Several times, after riding far off into the mountains, the thunderstorms started all over again. Trails turned slick and hazardous, and, as a result, cut the excursions short. Weather broke for the last couple of days, allowing us to deal with more technical areas, both ascending and descending.

All five of us turned downhill, single file, on a sheer narrow trail. Did I mention the rocks? In this situation, riders tend to drag the rear wheel, while cautiously braking and guiding the front. Well, that was the theory. A sharp tire-to-boulder impact tumbled an XR end-over-end, and launched its rider headfirst down the side of the mountain. Luckily, a bruised abdomen and twisted forks were the only injuries.

Down to two riders, conserving fuel, we loaded the Honda 450Xs on the Ridgeline for the passable route toward Taylor Pass (Disneyland for trail riders). The dual-action tailgate opens sideways for easy access to the In-Bed Trunk, while the flat-down position extends the five-foot bed enough to fit motorcycles, or an ATV. Indented bed channels guided the wheels in. And the two additional high-mounted front cargo hooks were also helpful-- optimal tie-down angles for two bikes, as opposed to an unstable mount with standard floor hooks.

The Ridgeline wasn't designed for demanding off-road use--no low-range 4X4 gearing, tall ground clearances or undercarriage shielding. But its transfer case with lock mode (assisted by traction control), at low speeds, handled mild dual-track ATV trails pretty well.

The last ride dealt with tight single-tracks edging cliffs--not that we had time to look--but the surroundings were different. Treeless rolling mountains blanketed with grass, rocks and flowers. And, after passing 12,000 feet up, we struck our first patch of snow.

Crested Butte's a friendly historic town. The food was exceptional--and hiking, bicycling and river rafting are favorite pastimes. But Don Turk explained that there is some local disdain for motorized off-road vehicles, even though riders basically stick to designated motorized trails, and the relatively small numbers of bikes cause insignificant environmental harm.

Regardless...paddling, pedaling or twisting the throttle, Crested Butte gets a "thumbs up". What truck, and which bikes, would you like to see the next time out? Let us know.