Here's the abridged version: Went riding alone, got my bike stuck, had to walk out of the woods for 10 miles, at a pace of about 1 mile per hour... Oh and I bought no water into a desert-ish area because I'm dumb.
I debated about posting this here. I know what kind of a response this will gather. I'm not proud. I knew better. I did it anyways. Fuck it.
You see what had happened was... I got excited. I got cocky. I got dumb. It started with a new set of tires on a big bike. I was enthusiastic about going out and breaking them in. I had never been to Cloudcroft, NM and I wanted to explore, and I ignored invites to groups to go to the area. It didn't end well, but it could have been worse. It started off with a bad week, it was a long one and I wanted to go riding. The previous week I had rode and the exploring I did, did not end badly, but it ended with me bored. I wanted adventure this time. I got it, 3-fold. My plan was to go out and go to Cloudcroft and ride as many dirt roads as possible and then maybe head back to Texas on a scenic route. This was foolish. I had never ridden these roads before, I had no idea what to expect, I only had loosely researched my route, and I was unprepared.
My day started off with my ferrying my fiancÚ around, doing errands. It's my own fault I left frustrated and unprepared, I should have just calmed down. I left with: no water, no survival gear, didn’t even occur to me! I had all these things, I had a CamelBak, with a bunch of random items, like a whistle, water purification pills, small amount of food, fire starting stuff, etc., etc... I didn't bring it. After the errands, I left later than I wanted to, at 10:30a-ish last Friday. I wanted to leave earlier so I wouldn't have to ride in the dark. I left El Paso, breezed down the highway at 80mph, went through the BP checkpoint, ignored Alamogordo, and head up the mountains. The roads were great, and quite scenic. I stopped before the tunnel to grab a photo.
I got to Cloudcroft at noon-ish. I ate at a BBQ place in town and make a Facebook post. This is the last time anyone heard from me till after this adventure. I left Cloudcroft maybe at 1-ish. I started my 'adventure' by picking a random gravel road and riding it. It was a lumber road, and it was interesting. This is the first time I got to really use my TKC80's in a non-sand, non-asphalt environment. I was building confidence with the tires. This road has some steep drop offs and I was driving cautiously. I stopped to take a photo to see if I could capture some of the drama.
No such luck in getting any of the fear that the terrain induced in an inexperienced rider, that’s the way photos are. I did note that there was no cellphone signal here. If I went over one of these cliffs, I would be fucked, I paid no attention though. I finally reached a dead end on this road. Was I satisfied that I had ridden my longest stretch of "road, but not a road" adventure, and not gone down? No! It was just like last week, a road that wasted my time and went nowhere. Never mind the scenery, never mind the skills learned; I was a child hungering to 'go' someplace.
It was difficult for me to turn the bike around here. I learned here that the GSA and moderate sized rocks do not get along at low speeds trying to maneuver. I left the dead-end logging road. I probably should have realized that at this point I needed drink, but I paid no mind to that, I wanted more dirt roads, I wanted to see things. I got back onto the road I remember as 130 and road some of the best asphalt I've even been on. Lots of curves, no cops, it was a blast. I found Hwy 24, and headed southish. These were great asphalt roads, but I wanted dirt! I turned towards Weed, as I knew this road went into the forest. On my way through Weed I passed a cafe. In front of it were adventure bikes like mine. KTMs, BMWs, etc... They probably belonged to the people that had invited me up here previously. I had no idea I would be up here this same weekend, it was by chance. I should have gone in and said "hi". Maybe rode with them. No. I got this weird tunnel vision. I saw dirt ahead, I wanted to opportunity to prove I could ride these roads. To who? I have no idea. Nobody was watching. And my own cocky self knew I could do it...
I spent the next 2 hours riding forest road in various forms of decay. I had absolutely no problems, the road were great. Not even close to going down in the mud, the dirt, the rocks, and the scenery was spectacular. I remember photos on AdvRider, of motorcyclists posing with livestock who own the roads. I laughed a bit in my helmet at the silly cows. I grew tired. I programmed a route in my GPS to take me out of the forest. It wanted me to backtrack. Fuuuuuuck thaaaaat! I wanted new roads to take me out. I tried various methods of coaxing the Zumo to take me out of the forest with route type alterations and waypoints. I updated recently, I was sure these roads were all old, and of similar condition. I was wrong.
I remember going to a forestry gate. I had to get off my bike, and open the gate. I didn't want to let cattle through so I kept an eye on them. I locked the gate and remounted and was off. I followed the poorly planned trail on my GPS, choosing various sides of forks and what not. I was making progress out of the forest and towards 24 again. I followed the route straight into what could only be described as 'the wrong way'. I remember it. I passed through this archway, there was a numbered sign marking the road. I figured it was okay, this road was indicated to go through, take a turn, and get me to another road that would go to the highway.
This road was more technical than previous roads. It was much rockier. I kept my speed up, I didn't falter. It didn't occur to me that this road wasn't a road. It was marked! It was somewhat recently used. I did notice that the jeep tracks became grassier as I went on, indicating less usage. I didn't care as long as there were tracks. I went down many tough obstacles, I just wanted out of here, I didn't want to go back, I didn't want to have to do those again. Who's to say that a different road wouldn't be this back or worse? Would have to re-ride all that I had ridden? No. I always heard "don't out ride your sight line" and I spent the whole day trying to not to do that. I remember entering the nightmare area. I came over a hill and was like "fuuuuuuuuu” I had to stop. Stop Stop Stop.... I stopped and promptly fell over. Shit. So much for my perfect day....
I had to stop because ahead of me was a small ravine. The road was washed out. There was a ditch in the middle of the road, and on the other side of this ditch was a near vertical slope. There was also a big rock right between. I meanwhile had fallen on GSA hell. I was sitting on top of a bunch of fuckin baseball sized rocks. What I had noted earlier as something difficult to maneuver the GSA over. I manhandled the GSA back up and turn it away from the ravine, and fell over again. I stopped to rest and take a photo.
I remember defending larger bikes off-road in another thread. Yeah, fuck that, lol. This shit may not look like much, and probably isn't for a dirt bike; for the GSA? At high altitude? It's painful. I had to make a plan... I really, really didn't want to go back, the slope I just came down seemed worse going up. I look around and I found a 4 wheeler path around the mouth of the ravine, and a steep slope up and out of the gully. It seems like I could make it.
I manhandled the GSA more, and I got it into the gully. I fucked up on the clutch and throttle control a bit, but I made it in, and I put my front tire right ever so slightly into the shallow ravine I had hoped to avoid. Fuuuuuuuu.....
It was around this time I realized I was thirsty... and that the altitude was killing me. Manhandling the GSA had ate up my energy. I don't know how long it took to get out of this gully/ravine, but I do know that the number of times I had to lift the GSA was in the double digits. I finally got it up the steep slope. I had chosen to keep going forward on this road because. 1. The GPS indicated this road went all the way through, and 2. The road on the other side looked ‘okay’. At this point I'm exhausted, after I got the bike to the top of the gully on the other side, I'm wasted, I get the bike to the road portion, get off, and go lay on my jacket to rest. I get back up and decide, "I need to get out of here and get a drink". I hop on and start riding. This road wasn't so bad. It was better than being in a ditch, and it was better than the area before the ditch. I notice my riding ability is diminished due to exhaustion. WHAM!
The engine catches a boulder hiding in the grass. I didn't even see it. I'm thrown off the bike, my helmet hits a rock, and my body is thrown onto more rocks. I'm lying there staring at the sky. Fuck. Fuck it. I guess at this point I should mention that despite my stupidity, I am wearing full gear. Armored pants, jacket, motocross boots, and helmet.
I hop up, unscathed, mostly. I pick the heavy bike up again, hop on and try again. I make it down the road a bit and have another "Stop, stop, stop" moment. And then I fall over, again, for the last time. I stopped because I had another ravine, actually probably the same ravine in front of me. It was a rocky mofo, if my bike went in, I’d never get it out. I fell over in powdery dirt. After I fell over again for the umpteenth time, I start scouting around. The alternate path seems rocky but passable.
I try to get my bike up again. I cannot. My muscles are obliterated. My shoulders, legs, arms, back, useless, it doesn't help that the dirt is like baby powder, and the bike is slightly against a slope. Shit. Okay... CELLPHONE! I guess I should talk about cellphone coverage. There isn't any. I did not know this. I did not know in 2012, there are large inhabited areas of the United States where cellphone coverage isn't just spotty, it isn't there. I was not aware. I mean, I was aware that early on in this trip there was no coverage; I just thought it was spotty, and I was in the wrong spot.
Not aware of this, I decide the first thing I should do is swallow my pride and call for help. I figured that if I got to the top of the large hill that I was next to, I could angle my phone line of sight with the distant cell tower and get signal. I turn on the bike's GPS, and mark its location. I knew that when you go up a hill, you don't always go down and hit the same spot. I figured by leaving the bikes GPS on, with night quickly falling, it would be able to find the bike again with the glow. I go up and get near the top of the hill, there’s a fence, and I don't want to cross it. I try for signal, I try yelling, no luck on either. I go down again. And as predicted, I end up nowhere near my bike. I do see the ravine, and I walk down it because I know my bike is at the other end of it. Fuuuuu, it's some of the worst terrain I've ever crossed, it’s like Satan beat a ditch in the ground with his dick. I eventually get back to my bike. I notice that the GPS indicates that the 'road' that I was supposed to travel, is actually the bit of hell that I just crossed.
I'm going to have to walk out of here, it finally dawned on me. I do not want to sleep here. I don’t think rescue is "on its way". I have to walk out of this fucking forest. And I'm sure as hell not going backwards, or down that "road". I noted earlier that my final dropping place was a fork I grab the bike's GPS, lock my helmet to the bike, grab a multitool and flashlight out of the bike's tool get and set down the lesser of two evils. Here's my bike before I abandoned it.
The darkness fell QUICK. Pretty it went black after I left the bike. Great! I work on plotting my route; I have to walk east about 15 miles to get to the closest town. I know there are ranches, I know there are hunter/campers, I hope that I’ll find one sooner than later. So I'm walking down this path and the first things I noticed are: More hidden boulders in grass, fallen trees across the trail; I would have never been able to ride out of here. If the boulders didn't get me, the trees would have.
I find two things in the darkness. One was a black hose running along the ravine; the second was power-lines. I follow both and I end up at another fork. I take the path more easterly. I had decided that east was the way to go.
There’s at least one small "town" on the map that way, and there's a highway. This path eventually leads me to a location eventually known to me as the "gentry complex". Black hose led me to a jack pump and a modern-ish fracking tank. There were also two white buildings here. I see one of the buildings has a modern power meter. I am hopeful, but it appears abandoned. I yell out, stated I need help, and then I proceed to cautiously explore one of the buildings. I glance inside. Wooden floors… Don't want to walk on those. I shine the light around the house, nothing of interest, not even plumbing. The other building is a two story and on a valley edge I think, I don't want any part of that, I do not explore it. I try to see if there's water in the fracking tank, but it's not promising.
I walk further east, I find two more buildings, these are collapsed, and stock pens. I find that it's difficult to travel east from this point. I change GPS units; I go for the TomTom app on the iPhone. It had me walk west from here, not backtracking to a different road. I trudge up a hill. I realize this is the same hill I climbed earlier, and this is the road I couldn't get to because of fencing. I follow the fencing and "road" up the hill till I'm on top. When I get to the top of the hill I find a clearing obviously created by fire.
I spent a long time on this hill. I said earlier I was in full gear, including boots. Motocross boots aren't made for walking. They've already worn a hole in one of my heels at this point. I see aircraft from the top of the hill, most likely military. I try using my flashlight and iPhone lamp to see an SOS. No luck though.
Eventually I make it to the 'road' TomTom is directing me to. Only it's not a road, it's another fence line. I constantly have to cross downed trees, and I'm desperately thirsty. At this one every couple of hundred feet I've been laying down on the ground to catch my breath. While I'm in this section of hell I finally fix my socks and UnderArmour pants to protect my blistered and bloody heel. Its pitch black, I stop to rest and eventually fall asleep for a little while here.
The snap of an elk throws me into alert state again, and I hop up and start walking. I examine the fencing, I want off this hill. I find a spot where a tree as pushed it down and hop off of it. Eventually I find a clearing; it's the ACTUAL FUCKING ROAD. Tomtom assumed I was on this the whole time, it was not the case, and I was a few hundred feet from it the whole time. I'm overjoyed. Yes, it's rocky, but at least there are no more downed trees.
I hear a noise. It's a cow. It's a lot of cows. They have to get water from somewhere, it’s not naturally occurring here on the surface. It'll probably be on this road. I continue my journey and I find a black hose. I've been thinking these hoses are filled with water ever since I saw the fracking tank. I've yet to find a way into them; I didn't want to cut them as I assume the water on the other end of them is finite.
This black hole eventually led me to some cattle pens. I see two big storage tanks. I move quickly towards them, there’s a ladder. I climb the ladder... The water is 3 feet low from the top. No way to get to it. I dismount the tower, I illuminate the pens. There are animal troughs. You ever been so thirsty you would drink anything?
I find a way into the pens, and I shine a light of the water troughs. Mother of god... There's about 6 inches deep of algae on the bottom of them... Well it's probably non-toxic in that case. They are also full of insects, alive and not alive. Then there's the cattle fur. Well, the cows are still alive. I disassemble my flashlight, I turn it into a tube, I place my head wrap on one end of it and I place it into the cleanest section of water I can find. I drink until I can't any longer and then some. I shake the light dry, and reassemble and reignite it.
Well... Water is taken care of for a while. I figure it's probably been about 7 hours before this since the last time I took on fluids. I set off for the road again. Now that thirst isn't a concern for the moment, my mind starts wandering. The cows, they are following me, and have been for a while. What about bulls? What if they charge me? I know nothing about cattle. Next, other animals, I know elk and deer and what not can attack, but it's not like I'm covering in doe urine. Black bears? They are usually pussies. Mountain lions? That is a concern. Fuck it. If I've survived this long, and an animal gets me, it was meant to be.
I come across a dead end, sort of. The GPS has me back tracking a bit to get back on route, and on the road ahead of me is a no trespassing sign. My new hydration has me paranoid for some reason. I end up trying to get back to my route east; I end up in a canyon that dead ended at water. The water is dirty and the mud is cattle hooved. I decide not to drink this. I climb out of the canyon and move towards the ‘road’ I actually find markers for the road; it's another road but not a road deal. Rough.
I SEE SOMETHING! LIGHT! GEOMETRY! It's a house! I double time it across dead tree after dead tree, slopes, rocks, etc. I'm so happy, I have a goal! I'll move to it, and maybe find help! I don't even care if I get shot. I move for a light period of time towards this. I reach a clearing. I've been following the moon. The moon, which had be absent the entire night, had risen up to fool me. Fuck it. I march onwards. I later found out there were houses in this general area, but it didn’t see them in the dark. One of them was supposedly on the other end of the canyon which I climbed out of.
So I trudge through most woods, fallen trees, and rocks. I find another hose. This one had a spigot near me. I open it and the water is very, very clean. I drink as much as I can and then I follow the hose to it’s tanks. I climb the tanks again and look inside. The water in these tanks look much cleaner than the first. I find another spigot and drink some more. Finally, I leave this set of cattle pens and continue east. I trudge through more woods, fallen trees, less rocks, and a fence or two. I eventually clear this ranch and I find a shitty road. This shitty road leads me to a better road, Pinon Draw Rd. I follow this road and I notice power lines and buried telephone line. I examine the telephone boxes to see if there is an emergency phone or some way to tap into it, but no luck.
I keep following the road till I get to a bend. I see a glance of light in the distance south of the road. Is it a reflection from the damn moon again? Yes actually, but flash my flashlight down range. SHIT a ton of reflections! It’s a Camper! And a Pickup! I double time it towards the campsite. I don’t even care if they shoot me or call the police or what. I knock on the door. No answer. I panic…. What if there’s nobody here, what if they won’t answer? I hear a cough. A mostly naked eastern European sounding man answers. “Wha..do you want?” I explain that I’m sorry to bother him but I had a crash 10 miles away and I really need assistances. He shuts the door and 10 minutes or so, him wife and him show up clothed. It was probably about midnight at this point, I felt bad knowing they would probably be hunting at daybreak.
They agree to drive me to nearby pinion which is only 5 miles away at this point. And they do. I thank them, and offer some money for the trouble, they decline, and leave. So now I’m in this little town. In the dark. Fuck it. I start cold knocking on doors. The first two houses do not answer. I see a lit house at the end of the street. I jog to it, I caught the lady of the house right when she was going to sleep. She was understandably frightened, she woke her son. I explained my situation, and he vouched for me. They allow me to use their phone to call the sheriff who will be there in 1.5 hours. I also summoned my fiancÚ to Cloudcroft. She apparently had to call off a search party that she had dispatched 20 minutes earlier.
While I was waiting, the family allowed me to wait at their house, and they gave me water, coffee, and cookies. I am very grateful to them, and I need to send them a gift still. The deputy finally arrives, he was woken up after the SAR team was recalled, and he had to drive from Alamogordo to Pinon. Apparently crime is not an issue in these parts. He took my story, info, and pinpointed the location of the bike on the map. We had a nice chat, he indicated that the road I was on might have been closed by the Forest Service, which might have meant a fine from them, though I checked a forest map since then, and I found it to be marked as open to vehicles that are 50” or less in width. It’s just a shit road. Forest Service doesn’t really have much man power anyways.
He drives me back to Cloudcroft, as he’s the closest thing to a taxi in these parts. We chat a bit, we wrap it up and meet my fiancÚ. She and I drive back to Alamogordo and eat. It’s probably 4 am at this point. I find out that eating hurts A LOT. So we decide to go to the hospital, since it would probably be good to be checked out anyways. I was just extraordinarily dehydrated. They give me a few bags of IV, run tests, check blood, ect. Then they tell me to follow up with a doctor if my cow water gives me a lethal amoeba later on… Really weren’t much help, oh well.
I sleep the rest of the day on Saturday, then I go back to recover the bike on Sunday with the FJ (which was successful. I dropped it at the dealership, called the insurance company, and will let them deal with it. It wasn’t particularly damaged. It was just hard to get out of there.
The only thing I really have to say about recovery is it was a bitch, and I had to do it by myself. The Otero Co Sheriff’s department said they would send a deputy earlier in the day to meet me in Cloudcroft at noon, when I go there, they said do it myself. I mostly just wanted a deputy there for communications, because they have access to the repeaters.
Later on, when I was about a half hour later getting out of there then I said I would be, because the roads were bad, so my fiancÚ who was waiting in town called the local mountain deputy, who then face palmed when he heard that dispatch just said “do it yourself”. He said that it would probably take me until 7 or 8, and at 8 he would take her to go find me.
I actually made it out of the woods 15 minutes earlier that I said I would, but it took me a half hour to get back within cell range, which I hadn’t expected. When I was riding with the deputy previously I had reception much early, I guess because of fancy widgets in his truck, so that threw me off.
Any ways... What have I learned?
Uh,don't rely on your GPS for dirt road navigation, use a forest map, it'll lead you down the same shit road, but it'll feel better.
Don't rely solely on your cellphone to get you out of trouble.
Carry food, water, survival shit, and maybe camping gear with you.
Especially bring water.
Carry a pair of shoes/clothes that don't weigh 15 pounds.
Don't ride alone if you can help it.
Get a satellite locator because that might've helped.
Try and tell people where you're going and when you'll be back clearly.
Don't ride a 600# adventure bike on roads that good 'ol boys say "I wouldn't ride a 4-wheeler on that road".
Airplanes don't give a fuck/can't see.
Don't crash into rocks, if you do, you'll feel sore for a few days.
Probably some other stuff.
Oh, and if a particular route isn't working out, it isn't likely to START working out later on.
Here's a video excerpt of my recovery, just picking the bike up with a winch, it was slightly entertaining. Like I said, recovery was miserable. If I could find anyone that was dumb enough to go with me, I would have. I dropped the damn thing like 3 or 4 times trying to turn it around to face the trailer. (there was a trench dead ahead of it, and stupid rocks all around it, and the ground wasn't level). I couldn't operate the winch controller and hold the bike up to get it on the trailer, so I had to ride it up, which was hard with how sore I was. I couldn't pick the bike up by myself at this point because my muscles were shot. I took a little bit of frustration out on a small tree, which had been dogging me.
Fuck that tree. My GoPro always fails before it gets any of the good stuff. It's like a rule. Like the drive there in with the FJ was gnarly as hell. GoPro missed all that because it was allegedly full. I cleared a bunch of stuff, and half way through recovery it's full again, and then it's also corrupts half the take. Oh well...
Also, I need to get a damn wireless winch controller, why don't I have one of those...