Story by Dave Peterson
You see this is not just an ordinary ride. You have to preach this to your wife or boss and get the extra day off. After you get home and your spouse sees your smile and pictures you're in for the next year! No questions asked. She says, “I know you really love this ride.”
Getting there is part of the whole fun. We get all packed up the night before, then early the next morning get on our GS 800 motorcycles, meet a few other joining friends at a cafe and take all the back roads out of the Bay Area on a Friday to be ready early morning the following day for the adventure ride. Springtime everything is green with wild flowers, the air smells heavenly, the skies are clear and the colors are great for photographs. Best of all your not melting from the intense valley heat getting there. The riding temperatures are best this time of year and there's lots of fun stops in little old mining towns with exceptional tight winding corners and narrow "goat-trails" to explore across the Central Valley floor and Sierra foothills. There are many different ways to arrive to Bucks Meadows where the staging area is located. You can even stop in the Steel Door Saloon in Groveland the oldest bar in California from the roaring gold rush days.
The mornings are brisk and chilly up in Bucks Meadow if we camp so get ready for a little wind chill riding just before the light is all up and getting to the staging area and the start of the day’s adventure. There are different routes planned each year and exceptional prizes at the BBQ dinner Saturday night. The BBQ is not to be missed! Meeting other riders and sharing your smiling stories, it's a great time! On Sunday morning we are ready to go to Yosemite! A doughnut and coffee with a banana, a short ride briefing and start your engines! Off we go out of Bucks Meadows and to the Yosemite Valley on a dirt road. Everyone is a little nervous following each other, sorting out their pace and distance between the riders. We usually hit a fast pace and break some distance off between the other groups. First we head down a beautiful easy forest service road. If you keep a good eye out you'll see bear scat on the road! After a good distance we pass over a bridge and creek this makes a good spot to stop for a group photo.
Now the ride begins! We start up a rutted and mildly steep road, the good riders are roaring right up, the mediocre ones being selective about their lines and beginners stop to watch how others go or stall their bike in a rut. Most riders have little problem and everyone feels the excitement! After that we're racing and passing one another through some great narrow roads filled with wooded areas and tall willows. These sections are so fun and the traction is great! This is superior for Dual Sporting. Remember this is spring time and the snow melt has left the ground tacky and sometime there are branches or a giant mud puddle across the road (maybe more than occasionally). While riding fast I like to hit their berm side just on the highest outside slope of the puddle. I like to swerve and roll around them as not to go through the puddle. But don't do this going slow or you could slide into the puddle and WIPE OUT! This works well since my bike is a heavy and doesn't wheelie like they show in the commercials (maybe the pro Baja champion can?). The smaller dirt bikes can of course easily keep the front wheel in the air over these puddles and throw a surprising tidal wave on their riding buddy! Make sure to watch ahead so you can see it coming! Watch out because sometimes there is a deep, hidden rut where a jeep was stuck or a log tossed into the bottom of these puddle for traction! If you're not careful you'll take a spill. I prefer not to hesitate and just keep busting out the power, steering ahead while the more timid take it easy keep legs sprawled outward and go slow through them. I love riding a fast pace but as Lawrence will remind you, “Ride your own pace your comfortable with, this is not a race.”
Next you arrive to Five Corners I think it is five seems like eight but anyways the riders using their GPS’s are being directed in all different directions the wrong directions at this place! My first time through here it happened to me and I had to pull out the map. Once you've been there you know which way to turn and if you don't you will see other riders tire tracks.
Last year my riding buddies were asking people to join them in a ride to Little Nellie Falls. We explored this route on Friday and it was closed from the hard winter. Bad sign! I knew better and they did too but they insisted they were going anyway. They spent three hours going five hundred yards battling fallen trees and wash outs. They were so exhausted they almost used their SPOT rescue device to be helicoptered out of there! They had to hand cut trees, lift the 600 pounds of steel they brought with them and hope they were going to get out!
We did lots of exploring that Friday! When the going got tough we all helped turn our heavy bikes around and get out of there. My motto is "FUN!" The wash outs were huge and lots of the roads where damaged. It wasn't worth taking the risk on these big heavy beast-of-a-bike if you had to turn back because the road was impassable. There were lots of fallen trees and the ruts were severe too. Small, light dirt bikes are easy to lift but the big adventure bikes are really not. This ride offers both types of riding but really these are forest service roads, not trails, so the big beast really can haul ass and be more fun!
Back at Five Corners, we get a few miles down the road take a sharp corner and I see the largest bear I ever saw in my life! He was looking at me but turned around and started to run ahead of me. He’s so huge and I was so close is could see his belly swaying back and forth as he ran. He didn't waste much time and shot over the steep drop off down into the trees below. One buddy following me had a Go Pro mounted on his helmet. He pulled up alongside where I stopped to look for the bear. He didn't know what was happening so I told him to look down there for a bear with his camera on hoping to catch it. I kept my eyes fixed on the bear, laying sideways next to a large fallen Sequoia. He was really tough to see and blended into the landscape. The bear then quietly and smartly slid over the top of the tree, down the steep hillside and vanished. We never were able to trace it back on the Go Pro and find if we captured him on video. Bummer he was gorgeously beautiful and big.
Within a couple minutes we arrived at Little Nellie Falls. A great spot for a snack break at the bottom of a beautiful dark wooded area. There is a creek crossing where you get to test your skills, nothing too hairy but good enough to keep you on your toes! The road gets the better in this section, really nice riding, but still some challenges with mud puddles and just some really great terrain. The area constantly offer something different in the terrain. It can go from rocky to sandy, hard pack, leaves, mud, creeks, trenches, great high elevation views and open brushy or grassy areas to lots of trees or deep canyons and drop down to dry, almost motocross stuff. That’s one aspect I love here, it ‘s the variety.
After some mellow road, climbing in elevation, you eventually arrive in a great wide open meadow with a view of Half Dome in the distance! Your'e in Yosemite Park on a secluded dirt road! It's really a satisfying day to arrived here! I mean, Yosemite Park and dirt roads? From here is't a simple drive on a paved road to Yosemite Valley. This is another way to experience Yosemite National Park! And BONUS; you're on your motorcycle, all knobbied up, with your buddies and Half Dome in the background!
We stopped at all the view points on the way down to the valley. We stopped at all the waterfalls and take pictures. When we arrive at the picnic area for the group lunch we meet Lawrence and his mom Janet and all his family! We all share our adventure stories showing off muddy bikes and wipe our dirty riding gear or our friends nice clean motorcycle and spotless riding gear!
Best fun ever! Got to have it! They even take a picture of you at a secret spot by surprise!