Day Four - Big Horn Proper

Not wanting to run into more private drives or trails we could not find, we decided to improvise a little on Monday, and we decided to just ride the trails north of US14A.  We went into Dayton and rode west on US14 climbing up the East side of the Big Horn Mountains.  From Dayton to the top of the pass is over 2600 feet and is achieved in not much more than five miles.  It's a great motorcycle road, but not that great on a dual-sport; I was longing for the RT as we rode up the mountainside.  At the top we continued west stopping once to snap a few pictures of a moose along the road.  He didn't even seem to notice the myriad of cars stopping along the road to also take pictures.  Just past where US14A splits from US14 we turned north onto FR15, and we were in business.  Our first attempt at a stop was near the ranger station only a couple of miles in.  There didn't seem to be any trail leading down to the Tongue River overlook so we continued on.  We stayed on Freeze-Out Road until we came to Fool Creek Ridge Road.  There we turned left not knowing exactly where we were headed.  The road was a little challenging and we were in our element.  The trail took us through lodgepole pine with occasional stretches of wide open views; it was as if we were on top of the world.  We stayed on FR15 for a little while and upon reaching FR144, that looked to go high atop the ridge, we broke off.  We rode up the trail only to find a fence a few hundred yards in.  It was still a great view and we stopped for some pictures.  We were now at 9200 feet and the whole forest lay out at our feet.  We rode back down FR15 through the pines and quickly found ourselves back on US14.  The going was good, FR15 was a tightly-packed gravel road but the scenery made it worthwhile.  We went west on US14 for a couple of miles before finding Sheep Mountain Road.  We turned right and headed north.  We were still at over 9000 feet and the wind had begun to pick up.  It was fairly cool now especially for the middle of the day.  We stopped near a stand of trees to break the wind as we looked over our map and decided where to go next.  We continued on Sheep Mountain as we negotiated our way west toward Porcupine Falls. 

The roads were well marked so we didn't have to reference the map.  We stopped at the falls and climbed to the edge to get a glimpse.  There were some hikers who were headed down the hiking trail to the falls.  By the time we dismounted and grabbed our gear for a very short hike to the edge, sat down for a while they had reached the bottom.  So, it couldn't have been very far.  Nevertheless we sat atop our perch and viewed the falls and the scenery below.  We didn't have a perfect view of the falls, but it was good enough.  After viewing we continued up the road to Bucking Mule Falls but only found a trailhead.  There looked like some trails we could ride on the map but we didn't spot one once we were there.  It was no big deal, we rode on and thought we might see them from a different vantage point.  As we were working our way around we spotted a ranger station and asked about Marble Quarry Road and whether it was open.  The ranger said it was a part of the national forest and he couldn't be sure but he did say there was trail.  We thanked him for the information and told him we would likely go back the way we had come.  We got to thinking that he probably couldn't tell us for sure due to liability concerns.  This also got me thinking that this was akin to when a Harley rider not to take our street bikes over Cottonwood Pass in CO because of the difficulty.  When we ignored his concerns and rode it anyway it turned out to be a great ride.  This seemed familiar so we decided to give it a shot.  So, we got back out on Sheep Mountain and headed north.  When we got to Marble Quarry it was still fairly early so we decided to continue on Sheep Mountain to see where it went.  Sheep Mountain looked like it was coming to an end, and we decided it was time to try Marble Quarry.  Our biggest concern was we would get most of the way down the road on our way back to Rt 463 and have to turn around.  If that happened I would be dangerously low on gas if we had to go all the back the way we came.  Steve had a larger gas tank, so could siphon gas if necessary, and we noticed a travel center back where we originally turned off, although we were uncertain if they had gas.  Off we went.  We started at 9400 feet and  would drop over 4800 feet in about 12 miles.  The first portion was in good shape and we held our breath as we went down the mountain.  As we progressed, however, the trail was becoming more difficult and looking less likely that it would go through, but we trudged along.  We stopped a couple of times along the way to view the red cliffs along Rt463 in the distance that we rode next to on Saturday.  The pines finally gave way to open range grass and we spotted cattle grazing in the distance.  Then, my heart nearly stopped.  I could see a fence in the distance and as I approached I feared we were about to find a private property sign, or worse an Indian Reservation sign.  Once we got up to it, we saw that it had a clasp for opening; whew.  We went through and continued to hold our breath for there was certain to be another.  Sure enough there was one.  Only this time before we could get to the gate we spotted an obstacle; a huge bull looking at us, uncertain if we were friend or foe.  After a couple of horn bursts and revved engines he decided to fight another day.  We passed through and before we knew it we were on Rt463.  We stopped along the little creek there to catch our breath before we headed back to Dayton and on to our motel in Ranchester