Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 5…In Search of Singletrack…

Day 5 started off with a nice little downhill back to the main trail. From there we turned right and began a pretty gradual but steady climb for the next several miles. After reaching what appeared to be the top of the hill, we turned off the main (recommended) trail and began our search for singletrack.

As we rode down the rough doubletrack littered with head sized rocks, ruts and lots of things to cause injury, I thought to myself, “finally, a little adventure instead of smooth roads”….then as Chris pointed to the goat track that spurred off to the left, I began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into….

The entry off the path we were on was pretty steep, narrow and covered with rocks….let the adventure begin….

The downhill quickly ended and the trail turned up. Now we had narrow, rock strewn and uphill to deal with and we were quickly forced to dismount and walk. It’s amazing that after several days at elevation, walking uphill pushing a 50+ pound bike still managed to make me breathe hard….

Soon enough the trail leveled and we were able to ride again. The singletrack was awesome and the trail was challenging, yet enjoyable. Pretty quickly though, a wrench was thrown into the mix….actually, I guess it was more like a branch or a limb even, as Chris rode by a downed tree, the branches reached out, grabbed him by the wheel and tossed him to the ground. At least that’s what it seemed like from back where I was sitting.

After getting up and getting back on his bike, he realized the issue was worse. His rear derailleur was pointing straight out to the side like my broken pinky finger after an ill advised game of high school flag football….

Luckily he was able to bend it back in place without the derailleur hanger breaking and got it sorta kinda shifting ok and we were off again.

The trail continued to get better and better, eventually turning into a narrow swooping track on what appeared to be decomposed granite. Traction was good, the path was slightly downhill and we rolled along happy with life....until the nice, flowy, smooth trail went away, replaced instead by a fairly steep downhill covered with rocks and loose debris. The adventure factor increased significantly as the trial steepened and we entered an area of pretty sharp downhill switchbacks.

Things were still going well until in a particularly steep section, Chris, during a moment of sanity, decided it was probably better to dismount and walk this gnarly downhill section. As he tried to slow for a dismount, his front wheel hit a rock and over the bars he went…
Seeing as I was bringing up the rear, I didn’t actually see what happened, all I saw was Chris trying his best to stand up and failing. Immediately knowing something bad had happened I did what every person (ok every guy) would have, I cracked a lame joke and pulled out my camera for pictures.

We got Chris situated off to the side of the trail and began to assess the situation. It turns out he went over the bars in an upright position and landed straight-legged on the trail pretty much pile-driving his right leg into the ground. He heard a pretty loud “crack” when he landed and now couldn’t bear any weight on that leg. The pain seemed to be located directly below the knee and it started to swell pretty quickly so the fear was that something was broken.

Seeing as my advice to rub dirt on it and suck it up didn’t seem to work, we decided to sit down for a bit, eat lunch and see how things developed. Turns out eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich has absolutely no effect on a swollen knee.

At this point, the discussion turned serious. Do we split up and send someone back up to the road to where we saw a construction crew earlier? Do we send someone down the trail to where we saw a ranger station on the map?  Do we push the 911 button on the SPOT GPS and let someone come rescue us???  Thankfully, we were pretty well prepared with first aid supplies and after giving Chris a couple of motrin, we wrapped his leg in some of the ace bandages we had brought along and came up with a plan.

To be honest, we were reluctant to split up.  If something else happened or someone got lost, it would only compound our issues.  So we decided to try to head down the trail towards the ranger station with Chris on his seat “riding” downhill using his one good leg as an outrigger and keeping the other on the pedal.  The problem was, every bump sent pain through his leg and with the trail steeper and rockier at every turn it quickly became obvious that this was not going to work.

As we pulled off and began to re-assess our situation, we heard motorcycles coming up the trail and were excited to see two people come around the corner and stop. After explaining our situation, we found that they were a husband and wife. Dan said his wife was a nurse and she could look at it. She responded that she was a labor and delivery nurse so unless he was having contractions he was out of luck.

After discussing things for a bit, he told us that our plan of continuing down the trail would have been a bad idea as the ranger station may or may not be staffed and before we got there we would have had a pretty significant climb out of the canyon we were headed into.

It was decided that the husband would ride Chris back up to the road where we could get cell service and we’d call San Juan Huts to see if they could come get us and bring us back to civilization. So, they started off with Chris hanging on and trying to keep his leg from banging around too much. Jerry and I started up the trail after them with me pushing both my and Chris’ bike up the trail. I knew the trail was steep as we came down, but had no idea how steep until I had to push two bikes back up….

Eventually, Dan came back and got Chris’ bike, stuck across the front of him on the motorcycle and headed back up the trail. Jerry and I rode on up the trail. We were cruising along until we came around a corner and found Dan with Chris’ bike on the side of the trail. Turns out things had been going along just fine until he tried to ride between two trees that were narrower than the bike….he and Chris’ bike came to a stop but his motorcycle kept going. Trees -1, bicycle – 0

After stomping on the rear wheel enough to get it almost round and mostly able to roll, I left my bike on the side of the path and rode/pushed Chris’ bike back to the trailhead, Dan gave me a ride back to my bike and then Jerry and I made the last push back to where we found Chris sitting in the shade. He was feeling pretty good as evidently Dan and his wife had a little flask of rum so he made a Gatorade Mai-Tai.

They had called San Juan Huts who were on their way to pick us up. Tim showed up in his truck with Rowdy his Australian Shepherd,(and a flask of tequila) loaded us up and brought us back to Ridgeway CO. Once in town they allowed us to store our bikes and gear at their shop and then took us over to the hotel in town to get settled.
The hotel in town ended up being a really nice spa/hotel and seeing our plight, they took pity on us and gave us a really good rate on a couple of rooms. After our first shower in three days we set off for food and beer. The hotel had a really nice outdoor roof bar with live music where we relaxed, propped up Chris’ leg and enjoyed the beautiful evening.
Tomorrow, we’d have Jim from RoadRunner shuttles pick us up, bring us back to Moab and get on the road towards home….

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