A few early morning pictures in Arco before we get going. Enjoy! The route today is very remote so I don't expect to update the slide show before this evening.
Okay, there's a lot to catch up on. I'm sitting in the Lochsa Lodge on Day 4 and haven't had internet since Arco. I did have cell service in Challis but I'm getting too far ahead...this day had some drama! The highlight of the route today was Massacre Mountain. Sounds inviting doesn't it! Jeff Hoffman and I were carrying pulley's and rope for this section based on internet reports and the spectre of bike/rider extractions.
The day started with lots of route confusion as we left Arco. Well, that and stragglers which slowed down our departure. It takes awhile to work the routine out. So we got off a little later than expected and my group of Dan Bowman, Brent Cotton, Stan Nelson, Scott Nelson (no relation), Mark Cambron, and John Therkleson enjoyed a fun blast across some farm roads with picturesque views of the surrounding mountain in crisp morning air. Stan stopped to take a picture, as Nelson's are want to do, and we noticed an oil trail from John Therkleson's bike extending back down the road. It was oil and he didn't have much left. We still had cell service so some folks started calling Lloyd in the truck, others looked for the drain plug which was missing, and the rest of us gawked at the view. We left John on the road there with Lloyd en route and got back underway.
Soon enough our route became clear as we passed through a low gap and into some beautiful grassland that rose from the valley floor. Everywhere you looked were smooth rolling mountains as we rolled on almost a sandy road into an unending view. The road occasionally rose up a knoll, crested, and were greeted with more of the same. A complete departure from our day in the high desert scrub the day before.
Stan was our leader and soon enough turned us toward Massacre Mountain. The hardcore riders had left earlier than our group and attacked this section from the typical start. We'd been told that approaching from the opposite direction was less difficult so that was our plan. Well, if you approach Mt Everest from China instead of Napal it's still MT EVEREST! We found the same truth as we all got outside of our comfort zone within a mile and turned around to continue our ride. Hats off to anyone that can do that.
The Massacre Mountain Loop is just a side trip from the main route even if it would likely require about as much time. Our group stopped at the point where we rejoined the main trail and thought to check the satellite phone. Sure enough there were suspicious text messages with time and location stamps that were just as puzzling. Was the other group in trouble? What could we do? We discussed scenario's and option's for what seemed like an hour before deciding to split our group. I took a group toward Challis while Stan and Dan stayed put to figure our if they could help. But our plan pretty quickly fell apart as I turned on another side trip instead of sticking to the main trail. Whoops! That cost us 25 miles and most of an hour to get back to making progress. Thankfully I was replaced as guide after this mistake.
Scott Nelson took over as our guide and I got back to enjoying the view instead of staring at my tiny GPS screen. Scott had us making great time to Challis and I was starting to get bummed that we were going to arrive TOO early and miss some good riding time. But Scott pulled us off the main road onto a non-descript dirt/sand road rising quickly to some nice round grassy knob's. Once we got on top there appeared roads linking these knob's for as far as you could see and Challis just below this ridgeline. I was giddy! Scott is quite a dirt rider and Brent joined him at the front while Mark and I gave our little 250's all they could take. We were having a ball....when I crashed. I out-rode my talent and end up getting thrown over the bars to my right and my right thigh landed hard on the bars. I've got a Blue Ribbon bruise today but at that moment I really feared it was worse. Suddenly my position within sight of Challis seemed too far away and this riding seemed risky. Funny how your perspective changes. I got on my feet and got the bike righted but I was really hurting and riding in a very protective way which was making the easy stuff hard. I just needed to get down from this mountain. It wasn't far from my mind that we still suspected something had gone very wrong in the other group on Massacre Mountain. So we headed to Challis slowly and painfully for me. The last thing we wanted was to have two pick-up's needed on a 200 mile route.
After what seemed like an eternity, prolonged by my unwillingness to go a decent pace, we arrived in Challis and no one was waiting for us. That shouldn't have been a surprise but for some reason it was. I guess it's the first time I'm really thought about the fact I'm always a straggler. So we checked into the hotel and started lighting up cell phones to get some idea what was going on with the other group. The news wasn't good: John Petrey had a suspected broken ankle and would need a transport to the hospital. But the silver lining was that this didn't happen on Massacre Mountain but right outside of Challis. On those same roads that took me an eternity to navigate. The next group came through at sunset and was blinded enough to really struggle. John crashed due to a combination of the sunset and dusk obscuring the trail. His ride was over.
The rest of the group filtered in and we all enjoyed some food, beers, and stories of the day. I was so happy to see everyone. Massacre Mountain sounded epic but I definitely made the right decision.