was riding “sweep,” (at the back), and I had to clean my helmet visor as best as I could. The dust was not only covering the outside of the visor, but clung to the inside as well. It was making it almost opaque with dust at times, and it is difficult to clean while riding.
We got back on the bikes and continued riding on FR276 as it followed the river. Soon, we followed a sweeping right hand turn, and began to ride up the steep grade that would take us past FR37, my favorite road, and to the intersection with FR403. We climbed and climbed, in some parts the grade was 8% or more. At last we reached the intersection with 403.
This segment was the last of this route, and, in my opinion, the most spectacular. The dirt road runs through forest, then up into higher elevations, the road rough from logging/salvage trucks that are now simply there to take away any remaining burned trees that fall across the road. Last week I posted the pics of me riding through the corridors of aspens, and those photos were taken on this road. I first experienced it last fall when Hal and I were there in October. The aspens have grown at least a foot in height since then, and now are vibrant green and glowing in the strong sunlight. They glitter as the wind shakes their leaves, and it looks absolutely stunning, in my opinion. I think everyone was in awe of the amazing sight.
Hal stopped to take a photo of everyone as they rode up behind him, and then, after continuing, it wasn’t long before we reached the end of FR403 and found the pavement of Hwy. 191. It was the official end of our organized ride for the day.
Well. It was only about 1:30. Don took off back to the lodge. He had brought his son with him to the rally and wanted to take him to Big Lake. The other two riders, both on big 12GS bikes, aired up their tires then went to Alpine for lunch. Hal and I sat there for a moment, consulted, then we decided to return to the lodge as well, get some lunch there, and then see about another ride mid-afternoon, this time on our own.
You didn’t really think I was going to be satisfied with only 70 miles in the dirt, and a total of around 88 miles by the time I got back to the lodge, did you? 😉
Tomorrow: what we did with the rest of our day