One of the best parts about living in Nevada is the sheer vastness of the desert landscape. You can look out across a valley and what appears to be flat prairie, often becomes quite different once you venture into it. This applies to images on Google Earth (GE) as well, what you think you see on your computer screen may be quite different when standing there in person. I've spent enough time studying GE that I have achieved my self-proclaimed PhD in Google World Area Reconnaissance, (Dr. of GWAR) with a minor in imagery interpretation. I can pretty much tell you what the dirt will be like just from the color shading on my monitor. Like practicing medicine, this is not always an exact science. It's highly possible to miss something on occasion which can result in some form of trouble..... as was the case one chilly spring day.
My dad was camping at an old cowboy camp in BFE Nevada called Eagle Rock Spring. This particular spot has a neat old cabin to stay in with a rickety wooden deck overlooking a spring fed canyon. It sits in a basin of decomposing granite cliffs and amazing rock formations. At the top of the ridge above, one particular rock looks just like a perched eagle staring down upon you. The journey to reach this spot is quite lengthy and includes over 50 miles of rough dirt road. The reward? It's some of the best riding Nevada has to offer, yet its only known by a select few. For this trip, the only brave soul I could find who was willing to go was my buddy Nick Nak. We loaded up and began the several hour trek to camp. When we arrived, my dad had a fire going and a hot meal waiting, -dads rule!
A few days before I had added some spice to an existing loop using GE. I had it memorized, take the Dry Mountain loop and drop into the third canyon running west just after the peak. I could see a small waterfall in this canyon but it looked like it would be easy enough to roll down or simply skirt around.
After waiting around for the sun to warm things up a bit, we got on the bikes and headed out. The first 30 miles of trail was epic; fast flowing sand-washes, tight horse trails, and rocky canyons. All great stuff but nothing too technically difficult. We reached the saddle overlooking the canyon and took a moment to peer over the edge. It looked pretty tame, sandy slopes, granite boulders and sparse vegetation with horse trails criss-crossing downward. Perfect! Without hesitation we dropped in, hit the sandy canyon bottom and started railing down the wash. It was sweet, deep and heavy sand with the giant pucker-bushes spaced perfectly for a full throttle slalom course. It's amazing how fast an exploratory trail ride turns into a full on desert race under the right conditions. A couple lead swaps and and a few miles later, we were forced to bring the fun to an end. We were overlooking a 20' vertical rock ledge section with no obvious way down. We parked the bikes and scouted around for a minute, discovering a game trail skirting around the right side, ending into steep sandy slide back to the canyon floor. "Perfect!", I said. "That's our way down!" Nak looked at me and said, "You know what's gonna happen? We're gonna drop down there, and hit a bigger one around the next corner." Confident in my studies I said, "Don't worry Nick, I studied this canyon on Google Earth. Once we get by this we are home free."
The canyon had become much narrower at this point, with handlebar width rock slots and waterfalls increasing the technicality. We picked our way though the rocky maze and boosted down a series of 3 to 4 foot vertical waterfalls. This canyon was getting awesome! The increasing steepness of the canyon walls had reached the point that there would be no escape, but at this point I was positive there would be no issues. Unfortunately, right around the next bend we ran into just that, a very big issue. At this moment I realized I had somehow made an error in my GE radio-logical assessment. "Uh Oh", clearly I had missed something on the slide. We were now overlooking an impassable 30' cliff!
"Nice work!" Nak said sarcastically, "now what?"
The cliff was totally impossible without some serious repelling gear, there was absolutely no way down. What was worse, it ran up the canyon walls in both directions. There would be no easy way around this one.
We left the bikes and clambered up the side of the canyon to see what we could see. Careful investigation determined that we would have to drag the bikes about 200 feet up the canyon wall, then cross a near vertical slope to safely get beyond the cliff. This slope was compiled of hard-pack decomposed granite with the consistency of cement. Spread evenly over the top of this was a fine layer of sand. Mother Nature had built the perfect slip-n-slide of death. I carefully tried to walk out onto this, but could feel that I was going to lose my footing at any time. Small chunks of rock busted loose beneath my boots and slid down the chute, right off the cliff at the bottom. Yea, sketchy! It was like standing on marbles, or maybe one of those roller conveyor systems you see in big warehouses. Speaking of that, has anyone else wanted to get a plastic sled and attempt a bobsled run down one of those?
I believe we were in immediate agreement that we needed to pursue all other options before attempting the slope of doom. On the right side of the canyon, there was a small landslide which we could ride up onto. This would allow for just a little elevation off the canyon floor. I was hoping this would give us enough of a run at the opposite bank to shoot up and out. The only problem was, the canyon was literally the width of a motorcycle. Its very hard to hold downhill momentum into a massive G-out and immediately transition to nearly vertical unless perhaps you are G-Force Jarvis. I took several runs, Nak took several runs, I took several more, -but we were absolutely not getting anywhere. Nak thought maybe we could go back up the canyon and find a way out, so we made an attempt at that. Just around the first corner was the first little 4' waterfall. It quickly defeated us after several attempts. The lack of any kind of a run at it, combined with giant boulders on either side dashed any hopes of advancement. We were trapped!
We took a seat on top of the cliff to contemplate life for a moment. Looking down the canyon and across sprawling valley in front of us, we realized how far from anywhere we truly were..... and how screwed we truly were. By now it was well into afternoon and the temperature was already starting to drop. We hiked back up to the slope of doom in hopes of maybe finding a animal trail we had missed. It may have been in desperation, but Nak began chiseling a tiny shelf into granite using the toes of his boots. The cement like DG was breaking apart, sliding downward and cascading right off the cliff below. In a few minutes, Nick had a nice little terrace cut into a section of the bank. Wow, this effort was actually working. So for the next several hours there we were, kicking and chipping into the mountain with the toes of our boots. I'm not sure how long we worked on this little project, but at one point I looked up to notice a kettle of Turkey Vultures circling overhead. Not today birds! Finally, we had something built that looked as if it might just work. A tire wide shelf crossing the side of Mt Deathmore and clearing the edge of the cliff below. We also cut in footholds so we had places to stand while attempting to ferry the bikes across. We carefully walked Nick's bike across first. I was holding the rear fender while he ever so daintily feathered the clutch and throttle to give us a little help when needed. Amazingly, we were able to get his bike safely across. The only problem was the bikes weight pushed some of the shelf away. Even so, it seemed we should be able to muscle mine across using the same technique. This time, I was at the controls and Nak was holding the rear. While crossing the already damaged section of the shelf, the remaining ledge gave way. I began to lose my balance and grabbed for a tiny tuft of grass, knowing I couldn't let go of the bars. At the same moment, Nick was able to stabilize himself and was holding my fender with everything he had. Woah! That was close! For a moment there, I thought those vultures were getting their feast after-all!
We slowly drug the bike along on its side until we were able to reach a more stable section of shelf. We muscled the bike upright and took a breather. We made it without losing a bike or a body off the cliff. Sweet! Nick said, "wait, I lost my GPS. Do you see it anywhere?" We looked back across chasm-doom and spotted it teetering on a foothold. Nick daintily stepped back out onto the ledge, making his way to within arms reach of the device. As he reached out to grab it, the ground started giving away. He snapped up the unit, and frantically scurried towards me. At each step, our little trail gave way. It was like a scene from Indiana Jones, all that was missing were giant impaling spikes... and maybe some snakes....I hate snakes! He made one last leap towards me, and I was able to grab on and pull him to the safety of more stable ground. Whoa, that was exciting!
Alright we're good! Well, almost..... At this point, we had an undetermined amount of mileage to cover to reach camp. By now, it was quite cold and getting dark fast. We made our way along some two track as fast as we could, finally seeing the glow of camp. We rolled in and dismounted, my dad said, "I was just starting getting worried." I explained there was nothing to worry about......it wasn't like we were on the edge of a cliff or anything.
Do you have an epic riding problem? You need reliable parts, and when it comes to sprockets run the best, run DDC! .....now get out there and make your own adventure!