The next day's run was at the Wyoming Trail, along the Continental Divide toward the Northern Colorado border. We've previously been unable to reach Encampment, Wyoming, within a safe time margin to regain fuel and water for the trip back. It was a long ride following the Western frame of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. Midway up the trail, we came across a grueling, downward pass of unfriendly rock and debris that jerked and bounced our bikes and bodies more than anticipated. After coming to rest at the bottom, the only thing on the riders' minds was a different route back to Clark.
Stubbornly proceeding north, we entered new territory and came upon a marker designating the Wyoming border and the beginning of the Medicine Bow National Forest. This gave us a well-earned feeling of accomplishment as we killed the engines and stopped for a rest. But high hopes were short lived after riding a few miles further into several dead-end trails, where our limited-detail map was no longer any help. Once again, there was no choice but to turn back to avoid darkness and fuel depletion.
The mountain trails are punishing and have an effect on rider and machine. We suit up with a full set of protective body gear, but there's no escaping bruises, scrapes, and the possibility of serious injury. Equipment casualties, such as brake and clutch levers snapping off on impact, are inevitable in this type of hardcore off-road sport.
Our next outing involved one of the most dangerous routes we've come across: "Root Trails" of Nipple Peak. The course has a narrow trail around the mountain where a slight navigational error could result in a severe fall from the trail's edge. It requires a cool head and a firm grip on the handlebars. Another hazardous part of the trail was a steep incline where large roots protrude from the ground. We made it without incident, as we recalled a more difficult crossing over a slick surface following heavy rain a few years back.
While hitting third gear and barreling down the tree-lined mountain trails, there's no safe way to view the majestic landscape, but when we did have a moment to stop at a rock ledge and shut down the engines, we were overcome by the breathtaking beauty of the Colorado Rockies. The utter silence on a still day is awe-inspiring. When night falls on a cool, clear evening, there's nothing to overwhelm the mind more than the brilliant stars and heavenly perspective of a universe unaffected by city lights and earthly pollutants.
Getting closer to the end of our expedition, we set out toward the "Blow Down" area near the North Fork River. This is where thousands of trees have been knocked to the ground by violent storms, leaving several trails impassable. While speeding toward the east side of the river, everyone was disappointed as we encountered a recently constructed bridge. In the past, we enjoyed crossing the shallow rushing water with no help from civilization other than our XRs.