This was my final day on these mountains and my plan was to return to my car, but rather than take the long diversion of the track, I was going to try to navigate over the hills using the directions a back-country skier would follow during the Winter. This was the route I had scouted out the previous evening, and got a good soaking for my troubles.
I was packed and ready to ride by 8:30am and said goodbye to the other bike packers I had shared the hut with, paused for a quick photo of my bike by the hut.
I then set-off riding up to the Eastern entrance to the Hagerman Tunnel.
I continued along until the small track I was on joined onto the larger one, the 527. If I turned left onto this I would descend down to Ivanhoe Lake and have an additional 16 miles to travel. I turned right and proceeded to the end of the road, which was the blocked up entrance to the Eastern side of Hagerman Tunnel. From this point, the path was going to be indistinct, and I would need to use a map and compass to find my route. I could also expect to see some blue diamond signs on posts or trees. These would be what the skiers in the winter would need as the ground would be featureless.
I would like to be able to say that I found the navigation easy. But that was far from the truth. I dithered around with the phone map and compass, I tried following what appeared to be tracks, and I tried to guess which the right way would be. Really I tried everything, and it was a clear day with great visibility, where I could almost do no wrong. So that meant I was almost guaranteed to find my way back.
In the end I resorted to taking a bearing which would ensure that I hit the road, the Hagerman Pass road (105). And sure enough that is what I did.
The rest of my journey that morning was retracing the route I had taken the previous day, and the day before that. I reached Hagerman Pass and descended past the entrance to the well hidden Skinner Hut, and continued on, down the very bumpy track which had beaten most vehicles on the climb up. Then upon reaching the Western side of the Hagerman Tunnel, the 4WD track turned to a gravel road, and I could freewheel almost all the way back to Turquoise Lake.
Once at the lake I was on sealed roads and could make better progress. I reached car after about 30 minutes, and took one final photo to prove it.
It was quite a strange experience going from a fairly wild place to a civilised place in such a short space of time. I unpacked everything, put on some clean(ish) clothes, and drove my bike back to The Cycles of Life. There the guys gave it a once over to see that I hadn't done anything wrong with the bike and Brian said "you look pretty honest to me, so I'll trust that you haven't gone crazy". I hadn't, so his trust was well placed. I bought a couple of souvenirs and headed across the road to a cafe for a nice lunch, before heading down the valley to Vail.