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September 21, 2018

Hamlin Gulch Road

Hamlin Gulch Road

Like, the problem you have is that, if you ride your motorcycle all summer, you start pushing the envelope more and more. It's all there is to do, really. You don't want to ride the same trails over and over, so you start out with the low ones, as the snow melts in the spring. The beginner trails. Exposed from the melting snow.

Then, as the summer drags on, and the snow melts, you start riding higher and higher into the Rocky mountains, hitting trails that are harder and harder.

You get better, as the summer goes on, but you're also riding harder and harder trails until, pretty soon, you're hitting trails that make your hair turn white. Carving and clawing up the face of the mountain.

And, this is where we are. The leaves are changing. The daughter is back in college. And I'm out, hitting every trail that I've turned back from countless times all summer.

I'm not a smart man. Part of me needs this. Wants this. This adrenaline surge you get from going up and down trails that clearly exceed your ability. I'm going back today to hit Hamlin Gulch again because I road it yesterday, but I didn't have my GoPro working. Or my GPS. So, I have no proof that I made this trail yesterday. Today will be different. The GoPro is charged. The iPhone is charged. This time, I'll have a video to prove that I made this route.

I have a checklist of things to do before I leave the house on the bike. Gas up. Eat lunch. Charge your iphone. Oil your chain. Check the forecast. Carry gatorade. All of these things increase your odds of survival in the mountains.

This time, I've gassed up. Oiled my chain. Figured out how to turn off my Traction Control. Adjusted my headlight so it's not so cotton-picking high. But I didn't check the forecast. And I didn't get any Gatorade when I left the house. And I'm riding alone. And no one knows where I am or where I'm going.

York Gulch to Bald Mountain Road (FSR 273.2).

From Fall River Road, I plan to go up York Gulch to Bald Mountain Lane (FSR 273.2), down to Bald Mountain Road to the Colombine Campground. Then, come back up following signs to Yankee Hill. Then go back down Hamlin Gulch to Fall River Road. That's the plan, anyway.

So, I take York Gulch up to Bald Mountain Lane (FSR 273.2). Down to Bald Mountain Road, then, left and left again towards Colombine Campground. I loop through the campground. I'm pretty sure it's Friday, but the campground is only half full.

It's after Labor Day. I think that's what happens.

Now, back up the hill following signs to Yankee Hill (FSR 739.1).

Along the way, I stop to shoot some of the Aspen leaves that are changing much too fast.

Pop back up on top at the intersection at York Gulch. Like, it's a little steep at the top, but I'm climbing up it no problem. I'm very proud with my riding abilities. Sure. I can do this, I think. Hamlin Gulch will be no problem.

I see a guy in a truck and stop and talk for a second.

"Where's Hamlin Gulch" I ask

"Just back there a ways,"

"Oh. Right."

I go back down York Gulch just for a short distance. There are 2 Clear Creek County Sheriff's Deputies there and a tow truck, which seems odd.

"What's going on?" I ask as I approach them. Walking. Hands open, so there's no threat.

"We're towing this guy's trailer away. Some idiot just came up here and dropped his trailer."

"Yeah. It's been there for a while. I figured he was living in it?"

"Just abandoned."

"Well, there's another guy...y'all should go check him out. You know at the top of Oh My God Road, or Virginia Canyon...at the top there's that old stone house that's abandoned...there's a guy parked there, living out of his trailer/camper."

"OK. Thanks. We'll go check it out."

Now, I leave and start down the hill following signs for Hamlin Gulch (FSR 273.1).

I just did this road yesterday. It's a very, very sketchy road for this bike. It's narrow, steep, and very dangerous in sections. They even have a sign at the bottom that says the road is "washed out" and people have left 2x4's to help get across the most dangerous sections.

So now, I'm slowly rolling down the side of this mountain. Carefully picking my line as I roll slowly down the hill. No one else is on the trail. Only me. I have about and hour and a half of daylight left.

There are a few places where the trail splits. I take photos to try to keep track of my location. So I knew which forest service road I'm on, exactly.

If you fall off the trail, you could fall a hundred feet or so no problem. Eventually, I get to the worst section.

This is where there were some 2x4's yesterday when I crossed this section. Now, they're gone. I try to cross the washed out section, but lose control of the bike. The bike goes down, and I tumble off of the bike, on the edge of a steep precipice.

I can't believe what has just happened. I take off my helmet and sit down on the stone trail, on the face of the mountain. I'm having a very hard time coming to grips with reality. With what has just happened. I keep looking back at my bike, expecting it to be upright and on the kickstand.

Christ. I'm royally fucked. The bike is so heavy that I can't even stand it up on my own. And, it's pointing down the face of the mountain. So, if it goes anywhere, it's going to fall down the side of the mountain.

I'm royally screwed. I have nothing to drink. No Gatorade. My mouth is dry. I'm in a full-scale panic. I check my phone. By the grace of God, it's charged and I have 1 bar of cell service.

For some reason, my cell phone isn't functioning properly. I can't quite grasp why. I can't get the keyboard to come up so that I can type in...well...anything. The name of the trail, the names and phone numbers of people I want to summon for help. Nothing.

But I do appear to have 1 bar of cell service, which is a Godsend. 

I call 911 and get connected to the Clear Creek County Sheriff's office.

"Are you hurt?" she wants to know.

"No. I'm fine."

And when I tell them my location, she just laughs. Like..."no, we're not sending anyone up that trail. That's not going to happen."

But they do offer to put me in contact with a 4wd rescue service and I'm like...."fair enough". I'm not really sure what my options are at this point. I don't want to just walk out and leave my bike here. That would be stupid, I think.

So, I contact the 4wd rescue service, but they indicate that most people are down the hill working, as it is a work day, apparently. (Who knew?) At the earliest, they could have people here in maybe an hour and a half. Sure. Send them. Giddyup.

Now, she wants to know my location. I'm not really 100% sure of my location. I think that I'm on Hamlin Gulch, but I couldn't swear to it. I looked at the map a few times. There are a couple of trails that cut off on the way down. I have all of this technology...a Garmin Montana 600, an iPhone 6S plus. Like...you'd think I could tell some battered housewife what my location is with all of this technology, but honestly, I'm not really 100% certain of my location.

Now, the woman on the phone is telling me that every iPhone on earth has a "Compass app" that cannot be deleted that will tell you your location with absolute certainty, down to a gnat's ass, assuming you have cell coverage which I clearly do, because I'm talking to her.

So, I study my iPhone for some time. I'm not a smart man. The sun is getting lower in the sky. My motorcycle is dangling off a cliff in the Rocky Mountains. My mouth is a dry as cotton. And I'm looking at my iPhone like a retard on a gameshow.

Eventually, I find the compass app. It's on the 2nd screen, in a little box of apps named Extras, which I'm pretty sure I created to hide apps that couldn't be deleted like the Compass app.

It says my location is 39°47'56" N. 105°35'15" W.

"Thirty nine degrees forty seven minutes fifty six seconds North. One oh five degrees thirty five minutes fifteen seconds West." I stammer. Like...how stupid does a man have to be to get in this situation...that I've got a woman explaining to me how to use in iPhone? That I've got a Garmin Montana GPS, but I'm so stupid I apparently don't know how to use it?

"You're not on Hamlin Gulch. You're on Woodpecker Gulch."

"Uh....OK?" Like, what else is there to say? (Update: She was wrong. I was, in fact, on Hamlin Gulch Road.)

"We should be able to get some people out there to help you in about an hour and a half. Also, we don't charge. But we do accept donations."

"OK. Roger that. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be here."

And, with that, I just sit down and try to collect my thoughts. I'm so thirsty I could die. The sun is getting lower in the sky. There's zero chance I could stand this bike up on my own. Even if I could, it would roll down the face of the mountain. Like, for everyone that says "well I can't believe that you can't stand your bike up on your own", that really, really, really misses the point. If I stood this bike up, it would roll down the face of the mountain, and tumble several hundred feet before it stopped. It's facing downhill, on uneven washed out rock surface of the mountain. I'm not touching the bike. I'm surprised it hasn't fallen off the mountain already.

As I'm sitting, contemplating my dilemma, two motorcycles come riding down the hill. I wave at them to stop, so that they don't end up in my situation.

"Man, am I glad to see y'all!" I choke. Like...holy fuck...I'm glad these guys show up. Then, as I'm explaining my predicament, another guy comes riding up from below. All three of these guys are on much more appropriate sized bikes for this trail....namely, their bikes are about 1/2 the size of mine.

Now, all four of us are trying to stand the bike up, and drag it around into position, so that it's on the trail, and pointed downhill, towards the washed out section.

One of the guys hops on it. I'm reasonably sure that it won't start because it's flooded, but instead, it fires right up, and he rides it across the washed out section like it was nothing, and then puts down the kickstand, hops off, and hands it off to me.

There is some talk of us riding into Idaho Springs for beers, and I tell them all that I'm buying. Gladly.

But then, everyone disperses, and no one ends up in Idaho Springs for beers except for me, and I'm drinking Diet Coke because I don't drink when I'm riding my bike.

I still can't grasp why my iPhone won't work...why the keyboard won't show up, but finally, sitting alone at Tommy Knockers in Idaho Springs, I realize that my bluetooth keyboard was in my Givi rear case and connected via Bluetooth automatically to my iPhone, which stopped the keyboard from appearing on my iPhone 6S Plus.

Now, I have my bluetooth keyboard connected to my iphone 6S Plus, and start trying to message the people that saved me. Apparently, they're not going to make it for drinks, as they've headed back down the hill.

So I roll back down to Evergreen, for Diet Cokes at Willow Creek where I always find an audience for my ridiculous adventures.

Posted by Rob Kiser on September 21, 2018 at 11:46 PM


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