Crested Butte Redux–Mountain Biking and Vanlife

IMG_20200713_143708_508Summer nights in Crested Butte are most excellent!After resting for a day in Gunnison and stocking up on supplies I made my way back to Crested Butte to spend a week at a spot I had previously camped at in 2018. I ended up having a good time in 2018 and you can view that stay here.My campsite is located at the top of the maintained part of Brush Creek road and there is a large open dispersed camping area. There is plenty of room for all types of campers and due to its proximity to town, awesome riding, and 4 wheeling, it is a very popular place to camp so expect some neighbors. If you have a 4×4 camping setup it would be great to push up the 4wd road past the creek crossing and stay at one of the many incredible dispersed sites along the way to Pearl Pass.IMG_20200710_110919Climbing is tough getting up the start of the singletrack on the way to the top of Teocalli Ridge.In 2018 I got my ass kicked on this trail. It was my first high elevation ride of the year and I bonked so hard I could not enjoy the downhill. After getting rested up from the 195 mile ride with Joe and Kristen I was feeling pretty strong and ready for another attempt.IMG_20200710_113347The wild flowers were poppin! I was feeling strong at this point but there were still some steep spots that required you to push your bike. About 2/3 of the way up I was pushing my bike, huffing and puffing and I look back and see a middle aged couple rocketing up the climb that I could barely walk. They zip past me and say hi, I notice a whirring sound that reminded me of and RC motor. Ha! They were on e-bikes! Ok my spirit wasn’t completely crushed after all.

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At the top I took a break and busted out a gluten free PB and J. Man these taste good but ended up being a bad idea for my finicky digestive system. The views from the ridge are spectacular and inspired me to ride Perl Pass the next day.IMG_20200711_102329After a great ride on Teocalli Ridge the previous day I was ready to attack Pearl Pass next. This ride has some historical significance and hold the oldest Mountain bike event in the world the Pearl Pass tour from Crested Butte to Aspen that has been a tradition for 48 years!

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Picture from the 3rd annual event in 1978

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I wasn’t riding to the town of Aspen but still wanted to make it to the top of the 12,705 foot pass then head back to camp. On the way up I ran into some jeepers and had a good conversation with a gal that was waiting for her husband and friends to get to the top and head back. One of the jeeps radioed in and said they had to turn around about 200 yards from the summit due to a snow bank. When I got up there and saw it for myself the snow bank looked manageable so I drug my bike across the off camber snow bank. Briefly after getting back on dry trail I encountered another snow bank that was just as easy to cross as the last one.IMG_20200711_131211I was thrilled to get to the top of this 12,700 foot pass. Lots of other jeepers, motos, and ATV’s were not able to enjoy the summit this day. I felt kind of special.IMG_20200713_143419_290

Breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains all around. The Elk Mountain range is one of my favorite ranges in Colorado.

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After a good 10 days of camping at the Brush Creek dispersed campsite I made my way back into Gunnison to resupply and noticed a post from one of my other nomad friends Ramon. I know Ramon from riding at the bike parts and in New Mexico. I messaged him and we decided to meet up in Gunnison and catch up then later ride Doctor Park.

Doctor Park is considered to be one of the best rides in Crested Butte. Ramon’s wife Linda was kind enough to shuttle us to the top of Bear Creek Trail. The ride started off excellent with mellow descending along the creek and through meadows.

When we reached the top of the climb to Doctor Park a thunderstorm moved in and parked right on top of us. It was scary to hear the thunder ecohing right above us. We waited for about a half hour for the rain to let up but it never did so we decided to go for it. Man did it rain on us. Lucly I had brought my rainjacket bur Ramon did not. It rained so hard the trail turned to a stream and even hailed on us.

We finished the ride with big grins on our faces. Although this was not the Dr. Park experience I was looking for we still had a blast and completed the ride safely. Ramon and Linda invited me to their winter home in San Felipe Mexico that I just may take them up on!

Road to Tarabithia–3 Day Epic Bikepacking Trip

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Bikepacking makes the best friends!!! Joe, Kristen and myself smiling big after leaving the town of Crested Butte.

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After completing a week stay in Buffalo Creek I made my way down to Gunnison Colorado to meet my friends Joe and Kristen for a 3 day bikepacking trip around Crested Butte. I was riding my bike in Buffalo Creek when I noticed a text from Joe that said “Kristen and I were thinking about your Crested Butte 4th of July route this year. Would you be interested in that?” I replied “Yes, Lets make it happen!”

For several years in a row we had a 4th of July weekend tradition where we would ride a gravel style bikepacking route that typically covered 150+ miles of gravel road, 4×4 road, easy singletrack, and some paved road. The idea is to explore and discover new parts of Colorado that we have never seen before. Unfortunately the tradition got derailed mainly due to my health issues I was having the past couple of years but was very excited to see it pick back up and me back in good health.

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Joe also runs his own bike bag business and just in time for this adventure he made me a fresh set of frame bags! I got a brand new FramePak, ToolPak, and SnakPak. They are made of this really slick off black XPac Lightskin material with orange stitching that gives the bag a little pop. My old frame bag was made by Joe back in 2012 and it is still going strong. I love my old bag but am excited to take advantage of JPaks new innovations and features. For instance the FramePak now bolts directly into the water bottle mounts for an incredibly secure fit. The front of the frame pack is flared for more room when stashing items in a pinch. The pack is cleverly divided into 2 sections for easy organizing. And this new bag is constructed with the latest XPac Lightskin material that’s incredibly sturdy and looks amazing! Be sure visit his company JPaks here.

I always get very excited when my bike is fully loaded up and ready to go. Its amazing how capable this 2 wheeled human powered machine is. The above picture was taken in Gunnison next to a a friend of Joe and Kristen’s by the name of Jonathan. He was kind enough to let us park our vehicles on the side of his house for 3 days while we had our adventure. Jonathan is the County Commissioner for Gunnison and an advocate for our public lands. We discussed how I would like to live in Gunnison someday.

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And we are off! The start of the ride was a gentle climb up Ohio Pass Road. The last few miles it gets steep and turns to gravel with some rocks to dodge here and there. The crisp morning, blue skies, and beautiful country road made for a very pleasant start.

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Here is Joe and Kristen celebrating with some snack mix after cresting Ohio Pass. This was the first of many big passes on this route.

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After reaching Kebler Pass Road, Kristen found a delightful piece of singletrack that took us down into the town of Crested Butte. Unfortunately this little slice of trail was the only singletrack the 195 mile route offered.

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We arrived at the legendary mountain bike town of Crested Butte and all took turns getting selfies in front of the town sign.

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We rolled onto Main Street and scouted a place for lunch. One thing I love about bike touring is all the delicious food and resupply options along the way.

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While we were eating lunch it rained hard and we were grateful to have dodged the storm. Here is Kristen enjoying her affogato which is espresso and french vanilla ice cream. I got a taste and it was yummy. Something about the mix of rich espresso and the cold vanilla ice cream did wonders for your taste buds.

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Somebody is all fueled up and ready for our next big climb over Schofield Pass. Over the years it’s been great to see Kristen grow into one of the best mountain bikers I know. She is a Colorado Trail Race finisher and an absolute beast of a rider that continues to inspire me.

We continued on climbing up easy paved and dirt road passing the Mount Crested Butte Ski Resort and the little town of Gothic.

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Along the way up I asked Joe and Kristen to stop at a bend in the stream next to the road for a little Tenkara fishing. During my last van tour in 2018, I had finished riding the 401 Trail, and after I loaded up my bike I fished the creek by the trail head and caught a little brook trout. So why not try this spot again?

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Well the fish were not biting for me and the next wave of thunderstorms were moving in. However Joe did catch a little fingerling that he was pretty excited about!

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Continuing up the pass and it starts to rain. In the distance you can see the gorgeous Emerald Lake. This day we planed to ride 50 miles and after cresting the pass it would be time to look for a camp site.

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After being rained on moderately for the last couple of hours we were relieved to see the top of Schofield Pass. Are spirits were high and the day seemed to go really smooth despite the rain. Joe obliged and added a couple of JPaks stickers to the sign and we got this group photo. After the summit the gravel road slowly descends to a large alpine park then turns to a very rough 4×4 road.

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After a great night sleep in my hammock next to a rushing stream, I was awakened by Joe making a morning fire and was looking forward to having coffee with my friends.

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#coffeeoutside

Our campsite was excellent. It was right next to a rushing creek with a a waterfall about 50 yards away. There was a flat spot for Joe and Kristen’s tarp and a nice spacing of trees for my hammock. Also there was a makeshift bridge that crossed the fast running creek and on the other side was a sign that said “Bridge to Tarabithia”. Kristen explained to me that it was based on a children’s fantasy book that I never had heard of. Well Tarabithia sounded like a magical place and so was the setting for this adventure. Hence my title for this ride, “Road to Tarabithia”.

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After a high energy breakfast we loaded up and got ready to head out for day 2. I was a little apprehensive about this day since the backside of Schofield Pass looked steep and spicy with large creek crossings according to the maps I studied. It ended up being spicy indeed with steep loose rocky descents, massive water crossings, and consequential exposure.

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The first large water crossing was immediately after leaving our campsite. Here is Joe taking in the majesty of the area. This was just a small taste how amazing the next 10 miles were going to be.

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More creek crossings. The descending at this point was way beyond the capabilities of my gravel bike but Joe and Kristen were right at home on their beefy trail bikes and 3 inch wide tires. We were coming down a very rocky and exposed section of trail when we encountered two dirt bikers that were trying to figure out how to get their heavy motorcycles up the steep, rocky trail. Kristen rode by them as if this treacherous section of trail was a piece of cake. I will never forget how they were in complete amazement of her prancing down the rugged trail making it look effortless. Me not so much. There were several parts I had to dismount and walk my bike but for the most part I did well and just had to hang on tight to my fully ridged whip.

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The views were unbelievable. As Joe said later on, his retinas were burning from the overload of beauty and pure ruggedness. This had to be the most spectacular 10 miles of Colorado I have ever experienced. However it is not easily earned. You need a very capable off road vehicle, motorcycle, or mountain bike accompanied by some balls of steel to conquer this side of the pass.

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The lighting was not right but low and behold the Devils Punch Bowl. As usual It was much more impressive in person. I did not know at the time but reaching the Devils Punchbowl it is a sought after off road accomplishment.

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The 4×4 road starts to level off but is still very rocky. I love riding through these tight sections of Aspens that would on occasion open up with views of the rushing Crystal River.

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When I designed the route I was ecstatic to see that it passed the infamous Crystal Mill. For quite some time I have wanted to visit this highly photogenic riverside relic. I have seen photos of it displayed in businesses, doctors and dentist offices, even one of my old coworkers had a picture of it hanging on his cubicle wall. We took some time to snap some shots and enjoy the spectacle.

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Here is a better picture of the Crystal Mill. I later found out that the mill is actually an air compressor that fed pressurized airlines at 60psi for the marble mining operation.

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After a very bumpy ride we made it to the town of Marble. I always wanted to visit this little town and when I created the route I noticed Marble had an awesome BBQ spot worth checking out. Joes eye caught the catering truck and our mouths started watering.

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Slow Groovin BBQ didn’t open until noon so we had about an hour to kill. We discovered this historic site and had fun checking out the cool cuts of marble. Much of the marble mined from this area was used on the Lincoln Memorial and Colorado State Capitol.

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Oh boy did Slow Groovin deliver! Just look at that!

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After leaving the town of Marble with a belly fully of brisket, smoked sausage, baked beans, and cole slaw, we had some road riding to do and coming up was our first big pass of the day, McClure Pass. The pass was a beat down as temps were close to 100 degrees and the road was steep with no shade. We had some ground to make up as by the time we left the town of Marble it was afternoon already and we had only ridden about 10 miles so far.

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We were back on gravel and on a very long dirt road climb that would lead us eventually to the small Western Colorado town of Paonia. This climb was 4000’ of ascending over 13 miles and was an absolute beat down. I suffered more on this segment than anywhere else on the route. The blazing heat, unrelenting sun, never ending climb, and the loose surface of the road just absolutely tore me up.

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Here I am faking a smile, or maybe not… as I climb and climb and climb. To beat the heat I would pack away my helmet and wear a buff until I started going downhill again.

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One last stop for water. By this time we had been on our bikes for over 10 hours and I was beyond exhausted. Kristen kept pushing us to make distance. Originally we had thought the route was 150 miles long so our goal was to make 50 miles each day. At this point we were at about 40 miles for the day and wanted to stay on track. This way we didn’t have a terrible long set up for tomorrow. Later we would find out that what was thought to be a 150 mile long route was 195 miles instead.

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We rode until 9:00 pm. I remember saying to myself several times that at some point we had to stop. And we did eventually after a 12 hour day and slightly exceeding our 50 mile goal.

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Here are a couple of pictures that I took as we were finishing packing up and getting ready to leave for day 3. We had trouble finding a spot at the end of the second day and most of the sites were occupied by mooing cows. Kristen was wise and recommended for us to find a campsite not occupied by noisy cows which we eventually did. I can tell I was completely exhausted because I lost my sun glasses and a USB C cable while setting up camp that night. I got up early and looked everywhere but could not find my misplaced items. Oh well, Joe had a cable I could borrow to charge my phone and soon the town of Paonia was coming up so I could look for a place to buy new sunglasses there.

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After a roaring 13 mile downhill we made it to the town of Paonia. We crossed paths with a bakery and Kristen thought it would be a good idea to stop and grab a quick bite. Joe and Kristen had breakfast pizza and I had a quiche. Everything was delicious. After that we ventured our way deeper into town to find me a new pair of sunglasses. I didn’t notice, but while I was standing in line to purchase my glasses, J and K went on a photo shoot and captured some really cool shots of Joes new titanium bike and some street art. Joe says he wants to retire in Paonia. There is something very charming about this town.

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When I had mapped out the ride there was a long highway section between Paonia and Kebler Pass Road. So I searched and searched for alternates along the way to reduce our time on the highway. On the outskirts of Paonia I found some back roads on Google Earth then some small farming roads that lead to this bridge crossing the North Fork of the Gunnison River. On Google Earth it looked legit but you never know until you get there in person. Everything was great until we got to the end of the bridge and it was gated and locked. There was a residential house just 10 yards away and just beyond the end of the drive way was the public road we were trying to reach. We made the call to hand our bikes over the side of the bridge and make a dash for the road. If we turned back it would have added at least an hour to an already grueling long day on our bikes. Well we dashed for it and we did get yelled at but all in all it was worth the risk. I certainly don’t condone trespassing and if I am ever to do this route again I will be sure to leave this section out and ride the highway miles.

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Moments later we got stopped by law enforcement on another highway detour. We were forced onto the highway again and left no choice but to put our heads down and push the remaining miles to Kebler Pass Road. I felt bad about the private land issues but if I attempt this route again I will be sure to make some adjustments.

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We reached the start of Kebler Pass Road and found a campground with a little general store to buy some cold beverages and snacks. It was blazing hot again today and it felt good to get off the highway and refresh in the shade for a bit. We devoured the last of our snacks and guzzled our drinks before attacking the final grueling segment.

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Kebler Pass Road is beautiful and home of some of the largest aspen groves in the world. It had some paved parts but was mostly dirt. Kebler Pass Road is 33 miles long with massive hills but we pushed forward knowing this was our last big climb.

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As we ascended up the pass we were treated with excellent views of Ruby Peak and the surrounding Elk Mountains

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Joe is rounding out the final climb at the top of Kebler Pass. We were all beat but proud of our accomplishments this day. After this point it was 26 miles of downhill tracing our way back to Gunnison on Ohio Pass Road where we started 3 days ago.

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Easy Peasy! All of us were relieved to be riding the final bit of bike path into Gunnison. The last 26 miles went by quickly.

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We made our way into Gunnison and found a place to get some Mexican food and salty margaritas. Here is my bike after arriving back to my van with my leftovers strapped to my SeatPak. 195 miles and over 15k of climbing according to my Strava app. On the last day we covered over 80 miles… Wow!

We were beyond tired and dirty after 3 days of riding. I remember Kristen saying after the ride she just wanted to lay on the ground and groan. I thought this was funny because I wanted to do the exact same.

I cannot recommend this bikepacking route enough. It delivered on all of our 4th of July adventure expectations and then some. The route had awesome towns like Gunnison, Crested Butte, Marble, and Paonia. Massive passes, rugged 4×4 descents, waterfalls, sunsets, and barbeque. Even a little fishing can be thrown in. This is by far the best route I have put together for our 4th of July adventures and we all said let’s do it again!

Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/2EFaYYkaw9

1st stop. Buffalo Creek

It had been 634 days to get back to this place in my life. When my last road trip ended I was heart broken. I remember that day so clearly when I unpacked my van and rented a room from a friend back in Colorado Springs. I remember unexpectedly crying and feeling immense grief as I unpacked my van and I realized this was the end of the road.

So much happened after that. I ran into some serious health problems that pretty much keep me grounded and didn’t allow me to be active the way I like to. I rented a cute little cottage in downtown Colorado Springs and went back to my old job as a recruiter with the condition I would work for them for a year in hopes I can return to my dream.
My dream was very much still alive. I pushed thru, made some money, and was able to resolve my health issues. Going back to recruiting was a tough decision but I ended up working with great people and made some great friendships and money. At the end of my 1 year commitment I was in an excellent position to launch another adventure. My savings account is stacked, I have a new mountain bike, my health is good, and made some nice upgrades to my minivan camper. 

To kick off this adventure I had my sights set on hiking the 500 mile long Colorado Trail. Starting in January of this year I began my training. I started dialing in my backpacking gear and doing longer and longer hikes with my pack loaded to get my cyclist body in shape for a long hike.Training was going great until I injured my foot and developed a case of planter fasciitis.

My very dialed backpacking kit. I always wanted to take a gear explosion pic like this. 

My hammock set up I planned on using for the CT. 

It was a tough pill to swallow but  I made the decision to postpone the Colorado Trail hike due to the foot injury and switch my focus back to cycling and Vanlife which is what I had planned to do after the hike anyway. 

Here is my new and improved camper setup. I sold my sold my 6’x8′ awning and went all out for ARBs 8’x8′ awning and Deluxe Room. ARBs Deluxe Room is outstanding! It’s a fully enclosed room that can be converted from fully enclosed, screened, or open. In addition to the massive living space I can now cook and relax protected from the wind, rain, and bugs. I also purchased a separate small solar system to supplement the main solar system integrated into my van build. Then I set out to find the most baller camp chair I could find. 

Here is what the room looks like fully enclosed on a test run trip down to Canon City.

I am super grateful that I have such good friends and family and was sent off with several small gatherings and a bikepacking trip with my best friend Mike and a weekend backpacking trip with my nephew Evan. 

On June 22nd 2020 I launched my next journey with my self built mini campervan and made my first destination to an area called Buffalo Creek. It’s a very popular dispersed camping area surrounded by world class hiking and biking trails. As long as you get there on a Tuesday or Wednesday you can usually find a good spot. Here is my first camp site!

My first bike ride was a 20 mile easy ride on mostly roads. It felt good to be pedaling and during the ride I got an invite from my friend and frame bag builder Joe of Jpaks to ride a multi day bike route around Crested Butte that I had designed a few years ago. More to come on this adventure.

It was time to bust out my mountain bike and ride Little Scraggy trail. Little Scraggy is a well built MTB oriented trail with lots of tough climbing and a long fast and flowing decent at the finish.

After the ride I was treated to an interesting sunset and had dinner with some new friends that I am sharing my camp with. 

Here is Kristy and Shaun that I ended up sharing my large camp site with. On my last adventure one of the challenges I encountered was loneliness and lack of human interaction. I decided on this journey I would make an effort to meet people and be more social. Sometimes as an introvert that can be tough but I am already off to a great start enjoying conversations and meals with my neighbors. 

I went out for another ride on my gravel bike but this time I was going to enjoy the smooth and easy going single track this area offers. All in all I got to stay 6 days in Buffalo Creek and was able to get some great rides in and make new friends. I love this freedom!!!

Not everything is glorious about Vanlife. Here is me and Baby Yoda hanging out in a King Soopers parking lot in Denver while we get our shit together to go back into the mountains!

South Dakota!

Mt. Rushmore in all its glory!

When I was preparing for vanlife I did a lot of research and of course watched many Youtube videos of active vanlife vloggers. By far my favorite vanlife vlogger and probably overall Youtuber is Adventure Van Man! Be sure to check out his channel.  He posted a video a couple of years back at this exact same spot. I had it written down on my list of premium boondocking spots to visit and here I was!

Not a bad place to sit and read dune. I am starting off really slow with this book but enjoy Frank Herbert’s writing and the complex universe he has created with the Dune series.

I was camped right on the edge of the Badlands. I stayed here for a couple days and had really good weather except for the one morning I was socked in with fog and could only see about 5 feet in front of me. Other than the views there was not much to do so I made my way to Rapid City SD to visit some family.

Here is my stepdaughter Susan and her husband Nate. They make a great couple and seem to really compliment each other. Both have good jobs and their own side businesses.  One of those businesses ia a Hookah lounge. I have never really spent time in a hookah lounge before but I sure spent a lot of time at the one in Rapid City. Their lounge is called the Sahara Nights Lounge and is right downtown. The lounge has a gaming theme and I really enjoyed smoking the hookah. It was less like smoking and more like vaping. It was very social and I got to meet many of Susans friends.

We went to a Speakeasy that Susan and Nate knew of and we had some really good drinks. I messed up though. I wanted to order a whisky sour and goofed and ordered an old fashioned. I have never had and old fashioned before but they are very sweet and I did not like it. Unknowingly the bartender made us custom cocktails based on the first drinks we ordered so mine ended up all being sweet until I tried one of their fine whiskeys on the rocks.
Susans 2 dogs. Fao and I want to say Nymeria

I played my first game of disk golf and had a blast. We just played for fun and really didn’t keep score. I would definitely like to play disc golf again. It seems to be more up my alley then regular golf.

We had a great time checking out Mt Rushmore in the Black Hills. I really enjoyed seeing the monument for the first time. When I first arrived the Mt Rushmore was not as big as I thought but still very impressive. You can see the whole monument above our heads.

A close up of President George Washington. I was impressed with the detail.

After visiting Mt. Rushmore we made a stop at Custer State Park and hiked around. It’s a very beautiful park and we just saw a tiny portion of it.

Cathedral Spires Custer State Park SD.

Bikepacking the Maah Daah Hey Trail – North Dakota

Bikepacking the Maah Daah Hey Trail has been on my radar for years since I very first discovered the sport of bikepacking back in the mid 2000’s. It’s a 150 mile long trail that runs through the Badlands of North Dakota..

Here is my bike leaning against the ruins of Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabin just outside of the national park.

Dakota Cyclery is the go to shop in Medora. I got lucky and was able to book a lower cost shuttle for the next day sharing a ride with another group doing a supported trip. The shuttle service is for the 100 mile route so that is what I ended up taking. There is another 50 miles of the MDH trail south of Medora that looks promising but was told its a bit more rocky and less traveled.

After about an hour drive in the shuttle van I was dropped of at the at the northern terminus of the MDH. It was hot and sticky!

The trail meanders up and down the bentonite clay buttes of the North Dakota Badlands. I was eager to ride the traill and really impressed with the scenery right of the bat.

This is my bike leaning up against a very large petrified tree stump. I guess this is my year for seeing petrified trees….

Lots of texture and color.

This land is heavily used for cattle grazing and the cows love to walk along the well laid out singletrack.  The trail was not as nice as I hoped since the cows had had their way with it. A rainy summer in western North Dakota led to the cows chopping up what could a be butter smooth trail. There was cow shit everywhere also.  All this made it hard to keep your speed up and get a good rhythm.

The MDH is well marked with these posts. The slant of the post indicates what side the trail is on. Route finding was still hard and there were lots of intersections and side trails from the cattle. 

I ended up making a couple wrong turns and missed the mountain bike detour around the national park wilderness area but eventually made my way following my GPS track on my phone.

It was getting late and I was tired. I felt like I had a good push for the day.

Along the MDH there are several developed campgrounds about every 15 miles along the trail. All have pit toilets and a spigot to get water. I did not filter water the entire trip. However the water tasted horrible and luckily I brought Crystal Lite the night before to make it drinkable.

When I arrived at Magpie Campground I ran into the group of mountain bikers that were riding the supported tour of the MDH that Dakota Cyclery offers. I cannot remember their names but some were from Boulder Colorado and a couple were from San Francisco. They offered for me to stay at their campsite. I got my tarp pitched and headed over for some socializing. I ended up drinking a beer and cooked up/ate my Mountain House Chicken and Rice meal. They were all acting pretty mellow and quiet when one of them explained to me they had taken edibles and were a bit stoned. Lol…. They offered me one of their gummies and was thrilled to have some company for the night. I told them the stories of my travels and they were all impressed I was doing the route self supported. I left them a note on the windshield on their car when I got back to Medora to connect on Facebook or Instagram but they never did.

I woke up at the crack of dawn and packed up my things without being able to say goodby. I did not sleep well. The campground was really busy and it seemed like I could hear everybody rustling around. I remember there was a thunderstorm in the middle of the night that was lighting up the sky in such an incredible way. Almost like there were aliens in the clouds. I got water from the spigot which makes a ton of noise at 5am in the campground. After getting water I snapped this pretty picture just before leaving the campground.

I found a cool spot to myself just a couple miles outside of the Wannagan Campground. Normally I eat breakfast at camp but this time I set up my cookstove trailside! I enjoyed this early morning breakfast and views of the clay buttes very much. 
On the second day there was a rather large stretch of land that was packed with fracking and drilling sights every few miles. It seemed like a mining boom was happening out here. I was saddened to see all the mining activity along with all the mass cattle grazing. Mankind is a bitch…….

Don’t get me wrong there was still plenty of beauty to be had. The name Maah Daah Hay translates to “The place that will stand time”.

I love this shot of my bike in the tall grass. It really captures the mood of this trail for me. There were ticks out here so I was being careful and checked myself every now and then. 

Here I am dorking around with more self timer shots. This one turned out good.

The trail would consistently drop and rise about 400 to 500 feet of elevation. It was tiring and made for a lot of elevation for the day.

Eventually I came to the Little Missouri River. I have heard stories of this being impassable in the spring or summer but it was late season and only up to my calves. I lifted up my bike and hiked across. No biggie other than the wet feet.

A rare shaded and lush section of trail right after crossing the river.

I was covering a lot of ground this day. The elevation was taking its toll and I was ready to get to camp for food and rest.

Beautiful section of rolling singletrack.

So for some reason not to far from the Wannagan Campground I wanted to stop and take a picture of me doing a wheelie in front of this clay butte. Cool picture but that decision ended up being a mistake. I took too much time goofing around wanting to get this shot and then I got rained on for about 10 minutes before camp even though I could see the thunderstorm building prior. It was just enough to get me soaked and make the trail and my bike really muddy.

When I got to camp I took a moment to relax and rest. The campground was 10 dollars for the night and I only had a $20 dollar bill. I went around and asked the hunters if they could make change. The hunters were able to break the bill for me. I got rained on one more time as I was setting up my tarp.

Here you can see the mud on my tires from the last 5 minutes of the ride and a dam near perfect pitch on my tarp despite being rained on while setting it up. This was a big day with 43 miles and over 6000 feel of elevation gain. I was excited to get a good nights rest after not sleeping well the previous night.   Nope… My neighbors were a young couple hiking the trail with a baby. Yeah that’s right a baby. I had just planned on putting in my headphones and blocking out any noise through the night. Well just as I lay my head down to sleep my headphones break and no longer put out any sound.

Fool proof gates. I must have lifted dozens of these

I had less than 30 miles on the last day and was looking forward to finishing this 100 mile route. Unfortunately I ran into trouble and hit mud right away. This was bentonite clay mud, just about the worst possible scenario for a mountain biker. 


It made for slow going and was really taking a toll on my bike performance and parts.

I stopped here for about 2 hours to let the sun come out and dry up some of the trail. I remember calling my friend Mike while I was waiting and told him about the ride. 

Things did slowly improve but it was still muddy for most of the day.

Here is one of the prettiest cow ponds I have ever laid eyes on!

The tunnel crossing under Highway 94.

After crossing the highway there was actually a section of trail that did not have any cattle grazing. It was very smooth, flowy, and incredibly fun to ride. This section of the MDH going southeast from Highway 94 to Medora was the best out of the 100 miles of trail I rode. .

My bike was trashed. The clay mud caused my front fork to only have about an inch of travel. My rear shock was leaking air and my seatpost was having issues. I ended up selling the bike as soon as I got home then bought a brand new 2019 Stumpjumper!

Enjoying the last few miles of the MDH before getting back into town. It was very scenic.

The MDH was tough for only being 100 miles. The whole trail is rough singletrack that undulates up and down over the clay buttes. I would definitely recommend other bikepacking routes over the MDH.

I stayed for a few days at the Buffalo Gap Campground. It is right of Highway 94 right before you get into Medora. It was very nice and very free. I needed to rest up after back to back days of riding a loaded bike. I aired out my gear and ate tons of food to replenish some lost calories. I would highly recommend this free campground right out of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Got Bacon?

Windy Mountain Loop

Thain Creek Campground outside of Great Falls Montana. If you look closely you can see my shower tent set up to the left of my van. It worked great. It consisted of a rechargeable battery powered pump and shower head, a bucket full of warm water and this pop up shower/changing tent I got of Amazon. 

After an amazing visit in Glacier National Park I changed my direction and headed east. I needed to get resupplies so I stopped in the town of Great Falls Montana. I really like Great Falls. It is a dry climate here. There was the Missouri River that divides the town right down the middle. To get anywhere you have to cross a bridge. The town was very flat and somewhat depressed compared to other Montana towns such as Bozeman or Whitefish. But it was a good sized town and I was able to get groceries, do laundry, refill my propane tank, then grab a latte at Starbucks.

While running the errands I got a call from one of my friends in Colorado Springs and he offered me a job! Here I am eating some delicious BBQ that I picked up to celebrate. I had a job lined up working for 3-4 weeks at the beet harvest in the northeast corner of North Dakota at the end of the month so I was making my way there. I was looking forward to the beet harvest job but working for my friend is a much better gig and being homesick and a bit lonely at this point I was eager to get back to my hometown of Colorado Springs. Something in my mind was telling me that this change of plans could cause what long distance hikers call a vortex and my days on the road could be coming to an end. 

I was looking for a place to camp outside of Great Falls and found a little mountain range that had a campsite with mountain bike trails nearby called Thain Creek Campground. It was Labor Day weekend and luckily I got to the campground before everyone else. I got this awesome site right next to the creek with level parking, fire pit, and picnic table. This was the first time I was camping in a area that was not under fire restrictions. There was a catch tho…. I had to pay $5 dollars a night to camp here and this broke my 5 month streak of free dispersed camping. No biggie I ended up paying $20 to stay here for 5 nights and 4 days and it was totally worth it. 

I would pull my chair  next to the creek and read my book. I loved having the sound of a babbling stream next to camp. I was reading Dune by Frank Herbert and I remember it being a slow start. Later I ended up  really loving that book.

 I hiked around and explored the area. There was a beaver pond upstream. I did not fish it but I saw other campers catching little brokkies. This was turning out to be a fantastic little place!

After a day of chilaxing around the campsite I set out for a mountain bike ride. The Windy Mountain Loop was featured in my MTB Project app and wanted to give it a go.

There was some steep climbing and I made my way to the ridge and worked my way around the mountains. This route ended being tough and there was some poor quality trail on the south side of the loop that I was pretty disappointed about. There was lots of treefall, and the crappiest trail reroute I have ever seen by the forest service. Instead of cutting new trail to reroute a very rutted piece of trail they just laid down sticks and branches to indicate where to go around the old trail. It was a mess!

The next day did a quick 8 mile loop  and instead of riding the crappy trail on the south side of the mountain I came down Briggs Creek Trail and that was frigging amazing. This loop was a little short but the climbs were challenging and the decent down Briggs Creek was ripping!

After the ride I was chilling at my van. It was a Monday, Labor Day so the campground at this point was completely full and busy. The sun was shining and it was a picture perfect day.  I had just finished lunch and a guy in a high viz vest and a very large beard asked how my ride was and I  wanted to join them for another spin. His name was Tim and he had two friends with him, Pat, and Ian. We all remembered each others name since they each had 3 letters. However I kept calling Pat, Matt and he seemed ok with it until I got kindly corrected later. They gave me some Montana craft beers to sample and I recall this strawberry cream craft beer that was pretty amazing. To bad I cant drink beer like I used to.

This is Tim. He is a welder, lives in Great Falls and is a super cool dude.

Pat and Tim hiking the steep final climb up to the windy ridge.

I was super stoked to ride with some other guys and I told them that they reminded me of my mountain biking friends back in Colorado Springs since we were smoking weed, drinking beers and riding bikes. After the ride Tim invited me to his home in Great Falls to see a show and hang out but I was tired and did not feel like packing up. We parted ways and even though we may never cross path again they are my friends.

After labor day weekend. The campground cleared out and I had the whole place to myself again. A cold front crept in and overnight fall came. It was almost like the trees changed color right before my very eyes.

I really enjoyed my stay at this campground. It was special. This is Thain Creek that snakes through.

After leaving the campground I made a fast pace across eastern Montana. Much of it looks just like this. It took me two days to make it across the large state of Montana. I stayed a night in one of the Montana rest stops. Montana has the best rest stops!

I would see more farming equipment than cars in eastern Montana.

Before reaching North Dakota I stopped at a crappy restaurant in the town of Jordan Montana.  I ordered a cheeseburger and fries without the bun and it was horrible. I could tell both the fries and burger were previously frozen.  This set of mounted deer heads was the best part.

Glacier National Park

Jumping for joy at Grinnell Glacier at Glacier National Park

After a great stay in Whitefish MT, it was time to make my way to Glacier National Park. As a national park lover I have always dreamed of visiting GNP. It has always been so highly recommended. I have probably visited Yellowstone NP at least 10 times but never have made my way north to this breathtaking piece of American beauty.

There was a fire next to the  Western Mcconnell Lake in the west side of the park. Unfortunately the western side of Going to the Sun Road  was closed so I had to drive the long way from Whitefish all the way around to the eastern side of the park.

I arrived at the Many Glacier Lodge in the late afternoon after a few hours of driving. The Many Glacier Lodge is very cool and ranks up there with with other great National Park Lodges that I have visited like the one in Yellowstone. It was windy and there were lots of fast moving clouds in the area. I was concerned about my photos this evening but they turned out to be some of the best I took in the park.

After getting settled in the Many Glacier parking lot I made some food then started exploring the immediate area around Josephine Lake. 

The inside of the Lobby of the Many Glacier Lodge was spectacular and held all the charm and grandeur that it should.  My dad would have loved to see this. He is also a fan of national park lodges. 

There were some great hiking trails around Josephine Lake and I enjoyed a nice 3 mile stroll.  It was cool and windy but I was quickly falling in love with this National Park. It is not nearly as busy as Yellowstone and I was seeing more wildlife excluding all the buffalo.

The next morning I got up and prepared myself for a day hike to Grinnell Glacier.  For quite a long time I have been wanting to get up close and personal with a glacier. Glaciers are retreating and who knows If I will ever get this opportunity again. It was time to check this bucket list item off!

Along the trail there is the megafauna. It is what the call the massive amount of vegetation and wild life that converges in this area. You will find Pacific Northwest, Plains, and Rocky Mountain plants and animals flourishing and intermingling all throughout the park.

The trail starts out with a some easy hiking along Josephine Lake. Narrow boardwalks were in place to help you get across the muddy and marshy parts of the trail.

At the end of Josephine Lake the trail forks up and presented some pretty steep and exposed trail.

Grinnell Lake down below. It really looked like something out of a fairy tale.

More exposure as you make your way across and up the cliff bands. 
I was seeing tons of wildlife in Glacier. Here is a mountain goat doing fearless mountain goat things. 

Look closely for the wild chicken. It was funny to watch it move along slowly pecking like a hen would.

The  bighorn sheep were all over and eating their fill of berries, currents, and leaves. They were not afraid of the hikers and giving us plenty of opportunities to get good photos.

My first views of Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. 

Strange patterns left behind from the retreating glacier.

Upon arriving at the Upper Grinnell Lake there was a large rock area by the shore of the lake across from the glacier. Most of the visitors stopped here. You were close to the glacier at this point but I wanted to get close enough to where I could stand, touch, and feel it. To do this I had to make a tricky stream crossing at the outlet of the lake. The water was freezing and without my trekking poles it was very sketchy to cross to the other side where the glacier is resting. For almost the entire time I was there I was the only one that made the leap across the outlet of the lake. Cold water was waiting for me if I made a mistake jumping across the slippery stones.

It was a special moment to reach the edge of Grinnell Glacier. It was still very large and was alive. You could hear it cracking, dripping, trickling, and all around making a lot of noise. I took a moment to take it in and really enjoy my first glacier encounter.

The glacier was alive and very exotic. Dirt and debris covered the top of the ice. I wondered how long the rocks have been buried inside the icy tomb.

What a great day I was having. It was a bit crowded on the hike but on this side of the lake there was nobody!

Making my way back I ran into some more rams. This guy was majestic.

One of my best moose sighting ever! A very large bull and a cow. I was able to get some good pictures and video on my cell phone. This is one time where I wished I had a better camera. My Pixel 2 xl is a great phone camera but the zoom is lacking,,,, Go figure.

This evening it was time to celebrate my arrival and my first encounter with a glacier with this steak dinner. Ribeye steak, fried sweet potatoes, and a salad with fresh blackberries. The steak was cooked perfect and just seasoned with salt and pepper. It was as delicious as it looks! Bluetooth speaker and bear warning sign for ambiance.

The next morning I got up early and left the Many Glacier Lodge made my way to Logan Pass. I drove up the eastern side of the Going to the Sun Road and parked at the visitor center where I made some hotdogs, kim chi and ate chips and salsa prior to my hike.

I love saying that…. Going to the Sun Road!

I went for a quick hike on the Highline Trail. It was spectacular and gave me views of the west side of the park. Whitefish was way off in the distance.  

I had fun observing this silver marmot. He was shredding a ton of grass and taking it to his den. I remember the sounds of him ripping up the vegetation like a madman.

A great shot of the exposure on the Highline Trail. It really was not that bad and there was a cable you could hold on to for some extra security.

Gotta love the old shuttle busses at the top of Logan Pass. I believe they were restored and converted to electric.

It was time to head off and explore Hidden Lake. This turned out to be a great decision. Hidden lake is located just off the top of Logan Pass with the trail starting behind the visitor center.

All my pictures taken in Glacier National Park turned out unbelieveable with no editing. This place is just that amazing.

Hidden Lake was spectacular. After a short hike the wooden path ended at an overlook and after that the trail was rough and steep. I only saw a handful of other visitors making their way to the shore of the laek. By the time I got to the edge of the lake I had the whole place to myself. 

When I first arrived at Hidden Lake I explored the outlet and found these falls.

The outlet quickly dropped off and I could no longer hike down. You could see forest fires burning off in the distance south of GNP.

Then headed the other way and found a little trail that followed the south edge of the lake. It was a dreamy kind of trail and I kept expecting to see wildlife around every corner but only saw a few birds and squirrels.

I was blown away by the rich rugged natural beauty. GNP is my new favorite national park. 
This is such an amazing picture. One of my personal favorites. I love the contrast between the wildflowers and the mountains in the background. No editing here just natural beauty. The wild flowers were really popping for late August and I was so grateful for the clear day. 

One last shot of the van before making my way across eastern Montana. I had a great journey following  the Continental Divide all the way from New Mexico to the top of Montana in GNP. Glacier was the grand finale. In a way this was the end of the main adventure, making it all the way to Glacier was a huge accomplishment and a dream come true.

It was the end of August and this far north you could feel fall fast approaching. What a beautiful country we live in and for the first time in my life I was starting to realise how big it is.

Whitefish!

My magical minivan that takes me to magical places. 
My research told me that Whitefish was going to be a stellar mountain biking destination. Whitefish has several large trail networks including a bike resort. While the town definitely has a resort/touristy vibe its a good one. I stopped by the local bike shop to get the skinny on camping and riding and found out dispersed camping is a bit different out here. Even with the shops advice it was tough to find a good camping spot but I was thankful they took the time to point me in the right direction. This will be my last town stop before reaching Glacier National Park.


                                             A rare peek inside the captains quarters.








After searching around on the dirt roads for a while I settled on this small D shaped pull out off the side of one of the forest roads. It ended up working out great. There was hardly any traffic and it was nestled right next to the trail. The spot was nice and flat and ended up not having to level to van. 

Whitefish is working on its own network of trails that should oneday surround the lake and town. The trail is well manicured and very flowy.

The climbs were gentle and the descents were fast. The trail was built with mountain bikes in mind.  The vegetation here is amazing. The air was smokey and there was a good bit of both hiker and biker traffic but everybody was having a great time. 

Views of my second ride on the Whitefish trail.

More ripping well made singletrack. The Whitefish Trail had neal little side trails you could loop up.

Just a hint of fall in the air. It is late August and I am far north almost to the border of Canada.

Little Beaver Lake

I met a nice middle aged lady at this overlook and we talked about my travels and she told me how she moved to Whitefish from Central California. She was a bit bothered by the smokey air and very afraid of bears.

After spending a couple nights camped next to the Whitefish Trail it was time to move on. I had some time to burn so I stopped into town and and walked around. It was the weekend and the town was busy! A festival was kicking off nearby to benefit the local trail system. I ended up cooking dinner at the train station while listening to bands playing off in the distance. There was a nice patch of grass with a picnic table where I cooked up some burgers near the tracks.

 Whipping up bacon burgers with sweet potatoes, peppers, and onions.

I headed out to the Talley Lake area in the Flathead National Forest. I found a campsite up a narrow dirt road deep in the trees. I ended up staying here for a few days to ride the Reid Divide trail that was recommended to me by the Whitefish LBS. Then ended up waiting out a 2 day storm that was slowly moving thru.

After a long fairly easy dirt road climb I reached the start of the Reid Divide Trail.

You cross a burn area on a short climb along the ridge.

The single track was very tight and at some points it turned into a green tunnel.

The trail turned downward and it was a fantastic descent. Fast, rough, with lots of rocks and roots to negotiate. The vegetation and trees were flying by as I made my way down the ridge. 

Zipping along lush singletrack near the end of the Boney Gulch Trail. This turned out to be another top ride I discovered and should have ridden it twice. 

A crappy cold front moved thru and it rained for hours with a little snow mixed in. During the breaks in weather I would get out and do some hikes on the narrow double track that winds thru the Flathead National Forest.

This storm turned out the be a huge blessing. The winds and rain  cleared the heavy smoke from the air and for the first time I had crystal clear views in Whitefish. My next destination is Glacier National Park and I did not want to visit this beautiful park with all my views socked in by smoke. It turned out I was in for a real treat! Hear I am packed up and ready to leave after my wonderful stay in Whitefish Montana. I would definitely come back. 

Clark Fork River Trail – Vanlife

Riding the Clark Fork River Trail outside of St. Regis Montana.

Cherries! These were the best cherries I have ever had. I got them at a road side stand in the small town of St. Regis. I also purchased a very good latte (the best one in Montana!) from a little drive thru stand but did not get a picture of the delicious hot beverage.

Another awesome free campsite! This one was along the Clark Fork River along off of State Highway 35 while I was making my way to Whitefish. It was only a few miles from the start of the Clark Fork River trail. A 20 mile out and back ride following the beautiful Clarks Fork river.

“Living in a van down by the river”

I thought I had escaped the wasps and the aggressive wasp situation at the campsite by Fish Creek was a one time thing. Nope! I was wrong. The yellowjackets were here in full force here along with their friends the giant yellow jacket killer wasps! It was time to fight back. I had a good cell signal here and was able to find a couple of Youtube videos of how to trap the wasps. I looked around, gathered some materials, and made several traps. The traps seemed to help keep the numbers down and if anything it felt good to fight back. My traps were catching 100s of them including a few yellow jacket killers.

 The St. Regis Trail was excellent. very flow with punchy short climbs and long gentle descents. The views were excellent.

This is the trailhead at the opposite end from where I started.  The trail was going by fast and it was time to turn around and head back.

 SNACKS!
Another view of the Clarks Fork river on my way back to camp. This was an excellent ride and would highly recommend it if you are ever in this part of Montana. 
Choo Choo!!

Riding Chilcoot Pass Loop – Epic Backcountry MTB

Riding through the fireweed on the Chillcoot Pass Loop

 With a quick stop in Missoula to get some resupplies that included a trip to Costco. I cooked food in a city park and checked out the bank of the Clarks Fork River. Missoula was a big city and very busy. The city was blazing hot and socked in with wildfire smoke. It seemed to be making everybody uncomfortable including myself.

 I headed northwest and found a free campsite about an hour away at the Big Pine campground. I was tired from driving and running errands in Missoula. It was relieving to run into a free developed campground with a table and pit toilets. The Clarks Fork River was rushing off in the distance along with the chatter of many other campers taking advantage of the area.

This is a very common view from inside my van with me sitting on the futon. This space felt very good despite how small my campervan is. My fridge, cook system, propane tank, table, and water dispenser, all work amazingly well. Everything fits snug and stays well organized.

This night I was studying the route for tomorrow’s bike ride. So far my rides have been pretty mild except for that 40 miler in Steamboat. Back in June Paul and Becca came down to my hometown of Colorado Springs and visited me while I was pet sitting for my friend Mike. We were scheming up ideas for the summer portion of my van trip and we came across the Chilcoot Pass Loop in the Lolo National Forest northwest of Missoula.

Great Burn – Chilcoot Pass Loop

I didn’t take into account the difficulty of this route at the time, but after reading the description of this double black ride on MTB Project in a bit more in detail I knew I was in for a challenge. This route was super remote and included long water crossings, steep hike a bike, overgrowth, and difficult route finding. Even though the route is just  24 miles, the guide recommended to pack for full days ride and be prepared for an epic backcountry adventure!

The next morning I made my way to the trailhead at the end of Fish Creek Road. It was a bit disorienting finding the start of the trail. I misjudged the start and crossed Fish Creek needlessly and got my feet soaked right away. After about a mile I found out I was heading the wrong direction and crossed Fish Creek again to find the proper start of the loop.

After finding the correct trail I was treated to 2 or 3 additional creek crossings in a row. Unfortunately these are not the type of creek crossings you can ride. Just get used to your feet being wet on this  adventure.

The singletrack was immediately lush and overgrown. It was hard to find my flow on this trail. There was a ton of tree fall that needed to be negotiated a little more frequently than I like. Progress was slow right of the bat. But this place is different. Since leaving Butte Montana the vegetation has changed to a more Pacific Northwest feel. This was my first time experiencing a wet lush forest like this.

Along the way I was treated to a neat series of small waterfalls. The miles were hard earned but the rewards were plentiful!

The wild flowers were in full bloom in a rare open meadow.

I fell in love with this ancient cedar tree. This one had a rather large trunk. Sporadically I would get dank stretches of singletrack zipping through the old growth ceder trees. It was quite the treat. I felt my senses heighten as I traveled deeper into this exotic backcountry.

Look at this little garden of eden that I found! I had to stop here and take a few pictures. Being from the dry climate of Colorado I am not used to seeing so much green. Click this picture to enlarge. Its worth it!

Immediately after the garden of eden, the trail forked sharply uphill and the steep hike a bike began. Not only did the terrain require hike a bike, but the trail was completely overgrown and tough to follow.

After about 2 – 3 hours of hike a bike the vegetation cleared and I could see the summit of Chilcoot Pass. I also had my first encounter with bear grass! They were more beautiful than I imagined and  felt elated to be close to the top. I remember letting out a big hollar of relief!

After cresting the top I was treated to views of the Great Burn.  I was literally on the border of Idaho/Montana..

Making my way across the ridge of the pass I had to stop and take lots of photos. It was spectacular up here and I felt very remote. 

After a brief traverse it was time to start descending. Thank goodness! I was beat and ready for a change of pace.

Some steep loose switchbacks took me down to Sesame Lake. I was getting hungry and needed a break after that tough hike a bike to the pass. Lunch by the lake side seemed like a great idea.

Sesame Lake was gorgeous. It looked deep, dark, and cold.

Little did I know there was a female moose splish splashing in the lake next to me while I was eating my lunch. Somehow I didn’t notice despite all the nose she was making. I caught this shot and video as she was heading off into the woods. Still, it was another great wildlife moment.

After a short climb past the lake, the trail starts descending again but it’s hard to make quick progress. Fallen tree after fallen tree combined with tough route finding in thick overgrowth.
.

Fireweed up to my bars!

More amazing old growth cedar trees and ferns. I was blown away by the beauty of this forest.

After what seemed like an eternity the trail opened up and I was able to make quicker ground.

I came across this bend in the creek and the water was crystal clear with a tint of emerald green..

Cedar planks like this were common across the muddy parts of the trail.

I was blown away by this ride! Truly an epic MTB backcountry adventure. It felt exotic. With breaks it took me 8 hours to complete a 25 mile loop. I was beat!

When I finished I said to myself how I was thrilled to have completed it,  but knew it was a route I would never want to do again.

After the ride I made my way to a dispersed campsite that I spotted on the way to the trail head. It was the perfect Montana campsite except for one thing. The wasps! I was setting up camp and noticed that there were no mosquitoes. I thought it was to good to be true until I started cooking. When I brought out my food a yellow jacket showed up. Then another until I had a swarm of a couple dozen wasps harassing me and crawling all over my food. Then, what I call the yellow jacket killer came out. This was an all black wasp with a couple white dots on its back. It was much larger. About 3 times bigger than the yellow jackets. When a certain number of yellow jackets would show up the giant yellow jacket killer wasps would appear and attack the smaller yellow jackets. Occasionally I would see one of these giant black wasps flying off with a yellow jacket in its mandibles.

I did take a dip in the creek but for the most part I had to hang out inside my van to avoid the mass of intimidating wasps out my front door. I could no longer cook outside. Being from Colorado I have seen my share of wasps but never in such hordes and so aggressive. Little did I know this was the beginning of the Great Montanna Wasp Battle of 2018.