Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31, Wednesday

When the dew and condensation are really heavy we tip our tents upside down and move them into the sun. So today there were 4 tents upside down. I wonder what people think of this.
Regardless of the bear threat, we did not get eaten last night. Climbing Togwotee pass, Jamie remembered much of it, though we did it east to west last time.
There were 2 motorcyclists who told us of the fate of the the 2 motorcyclists who attempted to go up Fleecer Ridge on their loaded dirt bikes. Apparently the one who assured us he would make it up didn't and the quiet overweight one did.
There were also two cyclists doing a combination of the Trans Am/ roll your own on the pass coming up from Florida. They had been on the road for 7 months.
Even though Roger isn't feeling well, he still managed to climb two passes, one of which was gravel, but he admitted the downhill was much more pleasant than the uphill. Togwotee pass gave us 8-9 miles of downhill before we turned off to Union Pass, hoping we could stay at the beginning of it at cyclists only camping. Jamie had called the number, but there was no answer and the voicemail was full (never a good sign). Arriving there, there was no water and no sign of welcome. Going back out to the road, Roger flagged a pickup and asked if there was really a restaurant / camping 5 miles up and got an affirmative, so up we went.
The trek was slow, but the grade was doable and offered beautiful views. Near the ranch where the road leveled out it began to rain lightly and the wind began to pick up. John had sent someone out to rescue us, but we already nearby.
As we rode into the Crooked Creek Ranch and pulled our bikes under the porch roof it started to pour.  John had gotten us a bunk house for $50 and we ate dinner at the lodge. I had a flat when we finally came back out.
This is a beautiful place to stay and needs to be better identified on the AC maps. If we hadn't been assured it was there, we probably would not have tried it. The map currently only identifies it as a place with services,  not by name or with directions. Leah, the manager, gave me directions to give to AC.
Stats: Start odometer 1389 End 1434 Total 45 Max 46.8 Avg 9.1 Time 4:47

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 30, Tuesday

We left our beautiful streamside campsite and began climbing.  The road had a surprising amount of traffic, mostly horse trailers. There were a couple of people picking huckleberries,  but after that and a couple of turn offs, the road deteriorated and traffic ceased (can you say "direct correlation"?) Later traffic picked up again from the other side, but there was a section of road too rough for most vehicles. We met the cyclist we saw from afar yesterday. His name was Pascal and he was riding something similar to a Surly Disc- trucker, a royad bike, outfitted with disc brakes and suspension fork, but with 1.5 inch tires. He towed a 2 wheeled trailer similar to a Burley Nomad and admitted it was not the ideal setup for the Divide.
Roger was not feeling well, but this seemed to affect his speed mostly. He still did the miles and got to the planned campground with a total of 62 miles ; pretty amazing.
We crossed the dam of a reservoir and found all of the campsites in the National Forest just west of the Tetons closed to the sequestration.  It seemed like more if a statement than anything because more effort must have been expended to close them than the summer upkeep. The vault toilets had been boarded up in a very sophisticated way, not just locked.  The garbage boxes had wooden boards fitted to keep trash from being thrown in, a huge pile if gravel had been deposited in the drive leading up to site to keep cars out, closed signs had been posted and barriers put in front if the whole thing. For each campsite along the road. Just saying.
Merely making people carry out their trash seems like it would mostly suffice. Letting vault toilets go uncleaned/ stocked... whatever. OK. I'm done with my tirade.
Traffic increased as we approached Flag Ranch, but the road became paved and so dust wasn't a problem. At 25 miles, we reached the Flag Ranch area and stopped to do some shopping and refill water bottles.  A construction sign directed people to yield to cyclists. It would be helpful to have more signs like that because drivers seem to actual behave better with them.
The road was being repaved and I rode down the wrong way because i thought the ashphalt was still hot and I've popped a tube that way.
Jackson lake's shoreline is quite evident, since the water level is so low. 
John and I took a quick trip to Colter Bay grocery (which I had forgotten how fabulous it was), while Roger and Jamie continued on. By the time we caught up with them 20 miles later they were 3 miles short of the campground. It was almost 6:30 at that point, so it was a quick rinse, dinner and bed. Loads of horses at this campground, Turpin Meadows. Technically this campground was closed to tents and soft sided campers due to bear activity, but the host turned a blind eye, since she had already done her rounds.
Start odometer 1326
End 1389
Avg 12.1
Max 39.2
Total 63
Time 3:22

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, Monday

Instead of going through Big Spring, we headed south down first a paved, then gravel road to hit the rail trail. John's GPS device helped us find it, for there was a maze of roads, ATV and foot trails going every which way.
The rail trail is made of course sand and for the most part is only compressed in the ruts left by ATV traffic. If you don't stay exactly in the middle of your chosen rut, you slip and slide all over. Sometimes the sand at the bottom of the rut is also soft. I compared it to driving in a blizzard.  You have to completely attend to the road right in front of you. This went on for about 25 miles. One lapse in attention and you will go off the road and so I did. It was a slow speed (8mph) crash, which pitched me into the sand. Fortunately I didn't take anyone else with me and I escaped with a little brush burn on my leg.
Towards the very end the surface solidified and we saw a few people who had come down the path by bike to fish in the Warm River quite a ways below us, as well as some ATVs and a horseback riding group. An old tunnel led under part of the hillside,  but it was closed due to instability.
As we jumped out of the river valley onto paved roads, we saw our first and last Idaho crops: wheat, rye (maybe) and potatoes. The crops had disappeared as we re-entered a National Forest.
For a while we followed a solo rider with a 2 wheeled trailer, but we never caught him. John suffered another flat, possibly due to some funky cattle guards we crossed. A thunder and lighting storm threatened to overtake us and the solo cyclist wisely ditched somewhere in the woods while we rode on.
At a rental NFS cabin there was a boil advisory due to cholera bacteria,  so we did not stay there,but moved on to Boone's Creek and set up there, quite late. Our bear hang was less than stellar, but hopefully it will do.
Start odometer 1265
End 1326
Total 61
Max 26.7
Avg 9.8
Time reset needed,  so this was lost

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28, Sunday

At around 6:30 am, I walked down to the lake. The pink sky and mist over the lake were awesome. There was a little condensation inside the tents, but it didn't rain last night, so things weren't too wet.
We saw our first antelope approaching the divide crossing, which was probably the lowest/easiest yet.
At the top was a vacationer riding a mountain bike, who was kind enough to take a picture of us all together. The 3 shadow cyclists showed up, so we took their picture. They will veer off into Yellowstone, but may catch us again in Pinedale. As we get closer to the Tetons and Yellowstone RVs and vacation homes are becoming more prevalent.  There was an interesting stretch of mostly flat double track and we got to chase some cows. The double track was a nice alternative to plain dirt roads, since is less rocky, more rolling and narrower, going through undeveloped woods. It was more like a forest trail.

We had to go around 2 gates and open/close a third.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 27, Saturday

We shipped some packages out today via UPS from the hotel. Jamie had received her old seat from the Trans Am trip to replace the stock Surly seat on her Ogre and also got a huge bag of home made cinnamon dried apples, chocolate and other dried foods. We ate at a cafe in town and met some cyclists from Seattle and Salt Lake who were scoping out the area for a club trip. Then we headed out of this very small town and almost immediately hit dirt roads.

Roger had decided to take a pavement alternate, since he had gone the dirt route before and been unimpressed. Our path today was relatively flat, with some rollers and we travelled up a wide glacial valley with ample water. The valley contained the reservoir for Lima and eventually some lakes/ marshland dedicated as a national wildlife refuge.

We passed a dead cow and I thought it made John sick to his stomach, but his chain had just come off and he was contemplating taking a picture of it. So much for me questioning his constitution.
A storm developed at the western end of the valley and threatened to overtake us all day, but then veered into the hills, which slowed it down a bit before it returned to the valley and chased us again. We made it to Upper Lake CG just as it began to rain.

Roger had beaten us there by about an hour and had pitched his tent, so Jamie, John and I followed suit and jumped inside. The rain only lasted about 30 minutes, but in the meantime Kevin, Glenn and Susan showed up.

There was a marvelous spring which had been focused through a pipe and landscaped with railroad ties. I washed my arms, legs and face, but the water was so cold I had no plans to go further.
We made another no-cook rehhdrated meal, pasta and sauce; complete failure. We are not daunted!  Rice only! It is possible to survive on rice dishes!

There was a beautiful sunset over the lake and loads of mosquitos. This is a particularly beautiful CG filled with aspens.
Start odometer 1177
End 1234
Max 31.9
Total 57
Avg 11.1
Time 5:07

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 26, Friday

Cool and windy brought the dawn. I put that in just for Rachel.

A GDMBR rider stopped as we were packing up and then continued on his way (Daryl). Rolling hills and seemingly empty country allowed us to see the road ahead for miles. Jamie and I chased some more cows, which after we passed served as a warning system for approaching cyclists (Daryl, then John, then Roger) long after we passed. We had to push up the climb for a while, it was so steep. Jamie refers to this as "stretching my legs".

Around a bend we startled a large herd of elk, which divided into 2 groups and bolted. Wow, they can cover a lot of ground quickly. We also saw our first all American coyote, the last being in Canada.
The last half of the day was rolling downhill. We rolled into Dell (off route) for groceries and to visit the Yesterday Calf-A, and I decided to seek medical attention that could not wait another week until a large town surfaced.

I asked restaurant patrons leaving if any were heading north to Dillon and a really nice couple from Calgary offered to take me with them. After I had accomplished my mission, the clinic's 19 year old receptionist offered to drive me the 50 miles back to Dell. She stopped home to pick up her 14 year old brother and off we went.

They were exceptionally kind and asked me all kinds of questions and we chatted about how fabulous Montana is, about technology and about cars. In Dell, I grabbed my bike and rode like the wind to Lima, literally, because I had a 15 MPH tailwind. I got there around 9pm.

In Lima, everyone had chipped in for a huge room, which meant warm showers, beds and a flush toilet.
Daryl and the 4 cyclists we met near Fleecer Ridge were at the same hotel; Kevin, Susan and Glenn. Two of our group member's odometers hit 1,000 today.

Start odometer 1126
End 1177
Total 50
Max 33.3
Avg 12.1
Time 3:55

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25, Thursday

It probably dropped to about 45 degrees last night, but my 15 degree bag, Ibex wool shirt, t shirt, shorts and pants kept me sweating, though sleeping.

We had first breakfast in camp, then ran off, first downhill (brrrr, too scantily clad), then uphill, then downhill, then hungry enough for a second breakfast 3 miles later. The Grasshopper Inn was a really nice place seemingly in the middle of nowhere. THEN we found out we could have camped out front and had margaritas and widow. If we had rented a room we could even have taken SHOWERS. All for 3 measly miles. Alas.

After breakfast we passed through a section of route shared with the Trans Am; it was pretty non-descript and neither Jamie nor I remembered it. A solo female headed west passed us and we should have stopped to chat, since soloists are sometimes a little lonely, but we forged ahead.

There was a lot of downhill early in the day, but it turned into a rolling flat, then a slight incline as the day wore on. Water is an issue in this section, since most of the creeks have dried up by this time of the year. You know the few which are running are contaminated by the hundreds of cattle ranging across their watersheds, but you dip and purify and cross your fingers.

Bannock State Park was closed due to flash flooding, but that was a little early for us to be stopping anyways.

We finally came to a rest where the road crossed Medicine Lodge Creek and took turns bathing in the very small shallow creek. A tiny rain storm came through while we pitched our tents. Though there was thunder and an incredible wind, hardly 20 drops of rain struck my tent. Jamie rescued my tent, which was hell bent on impaling itself on a barbed wire fence, taking my sleeping bag, pad and clothes with it.
Our fourth rehydrated meal (2 successful attempts) was quite good and we are discovering some ground rules. 1. Pasta can't stand around being rehydrated for long and may not work at all 2. Rice side dishes rehydrate in about 20 minutes.  The ones we have been using are made by Knorr. We will try some pasta between now and Big Spring, ID and make a final determination on getting rid of the stove by then.

Since there is no toilet, we used a rock slide for this purpose. We would lift a rock, make a deposit to nature, replace the rock and build a little cairn to mark the spot.

Our bear hangs were pretty weenie, since there were not really any trees. The guys just put their stuff on top of the river sign posts about 5 feet above the ground, while Jamie and I tried the bridge trick again, but the creek is only about 4 feet below the bridge. Since there is a lot of vegetation at either end of the bridge, we know the food will be safe because a.) Bears don't like splashing in the water, right? And b.) Bears don't like moving through itchy scratchy vegetation, right? and c.) the bikers are tastier and come in cute wrappers filled with down feathers.

Today we saw a moose and calf, fox, bluebird and some rust colored heron-type birds.

Start odometer 1068
End 1126
Total 60 (I took my odometer off to get it calibrated right)
Max 41.5
Avg 11.5
Time 4:58

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 24, Wednesday

We tried to get out early and succeeded in leaving by 8:30, so we would hit Fleecer Ridge early.  And so we hit it, the 4 of us and the other 3 riders from the CG. Six of us had to push up at some point, but the woman from the other group made it all the way up. The directions read, "Begin riding/pushing up very steep ridge". This is the first time our directions have told us we were probably going to have to push. The descent was far worse. I'm surprised I didn't wear down a spot on my tires since I was braking to totally stop the wheels from rolling,  but the bike kept going anyways. The track was so loose and steep that it was difficult-to-impossible to even walk it, forcing me to push the bike through the sage and brush.  Thus is the GMBR. If you can't find joy and humor in it, it isn't for you.
After we remounted and were on our way down.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23, Tuesday

We ate a simple breakfast, then dilly-dallied at the Safeway and didn't get going until 10:30. Threading back through Butte to go south was easy. After about 10 miles we were back up in Forest Service land again and climbed up to the divide.

Very few vehicles passed us and one was a Forest Service vehicle and the driver actually totally stopped for each of us spread out over a mile, in order to not spew dust all over us. He even apologized for the dust he was kicking up, which was minimal. Much later a fire service vehicle came by and barely slowed.

At the pass were many horse trailers, which must have discharged their contents and were heading back down. They may be cowboys heading out to herd the cattle back down.

We ate lunch at a leisurely pace until we were told that spraying for the pine bark beetle was about to commence, so we moved on.

The road rolled through short grass and sage range lands, with cows watching our progress. At one point we smelled something awful and finally linked it to what we faintly could make out to be a dead cow in a copse of trees.

The road down was not very pleasant. Extensively washboarded and often comprised of sand, I braked to an almost constant speed of 10.5 MPH. A nice view of Fleecer Mountain was framed by the nearby lower hills. Route 15 was far below and the cars looked like cows on a ribbon of river.

Our last stretch was a 6 mile moderate climb to Beaver Dam CG. The CG was mostly closed due to beetle spraying (1 month ago? ), but is scheduled to reopen tomorrow. We purified the water just to be safe, since it was murky even after pumping for 5 minutes and it may not have been tested recently.  The only other CG user was a larger RV; they were using a mannequin leg to weigh down their tarp, but no one was home.

Dinner is being partially rehydrated with yesterday's leftover wine. 4 more cyclists came in around 9.

Start odometer 980
End 1018
Total 36.1
Avg 8.5
Max 28.6
Time 4:13

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, Monday

We got the earliest start yet, around 9:00. The day started with a gradual climb developing into a steep climb over rocks, roots and small gullies. We pushed for about 3 miles uphill and 1 mile down. John rode all of it. He is a grizzly, right?

There was really nothing to complain about, though, for the scenery was fabulous and there was something great and challenging around each bend.

Two motorcyclists Jamie and I met last night who are following the GDMBR (except the no motorized vehicle parts) went this way this morning. They were not riding what I would call dirt bikes, but off-road motorcycles. Some of what they passed through is just remarkable for a motorcycle. I would have marked it as impassable.

The downhill dirt road improved and passed by many old and current mines. It also travelled parallel to Cascade Creek, true to its name.

When we got to Basin, MT Jamie and I left Roger and John eating at a cafe, while we went on.
The next 5 miles or so were dirt again, but then we followed Roger's advice and hopped on the highway. That was a rather boring 30 miles, bringing us into Butte for about a 50 mile total. The highway and route run side by side for much of that distance and the route eventually ends up on the highway anyways, so we didn't lose much.
Jamie and I cruised into Butte via interstate 90, apparently one of the few, if not the only northern route into town due to the huge strip mine on the northern boundary.
We stopped for groceries, then headed for the KOA, where we met up with Roger and John again.
Everyone took advantage of the cell phone service to call their respective peeps and I got a chance to shower. Jamie and I spent the evening talking to Mitch, from Dublin, who is touring by motorcycle. We shared a bottle of wine and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Jamie and I have bought, while John and Roger went to a pizza joint.

Start odometer 928
End 980
Avg 9.2
Max 35.2
Total 50.11
Time 5:24