Every now and then while out on a ride I come across something I never could have expected. This past weekend held many of those experiences, and although I didn’t capture much on film, I am able to share with you the wide-eyed moments that made my trip to the Yosemite area a total blast.
As I loaded my truck for this adventure, I realized how I have a tendency to over-pack, yet feel under prepared. It is my hope that I’ll ultimately decide what is necessity and what is luxury, and come up with a simple packing procedure during this riding season.
The final step of loading was to get Liv on the truck, and once she was secure I was ready to go. I got past the Stockton area and onto Highway 4 in no time. Just past Farmington, I noticed my lucky number associated with my next way point, Copperopolis. As I made my way towards the foothills, I pulled over to take a few photos, not knowing if I’d have time or energy to do this on my way home.
My hotel was at Buck Meadows, just outside the Yosemite Valley. After checking into my room, I went to the restaurant next door to wait for my friends to arrive. As it turned out, they had come much earlier in the day and rode a bunch of trails before joining me for some beers and food. I was jealous ! That’s what I get for over-sleeping, over-thinking, and over-packing !
I had a good laugh when I noticed that most of their wines came from Napa and Sonoma. They even had a few bottles from Artesa, which is just a couple miles from my home.
Saturday morning we met about 100 other dual-sport riders at a staging area for the event we had come for.
As it turned out, due to a harsh winter, the organizers of this event were left with few options to offer us when it came to off-road riding. Many trails were washed out, but we were encouraged to go explore, and we did just that. The group of six I was a part of were well prepared, and I felt very grateful to be with such a great pack of skilled and knowledgeable riders.
Our group was the first to blast off from the staging area, as we were eager to start a full day in the saddle. We started out on a 20 mile course of county roads, both paved and unpaved. There were two great water crossings, but the rest of it was rather uneventful. We recollected in a town called Coulterville, and quickly made the decision to blow off the organized lunch stop and go find some more dirt. It wasn’t long until we were in the canyons, on small winding roads, heading for a trail near Tuolumne. Our group had two guys F800GS’, a KLR650, an African Twin, an R1200GS HP, and me, on a Husky 350. I had the smallest bike, with the most aggressive knobbies, so keeping up with the other guys on the pavement was a bit of a challenge at first. I don’t mind being last, except in the dirt. Nobody like to eat dust !
We wound our way down into a valley which seemed very desolate. But as we quickly discovered, the path we took had been the path of choice for many people, a lot of which brought rattle-cans and their artistic ability. To roll up on a bridge in the middle of nowhere that was covered in graffiti was like stepping into a time capsule. Thinking of how many people came and left their mark here over the years just amazed me.
The view was spectacular.
Not long after this stop we hit the dirt. This was what we came for, so the camera got tucked away for most of the 50 miles of fire road, as we twisted our throttles with great enthusiasm. The terrain varied a lot, and the loose gravel sections were by far the most challenging. Proper throttle, clutch, and brake application were imperative to staying upright. I never worry too much when the back end of the bike steps out, but when the front end started sliding I had to dab a foot here and there to keep my balance. It felt great to put the Husky through it’s paces, and by the end of the day I was in the zone riding that bike. As we pulled off our helmets for a quick break trail-side, our smiles stretched ear to ear.
Here are a couple other views we took in along the way –
Ultimately we reached a spot where a big fallen tree blocked the trail, and although we knew we could lift the bikes over it, we paused and had some water while we assessed our options. I then walked over the tree and down the trail a small ways to find that the next section of trail had mostly fallen down the hillside. There were no tire marks to suggest a bike had been there recently, and this concerned me. After much debate we decided it was time to turn around. It’s a good thing we did, because as we found out the next day the gate at the other end of this trail was locked.
The ride back to the highway was my favorite part of the day. I was feeling confident on my new bike and we had spread out far enough on this fire road that we weren’t licking each others back tire. I was able to get a good pace going and knew that as long as I could see a little dust left in the air from the rider ahead of me, I was on course. It wasn’t long until we pulled into the hotel parking lot, and I checked the trip meter total. We did 142 miles that day, and I was dirty, tired, and hungry, but most importantly, I was HAPPY !