It’s day two of out Topaz motorcycle ride. This is the first official day of the three day Topaz 600 dual sport and adventure touring event put on by Dual Sport West. We have a choice of five different routes, although only three of them are suitable for large adventure motorcycles. That basically leaves us with a decision of which of the three rides to do on each of the three days. For today, we decided to ride the Mt. Patterson route.
The Mt. Patterson Route starts on Topaz Lane for a few miles, then turns onto the Eastside gravel road. From here, we enter the Toiyabe National Forest and follow Desert Creek for a while. Desert Creek is a nice, scenic trail. The trail is hilly and winding, with a mix of gravel and sand, providing a nice amount of challenge without getting too difficult. Which is good, since this is my first dual sport ride on my new BMW R1200GS. The trail takes us through a mix of wooded areas and desert sage brush and after an hour or so leads out out to Highway 338.
We had a short hop on Highway 338 through the Sweetwater Mountains and Sweetwater Pass, an elevation of about 6,800 feet. We exited the highway on Sweetwater Lane toward Hawthorn. Here we are back on a graded gravel road. After a little over a mile, we turn on a jeep trail toward Masonic, an old ghost town. The jeep trail has some rocky areas with some challenging climbs for a large adventure bike. Jeff had me ride ahead and took a great photo of me on a ledge as the trail wound up hill. We reach a peak of 7,722 feet. Jeff was quite impressed seeing my bike fishtail around whenever I’d hit some sand. Masonic itself has a few old wood structures. It looks like the remains of an old mine.
From Masonic we continue along a jeep trail toward Bodie. Here is where things started to get a little more challenging. The loose gravel trail also had a considerable amount of sand. I began to wish my bike had off road tires rather than just the stock dual sport tires. I stopped to take a couple of photos, letting Jeff get considerably ahead of me. Trying to catch up, I got myself into a sand rut. After about 20 feet of plowing, my front tire eventually washed out and I crashed. My first crash with my new bike. I new it would eventually happen. So I’m glad it was a relatively graceful fall. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the sand, with Jeff nowhere in sight. I had to drag my bike backwards about 20 feet to get out of the rut before I could get started again.
The trail into the ghost town of Bodie was through a high desert plain. Lots of winding, rolling hills at a peak elevation of 9,053 feet. Mix in a lot of cows roaming around, one water crossing, and a thunderstorm, and it made for an interesting ride.
The ghost town of Bodie is an incredibly well preserved California State Park. We spend about an hour walking around Bodie. Unfortunately, we were already way behind schedule to complete the trail by end of day. It was already noon, and our lunch stop wasn’t supposed to be until we reached Virginia Lake. We decided to bypass some of the trail and expedite our trip to Virginia Lake. After a long, rocky, back road, we arrived at Virginia Lake about 2:00 pm. We actually came at Virginia Lake from the opposite direction of the original planned route. A quick granola bar for lunch, and we were on our way to Bridgeport for gas.
Time and conditioning started to become a challenge. I ended up opting for taking Highway 395 back to the Topaz Lodge rather than the planned back roads trails. I was tired enough to see more crashes in my future if I continued on with the trails. After all, this was only the first of three days of trail riding. Even skipping a considerable amount of the return trail, I didn’t get back to Topaz until after 4:00 pm. Whoever mapped out this adventure bike route must have traveled at a considerably faster pace than me.