Ride Report - Idaho Spodefest 2000
by Joe Dowd
For information about Spodefests in general, and Idaho specifically, see David Jones' "Unofficial RMD Home Page."
The year 2000 version of the Idaho Spodefest was located at the Sawtooth National Forest in Central Idaho.
None of the pictures I took turned out. I've been having trouble with disposable cameras coming apart (I went swimming an awful lot this past summer in my riding gear) so I bought a $5 35mm camera. Never having owned a 35mm camera before I didn't realize how easy it was when loading the film to fail to catch the winding togs with the holes in the film. I ended up sending a completely un-used roll of film in for developing (D'Oh!!).
Therefore, I've had to rely on others' pictures. Below you will find Jeff Deeney's, Mike Baxter's, David Jones', Scot Shepherd's, and Derek Turner's pictures. I'm waiting to hear from Jeff Deeney whether Gene's pictures turned out.
Friday - Sept 8, 2000 - 65 miles - Big Smoky/Paradise Loop:
At the 9:00'ish riders' meeting a large group prepared to head south from camp (Chemeketan Campground) to do the Smoky Loop. We separated into two groups:
Jeff Deeney (ATK 260 LQ) led the group I joined. There were six of us in total, including Jeff and Gene (KTM 250 E/XC), the Logan Utah three (Curt [XR400R], Burt Lamborn [380 E/XC], and Steve [CR250]), plus myself (Joe [XR250R]).
I rode with these five guys on both Friday and Saturday and it was quite an honor. It's amazing the camaraderie that can develop so quickly between riders. I'd ride again with these guys anytime, anywhere. I hope that if any of them are ever in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area they bring their bikes and give me a call. I'll show them some REAL rocky, narrow, side-hill trail. Thanks guys, you really made my trip.
We headed south out of camp on an old mining road (#215) for ~3 miles to trail 072 (Big Smoky Creek). I was following Jeff at this point and knew I was with the right group when he walked his bike over an off-camber side-hill root rather than risk throwing his bike down the side of the hill. I did the same.
We followed Big Smoky (072) for ~5 miles. I enjoyed this trail very much. At first it was quite narrow with a natural (not-smoothed out) base. It was a challenge (at least to me) to ride it hard (2nd gear was charging for me on 072). I ended up behind Gene and chased him for a while, using him to kind of "pre-warn" me where the trail was going while working out the stiffness & kinks inherent in the morning's first few miles.
Awesome weather--clear, sunny, plenty cool but not cold. Gene waved me by and we shortly crossed the creek where everyone who'd started with jackets on were shedding them. The preparedness of the other riders was impressive. Most had jackets & many had backpacks--obviously prepared for the worst. I was confident that if an accident occurred, we were well-prepared.
Now thoroughly warmed-up, I took the lead for part of the trail and clicked it up a bit with Jeff behind me. Sweet trail, lots of variety. The one spot where we cut left, straight up the bank/hillside on an obvious bootleg trail to bypass bad windfalls was so nice and soft you could practically drag the bars through a couple of the turns on the backside.
I'm just guessing, but I think Derek took the above picture at the intersection where the bootleg trail rejoined the "real" trail. At this point, I suspect I'm riding back up the "real" trail, jumping logs and finally ending up in the creek (of course) before I give up and return to the intersection to find Dan ([WR250] on the left in the pic), Don ([DRZ400] on the right) and Derek [XR400R] have caught us. I believe that's Gene's 250E/XC in the foreground, Curt's XR400 on the left, and Burt's 380E/XC behind Gene's bike.
About 8 miles in, we turned west on trail 224 (West Fork Big Smoky Creek) to trail 074 (North Fork Big Smoky Creek). We then headed south on 074, then south on 072. 3-4 miles before the end of the trail (072), we found Skillern Hot Springs. Derek's picture above shows the trail as it goes above the hot springs. At the left edge of the picture you can see a bit of the rock in which the spring pools after falling as a hot water shower.
David Jones' picture below is of the same part of the trail as the picture above. Somehow, David's picture looks steeper, narrower, and rockier.
Someone had used a tarp to make a really nice one person (or two very friendly people) hot tub in the side of the hill just below the waterfall/shower. Jeff took the picture below of Burt and Steve checking out the pool.
In the picture above, Mike Baxter captures a "typical" trail on this loop. I'm not sure where he took this but it looks just like the trail as we left the hot springs. I initially thought the "rock step" was in the shadow but now I'm not sure.
After the hot spring, we continued south on 072 to where it ends at the dirt road with "The Big Smokey Trail Sign." Don, Dan, and Derek, (from left to right in Derek's picture below) caught us at the sign.
They headed for the nearby lodge (name?) before we did. Derek didn't take off until Dan & Don were out of sight. I followed Derek (figuring he knew how to get to the lodge). We quickly got to a three way intersection with roads heading west and south (we came from the east). Derek headed west.
I wait for Jeff to catch up and he wasn't sure where the lodge was so when I told him Derek went west, "riding like he knows where he's going," Jeff took our group that way. We went maybe 3-4 miles before Jeff was convinced we went the wrong way. Derek is long gone by this point (I haven't seen him since he took the west road at the intersection). We backtracked to the intersection, took the south road and maybe 500' later pulled into the lodge.
I sure wish I could remember the name of this lodge because I'd been there before. During the Summer of 1995, three of us (Tim [300 E/XC], Chris [300 E/XC], and I [XR200R]) rode south from Alturas lake to make a 60 mile (or so) loop. We had a few problems that day. We started too late (noon'ish), we couldn't find the trail back to camp to finish the loop, and, finally, by the time we realized we'd have to go back the way we came, both the 2-strokes were on reserve.
The owner of this lodge was kind enough to loan us gas and oil after which we rode logging roads to Ketchum (in the dark) then rode Hwy 75 back to camp. While riding over Galena Summit at midnight I was so cold I was seeing flashes of weird blue light balls floating by me. We got back to camp safely to find the wives had called Search and Rescue. I'd called 911 in Ketchum to warn them the wives might do that so, in spite of them not forwarding my message to the wives when they called, we were off the hook for the false warning.
Anyway, back to 2000. My group gets to the lodge to find Dan and Don wondering where Derek went. Don took off to chase Derek but came back empty-handed. After getting a cold pop, having a snack and refilling the CamelBaks, we left. Dan & Don were sure that eventually Derek would come back and sure enough he did.
We headed north on trail 070 (Paradise Creek) to Snowslide. On one of the long uphills, my XR started pinging (detonating). Pinging at 8,000'? I made a mental note to look into that later at camp.
I pieced together two of David's Snowslide pictures above. The ride down from Snowslide was a little loose, but I just left the XR in first gear and tried to stay on the pegs as much as possible and not to use too much of my dwindling energy.
We turned west on 224 (our old friend West Fork Big Smoky Creek Trail) to the Vienna Mine. This short section of trail was pretty beat up and Jeff was having leg cramps so he had to mostly stand to control the cramps. When we hit the road, the group split up. Curt, Burt and Steve stayed to check out the mine (they had flashlights and everything). Jeff and Gene headed northeast for camp. I took off northwest to Smiley Creek Lodge to call the (later to become ex-) wife and let her know I was still with the living.
In summary, a thoroughly awesome ride. Nobody slipped off the trail, no flats, no injuries, outstanding trail, six riders - all of whom were roughly of the same speed, perfect weather. I won't forget this day for a long time. Thanks for leading Jeff!!
Saturday - Sept 8, 2000 - 90 miles - Germania/Frog Lake Loop
I wore my leg out Saturday morning trying to get the XR to light. The 9:00'ish riders' meeting offered a veritable smorgasbord of different rides. Two groups were preparing to head south into the trail system I rode Friday. One of these groups, led by Dan, was going for a long, tough ride. I heard later that Dan's group had a few adventures. A third group was preparing to head north and, after seeing that the folks I rode with on Friday were going that way, I decided to join the "north" (Germania/Frog Lake Loop) group.
When I went to the riders' meeting, I still hadn't got the XR started and my leg was wasted from trying. Bless his heart, Burt was kind enough to start my bike for me. Thanks Burt!! I think the hard starting was due to (initially) using full choke. Sunday I used 1/2 choke and she started right up.
Nineteen (19) riders headed north either on their bikes or in trucks pulling/hauling bikes. We crossed Hwy 75 and, at about 10 miles from camp, stopped at the intersection of 4wd route 197 and 402. After topping off the bikes, we split into three groups. Fortunately for me, I had the same riding partners as the day before (Jeff, Gene, Burt, Curt, and Steve) plus Don [DRZ] and our leader for the day, DeLoy [KTM 520 E/XC].
Our group left first and rode the 197 (road) north to trail 111 (Germania Creek). The thing I most remember about the Germania Creek Trail is the rock steps. There are a half dozen or so of these, maybe 4-6' high with irregular surfaces. None what I'd call "death defying." Nonetheless, I didn't ride over any of them. I had zero luck getting the XR to crawl up and over the rock steps. I ended up getting off and walking the bike over every one. To tell the truth, this just continued a trend from the prior day. On Friday, when we left Skillern Hot Springs, we quickly encountered a rock step similar to those on the Germania Ck Tr. I botched that one too and ended up walking the bike over it as well.
In contrast, everyone else I saw hitting the steps were very successful. In particular, Gene seemed to let his 250 EX/C just crawl/grunt over each of the steps. I was really impressed with the trail riding skills of these guys.
We crossed Germania Creek a number of times and most every time I walked my bike across. I'd been having poor luck this past summer with tossing my bike in creeks and rivers, flooding the thing and spending 1/2 hour getting it re-started and, incidentally, destroying the cameras I was carrying. So, rather than risk holding up the group, I decided on this tactic. Besides, everybody else ended up with wet feet too.
On all the three days I rode, before each ride, the ride leader made sure everyone understood "The Word:" You are responsible for getting the rider behind you through the intersections. This meant waiting at the intersections for the following rider and, ideally, making sure he was who you expected (to avoid riding away from someone who rides off the edge of the trail & nobody noticed) and is ok (usually signified by a "thumbs up" on the part of the following rider). I was really impressed how everybody made sure that the following rider not only knew where to go at the intersections, but how leading riders consistently waited at obstacles to show the trailing rider the best line (around windfalls, over some of the rocks, etc.). This was just another ingredient that made the rides very, very enjoyable.
All too soon, the Germania Creek Trail ended at FS Rd (Forest Service Road) 120. We took a lunch break, during which the following groups caught up. Derek caught this stop in his picture below.
At this point I had a chance to chat with a fellow XR250R rider named Jim from New Mexico. He'd significantly modified his XR (finned, SRC steering brace, pumper carb) and I was hoping to have a chance to try his bike out. He had a bit of an adventure and I didn't get a chance to ride his bike.
After lunch, we headed north on FS 120, then west on FS 667 to Livingston Mill. Here began one of the truly exceptional experiences I've had on a dirt bike. We rode trail 047 (Boulder Creek) south out of Livingston Mill. The trail is wide, flat & smooth to the point of seeming groomed. We quickly encountered a FS employee who warned us of the likelihood of encountering horse trains. This warning, coupled with DeLoy's admonishment to "take it easy" on this trail to prevent any conflicts with horse-people and hikers, kind of made me feel sorry for the big-bore riders who couldn't just "twist it" on this trail.
We quickly popped up on a saddle that Derek captured in the above picture. That's me on the right playing with my CycoActive Barpack. If you walk maybe 100' on down the trail, you can see Castle Peak. It'd snowed 4-5 days prior to our ride and Castle Peak was lightly dusted with snow. Jeff's picture below captures the effect. Notice the light covering of snow on the north side of Castle Peak. I walked down to take a look at it and it was one of those sights that made me glad I wasn't on my bike because I couldn't tear my eyes away - it was that beautiful.
David also took an excellent picture of Castle Peak from the trail (a year earlier).
On the climb up to this saddle, the XR was acting strangely. It seemed to have very little mid-range and I found myself "wringing it guts out" trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the other riders in sight. It might have been a combination of high altitude, 220 lb rider, and a 277cc (small) 4-stroke motor. Still, it got me thinking about Friday's "pinging" and wondering if my mid-range jetting might be off.
My group headed down to Frog Lake (the lake in Derek's picture above) and Gene took a picture of me on a sidehill with Frog Lake in the background. I'd sure like to see if that pic turned out.
In the same way that the climb from Livingston Mills to the saddle was some of the finest trail on the planet, the trail from the saddle to where we turned left (east) onto trail 682 (Little Boulder Creek Trail) offered some of the finest views on the planet.
We rode east on 682 back to FS 120, then south on FS 120 to trail 112 (Salmon River). Scot Shepherd's picture above is, I believe, of Trail 112 where it's weaving through the sagebrush, going up and down rolling hills. It sure seemed like a fast trail but the lack of berms really slowed me down. Trail 112 west to FS Rd 402 offered an astounding variety of trail types and was an excellent end to the day's trail riding.
Unbeknownst to me, the Logan Utah three (Burt, Curt and Steve) headed home shortly after getting back to camp and I missed saying "good-bye" then so I'll say it now - thanks guys!! You're a fine group of riders and three of the most considerate folks I've ever met.
Thus ended the second consecutive day of perfect riding--perfect weather, perfect trails, and not so much as a fouled plug. Thanks for leading DeLoy!!
Sunday - Sept 10, 2000 - 35 miles - Lookout Mt Lookout:
Sunday morning I joined up with the group heading northwest to ride the Boundary Creek/Williams Creek loop. Les [KDX 220] and Terry [200 E/XC] were kind enough to load my XR on Terry's beautifully powder-coated 3-rail trailer and let me join them in Les's luxurious Tahoe for the ride to the trailhead. We drove north on Hwy 75 to about a mile before the turnoff to RedfishLake. There we turned right (east) on a gravel road across Hwy 75 from a hatchery and drove maybe 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
The group consisted of Les & Terry, Jeff & Gene, Derek, Gary [KLX 300], and me. Brian McGarry also was with us at the start but aborted his ride when his knee injury (suffered on Thursday) made the ride too painful. We headed up Boundary Creek (trail 103). Nice trail--a few easy switchbacks with the occasional root and rock. At about 3 miles the trail ended at a T intersection with trail 616.
I'd richened the needle one clip the night before at camp to try and deal with Friday's pinging and Saturday's loss of mid-range but climbing up trail 103 the XR started pinging again so while we were waiting for the rest of the group to catch up at the intersection I removed the gas tank and seat to access the carb and richened things up yet again. Fortunately, folks were a little slow in getting warmed up so my pit stop didn't hold up the group.
We turned right (east) onto 616 and maybe a mile or so along, folks stopped to take some pictures. Jeff and I continued on to the "4-way intersection" where I again richened my jetting to try and get rid of the continued pinging. Before I was able to finish, the rest of the group had caught up and was ready to continue (straight ahead at the 4-way) toward the Lookout Mt. Lookout. I told them to go on and not worry about me, if I didn't catch them they'd see me on the trail on the way back down from the lookout.
After I got the XR back together I took off down the trail and the poor thing was now blubbering horribly--obviously too rich. At this point I was completely baffled, since I'd been making small changes to richen the jetting to get rid of an obvious too-lean condition (pinging & white spark plug). Nevertheless, I stopped again and reset all the jets (main, pilot & needle) back to where I started on Friday (my normal Summer high-mountain settings), and (of course) it ran just fine. Maybe there was a piece of something plugging a passage somewhere. I'll probably never know.
From there I rode the rest of the way up to the lookout by my lonesome. What a nice, challenging trail. I must admit in some spots it took every bit of concentration I could muster to stay on the pegs and keep my momentum on that trail. Derek's picture below shows one of the easier sections of the trial with Terry [KTM 200E/XC] leading Les [KDX 220].
That's what this trail riding is all about--rider & machine versus the trail. One change I will make for next time though is to go down one tooth on the countershaft sprocket. At the end of the trail, when I was working my way up the final set of switchbacks, the poor little XR was really wheezing at 10,000' and lower gearing would have made things a lot easier on both of us.
I stopped when I encountered Gene's KTM and Derek's XR blocking the trail and hiked up the last couple hundred feet to the lookout. I must admit I don't think I appreciated the view as much as I could have. That little walk up to the lookout wore me out. I joined the group in the little cabin and had a snack. Since the clouds were rolling in (see Derek's picture below) and I figured my legs would start cramping if I lazed around the lookout too long, I started back down.
Jeff, Gene and I waited at the 4-way intersection for the rest of the group. At this point it started to drizzle so Jeff and I put on our jackets. As soon as the rest of the riders showed up the three of us headed southeast on trail 646. Maybe a mile late I noticed my neck muscles were fatiguing and for a short time had a bit of difficulty keeping my head up.
Trail 646 had a lot of variety with occasional rocky sections, short creek crossings, fields, but the real fun was still to come. Jeff, Gene and I turned right onto trail 104 and almost immediately were on a very old mining/logging road that followed Williams Creek (sometimes on the creekbed itself). This section was pure joy. The soil was barely moist, you could see way ahead, nice wide trail, it was one of those times that no matter how fast you go, you feel like you're a gear low. Jeff and I (and Gene too gauging from how quickly he caught up) flew down that trail. If there hadn't been riders behind us, I'd have begged Jeff to turn around and do it again.
After the intersection with trail 332, we found ourselves on the world's greatest downhill mountain bike trail. This thing was like a toboggan run with lots of banked turns and extremely smooth trail. On the way down the main, long downhill twisty section I saw a mountain biker hauling butt in front of me so I killed the engine and coasted up behind him. We stayed this way for probably 1/2 mile before he saw me as he was going around a rather sharp turn. We high-fived; I lit the engine and took off.
Jeff, Gene, Gary and I got to the Williams Creek parking lot and Jeff, Gary and I rode north on Hwy 75 to get the rigs. Jeff helped me load my bike on Terry's trailer and I drove Les's Tahoe (mmmm, nice rig) back to Williams Creek. On the way back, I saw Derek riding the edge of the road--shortly after I saw him is when I think he bit it, injuring his shoulder.
Les and Terry got their bikes loaded and we had just pulled onto Hwy 75 for the drive back to camp when the heavens unloaded and the rain began. Not bad timing at all.
And so ended the third consecutive day of perfect riding. Jeff and Gene took off that afternoon, but incredibly, people were still arriving. I went to bed that night looking forward to Monday's ride. Things were going great. I'd brought a 27-gallon water barrel that I filled at Smiley Creek Lodge on my way in on Thursday to have enough water to shower every night and it was working out just fine. I hadn't crashed in three days of riding (I dropped the bike twice on the last day, ending up easily on my feet both times). The riding I'd done all Summer had me well-prepared for the trails David was sending us out on. Things were going really, really well.
Then disaster struck. I woke at 1:30 a.m. (Monday) with neck muscle spasms. Thinking I'd just fatigued the muscles and maybe slept wrong, I spent most of Monday trying to stretch the muscles but to no avail--the spasms just kept getting worse. The weather was unbelievable. After raining late Sunday, Monday dawned clear and stayed that way. I didn't want to leave, but it was clear that the spasms weren't reacting to stretching, hot showers, Ibuprofin, or rum.
The drive home to Spokane (12 hours) wasn't fun. The short version is that, due to a curvature of the spine deformity, over the course of my 39 years I've managed to beat a few discs to pulp. Apparently a piece of one of the disks got caught between a bone spur and pinched number 7 nerve (controlling major portions of the right arm & shoulder).
I put in my contact lenses for the drive home so I could see with my chin resting on my chest. I drove with my right hand wedged into the upper loft bunk of the motorhome (for some reason that eased the pain). I wonder what some of the other drivers thought when they passed me. Just as I crossed from Montana into Idaho the motorhome's air filter started clogging, of course. I couldn't get home without unbolting the "dog-house" to wrestle it out from between the seats to replace the air filter. I think I invented some new words in the process.
Surgery went well and I'm recovering at a fine pace. I will make every effort to attend the 2001 Spodefest. I had an outstanding time. Three days of riding, each of which a different direction from camp, and I never saw the same trail twice. Thank you David Jones!!!