Fifteen Miles to Nowhere

And a Lot Farther Back

By Suz Iventosch

“This is not good, not good at all,” I lamented as we stumbled upon the entrance to the White Clouds Wilderness. The sign clearly indicated no bikes allowed. Wait, what? We had just ridden miles over roots, rocks and generally rough, steep terrain, hoisting our bikes over acres of deadfall, and were really hoping for a road to somewhere, preferably one that led to Highway 70. We were now fifteen miles into our “five-mile” bike ride and super-eager to get out of this burned-out forest. Dejected, both that our sense of direction had failed us and that we were sure to miss the highly acclaimed dinner at the lodge, we were bummed and I’m not gonna lie … a little bit scared.

It was already 6:30 p.m. and the sun would be setting soon. With miles of bumpy trail to retrace in the dark, and no hope of getting back before midnight, we couldn’t think of riding our bikes, so we ditched them under some bushes and booked it on foot, hoping to reach the summit by dark. Oddly, we had no flashlight, no map, no warm clothes, and no food—not even a granola bar. This was going to be a long, cold, hungry haul, and we had no idea if we’d ever see our bikes again. I loved my mountain bike, but this was no time for regrets, our lives were on the line. We only hoped the Forest Service would understand when they found three bikes abandoned at the edge of the wilderness.

This is not our normal modus operandi — my husband Iven always carries a map, our daughter Courtney never leaves without her phone, and my down jacket is a constant companion—except for that day. “Normal” forgot to apply for that day. After all, it was just going to be a five-mile loop from the lodge. Super-easy with plenty of time to spend at the hot spring pool the rest of the afternoon. What could possibly go wrong?

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