I can't believe that we have been doing this ride for 10 years now. That is amazing to me. This year's march didn't disappoint!
7 am felt a little warmer this year since we started a month earlier than normal and it was a welcome feeling. 10 of us brave souls rode North from Hartman Rocks into Gunnison and up to Lost Canyon rd. The first 18 miles are boring and cold but you start to realize what is coming as you ascend the dirt road towards the mountains. Just before the intersection with the Beaver McIntire trail we stopped to shed some jackets and screw up the courage to truly embark on this adventure. Everyone was ready and we launched headlong into the trail!
The first part is simple and easy, bodies warm up and everyone was smiling. We got to Fossil Ridge and I explained that THIS is where it gets real! Most of us knew but a few are new to the area and I am sure they didn't think it was going to be all that bad. Then the rocks start! SOOOOOO many rocks. Mud, rocks, logs, everything across the trail and it is straight up for a long way! Fan the clutch and keep moving! UP UP UP to near tree line for our first break! Everyone was doing well and feeling strong!
Down we went! Down, down, down towards Gold Creek Campground! The trail is mellow really all the way down. Nice and flowy, a nice break from the climb. 3 of us got to end and waited. Then we waited some more. We were discussing life and all sorts of things and then we realized it had been quite a while and we started to worry. Finally 2 more showed up and let us know that one bike has left the trail and torn some much needed wires from the capacitor that is part of the fuel injection (insert joke about how great 2 strokes are) and that another one is missing and leaking gas (insert joke about how great fuel injection is) and that everyone else is helping them. We thought about it and decided that this is the DEATH MARCH and everyone was warned that you will be left behind if you break down. So... we geared up and headed up Gold Creek trail!
The trail is tough but relatively short so we hammer down to the road over to Taylor Park. The 5 of us made it over to the trading post and fueled up. My bike was getting great gas mileage with the new Lectron Carb and it was running perfectly! I am psyched.
We fueled up in Taylor with 5 people and then suddenly 3 of the crew shows up. They let us know that the other 2 are ahead of them but went up towards Tin Cup. So I jumped on the bike and rode towards where they were. We finally gathered everyone up and headed to the dreaded Timberline Trail. Now I am sure that 30 years ago Timberline was a lovely, fun trail but after 4 billion dirt bikes have been across it, there is no dirt left. Just rocks, roots and more rocks. Timberline is about 30 miles of hateful trail and it is what makes the death march the death march. So we launched into it with all 10 guys. At Cottonwood pass road we lost one member of the team to a fueling issue (4 stroke guy again) and we headed, 9 strong, to Texas Creek for a short break.
After some food and water it is now time for the ride to get REAL! The second half of timberline is by far the hardest (South to North travel) and we have already traveled over 75 miles! Everyone stayed strong and battled hard to the end for a much needed break. The second half does have some amazing views if you have time to stop and look but I didn't so unfortunately there are no photos of that section!
After Timberline we headed over to the start of Star Trail. Star is a great little (8 miles) trail that is in your face and really tough. Especially after all we have ridden. Your hands are beat, your legs are tired and it is NO messing around. 2 of our crew decided to call it quits before heading up Star so we waive good by and fire up with 7 folks! Everyone worked hard and we made it to the top on Italian Creek road but with one more casualty!
As you can see, the linkage on this KTM gave up the ghost somewhere in the rocks on Star Trail. Needless to say that was the end of his bid for the death march finish. The top of Star Trail is a LONG way from anywhere so he still had to ride many miles back to civilization just at a very slow pace. So at this point this gentleman and his son were done and my buddy Brent decided to call it quits too. He is still recovering from a gnarly injury and was done getting beat on. So 4 of us rode on!
We rode down Italian creek road to the top of Flag Trail and waited a bit to make sure the other guys were going to make it there. As we were waiting the heavens opened up and rain, hail and lighting started to surround us. We fired up the bikes and PINNED it downhill to get into the trees. We turned right on Bear Creek Trail and hustled down to Deadmans and out to the spring creek road where the gas was stashed. As we refueled one more rider decided he had had enough.
And then there were 3!!! The 3 remaining souls gassed up, ate something and headed back uphill to Rosebud Trail and got on the gas. It was getting late in the day and we knew there were some hard sections left. We climbed Rosebud to Roaring Judy and exited to the road down to Jacks Cabin Cuttoff. We were tired and it was exciting getting up the last of the rocky stuff but we made it without issues! From here on back was going to be easy and straight forward or so we thought!.
As we were getting closer to home we descended a road to a creek crossing but instead of a creek it was a LAKE!! No joke, there were fish jumping! Jon decided to walk it to see how deep it was and lets just say, it was REALLY deep. I decided to try it first and made it about halfway across before my bike gulped water and stopped. Jon came next and died in about the same spot. Ian was last and because of his funky backwards motored yamaha 4T he made it across! After some tank removal, kicking and a new plug my trusty Jolene fired up and we headed on into the darkening night.
We got back to Hartman at about 9:00 that night and we were all psyched to get off of the bikes for the day!
Here are the quick stats:
175 miles of Gnar
14 hours out on the trail
3 out of 10 finished
2 broken bikes
TONS OF FUN!
If this sounds fun to you, stay tuned for next year's adventure! It will be AWESOME!