The Grizzly-Helena is a rocky, single-track trail, but the CRF250X suspension held a straight line over the jagged terrain. Then things get interesting. The ascents get steeper and the boulders larger, with no way around. Some trails are 12 inches across, riding the edge of 75-foot cliffs for extended lengths. Repeatedly, we were forced to lift the motorcycles over downed trees and impassable boulder-strewn sections.
One rider went down on a river crossing when his front tire struck a boulder hidden below the waterline. The electric start fired the engine without a hitch, but the rider pulled out totally drenched. Our trail map indicated we had gone only halfway in seven hours as we came to an isolated dirt road. Temperatures steadily dropped with the oncoming darkness. At this point, attempting the remainder of the trail seemed suicidal, so we chose that solitary road off the map.
We eventually discovered a cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere. The owner offered to load the bikes on a horse trailer and transport us to the north trailhead. It was pitch-black by the time we arrived, and there was no sign of our friend and the Colorado. The plan was for him to wait at the trailhead until dark, and then return to the cabin and check for a message about our situation. We started riding the deserted roads, with temperatures dropping fast. It wasn't long before our wet rider was cold and shaking from the wind and speed. We concluded it was time to establish a fire on the roadside, confident our friend would return this way on a search. Still wet from the river, our sole cigarette lighter refused to spark. This wasn't the high point to our expedition, and hypothermia became a real concern. After a chilly 20-minute delay, the lighter came to life, finally igniting a welcomed fire. Rider three returned hours later, and we reached the secure cabin site by morning--the Grizzly-Helena Trail was undeniably gnarly, staying true to form.
The spectacular Colorado Rockies delivered a fun-filled blast of off-road exploration, as always. The capable Chevy got us where we needed to go, and Honda's CRF250X took us one step further by bringing us back in one piece. We spent the last day nursing a back injury and a cold at the famed Strawberry Park Hot Springs, followed by a night on the town in Steamboat. We've already begun to evaluate candidate vehicles for next year's Rocky Mountain challenge.