Thursday, March 25, 2010

About getting lost in the mountains of Montana

My escapades trying to find a trail that didn't exist reminded me of a similar, although much more intense episode that took place in fall of 2007, shortly after I had moved to Montana.  The post below was written that evening after I had found my way back to school.  I rescued the post from my old blog for your enjoyment.

I am about to relate an ordeal that I went through this evening while trying to mountain bike. It has left me extremely worn out, so please excuse any choppiness that may creep into my writing.

It started out with attempting to find the place that I was going to ride at. I ended up taking the long way around, but I think I found it. At least, I did find a trail to ride. All was good for the first bit, except for the fact that big hills take a lot of effort to ride up. So I'm moseying along, and I end up getting a pinch flat. Well that was no biggy, I had my spare tube and mini tire pump along, so I just started changing my tire. As I was changing my tire, another rider came along, and I asked him if he was from the area, and we got to talking about the trails. He recommended that I continue along the trail I was on, hang a right at the T junction and climb up that trail, and at the top there was supposed to be a "totally bomber run with motocross jumps and hills... you know dirt bike jumps and stuff. It will drop you right back out in the area that you started."

I was like, "sweet," and so after I finished changing my tire, I hopped back on and kept going. Unfortunately, there was a creek crossing immediately after where I was changing my tire, and I was in the wrong gear so I ended up putting my foot down in the water. "Oh snap," but it was pretty warm out so I was pretty sure it would dry off pretty soon.

I climbed up the hill (it really was a climb) and I hung a right onto the trail. What the dude neglected to tell me was that these weren't just dirt bike jumps; they were dirt bike GAP jumps. So I went over the first one, dropped my front wheel into the trough and did and endo. It wasn't too bad, as the ground wasn't too far away due to my wheel being in a big hole, but the consequence turned out to be a severely bent wheel. I beat on it until it was at least mostly ridable, and continued on.

The trail forked. The trail that looked like the main trail had huge, old logs down all over it, so I took what looked like a narrower reroute. I pushed my bike along that narrow excuse for a trail for about ten minutes, decided it wasn't worth it, and turned around and went back and tried the other fork. I climbed over huge logs for about ten minutes, and turned around yet again. I decided that I didn't want to backtrack, so I decided to follow the narrow trail again.

(I'm really getting tired of this story, it sounds dull as I write it. )

I attempt to follow that pathetic excuse for a trail for about a half an hour to forty-five minutes or so, carrying or pushing my bike the whole way. I was very sure that it had been a trail at one time, as there was flagging here and there, but I could not tell if it had been traveled in sometime. I kept telling myself "I'll be there in just a couple of minutes..." I never got there. I then started to pray like crazy, as I was starting to get really freaked out. The light was disappearing fast as I hit a dry stream bed.

(I'm getting really really tired right now, and am finding it extremely difficult to concentrate.)

I figured that if it did get dark, a stream would be much easier to follow than the trail; I definitely did not want to lose it in the dusk and get well and truly lost. I decided that streams flow down hill, that I hadn't gotten over the ridge yet so the stream most likely joined with other streams and flowed downhill past the trail that I had ridden across on. And if not, it would end up somewhere in the Flathead valley, so I would be able to find a road. I began following the dry creek bed, and pretty soon there was water in the creek. Rather quickly there was too much water to avoid, so I began wading through it with my bike on my shoulder (and that mountain spring water was cold!!). It would have been sooo much easier if I had been wearing normal shoes or had not been carrying a bike, but as it was, I was doing both. Pretty soon I was wading through three foot water hole, the lower halves of my legs going numb. I tried following the creek from the bank intermittently, but bushwhacking through the underbrush was also extremely rough on the body.

(Now I'm really tired.)

Eventually, after a whole lot of pain, I made it back to my car. The end (of hell).

What I guess I failed to mention due to sheer exhaustion in my original blog post is that I had been right.  The stream that I waded down was indeed the stream that I had crossed right after I fixed my pinch flat.  I was so happy to see that trail!  Then I retraced my ride back along the trail, back down to my car.  That was one of the most epic and grueling adventures in the wilderness I have ever done.


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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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Mountain biking, plain and simple. Trail reviews, ride reports, and philosophical musings induced by delirium from grinding up way too many vertical feet.

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