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Old 02-10-2008, 11:07 AM   #1
DirtyDog OP
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Dead Ends and Trespassing in AZ- Reno Pass

Mods- I know this reads like a ride report, but I intentionally placed it in the West Regional because it has local implications. I hope you agree.

Well, glnn313 (Glenn) and I hoped to make an ambitious approach to the Four Peaks Cleanup event (thread here) on 2/9/08. The plan was to peak Mt.Ord and come down the back side to hook into the Eastbound section of Reno Pass to Hwy 188 at Punkin Center. From there, after 1 mile of pavement, we’d reconnect with forest road 409/66/422 to ride the ridge line (Pigeon Springs Trail) and hook into 143 to descend upon the trash cleanup efforts.

Great plan huh? Well it wasn’t to be. Several mistakes in planning, mapping, etc. hindered this perfect loop.

My first stumble in planning involved snow. We were expecting balmy temps in the valley but when you ascend one of the tallest peaks in the region (+7,000 feet), you can expect some snow. My scouting efforts consisted of looking at Four Peaks from the 202 on my commute home Friday. No snow visible- sweet. Well, our route included an ascent on Mt. Ord from the North- the shaded side. Therefore, we rode in snow and ice.

Fortunately, a truck had preceded our ascent, so there were two packed ruts from which to choose. I learned early to pick the inside rut, as I nearly sent my bike into the abyss.

This was my first real snow riding experience, so it was new and exciting for a while. Then we reached the end of the ruts. Apparently, the truck turned around and the driver hiked on foot. “Cool,” we thought, “now we won’t have to worry about the ruts and the riding will be easier.”

Wrong. The ride then turned into a sweaty, hyperventilating death slog (for me anyhow). I was only able to bite off about 50 yards of trail at a time before either a) digging a trench in the snow or b) becoming exhausted from pushing my bike or running beside it. The fatigue was exacerbated by the fact that I had to lay the bike over and pull it out of the snow ruts every time I got stuck. This was much less troublesome for Glenn, as he had a brand new set of Dunlops while I had a nearly-done Maxxis. It was quite evident which was the better snow tire.

My snowy ascent ended less than mile from the peak. Glenn was able to make it to the top, only to find that our planned trail for descent was either not visible or didn’t exist. There was a gate preventing further exploration, as the peak is topped with radio equipment. Dead End #1.

We tuck tail and head down the mountain. A bit easier to descend in the snow with momentum, but still a bit treacherous. I got a bit too comfortable in a shaded corner where ice had formed on rock and I did a faceplant when my front tire went out from under me. Somehow, though I crashed to my left, I injured my right hand and wrist and bruised my right hip. I shook off the initial shock and snapped a pic.

We eventually escaped the snow and made it to the bottom of the mountain. My forks were severely tweaked and my bars bent. We made repairs and slabbed it around to 188 at Punkin Center to hook back into our planned route.

We found our desired road (409) and headed west. Where 409 joined with 66 proved to be Dead End #2. FR66 is a hiking trail. This irritated me because there is little consistency between national forest maps- particularly designation between a motorized trail and a non-motorized trail. Oh well. This bouldered stream crossing would have been a nice challenge.

So we had successfully hit dead ends on both legs of our planned route. Time to improvise. After perusing the maps, we decided to take Reno Pass back to Hwy 87. We fumbled around trying to make a shortcut connection to Reno Pass from Dead End #2, but were unsuccessful. A quad trail led us to within a few hundred meters of the desired road, but a creek bed and a steep, 50’ mesa stood in our way. Dead End #3. We headed back to Hwy 188 and had some sights along the way. Camp Reno and an old homestead provided some photo ops.

Back on Hwy 188, we headed N and hooked into 491 (Reno Pass) and headed West. I had heard that this was an extreme 4x4 excursion. That is an understatement- it’s a goat trail.

Snowmelt provided trickling water down the trail as well as numerous creek crossings. The photos never really capture the extremity of the terrain, so you’ll just have to trust me. It was very challenging. At times, we were up to the pegs in mini, narrow ravines and nearly 100% of the trail was off-camber and rocky. Where it wasn’t rocky, it was hard but loose decomposed granite.

We slogged onward and upward for what seemed like a blissful eternity. Near the top of out ascent, the terrain breached my skill level and Glenn had to ride my bike up a short section after I failed three times. Hopefully he will contribute those choice, humbling images.

At one plateau, Glenn pointed out that the trail down the backside of Mt. Ord did in fact exist. Looks a bit steep for my tastes.

We crested the ascent and officially reached Reno Pass (4,700 ft). The east approach was 8 miles for an elevation gain of 2,400 feet. The rest of the way should be downhill and easy, right?

Well, it was downhill. On the west side we had a lot more creek crossings, some of which consisted of basketball-sized boulders. We powered through. My hand was really aching by this point. We stopped to take a break for a few minutes. I was out of water and resorted to drinking from the creek. I figured that it was fresh snowmelt and would likely be safe. It was a rugged area and there were no signs of cattle or the like. The water was damn good- crystal clear and ice cold.

We carried on and made a descent of about 3 miles when we came to this.

I generally don’t trespass, but we were faced with an easy decision. We’d just ridden through about 12 miles of extremely rugged terrain over the course of 3 hours. It was now after 4pm (~2 hrs till sundown). We’re drinking creek water. We have no food left. We’re moving forward, not turning back. The fence to the right of the gate was nonexistent and provided plenty of room to pass, so we did. We can see the highway. Were only a few miles from pavement. Yes, we’re trespassing, unfortunately. No other road on our map will take us to the highway aside from doing a 180 and heading back.

From here, the terrain is pretty easy, aside from following a wide, rocky streambed for some time. The road becomes maintained and we motor toward the highway.

Then we come to the super gate. As I feared- we are at the Bushnell Tanks gate. I’ve seen it from the highway. Big, tightly secured, and always closed. Apparently there is a re-vegetation project due to fire. (You can see some of the burned trees in the images above.)

As Glenn inspects the gate for ways around it while I snap pics, an F250 screams up to the gate and skids to a stop. Some dude who couldn’t be more than 20 yrs old in a TX Longhorns cap jumps out and immediately begins verbally accosting Glenn- “Who the F are you and what the F are you doing??!! etc.” Glenn can barely get a word in edgewise because the dude is cussing us for trespassing. He wasn’t really interested in our explanation, just wanted to berate us. Everything about his vocabulary and demeanor was threatening.

He mistakenly assumed that we had just entered the gate from the highway side and that we had ignored the signage. We tried to explain that we had come from the other side of the mountain via Reno Pass and his response was that we should go back the way we came. I insisted that we would not and that we were coming out the gate, not heading back. I mentioned the issues of fuel and provisions, but he wasn’t interested. He continued to make personal attacks and cuss us. Apparently he is somehow affiliated with a lease on the property (for what, he wouldn’t say- there were no signs of livestock). Nothing on the signage mentioned anything besides forest service and re-vegetation, so we weren’t really concerned with his authoritative influence on us other than his tone.

He threatened to call the forest service, which I welcomed. I was pretty sure that when our story was slowly and rationally explained to the proper authority, they would understand the tradeoff between trespassing on established roads and a potential rescue mission for two stranded motorcyclists. But reason and rational explanation were falling on deaf ears in this instance.

The standoff finally came to this- he was to leave and come back in 15 min. If we were still there, he was going to call the forest service. This was fine by us. We laid each bike down and dragged them under the gate. Off we went- sore, tired, hungry, and thirsty, but alive.

This particular encounter was quite irritating to me for several reasons:
1) Since Reno Pass is SO rugged, shouldn’t it be posted on the east side that there is no outlet? I’m sure that the FS website notes the closure, but for someone like us who is just out recreating with a map- how were we to know?
2) We were faced with a decision- trespass or a dangerous retreat. I don’t regret our decision, but other riders might have turned back. All the more reason for better signage.
3) The asshat in the truck was pretty pissed. I’m afraid that a lesser-willed pair of riders might have heeded the demands to turn back. What does the forest service think about this sort of gatekeeper? I’m inclined to write the forest service, risking a ticket.

"This place fucking runs on beer, you buy the right person a beer, and you get a job, a blow, a place to sleep, whatever.
You're hot, cold, thirsty, hungry... beer will fix that.
Beer is a god damn miracle, and don't you forget it!"

DirtyDog screwed with this post 02-10-2008 at 11:24 AM
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:43 PM   #2
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:50 PM   #3
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Better signage and a call to the Forest Circus would ruin another good road. Let it go and ride it again just for spite.

Be sure the safest rule is that we should not dare to live in any scene in which we dare not die. ~Lewis Carroll~
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:53 PM   #4
DirtyDog OP
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Here are Glenn's photos- I'm posting them for him.

Edit: Well, I don't know how to post/link images on flicker, so here is a link to the gallery:
"This place fucking runs on beer, you buy the right person a beer, and you get a job, a blow, a place to sleep, whatever.
You're hot, cold, thirsty, hungry... beer will fix that.
Beer is a god damn miracle, and don't you forget it!"
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Old 02-10-2008, 03:02 PM   #5
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Well, DD, you're forgiven for not showing up to pick up trash, and in all honesty, I would rather have hung with you guys that pick up broken glass and bullet casings!

I don't have to agree with you to like you or respect you. -Anthony Bourdain
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Old 02-10-2008, 04:34 PM   #6
DirtyDog OP
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Originally Posted by Motomedic
Well, DD, you're forgiven for not showing up to pick up trash, and in all honesty, I would rather have hung with you guys that pick up broken glass and bullet casings!
But you're the better man for your selfless act. Thanks for representing.
"This place fucking runs on beer, you buy the right person a beer, and you get a job, a blow, a place to sleep, whatever.
You're hot, cold, thirsty, hungry... beer will fix that.
Beer is a god damn miracle, and don't you forget it!"
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Old 02-11-2008, 08:41 AM   #7
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Looks like you guys had a lot of fun, despite the lack of signage/closures. I bet the snow was interesting ... I haven't ridden in that stuff for quite some time. Nice pix. Too bad you didn't post this ride for others to get in on ... I can just imagine that jerk you ran into not even bothering a larger group of riders. See you on the next one.

- R
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Old 02-11-2008, 09:06 AM   #8
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Dang, nice plan. I have always like Trail 66 and it has always annoyed me that the TNF closed it to motorized use. You can blame the Arizona Trail folks for that one as they just take what they want and screw the rest of us

I would have done the same thing when you got to the super gate. Why the TNF does not add a simple sign on the East end saying Road Closed X miles ahead is beyond me. I guess it takes someone almost dying for common sense to kick in. You might want to let the TNF know about your experience.
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Old 08-02-2011, 08:21 AM   #9
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Great post. It is rough really rough in places. Since the fire the closure has restored a lot of its beauty as it was being overrun and ruined by fools. One of the tough spots an narrow off camber spot with angled erosion ditches dropping into a steep canyon was fixed by the cable company who turned part of the trail into a highway. It was a favorite trail when it warmed up as you could take a swim in Bartlett Lake run the power lines to Bushnell Tanks and over Reno Pass to Pumkin Center for lunch and then swim in Roosevelt Lake go up over Four Peaks and go home. The 92 XR 250L was perfect as it could go 160 miles on a tank. These days I'm to beat up to ride a bike so I have an off road rail. I was there in June with TRAL and the USFS and we drove all the roads out there to evaluate them for/with the USFS. I was also there Saturday looking for the trail from Four Peaks to the road that intersects 491 before the gate. No luck finding it.
I did take a few pictures
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