Hells Canyon – Dug Bar (June 15th)

Today was a day I had been looking forward to! John/asrvivor had generously offered to lead a group of us newbies to Dug Bar, a fairly infamous dirt road. I had been assured that after Hess, Dug Bar would be absolutely no problem, and I was beginning to gain a bit of confidence off road. This ride was intended to be leisurely, plenty of stops to take photos, and sounded right up my alley.

We gathered in front of the office and John explained the rules: try to honk if you want to pass somebody, if you hear somebody honking, try to get to the side if you can. Fair enough! We even had a “sweep” on this ride, so nobody got left behind, a concept I liked quite a bit. John had some extra gas he was carrying for some of the smaller displacement bikes – it was around 140 miles round trip. I was happy this wasn’t a concern for me!

We rode in a thundering horde to Imnaha, where we regrouped along the side of the road.

Much of this road was quite gentle. There were some spots for sure, sharp curves at the bottom of an incline, or a few rocks here or there, but I seemed to be doing well enough. Dodging trucks and other vehicles was… annoying, to say the least, but them’s the breaks. I took lots and lots of pictures. This area was gorgeous in it’s own sort of harsh, dessicated way.

The road hugged the side of the mountains, dipping down to follow the river. There were various campsites along the way. I wondered how long the stay limit was. There were also a few residences, if I am not mistaken. I thought about what it would be like to live out here, 70 miles away from the nearest gas station, back in Enterprise or Joseph. I guess some folks enjoy their solitude. I wondered what it was like in the winter, with snow.

Along the way, at one of the many stops, we ran across the “fast group” on their way back up. They looked like they were having a blast as they zoomed past, and some stopped to chat. One member of our group dropped behind, he was having mechanical issues, and our sweep stayed behind to make sure he got help. Eventually Brian, one of the owners of the Log House RV Park where we were all staying, was summoned. He picked up the guy and his bike in his truck for nothing but the cost of gas. He ended up doing this a few times over the course of the rally for various folks, what an awesome guy! Take that, AAA!

In the last mile near the end of the line, the road went to hell. As seems to be the case with this sort of thing, I was too busy holding on for dear life to stop and take photos. The road until this point was fairly well packed dirt with some rocks here and there, big rocks, small rocks, mud puddles, pfft whatever. It turned into two ruts stuffed full of fist sized rocks with a narrow six-inch or so strip of dirt and grass in the middle.

I mentioned the cliff with the drop-off in case of failure right? Yeah.

I clung to the tiny patch of grass like I was walking a tightrope. On a motorcycle. Sometimes it would fling me off into the rocks, and I’d have to restrain my terror and try to creep back on to the center strip again. By this point I was second to last, PNW Buttercup/Sabrina was also taking her time and we stopped to admire the view together while I let my clutch hand have a rest.

Eventually we made it down to the river to meet up with the boys. It was getting pretty hot, especially in full gear going slow! I took my gear off and went to the river, stripping off socks and shoes to rest my bare feet in the ice cold water. BRR! Even still, I kind of wanted to swim, it was a great day for it! I soaked my bandana and socks and returned to the others.

Soon, all too soon, everybody started getting restless and preparing to go. I felt like we’d just gotten there! Usually when I fight to get to a place as nice as this, I spend a few days relaxing and enjoying myself. But, there was more riding to be had, and I didn’t want to be stuck facing those nasty rocks by myself, so I geared back up and we got underway.

Usually, going uphill is easier than going downhill. You have more direct control over your inertia. These rocks had a different plan. I found myself skittering all over the road, and even my attempts at riding the Grass Line of Safety didn’t help. Everybody tells me to loosen up, which I understand the concept – the tire needs to pick it’s own path through the debris and will tend to pick the most stable one, whereas if you force it to go the way you choose, it will be less stable. However, I will say that after almost getting flung into a cliff wall by these rocks (better than the cliff edge, I suppose!), if I hadn’t been keeping a firm handle on the bike, I would have dropped it or worse. I had to pause for a moment to adjust my line more than once, because at times any attempt at steering while in motion just bounced me closer to the wall.

Eventually, I met with success, and stopped for another break. We met some mountain goats that absolutely didn’t want to get out of our way… I blared my horn at them and they just stared at us like “What? What are you going to do about it?”. Eventually they sauntered off. John got a great photo of them!

Back at the bridge, I stopped again to cool my feet and bandana. I was wishing I’d brought along my water filter. All that nice, cold river water and no way to drink it. One liter was not enough, but I hadn’t been expecting it to be quite this hot. When I returned to my bike, one of the others had gotten a flat tire and John was teaching him how to fix it. It occurred to me that I still don’t have a patch kit, and I had left all my tools back at camp. Fat lot of good they’d do me there! I wasn’t able to help without tools, so I left them to it.

I ran across Sabrina resting in the shade. She took this awesome picture of me:

I was out of water at this point, so I told her I was going to the Imnaha store, and hurried along.

At the store, I had a mini pizza and some delicious ice cold beverages. Sabrina eventually joined me and we chatted a bit. I had wanted to take Camp Creek Road back, with the others, but I was pretty exhausted from the trip and didn’t see John, so we opted for pavement instead.

Everybody seemed very proud of me for making it down Dug Bar, which helped boost my confidence, and I was proud of myself. It was not an easy road for that last stretch. It’s difficult to gauge your progress when most of the others around you have been riding dirt for years. I felt fairly out of control, like the bike was riding me, and I didn’t like that. I do need to work on letting go, but I also felt like maybe the bike was veering more than it should. I mentioned this to the others, and they suggested that it might be deflection.

I enjoyed a nice free hot shower and passed the hell out.

Thanks John, for all the work that went into this ride, planning, taking photos of us, carrying gas and fixing flats!

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