Like the Nor Cal surfer, Jeff Clark, and his famous solo pursuit of surfing Mavericks for decades, Idaho locals have been riding their mountain bikes on the single track trails in the White Cloud Mountains without much notice. Stories about riding out in this distant range have stayed on the peripheral, like fables. Matt Leidecker, Scott Corkery, and I gathered this past Saturday for our first ride on the east side after having heard about a magnificent 25-mile loop that took riders high into the alpine.
I’d heard about this ride from a friend who works at Club Ride who said it was a classic, but, Matt had met a couple of guys who called the ride, “The Unicorn,” because it was so otherworldly and fantastic that it couldn’t be real! Needless to say, it didn’t take much convincing to get us motivated for the adventure.
Matt is currently writing a guide book for the White Clouds and while doing research a few weeks ago had left his “White Box” (his term for RV’s) at a trailhead near our intended ride. He needed a shuttle to get out to his rig and after a few emails, a little map work and scheduling, he had the three of us a plan in which we’d climb up a western drainage on the southern end of the range, cross over the divide, and descend into the adjacent eastern drainage which would ultimately have us finish at Matt’s rig where we’d stay the night. Then, the next morning, we’d get after the Unicorn.
What with each of us having two kids and wives, we were not able to get to the trailhead until late in the afternoon. But, to be honest, it was great for me photographically. A short but steep three mile ascent put us on the divide with a 2000′ descent taking us down to the RV and one of Idaho’s best hot spring, The Bowery. Unfortunately, Matt had a mechanical on the descent that destroyed his rear derailleur. We made to the hot spring with the last light and had to use our lamps to ride to Matt’s RV.
While cooking a hodgepodge of instant meals leftover in the RV, we thought it might be possible to convert Matt’s bike over to a single speed which would allow him to ride the Unicorn with us the next morning. We rose from our tequila induced slumber at 6:30am, had breakfast, coffee and got Matt’s derailleur off, his chain shortened, and were off riding by 7:30. Unfortunately, at the first steep climb Matt’s chain snapped and ended his bike ride; he coasted back down to go research a different drainage for his book.
Scott and I carried on. Both of us had a preconceived idea that this loop was going to be brutal. We expected to have to hike-a-bike a ton on the ascent and that the downhill was going to either break us or our bikes-or both. After an hour in the saddle and having found the climb to be a mix of perfectly inclined and buff single track mixed with short bouldery technical sections, we started pinching ourselves to see if this trail was real. 5 minutes wouldn’t go by before either of us would bust out laughing at how good certain sections of the climb were. We were in disbelief and began challenging ourselves on the reality of the situation.
A few hundred yards from the top of the climb, I lost it and began shouting hysterically. I’d just finished spinning up a few perfect switchbacks and then caught a glimpse through the forest of the alpine zone-a magnificent peak with a sheer white granite wall a few hundred feet tall. In all my years of mountain biking, never have I enjoyed a climb so much and been rewarded by such a fantastic view from the top.
Aside from the hoots, hollers, and whoops of joy that came forth from our grinning mouths, the words we used on the descent to define our experience riding the Unicorn were thus: holy shit, what the fuck, dear god, jesus christ, insane, fucking crazy, hell yeah, nuts, nutty, spicy, sick, etc. The descent seemed to never end and its quality never subsided.
The Unicorn took us through almost every mountain niche and trail condition. It was an intermediate climb followed by an expert descent. I had to throw my bike three times and hit the ground twice. I blew my rear tire once and was impressed that no other mechanicals happened. It was rad.
Those guys that told Matt about the Unicorn mentioned that they’d ridden a different trail in the White Clouds and found it to be better, so, they called it the Pegasus. Maybe we’ll disappear into another world when we ride this one!