My First REAL Mountain Bike Crash
Mammoth Rock Trail got some of my DNA
I spend most of my time thinking about how to accomplish things as safe as possible. I’ve always been a “safety-first” type of person. My personality is A. Things are normally very structured and organized BEFORE I even begin any sort of project.
That type of personality breeds STRESS so I’ve been working on letting GO of the desire to control so much and let the cards fall as they will. That has not been easy and I have had to bury my tongue more than once.
Stress has normally preceded some sort of tragic problem with my health or in my life. I figure if I can lower it, I’ll be happier and healthier. So far, so good.
On that note, I agreed to a beautiful mountain bike ride with my best friend yesterday.
Predictably he did not have ALL of the answers to my safety questions. I trusted his judgement on my ability as a new mountain biker. I did feel that I was improving just based off of NO CRASHES and riding on manicured and unmanicured trails.
From FAR FAR away he pointed out the trail and I imagined the simplicity of it matching the Uptown and Downtown trails on Mammoth Mountain.
We started out on the fresh and awesome Mammoth Bike Path toward Twin Lakes. This is pretty much all downhill (since we began at 9,000 elevation) winding back and forth through the trees, past the horses (forced to carry humans of all sizes through the woods…another subject later maybe) crossing bridges over creeks. Super easy and super fun.
Since we’ve been here I have seen a dozen deer in the woods or crossing Lake Mary Road. I’ve seen three deer hit by cars and left by the road side. One was a baby!! It is because people speed that these beautiful creatures are dead. The mommy deer was hanging out further down the road WAITING for her baby to join her…think about that for a second. It’s awful and why I silently put curses on anyone I see speeding on Lake Mary Road (or any road in Mammoth).
SIDE NOTE: The speed LIMIT is a LIMIT not a minimum. If you are a person that just can’t stand going the speed limit I think you are a FOOL. I would hope you’d feel awful if you hit and killed a baby deer.
We got to Twin Lakes in less than 10 minutes without any bear or deer sightings, crossed Lake Mary Road to The Old Mammoth Road to bomb down (SERIOUSLY FAST) to the trail head entrance. A hairpin turn forced me to slow WAAAAAY down as two cars navigated up it and one passed me at a crawl. I didn’t mind.
At the trail head I noticed the rocky beginning.
Single track with extremely sharp rocks scattered all along embedded in the dirt.
It was an uphill start which I actually like better than down for the heart pumping challenge on my legs.
Randy ran the path with Rob Winterburn a couple of weeks ago and RAVED about this trail. He repeatedly (and excitedly) insisted he take me on this trail because it was just SO GOOD.
“Will the entire trail be this rocky honey?”
“I didn’t remember it from running, you’ll be fine.”
I accepted this and made it to the top of the first section.
He was ABSOLUTELY right: the views were spectacular plus we had storm clouds forming which created a creepy feeling in the air. I snapped a few pics then looked forward to where Randy was riding.
More single track fun…oh goodie gumdrops. Ugh.
The first descent was maybe 300 yards. There were plenty of softball size rocks randomly blocking the trail. These rocks were NOT smooth looking river rocks. They had corners and edges and reminded me of giant teeth. Thankfully I had two options if I lost my balance: off the edge of the mountain or into green plush crass on sandy knolls. That was a relief and I SORT OF relaxed a bit.
Randy would wait for me after a semi-technical section I’m guessing to make sure I survived it.
This got my mind racing a little worrying that the entire trail we would be CRAWLING and really not get the fun part of going downhill. I also had the feeling that I was in WAY over my head so I would slow down a little more and try not to think about how much further we had to go.
After four “wait for my wife” sections we came upon four hikers going up. They were super nice and chatty. Randy had passed them first and told them I was coming down next. The front hiker cheered me on as they passed telling me “your friend said you were doing awesome”. Hmmm…that was nice of them to pass along as I crept past them in slo-mo.
My confidence boosted a little bit more after that. THEN we hit sand. OMG what is the DEAL with sand sections? They are super difficult to just ride through, you have to pay close attention to what is BENEATH the sand plus peddle, peddle and peddle.
I navigated SUCCESSFULLY through a 100 yards (ok 30) of sandy single track with a rocky wall on one side and a very steep hillside spotted with green foliage, rocks, boulders and downed trees on the other. The only option was to “keep the rubber side down” as John Parks often reminded me (and Marguerite).
The confidence was building but there was one challenge that kept appearing: rock ledges ON the trail. I still don’t know the proper technique to take and at the time I practiced different methods…each of them successful (because I did not fall off my bike).
My back, arms and hands were tense. I had been engaging all of the muscles tightly since the first descent and the fatigue began to set in. I had to let my muscles relax because I couldn’t hold on for much more.
That’s when I approached this perfect rock ledge (see photo).
There were two option (again). The left rock or the right rock. I hadn’t looked down the trail for a while but knew Randy was long gone. The last two times he waited for me I almost just told him to wait for me at the bottom and that I would be ok but thankfully I did not let that slip out of my over-confident self.
The trail at this point was a rolling downhill but I noticed the number of ledges and softball size rocks jutting out from the trail was increasing and that made me nervous.
I chose the rock on the right (from your point of view it is the one on the left).
I chose it going way faster than I should have been going (for my skill level). Suddenly MORE rocks appeared right where my tire was supposed to go (on the left side of the trail) and I turned my handlebars hard to the right to avoid them…too late. Too late.
My front tire must have hit those spiked devil tooth rocks sideways and I gripped BOTH brakes as hard as I could to stop resulting in me actually FLYING off my bike toward a small pile of devil teeth rocks combined with the roots and base of a fallen tree. Do you see that pointy rock at the top near those red flowers? That was what I saw coming at me in an instant and all I could do was put my arms up to not smash my face into it.
My entire body landed across that pile of devil teeth and I skidded forward feeling my feet above my shoulders grinding my chest downward.
I didn’t have a chance to scream. All I said, out loud and just above a murmur, was “oh no!”.
I actually felt like what was happening WASN’T actually happening for a split second.
I bounced off of those rocks then onto my back in the middle of the trail (I was wearing a back pack filled with two jackets, two baseball hats, a bike repair kit, two moleskine note pads, a pen, my reading glasses and the house keys).
My helmet hit the ground and then it all stopped as quickly as it had started.
The pain was everywhere! I couldn’t decide which part hurt worse – arms, legs, left hand, neck, knees, belly…how did everything hurt all at the same time? I began to sob and the anger crept in quickly.
I reassessed my body parts to make sure things moved properly and that’s when I saw the GIANT black ants roaming around me. No way was I ALSO going to be covered by ants! I sat up and felt pain rush into my left hand first so I push my ass skyward using my right hand and arm (which seemed to be ok). I was in a one arm down dog for about 10 seconds and walked my hands toward my feet to stand up.
By now I was crying LOUDLY shouting for Randy to help me.
30 yards beyond (may as well have been 1,000) the trail was covered in trees and then disappeared leading east…or right. My yells were weak and I realized Randy was far further than ear shot.
I walked over to my bike (which was 8 feet back on the trail) and attempted lifting it with my one “good” hand. My bike gloves hid whatever injury was beneath causing a searing pain with every movement. I decided NOT to look, plus my left hand was pretty useless anyway.
Shit, shit, shit, shit!!!!
The twisted wreck of a bicycle would NOT stand upright. I was a little dazed but rubbed my two remaining brain cells together trying to figure out what the problem was. My tire was not bent but the handlebars were.
In my launch I must have flipped the front end around completely and jammed it as it smashed to the ground.
Here I was being a big sobbing baby ALONE on the trail and now my bike was broken. Should I go back or forward? I stupidly had no idea how long our course was and looked at my Garmin…3.35 miles…FROM HOME, not from the trail head. Mostly downhill of course. I decided to move forward and push my bike as best I could. I was really thirsty and Randy had our water bottle.
I walked and cried for about a quarter of a mile when Randy appeared riding back uphill.
My injuries began to scream now. I was just so thankful I could walk. This must be what a cage fighter feels like right after losing a fight. Everything was raw and filled with dirt.
Randy sized me up and gave me the obligatory “oh honey!!!” Attempting to hug me to make me feel better. I shrugged off the hug because it pressed on all of the parts that were hurting and cried out, “this trail was way over my head!”
I just hurt in so many places and didn’t want to actually LOOK at them.
Because my left hand hurt so much I was pretty sure I’d broken it.
We decided to not clean my wounds with the only water we’d brought but instead just head down the trail as best we could. I’d managed my bike with one hand with a lot of difficulty but knew the only way this was going to work was to force my left hand to work.
After walking for half a mile (which felt like 4 miles) the trail seemed safe enough to ride again.
“Safe” because if I fell off it wouldn’t be sliding off the side of the mountain.
Randy wanted me to go in front of him, which didn’t make sense but I was not into complaining or arguing about anything. I just focused on getting off of this awful trail of pain.
I saddled up and SLOWLY (gripping my back break with all the strength I had left) peddled forward. I have two gear changing mechanisms: left hand is 1, 2 and 3 and right hand is 1-6 (I think). I crashed in 2-3 and that was where it was gonna stay.
Here is where I realized I’d lost my bell. It can be seen in the dirt just below the pile of rocks I’d landed in (scroll to that photo, see if you can see it).
That bell was special and given to me by a special friend. I imagined telling him how I’d lost it as I scooted slowly down the trail.
It seemed like EVERY rock ledge scared me enough that I did not want to ride down or over them so I got off of my bike and walked it then saddled back up. This off and on continued for another 6 rock ledges. Randy was behind me trying to talk to me and take my mind off of my pain.
My left hand was becoming more useless and that forced me to only use my right and I began skidding down the trail out of control AGAIN. We hit more sand and pushed our bike.
FINALLY there was a trail head sign and I could see a parking lot with two cars in it. My spirits rose a tad and I continue pushing my bike through the sand.
We heard a screaming behind us and a lady on a fatty-tire bike approached. She had a dog running behind her with its tongue hanging out long and low. He or she looked exhausted but she did not. I moved off the trail as she passed – no “thanks” and her dog came up close behind her. It was a terrier of some kind, white with a black splotch. I wish I’d taken a photo.
My problems became second priority as I worried about this little dog trying to keep up with his bitchy owner who had been screaming at him to hurry up. Oh I wanted to catch this woman now and focused on her blue shirt. I finally got to the road scanning left and right to see where she was then spotted her and we took off in the same direction.
Mentally I was deciding how I was going to talk to her. I would offer her dog water then ask her how old he/she was and its name. I would do my best to keep her talking to give the dog a break. I would sneak a photo of her and find out if she was a local or visiting. For SURE I would put a curse on her for treating her dog so badly.
Well, that never happened because she made it to the main road and took off. I cursed her anyway from a distance.
Back to reality and my bashed up bell-free bike and body!
We made it to civilization pedaling super slowly up Old Mammoth Road toward Main Street where I figured we would drop my bike off at Footloose. I could not switch the gears at all now and had 2-2 as my only option. The face of my gear device was smashed and twisted around. I asked Randy if he could fix my bike and he was pretty sure he could.
When we got to Footloose he wanted to check my bike while I waited on a soft patch of grass and shade.
The rain clouds were rolling in closer and it was getting windy and chilly. I decided to just lie back and close my eyes while he checked the bike. Two minutes later he returned and confirmed, “you really did jack your bike up” to which I replied “yeah, I thought so,”
The forearm cuts began to pulse and my right knee had some deep cuts. I just stared at them hoping for the best.
Randy took my bike into Footloose and they fixed it for free then gave us directions to the Mammoth Trolly if we preferred to ride it rather then bike up the hill to the 80/50 Lodge area to transfer to a trolly that would go all the way back up the mountain to Lake Mary.
THANK YOU to the individual that created this trolly system and making it possible to ride for free.
We glided toward the bus stop and were happy to find out the next ride would be in less than 11 minutes.
The small building had a bear box trash and recycle system inside it and a small bench. It smelled awful so we opted to stand outside and breath better.
That’s when we saw a woman stumbling across the main road. She had a big smile on her face with did not match her circumstances. The sun illuminated her gorgeous blonde hair she had in a messy bun. She was stumbling because SHE HAD ONE GOOD LEG AND ONE LEG MADE OUT OF METAL. It took her double the time and she was trying her best to hurry keeping that smile on her face the whole time.
Randy and I looked at each other and did not even need to say a word. My troubles were NOTHING and it put things in perspective real quick.
I’m going to call her Rosemary, she looked like a Rosemary with that smile.
She made it to the trolly stop – STILL SMILING and said, “I hate making people wait for me.”
Both Randy and I were overwhelmed with her comment and let her know we were impressed at her agility and speed. We also suggested that there was no way anyone waiting in their car was bothered seeing she was making it happen with one good leg…and I asked her what happened to lose it.
She told us she “got polio from the vaccine and after a dozen surgeries attempting to correct it she opted to have it cut off.” We stood in silence and in awe.
What a brave woman. What an incredible attitude. I noticed she was wearing a DIY vest and decided she must have just gotten off work.
We boarded after Rosemary and discovered there was ONE more trolly to Lake Mary for the night, 5:00pm at the 80/50. What luck. Seriously.
Rosemary disembarked at the next stop and we said goodbye. I felt like giving her a hug goodbye. She sized up the next distance she had to cross in order to go home (which was a big hill) as the trolly took off. We sat in silence after that.
Arriving at the 80/50 with 30 minutes to kill we chose to spend them at Gomez Restaurant’s Happy Hour for a margarita and IPA. Sadly my margarita was weak, Randy’s beer was cold and good.
I was not complaining at all. Rosemary helped me with that.
I sucked down my blasé margarita and we stood up to leave.
That’s when the four hikers we’d passed earlier on the trail pre-crash passed by our table. They were just as friendly again. Randy told them I’d eaten it on the trail and they (as well as the folks sitting at tables nearby) all began sizing up the blood dripping down my arm and legs.
I would be just fine once I got home to clean up…the margarita was an attempt to numb it up beforehand.
I made it into a special club according to a Mammoth Mountain Employee named Adam. He raised his hand in the air to give me a high-five and congratulate me on surviving. “Welcome to the club and I’m sure you’ll be back again.”
The ride home was chilly and perfect.
My body jostling around reminding me of each area that was munched up. The view of the ascent to Lake Mary is pretty spectacular and I just breathed in deep enjoying it.
I realized my husband really thought I could handle this trail which means I’ve gotten better as a mountain biker.
Rosemary put things into perspective and set me straight on how much pain I was in and that I could manage it with a good attitude.
We made it to the LAST STOP which is at the bottom of Lake George. Randy pushed both of our bikes up the hill to our house. Our dogs and cat were super happy to see us as always and after initial petting and dog/cat conversation I headed to the tiny bathroom to peel off my stinky, dusty and dirty clothing to clean up.
Since we have a very limited amount of hot water I had to be strategic in my cleaning process while enjoying the hot water. Randy needed a shower too but opted to wait for the water heater to refill.
We popped in a DVD, Randy poured me a delicious greyhound and relaxed on my super-duper comfy couch with my cat on my lap and watched (tolerated) Spider-Man in front of my eyes until I couldn’t keep them open any longer!
UPDATE, THE DAY AFTER
Definitely NOTHING was broken. I’m nursing tons of cuts and scrapes and leaks with our First Aid kit. I was able to sleep pretty soundly and get up with a good attitude to work. Our campground has 16 spaces and only 4 were occupied so I took advantage of that and did my US Forestry Service level cleaning on each unoccupied site. The movement was good and helped take my mind off of any aches and pains.
My left hand (thumb area on the top and into the palm) are the most painful of all and I have little grip strength. I think I must have hyperextended it… no big deal. The wounds on my knees mean I cannot cross my legs to sit ladylike which is awkward.
Thankfully I am ambidextrous AND my keyboard is small so I can type.
I think I’m gonna ride tonight to see how it goes!
Now to get another bell.
UPDATE, TWO DAYS AFTER
Oh I am in pain! I’m turning black and blue in places that I can’t figure out HOW they were smashed or bashed (like the back of my knee?). My back aches and I have bruising on my neck to shoulder. Everything is swollen up too.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN LEAVING HOME ON A “OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE” ADVENTURE WITH RANDY ROY SHOEMAKER:
- Carry your own water.
- Carry a first-aid kit.
- Tell people where you plan to go and when you plan to return.
- Do not wear any rings.
MORE PHOTOS, IF YOU ARE CURIOUS
3 thoughts on “Crash At Mammoth Rock Trail”
A big “OUCH” sent your way. So so sorry to hear about your mishap. It must have been terrifying being jostled through the air knowing you were in the midst of a crash. You poor thing. The hardest part to believe is that you GOT BACK ON AND KEPT GOING DOWN THE TRAIL!!!! I thought you were going to say that you hung around (away from the ants), and either Randy eventually came back or someone else came by and called the medics for you. How painful (&difficult) was THAT??? Just….wow!
All of this makes you start wondering what could have happened and you just have to sit back and be thankful that it wasn’t worse, (the “Rosemary Effect”) and that you were able to get home to your 4 legged family safely. I’m sure the bed never felt so good as it did that night!
Here’s to a new bell, smoother trails away from ledges & devil-toothed rocks, more trolleys, and stronger margaritas!!! 🍸
Take care of yourself and mend quickly so this can all be just a part of the past. ☺️
(Hope your tough decision several weeks ago worked out well and was the right one for YOU…..) 💜💜
So glad you are mostly ok. Those are some pretty good scrapes. You are such a great writer. I love reading your stories but would prefer it if it did not include bodily injury. Wish you’d caught up to the screaming lady with the dog. So glad you had your helmet on. Annelli took a pretty awful crash on a Mammoth trail a few years back. (She was experienced, we’d ridden down from the cornice the year before. Accidents can happen to anyone.) She landed Face and chest first, Broke a tooth, scrapes everywhere. I second always carry your own water and safety supplies, be careful and ALWAYS wear a helmet. I add that in memory of my friend’s husband Dan. As experienced a rider as the guys are runners, he adjusted something on his bike, basically took it on a test spin around the block without a helmet and hit a rock. He sustained head injuries and died a month later at 38. Just more perspective and so glad you are ok. Please keep writing. I put down Grisham to read your story.
Ouch!! that looks nastier than my recent fall. Keep on riding 🙂