2005 Rawhyde Sierra Extreme Adventure
Rawhyde Sierra Extreme Adventure - August 24th, 2005
High Sierras Adventure Rally time! We expected over 100 people at the rally and think the actual number has ended up at about 150. After loading the trailer and tying down the bikes we double-checked everything and headed out early in the morning for Benton Corner, near Bishop. We had a terrific drive over, light traffic and perfect weather, with a nice stop in Yosemite at Tuolumne Meadows to climb Lembert Dome. It took Chuck and me about 30 minutes to climb up and about 15 minutes to climb down. The view from the top was as good as ever. This must be about the 10th time I've climbed it and I never get tired of the sight of all the mountain peaks surrounding it - especially Cathedral and Unicorn! Chuck and I named and admired all the nearby peaks, and planned some possible climbs in the future.
After our little friction climbing adventure we drove down to Lee Vining, filled up with diesel and drove directly to the site of the adventure camp. Since we were volunteers to help set up, Jim Hyde and GiGi were kind enough to supply us with a delicious dinner, so after swapping war stories and plans for the morning, we rolled into our beds in the trailer, bundled up against the 40 degree nighttime temperature, and slept the sleep of the innocent.
I woke up about 5:30, just as the dawn started to break. It was really good to be out here in the middle of the Owens Valley, with the mountains all around us, and the Owens River running past the campground. I wrote in my journal for a while and didn't get up until 6:45. After dressing and putting on coffee I took a nice outdoor stroll and greeted the day. It was perfect outside; clear, cloudless, cold enough to frost the seats of the bikes and give us a taste of Fall. It was nice to retreat to the trailer for a nice strong cup of coffee to warm up enough for a real breakfast with GiGi and the rest of the set-up crew. There was plenty of food to give us strength for the morning's set-up chores, and we soon teamed up and started pitching the camp for the rally. We first assembled the big tent/sunshade for the main dining area, built up out of big sections of pipe and camouflage netting, which took about a dozen of us most of the morning to put up. Then we erected the MASH tent that became the beer bar the "Dakar Bar"", center of all activities. The two tents faced the cook truck and made a central square with a fire pit and lots of chairs and tables. It was a nice arrangement and gave the rally site an organized look.
In fact, the rally was very well organized, with excellent food and camping areas! As usual, Jim was a master of detail, and showers, bathrooms, beer, lights and generators, and of course dinners all went off without a hitch.
Stephanie Hyde brought her mother, Suzy, to take care of their new baby Jamie Lee, while Steph handled registration, and Jim's able staff of Bob, Cheryl, John and Raphael handled the other chores.
It took us all morning to put up the tents and organized the tables, chairs, registration tent and assemble the bar, and we were essentially finished by lunchtime. Gigi made us massive sandwiches and we finished with lunch about 12:30, plenty of time for a nice ride for the rest of the day.
We assembled a group of six riders to do the Silver Canyon/Wyman Canyon route over the Bristlecone Pines White Mountain, the highest road in California. This was an easy route, doable in a Jeep, so we didn't anticipate any problems. Chuck Brown started in the lead but his GPS was not working right, so my reliable paper map took precedence and we made our turn onto Chinango Canyon road. After dragging one of our party out of a fence, we continued down these fast dirt roads and traversed Red Rock Canyon, a narrow rock gully, barely wide enough for a car to fit through, and eventually emerged on Rte. 6 heading for Bishop. We hightailed it down Rte. 6 to Laws, just outside of Bishop, where Silver Canyon Road branches off to the east.
I led up Silver Canyon, stopped once to wait for Chuck, and almost drowned my bike in a water crossing! It sputtered and missed for two miles or so, but finally cleared up. I didn't want to stop to drain it, the riding was way too much fun! Silver Canyon was in great shape, the switchbacks were as exciting as ever, and the view of the East face of the Sierras was spectacular! There were lots of switchbacks and rocks but no real technical difficulties. We did have one tipover that delayed us for 20 minutes or so, but no harm, no foul, so after collecting everyone at the summit we started down Wyman Canyon. The terrain on the east side of the White Mountain is much more lush, not very difficult but full of water crossings and places where the trail is actually the creekbed. I waited for the group at Roberts Ranch, and we took a little break to look around. Wyman terrain varied from rocky to sandy, with lush vegetation nearly covering the trail. The bottom section was dry, deserty, and very, very fast. We popped out on Rte. 168 and headed back to Bishop via Westgard Pass. We had a long slog back on the freeway to Bishop, and I used up almost all the oil in my GS trying to keep up with the bigger bikes on the freeway. We made it back to camp by 6:30, in plenty of time for a shower and a great dinner, with the obligatory story-swapping and conversation with all the newly arriving rally participants.
The next morning we set out on the hardest ride of the rally, the ride up to Coyote Flats, on the west side of Bishop, up in the mountains. This ride started out with three miles of deep sand, then a steep, switchback climb up out of the valley and up along a ridge to a high plateau. The riding alternated between easy and technical. At the very top we tried to keep going, and found ourselves riding on a very rocky, technical trail, that was difficult for the newer riders. We found a delightful lunch spot in the shade of some big pines, and spent a while resting and studying the map, trying to figure out exactly where we were. Unfortunately in spite of our best efforts, we were dead-ended at every turn on the way out, and had to return by the same trail we came in on. That was no great hardship because it was even more fun downhill, and was like riding a bobsled run most of the way. The deep sand remained a challenge, but I went faster and found that it was easier that way.
The third day of the rally we rode a powerline road up the backside of Bodie, through the desert, over some very rocky, technically challenging sections and through a lot of deep sand. Not really the nicest riding, but we were adventuring on an unknown route so we made the best of it. I ended up on a highspeed dirt road that joined up with Nevada hwy 338. I tried to get us up a trail leading to Wheeler Peak, but we were turned back by gates and no trespassing signs. So we rode back to Bridgeport, gassed up and headed home on 395.
The last night in camp everyone was pretty tired. There was not as much bar activity and people were going to bed early so as to get a good start on the ride home the next morning. I sat in my green folding chair and worked on my journals, chatted with the other riders, and planned our Sunday ride home. Jim Hyde seemed very pleased with the progress of the rally, and I was delighted with the variety and challenge of the riding that we did. It ranged from frighteningly technical to relaxed, highspeed desert road riding, with everything in between. If you get a chance to attend one of his rallies next year I highly recommend it. I'll be there for sure!