Woke up early today, thanks to daylight savings time and convinced Adam that we should go dirt biking instead of playing Civ all day. Our original plan was to start at 10AM and meet a couple of friends there, but friends flaked, so no point in waiting.
Arrived at Metcalf at around 9AM (which really is 10AM, if you think about it), unloaded the bikes and geared up. We warmed up by taking a few laps around the GP track, then headed out to the hillside track. The hillside track has some neat features to it, and is mildly difficult to get to, which means its never very busy. This morning a tractor had torn some gouges out of the downhill that leads to to track, which was exciting because it's steep enough that you can't really stop or slow down much on the hill.
We spent a while working on jumping our bikes at the hillside track, and then Adam wanted to try some trail riding. I said I was game, let's go find a trail.
Some of you may hear the theme music change around this point.
Neither Adam or I have ever done any trail riding at Metcalf before, so we had no notion of how easy or hard any of these trails are. All the single track is marked "Most Difficult" (black diamond), so the park really didn't help us out there.
We started out by just taking trails we knew existed, but hadn't been down before. Went down a drail that runs next to the creek, and then up a short hill climb, which were both "blue" (medium) trails, but we noticed a number of entrances to a trail called "Snake". At the top of the trail, we saw an entrance (looked like a big rabbit hole), and Adam said "let's go in there".
The trail was pretty cool, and not too bad for the most part. There was one hairy right-hander early on, where you have to make a tight right-hand turn, and if you leave the line, you're pretty much going to slide down the hill into the creek bed. But we kind of tip-toed our way through that. Then, later in the trail, we came around a corner and suddenly we have to do a climb up through a small gulch. Adam punched it and powered his way through, I tried but got off-line and my front wheel rode up the side of the gulch.
I knew I was in trouble at this point, but figured my only chance was to gas it out and hope I got somewhere better than where I was. My XR has a big, torquey motor, so it just drove right up the side wall of the gulch until I lost my balance and the bike fell.
Adam noticed that I hadn't followed him, so he came back to help out. I managed to muscle the bike around so it was pointed downhill, but couldn't get it started (four-strokes do not like being tipped over). The hill climb we did earlier was only a short distance away, so I rode it off trail over to the hill climb, then went down the hill climb and used the hill to compression-start the bike.
I rode around to meet Adam at the top of the trail. He had managed to get through all the difficult parts without dropping his bike, but then hit a rock in the straight-line part as he was coming up to the top of the trail. He had picked up his bike by the time I got there, but, naturally, it wouldn't start. We took turns talking and trying to kick-start his bike (no convenient hill), then went back to the parking lot for a water break.
We had had a couple minor mishaps, but were having fun trail riding, so we decided to pick a couple more trails and then call it a day. We saw there was a trail that did a little loop around a hill, so we went to try that one out. As Adam rode past the trail head marker, I noticed that in addition to the "Most Difficult" icon, there were "Steep Uphill" and "Steep Downhill" icons on the marker I had never seen before. However, at this point we were pretty much committed, so off I went.
Right off the bat it was clear this trail was much more difficult than the others we'd found that day, but there wasn't much we could do about it. There's nowhere to turn around on the trail, so we pretty much had to plow forward. At one point I heard Adam yell out and his bike stopped moving, so I turned my bike off and leaned up against the hill and went to check it out. He'd had to make a tight left-hand turn into a rut, and a root of a Manzenita tree had caught the footpeg on his bike was holding up the entire bike by the footpeg. That was a tough tree.
A little shoving got him off of the tree, so I followed him past the tree without incident, but just down the hill from there the trail was a bit washed out. My rear tire got off the trail into the wash, and the whole bike started sliding down the wash at that point. We quickly figured out there wasn't going to be any way to get the bike back on to the trail, and so decided to just let the bike slide down the wash to where there was another trail. It fell a couple times on the way down, which wasn't a big deal -- the wash was basically sand.
I slid and pushed my bike down to the lower trail and took a breather while Adam got his bike started, then I started up my bike (kick, kick, kick) and started heading up the new trail. I met Adam about 50' down the trail -- turns out it was the lower part of the same trail. Adam had to ride through a four-foot drop to get there, and had broken his clutch lever on the way down.
We saw a bail-out point on the trail, where we could see the creek side trail, so Adam managed to get his bike started up and running in first gear, then rode it on to the trail and out. I followed him out to the parking lot, and we loaded up the bikes.
Despite the multiple falls, we didn't feel too bad about the day of trail riding. Had we known the trail was that difficult, we wouldn't have taken it, but once we were on it we did the best we could. Next time, though, maybe we should ask the ranger what the "easy" black trails are.