Sunday, September 7, 2008

CDT ST, day three plus.

Everyone has something they still like to do that they haven't messed up by making it too complicated just yet. Bikepacking is mine. By its very nature it is a minimalist activity--there's only so much crap you can tote along and still be able to ride techy singletrack. Less crap in the pack means less crap to wonder or worry about, leaving you mostly free to enjoy all of the external stimulation.

Assuming of course that you chose an externally stimulating place to go bikepacking. In our case, we had--so far so good.

What am I on about?

Minimalism. Simplicity. Being chaos-free enough in the noggin to notice and appreciate the little things around you that add up to a lot more.

For example: Waking up and having this be the very first thing your eyes focus on is just ducky in my book.

That view told me that all was right in my world, at least at that moment.

Then your brain starts to cogitate a bit and you realize that Hey! I'm still alive! And the bears didn't eat my food! And the bugs are mostly gone! And I'm no more filthy than when I got in the bag! And it isn't raining!

Suddenly life seems pretty in-focus. At least for me.

I have to be honest--for most of the rest of this day there wasn't a whole lot of brain wave activity going on. It started with that sunrise view, with the smile produced by that view, with the uplifted feeling that followed the smile. Throughout the day I was mostly in the moment, enjoying the views, the wind (for it removed the bugs), each bite of sustenance, drink of water, even the dreaded bike pushing was ok by me.

Beat the hell outta pushing up daisies.

Mid-morning we met a CDT thru-hiker. She was cordial but obviously had zero interest in company. I didn't feel much like talking either so that was fine--on we went.

Maybe an hour later we rolled up to Morrison Lake and saw the fish feeding. Not a whole lot of hesitation--I unpacked the fly rod, walked a dozen steps to where I could see a few trout offshore, then cast.

Between the gusts and my piddly 4wt rod the wind had a lot more to say about my placement than I did. But still--the fly hit the water and at that precise millisecond the water around the fly just erupted. I set the hook and played this beauty for ~90 seconds before landing it.

I look at the pic, now, and although the size of the fish is underwhelming (even though it felt as fat as a football in-hand) I still get a bit of the thrill of that moment. One of the highlights of the trip for me.

Side note--I don't know diddly about fishing and even less about fishing gear, but I *do* know that a 4wt rod makes any fish a heckuva lot more fun to catch. You have to work for every catch, and mistakes aren't covered up by gear. Mistakes equal a lost fish--no more, no less.


Moments later the wind *really* came up and further casts equaled balls of fly line around the rod, my legs, and on the sage lining the lake. Time to get back on the trail.

Wind dominated everything about this afternoon. When riding we countersteered as much as possible but still were involuntarily removed from the trail a few times each when the gusts raged then stopped, then raged some more. When pushing the bike I'd keep it on the upwind side of me--easier to control it when its worst habit is to push harder into me. A little something I picked up up north...

I know you're not supposed to 'fight' anything anymore in this PC world. Simply put, if forward progress was to be made on this day, most of the time it involved struggle. And since we knew the trail was going to get better (it had to...) we opted to move forward.

This vid shows an average amount of wind on a rare rideable climb. Watch Scott's front wheel and understand that he isn't moving it willingly, he's merely reacting to the gusts:

Mid-afternoon brought us to this oasis. Unquestionably one of the nicest springs I've ever had the pleasure of dunking my salt-encrusted melon into.

What followed was an oasis of a different sort: rideable singletrack. How and why this section was favored with built and fun trail is unknown. What is known is that we were both tickled repeatedly to round a corner and *not* see an unrideable grade stretching out before us. We were even happier that our GPS track proved wrong the higher we got: instead of kicking up and directly crossing stacked contours we wrapped around the side of the mountain on reasonable grades connected by switchbacks.

I call it an oasis merely because the miles of trail on either side of it aren't really worth duplicating.

The ensuing descent was beyond brilliant, at least relative to everything we'd ridden the past two days. More contour trail, more well-built switchbacks, more fun tech challenges linking miles of fast test-the-limits-of-your-tires singletrack.

The delayed gratification only made it that much sweeter.

Bottoming out at Bannock Pass Scott finally came clean and verbalized what he'd been hinting at for the past ~12 hours: not enough food in his larder to continue. We sat atop the pass and discussed potential detour-to-food options, but the wind made it difficult to hear each other and we could only agree to drop off the divide and down into the 'town' of Grant where he was sure we could get a meal.

The meal didn't seem certain until it was warming our bellies, and although I hadn't felt hungry for the previous 48 hours I could have eaten three times what our heavenly hostess ("Diesta") served up.

Looking west from our rented cabin that night, into Idaho and the smoke from a shortlived fire being fanned by the incessant blow.

The next day (day 4) we rode ~south along the GDMBR headed back towards Lima. This section of the Great Divide Race route was one of my favorites each time I rode through on it, but years later it was difficult to see why. The views to each side (including the high ridgeline we'd followed the past few days) were still great and the remote flavor was still somewhat there. But it was difficult to see the forest for the crappy dirt road we were riding. Call me a snob (the shoe fits) but riding dirt road simply does not scratch the itch. Give me singletrack, heck even doubletrack, the twistier the better, and keep the dirt roads for the Texas wheelchairs and minivans.

We're mountain bikers, we deserve better.

I'm not much for stats but my favorite number of this trip comes here: It took Scott and I 3 solid days of difficult travel to traverse the CDT to Bannock Pass from Lima. It took us half a day to ride the GDMBR back to Lima. The distances were similar as was the locale, but all similarities ended there.

Stick with me--still 3 more days to go...



  1. Those pics are great. Looks like a great ride. Thanks for sharing! Cheers.

  2. Man, I've been reading these posts while I'm at work. It's like you're dangling a rare steak in the face of a starving man. I love it. Keep it up.

  3. Great pics! It's no wonder you're a hard to find!
    Got OLL info for you... I'm still at and listed. Find me :-p

  4. Gorgeous Mike.....You really are the Ansel Adams of the MTB world.