Sweetwater Outing: by Chas Moser
What a great outing. Twenty rigs plus a few day riders. Approximately half the rigs were from the Sacramento TBSA chapter and the other half from the Diablo chapter including friends of the Diablo chapter. Many of us rode on four days. Chas put on 235 miles over four days of riding. The Sweetwater area was new to most of the Diablo riders, and they were of course extremely impressed with the bountiful riding and scenery that this area has to offer.
With so many riders, there were multiple rides going out each day. A few of the 'high lights' of several of these rides will be discussed. On one of the Friday rides, six of us were resting at a split in the trail just below the timberline between Wheeler Peak and the historic ghost town of Belfort and nearby Boulder Flat when one of us spotted the movement of a large animal amongst the trees some distance from us. Turned out to be a very large bear. We watched the bear for what appeared to be about five minutes as it climbed up the precipitous shaley mountainside opposite us. The bear would pause every so often, turn around and look at us, then continue on its way until it eventually disappeared over the crest of the mountain. That was a sight to remember.
On Sunday, Keith and Chas were showing four Diablo riders what the riding in this area was all about, including the single track along Desert Creek and the neat riding and beautiful vistas up at 11,000+ feet elevation near Mt Patterson when the worst thing imaginable (other than an injury) occurred. One of the Diablo bikes, a Honda CR250 two stroke locked up solid while attempting to climb one of the steep shaley hillclimbs. The engine suffered something worse than a simple seizure, i.e. the crank or something was locked up solid and wouldn't budge. Fortunately neutral was available and the bike would at least coast along. Several abortive attempts were made to tow/push the stricken bike to known trails all to no avail. Stuck in 'No Man's Land'. Following considerable discussion and thought about how to proceed, a collective decision was made to attempt to traverse Sweetwater Canyon cross country from the top near Mt. Patterson at 11,000-plus feet downward to the bottom towards camp. Indeed our campsite at Sweetwater summit was observable far in the distance from this vantage point.
Bear in mind that the remote eastern slope of this mountain range is extremely steep with no trails much less roads in existence. The steep descents certainly were not for the faint of heart, and oh yes, another of the Diablo bikes made the descent sans front brakes!! The front brake pads on Roger's new-to-him KTM had previously fallen out somewhere up at the top. On the way down, numerous choices were made as to the best or correct routes to take. Keep in mind that we were well past the point of no return and that there were no guarantees that we could even make it to the bottom. With much trepidation at every turn and every choice made, we were overjoyed to run across a goat trail complete with switchbacks near the bottom. And then suddenly came across a habitated cabin - will wonders never cease? The fellows at the cabin at first looked at us in disbelief, believing that traversing Sweetwater Canyon via trailbike was impossible. We all rested at the cabin enjoying the hospitality. Beer was provided to quench our thirst and they even volunteered to truck the ailing Honda back to camp, still some five or six miles farther on a four wheel drive road.
The Saturday evening potluck was wonderful as usual especially with the participation of both TBSA chapters. Chas is especially indebted to Dan Kelly for exclusively and secretly providing him with a nice juicy twenty ounce T-bone steak. Dan apparently felt sorry that Chas had missed out on the steak feed at the Georgetown outing. Thanks again, Dan. Paul Boettin and crew did a bang-up job with the pancake/sausage breakfast Sunday morning. Way to go, Paul and crew. On a final note, Paul was also in charge of making margaritas for the group prior to the potluck.
The weather for the most part was decent, save for some rain early on and a mini tornado that ripped through camp on Monday. The dust storm caught everybody by surprise, immediately depositing thick layers of dust and debris through every open window and vent.
Sweetwater Photos - Day 1 - Friday (pictures by Vicki Hepler, unless otherwise noted)
** Click here to Go to Part B (Day 2)