Camp that night was tucked away by a little stream in the middle of nowhere. WC’s chef whipped up the kind of meal that you’d more commonly see served on a white linen table cloth while the rest of us reclined around the fire, drinking pre-mixed Negronis. Someone who hadn’t seen it before asked if that was the Milky Way. Indeed it was, this far out there, you could really see the stars.
But there were no stars in the next night’s campsite, located in a grove of Sequoias; the massive trees completely obscured the sky. As we drew nearer to Yosemite, the terrain had gotten more mountaineous and rugged. “Stay a far to the right as possible, hug the cliff face” we were warned at one point. Good advice, because it was at least a thousand feet straight down on the left.
We’d encountered two other vehicles that day, both minivans. One was a long ways up rutted, potholed ascent. Further up than you’d have given it credit for, it was nonetheless permanently stuck and had, subsequently, been shot up and partially disassembled. A mule car for the illegal marijuana grows that exist in the most remote parts of these mountains, the thinking went.
The second minivan was in motion, driven by a surly local who, judging by his weaving, was either off-his-face wasted or actively trying to prevent us passing as we rode up “his” fire road. A quick pass through the bushes and he was blocked as everyone else roared pass. He just stewed angrily at the prospect of 14 angry bikers.
Lunch that day was served on the shore of a wide river. An old railroad bridge ran across it, making a perfect diving board for (off)road weary travelers.
The biggest incident of the trip came when of the guys sent his 250 flying down a steep embankment. The bike was barely scratched and he was fine, so out came some tow rope and four men managed to haul the bike back up the slope.
After a “shortcut” through an OHV park and its challenging trails, the last day’s riding ended mid-morning. There’s no off-road riding in Yosemite National park, so the 35-ish miles from entrance to the epic overlook up top had to be accomplished on tarmac. The views along the way were so nice that no one seemed to mind. No one dared speak it, but the sense of relief that the challenge had finally been met was palpable. The Tunnel View Overlook, with its panoramic views of Yosemite Valley beyond, provided a suitably epic backdrop for the trip’s conclusion.
A long van ride back to Los Angeles and we reconvened for late night sausage and beer at Wurstkuche. The topic around the table was wasn’t so much stories from the trip, but plans for the next and how the experience would alter everyone’s day-to-day life from that point on. Emerging from the wilderness sometimes provides the best perspective on civilization.
Should you go on a Wilderness Collective trip? Well, they are expensive. But in the same way going deep sea fishing or flying somewhere warm to play golf is expensive. And you’re going to have a much bigger adventure with WC, out in the middle of nowhere, than you’re every going to get on the back nine.
Sitting around the fire
The trip had much more to offer over my standard weekend of dirt biking than just fancy cocktails and good food. The company and the camaraderie certainly add to the experience and WC does a great job of really getting you off the beaten path and in making the real outdoors accessible, without removing any of the danger or experience that makes it worth seeking out in the first place.
Having said that, Wilderness Collective isn’t catering to experts seeking to get the most out of their expertise. Its about making an epic experience like this accessible to people who wouldn’t normally find themselves riding dirt bikes in the shadow of a giant sequoia. Or sailing tiny trimarans through the Channel Islands. That’s where they are as I write this. As someone who hasn’t sailed in years, I’ve felt a palpable sense of envy all weekend. If you want an outdoor experience way, way outside your norm, Wilderness Collective is where you’ll find it.