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.

Mountain Biking and Vanlife on the Continental Divide

After leaving Bozeman I had to make a decision to head to Helena or Butte. Both had good recommendations and great trail systems but due to a more reliable recommendation I went to Butte. Just before you hit town I came across this campsite off Homestake Pass. Thinking back this was the best campsite out of them all. Not because it was the prettiest, not because of the awesome trails, not because of the crazy hot weather, and not because of all the wildlife. Really what it was is… I am hitting the peak of my trip. My mind and body are in harmony with my new lifestyle and everything is easy, everything is meant to be exactly the way it is. Every moment captured with time slowing down right in front of your eyes. This is why I am here, this is why I quit my 6 figure career, this is the best version of myself I have ever seen.

It was a hot few days in Butte. Temps were reaching close to 100 degrees and there was a massive mayfly hatch when I arrived and set up camp. The 1000s of mayflies really didn’t bother me. It was cool to see mother nature do its work producing the perfect conditions triggering the mayflies to all hatch at once.  I would sit here reading my book and watch the little trout pick off mayflies one by one off the top of the little stream I was camped next to. I kept hearing the trout breach the water, snatch a mayfly, then plop back into the stream. Paul if you are reading this thanks for recommending Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. I really enjoyed it!

 So after getting settled into camp it was time for a bike ride. I headed out to ride section of the CDT as an out and back. I came by this little shack that I was unsure of its purpose.

I immediately fell in love with the mountain biking in Butte. Gentle climbs flowy descents and smooth singletrack all the way. It was dry and hot and reminded me of the riding back in my home town of Colorado Springs.

I hit the heat of the day and after about 14 miles I decided to head back to camp and recharge for a earlier ride the next day. 

 

The next day I set myself up to get out earlier and dodge the heat. The day started with a long stiff climb up to the Continental Divide. The climb was fun but the views were stifled by smoke from wildfires everywhere.

After some fast descending I ended up at some railroad tracks that would take me back to Homestake Pass. Did you ever see the movie Stand By Me? I was reminded of the scene in that movie when the group of kids decided to cross a rail bridge thinking it was safe but having a train show up when they were half way out! Well luckily that never happened to me. It was pretty clear that this railroad was closed and no longer in use after some clues such as vegetation and dirt covering parts of the track.

Then there was this really cool tunnel.

And back to Homestake Pass. I was really happy with this ride. This loop turned out to be a highlight of the trip. My road trip had a Continental Divide theme and here I was again having fun on the mountain crest that parts the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic ocean. 

After a couple of days of riding it was time to take a chill day. I was really feeling this camp spot. The area was very dry but this little oasis I had was green and lush and had the little stream trickling by all day and night. If you can find camp next to water it always is a bonus. By this time the mayfly hatch had dwindled down and the little trout were no longer feasting.

There was a perseid meteor shower this evening so I stayed up and made my way to a nearby hill to watch the shooting stars. With all the smoke in the air I could not see a thing. I did have an encounter with a rather large owl that decided to silently swoop the top of my head in the dark. It was quite the experience! I was standing on the hill in the dark, when at the last minute I noticed a silent owl swooping directly at me. It just whooshed over my head and I felt the air move as the beautiful creature flew by. I got the message and since I wasn’t seeing the meteor shower anyways I decided to hike back to camp. On the way I met this little amphibious feller.

The next day it was time for some more biking. I made my way back onto the CDT trail and pushed further to loop up some smaller trails across from Homestake Pass.

On the way up I met a thru hiker by the name of Zebra. I could quickly gleen where she got her trail name by the tan lines left from KT tape over her knees. She was very nice and I could tell by her accent that she was from Europe. I did not get exactly where but my guess would be from Germany. She was eating her last few gummy bears and I could tell she was hungry. I offered some food and she politely declined but when I mentioned that I had pistachios I saw her eyes light up! I then handed over my bag of pistachios. What a great moment between me and Zebra. I congratulated her on her thru hike and that there was just a little bit left to go. I let her know that one day I also aspired to be a thru hiker before parting ways. I really regret not getting her instagram handle or at least a photo of Zebra.

The CDT trail near Butte is very MTB friendly. There is a 100 mile loop you can do that circumnavigates the town that would be great for bikepacking or the annual endurance race they run on it. 

Midway through the ride I busted out these sardines packed in hot sauce. They were very good and will be bringing more of these on my adventures.

I am really on a roll with breakfast here. Why have 1 or 2 strips of bacon when you can have 8????

Top it off with some artesian maple syrup.

There were cows grazing in the area and this is one of my favorite pictures with the cow in the background while I am making fried chicken. There should be a caption saying “Eat moar chicken”

Bozeman Montana – Mountain Biking and Vanlife

After 8 days in the Beartooth Mountains it was time to make my way into Montana. Here I am on the Beartooth Highway taking a selfie by the state line marker. 

My first stop in Montana was the fast growing town of Bozeman. I took a stroll downtown and bought a new book.

 I also stopped into this Burger Bobs on main street and ate out for the first time in a couple of weeks. The burger was just ok but it was nice to be around people after being isolated in the Beartooth Mountains for so long.

 After competing laundry and getting resupplies I had some time to kill and made my way to a local park.

In the park there was a pond that the local kids were playing in. It was really hot and a perfect day to play in the water. 

 These ducks were diving and feeding off the bottom of the pond. I really enjoyed watching them disappear then magically reappear a few moments later. With time slowed down from vanlife I was able to enjoy little moments like this.

I was having a great time exploring Bozeman and made my way to the Farmers Market. It was hopping and there was a display of the local first responders and some excellent homemade carmel corn and kombucha!

This SWAT transport vehicle looked tough! Kids were climbing all over it. All the locals seemed to be really having a good time and and were friendly. Lots of folks riding bikes.

I walked around to snap some pictures and stayed for the local orchestra while they played their top 10 most requested songs. After the event It was hard to find any dispersed camping around Bozeman so I stayed at the Walmart.

 
After a good night’s rest in the Walmart parking lot I made my way to Leverich Canyon for a highly recommended mountain bike ride.

The Leverich Canyon loop was fantastic. After a steep climb I was rewarded with a very flowy down hill with small jumps and berms. It was a thrilling trail but not very long. Also the road to access the trailhead was pretty rough and steep at times. Out of all the sketchy roads I took on in my van this was the worst. I attempted and ended up retreating and parking lower down about a 1/2 mile from the trailhead.
Leverich Canyon Trail


After riding Leverich Canyon I headed to Hyalite Canyon to look for a dispersed camping spot. This is a large National Forest with what looked like lots of good free camping options. After checking out some of the spots that I found on freecampsites.net I found they were all filled up. Even arriving on a Wednesday dead smack in the middle of the week several free dispersed spots were full. There was lots of pay campsites but that was not what I was looking for.  This place was packed and I was getting frustrated not being able to find a campsite. I had to push to the far end of the canyon and camp in a small pull out off of the forest road. It turned out to be a great spot and was right by the trailhead for both Emerald Lake Trail and the Palisade Falls Trail.

I really enjoyed my time at these falls. I spent about an hour here taking pictures and enjoying the mist on my face from the tall falls. There were only a few other visitors and had some good solitude right by the face of the falls.

The next morning I did a quick ride up to Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake trail was fun and didn’t take long to get to the top. Emerald Lake was actually green!

 Panorama of Emerald Lake.

 After my ride I took this picture of Hyalite Lake on my way to leave Bozeman. It was big and there were massive amounts of people fishing, camping, and boating.

Fishing in the Beartooth Mountains Wyoming – Vanlife

The Absaroka/Beartooth mountain range is a pure slice of heaven. I have been coming to this area on and off since the early 2000s. I would usually stay at a old hunting cabin located in the Sunlight Basin about 30 minutes away but we would frequent Fantan and Sawtooth Lakes which offer stunning scenery, excellent fishing, and seclusion. I had camped on national forest land a couple miles off the Beartooth Highway near the entrance of these lakes. I found a grassy campsite overlooking the Chain Lakes below. The pic above is my first morning in the area. I woke up early to pee and took this beautiful shot. No editing required.

I was treated with a waterfall by my campsite. Did I mention this is grizzly bear country!

Also the mosquitos were in full force. I had dealt with some bugs in Steamboat and Jackson. Some mosquitoes in the Winds. But noting like here in the Beartooths. These mosquitoes must work out in their down time as they are very aggressive, resilient, and fast. Also they have the numbers. Lucky for me when I was in Pinedale I picked up a head net at the local gear shop. Also I had constructed a screen door for when my van slide door was open. It worked great and kept the bugs out while I was chilling inside.

Here is an evening shot of my campsite. Since this was grizzly country I would clean and pack up all cooking gear after every meal. It was kind of a pain in the ass to keep setting up and stowing my kitchen but I wanted some peace of mind.

Ah the whole reason I am here… Trout! Here are my first keepers from Fantan Lake. When I resupplied for the Beartooths in Jackson I only bought a small package of chicken legs for a week long stay with the intention of having several trout dinners. I stayed for 8 full days and had trout dinners 6 of the 8 days. Nice!

So after catching my fill of trout at Fantan Lake I did a short off trail hike up to Cliff Lake. As many times I have been to Fantan lake I never checked out this one just a short distance away. It was evident why the lake was called Cliff lake with the rock outcropping lining one side of the lake.

Taking a look back at Fantan lake.

One of the Chain Lakes off in the distance.

This was one of a few nice evenings. Most of my stay was filled with turbulent weather to include rain, wind, snow, and groppel.

Taking it all in.

My next fishing trip was to Sawtooth lake. This lake is always windy but its a good sized body of water.  You can see the sawtooth rock formation in the background that gives this lake its name.

Fishing was slow going so I made my way to the inlet of the lake and found this neet little waterfall cutting through the granite.

After about 3 hours of casting into the wind and not catching anything, I wanted to call it quits when I decided to  give it one more shot casting along a sandy beach from one side to the other. After about 10 casts… Boom.. The fish started biting and caught these 3 brookies.

My favorite dish I made while on the road. Trout and Bacon Quinoa Bowl.

What looked like a break in the weather it was time for a mountain bike ride. I decided to check out the Morrison 4wd road that traverses a bald high alpine section of the range. This was my first lake encounter called Top Lake.

After some woody rocky riding in the lower elevation forest I broke treeline and proceeded up and down rolling alpine hills. The only thing up here was wind blasted trees.

The weather was not the best. Rain was quickly moving in and I pressed on with haste.  If you can’t tell, the weather was very finicky during my stay in the Beartooths.

Despite conditions I was certainly having a great time and got a KOM on this route!

This was the end of the road for me and time to turn back. You can see the Sunlight basin down below. If I was to continue on there would be a lot of descending down to the bottom of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River down below.

Some peat bogs off in the distance. This was a fun out and back that I would recommend. It was a great way to experience the backcountry in this beautiful area.

What a lovely sunset after a wicked storm that rolled through. I kept my camp tidy at all times!

I ran across a fly fisherman in a parking lot when I took a quick ride on my bike to Long Lake earlier in the week. I asked the man how fishing was and he said it was ok at Long Lake but Nite Lake was where he was catching the nice sized trout. After waiting out some weather I made my way over to Nite Lake. It was just a quick 20 minute bike ride from my camp on the other side of the Beartooth Hy.

With a little persistence the nicest trout of my trip were hitting! I was catching tons of fish during my stay in the Beartooths but I was only catching 6″-12″ trout. These were at least 14″!

Jackpot! I caught a nice string and cleaned them by the lake to be cooked later. I was using my spinner rod with a Panther Martin lure. Tried and true.

After a wonder 8 full days of staying at this site (I could have stayed for 14 days for free)  it was time to move on. Everything all packed up nice and tidy, I snapped one last shot of my van and the Chain Lakes off in the distance.

I had visited the Beartooth Highway many times but never traversed all the way to the Montana side.

The highway was amazing and it turned out to be one of the most spectacular high alpine drives I have experienced.

Grand Teton/Yellowstone National Park – Vanlife

 #vanlife  😎 Seriously. This is such an iconic vanlife photo! I have not mentioned this yet but I do have a name for my van. I call my van Ody One. Or Ody for short.

 I hit GTNP just at the right time. I rolled in after a day of resupplying in Jackson and was treated to calm lakes and mirroring views of jagged peaks that reminded me of the alps in Europe.

Soak it up! That is the Grand Teton peak off in the distance. Grand Teton translates  “the big tit”!

 So I stealth camped in my van in an undisclosed location and woke up early to hike to bradley lake and catch some fish on my birthday! Thats right, its my birthday! Its my birthday!

 Ok, not going to complain here. The Tetons are amazing.

This way… To the lake….

Yeah, I caught some fish… On My Birthday!!!!

 I wish I knew the name of this rushing creek but I don’t.

 So here is my birthday dinner. Fresh caught trout over jasmine rice. With a large salad. So I do need to correct myself. Technically this is the day before my birthday, July 27th. The following day will be my birthday but I wanted to celebrate today since I knew I would be driving most of my actual bday.

 I was treated to the BEST sunset of the adventure in GTNP! This was my 5th National Park this year! Nice!

 So the next day it was north through Yellowstone National Park making this National Park number 7. I have been to Yellowstone so many times. Seriously I have been to this National Park so many times I cannot count. Its probably between 10 – 12 visits. So anyways, I really did not spend much time in Yellowstone and just wanted to make my way through to my next destination. The Beartooth/Absaroka Mountains.

I stopped for a quick picture along Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake is the largest  natural high altitude freshwater lake in the US. I was able to make a few phone calls and catch up with a few close friends and family. Cell service was few and far between in the National Parks. Something you get used to on the road.

Sulphur Caldron

You are pretty much guaranteed to see buffalo in Yellowstone.

 And a little bit of National Park humor to finish the post. Taken from inside one of the bathrooms in Yellowstone NP.

Jackson Wyoming Vanllife

I arrived in Jackson on a Monday and realized how busy but beautiful this town was. When I was a teenager I briefly drove through Jackson with my family but barely remember the town and Teton National Park.  Taking a peek at my mountain biking trails apps there were some good rides right from my camp. This is my free campsite off of a dirt road near Mike Harris campground. I am actually camped in Idaho on the Idaho side of the Teton Pass. What a great spot this turned out to be. It had creek running nearby, huckleberries, butterflies, and white tailed deer that made a visit. 

 A friendly butterfly visiting my camp. It was hard for me to meet people on the road so I was grateful for any type of company.

 Blueberry paleo pancakes, 2 fried eggs, and bacon to fuel up for a ride.

On the radar is Mail Cabin Trail. After a quick jaunt peddling up the highway I was treated to lush singletrack in peak wildflower season.


I am not going to lie. This trail is very tough. It started with some gradual climbing but after a few miles turned to steep hike a bike up to the ridge.

 Large talus field on the way up.

Once the hike a bike was over the trail descends down with brief climbs along the ridge with sweeping views both left and right. It was gorgeous up here! After a few more miles on the ridge the trail forks on a steep downhill that took me right back to camp. This ride was a blast and would highly recommend it.

After a chill day in the van reading Survivor, I found a short ride from my camp. These trails were freshly cut and very fun. I was stoked!

It was almost as if Gnomes came out the night before and groomed the trail for me.

Loam…. Loam for days…
The trails I ended riding this day were Rush hour (I went OTB overshooting a small bridge on the way down), Nemo, and, Grumpy. Grumpy was one of the funnest, coolest, little trails I have ever ridden! It is a true gem for being just 1.7 miles. Ride it if you can. 

Backpacking trip to the Wind River Range – Pinedale Wy

Ahhh! That sweet sweet vanlife! One of the many times I stayed in a Walmart parking lot. I haven’t shopped at Walmart in years but since I have been utilizing their free camping so I thought it would be only fair to purchase some groceries. I did end up getting my first batch of cherries at this Walmart and it started a cherrey craze all the way to Whitefish Montana. But other than the cherries, Walmart groceries are packed with disappointment. Generally I would sleep great no matter where I parked. I had complete privacy with my window coverings and by turning on the fan and maybe some music the space inside my van would be its own little cozy world. The Walmart parking lots were always busy with campers in the back of the parking lot.

 You really see the whole gamut of nomads and RV/Vandwellers. Here is a jellyfish van parked in the Walmart in Rock Springs Wyoming. It was hot as hell here!

Thanks for sending my hat and thanks for the gift card Mike! It was nice to get a little care package on the road.

Here was a campsite I found off of freecampsites.net that was just a few miles from the trailhead. I stayed here for about 4 days total. 

Earlier I had made my way to Pinedale and got some resupplies and prepared for a 3 night 4 day backpacking trip in the Wind River mountains in central Wyoming. I had been dreaming of this hike for years after following several hikers recommendations in the past.

 After a good nights sleep I got up early and was on the trail by 7am. I was very excited for this hike. I had planned a large loop crossing 2 major passes and a side trip to the legendary Titcomb Basin. I brought my bear canister and felt the large load of food, water, and a full pack. Me being excited I put it into high gear and trekked into the Bridger Wilderness.

Immediately I was treated with spectacular views of the range.

 Wind River Range is full of granite and water!

 It was lake, after lake, after lake along this hike. The beauty wasn breathtaking.

Lots of tributaries and streams. I love the light colored granite that forms the range. Coming from the Pikes Peak area of Colorado I am used to seeing the pinkish colored decomposed granite that dominates that area, it was refreshing to see such pretty rock all over the place.

 The trail was well constructed and bobbed its way in and out of lake basins. I must have crossed 10 lakes by this point!

 Can you see the beautiful Titcomb basin off in the distance. Here I am nearing the evening at Seneca Lake with the ‘13,751 Fremont Peak off in the distance.

Unfortunately I had to pull the plug on the hike and camp much sooner that anticipated. About 6 miles into the hike I was cruising along with my earbuds in when I notice a sharp pain in the arch of my foot. I take a few more steps, then again, a very sharp pain! I knew something was wrong immediately and took a break to rest my foot. After a short break my foot was still hurting and made the decision to camp at a Seneca Lake and call the day after only about 10 miles. I had planned to hike about 20 miles that day but looking back my body was not ready for that much distance with the load I was carrying. Also I had some new shoes (Altra Lone Peaks 3.5s) that barely had any arch support with the stock insole. Later I put a pair of green Super Feet inside the Altras and they have been great ever since. So long story short I had to cut my 3 night 4 day trip down to a 1 night 2 day trip. In the long run it was a great decision to call the trip, rest, then make my way back to my van the next day.

 I had a lot of time that day after pitching camp and just enjoyed the views of Seneca Lake, listened to music, and took some pictures. I also snacked a lot since I had a bunch of backpacking food I would no longer need.

 It was a good campsite and enjoyed the sunset. I always enjoy a good sunset.

 That next morning I was up early and made my way back to my van. I was disappointed that
I did not get to do the whole loop that I planned and missed out on Titcomb Basin but still was very impressed with what I did get to see and really enjoyed my time the best I could. My foot was hurting on the way back still and I was reassured I made the right call.

I had brought my Tenkara fishing rod on this trip and was having trouble catching anything until I tried my hares ear lure at Beauty Lake. 

I ended up catching 2 little brookes and was pretty satisfied to have finally caught something. 

I took a day to rest in my van and made one more day trip to a lake nearby called Long Lake. It was a steep 3 mile hike to the lake. My foot was still sore but I could tell it was already getting better after a days rest. I brought my spinner rod down here and fished for a couple of hours. It was windy and the fish were not biting.

So after 4 days at the Winds it was time to make my way north to Jackson Wyoming. One of my vanlife strategies is to try and arrive at a new camping location mid week and avoid the crowds on the weekend. I was looking to arrive in Jackson on a Friday but decided to pull over at this peaceful spot just off the highway in between Pinedale and Jackson to burn a couple of days before arriving in the busy town of Jackson. It turned out I was tired from all the excitement in the Wind River Range and needed a couple of days to chill out anyway. I spent 2 days resting and reading the book The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. This book had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages for hours. It had been a long time since I  have read like that if ever. Thanks Paul for lending me one of the best books I have ever read.

On my way to Jackson Wyoming I stopped along the Hoback River and threw out a line. I caught this carp. It was a shock how ugly this fish was after catching beautiful trout all these years.Yes I thew this guy back!

The best boat is Steamboat!

After a great time in Vail with my friends Paul and Becca I made my way to Steamboat Springs Colorado. Steamboat was one of my Colorado bucket list locations. Being a Colorado native there are lots of iconic mountain locations that I have not yet seen. In a matter of a couple of weeks I was able to check off Crested Butte, Vail, and now Steamboat! When I arrived in Steamboat it was hot! It was 94 degrees in town and you could tell it was really dry. I made my way up the Buffalo Pass road and after what seemed like hours (probably only 45 minutes) of bumpy rough steep dirt road and many occupied campsites I came across one of my best sites to date! When I arrived I knew I was going to stay for at least a week. I ended up staying 7 days that included 3 mountain bike rides, and a 2 day fishing/backpacking trip on the Continental Divide

My first adventure was riding the CDT to Fish Creek Falls Trail then taking the fork to Steamboat resort and ride a flow trail down.

Round lake off the Wyoming Trail (CDT)

Sweeping views over Steamboat Resort

This was the 3rd moose I saw this day. I spotted two more next to a small lake on the Divide earlier in the day.

This was my biggest ride of the year. 6k of climbing. I ran out of water on the Spring Creek trail and got rained on for about 2 hours.

The next day it was time to refuel with a big breakfast. I have gotten really good at making omelette and love making sweet potato has browns.

My next ride was a double diamond black trail called Grouse Ridge. It was very steep with lots of rollers with alternate lines. It was fun but lived up to the double diamond rating IMHO.

After descending the grouse ridge trail I hopped on the Flash of Gold Trail that was a freshly built climb with tons of switch backs that made for mellow elevation.

This section with aspens and ferns was a real treat. It was my first time seeing this time of fauna in Colorado.

Here is a grouse at the top of the Flash of Gold Trail. The next ride was descending down Flash of Gold trail then connecting to the BTR descent. This was also an excellent combination of trail in the area.

So after a couple of days resting up from the bike riding. I had planned a 2 day 1 night backpacking trip along the CDT to Luna lake.

After a 2 mile road climb (felt like 5 minles) I connected to the CDT to head north….

Beautiful looking day to start!

Steamboat was very pretty with lots of wild flowers even for how dry it was.

I had attained the ridge and was crusing along the Continental Divide.

Great trail on rolling terrain.

Here is Luna lake. I had the whole lake to myself and the fish were biting like crazy! Just about every cast I was getting a bite. Most were small brookies.

Luna lake was very pretty.

I perched my tarp overlooking the lake and was treated to this gorgeous sunset.

After some fishing and a nights rest I trekked back on the CDT. I got rained on again but this time was for about 4 hours. I kept a brisk pace and was able to dry off once I got back to my van.

Vail with Friends!

There is amazing free camping off of the top of Vail Pass. I love this picture of Paul and Becca AKA: Pubecca) on the blanket in the grass. Makes me feel like a hippie. 

 After my time in Crested Butte I got a call from my friends Paul and Becca to meet them at Vail to ride the Two Elks trail.

Views of the Gore Range off in the distance. We took the Bowmans Shortcut route to the Two Elks trail.

Paul getting his shred on. The upper part of the Two Elks trail was open and fast!

The Colorado Indian Paint Brush is my favorite flower to photograph.

Becca soaking in the views on the Two Elks Trail. We lucked out with great weather this day.

The end of the trail was  a techy exposed canyon next to this stream before you finished in the town of Minturn.

The next day Paul and Becca went to Vail resort to ride with a friend and I took a backcountry route to meet them at Vail resort from out camp.

The route took me to over 11k feet and to the top of the Mongolia Bowl. I have never skied Vail so it was cool to see this iconic skiing area.

After this ride we got some fried chicken in west Vail at a place called Yellow Belly that makes fantastic gluten free chicken.

Back on the road! – Crested Butte Vanlife

So after a month of housesitting in Colorado Springs it  was time to get back on the road! After my tour in the desert I had planned a tour loosely following the Continental Divide from Colorado To Glacier National Park in Montana. Here is my van parked on the crest of the Continental Divide on highway 50 next to Monarch Ski Resort. It seems like every time I cross this pass I stop at the parking lot at the top and make lunch.

My first destination was Crested Butte. I have been riding mountain bikes in Colorado my whole life and have never ridden in the iconic Crested Butte trails. When I first got to town I rode Strand Trail which was a great introduction to what the riding is like in the CB area.

It was hard to find the good free campsites in Crested Butte. I felt lucky to find this neat little spot tucked into the aspens with a good view.

After riding the short Strand trail the day prior I was ready to tackle one of the more difficult high elevation routes in the area. This time it was the Teocalli Loop that was 11.3 miles and 2,100 feet of climbing. I must of have had an off day because I bonked on the climb of this ride and ended up not enjoying the wicked fast technical descent. That’s how it goes when you are riding consistently. You are just not going to feel strong every time. Especially when your ride goes above 11,000 feet.

There were some amazing views on the ridge of the Teocalli trail that made this ride very worth it.

I made a litte friend on the trail until he started chewing on my frame bag to get himself a snack.  This is a yellow belly marmot.

Mmmmmm my favorite meal….. Breakfast!!!!

So after taking a rest day it was time to ride the trail that Crested Butte is famous for. The 401 trail!. Here I am completing the road climb to the top of Schofield Pass. I thought the massive amount of stickers covering this National Forest sign indicating the top of the pass was interesting.

The singletrack climb to the top of the 401 trail went by quick and was much easier than the Teocalli trail climb. I was feeling strong and fast for this unbelievably beautiful ride!!!!

“I was promised wild flowers up to my handlebars but instead they were over my helmet.”

I was very impressed with the 401 trail. It lived up to the hype and could very well be one of the best mountain bike rides of all time. Zipping through the wildflowers at high speed with breathtaking alpine views of the surrounding peaks. I felt exhilarated after finishing this ride.

After finishing the 401 trail there was a little creek by the trail head. I decided to toss a line in and caught this little sucker! It was

Gothic Colorado

After finishing up my rides in Crested Butte it was time to move on. My next destination is Vail Colorado to meet up with some friends, but on the way I stopped for a nights stay in Gunnison for a quick nights stay at Hartman Rocks.