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The Legend of Moose Mountain

Former Champ

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On the thursday before Parade friday of the 2003 Calgary Staampede I invited all my employees to enjoy an evening with me in the mountains. It's daylight unilt 10pm that time of year .My employees Nick, at the time my best friend, hippy Cam, who is now my best friend, and Mike, who has always been my bestest friend ;) came along, plus Mike's girlfriend who offered to drive the van back down the mountain.

Moose Mountain is recognized as perhaps the best Mountain bike trail in the world. Jocylyn dropped us off at the top and drove my van to the bottom to meet us. At the top it's pretty tricky and you're at altitude on huge slabs of granite. I crashed there one winter and almost broke my arm. After that it becomes super techinical as you have to do the 'switchbacks' down the face of the mountains in deep woods. If you can survive that it really opens up and there is about a 45 minute decent which is pretty intermediate in good weather, so you can go superfast. That followed by a short impossible climb leads to a fun cruise to the bottom.

Luckily this was my third trip to the mountain that month, and I was feeling really positive. It is customary to drink beer and smoke pot on the way down as it helps you discount the idea that you might fall down a mountain. I had slammed back 3 at the top with a six in my pack, so I was ready to rip it up. We got through the difficult parts at the top as Mike and Nick had also been there before but me and Mike popped tires , and the hippy, new to the trail seemed to be keeping up.

It got to the really fast part and I opened up a bit. It's really rough, but lotsa room for error. Suddenly I'm being passed by a bunch of fancy lads in spandex and $10,000 bikes. A couple made really dangerous passes so I stopped and called them ****s. I waited for everybody to catch up and we drank a couple beer and smoked a joint to cool down. We were right at the top of a huge drop, which lead to a nice part of the trail in the woods, with a couple really easy curves which ended in a huge grass field, and a junction of two major trails.

I was fueled up and ready to go so I blasted away from the group and was going faster than I ever had, just before the field (where you can crash and not get hurt). Well about 200 meters from the field I come across one of the ****s (actually a chick) who had passed me earlier and she had just crashed hard. Her bike was still bouncing through the woods and she was laying on her belly across the single track trail. She was trying to get up, but I knew she would never make it so I leaned way back and braked really hard on both wheels. I began bouncing over the rocks totally out of control, but the big bucks I had spent on that bike paid off. And I managed a controlled fall into some trees. Unfortunatelly I blew both tires. I began shouting up the mountain to my party to slow down and they emerged one by one on full brakes.

It was gonna take a while to change the two tires so we brought out all the rest of the beer and smoked some more joints even though we had just done that 10 minutes ago. The other group didn't like us and once the hurt girl got her wind back they left without a word. Luckily everybody was carrying extra tubes that day so after a while we were ready to go. It was already really late (after 9:00pm) and I was pretty hammered. We were a good 3/4 hour from the bottom (with that impossible climb to come) and we had an hour and a half of daylight left. We set off and Nick and Mike took off this time, too show me up. I was way drunker than everyone else so I started out easy. The next section was really easy which ended in a river, which began the big climb. SO I knew we would all end up there. I had my first wipeout of the day in a really wet part of the trail with a lot of mud.

I decided to wait for Hippy Cam to warn him about the deep mud. I knew the other guys would wait before the climb. SO i waited and I waited and it got a bit darker, and I waited. Then two guys came through, and I stopped and asked if they'd seen anybody. ANd they saw Cam GOING BACK UP THE MOUNTAIN. Somehow he went back up when the rest of us went down. Well he's a dumb city hippy whose get's lost easily I discovered.

By then I was in a panic. The other guys found me and we flipped out. The sun was setting and we were about as far into the wilderness as you can get. I had to take charge of the situation. I said, we had to go back to the bottom, drive to the top, go down again and hope to meet him before he crossed the summit and headed back down into absolute wilderness. We raced to the river and that uphill has never seemed so short as we sprinted up it. We got to the van, grabbed the impatient girl and raced to the top. It was decided that Mike would not go in the dark, as his bike was ****ed.

I slammed one more beer and set off, at the top of a mountain, after sunset, on a 90 minute trail. Nick had a $5,000 bike so he was an easy choice, but my $1,200 bike would show it's metal that day. I've never gone so fast (being smashed really helped) as we blasted past the usual rest points. By the time we got to the really difficult switchbacks, it was clear that he either went back down or we missed him. We got to the big field in no time. I was going so fast that I remember thinking "Whoa... I'm going waaay too fast!!!" Light was almost gone and at times I was riding on memory and ESP alone. We got to the big field and realized he was either at the bottom, or lost on the west side of the mountain.

I pulled out my last joint and declared it to be "Stoned, but not alone joint". Sure we didn't need it, but the light was almost gone where we were, and we had to head into the wilderness. We yelled for Cam and discovered an astonishing echo. If you yelled it would actually wrap around you. We yelled and smoked until we forgot about Cam. Then something in the woods said "GGRRRRRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!!" The worst part was that it was in the direction of the trail we had to follow. Nick handed me the joint and said '**** This" He was gone into the almost night. 3/4 of an hour from the bottom.

About a year earlier Nick interupted a bike adventure after having a bad fall. We were only ripping around on the more advanced city trails, but it doesn't take much to have your day ruined. He left the group and went to the bottom of the river valley, and I followed him. We ended up in a junkyard of out of date industrial equipment. It was very surreal so we began bantering about who would roll the next joint. He was feeling a little down about having to jam out of the trip, but that was OK with me. There were lot's os easy trails on the way home that were way more fun.

All of a sudden, about 200m away we see 4 dogs running towards us. They had there teeth showing and hair on end and were running straight at us. Me and Nick made eyecontact, sort of rolled our eyes, and looked back at the dogs. "Holy ****" I thought, they are coming over here. All 4 dogs were in the 25-40 lb range. Well just as they got to us I knew what to do. I started yelling at the top of my lungs as loud as I could and threw my bike straight up in the air and caught it over my head. Nick caught on and started yelling and swinging his bike around and I could immediatelly see 2 dog give up. One dog kept barking and one dog was trying to be the leader but lotsa yelling and one attempt to kick the leader in the face and all 4 dogs decided to leave. Nick thanked me for saving him as he said he wouldn't have known what to do. He was from Northern Quebec and kinda rugged, but always tried to be a city boy.

So here we are racing toward a wild animal(I had to toss the joint !) in hopes of getiing past it and down the trail away from it. It being Moose Mountain I was praying it was a Moose and the sound it made was obviosly from an animal weighing more that 500 lbs. Suddenly Nick started yelling at the top of his lungs. I also started yelling as it was probably better for the anmals to know we are coming and be afraid of us. In front of me I saw a light and Nick turned on his half charged emergency light. All of a sudden we come around a corner and there is a little black bear sitting in the middle of the trail. I said something resembling "WWWuWWuGGhuHuAHHHHHHHH!!!!" and that bear got the hell out of there. From there is was pitch black and we didn't stop yelling. We actually got in a one up competition about who would yell the funniest thing, and I won when I started singing Apocolypse Dudes by Turbonegro. Terror and insanity go well together.


Although it was really hard for us, that little light on Nick's got us to the up hill. I flew into some trees once and was lucky to not crash, but that night I was the best mountain biker ever. I remeber one moment where I tried to remember where I was on the trail. "Oh I'm on the really fast part... too late... hope I don't crash." Sure I had a hard time in the dark, but at least I knew where the trail was. I folded both of my pedals in half from hitting rocks, broke the visor off my helmet and put a big dent in it and dented a $200 front wheel, but we finished that trail in the absolute dark without incident.

When we got to the van, no one could believe that we had lost Cam. We didn't know what to do. It was 11:30pm and we were 1/2 an hour from Bragg Creek. We decided to drive into town to look for help. We went to the local pub and they hooked us up with emergency services. After a while they showed up and we all went on a futile search. Finally at 1:30 am we reluctantly drove back to Calgary. I will equate the mood in the van to that of a Vietnam War movie. We left a guy out there. Oh my god I may have just killed a guy I really liked. We all felt like we were gonna be sick all the way back home.

By the time I got the rest of the party home and got back to my place it was 3am and there were many messages waiting for me. I was told that a search would be launched at sunrise the next morning and that I was to meet a helicopter in Bragg Creek again.

"Helicopter?!?" I thougt. Sweeeeet!!!

But now I actually had to call Cam's girlfriend and tell her why Cam wasn't coming home. When I called her she answered right away and when I heartwrenchingly, in tears told her what had happened she laughed. I was bewildered but once I hung up I began drinking hard liquor at home for the first time in a long time. While waiting for the helicopter call I drank whiskey and watched whatever TV I could find. I settled on one of those 'You gotta see this...' video shows. It was a bunch of clips of people riding bikes in thier back yards and breaking their pelvises.

"HOLY ****ING ****!!! I JUST RODE A BIKE DOWN A ****ING MOUNTAIN IN THE DARK!!!!!!" The helicolter called... meet us at 7:30am. Just as I was trying to get ready to leave home the phone rings. It's Cam's girlfriend and Cams has turned up in Bragg Creek. I raced out there to pick him up, and he was actually embarassed about what happened. I bought him a big breakfast and gave him a ride back into town. He got in trouble for being late at his second job and was told being lost in the mountains was not a proper reason to be late. From that day he and I have become close friends.

That night scarred me deeply

note: edited only to decapitalise title, as per policy-mod

note: ok. I won't do that again.

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Howdi Voyagers! Hippy Cam here.

Yes, yes...moose mountain. I have a bad sence of direction to begin with. The joints and beers probably didn't help.

It was the second time I'd been bikeing there. The first time, five years or so earlier, the person I went with broke his pinky finger near the top. We'd biked up the gravel road that time, so we had to bike down to the car.

C. Champ and Mike and Nick and I started at the top of the mountain, and things went fine for about twenty minutes. We all stoped for a breather. It was then that C. Champ said that there was an up-hill part coming and that it would suck.

We all got going again and, I don't remember this part so good...I lost site of everybody else. I though they were all ahead of me. Was there a fork in the path somewhere? I don't remember that, but I do remember going up hill, thinking that it was the section that C. Champ had warned me about. I went up and up and up and up and up and up and up. I figured that Champ and everybody else were severly out paceing me. However, I somehow got turned back the way we came.

"Am I going the wrong way? Hmmm....naw...." The whole ordeal consided of me makeing calls like this. I think I made every possible wrong turn. I came across a couple decending the moutain that I was climbing. They told me how much easier it was going down. At this point, I only suspected that something was wrong.

I reached the top and things suddenly looked familiar. It was back were we started. At this point, I only remember getting really flustered, and riding my bike around the area and ariveing at the same spot several times. Eventually the path took me to a ridge where I had a good view. An exelent view. The sun was going down over the Rockies and to the east, the foot hills were getting dark and some of the lights of Calgary were visible to the North East. The bike trails were on the west side. The path went on further up the mountain, into the trees. Down the east side of the mountain there was also a trail going down. By this time I was pretty frusterated. Maybe the altitude was getting to me, but it seem like a good idea to just bike in the direction of Calgary, so eventually I went down the east side of the mountain, and things went fine for about five mineuts. But then, this path that I had found became more and more filled with small trees and shrubs. It became thicker and thicker. The sky got darker and darker.

By this time, I was quite upset. I was flabbergahsted. It began to occur to me that I wasn't going to find a road before dark. I paniced. I yelled as loud as I could and listened to my screams echo down the mountain. Should I hike back up and go down the west side? Sure...I tried, but I had already decended a long way and got discouraged. I was fairly exausted. Angery. Proabably a little drunk and stoned too.

I remembered a course that a judge made me take when I was 15 or so for discharging a bb gun in my neighborhood (my brother had also so earlier in the day). I was requiered to take a hunter's training course which included a survival modual. One of the things that it advised people to do when they're lost in the the wilderness is to occupy them selves with something productive like building a fire or shelter. Keeping one's self occupied keeps one's self from wasteing energy panicing.

I had nothing to start a fire with, but I had a Swiss Army knife with a saw blade and so I crawled under a tree and figured I'd make a blanket of pine branches to sleep under. I sawed and sawed. The going was slow. I tried breaking the branch that I had sawed. It broke and one end hit me in the eye. My vision was not harmed, but I was curled up in the feotel position for awhile. I don't know how long.

I heard foot steps. I made lots of noise. I shouted. The foot steps stoped and I didn't hear (besides birds) or see anything else for the rest of the night.

I decided to try to make it down. By that point going down would be easier than going up, right?

I had 2 LED blinkers in my back pack (one white, one red) and some seasame snaps. I ate the snaps and had a small drink from a very small stream that was trickleing down the mountain. I lit my way with the white LED in my mouth on steady mode. I followed the stream pushing my bike and lifting it over fallen trees.

Staying close to the stream was probably also a mistake. There, the trees were thick with dead-fall and the terran was wet and rocky and the stream was in a gully that seemed to funnle me down this difficult way. I was constantly lifting my bike over tree after tree. There was no space to roll it along. The dead-fall was everywhere. I considered leaveing it behind.

To try and make things easier for my self I would leave my red LED flashing beside the bike so I could find it in the dark and then I would try to scout out the best way to take. This saved me little time. I collapsed from exaustion twice, breathing heavyilly into thick moss. It smelled very nice, I recall.

Laying on the ground, I would put on a jacket and tuck my knees into it to save warmth as I rested. The night wasn't very cold. The jacket would come off when I was moveing because of the warmth I generated by lifting my bike and my self over logs. I spent most of the night doing this, slowly going down the moutain.

The stream got thicker and was joined by other streams. The going got tougher before it got easier. The sky was getting light when the decent leveled out and I came a feild of tall grass only scattered with trees and dead-fall and streams. It was a beautifull morning and I was temped to spend part of the day there, but I knew that people were probably worried about me, so I moved on. The grass was very wet with dew and my shoes got soaked.

I moved much faster in this terran, hopping the many streams that snaked through the meddow.

And I finally found a single track trail!! I could get on my bike a peddle! Woo!

The tail led to a set of wheel ruts that lead to a gravel road with a few Texas gates. Finally I hit some pavement and flagged down a car. I explained my situation and asked for directions. They gave me a lift to the Village of Bragg Creek. I then phoned C. Champ, who quickly drove from Calgary to retreive me, happy I wasn't dead. I was far from dead. I actually felt pretty good.

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Dead, near dead. Either way it's still pretty fu'king funny.

Not a big wilderness fan myself (unless you count Cougar spotting) but I've been down enough bush trail on bikes (the sorts with motors mind you) to know enough to NOT go romping around after dark on tight trails. Especially after a couple of Marleys. That's just stupid.

Hey, Cheeta. You're looking half-cut. Wanna go for a Hell boot through the bush at dangerous speeds?

Uh, no thanks, guys. I choose life.

And oh yeah. If in the future you ever get lost on top of a mountain again, my best advise would be to follow gravity. You're just going to have to trust me on this one...

P.S. I have to add however, my ex-roommate (from back in the day) is all mountain bike stupid. He'd have been soooo there, CC. He'd have been sooo there.

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