Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day Weekend, Day Two

Have you ridden into Shoshone Lake (above Lander in the Wind River Range)?  If you answer "yes," people like me are really impressed: the eyes get big, the mouth drops slightly, you say "OMG," and something emotional wells upside. And that's because I've personally ridden to the top of Cyclone Pass where one can see the lake tucked into the valley and have heard the stories of those who have gone the final 2-3 miles to the lake.  As one ol' weathered guy we met on the trail stated, "It's not for the faint of heart!"

My brother had a pretty deep desire to make this trip (at least to Cyclone Pass) last year, but it didn't work out.  But THIS YEAR I promised I'd take him and Allen in, although I had warned them that it was a really rough trail. That being said, let me also state that I "get it," that "really rough" is relative, and my brother wanted to see it for himself, as he felt pretty confident that he and Allen could make it in more easily with the motorcycles because they could go around rocks easier than my wide 4-wheeler, which has to negotiate all four wheels over the terrain.  So, let's just say that no matter what I said, he wasn't really trusting my judgement.  OK.  Then, let's go.  At least I had been there once, knew what was ahead, and I was willing to do it again.

 Day Two: Cyclone Pass

So after unloading the machines, I started leading the guys up the trail.  The first few miles takes us to Mexican Pass, and the trail starts to get pretty rocky and rough at this point.  When we stopped here to regroup, Allen said, "This is pretty rough riding through here." 

All I could do is nod yes, and add, "You haven't seen anything yet."

Shortly after that, we got to the beginning of a two mile section they call the Chutes.  Now, the trail gets rough.  I saw this sign as we turned uphill to the left to enter this section of the trail and HAD TO TAKE A PICTURE of his sign, because I totally understood why someone added those two words at the bottom.

The Chutes is a river bed coming down the mountain that is filled with boulders.   And because the snow melt comes down this chute every spring, it washes out all the dirt that might collect between the boulders.  So some of this is loose and squirrely to navigate.

The guys were having more and more difficulty finding dirt to drive on, and negotiating through loose rock and deep crevises was getting increasingly dangerous.

They fought it as long as they could; but when Allen's cycle hit a rock that slipped and sent his wheel another direction and fell over to the left,  throwing him down on the bank, he was  reconsidering going any further.  Besides, they had to ride back down this ugly section as it was.  Dennis had to agree.  We had only gone about halfway up the Chutes.  It was not worth damaging their bikes or getting hurt.  Both guys voted to bail...so they could at least be assured they could have another day of riding tomorrow.

We didn't know exactly how much further it was to the top.  So, I suggested that I scout it out, taking my 4-wheeler up a ways, as I'd have to find a place to turn around anyway.  They agreed.

I made a point to check the odometer.  And off I went.  Two-tenths of a mile...a half mile...and the trail got even worse.  So, I already knew the guys would not be going up any further. At this point I decided I was going all the way to the top, if for no other reason, I really didn't want to come this far and not see the view from the pass.  Seven-tenths of a mile... one mile...oh, and here I met three young guys on two 4-wheelers; they were headed up too, but didn't know exactly how much further to Cyclone Pass.  So, I passed them and continued on.  At 1.3 miles, the trail opened up, and I was on top of the pass.  And it was as SPECTACULAR as I remembered.  I soooo wanted to stay there for 30 minutes and just soak in the beauty.  It was paining me to turn right around and get back to the guys.  I took a couple of quick shots with the camera; they really were quick, as I didn't even get off my machine and walk out to some great vantage points to get the best photos!

So I rolled and rocked and inched my way back down the trail in 4-wheel, low gear.  You can't help but hold your breath, ready to wince, going over some of those boulders, hoping you don't high-center our scrape the underside too badly. Note: there are no pictures of the worst part of the trail because there was no stopping.

I got back to the guys in about 15 minutes.  I gave my scouting report and insisted that since they were only a little over a mile from the top, they HAD to take my machine, one at time, and climb to the top so they could see the reward.  They agreed, and took me up on the offer, although it frustrated  them that the 4-wheeler could make it, and the motorcycles couldn't! 

We hadn't eaten lunch yet, so decided to do that first.  Right then, a weathered, tough ol' guy came  riding down on his 4-wheeler and stopped to talk.  He'd been fishing at the lake.  The guys asked him how it was getting down the trail to the lake; he laughed and reported, "Oh, it ten times worse than this!"  Although he admitted that on a motorcycle it might be a little easier because the boulders were much bigger, but there was some room to navigate between them on a cycle.  Not so with a 4-wheeler. 

Dennis finished his sandwich and got on my machine. Both Dennis and Allen took about 45 minutes to make the trek, and both agreed it was WORTH IT!  Just because of his emotional ties with these mountain peaks, Dennis was drop-jawed-speechless-impressed with the spectacular view of Wind River Peak, Shohone Lake, and the surrounding peaks of rugged rock.  This picture does not do it justice.

This is a small slice of the panoramic view from of Cyclone Pass. 

Both guys also agreed that the trail, indeed, got even worse, and it would be an impossibility for them to ride their motorcycles to the top of the pass. Allen called it "stupid hard."  The guys even had to admit that riding that big ol' 4-wheeler was a pretty sweet ride up and over all the boulders as it just slowly pulled itself over some nasty stuff.

Once we were all back to where the motorcycles had been parked, we regrouped and pointed the machines back down the mountain.  It was a good ride out. 


  1. The more difficult the journey, the more the destination is appreciated.

  2. That's quite a story! Im glad you were all safe. THe views are amazing amazing amazing

  3. Sounds like quite the adventure, and those rocks...they are pretty amazing.


  4. Sounds like quite a challenge, but worth the trip. :-)

  5. Great photo that looks like the tough ride was well worth it!