by 4:30 I was out the door of my apartment. still very dark and kind of chili for my comfort level, but not too bad. just one day ago, or to be more precise, 8 hours ago, I had this idea that was going to be one of my most adventurous events to date. i wanted to hike up a fourteen thousand foot mountain, and then ride my mountain unicycle all the way down. the trip would involve carrying a 20 pound unicycle and 20 pound pack for about 3.5 miles with a 3500 ft elevation gain. it shouldn’t be bad, i had all day to do it.
I had climbed several 14ers this summer and had a pretty good idea what I was in for…. except for the unicycling part. I had googled around the night before researching a good mountain to climb, and one that would allow bikes. I know a unicycle is not really a “bike”… but I’m pretty sure that the spirit of the law makes me a bike, and i would rather be grouped with bikes, than hikers (nothing against hikers, i just really like bikes). i found a list of peaks created by some guy who claims to have ridden down on his unicycle. i wouldn’t be the first to do this but who cares…right? after some light comparisons between the peaks, i decided on gray’s peak. this would be the one for me. 14270 feet about 3.75 miles one direction and about a 3000 foot elevation gain from trail head to peak. perfect.
by 6:30 i was on the dirt road that leads to gray’s peak. a small rough dirt road. the directions said that if you have a low clearance vehicle, you might want to park at the start of the road and walk the 3.5 mile to the trail head. ok, but i’ll just drive a little further up the road and park on the shoulder when i need to. one mile in i see a guy hiking up the road. sucker!! haha… i bounced and scraped along as i past this cautious fellow in the pale morning light. funny thing was, every time i drove over a rock or passed a ditch… i thought to myself, “ok this is it, i should stop here”. as soon as i thought that, the road would mellow out and i could press onward.
it wasn’t long before i came to a sign that read, “1.4 miles to the trail head.” as soon as i passed this sign with a certain amount of “feel good” the road tilted upward and curved to the left. it was one lane at this point and within a few hundred feet of the curve, a huge rut was cut into the road by a season rain and run off. oh crap. i glanced in the mirror, and because of the curve and steepness of the road, it seemed too difficult to backdown at least in this car it was. so, onward i drove. the rut was angled and there were at least a couple rocks that were in all the wrong places. i angled my car and gunned it over the rut, not even able to really see where i was heading. woohoo! i was successful!!! damn, this lowrider civic made it up the hill and over the rut… sweet. i was pretty happy at this point. the road was mellow for the remainder or the drive… at least it seemed mellow compared to what i had just gone through.
the trailhead was almost full, nothing but 4×4 trucks and suv’s …and now one civic. one badass civc!
i don’t know what time it was, but it must have been early, because the sun had not yet made it over the valley, and it was still pretty cold. i packed my stuff and strapped my unicycle on to my small commuter backpack, and just as i put on the pack, i decided that should probably use the toilet before i spend all day on this mountain…. especially since it was mostly above tree-line. if you know what I mean.
i took off the pack and headed over to the friendly near by public toilet. i really hate public mountain restrooms because they are usually stinky dirty, and dark. much to my surprise, this one wasn’t half bad. clean and not stinky with a good amount of light…it’s going to be a good day i thought. the door lock was a little weird but i managed to jiggle it around and made sure the latch went into the opposing hole. it was a good idea that i decided to stop in, because by the time i finished locking the door i really had to go. actually it seemed like i didn’t have a moment to spare. as i sat there doing my business… i could hear people meandering around the parking lot getting ready for their hike. after a while i could kind of imagine where people were and i could hear one guy talking as he was getting near the restroom…then silence. suddenly with out hesitation he yanked the door open busting the stupid worthless lock that was held on by what must have been stripped rusted out screws. I sat there with a surprised look on my face (i’m only guessing i looked surprised.. because i was in slight shock)
“whoa!! sorry!”, he said as he closed the door.
“it’s alright, man no worry” i said in my haha-nothing-just-happened-voice.
son of a bitch! i hate when that happens. it’s not that it happens a lot, but it does happen, and i don’t think i have ever been on this end of it before. as i left the restroom he was no where to be found. i’m guessing he wanted nothing to do with an after-conversation. and neither did i.
i quickly got back to the car, got all my shit together and started hiking up the trail. the trail starts out very steep. my violent pace was sooned governed by my non-aclimated lungs. after some heart pumping pain… i finally settled into a slower sustainable pace and continued up to my destination. after about a half mile or so, i realized that i didn’t pack my shin guards. fuck! there was no way i was going to risk riding down this thing without my guards. i turned around and headed back to the car.
i passed a bunch of people on the way down, and most said nothing about the unicycle that was conspicuously strapped to the back of my backpack. one lady however, stopped and asked me what i was going to attempt. she was utterly impressed when i told her my plan. it was cool that she had the vision to see how ambitious my goal was and to think that i could do it… even though i hadn’t really even started.
as i got back to the trailhead, a couple hikers asked me if i knew of any water around here. i told them no, but i had some in my car that i could give them. they followed me back and accepted my water and off they went. no questions about my unicycle… just thanks. i got my shin guards and headed back up the trail. as i entered the trail i noticed a forest service sign that symbolically said that the following was not allowed: bikes!!!!! wtf?
i was going to go anyway, but remembered the spirit of the law and decided to go home and look for a new mountain. dejected, i walked back to the car. a group of asian tourist were gathered around taking pictures of themselves. one of them spotted me and started toward me.
“hey, excuse me!”
“yes”,i said, fully expecting to answer a round of unicycling questions.
“can you take a picture of us?”
i took a bunch of pictures of them with several of their cameras. each picture was reviewed by them … i guess for quality purposes.
“thank you very much!”
“you’re welcome, have a nice day!”
i headed back to my car, drove the long road back home. i had one more day to try another.