Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The ill fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride...Day 3

Click here for day 1

It was still dark, and I couldn't believe how cold I was. I was starting to get scared, thinking I might have to buy a new bag once we reached Ketchum, if I didn't freeze to death before we got there. 

"Dammit! When is the sun going to come up?!" We were down in a valley again, and the sun didn't actually shine down there until late in the morning, so I put my shoes on and headed down to the hot spring to at least warm my feet on the rocks. It wasn't long before Boo dragged himself out of his tent and joined me, having endured another cold night, but at least avoiding getting wet from sweat by using his bag as a quilt rather than a bag. What a pathetic pair we were! It was after heading back to the campsite for breakfast that I noticed ice on my bike. It had dropped below freezing overnight! In a bag with a 40 degree comfort rating I was going to have to do something drastic to be able to sleep safely and comfortably, I just didn't know what it was going to be.

The amazing view from camp in the morning

I still felt awful, and was getting worried I had picked up some bug. Regardless, I managed to force down some hot granola and tea, and got myself packed up and ready to ride. We only had about three miles to go to reach the base of our next significant challenge, and the one I was most worried about...the Unnamed Summit, a 3000+ foot gain in elevation over less than 8 miles. I thought it was going to be super hard, it turns out I had no idea what I was in for. 

We started riding and it was turning out to be another gorgeous day. Although it had been bitterly cold at night, the weather had been perfect during the last couple of days. And today we were passing by some of the prettiest scenery yet.


We were both out of water, so three miles later when we came to the bridge that marked the beginning of our climb, we were only too happy to pull over and take some time to filter some water. I was feeling a bit better by this time so I ate a Clif bar in the hopes I could keep my energy up. Now, with a full supply of water, we crossed the bridge and began what would be physically the hardest day of my life. 

Now, it always takes me a while to get warmed up, but once I do I am fine. And we were both thinking that the climb would be a gradual, but progressively steeper grade. Nope. We hit the wall, immediately dropped to our lowest gears, and began grinding away. We would ride for a while, our lungs would burn, and we would stop and try to catch our breath. Ride, stop, breathe, repeat. 

After what seemed like a really long time, but was only 1.2 miles in, it got so steep I had to start pushing the bike. This was not too much of a problem, because in Boo's lowest gear he was riding at the same speed I was walking! I would ride a bit, then stop, then walk a bit, then stop. Repeat until you can't believe you aren't at the top yet. Finally, thinking we had to be pretty close, I asked Boo (who had the cyclometer) "How far have we climbed so far?" He said "Two miles." Two miles?! Are you kidding me?! We aren't even half way? We are barely a quarter of the way? I was totally crestfallen because I was getting really tired at this point, or at least I thought I was tired. In actuality the climb, and the suffering, had barely begun.

Of course, this gives no idea of how steep it was

This was me, for about 6 hours

There was no choice but to keep going, keep pushing, keep moving. I no longer had the legs to ride, it was too steep and I was not in good enough shape to push through it. I just had to put my head down, and put one foot after the other, and keep pushing from one shady spot to the next. That became my only source of motivation, "Just get to that next shady spot so you can rest a minute. OK, start pushing, the next shady spot is just up there a bit. Keep going." And this went on for literally hours, and hours, until I became this bike pushing, suffering thing. I dug deeper than I ever thought I could to keep going, to keep pushing that stupid bike up that stupid mountain. 

It was about 5 hours in when a Sheriff drove up, going up the pass. If there had been any space in his rig, I would have begged him on hands and knees for a ride, but it was not to be. Instead, he asked "How ya doin?" And I said "Not great. How much farther to the summit?" He replied "Well, to be honest, it's a looong way. Have you got food, and water?" In a totally broken spirit, I said "Yeah." And he wished me good luck, and drove away. I made my way up to Boo, and he asked me what the Sheriff said, and I told him, and we just shook our heads and kept going. At this point I had no choice. I couldn't go back because we would have had to go back through the washout again, I couldn't stay there on the mountain because I would seriously have frozen overnight, I just had to go forward.

About 15 minutes later, we saw a pickup truck coming down the pass, and he stopped when he pulled up next to us. He leaned out the window and said "The Sheriff wanted me to tell you boys he was mistaken about the distance to the summit. It's only about two tenths of a mile from here, you are almost there." We thanked the guy profusely, and somehow got a small burst of energy to push us to the top. Once there, we collapsed in a heap under the shade of a huge tree that people had been using for a toilet, and tried to eat some food. Boo got me to take a "jumping for joy" pic of him, although I didn't have any joy to share. 

Boo, jumping for joy at the "summit"

Painful as it was, we still had a lot of miles to put in today, with another small summit right before the town of Featherville, so we threw on some warm clothes and got back on the bikes with the knowledge that "it's all down hill until then." And then again, maybe we should have been paying closer attention to the map. We started down the hill, happily coasting along...until the road flattened out...and then began to climb again, and get steeper and steeper, until I was back off the bike, pushing and cursing when I realized that we had been on a FALSE SUMMIT!!! We had another two miles to go, all of it up. I could have cried right there if it had done any good, but I was too broken to do even that. 

The road begins to climb again, after the false summit

The summit, once we finally reached it, was utterly anticlimactic and we rolled over it without even realizing we had finally summited. The road just got gradually easier, until we were riding, and then coasting downhill once again. We had a brief moment of panic when we came to a fork in the road and a broken sign with the directions we needed lying in the bushes. One fork went down, the other began a steep climb, and I thought "If our route takes us up that steep hill, I am going to kill myself right here and now." Fortunately, a truck full of loggers rolled up and told us our way was down, meaning I would live to see another day. There isn't a lot more to tell about the downhill to Rocky Bar. We enjoyed the well earned free ride, although it was pretty cold and we had to stop and add layers to keep warm and block the wind. 

Rocky Bar was really kind of creepy. Just a couple of old buildings, and what looked to be a couple of occupied houses with windows boarded up, but no sign of people anywhere. It was the kind of place they make scary movies about, and I was happy to move on as soon as possible.

Old and new in Rocky Bar

We raised the population from 4 to 6 while we were there

 A creepy, old, abandoned house

Once we passed through Rocky Bar we new that the next climb was not far off. I desperately hoped it would be a shallower grade so I could ride it, otherwise we wouldn't make it to our campsite until after dark! As it turned out, most of it was rideable, although my legs were so exhausted by this time that I still had to walk almost half of it. Undeterred, once we had finished the last downhill of the day we finally rode into Featherville, and after a quick pass through the town to have a look around, we headed for our campsite for the night, and 28 miles for the day later we arrived at Abbott Campground. 

I was happy to realize that I had my appetite back, and once we had camp set up I quickly made up a healthy dose of veggie lasagna. It was while sitting down to dinner that I had to break the news to Boo...I was done with the trip, I couldn't go on. We had another pass to climb the next day, which was 4000+ feet of elevation gain over about the same mileage as today, and I couldn't do it. And even if I could, I didn't want to spend another 8 hours pushing my bike up a mountain. I had had a lot of time to think while climbing that pass, and I had to admit that the ride was out of my league. I had been looking for a fun challenge, and this was not it. Freezing every night, and suffering every day? That's not my idea of a vacation! I was so sorry for Boo, but I think he was as wiped out as I was, and I knew he would be OK with my decision, once he got over his disappointment. 

So, it was decided that we would camp tonight, and head back into Featherville tomorrow to see about getting a motel, or head down to the town of Pine about 12 miles away and get a motel there. Our rescue driver Lee would come out to pick our sorry asses up, and take us back to Boise for some well deserved R and R. With a sense of relief, and disappointment, I headed off to the tent, and the hopes that it might be a warmer night.

Click here for day 4


1 comment:

  1. Yoswers, sounds like a helluva ride! Love that photo of Boo jumping for joy -- it brings a smile to my face. :)