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Iron Pass: Day 04

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We’re camped right beside the main trail that goes from Hummingbird Lake at the top of the valley to the bottom of the valley and out. Starting at about 8:30 AM a float plane flew over our lake every forty-five minutes, then thirty minutes after that a group of Gravity Yocks rode, single file-style, past our campsite while we made breakfast, tanned our gear, watched James (our resident Canadian) chop wood, struck camp, packed our gear, etc. The interactions with each wave went something like this:

GY #1: Morning!
GY #2: Brapppppbrappbrappppbrap!
GY #3: Mountie.
GY #4: Eh!
GY #5: Giv’n her!
GY #6: Hooody-hooo!
GY #7: Skookum.
GY #8: SHRED IT, DUSTIN!

The lone exception was the fourth Gravity Jock in the Third Wave, who while riding past threw a wheelie up, making & maintaining eye contact with Kyle throughout. Kyle to this day claims that while he doesn’t exactly feel violated, it was NOT an entirely consensual experience. Whatever though, because basically everyone who rode past was pleasant, it was just kinda strange to see other people on bikes for the first time in four days.

We got off to a late start because we only really had one pass (Windy Pass) to contend with today, or so was the rumor going around camp this morning. It was a lie. It’s always a lie. Just more of what I like to call the Huckleberry Misinformation Campaign. The Huckleberry Misinformation Campaign is based on the fact that the Leader of a Ride knows success depends on the dissemination of targeted, as in tailored and tuned, beta. Which is a fancy way of saying: 1.) Know your audience, and 2.) Tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

“Riding down the valley around Alpine Lakes and Early Autumn Aspen Groves on downhill hard-packed side-hill single-track did not suck. In fact we liked it so much we did extra. Then, after lunch, we spent two maybe three hours paying for the extra.”

We got lost so we had to go up, and up, and even more up. At the bottom of Windy Pass Proper we met a mountain man and woman horsepacking over Windy Pass from the opposite direction and from two-hundred years ago. The man said Dale, our pilot from four days ago, mentioned there might be some “Pack Bikers” on the trail today. The mountain man was impressed that we were carrying our gear in and out. Then he told us to keep an eye out for a grizzly bear about ten minutes up the trail. He said that we should be fine, just make some noise and let him know you’re coming. “The problem is,” he said, “I don’t know what but there’s something on the trail that’s got that bar’s attention, so you’re going to have to work ’em. You’ll be fine.” At least we had twenty minutes—apparently pushing a loaded bike up a hill takes exactly twice as long as riding a loaded horse down it—to contemplate what constituted “working a bar.” I’ve seen people working dogs and horses, but never a bar.

James was in front, he’s the one that spooked it. It ran up the hillside about forty feet then turned around. I’d like to note here, at this point, that I, Daniel Wakefield Pasley, have seen grizzly bars on several occasions while on hunts in the Skeenas, Alaska, and the N.W.T. And I’ve listened to COUNTLESS stories from Hunters and Guides about bar interactions and bar behavior. And well, there is no shortage of opinion about what to do, what they will do, worst case scenarios, best case scenarios, etc.

For better or worse, here’s how we worked da bar:

  1. We stuck together, we didn’t run or panic or disband.
  2. I got my bar spray out instead of my camera. Which I maybe regret. But maybe I don’t, it’s really hard to say. The good news is this: I pointed it in the right direction. On several other occasions throughout the trip I held the bar spray facing the wrong direction during demonstrations and drills, and once in the tent I pulled the safety out and Kyle got angry about my alleged “foolish shenanigans.”
  3. I pulled the safety out.
  4. James told me to be cool. He told the bar to be cool too. Then he told me to be cool again. I think he was talking to both the bar and me. I think his point was that we should, if possible, be cool.
  5. We all made eye contact. Everybody looked at the bar and the bar looked at everybody.
  6. We blew our whistles, we told him to go home. Like he was a dog chasing us to our bus stop on the way to the third grade.
  7. We slowly but decisively made our way out of the area. We faced the bar the whole time. We sorta backed away.
  8. It was over in less than a minute.
  9. Until somebody tells us otherwise, we feel like we successfully ‘worked da bar.’

Two side notes:

  1. Erik finally saw a Bruce Lee. He wanted to see a Bruce Lee soooooo bad, and we saw one. It was the end of the last day, and we saw one.
  2. Every other time I’ve seen a bar in the wild they run ALL THE WAY AWAY. This bar didn’t, it ran forty feet then turned around and snorted in our general direction. If I think about it, which I don’t, that’s maybe a little worrying.

The rest of the day was your average run-of-the-mill Alpine Wonderland romp. From the top of Windy Pass you could see in every direction at once, and it made us wonder if there are more than 360 degrees. Halfway up El Dorado Pass I invented Salami Speed. We rode into a watercolor painting and schralped it. Everybody fell down. We rode down a banked, buffed fire road for forty minutes going an average of 25 miles an hour. Which, since there is no road from the Moon to the Earth, I thought wasn’t even possible.

 

Trigger Lake Reprise

"Is Trigger Lake a lake, or just a really wide river?"—Daniel Wakefield Pasley.
James, being Canadian, was borderline upset when Daniel took this picture. He was concerned about reinforcing stereotypes via caricature, this being a picture of a Canadian chopping wood. Of course, when one of your friends exposes a chink in their psychological armor, you exploit it. This image proves that exploitation.
If you squint, does that log in the middle look like a dead guy? Or is that just me?
Gear Tanning. Every day.
Today we did a little extra riding, and looking back I think it was at this juncture that we set ourselves off on the wrong track. These guys get it right at least 60% of the time though, so take it easy on them.
Um, yeah?!
Tucked-in is pro AF.
If you are ever in Eastern Oregon, be sure to visit John Day. It's a hell of a place!
Brooding Trailside Casual is such a hot look this fall.

 

Face to Face with a Bruce Lee

We ran into a mountain couple running a four hourse train down from Windy Pass. They warned us, "There's a grizz about ten minutes back, you're going to have to work 'em, as there is something there tying him to the spot. Glad to see you boyz out here carrying all your gear. See yah later." So... "work" a grizz, huh? Without having anything that would even come close to resembling grizz-work between the four of us, we employed the walk-cautiously-and-hope-for-the-best technique. And for the next fifteen minutes we did just that, then we let our guard down. Then fifteen minutes after that, we spooked a grizz. He jumped into our path about ten feet from James and then bounded up the hillside to our left, covering about 40' in a split second. From this vantage he turned back towards us, displaying an unwillingness to move any further. He wasn't going anywhere and appeared to put himself into a ready-to-charge position. We didn't shit ourselves; rather, we drew our Bear Mace, made eye contact, and backed away up the trail. Subsequent post-ride research has uncovered inconclusive results about exactly how one might/should "work a grizz."
100% tailings- and mining extraction refuse-free water. Or at least that's what we told ourselves.
Those tracks are grizzly bear tracks and they were all, ALL, over the mountain side. So, you know, we had that going for us.

 

Windy Pass

"No stairway, denied."—Wayne Campbell
Oh, so this is what it is like to be a Peregrine Falcon. Cool.

 

Water Color Valley

No joke, we rode through the Water Color mountains.

 

The Final Final

Waiting for the fall.