Last year we rode Lima, MT to Big Springs, ID. You can read about it here. This year we decided to continue our journey and ride from Big Springs, ID to Flag Ranch, WY.
We had several reasons to skip it. Jen felt out of sorts with the trip. I was busy at work. The kids were getting ready for school, with one heading off to college. Maybe we should just let it go. After all, we’re not ready anyway…out of shape and gaining weight by the minute. Maybe we’re all washed up. Or, maybe not. I’ve learned in life that the harder it is to get ready for an adventure, the better experience you’re probably going to enjoy. We finally decided to throw our gear together and go. We are both so glad we did!
The back of our Subaru, piled high with gear. It wasn’t pretty or organized, but it was loaded.
I’m currently riding a Surly Ogre, Jen a Salsa Fargo. Both excellent choices in the ever growing segment of adventure bikes.
With a girl this pretty, I had to feed her. It’s always fun to have a good meal before and after a great ride.
My father built an ‘off the grid’ bunkhouse in Island Park. This is 1/2 mile off the Great Divide Trail. What a great start to our divide ride. The workmanship of this little 300 + S.F. cabin is off the charts. It feels more like a wooden sailboat than a cabin. I could live in a place like this…ride my bike, chop wood and nordic ski all winter. The small Jotel wood burning stove came from Norway. It’s the real deal.I’m totally in my element in this type of retreat.
The next morning, we examined all our food. This looked like enough to last a week…truth is, we had 1/3 more than we needed.
The railroad came through this area heading to West Yellowstone. Along the shallow canyon walls you can find names and dates of forgotten years.
Hey, we’re going 6 mph. Thats actually fast. Many uphills the following day were traveled at 2-3 mph, no joke. Note the bear spray, only deployed once on a onrushing dog closing quickly from the rear port quarter. It stopped him cold.Buffalo River.Trail snacks for quick energy.We love our REI travel chairs. This makes the lunch stop very relaxing. The key is to secure them on your bike for quick retrieval, otherwise you won’t take the time to set them up.
Jen used packing cubes to organize her clothing. She then folds the cube and stuffs it into her Viscatcha bag.
The trail offers spectacular views of Warm River.
This is my set up. Surly Ogre with frame bag, rear Carradice Longflap Camper with front bed roll in waterproof dry bag (down quilt, air mattress, tent, poles and ground cloth). Food went in the frame bag and clothing went in the rear bag. Honestly, I’m not entirely happy with this setup and believe next year I’ll try traditional panniers on front and rear racks. But, that’s heavier. Yes, but I want more room than what I have here and I’ve learned that I like panel load packs with organizational pockets. Living out of a bag has it’s draw backs and I’m ready to move back into panniers. Jen is happier with her setup than am I. She will probably stay with the bike packing style for her next tour.
Now my thoughts regarding the Caldera alcohol stove. If you are just interested in boiling water, these stoves are great. But, if you want to actually cook something there are better alternatives. Next year, I’ll be packing a liquid fuel stove or canister stove with a small fry pan. I want the ability to cook a few dishes along the way. Freeze dried meals work for a couple of days, but beyond that, I start to desire real food. Next year, I will attempt to cook a few real meals (purchased along the way in local grocery stores).
Here’s a piece of gear that absolutely impressed me and will make next years tour. My new MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent. Fast to pitch, just the right size for two, very small to stow and light weight to haul. This tent packs 1/3 smaller than my REI Half Dome.
Warm River Campground is a fantastic place to wash in the river and clean up after a long dusty ride.
Day 2 brought some initial road riding pedaling out of the Warm River area.
The trail quickly transitions to gravel. Though this photo doesn’t show it, many sections are very rough with rocky wash board. You want all the tire you can get to smooth out this section of the trail.
During the heat of the day, I dunked our shirts in a stream. Pulling them back on provided AC for several hours, especially if the shirt is 100% cotton (never leave home without a cotton shirt, despite what experts tell you). Cotton, a natural fiber, is way more comfortable than a synthetic. If you don’t believe me, try it. Wear both shirts for 1 hour on your bike in the heat of the day. You’ll never wear synthetic again.
Day 2 brought several tough climbs. Here, Jennifer takes a rest. This was nothing compared to the time she lay face down at the edge of the road and didn’t move for 10 minutes. A forrest ranger was convinced I’d killed her. Sometimes I wonder why she continues to go with me on these adventures.
After force feeding her M&M’s and lemonade, she was ready to ride.
There’s 2,000 vertical feet of climbing on this section. We thought the downhill would never come.
One of the greatest things about these rides are the people you meet. On the left is Gary. He has sailed (single handed) around the world in a 33′ sailboat, kayaked the Northwest Passage and bicycled on every continent. To his right are the New Zealanders who flew to Canada with bikes in cardboard boxes, assembled them and began cycling South. Both groups are riding the entire Great Divide Trail, all 2,700 miles of it.
Lodge at Flag Ranch. The sign said restaurant. I could smell the food a mile away.
We were smelly and tired, but I didn’t care. After splashing clean cold water on our faces from the restroom, we ventured in.
My prime rib dinner…after a few initial bites. As the sun raced toward the horizon, we rode into the Flag Ranch campground. The attendant said it would be $37.88 for a tent site. We were tired and I wasn’t about to argue over price. We unloaded our gear, wiped off our dusty legs with wet wipes and dove into our tent anxious to get some rest. Laying on our backs with our head lamps strapped to our foreheads, we read several pages of Wild before drifting off to sleep. Never been on an adventure yet when I later wished I’d stayed home instead.
What I learned:
- I want more room to pack than bike packing bags afforded me
- Gary, who has cycled around the world, is using traditional pannier and racks on the Great Divide without incident (many feel the vibrations are too harsh for traditional rack/pannier setups)
- I’ll try racks and panniers for my next tour
- 30-50 miles/day is plenty of milage for off road riding, loaded with all your gear
- Water filters allow you to camp where you want and free you from campgrounds
- I began craving real food after only 2 days of freeze dried meals
- I’ll carry a canister or liquid fuel stove with simmering capability for actual cooking
- I’ll carry a cotton sun shirt instead of nylon
- I’ll be adding a small wash basin for easier clean up
- I’ll be swapping my nylon Tilley hat for a cotton Tilley hat to better cool my brains
Our setup wasn’t perfect, we forgot things, we were out of shape, but we rode anyway. We’re both so glad we did. If you’ve got 2 days to ride, this is a beautiful stretch of the Great Divide.