It's hot and the dirt is bone dry here in Nevada. The trails are slippery and the dust is suffocating. Currently, laying on the beach at Tahoe sounds more enjoyable than even attempting to ride. This causes me to daydream of epic rides of the past....It's been a couple of years now, but I remember it just like yesterday..........
"Idaho Fallies" (Follies as it were... in October)
It all started with a call to Rekluse when Clutch Master Charles said, "You need to come up here and ride with us, fall riding is spectacular." So that got me immediately thinking about the awesomeness of Idaho single-track. I got on the phone and assembled a motley crew of some usual suspects. Signing on for the all nighter to Boise was, Cracky The Crack Squirrel, our benevolent KTM shop owner SerpEXC, and insurance broker extraordinaire Jimmy The Gray. (It's always good to ride with your insurance adjuster... just in case) We arrived at Rekluse World HQ about 3am and set up camp in their parking lot. Now, I do not recommend doing this as their morning shift for building clutches begins at 4am...-restful sleep may be limited. It is also highly possible that the Shari's Trail Boss burger I devoured just prior to parking was causing massive internal damage. (The Trail Boss is "a bull of a burger piled high with ham, bacon, swiss and cheddar cheeses, special sauce and topped with a fried egg". Its 1049 calories of wicked delightfulness!)
Anyhow, I had entered a sound sleep when all of a sudden, Charles and Jon arrived to lead us to the promised land. We checked out the ultra hi-tech Rekluse facilities and got on the road. Charles was the odd man out, riding a bone stock RMZ 450. Suzuki RMZ's are not necessarily known for their technical riding capabilities, but Charles assured me he would be just fine. We arrived at our camping spot mid-morning and hit the trails.
For anyone who has not been riding in Idaho, the epic trails cover most of the state. The difficultly varies from easy, to triple black diamond nipple twister. The scenery quickly changes from desert plains to the gwarliest glacial peaks. There are many neat ghost towns, mines and basically just awesome stuff to see. Many people have worked very hard to keep them open for us, and the battle is on going. (If you are not a member, please join the BRC and any & all other access groups in your area)
Once camp was established, we hit some nice warm up trails. Trail Boss Jon, (our fearless leader, not the burger) took us down some fast and flowing sections through dense forest and along ridge lines with spectacular views. According to the maps, the double black diamond, Victor Creek Trail, has a recommend travel direction of west to east. A recommended travel direction sure sounds like a challenge....well then, challenge accepted! We started from the east side, heading into the rapidly setting sun. As it turns out, this particular trail is one of local lore. A year or two earlier, the local motorcycle club was clearing downfall and ran out of daylight due to the overwhelming amount of downed trees. With some inexperienced riders in their crew, they were unable to escape what they had ridden down. This resulted in a frigid night spent in the woods, huddled around what I am told was an excellent bonfire. This ordeal has come to be known as "The 24 hours of Victor Creek" in local Idaho circles. As we continued up the trail, it seemed to become increasingly more and more difficult. It wasn't a single obstacle in particular making the trail gwarly. It was simply relentless granite boulders requiring constant focus with absolutely no place to rest. About half way up the mountain, it became clear that this trail was getting ridiculously gwarly. YES! Love it! It also became apparent that Charles, our soft spoken and easy going Suzuki rider shreds like an Idaho badger on cocaine infused Red Bull.
After some blood, sweat, tears, teamwork, verbal hazing... and at least one moment of Shari's Trail Boss induced irritable bowel syndrome, we made the summit. This was a victorious moment for the entire party. For one; the sun was setting, and for two; there would be no need to spoon with Charles next to a fire all night. We jumped on the highway and rode into Burgdorf for some muscle rejuvenation and cold refreshment.
The next morning, Trail Boss Jon had a loop laid out of biblical proportions. He said this loop would include an epic section of "extreme exposure". Not being familiar with Idaho trail lingo, this sounded like it was going to be a fantastic day.
The ride started off awesome. We rode down the Secesh river, rode on an old Chinese mining cart trail, and tied in countless miles of sweet goodness. At some point after lunch, we started down an old road along the Salmon River. The road quickly ended and turned into single-track cut in along the side of a very steep gorge. About 100 yards down the trail, I recognized it from a YouTube video that a friend had sent me a year prior. Simultaneously, it hit me what Jon meant by"extreme exposure". HOLY CRAP! Extreme exposure means that the trail skirts the edge of a cliff, thus exposing you to death! Many of the Idaho trails have sections where you may be on a cliff momentarily, some more than 1000' vertical. One off balance moment or lack of focus could be the end.... but this trail was 2' wide and went on like this for miles. This was the kind of trail where the smallest mistake meant game over man, game over!
We cautiously made our way along, watching every rock, every uneven place, every step down and being ever-so careful not to bump the bars on the inside rock face. I can say with absolute confidence that this was the longest 3 miles I have ever ridden in my life. We came to the end of the trail to get the horrible news from Jon, THIS WAS A DEAD END and we had to go back. Holy freaking crap Batman! Are you kidding me?
About halfway out, I rounded a ledge to see Serp standing in the middle of the trail with a horrified look on his face. I immediately thought that Cracky was dead! NOOOO!!! Thank God that the first thing out of Serp's mouth was "Everyone is OK, it's just my bike!" I looked over the edge to see his KTM 300 suspended upside down by one little bush. It rested about 20' off the trail, and about 30' above the raging Salmon river. It was still idling, but there was no easy way to reach it.
It goes without saying how lucky Serp was for not going off with the bike. He said that something caught against his rear wheel which kicked him off balance towards the edge. He jumped off for high ground and let the bike go. I got out my tow strap and tied Jim off, he was able to repel down the edge of the rock-slide and shut the bike off. He looped the strap around the rear tire which we then tied off to a rock so at least the bike couldn't slip down any further.
We had the bike secure, but at this point there were only the three of us. We tried to pull the bike up, but to no avail. We needed some more muscle. Jon, Charles, and Cracky were ahead so they had no idea what just went down. (Ha, that's a pun!) So I began riding out to go find them, -but now just a bit more slowly and sketched out. About a mile up the trail, I met Cracky coming back for us. I explained the situation, he agreed to go for Charles and Jon. This particular moment was a bit more difficult than it sounds. We both had to flip our bikes 180 degrees on a 2' ledge with a 100' drop off at 2.1 feet... Good times!
I returned to Jim and Serp to let them know the cavalry was on the way. About 30 minutes later Cracky, Jon and Charles made it to us safely, and the 6 of us were able to pull the 300 back to the trail hand over hand with the tow strap. Yay! Everything's good now!....So we thought! We managed to clear the cliffs and made it to the jeep road to regroup. This entire mission burned up about 3 to 4 hours but at this point I thought all was well and we'd have cold beer shortly. The 300 had the infamous smell of burning coolant and was now smoking badly. For some reason Jon kept repeating something about being "totally screwed." (Did I mention earlier that when riding big mountains like Idaho or Colorado, it's basically mandatory to have a headlight, extra gas and a jacket?) At this moment, I think we all realized the sun had just set and we had 2 headlights between 6 riders. I said, "Hey Jon, no big deal. We'll just jump on that main dirt road and ride staggered back to camp". Jon looked over and said, "Nate you don't get it, we can't get to camp from here. We crossed a mountain range and there are no roads though it. There are only very hard trails and at night with 2 headlights between us we won't make it. Our only option is to ride the road out to McCall and get help. We'll ride to my friend Don's house."
Ah, well alrighty then....We put on whatever warm gear we had and took off at a brisk pace towards McCall. Daylight was fading fast and as luck would have it, on this particular fall night, it must have been a new moon. Once it got dark, it got real dark..... and really cold. We grouped into attack formation with our headlights on. I was on the left, Jon on the right, Cracky and Charles were staggered between us and Serp and Jim right behind us. We were making good time, but the temperature was rapidly dropping and it was now so dark that I wasn't sure if Serp and Jim were still with us. I'm not sure how far it was to pavement, but it seemed like forever. We made our way into McCall and followed Jon through some back streets and neighborhoods and finally into a driveway. We carefully dismounted our frozen corpses from our mighty steeds when a friendly voice from the darkness said, "If bikes are rolling up my driveway at 11pm, you guys must have a problem. You need a beer!" The kindness of folks in Idaho is fantastic!
After defrosting by the fire and drinking all of his beer, our new best friend Don, hooked up his trailer and gave us a ride back to camp. He even stopped for more beer on the way, and said he'd be up in the morning to ride with us......ISDE guys are awesome like that!
The next day Don and Obie arrived at camp ready to shred. Jon had mentioned that these guys are absolute killers on the trails and it was going to be a fast paced day. We were just getting into some gwarly stuff when Serp's 300 had now fully blown the head gasket. Jim decided to accompany him back to camp as he was still fighting lingering internal effects of the Trail Boss. (The burger, not Jon) So those two peeled off, leaving our party of 6. We soldiered on for countless miles of epic trail. I believe it was someplace around Blue Lake on the Wangdoodle Trail when I finally had to tap out. After 3 long adventurous days in the Idaho outback, my tank was empty. Luckily, everyone was in agreement. I think the fact that had we kept going, we would have ended up back on the Salmon River for round 2 was the real deciding factor. We headed to camp, loaded up and said goodbye to our KTM brothers... Well, except Charles... -seriously who really rides a Suzuki? I think a return trip is on the menu soon.. A Trail Boss sounds pretty good too!
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