Story: Kevin Miklossy Photos: Kevin Miklossy Words: Neil Johnston
Riding on a ridge in rain forest mist and fog, the visibility is extremely low, the beams of my auxiliary lights burn through its thickness. The conditions add a sense of excitement to a high mountain two track with doom to the left and doom to the right. A note on doom, it is not necessarily better that you are unable to see it. Ahead and behind me other riders are cloaked by the fog, the weather may be iffy, but we’re all finding our own ride – a mix of natural and AltRider organized ingredients are making for a truly excellent adventure.
Environment, it adds a unique dimension to any motorcycle adventure. The Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Forest is a confluence of dimensions. There are few moments as gorgeous as riding out of a stir of mist as the sun burns through with variegated beams streaming between tall stands of rainforest trees. Environment adds a contemplative wistfulness to the ride, a dream like quality should you choose to engage it.
Most off-road rides give you a choice, you can play a mad scrabble game of catch-up with the fast guys who speed off into the distance as fast guys do, or you can settle in, enjoy the views, take photos. A good ride like the Hoh offers a mix.
There’s a lot to take in here, in scenery and camaraderie. The selection of roads are new adventurer friendly, perfectly suited for the big bike crowd; forest service roads with an occasional scenic two-track hanging off a mountainside. Improving the welcome to the sport, PSS Off Road Riding School is on site offering beginners training, a panacea to many dual-sport rides that simply throw new riders into off-road’s deep end without support.
A group of female riders dubbing themselves “The Dirty Girls” avails themselves of the training. Bob Berglund of Adventure Tour Films rides with these recent graduates, filming their adventure. Lending credence to the approach, the Dirty Girls grin, laugh and joke through the entire event, in comparison to other “newbie rides” we’ve encountered which seem designed to reduce nascent adventurists to fear. Not that the ride is challenge free, but it’s that the Hoh equips riders with the skills and the comrades to overcome the challenges.
In a steep rocky section that troubled some of the bigger bikes, a “no rider left behind” sensibility comes to the forefront. Riders stop to help each other, and coach each other through as needed. Across the entire ride, there was a strong sense of trail etiquette. Help is there if you need it, and riders stop at intersections guiding each other. The AltRider ride offers some of the best GPS tracks and printed maps, complete with plenty of bailout points for those who want to a shorter ride, of any group outing we’ve encountered. The clear directions and routing allow riders to naturally cluster into groups of like minded and like speeded travelers, enriching the ride.
For my part I’ve fallen in with Neale Bayly, one of the evening’s presenters and host of Neale Bayly Rides Peru. We are of like minds, stopping a lot for photos and taking in the sights, including scrambling out onto the Vance Creek Bridge, the abandoned railway trestle, looking 347 feet down through crumbling timbers from the second highest railway arch bridge ever built.
In the evening’s presentations Bayly presents photo and video excerpts of his Peruvian adventures captured in the reality television series. More interesting, Bayly touches on his philanthropic philosophy of adventure. His Wellspring Outreach organization is dedicated to raising awareness, resources, and hope for abandoned children worldwide. Currently, Wellspring is focused on building new facilities for the children at the Hogar Belen orphanage in Moquegua, Peru. For those who could care less about reality television, the show itself ended up being less interesting than the back-story and purpose provided by Bayly’s motorcycle based humanitarian efforts.
Another presentation is less successful and engaging. A local mechanic gives a scattered talk on motorcycle adventure maintenance. This effort is well intentioned, and the information is the sort of thing adventure riders want to see, but there is some polish and focus that could be brought to bear. All the presentations, and the base camp itself, though, add to the experience.
The base camp is a semi-secret location between Shelton, WA and Lake Quinault, and delivers another one of the ride’s strengths. The event is fully catered with food, beverages and libations. Not needing to carry these supplies, adventure riders can travel light for the ride in and out. The food is fantastic with hearty Elk Stew and fried bread highlighting the menu. Oysters were originally on the menu, but a local red tide warning saw then judiciously removed. Catering to the post ride needs there were even showers on site, but a more natural and truly adventurous option could be found in Spoon Creek Falls, about 5 minutes ride away from camp.
One hope that doesn’t disclose too much, but even if it does, coming out here alone or with a handful of riders wouldn’t replicate AltRider’s Hoh Rain Forest Ride. You could ride the same routes, but without the camaraderie, support and trappings it wouldn’t be quite the same. Simply put, we highly recommend this entry-level to intermediate adventurer event for getting the mix of group dynamic, learning and environment just right.
For Information on the 2014 Ride go to AltRider.com.