Wilderness Collective, a new company in California, promises “epic adventures for men.” We tagged along on their very first trip, riding dual-sports through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Sequioa to Yosemite National Parks.
The vault was located 50 feet below ground, in a building that used to store the government’s gold. A bartender stood in a nook at one end, pouring whiskey cocktails while 14 men gathered around a long table for a brisket dinner.
Four had come from Florida, three brothers in their 20s and their father. Two friends in their 50s from Utah, fresh off the plane in khakis and collared shirts. Two from Texas, a 40-year old ad exec and his father. The rest were Wildnerness Collective guides.
All had gathered here, in this secret meeting place, for one purpose — two-wheeled adventure.
An air of secrecy pervaded matters. We knew we were riding dirt bikes and we knew roughly where, but after finishing dinner, surrendering any and all digital devices, then climbing into a van for a trip of indeterminate length through the night, the rest was left for us to discover it as it happened.
After hours on the highway, then an awful long ways up a twisty road into the dark mountains, we arrived at a campsite. The last people along the way were a pair of trucks full of coon hounds, braying as we passed. Well after midnight, each guest was issued a tent, then left to put it up on their own.
Awaiting us when the sun rose was a roaring campfire surrounded by matching camp chairs, resting on each a large gear bag printed with our names. Matching helmets, jackets, boots and gloves were found in each. Personal effects had to fit into the small, supplied backpacks. There was room for a couple pairs of underwear, socks, a t-shirt or two and some water. This was very much an exercise in letting material things go.
Behind the fire was a row of matching red Hondas. Mostly XR650Ls, but a few CRF250Ls were interspersed as well. A chef got pheasant sausages on the go while craft coffee was handed around. We packed up, suited up, then followed the WC guide out of camp, still not knowing what to expect.
Through the giant redwoods and northwards out of the park, Wilderness Collective had spent weeks charting a course that was pretty much all of road, winding its way up the forested slopes of the Western Sierras.
A motorcycle license was a prerequisite for the trip. The least experienced rider, the middle of the wild pack of miscreants that quickly became known as The Florida Boys, had gotten his license just three weeks before, specifically to come along. The most experienced was probably Hal, who commutes through Houston on a Triumph Scrambler. Riding dirt bikes up and down mountain passes, through glades of Giant Sequoias, was a new experience for everyone.
And that did mean some crashes. Ruts caught front tires and the steep descents got the better of steeper learning curves. But because this was off-road and because the technical nature of the trails kept speeds down, injuries were limited to bruises.
Probably the biggest scare of the first day came when a blind corner revealed an extremely large, one-horned bull who just didn’t seem too scared of a pack of identically-dressed dirt bikers. “Has anyone noticed all the bikes we’re riding are bright red?” pointed out a Florida Boy that works as a master dive instructor back home.
The bull eventually took a side trail and we eventually found ourselves at a swimming hole in one of the rivers that snake their way down out of the high peaks to the east out to the sea, far to the west. It was even colder than you’re picturing.