We follow the main Motorway then turn at Mex Mountain as planned, a more direct route to Highway 12. The road narrows and gravel disappears as it begins winding through thick forest. Ferns and moss covered rocks, dripping in the rain, line its edges.
“Staying warm?” I ask Jeremy.
“Yeah!” he answers enthusiastically.
The road is beautiful and fun, though it’s getting harder to ignore cold soaking through to hands, feet and necks. And corners are demanding more care as the road’s dirt surface begins to emulsify — clues the fun could fade.
Time spent correcting a wrong turn then a dead end just as we summit the last mountain before the highway, contrary to what two maps indicated, push us into recovery mode. Since we didn’t stop at the Lochsa Lodge before starting the Motorway, we were depending on this route to refuel.
Rain hasn’t stopped and the temperature hasn’t exceeded 50°F. The dirt-only road is only getting muddier and we have to backtrack anyway so we decide to do that first then have an “emergency” fire before we figure out our next move.
Jeremy has had to switch his fuel tank to reserve and Joel’s and my fuel lights are lit by the time we get back to gravel near Mex Mountain. We stop at the first clearing and leave all our gear on, helmets included, as we alternate between gathering wood and standing under trees out of the continuing, steady rain. It will be tricky to transfer gas like this, if that’s our solution.
We are watching steam roll off the gloves still on our hands, extended over our growing fire, when we catch sight through trees of a Forest Service truck coming down an intersecting road. It stops and we designate Jeremy to hustle over and see if they might have some spare gas we can buy.
“They don’t have any gas,” he tells us when he returns, “but they laughed because there’s a warming hut just up this hill.”