A friend of ours in Baja has made a new trail. In general I don’t go around talking about specific trails, but I guess this one is slightly different.
You see, our friend doesn’t ride motorcycles much. He made this trail by walking. When he told me about the idea I was thrilled. Where the planned trail would go was a really neat idea. It wouldn’t be too long, but would make a great way to get started towards an area that we regularly ride and skip a few miles of pavement.
Besides, if it is a walking trail, how hard could it be? Well I guess I should have known better. Right from the start you realize that you are looking right up a big mountain and wondering if there could even be a route to the top. A few weeks ago I took a group to venture over the new route.
At that time, only one rider had actually been over the new trail and he rode solo. Upon his return he had left a note describing his journey as something just short of terrifying. But I took his words to be a mere exaggeration. You know how people are with such things.
On my first attempt to traverse the trail with a group things started well enough. The initial climb is up an incredibly steep cat track. The traction was fair so everyone made it up the first summit okay. Then it was down into a picturesque live oak ravine. But we lost the track and traveled too far down the wash. It took some effort to get back up and find where the trail climbed out of the oaks.
Going back up the ravine it was clear that most of the bikes in the group were geared too high for mountain single track. Plus we were all loaded with gear for four days of roughing it. I scouted ahead on the trail and quickly realized that it would only get more difficult from where we were. After a short counsel we decided to abandon the attempt and wait for a better time.
Jump forward a couple of weeks and I find myself, along with rider Aaron Monfils, at the same location. Aaron had been doing quite well on my 2007 KTM 450xc and I figured he might be up for the challenge. I had also lowered the gearing on the 450 just in case we found ourselves back for another assault.
We decided to give it a go. Again the start of the trail was nice, but the rains had rutted the cat track significantly. This time the initial climb was much more challenging. Once up the first summit we hit the real trail. It was steep and heavy with brush, but we both made it without too much effort.
From there we crossed more level terrain. A couple of more bikes had been over the trail now and there was a decent track to follow. But it still required a sharp eye. Next we came to a huge climb. The trail was a side hill traverse on something that could barely classify as a path. With no flat ground the hard packed dirt was very tricky. One spin of the wheel would send the rear down the side. It called for the most delicate of clutch and throttle control. I made it up okay, but Aaron had to stop a couple of times to lift the rear back on the track.
Then we were at the top ( sort of). Aaron was starting to grow suspicious about the prospects ahead. I don’t know if he was aware that I have spent the night out in the desert before. That is the kind of thing which gives one a bad reputation. Everyone seems to think they might suffer the same as your riding partner.
“It is all down hill from here. How hard could it be. We must have covered the worst parts already”. Those were my words and yes they were spoken far too soon. Aaron continued to eye me with a dubious mind.
Actually the first section down was not bad. We were riding on beautiful open hills, they had recently been scorched by fire and are just starting to show green again. But then another climb came along. Another steep side hill, but this one was so loose than even with two of us pushing one bike it was almost impossible to gain altitude. We practically carried my bike the last fifteen feet or so.
Going back for the second bike I realized there must be an easier way up. Backing up to get a good look I could see an alternate track the previous bikes had found. Sure enough I was able to ride straight up that part. It was still a tricky climb, but I was okay on it.
Then we started down hill in earnest. As it turned out, my riding partner was not nearly as comfortable going down as he was climbing. With a little coaxing and coaching he made the first descent. But things were about to get much worse. I could see we were headed towards a large canyon with nothing but steep walls. I could not imagine how the trail would take us down.
With one more steep side hill completed, the kind you can ride but don’t dare fall off, we were right on the edge of the ravine. It was nothing but a goat trail, never more than one foot wide on the edge of a steep wall. It wasn’t exactly a cliff, but there was always the danger of a fall. Any fall, no matter how small would result in loss of motorcycle. There would be no recovering it with just two people.
Because of the steep hillside grade, the real danger was catching a peg or bar end on the high side. With zero margin for error, even the slightest upset might topple bike and rider. In multiple places we chose to walk the bikes. But in some way it was even more difficult as there was no room to stand anywhere. One rider would walk/crawl along the bank as the other steadied the bike from the rear.
It was challenge enough for me, but I was concerned that Aaron would get too winded and make a mistake. It would be so easy to do. I handled the bikes in the worst spots. Aaron held up fine. I suspect he got too tired to care and that almost makes things easier. I have been there and know the feeling well.
Before embarking I asked the trail builder if he had chosen name for the route yet. He said no, but one was needed. He told me to come back with a good choice after riding it. Aaron and I stopped for a short break and I decided to leave a small memento of our crossing along the route. I had one of our Trophy Girl cards with me, so it now hangs in a bush. It is actually hanging in mid-air, so don’t look too hard as you pass or you may go right off the trail.
At last I could see our destination, a road. We had just a little more to get through, one more deep ravine crossing and climb up. Then we were at the road. After a short recovery period we both looked back up the mountain to see where we had just came from. It is so big and steep it would be hard to imagine any trail through there.
It might be fine for goats, I don’t think it is really cow trail material. As for bikes, I really don’t suggest anyone else try it. It is expert only terrain. Most of it can be ridden, but the margin for error is so small, it won’t be long before someone loses a bike over the side. They probably won’t get injured, but will have to walk out on their own.
Don’t call me to come help retrieve your bike. Consider yourself warned if you should attempt the Trophy Girl trail. The name you ask? If you can ride this trail, you are Trophy Girl worthy.