Trail ride, October
Area: Started at Foggy Dew campground, over Horsehead Pass to Boiling Lake and back over Horsehead Pass to the Gold Creek trailhead.
Miles ridden: 35
Type of riding: All single track trail, some of the sections are for very advanced riders.
Several weeks prior to the event I knew the ride would be happening soon, so during the week, after work, part of my bike prep included repairing my grip heaters. The switch had been intermittent for a while, then it went south for good during Dual Star's Tarmac to Timberline dual sport event several weeks prior. I replaced the switch with a new one I had bought several years ago. I can't imagine riding without the grip heaters, especially on cold mornings. I was sure that I'd need them for this ride because it was getting late in the year and was usually cold in the mornings.
Jon, a good riding buddy from Omak (located in north central, WA) called and left a message on my answering machine about 8:30am Saturday morning and said, "We're going to do the annual "Horsehead Pass ride" tomorrow (Sunday 10/3), so if you want to do a 'spur of the moment ride', come on over!" I didn't get the message until about 12:30 pm because I was out of the house running some errands and didn't return until then. I got the message and thought about the ride for a few minutes. After about 5 minutes of thought I called him at his bike shop in Omak to say "I'll be there tonight!"
Some may say I'm crazy for wanting to drive my rig with the bike and trailer in tow 650 miles round trip just to ride 40 or so miles of single track trails, but this is a very spectacular area to ride in, and it's only possible to ride there from about August until mid to late October due the late snow melt and early snow fall. I'm a very spur of the moment kind of person and there isn't much that will get in my way of motorcycle riding - even being without a job for 2 months this summer. Once you see the photos below you'll understand my passion for the area - it's just gorgeous, especially in the fall once the leaves start to change colors. Jon knew it'd be now or never, with the nice weather we'd had and since there had already been snow in the area.
Jon and I had talked about doing this ride again before we even loaded the bikes up after we did the ride last year. I really wanted to do it earlier this year than last year so we'd have more daylight to ride by. Last year we rode in late October and came down from Horsehead pass in the dark, not fun when all you have is tinted goggles. Also, by doing the trip earlier in the year it was sure to be warmer. The previous week and a half was clear blue sky and sunshine every day so the snow that had fallen in the area a week and a half before would was minimal.
I started gathering my gear and loaded it and the bike. I left home (Spanaway, WA) about 3pm and headed towards I-90 with my bike and trailer in tow. I stopped in Wenatchee to gas up the truck and clean the bugs off the windshield then continued north on Highway 97. I arrived in Omak at Jon's place about 9pm. We chatted for awhile then ordered pizza for dinner. About 11pm we took my truck and trailer to Jon's shop, Outdoor Recreation/ATK of Omak (he keeps his bikes at his shop) and did some final prep work to our bikes. Jon lubed the chain on his ATK 605 and I adjusted the valves on my DR-350SE. We left the shop about 12:00am Sunday morning (a new record, since we usually are there till at least 1am working on our bikes) and returned to Jon's house and watched TV for at least an hour before deciding we really needed to get some sleep.
We awoke about 7am and tried to get motivated to go. We could see the sun rising to reveal the clear blue sky so we knew we'd have a good ride even though it might be a bit chilly. We threw in our cold weather riding gear. We trailered our bikes in my Wells Cargo to the Foggy Dew campground to meet up with Jon's friends who were camped there. We arrived about 10:00 am on Sunday, Oct 3rd. They had apparently left camp and were already riding so we continued up the road to the trailhead and unloaded our bikes and geared up. Gearing up always takes us longer than planned because of the considerable time we spend setting up our helmet cameras for taping the ride. We finally hit the trail about 10:45. Needless to say, we got some spectacular video footage.
We cruised down the trail at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the awesome scenery that was enhanced by the fall colors. I have ridden over Horsehead Pass before, but we went in from the Gold Creek side when we made the trip last year, so riding in the Foggy Dew area was new to me. We encountered several horseback riders and lots of mountain bikers along the trail. We always thought it would be way too much work to ride bicycles on trails like these since some of the the hills are long and steep. We also came across a hiker who asked us for directions. As it turned out he had made a wrong turn so we pointed him back in the direction he came from and told him which way he needed to go from the junction where he made the wrong turn. We had to stop several times for a photo op and break out our still cameras. Even though the rides we go on are in areas we'll ride in again, we always take a plethora of still photos for our scrap books. We approached the trail junction where the hiker had made his wrong turn. We turned left and headed up towards Horsehead Pass. We came to a small clearing and saw several motorcycles parked off to the side of the trail, they belonged to the other riders we were meeting up with. We stopped for a break and chatted with them for awhile before continuing up the trail, there were now six of us riding together.
We crested Horsehead Pass and stopped for our traditional group photo at the top of the pass. After a short break we continued down the other side of the pass. We had heard that some extensive work had been done to the trail on the other side and were anxious to see the improvements. The trail crosses a rock face where the trail is scattered with a bazillion sharp jagged rocks (some are more like boulders). This area had been smoothed out drastically which made for easier passage. What must have been the "world's gnarliest switchback" had been smoothed out a bit and widened. At the bottom we headed towards Boiling Lake where we stopped for a lunch break.
After about an hour or so we continued down the trail and debated on which route to take to get back to our rigs. Several options existed but they hadn't been ridden by anyone in the group so we were quite skeptical about what the trail conditions were. After several more miles we stopped for another break - see the photos towards the bottom of the page where everyone is laying down on the grass. We had hoped to continue through the basin to Deadman Pass - a trail that has 20 or so switchbacks on it that goes up the mountain, but it was getting kind of late in the day. From where we stopped we could see the mountain in the distance and trail leading up the side, it had snow on it from the recent snowfall. The trail had been in the shade throughout most of the day so the snow had not melted off of it. With this in mind we knew we'd better not even attempt the trail. Here we decided it would be best to turn around and head back over Horsehead Pass then continue to the Gold Creek trailhead. From the trailhead, it was about 3 miles down a dirt forest service road to the Foggy Dew campground. We arrived at the trailhead parking area about 6:30, it was just starting to get dark. We took another short break. By the time we arrived at our trucks it was mostly dark so we didn't waste any time loading up.
We had another great ride and the weather couldn't have been better. Next year's plan will include riding over Deadman Pass (some of the locals call it "The Wall", because that's what it looks like when you're at the bottom looking up) and making the ride a big loop.
|Jon stops for a photo op while I catch him recording a Kodak moment.|
|Jon and his ATK|
|Here is where we met up with the other riders - Jon's friends who were camped at Foggy Dew campground.|
|Jon at a switchback climbing Horsehead Pass|
|Summit of Horsehead Pass|
|Me, summit of Horsehead Pass.|
|One of the switchbacks going down Horsehead Pass. If you think this photo looks scary, you should see the video - it looks like Jon is going to go over the edge, then when I approach the turn, the video camera angle looks right over the edge of the steep cliff!!|
|Boiling Lake from the part way down Horsehead Pass|
|Lunch stop near Boiling Lake|
|Lunch stop near Boiling Lake|
|Lunch stop near Boiling Lake|
|Jon, Chad and Darren|
|Chad and Jon taking a break|