By Steph Terrien.
Dates of travel for this SheADV group ride, September 1-6, 2016. Angela, Cristina, Kay, Shal, Sheri, and Steph left Cle Elum, WA under clearing skies on Thursday, September 1st picking up a Melanie in Vantage, and Carrie in Colfax. Our wheels; 1 WR250, 1 BMW 1200GS. 2 BMW F700GSs, and 4 BMW F650GS twins.
A few hours into the ride, on Rt. 26 west of Colfax, Cristina developed a severe front tire wobble at 65 mph and crashed, sending her by ambulance to the local hospital with 5 broken ribs and a broken collar bone. She received excellent care at the hospital and encouraged us all to continue on our trip. Knowing her dear friend would be with her the next day, but not without hesitation and sadness, we pressed on.
The team arrived in Pierce, ID on a chilly Friday afternoon. Over lunch at the Timber Inn we continued to process Cristina’s accident. Since all seven of us witnessed the crash and its aftermath from varying perspectives we each shared how it affected us. Images of the crash had continued to replay over and over in our minds as we rode along the paved highways, so we concurred, over abundant tater tots, that we were looking forward to getting onto dirt and refocusing our attention. The manager of the Timber Inn told us we were the first group of women-only adventure riders that he’s seen travel through his town into the backcountry in this part of Idaho. As we fueled up the gas station attendant then warned us of bears, wolves and mountain lions recently sighted in the direction we were headed. Another customer yelled out from his 4-wheeled UTV, asking us where we were headed. When I told him we were riding across the Lolo Motorway he paused, stared off into the distance, and offered something to the effect of “IT’S KINDA ROUGH FOR MOTORCYCLES.” What else could I say but, “YUP!”? And off we went.
From Pierce we traveled east on a quiet paved winding road for a few miles until we arrived at the turnoff for our foray onto the Lolo Motorway, a historic dirt road spanning half the width of Idaho between the Clearwater National Forest and Selway Bitteroot Wilderness.
The surface on Lolo was mostly hard pack with enough rocky spots to keep us alert and to picking good lines. We camped comfortably at Rocky Ridge Lake campground sans campfire because we had to fit 6 tents into two campsites leaving no space around the fire pits. Most of us were tucked in by 9:00PM anyway.
Continuing east on the route, the distant gray-blue mountains and endless evergreen forest views of the Selway to the south were breathtaking.
To the north we were presented with occasional views into the forested Clearwater. Evidence of last summer’s fires was obvious, and striking. Throughout the entire motorway, we thankfully passed fewer than expected travelers en route this Labor Day weekend as we kept an eye out for the Indian Post Office (a pile of rocks) and other historical points of interest. Miles to the south we even saw the huge smoke plume from the forest fire we had been keeping an eye on before starting the trip using the weather and forest fires planning tool at www.SheADV.com/ride.
The two most technical parts of the Lolo Motorway was a short section of babyhead and bigger embedded and loose rocks about midway through the motorway, and then a short but thick span of loose sharp scree towards the eastern end. The newest rider in the group managed these two obstacle stretches adeptly and without hesitation.
As we finished the dirt section of the Lolo and a night camped at the campground below the Lochsa Lodge, we opted for the paved Rt. 12 back west since we didn’t have time to take on the Magruder Corridor this trip. We’ll be back next year! Rt. 12 curves along the scenic Lochsa River for roughly 60 miles dropping us into the populated town of Kooskia before heading south to get back on the BDR for a short climb up an easy gravel forest service road where we navigated around the occasional small herd of cows. Several miles of pavement on the Grangeville-Salmon Rd. eventually lead us to what ended up being the most interesting terrain of the trip. The route slowly bled onto enjoyable winding jeep trails with brief climbs, a few hints of ruts, and increasingly softer earth. The silt became deeper and deeper as we approached the recently logged areas of eradicated forest. Our goal was Burgdorf Hot Springs before dark, so we tried to keep our pace constant. The sense of adventure of this section was strongest for many of us since we were experiencing more diverse terrain, varied elevation gains, switchbacks and drop offs.
The ominous clouds to the south – the direction we were heading – kept us wondering whether we were about to be dumped upon. Impressively, not one of the seven riders went down in the miles of deep silt. The idyllic views down to the Salmon River valley stopped us for more photo opps. As we climbed through tight switchbacks that look like giant capital Ms on the GPS, the temperatures dropped into the mid-30s. “How fun! Fresh dustings of snow on the side of the road!” And then, “Not so fun!” as we started seeing snow and slush in the middle of the road.
What should have been the welcome site of the last several miles of easy, flat terrain turned into a tense ride on slick mud and slush. I’m quite certain a few expletives permeated my headset as the darkening skies, near freezing temperatures and ticking clock weighed on us all. At this point we had been traveling for nearly 10 hours and the promise of soothing hot springs and a woodstove heated cabin at Burgdorf kept some of us from stopping in their tracks, putting the kickstand down, and calling it a day. The last 6 miles gave us back a couple hundred feet of elevation; enough to more calmly travel the snowless, wide gravel road as our line of headlights shown hauntingly through the thick mist and clouds of dusk. Finally! The sight of the cozy rustic log cabins, and rising spread of steam from the hot springs welcomed us like a mother’s delicious hug.
Unless otherwise indicated, photos by Angela Goodman
For more information on the ID and all the BDRs, go to www.Backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com.
Submit your ride report to SheADV