Sunday, August 22, 2010

Adventures in water crossing - Part 3

Since I haven't had much time to ride this season, when opportunity finally knocked several weeks ago during a period of fine weather, I jumped on the steed and headed for an evening cruise. In my haste to profit from this good fortune, I neglected to strap on my tool/spares bag which is wise insurance when riding out in Lanark County. Ah, but what could possibly go wrong? This was an evening stroll, not an adventure ride!

After a spin up to White Lake I decided to take a diversion back through Sleepy Hollow Rd, a nice unopened track that parallels White Lake Road through the woods. I've ridden it many times. A bit rough, it hides the occasional puddle but is otherwise quite innocuous.

About halfway along the trail is a puddle between two little slopes that I've crossed many times. It's only a few inches deep. However, this time, just as I slowed down and approached, I noticed a beaver swimming across in front of me. Uh oh. Couldn't stop, wasn't going fast enough to get through, and as I wallowed perfectly into the middle of the where the beaver just was, my front wheel sank into the mire. Crap! The water was about 2 feet deep! I came off on the right but my foot kept going down... down... where is the bottom?! Before I could stop it, my bike tipped over, the tailpipe filled with water, and the engine quit. I was up to my hips in soft gluey muck, struggling to keep my KLR above water. But with each heave, I just drove my legs deeper into the muck.

That morning I'd cut and stacked about 5 mature trees worth of firewood. After 6 hours of cutting, I was bagged. It was all I could do at this point to right my bike. Five times I deadlifted it before I was able to balance it upright and wiggle around to the front. By this time, the sun was setting and I had only about 45 minutes of light left. I managed to winch it out of the puddle by grabbing the spoke on the front wheels. Mud everywhere, I was soaked, and the deer flies and mosquitoes were fierce.

Frustration at my own idiocy drove me to push the bike about 200m down the trail. Mercifully, it was generally downhill, but eventually I hit a slope that I couldn't push the bike up and decided to just walk out. Incredibly I got a cell signal and was able to call my brother to bail me out. While walking out, I met a guy on a quad who graciously gave me a tow the rest of the way. The bike was flooded and not a chance of starting it with a dead battery that I had meant to change all season.

Next day, I disassembled my bike to inspect the damage. Incredibly, nothing serious besides water in the tailpipe all the way to the head. Once I drained that and installed a new battery and changed the oil, it fired up no problem. If I'd had my tools, I could probably have fixed it on the trail in a pinch. Lesson learned. Still, I'm amazed at how rugged the KLR is. Despite these tales of abuse, I really do try to look after it and perhaps in recognition of that, it rewards me with faithful performance.

Clayton 2B

Despite all the fine weather we've had lately, I've hardly touched any bike--motorized or not--for the past few months. Just been too busy this year. Today I had to break the spell. So, mist notwithstanding, I headed out for a little cruise on the KLR as a reward for cutting brush and firewood all morning. But, where to go?

Clouds seemed threatening up towards Pakenham, so naturally that's the way I headed. My bike led me, Ouija board-like, towards White Lake and before I knew it my knobbies were turning onto the California Road. Might as well go along for the ride by this point, so there I was, bouncing along this lovely favourite trail with fresh woods air in my face. It was almost a let-down ending up in the Tatlock core, battling traffic and waiting for lights to change. But got through rush-hour OK and figured a peek at the marble quarry was in order. Much expanded excavation since the last time I was there. It's a pretty nifty place to check out.

Procrastinating my way back to Almonte, I thought I should finally check out the 2B concession just off the Tatlock Rd. before Gemmill's General Store. It's alway's intrigued me, but being so close to it I've always figured "next time". Much to my surprise, it didn't end in a private laneway like so many other dead-end concessions in the area. On the contrary, there's a delicious old road sneaking off into the woods. I couldn't resist. I road about 2-3 more kms before my nagging sense of better judgement won the debate and I turned around to head home before dark.

The track seems reasonably well travelled, although I saw no new tire tracks which suggests it actually goes somewhere useful and may even be a through-route. A look at Google Maps suggests many possibilities. There's a maze of lakes and swamps in that area, and the satellite imagery hints tantalizingly at many possible tracks through the wilderness. This is a route where you'll want to bring a GPS and a repair kit for sure.

I'll be checking out this one again at my earliest opportunity. It looks like there's about 8-15km of track to follow before you come out on a dead-end side road off a 90 degree corner on the Bellamy Mills Rd. There were many well-travelled side tracks to explore as well. I suspect they head to hunting or logging areas. It's rideable with dual-sport tires, but I would advise knobbies if it's wet. There are some good ruts, rocks and gravel that you'll need to wiggle around, and the trail undulates with puddles in the dips. It's about half a grade rougher than the California Road, and no worse than any of the off-road trails around the K&P, like the E series.

Hunting season is coming fast, so if you want to explore in Lanark County, you basically have until the end of September and then you'll want to paint your bike orange, wear a safety vest, and stay off the trails.