This summer I completed a bikepacking trip throughout the United States western region. The following write-up is an attempt to memorialize my ride for myself and others who may be interested. I’m not one to keep a daily log of my time on the road, this is a summary of the highs and lows of the 3 month period.
The hard numbers:
Who: 55 year old guy, mediocre athlete, a participant vice a competitor
What: Bikepacking trip completed in two phases
Where: Idaho Falls to Bnaff – 1265 Miles
Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (Bnaff to Antelope Wells, NM) – 2779 Miles
TOTAL: 4044 Miles
Timeframe: June 14 – Sept 12, 2017
Why: For adventure and because I can
Equipment: Surly Troll with Rolhoff gears and SON Dynamo Hub
I just completed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, GDMBR, as mapped out by Adventure Cycling Association, ACA. They have mapped out over 40,000 miles of bicycle adventures throughout the United States. I can’t say enough for their mapping efforts and the details included on each one. This is the second tour I have completed with their maps the first being the Transamerica Route across the United States.
My trip in details:
I started June 14th and completed the trip on September 12th after cycling 4,044 miles through some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.
Phase I was to bike up to Bnaff, Canada where the GDMBR begins, this was 1265 miles. This portion of the ride I self mapped out using American Auto Association maps.
I started in Idaho Falls, ID then to Castlegar, BC then to Bnaff. I rode across southern and western Idaho up through the Canadian border at Nelway, BC. I spent the weekend at my Uncle’s home in southern BC. Afterwards, I biked north to Revelstoke over to Golden then finally Bnaff. This phase was completed on paved roads.
My highlights of Phase I:
- Arco, ID – first town to use nuclear power for electricity. The town is in the high desert area of Idaho
- Craters of the Moon National Monument – Lava beds as far as one can see. Very unique landscape.
- Sawtooth National Recreation Area – The start of beautiful scenery for the next 3 months. A long climb out of Sun Valley to Galena Summit.
- The entire western side of the state of Idaho – I passed through McCall, White Bird grade, Orofino, Coeur D’Alene.
- Southern British Columbia – Nelson, New Denver, Naksup.
- Central British Columbia – This stretch was on the TransCanada Highway 1 – I was not too excited about the truck traffic along this highway. Revelstoke, Golden and Bnaff.
- TransCanada Highway 1 – a very busy highway with both commercial and tourist traffic. I would not normally chose such a route, but there are not many options going east/west in British Columbia.
Phase II was to do the GDMBR itself consisting of 2779 miles down the Continental Divide to Mexican Border.
This was mapped out by ACA. The maps consist of turn by turn instructions and what services are available along the way. I crossed the Continental Divide 32 times during the ride south to the border. This phase consisted of 90% dirt roads and 10% other, typically paved.
Highlights of Phase II:
- The scenery the whole way. It started out in Bnaff in the Canadian Rockies, which can’t really be described in words. Every bend of the trail brought a picture perfect view.
- Numerous wild camping sites throughout the 2700 miles. I would be the only person in sight for miles. There were a few times that I would see only a handful of people in a day passing in a 4X4 vehicle. Water was obtained from streams and possibly from livestock tanks as I traveled South.
- Towns that are worth a re-visit for me – Whitefish, MT; Helena, MT; Breckenridge, CO area; Salida, CO; Steamboat Springs, CO. These towns range in size from small to larger. They were typically a mining town reborn as a tourist destination.
- Not sure there are any. I certainly complained about the climbing on this route, but that is to be expected as it follows the Continental Divide. Over 30 miles of climbing during 2700 miles. At times I felt like that was all I was doing.
Would I do this trip again?
-No, there are many other places to bicycle tour.
What was the best part of the trip?
-Not sure there is one “Best”. See highlights above.
Would I do something different?
-Calorie intake for me was a concern of mine from the beginning. I didn’t eat enough food during the trip for sure. This is an ongoing learning process for me. Carrying enough food and keeping the weight down in my bags.
-I bought a Surly Troll a couple of months prior to the trip. The gearing on my Rohloff hub was too high. I made some changes in Salida, CO that helped reducing the number of teeth on my front sprocket. I’m still researching a better combination of gearing. My Revelate Bags all worked great with no malfunctions. Not sure I’d change anything other than gearing.
I came late to bicycle touring. Last year, we rode across the United States over a 3 month 4400 mile trip. I became hooked to the slow travel aspects of this mode. I enjoy meeting people along the way that are touring, visiting or live in the area. The bicycle makes me more approachable to others. I have held conversations with numerous people that car travel would not allow. It is definitely about the journey and not the destination. Over the 3 month period, I lost track of the journey and focused on the destination, which led to some down time mentally. It was a long difficult trip for sure, but if I focused on the people and scenery, which I did, I was mentally better.
Thank you for reading, be sure to check out his first post! If you have any questions on this experience, please feel free to email me- in my “Contact Me” section.
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