In which our intrepid duo climbs the world’s longest, most boring fire road, traverses the Talus Field From Hell, and finishes in complete darkness, riding by Braille. Was this fun or what?! This btw concludes our holiday “classics” series. Happy 2010, ride safe out there!
Still basking in Sun Valley’s halo, Jim Lyon and I headed off for another multi-day adventure, this time in the Washington high country. Neither of us had ever done the Devils Backbone-Pot Peak epic, so we pointed Moby Dick toward Chelan and cruised on over. Before leaving I did a search on my BBTC [Note: Now Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance] database, dating back to the late 1990s, for tips on the ride. I was surprised to find almost no references. Jeff Mack did a partial stab last year, but this obviously is not among the club’s more popular excursions.
We got what I thought was an early start, but it took us four and a half hours to get to the Snowberry campground and mount our bikes. It was a late start, but Zilly puts the ride at between 6 and 10 hours. As long as we were on the short side, we’d finish before dark.
[Before I go further, I’d like to thank all the BBTC (Now Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance) folks who responded to my wife’s plaintive pleas for information by phone and e-mail. I have a pact with Cecile: I can pretty much go anywhere as long as I report back in after the ride. Not all post-ride environments offer cell or phone service, however, in which case Itry to remember to alert her that I won’t be able to follow the drill. In this instance, I dropped the ball. I didn’t realize how far from anything civilized we would be.
When it got late and Cecile still hadn’t heard from me, she went to code orange. I have the BBTC Web site and Yahoo! address on our bulletin board for her to check in an emergency. She started clicking away and soon had talked to half a dozen or more regulars, who thankfully reassured her that Jim and I were probably OK. Art was most helpful, telling Cecile that Jim and I had "done a lot more dangerous rides than Devils Backbone." While this led afterwards to cross examination worthy of a John Grisham novel, it was definitely the right thing to say at the time. I should apologize for any inconvenience to club members – since obviously we’re both fine – but by the same token am encouraged that the unintentional triggering of the system worked so well. Talk about having our back! You can't do better than the BBTC.]
The big loop begins with a long, 13-mile fire-road climb of around 4,000 feet elevation gain. That’s right, 13 miles of dirt road. Zilly suggests at least a partial shuttle, but as regular readers of these missives know I hate shuttles. Although on the long side, the ride up seemed innocuous enough on the map, and fire roads by nature aren’t all that challenging. By mile seven, however, I was beginning to question the wisdom of the long slog. Unlike most fire roads, this one had virtually no level, or “rest,” sections. It was unrelentingly up. Not steep, really, just unremitting. Think five continuous rides up Tiger and you have an idea (except that Tiger, like most normal fire roads, does provide some respite sections). [Note: What were we THINKING??]