Monday, November 24, 2014

Tour of Idaho T1 2014: PTSD & The Search for Spot

Back at Home

It was "mission accomplished" and all was well. I had conquered the challenge and could resume my normal life. But I found that psychologically, it was a hard thing to do. Over the past several weeks (and especially during my Tour week) I had been following every detail on Martin's Tour of Idaho Facebook group. This Facebook page was where everyone posted their questions, comments and ride reports. Most importantly, it's where Martin communicated announcements, changes to the route and the progress of the guys who were riding the Tour for points. I was still following every detail. I was happy to be done, but I also felt like I wanted to go back and ride some more.

Shawn & Mike

When I last saw Shawn and Mike, it was the morning of Day 6 in Lowell. The gas station had opened late, so we were getting a late start. I got out of there as soon as I could, since I was determined to make it to Wallace that night. Shawn and Mike had decided to shorten Day 6 by only riding about 50 miles of the route for the day, then taking a highway detour up to The Lochsa Lodge. They'd stay the night there and then go to Wallace the following day, putting them one day behind me.

Mike and Shawn at Sundance LO
From what I understand, things didn't go exactly like that. I'm not sure what time they finally got going out of Lowell, but they rode the first 50 miles over the Van Camp and Fish Butte trails, and then rode up to The Lochsa Lodge. But there were no rooms available. They still had a good amount of daylight left, so they decided to keep going. They went back down US 12 and came to the same construction closure on the Saddle Camp road that had sent me on a 30-mile detour. If they had known about this closure and the route around that I had taken, they could have gone around this closure without extra time or miles, since they were coming from the other direction on Highway 12. But as it turned out, they ended up waiting at the construction site until the crew was done for the day, which was about 4 pm.

They rode all of Windy Ridge that evening and made it out to the 4th of July Creek trail head on the North Fork of the Clearwater, then turned up FS 250 and ended up staying the night, under the stars, at the Noe Creek Campground. That must have been quite a night -- the thunder and lightning storm that I went through along the state line road above Wallace also passed over them that night as they tried to sleep on the ground with no shelter. I joked with Mike later that they should have packed that abandoned raft they almost used for shelter the previous night on the Selway. Sleeping on the ground on a stormy night with no tent, sleeping bags, pillows, hair dryers... I have a feeling they didn't get much real rest that night. ;-)

Mike's new, well-ventilated boot
At first light, they hit the route again and ended up in Wallace by about 10 am. They decided to just spend a nice, restful day there and finish Day 7 the next day. They were in Wallace during the annual Huckleberry Festival, so they got to experience some authentic North Idaho culture.

Day 7 (Day 8 for them) was also wet, but went just fine and they made it to Sundance Lookout. I briefly thought about jumping on my big bike and meeting them up there, but I wasn't all that eager to go out into the wet and cold again. I wanted to re-experience some of the Tour, but not THAT part of it. ;-)

The day after they finished, Mike posted to the Facebook group that he had gone to the doctor to have his ankle checked out. Turned out it was actually broken! What??? I have had a lot of sprained ankles in the past, but had never broken a bone. Mike had been limping around and his ankle looked swollen and bruised, but he was still able to put some weight on it and it seemed to be improving each day. I just thought it has a painful sprain, but I guess I should leave the medial diagnoses to the docs. ;-) They told him at first that they were going to do surgery, but they decided to just give him a walking boot and let it heal. But wow, what a story! Mike had finished the second half of the Tour with a broken ankle. He's a super nice guy, but also a true tough guy who has the x-rays to prove it! And Shawn deserves a ton of credit as well... I don't think Mike would have been able to make it without the help and encouragement of his riding buddy.

Martin made this Facebook post a couple days later:
Alright folks. Will you please join me in welcoming Steve Taylor (#33), Shawn Black (#34) and Mike Powell (#35) to the fold. Tracks verified. Awesome, awesome job fellas.
So there it was, the accomplishment was official -- I was #33!


I was able to sleep in my own bed the night after I finished the Tour, but it was the first night of many in a row where I didn't sleep well at all. Every night, my mind would be racing with thoughts of still being on the Tour. I would be lying in bed in the middle of the night, semi-awake, thinking that I had been sleeping along the trail somewhere and I needed to get up, get back on the bike and get going. Looking back now at the first two weeks after finishing the Tour, it's obvious that I was going through Post Tour Stress Disorder. LOL. I was still watching the progress and pictures from other riders who were riding the Tour and just wanting to be out there. When I slept at night, my mind thought I WAS still out there. During the day, I was constantly feeling this urge to get out there again.

A Facebook comment I made around that time:
It's been a weird week for me too. I have dreams that I'm still riding. I half-wake up in the middle of the night in my dark bedroom and I think that I'm just sleeping along the trail somewhere and it's time to go go go. During the day at work all I can think about is riding Windy Ridge again. 99% of the people I work with have no idea what I did last week, and they still wouldn't get it even if I tried to explain it to them. I thought I wouldn't want to get anywhere near my bike after I finished the tour, but it's the opposite. I sure didn't expect this feeling of withdrawal that I have.
I should add, though, one cool story of something that happened during that first week back at work. It involved Mark Browning, who is an old friend of Martin's and a friend of mine at NIC, and Facebook friends with both of us. This is a message I sent Martin:
More evidence that our friend Mark Browning is a good guy... we had an all-staff meeting yesterday here at NIC.  Mark, being the bigshot VP that he is, was responsible for getting everyone settled down to start the meeting and introducing our guest speaker. I was just standing in the back of the room thinking about how I'd rather be out on a trail when he got up in the front of the room and said "ok folks, we're about to start" and then he saw me in the back and smiled and said "and if Steve Taylor would just find a seat we could begin" then he said "good job on T1, by the way".  He has a zillion FB friends, so I had no idea that he'd notice what I had been up to.  It was pretty cool.
So it helped me get through the week to know that someone at work noticed and actually said something to me across a room full of people who had no idea what he was talking about. :-)

The Search for Spot

(photo credit)
One of the groups riding the Tour after me was a pair of guys from Calgary that everyone called "Team Canada". These guys were tearing through the Tour and looked like they were having a blast and handling all the riding challenges with ease. They also stopped in Challis and got help from Mike McGowan and commented on what a great experience it was to talk to Mike and see his collection of vintage bikes and memorabilia.

When they were riding Day 6, Martin posted that he was worried about Team Canada. He said that their Spot (satellite tracking device) had stopped moving along the Windy Ridge trail for the past four hours and he was concerned that they were having mechanical trouble, but hoping that's all it was. We were all concerned for them, knowing that Day 6 is so long and in areas so remote that you can't afford to have any big setbacks. I was considering loading up my truck and going on a search and rescue mission. I had been looking for an excuse to ride Windy Ridge again, but I hadn't really planned on doing it as part of a search and rescue mission for hurt riders.

A "Spot 2" just like Team Canada's
(photo credit)
Someone speculated that maybe they just lost their Spot and continued on without it. Well, within about 20 minutes after that, and a few hours after Martin had reported that their Spot had stopped moving, they posted on Facebook that they were safely in Wallace, but had lost their Spot! We were all happy to hear that, and my mind immediately jumped to the idea of traveling down there to find their lost Spot. It would be the perfect excuse to get out there again, and especially to return to the North Fork of the Clearwater and the Windy Ridge trail.

Calvin Everitt, of Team Canada, posted this on Facebook the following morning:
Getting ready for the last leg. Here is the last known location of my dog spot if anyone finds him I will make a another donation to his favorite site motorcycle jazz. He was last seen at this location. 46.57397. -115.2562
This was great -- now I would not only be helping myself out of the withdrawal I had been going through, but I'd be facilitating a donation to MoJazz, which is always a good thing.

I asked Calvin one last time if they had any news:
Any word on Spot? I'm thinking about going on a rescue mission later today if he hasn't been found yet.
And got this answer:
That would be awesome steve, I'm afraid all we have now is his last coordinates.
I loaded the waypoint into my navigation app on my phone and could see the exact location where Spot was supposed to be. There was one other group of three riders passing by that location that day, so I checked with them before deciding to go. They said that they hadn't seen Spot, so he was still out there and needed to be rescued. I loaded up my truck with Wralf, all my gear and a sleeping bag and pad. I planned on just sleeping in the truck that night, then riding and coming home the following day.

On FS 250 at Hoodoo Pass, looking down into the North Fork of the Clearwater drainage
Another shot from Hoodoo Pass... I would guess that things aren't usually this green on August 31, but it had been a wet year.
I found a nice camp spot along the North Fork, just a half mile or so up the river from the Noe Creek campground.
North Fork of the Clearwater next to my camp spot.
Another beautiful shot of the North Fork.
The night before the search, obviously suffering the full effects of PTSD.
Sunset on the North Fork that night.
I rolled out my sleeping mat and bag in the back seat of the truck and even had my favorite pillow. I was actually surprised at how comfy it was, and there wasn't a sound to be heard other than the gentle whisper of the river next to my camp site. It was just so peaceful... I didn't even realize it at the time, but this was the big turning point in my sleeping troubles. I had experienced vivid dreams that kept me from sleeping through the night ever since finishing my Tour. But this night in the truck, on the eve of returning to Windy Ridge, after two solid weeks of restless nights, I slept great! This turned out being exactly what I needed and I didn't have any more sleep-disrupting dreams after this. Pretty cool.

Delicious camping breakfast of oatmeal and an energy shot.
This is the start of the trail that Team Canada had taken, which was an alternate that I had missed. Spot was supposed to be located near the intersection of this trail and Windy Ridge.

I took a short side trail to Junction Mountain Lookout, which was a highlight of the day.

The view to the north from Junction Mountain, which gives you a great look up the bottom of Black Canyon
Beautiful spot along the Windy Bill trail.
I was glad this one had been taken care of already, because it was probably too big and on too steep of a slope to jump over while riding solo. I would have been sawing for a while.
A neat old bridge on the Windy Bill trail... getting close to Spot
When I first started up this trail in the morning, it was totally covered in horse tracks. I was a little concerned about running into a group of horses, since the trail was narrow and steep and it would probably be hard to get past. But within a quarter mile, there was a fork in the trail, and the one I needed to take had no horse tracks, but just faint motorcycle tracks. So I rode for several miles without worrying about horses. But then I came to another intersection and the horse tracks were back. I followed these tracks for at least two or three miles until I came to what was apparently their destination. It was a flat creek-bottom area that looked like a popular hunting camp -- I was guessing that the group of horseback riders had been there in the last day or two. But it was a mess! The trail was very rough and dug out from all the horse traffic and the camp area was even worse -- the ground was totally torn up (especially near the trees where the horses had been tied up), there was hay and manure everywhere, and there was even a little garbage left behind. I'm personally not against horses -- I think they're great animals who are intelligent, gentle giants who can be great companions out in the woods -- but I get tired of them getting a "free pass" when it comes to riding on trails. The anti-motorized crowd complains about damage done to trails by motorcycles, but I can tell you that horses are far more damaging than responsibly-ridden bikes, and the horseback riders seem entitled to ride anywhere they please.

Anyway, after leaving Camp Crap, I was getting very close to Spot. Trying to help figure out where exactly to focus my search, I had been thinking a lot about scenarios to explain how Spot could have been lost. I knew that three other guys had ridden the route since then and didn't find Spot (I'd find out later they had taken the alternate route, continuing on Windy Ridge and going over Cook Mountain, so they didn't actually ride past Spot). So I was imagining that Spot was probably not in plain sight, and most likely tumbled off the trail when Team Canada was riding a rough section, or maybe there was a spot where a tree was down and they had to ride just off the trail to get over. So as I was getting very close to the waypoint on my navigation, I was paying a lot more attention to the area off the trail in the tall grass and bushes... and then I almost ran over it! Spot WAS right in plain sight in the middle of a smooth section of trail. I was surprised to see that he was still blinking, and still tracking, after about three days. And if he had fallen in the trail just about a half mile further down the trail, he probably would have been trampled by horses.

I picked him up, told him everything would be okay, and put him in my pocket. Since he still had power, I knew that his owner would probably notice that he was on the move, so I was looking forward to that.

A side trail I took around a different side of Cook Mountain... it was pretty primitive, but beautiful.
These Windy Ridge flowers sure light up when the sun comes out.
A nice view along Windy Ridge near Camp George
This is another spot where I got a picture during my Tour, but it was much prettier on this day with the sunshine.
This is another trail in the area that I rode that day

I rode a few extra miles of roads and trails that day before heading back down to the truck. I had ridden a really nice loop of single track that day, including most of Windy Ridge and the Windy Bill / Junction Mountain trail, which was a Tour of Idaho alternate that I had missed on my Tour two weeks prior. By the time I got back to the truck, it was mid-afternoon and I had done all the riding I cared to do that day. It had only ridden 75 miles, which showed me that I was still capable of feeling like I had ridden a full day without riding over 200. ;-)

I put Spot up on the dash so he could get a good view of the sky and hit the road, this time driving down the North Fork all the way to Pierce and back home through Lewiston and Moscow. Once I got back into cell range, I started seeing the talk on Facebook.

Calvin said:
So it looks like someone has resurrected spot and he is moving. 46.56872 -115.26231. We'll just have to wait to see who it is.
Looks spot is at a full on sprint, just hit the 250 at 445 pm. 46.68454 -115.35675
When I got in cell range, I added:
I told you I was going to rescue him.
Steve I was really stoked to get an email from spot. Where was he? On the trail or the ditch? Thanks buddy I owe you one.
Right in the middle of the trail, about a quarter mile from the windy bill - windy ridge junction... which is exactly where he told us he was.
Calvin was very appreciative and even offered to pay for my fuel for the trip. I told him just to include it in his donation to MoJazz. I really didn't care about the cost and the time it took. It was very therapeutic and cured my PTSD.

1 comment:

  1. That has got to be the best picture of you I have ever seen!