I knew that one of my HOWA caravan campmates was going to be a buddy the moment I saw him pull in with a Kawasaki KLX300 hanging off the front of his camper. After the dust and wind settled, we went for a ride into the nearby mountains east of Pahrump. It became more epic than we ever expected, and for once not in a bad way.
We started by going out Basin Road toward the mountains. This is a wide-open dirt road, and a mild climb in altitude. Soon we weren’t just looking at the mountains ahead of us, but starting to ride between them. We got to a trail leading to a hill with many trails up and down it. We decided to pull off the main road and explore this area. I didn’t tackle the hill myself. Bill tried one of the trails up the hill, lost traction about halfway up, and tipped over. The gravel was so loose that I had trouble walking up it to help him pick up his bike. He managed to turn it around and pick it up (in that order) by the time I got there, then rode back down. He explored another trail or two around this hill while I waited and took in the scenery.
We took an easy trail that went around the side of the hill, and followed it for several miles. It was a little loose and gravely, but nothing I can’t handle after all my practice in these conditions over the past few months. One section got quite twisty, which made it difficult to pick my line around blind curves, but that was part of the fun. We followed this trail until we reached an intersection with an epic view back toward Pahrump.
We came in on the trail on the right. After checking some maps, we decided to start heading back toward town on the trail on the left. Continuing the direction we were going would go down a steep hill, and it looked a bit tricky and technical, as well as a dead-end according to Bill’s map on his phone.
Right about here is where my GoPro ran out of battery. (It’s fine because the camera got whacked to a terrible angle, so none of the footage from this ride is usable anyway.) We rode through what I called a forest of cholla cacti. It’s the closest thing to a forest that I’ve seen in months. I had to stop in the middle of the trail just to snap a couple of pictures (like the one at the top of this post).
Our slow descent continued. I missed a turn that my Garmin wanted us to take. It may or may not have existed in the real world. As a result, we descended into a canyon with a loose gravel trail going through the center. The road we were supposed to be on was just to our right, but up a steep cliff, so we weren’t cutting over to it. We continued through the canyon for what seemed like forever. Sometimes it was straight and wide, while other times it got quite narrow and twisty. It was challenging but not difficult, so I found it very enjoyable.
At one point, I was in the lead and got to what I thought was a dead end. I really didn’t want to turn around and go all the way back up the way we came. Bill, on his smaller KLX300, explored one corner of the “dead end,” and found a way through that was so narrow that even my KLR650 barely fit. I should’ve stopped to take another picture, but I was too in the moment to think of it.
After a long time in the gravel canyon, I thought it began to look familiar. Then we came to an intersection that I definitely recognized from my previous trip out this way. We had come out of the gravel pit that I began to explore but turned around because I wasn’t comfortable getting that far off the beaten path by myself. But this time, with Bill with me, I felt fine being a little more adventurous. Everything worked out fine. From that point on, I knew the way back to camp, which was all wide easy dirt roads.
This was one of the most fun dirt rides I’ve ever taken. Yes, ever. The scenery was amazing, both going through the canyons and the views for miles up top. The terrain was challenging, but not difficult like my last trail ride in Quartzsite. It was fun without being an adrenalin rush. We just putted along slowly and enjoyed ourselves. That’s the kind of dirt ride I enjoy most. I’ll have to think about this ride the next time I think about giving up the KLR for a more road-oriented bike. Few other bikes could handle the wide variety of conditions I like to ride.