Friday, August 28, 2009

Midnight Adventures

No, this is not a review of some sleazy video that you'd find advertised on your hotel TV (although Googling the title of this post is not recommended).  It is about a night ride.  More particularly, it is about a night ride that didn't quite go according to plan.

As some of you who read this blog may know, there was a night ride being planned up Diamond Fork Canyon last night.  The initial response from the riding crew was positive, but slowly, almost everyone dropped off for one reason or another.  When I was packing my stuff, I thought we may actually still get 4-5 guys, but by the time I was driving down to Diamond Fork, it had dwindled to just Brandon, me, and maybe one other dude.

Everything conspired against me that day to make me late for the ride, not the least of which was getting lost trying to find the trailhead.  By the time I finally pulled into the parking lot, it was already around 9:47pm.  As I found out later (much later), Brandon had given up on me and left on the ride at around 9:45.  (cue ominous music now (or is it "queue"?  I'm pretty sure it's cue)).

Since we were out of cell phone range, I needed to make a choice.  I initially wanted to bag the ride, but I felt really bad about ditching Brandon and making him ride around by himself at night.  I knew the route he was planning on, so I figured I could follow him, but by that time it was around 10pm and I knew I'd never catch him since I figured he had at least a 20-30 minute head start on me.  

Ultimately, I decided I'd just ride the loop backwards.  I'd probably run into him close to the top of the  5th water trail, then I'd just turn around and ride back with him.  

Looking back, this decision was stupid for a plethora of reasons:

1) I was by myself - this reason isn't dumb by itself (I've ridden alone at night plenty of times), but it is pretty dumb when combined with the rest of the reasons.
2) I was only vaguely familiar with the loop.  I rode it once last year.  In full daylight.  In reverse.
3) The loop doesn't have a single bailout point.
4) I was starting pretty late - 10pm.
5) I could go on, but I'd ruin the rest of the story...

So I started up 5th water and was making good time.  The only thing that slowed me down was the really drunk guy coming down from the hot pots that must have thought I was an alien UFO coming down to abduct him.  He actually seemed pretty excited about finally being taken up by the mothership.  I finally managed to nudge him out of the way so I could get by.

I rode by the hot pots that were boiling with BYU students.  Enough of them that they decided to remain fully clothed in fear that they'd be hearing from the honor code department if they chose otherwise.  I made it up to the Ray's Valley Road in pretty good time and still hadn't run into Brandon.  I figured that the trail he took up Cottonwood Creek was probably a bit longer than 5th Water, and plus he hadn't done the 4-5 miles of pavement yet, so there was still a good chance I'd run into him if I kept going.

I started up the road, which was a bit climbier than I remembered.  I was lucky to have my GPS to give me an idea of when I needed to turn right onto Cottonwood Creek (actually 1st water by the time it hits the pavement).  By the time I was half-way up the road and still hadn't seen any sign of Brandon, I knew that he must have done Cottonwood Creek as an out-and-back and that I wouldn't see him that night.

I figured I was past the point of no return though, so I kept riding.  About 3/4 of the way up the pavement,  the moon set behind the mountains, so it was pitch black whenever I'd turn off my lights.  Even with my lights on, it seemed pretty dark, but I figured that the pavement was washing out my lights.  The entire 20-30 minutes or so that I was on Ray's Valley Road, I didn't see a single car.  I started to feel a bit lonely.   

Luckily, even in the dark I was able to find the turn-off to take me down to Cottonwood Creek.   Unluckily, as soon as I turned onto the dirt road, I knew without any doubt:  My lights were going out.  Not just one of them, but both of them.  I had been cycling them on and off to make sure that this didn't happen, but for whatever reason, it was happening to both of them.  

Decision time again.  Do I turn around and go back to the paved road in hopes that a car would eventually drive by?  Based on the previous half hour, I knew that the likelihood of seeing anyone was slim, and that I'd probably just be delaying the inevitable and wasting what little light I had by turning around.

So I forged ahead, flipping between my helmet and bar lights to make it down the dirt road.  By the time I intersected the Cottonwood Creek trail, it was too dark to ride.  I got off and started walking with the bike, knowing that there was no way my lights would last all the way back to the trailhead.  And sure enough, within 1/4 mile, I was completely out of lights. I was standing in pitch black nothingness with 4+ miles of trail in front of me.

Man, this post is getting too long.  Come back later to see if I survived, or if I wrote this from my cellphone up on Cottonwood Creek just before getting eaten by a cougar.

Edit: The story continues - Midnight Adventures, Part II


Rick Sunderlage said...

dude- I already felt bad for bailing but now I feel really bad. Can you go ahead and finish part II? I'll be sitting here waiting.

Aaron said...

No need to feel bad. I arrived late enough that I would have missed anyone who showed up. I'll write up the rest in good time.

(This post may or may not have been written by the actual Aaron, who may or may not have been devoured by a cougar)

KanyonKris said...

Aaron (or ghost Aaron) - I feel worse than Rick. I called you all excited to do that ride but got cold feet and backed out. Lame.

I know that area pretty well and would have helped with navigation to the trailhead.

Not sure if my lights would have lasted any longer, but if I would have been smart enough to take some spare batteries I would have had your back.

Perhaps I've grown too soft for cycling and should take up knitting. Shame and guilt. Next time I'll man up.

Watcher said...

This is a great story. Just soloing the DF loop at night is spooky enough. Walking down in the dark? Oh man, I can't wait for part 2.

Anonymous said...

im always up for a night ride. make sure you hit me up next time