Today was hard. I think I’d rate it in the Top 5 Hardest Days of this trip.
At one point in time, as I was pushing my bike up what seemed like the millionth steep roller of the day, I thought to myself, “There hasn’t been a flat foot of trail this entire day! Straight up, straight down!”
But then I thought to myself, “According to basic calculus, whenever there’s a local maxima or minima, there has to be a spot where the derivative of a smooth function is zero, thus, a flat spot. And since we’d gone over and under a couple dozen high and low points, there had to be at least SOME flat ground.” But there wasn’t much.
These are the things I think about. Other times I sing along to Blake Sheldon:
The boys ’round here,
Drinking their ice cold beer,
Talking ’bout girls, talking ’bout trucks…
And other times I do both at the same time.
The best way to describe today is as a rollercoaster. The trail follows the divide closely, and the divide between the Montana and Idaho border is lumpy. No huge climbs, except for one, but incessant up a hill, yay high point!, down the other side, that was fun!, up the next hill, rinse and repeat.
It was a warm night and we were out of jackets soon after starting. The trail was a lovely three-track and most of the ups were ridable. It was, for the most part, a lovely way to start the morning. Eventually, we dove off on single track to climb Elk Mountain. Looking at the trail, I felt like I should have been able to pedal it, I just didn’t have the resources to allocate to it, so I walked. Unloaded on fresh legs, I bet it would be a blast.
From the top, it was a stunning, mostly contouring descent down towards Bannock Pass. Totally made the climbing worth it…I think. It made me giggle, even on a low energy day.
We stopped just shy of the pass to seek refuge from the wind in some trees and to let a storm pass that had a trajectory that seemed like would intersect ours if we kept riding. Scott mercifully gave me the final half a caffeine pill. It made all the difference in the world. I’ll nurse a caffeine addiction for the next three weeks, I’m okay with that.
We found some trail magic left by Stumbling Beef and Pepper Flake at the pass. The hikers hitch down to Leodore from the pass…and the road has about a car/hour traffic level.
From the pass, the climb up to Grizzly Mountain went easily. The trail was straight forward, which was appreciated. Trail no longer has to be fun or flowy to be appreciated, just straightforward.
We saw no grizzlies on Grizzly Mountain, but we did see a giant blackbear on our way up Goat Peak. We were technically on the Idaho side of the border, so it was our first Idaho bear sighting. He was huge!
The road we’d been following continued to gain every highpoint, but some amazing trail builders had built contouring trail around many of the lumps. Others, they built ridable switchbacks up. Thank you thank you thank you!
Eventually though, I had to call for a nap on the side of the trail. The thought of going up another hill seemed impossible. The nap did the trick and we were on our way again. We ran into Birdy first and chatted a bit. A half mile down the trail at a water source, we found Pepper Flake, unseen since West Yellowstone, and then a few miles later, Stumbling Beef. They were headed for the spring at the Lemhi Pass and passed us as we set up camp just two miles short.
We’d been rationing food all day and were hungry and had no real reason to make it all the way down to the spring tonight. 30 some odd miles covered today. We made up an hour on the hikers over the course of 7. It’s slow country out here. But beautiful. So beautiful.
I’m so hungry.