This Sunday”s adventure was a journey into bad decision making. I began the mountain bike portion just off route 200 East of Bonner on the Gold Creek Road. Its a pretty well traveled gravel road and you cant miss it. It right after Hayers Gulch. The route combines mountain biking up gold creek road to some logging roads, then hiking after mountain biking becomes to brutal. I cant be any more precise because I have not been successful at this climb….
The ride for the first hour was hard as the pack seemed to be slowing down progress. It seemed heavy and after a while really started hurting my back. Later I would find out that I was climbing a lot. Well, that and the fact that my brakes were dragging. At a fork in the road before I descended into the basin there was a sign. It posted two ways to get to each end of the Gold Creek Trail. I thought wow, this is interesting. Maybe a trail goes from Gold Creek Trail to Gold Creek Peak. That was my thinking. I took the right fork which was posted as 11 miles to the trail head and began a decent.
I reached another fork and determined that I was at the one hour mark of my journey and 8 miles in. Yea, that is another thing … I forgot my watch at home. Again the signs read Gold Creek trail head to the left and just a road number to the right. My plans were to go right and start hiking once I reached a ridge in which there was supposed to be a trail to the top. But then I started to re-think my plan. It was 8 miles to the trail head. If I had already done 8 miles than according to my map the road should take me pretty much right up next to my destination. Then I figured I would be so close I could hike the short distance and be back down the road in no time. So that is what i did … First bad decision. It was an 8 mile climb and every mile my heart told me that i made a bad decision. But I played out my decision hoping that I could still hike from the trail head and even maybe keep biking most of the way. it seemed as though there was extensive logging with roads everywhere.
The last 3 miles to the trail head I entered Lolo National Forest and the scenery was beautiful. Once I reached the trail head I switched my bike shoes for hiking shoes and set out. It seemed that my plan was working out and I kept an eye open for a right turn onto to trail that I could see according to my map went to the top. After 3 miles of hiking it became apparent that I was wrong and there was no ridge trail, at least not from that one. I reached a huge meadow and decided that the trip was a failure. I wanted to hike out the trail and just take some pictures. I snapped off a picture of a creek and it seemed like I might be happy with the day after all. I would just enjoy it I thought to my self. Somewhere in there Bad Decision #2 was made because the trail turned swampy and I was getting eaten alive by bugs. I had to turn around. I figured I would just go home. On my way back up the trail it started to rain.
I didn”t even get to my bike when I had to take shelter. It poured then started to hail. Al of a sudden a lightening storm ripped through the valley. It was very loud and scary. I huddled beneath my make shift shelter. I fell asleep after the thunder had moved on. I awoke and it was still raining. I waited at least an hour and decided that the rain would not pass. I proceeded to my bike. In the pouring rain I put on rain soaked bike gear and by the time I hit the road I was soaked. The downhill ride was very muddy and my bike and myself was just coated with mud. I could hear my chain crunching mud and just knew this trip would claim my drive train. By the time I reached the fork where I made the first bad decision the sun was back out and the mud was dried and caked to everything. Kind of cool I thought, how grueling. Oh but wait … the journey is only begun. I decided in my infinite wisdom that I would make a desperate attempt at the summit. Not by the original plan of hiking a ridge. It was getting to be late evening and there was no time. I decided to shed everything but one water bottle and ride to the top. From the views of the previous accent I could see logging roads all over the mountains. I figured that with out all my gear I would climb fast as furious. I would attack the mountain.
LOL Attacking the mountain … as I rode up the road the right this time I noticed that I wasn”t going any faster than before with a heavy pack. Later I would find out my brakes were dragging. I labored but did not turn back. i just wanted to see if my original plan was better as I would be back. I climbed and climbed. There was not ridge trail like the map showed so I kept riding anyway. I just knew I could find a logging road towards the top. One particular road seemed to be the one I was looking for and I took it. I was headed up and in the right direction. I wondered if I could take this road all the way. I soon was hammering along and expected to come around a corner and see the peak in front of me. Suddenly I seemed to be going down again. I figured that this road was going to descend into Gold Creek. I figured end of the road. As I turned around I found a trail going straight up. I figured it was the ridge trail and I could take it up to the next logging road. the trail fizzled out but I did find another road. This road also seemed to descend into the valley so I decided to ride back which seemed to be uphill of the road I taken before. well at least I figured I was higher.
I saw another road that switched back and went up over a saddle. This was my lucky break. There were sure to be logging roads on the backside too. I climbed more and I was as high as Black mountain when I got a glimpse of the Peak I was riding for. This road seemed to be the way to the top. I started to ride very fast and my spirits were lifted. It was getting late. I rode for a long time and realized that even if this road eventually went all the way to the top i might not make it. I was hungry, dehydrated, and it was getting late.
I drank the last of my water. I needed to take a shortcut. I decided to take a short cut and climbed with bike to the next road level. From there I realized that I would of never reached that point because the road I was on went into another valley. I rode towards the mountain. The road I was on reached a ridge and that was it. There were no more roads from here to the top of Gold Creek Peak. I could see the snow covered top but there was a long ridge in front of me. I started up the ridge on a slight trail but came face to face with a rock cliff.
I gave up. End of the road. I noticed that sun starting to set. I decided to hammer down to my gear. I came to the place that I hiked up. I tried to find the road I came from but got lost. I started to feel frantic. Finally I came out on a road that I had been on previously and felt relieved. But I had waisted to much time. Thankfully most of the return trip was downhill to my supplies. A very very long downhill. I even found myself having fun. I was getting huge air and freaking busting some fast downhills.
Once I got the main road back down to the fork where I stashed my stuff, it was all downhill. there was switch back after switchback. They were wide too with a good
view of oncoming traffic (there was none). I ripped around the corners. This ride at least was a cool mountain bike ride. As I reached my pack (at the fork of bad decisions) I realized how much I had climbed in so little time. I must be in shape. After some chocolate and water I headed back to the car.
On the way out I had to climb up one more pass and then it was a great downhill to the car. I went fast and furious but of gone no longer as my back hurt so bad from carrying that backpack all day.