The Blue


The day started out great. Hal and I walked to the Bear Wallow Café and had breakfast. No crazy foods, or stories, just a happy little “bird on a wire” singing to us as we ate. He was outside the window, and he stayed there for at least five full minutes.

After that, we walked up to the Alpine Thrift Store. Hal wanted to go there and see what he could find. Once, he found a really nice sport jacket for $1. Every piece of clothing there is $1. While I was there, I found this cool “rodeo” shirt:

I liked it because it reminded me of the few times I showed in western pleasure riding classes. I wasn’t a big fan of that style of riding, but I did like the colorful outfits. I am going to leave the shoulder pads in this shirt for a “retro” look, and I don’t care what other people think. It fits me perfectly. It’s one of those “horsey” things that I desperately hold on to when the occasion arises.

Someone who was a rodeo girl dropped off a bunch of clothes, because there were some cool belts, too. Sadly, they did not fit me. I am not as skinny in the waist as I used to be, still skinnier than most, but not like a 10-year-old. I only got the shirt. It cost – $1. 🙂 I thought a buck for a small bit of nostalgic happiness was reasonable.

Next, we had to go back to the motel because Hal had a phone meeting for his work, and he needed his laptop. I was nervously watching the clouds gathering. My fears were realized when I heard the low rumble of thunder, and soon it was pouring with rain mixed with small pellets of hail.

The bikes were not happy. Neither was the girl (me).

It rained for three hours. At about 2, the rain had tapered to only a few drops, and we’d had enough sitting around. We geared up and got on the bikes, dressed for rain and cool temperatures.

First, we went to Luna Lake, about four miles out of Alpine.

I thought there was an unpaved road around the lake, but I was wrong. There was only a road to the campground, and then it dead-ended. So, we went back to Hwy. 180, rode about a mile west, and got on a forest road, 576 that we’d explored once before, last year. It went down to Blue Crossing, about 22 miles, and then climbed up into the forest near Hwy. 191. We had ridden it the opposite way before, but today we started on the Alpine end. It sounded like the ideal ride.

The sky was overcast, the weather cool, and we made our way into the trees. The road followed the Blue river, which was only a trickle because of the drought. The road was fun, though, with lots of curves.

I love shooting contorted dead trees:

These were abundant signs:

The farther down we got, the more we could see how the river had violently carved its way through rocks and vegetation. I was fascinated by it.

Hal, near one of many places the river scraped through the rocks:

The river also cut through some red rocks. We kept looking up, half expecting to see bighorn sheep peering down at us from impossible heights above us.

We continued descending to the valley through which the river flowed. The deeper we got into the forest, the more it seemed to become enchanted. It was hushed, misty, and raindrops dripped from the leaves. There was a wall of black rock with a profusion of bright green ivy leaves clinging to it. The clouds seemed darker, too, and it began to sprinkle.

Then, we came to this:

There was a detour because the road had once crossed a bridge, and now the bridge was gone! As I rode the detour, I had to ride through a tiny bit of water, but the ground on the other side was only moist.

You can see through the trees one of the supports of the bridge, still intact:

This part of the ride was the most enchanting. I don’t remember enjoying this ride so much the last time we did it. Perhaps it was because it was done in heat and full sun, and this time the muted light and the rain transformed it.

Abandoned cabin:

We came upon a small enclave of homes, and some men were using a huge piece of machinery to dig a deep hole. It was not apparent what it was for, but the mud where they were digging was as black as a velvet curtain. They waved, and we rolled slowly past.

A short distance up the road I saw the most bizarre sight of the day – cows lounging by the side of the road. I went slowly and quietly past them because I didn’t want to disturb them. It was such a strange sight.

We rode past Blue school (ironically painted yellow), a small elementary school for the few kids in the area. That was another bizarre thing – there we were, out almost literally in the wilderness, and suddenly we’d see a mailbox at the side of the road. It seemed strange that people were living out in such a remote area, but as Hal said, “You wish it was your mailbox.” Being away from other people and their noise appeals to me, too, as it must appeal to the people who live here. There were a few houses and ranches that looked to me like they were too close to the river. I wondered if they got flooded out when the river was really raging.

Finally, we came to Blue Crossing, and the river was spilling rather anemically over the concrete-lined crossing. It was only about four inches deep.

Then we started going up. The road changed almost immediately to red dirt, which had probably been dust until very recently. This part of the road was so much fun because the switchbacks were tight. There was also a steep drop-off on one side for most of this section, and I am amazed that no one has slid off it in the winter. Many people actually use that road, to take their kids down to the school, for example, and it seems like a very dangerous, arduous journey to do daily in challenging weather conditions.

When we got up on top, we stopped at the last overlook before we went back into the forest. There was rain in the distance, and you can see where the “Blue” name comes from.

The forest that we entered is “our” familiar one, near Hwy. 191, and we rode Red Hill Rd. to where it intersected with FR58. We took that to 191, and then 191 to FR403 (again).

This time I stopped and took photos of the logging operation. I’ve seen it many times, but this greasy, soot-covered trunk grabbing machine holds a morbid fascination for me:

It looked especially threatening and scary under the overcast sky. This is what it is for:

I had thought the logging was essentially over because of the time that has passed since the Wallow fire. Apparently, wood is still being harvested, and not going to waste.

We then took 249 back to Alpine. We were tired and hungry, so we went to have a nice dinner. The place we went, which shall remain nameless, had good food, but the noise inside the place, between the loud people and the music, was awful. By the time our day was over, it was dark and damp as we walked back to the motel.

Tomorrow we move “up the hill” to Hannagan. There is more riding to come, of course, but having our riding day broken up by the rain again is almost a certainty.

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3 thoughts on “The Blue

  1. Congrats on the shirt – it will always remind you of this trip. I have a Green-denim shirt I got in Williams, AZ – and every time i put it on it reminds me of this trip we took 🙂

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