Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 70 – Navigation adventures and semi-death mud

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I’m a big believer in not having expectations, in taking things as they come.

Today was not what I had expected, and for a little while there, I was a bit frustrated. But then, after the bikes clogged up with mud and we were walking up the smallest inclines and wondering if we were actually going to make it to the Lava Mountain Lodge with daylight, it just got comical. And to think that we thought we were going to take an “easy” day to Lava instead of pushing all the way to Flagg Ranch. Ha.

We should know the CDT better than that.


I came to reality with Scott saying, “Wake up. It’s raining.”

You guessed it, we didn’t set our tarp up again. I swear, it was clear when the sun set! The sun was lighting up the sky and we could see clear skies in all directions. Except for our little Pooh Bear cloud drizzling rain right over. us.

It’s got to let up, we decided. The tarp was soaked from dew, so we covered our sleeping bags with our bivys and hoped for the best. Luckily, the rain stopped shortly after and we got breakfast going and eaten.

“What now?” I asked. It was cold out.

“We go back to sleep?”

I wasn’t going to argue. 20 minutes? 1 hour? I have no clue how long we slept but by the time we came to, the sun was breaking through the clouds, flooding us with warmth. Up valley it was time to go.


Through the bushes, through the bogs, through the endless fields of wildflowers. We averaged 2.6 mph for our first hour with a solid combination of walking, pedaling, and getting lost. But it was one of the most beautiful valleys we’ve been through.


Then the first of an event that would come to define the day: As soon as the trail got good, the GPS showed the trail going off into the woods with no trail. From nice 1-track to a nearly non-existant snowmobile track. This continued on Sargents Mesa style, hitting all the high points for no reason than to go down the other side. It traveled through a giant burn area that still had all the trees standing. It was spooky.


The trail alternated from being good to being not there. Through meadows. Through woods. Through bogs. The wildflowers were off the hook.


We ran into Smiles who claimed that Not So Bad and Southern were ahead of us, though she was worried about NSB because his phone battery, and thus his GPS, had died. And navigation was anything but trivial…Scott even took us on some wrong turns.


It started raining. Lightly. Enough for rainjackets. Not enough to seek cover.

We ran into some horsey riders. Scott wanted to be a horsey rider.


We ran into Oops at a small creek crossing. He didn’t seem too excited about talking to us, so we got ready to keep rolling down the road just as he finished fiddling with his pack.

“Wait. We’re supposed to turn left on a road here,” Scott said.

“Did I miss something?” Oops asked.

“Looks like a bushwack to me…” I observed, looking forward to the nice road we’d been traveling on and to the left where dense trees blocked the view.

Oops opted for the road straight ahead while Scott deliberated.

After five minutes, I pointed out that Oops hadn’t turned back yet. “Maybe the road is down there.”

We rolled a hundred yards. “This is wrong,” Scott declared. “We need to go back and go through the woods.”

“Ok. You’re navigating.”

As it turned out, we’d overshot the turn completely when we’d seen Oops and we followed a faint, but real, road cut into the woods. The lesson there – Don’t follow a hiker who’s trail name is Oops.


The snowmobile trail was slow, but steady. No ripping downhills, but no hike-a-bikes either. Just plodding along.

We hooted and hollered when we finally hit an established road. We’re going to be out of here in no time! We caught Southern who was trucking along to get to the highway to hitch to Debois. He’d been out for 8 days without resupply and ready to get to town for real food.

Established road turned to logging road turned to a little bridge crossing a river and into a closed road. The mud started. A peanut buttery, soupy, wet, disaster of a road. Tires quickly gummed up unless we road on the grass on the side of the road, and even then, it was tenuous.

Let us out of here! We were so close to the highway.

Frustration levels rose. We had wanted to cover another 70 miles today and we hadn’t even broken 20 and it was 4pm. The top layer of dirt half dried, making it all the more prone to sticking to tires. Oh Togwatee Pass area…your soil leaves something to be desired.


We finally emerged on the other side of the Road Closed sign and breathed a sigh of relief as a muddy, but somewhat gravelly road pointed downwards. Car tracks in it indicated it most likely wouldn’t stick. It didn’t and we flew down to the highway and pointed our bikes towards Lava Mountain Lodge.

We got ourselves a Grizzly Cabin (no bathroom and you have to bring your own bedding, but there’s heat, lights, and electrical outlets for charging) for $25 and are happier than pigs in mud. Actually, happier than CDT tourers finally out of the mud. With a significant chance of rain tonight and grizzly bears all over Togwatee Pass, this was definitely the correct life decision.

Tomorrow, over to Yellowstone where we plan on touristing it up through the park the next day. Old Faithful, lodges with amazing masonry, and food every 20 miles. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.


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