Tag Archives: cdt

Fearing I would be trapped in the hostel till the cogs in my mind fuse into a solid state I decided to take a friend up on an offer and go for a hike for a day or two and make a decision on where to go next. In the car as we drew closer to the pass and starting point speckles of rain began to accumulate on the windscreen.  At the top of the pass we picked our packs out the trunk and set out up the hill. 6pm. The clouds were low and a cool breeze swept around the hill. Walking this part of the colorado/continental trail is refreshing, staying high on easy trail in and out of trees. I knew from 2 years previous of a 3 sided wooden shelter with metal roof 8 miles away. This was the target, we drew towards the shelter at around half 8 as darkness was setting in and rain becoming heavy. To my surprise there were tents pitched around but nobody in the shelter itself. Saving a tent from becoming heavy and wet and having space to move and think it was the only logical place to unroll a sleeping bag and heat some noodles. It rained the whole night. I tried catching rain dripping off the roof but every time i placed my pot the drips seemed to change landing patterns.

In the morning the tenters joined us for breakfast. The day continued much the same as the evening before, in a semi-concious zombie state soaked to the bone and hands numbed enough to move slowly when trying to use them. I was calm and composed, trying to be at one with the rain and embrace the cold, not entirely believing myself it was worth coming out.  I fashioned what I would call a pumpkin prom jacket out of an orange coated survival bivi bag, this added a small amount of warmth at the expense of my dignity and of Sabrinas’ who hiked with me. Towards the middle of the day we arrived at the summit of Sgt. Mesa. A beautiful high hill with meadows and trees and fluffy black storm clouds a mile or two off to the side.

Sabrina said “As least the storm cloud is over there”.

Moments later lightning forked across the sky close above out heads with a tremendous crack like a wagon plowing into a concrete bunker. Where most people would stop and sit or panic the thru hiker mentality of ‘stay calm and carry on’ shone through boldly and we kept hiking along the ridge line like a couple of idiots. The addiction to hiking building, adrenaline growing, and tree cover getting thinner. The ridge line narrowed slightly and the rumbles became bombs detonating very close. Another hiker called Steven was heading the opposite direction towards the Mesa summit. I wouldn’t want to be him.

We pitched tent about half way along the 6 mile ridge close to where a tree had been previously struck by lightning. They say lighting doesn’t strike the same place twice, a myth I was willing to believe for the evening with impending rain seconds away. Pitching early did not save us from rain splashing up between the fly sheet and inner tent. This did not put me in the mood to attempt to cook noodles alfresco so we went to sleep hungry questioning why it was so. I dreamt about bears savaging the tent and other wonderful things. My sleeping pad still deflates every couple of hours waking me to the real horror of trail life, the sound of everything becoming wet. This morning was glorious, not sunny, but not raining. It was nice being high up early and having a vile concoction of triple herbal tea with extra sugar from my unofficial trip sponsor ‘the hiker box’. Three miles down the path in fairer condition was where my and Sabrinas’ path would split. I turned north and down hill back towards the road and pass. Deep house tunes blasting out (a one hour kygo mix) I ran the next 6 miles. I felt alive, this is what outdoors was meant to be.

At the roadside I stuck my thumb out and the first truck pulled over.

“Jump in!!! theres a car behind I dont want to get past me” shouted the driver.

I hopped up, “Beer?”

“Yes” I replied. The next half hour back to Salida was nice. I was Acutely aware of how bad my trainers were smelling after fording a stream the colour of cow muck. The driver seemed to understand.

Salida! I’ve wound up back in Salida! Of all the towns in all the states in America, why am I going back to Salida again? With no decision on what I will do next the Vortex has me. The sirens beckon.

‘Wakey, Wakey Rise and Shine! and don’t forget your booties, its cold out there today’

 

Cycling The Great Divide Basin

 

The divide basin is a large flat(ish) area that splits the rockies in wyoming. Its dusty, hot, there are lots of ticks that will try to bite you and its long. (136miles by the official bike route I think).

To get to the basin from Landers first i had to cycle the wrong way up 2300feet into a headwind. I resented this climb. I didn’t really need to cross the basin, I hiked across in 2015 and didn’t expect it to be much different. I could have taken the shorter road route but that wouldn’t be much of an adventure and i considered this a necessary evil on my trip.

I waited around Atlantic City, a small town on the edge of the basin with a few other hikers and bikers till after 4pm when it would start to cool, and set off, the water sources being about 22mile in, then 56mile, then Rawlins at the far side. I have two 1 litre water bottles but bought a couple of extra litres for just in case a flat tyre or something cataclysmic slowed me down, but i soon ditched the extra water with the thought there will be someone else out here if it goes south. I currently have a buckled back wheel and is is very slowly getting worse. hopefully it can make an extra 140miles to Steamboat springs where bike shops are plentiful.   I was very fortunate to have a tailwind for the first time and this was great motivation to keep going till after dark, knowing the next day it might be gone. I followed the tail of a storm, the clouds just keeping me in shade. The wildlife was brilliant, I had mule deer running all over, horses, cows, hares and after sundown, a coyote that kept me entertained for a while. The coyote seemed chilled, but always tried to keep behind me, if I turned to it it would back a distance away and circle again. I rode into the dark with a poor headtorch that I love, and nearly wrapped a few times hitting ruts and sand. But progress is progress.

Sunset and sunrise are worth watching, the colours are unreal, like a brilliant filter has been applied. I took an hour out in the morning to play with my camera and see what i can achieve. The night sky was so clear, lighting every inch of ground. The below video is in the divide and I think its mule deer running across my path. This was great fun to see repeatedly over 60miles.

This is the sunrise while i was packing up and getting ready to cycle. All in i wouldn’t recommend cycling the divide or walking it, but it is beautiful and a dirt road runs through it. Worth a trip for the safari.

I am trying to work out how to climb as many 14,000ft+ peaks as possible as I cycle through Colorado, maybe one a day southbound? I’m gonna finish this beer and hit the road.

Love ya’ll. Benjamin

 

 

Falling into the dream with Montana

So, today I cycled 83 miles on dirt road, I would have stopped earlier, but I really despise flies and knew from the 47th mile at the 83rd mile there would be a pint of refreshing ale and a swimming pool as a reward. 4 pints later and I’m still telling myself there is time for the pool. I have pitched my tarp sheet in a nice rv/motel park borrowing a towel as I carry non.  Tomorrow will descend on Yellowstone. Hoping to get in early to beat the park entrance fee. I am really settling into this trip now.

The days riding was shear joy, open dirt roads, few climbs and great views (i do enjoy climbs but not at 32c (90f). Playing my repeated playlist again and again I felt like a Don singing out loud with no one to complain. One 4×4 vehicle on the road did pull over to talk, the couple inside had been to my home Lake District and talked of the great beer and a lovely 3 weeks there. I do believe Montana is getting close to brilliant beer, or maybe I am just enjoying drinking more of it.  I covered today’s distance in around 6 hours including stops where I attempted to take timed photos with no luck, I spent much time running back and forward and I have lots of ridiculous photos of my back running from the camera, there seems to be an auto motion sensor fighting me; I will sus this sometime soon. I am just over the border in Idaho and don’t think I will be back in Montana again in the near future, quite a sad thought, its been brilliant, the snow, the river crossing, the downed trees, the heat, the views, the cycling, the humbling experience and the friendliest people you could meet in the world who invited me to drink beer with them, introduced me to their families and opened their homes to me.  Sky, Sarah, Josh, Gov, Aram, and the many I knew only for a few hours. thank you all.

I will miss you Montana, goodnight.

Trail Life mosquitoes and Lightning

For those that question why i bother travelling, hopefully these first person views will help. I’m now a stones throw from Yellowstone where I will start making side tracks from the official Great divide MB route and CDT, and doing the things I missed on this trip last time and really making this my trip. I’ve cycled into what will be the first of many lightning storms yesterday evening, it really makes the trail come alive. I tell myself the chances of being stuck is one in a million, even though i know 999,999 of those people will be no where near a storm. There is a reason they call Montana ‘Big Sky Country’. The vistas are awesome and natures display doesn’t disappoint.

I was also harassed by many thousands of mosquitoes. I presume these ones were working as a squadron/unit. It started with the little scouts coming ahead, flying around, sizing me up, working out which items of clothing they could bite through, then came the first wave, I swung violently in every direction, I turned my gas stove up full and ran, hoping this distraction of burning vapours would camouflage me, but in vein, their numbers were too great. And my noodles were ready, i had to return.  I then proceeded to do what I would call Ross Geller dance karate (friends if your too your to understand the reference, I really hope not though) while walking and eating, to any onlookers, I must have looked like a mad man. I then dived into my inner tent i set up under the table shelter, they had me pinned. I don’t know how many hours I was stuck there, hundreds of them walking around the outside looking for a way in, with me cocooned in my nylon mesh prison. I knew of a hole near the end that made me vunerable, i held a top in place with my foot, an eternity passed……….. It turned dark, the wind picked up, Zephyrus was on my side, they were blown away. In the dark and aftermath, I regrouped; gathered my thing together, and finally rested.

The next morning I broke camp fast and without food. My quads are burning from cycling and im itching all over from the previous nights attack. I got lucky this time, next time, they might get all my blood. On route to Lima i had a third flat tyre, Im certain the blood suckers were following me, I have never changed a tyre as fast. I’m considering beefing up my cycle reserve supplies and upping my tyres to something with a bit more traction.

Viva la Vida. Lots of love,

Benjamin

 

 

 

wise river -polaris- clark canyon res distance approx 78mile

reservoir to lima distance approx 30mile

Cycling on the 4th July

My 4th July started like you are aware, with McDonalds. I have to say im begining to detest the Mcmuffin but it fuelled me up. I hung about in the town till the parade, the one big surprise at the start of the parade being everyone lining the sides of the road standing to attention with hand over heart as the American flag and servicemen led the way. This was followed by ex service men charities and support groups, then the fire services, with firemen dancing behind the wagon. It was pretty hot and I wondered how enthusiastic the dancing would be by the far end of the parade. There were plenty of entertaining floats and youth clubs, cheer leaders, boxing clubs and more. One thing that stood out was the amount of advertising with dates for events displayed on the side of the wagons. Then the beer companies getting their adverts in, even some mining companies. While the parade was entertaining, it did feel like watching a commercial, all be it a very colourful one.  At 1pm I set off. It was hot, with a gentle headwind drying my skin and mouth and causing frustration. It was a long climb up a mundane gravel road mile after mile. Once I reached the divide crossing it felt easier, probably because it was downhill. when I reached the bottom of the next valley i sat under the highway in the shade. It was 5pm, I promised myself I wouldn’t ride through the mid day but its all I seem to end up doing of recent. I decided to take the easy alternate instead of an infamous steep ridgeline. An evening of 18 mile road cycling with a river lunch half way was nice. I rolled into Wise River and grabbed a beer. Then a second beer, then a third beer. At which point it started getting dark. I rolled out to find somewhere to camp.

In the middle of the main road in the town a group of adults and kids were setting off fireworks. They invited me to join them and handed me a beer. This seems to be becoming a theme along the route and one I am getting used too,  by nearly midnight the fireworks were over and a lovely old lady who seemed to be grandmother to many of the kid offered the back porch to sleep on, which i gladly took.

5th July- 6am- I woke dehydrated, I said the previous night I would be up and gone early to get some miles in and as promised woke early. As I went around the front of the cabin I realised about 15 yards from where the fireworks were being set off was a fuel pump, it made me laugh a little. Todays ride has been glorious, climbing a pass to 2360m (7740ft) before descending to Elkhorn Hot Springs and covering around 30 mile by lunch. Now I am deciding if I should stop the night. After glancing at the map i have realised Yellowstone is within striking distance. Finally feels like I’m getting some miles in.

Helena to Butte – Lava Mountain

The Boring Bits-     Distances , So……. from Ovander to Lincoln was 27miles by road, followed by 54miles offroad/gravel to get me to the pass at Helena leaving a downhill into town in the morning. I started this day at 9.30am. In Lincoln I caught the parade for a hour or so. I was finished by around 8-8.30pm. 81miles without pushing myself too hard, nice breaks through the day

Helena To Butte

54 off road with some rough terrain after Park Lake going up Lava Mountain followed by 30miles on an Interstate sprinting to Butte for fireworks, this did miss a section of trail by taking the Inter Alternate but C’mon!!! Fireworks!!!!. I started this day at about noon or just after (i was waiting for route maps to download, as good as the maps are, they require a odometer for getting the right turnings, which upto Helena, i did not have). By 4pm and through baking 90 degree heat i reached Park lake and chucked myself straight in. I am currently sat in Starbucks probably smelling like bad lake water, can’t smell how bad i smell so not too concerned. lol. Lava mountain was hard , steep and rocky, a couple of northbound cyclists I met at the lake said it was the hardest section for them. My skimpy 40mm gravel tyres were skittering about, struggling for traction, but it was brilliant fun. I did have to push the bike up a few gruelling sections towards the top which reminded me just how heavy the loaded panniers are. The reward of the downhill was immense though, all fear of buckling the wheels out the window, this was too much fun; it seemed to last hours, I passed a few more divide riders heading north, with proper mountain bikes. Pfffff, I though; who needs that setup, then I came across a 50meter steep rock garden; this humbled me, I got off the bike and wimped my way around this before remounting. It was hard enough walking down, never mind riding. The single track widened and soon became a gravel road, which i hurtled down  . At 7 pm I emerged at the interstate. 30 miles to cover by 9 pm when it would start to get dark, I have no bike lights so it was kind of a make or break thing, I plunged onto the interstate boldly; to be greeted with a head wind and a gentle but punishing climb.  Reaching a sign saying ‘snow chain area 1/2 mile ahead’ the road kept climbing. I was committed, pushing as hard as I could, my legs building lactic fast. The sun disappeared behind the ridge to my right, I was running out of time and staring at the map couldn’t work out how far i had come but felt there were about 6miles to go. Time was up. I came to the continental divide crossing and the view over the other side was glorious, Butte still shining in the sun. I flew downhill to a layby I could see cars backing up into; I realised they were setting up for the fire work display. I made it. Being the showboating idiot I sometimes am I locked the back wheel and skidded to a halt. I felt like Lance armstrong for a second (before we all found out he cheated).

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The view from the layby just over the Divide, Butte in the foreground too dark to see
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Interstate riding
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the slow climb up that was killing me
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Lava Mountain, this steep continuous climb also killed me
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My bath for the day, Park Lake, a relief after the heat of the afternoon

 

 

 

 

helena to butte

127-171 44mile

30 by road

A change of Direction going the right way

So, I was heading back to the trail Via Amtrak when i bumped into an old friend Lucky Larry; and was inspired. Instead of hiking the whole divide, Why not cycle the great divide and climb the interesting parts? With the increased daily mileage so fewer days= less food, a bicycle would pay for itself by Mexico (Is what i have told myself)

This idea was in the back of my mind as i hitched from East Glacier to Browning towards where i left off. At Browning after a couple hours waiting, with not many cars passing, a young guy pulled over called Skyler. He agreed to driver me and after a small diversion I decided to stop the night in Lincoln. On route Sky said he wanted to hike up a pass we were going over. We pulled in at the top of the pass, he goes to the boot and pulls out some trainers.

‘I found these at the hostel, can you believe someone would chuck them away’.

I was surprises to be staring at the trainers i chucked away in East Glacier which caused my feet so much grief through the snow and subsequently a week off trail.  This was a entertaining twist. After the climb it was pretty much settled I might as well go back to Missoula to buy a bicycle. Sky gave me a lift in and breakfast in his awesome self built trailer house. At 9am I started searching the town for a bike, and towards the end of the day was getting desperate to find the spec i wanted at an affordable price, everywhere I went had just sold out, or had the wrong frame size. Sarah and Josh put me up again for the night and the next morning I met a guy from a bike shop to buy a used bike that was perfect. My steel framed machine of speed, mechanical discs, 40mm tyres(with space for a little more), wide drop bars. I set off around lunchtime and cycled around 50mile to Ovander, stopped briefly by a flat tyre from a piece of hard wire. In Ovander they welcome cyclists with open arms and contribution based accommodation($5), I opted to spent the night in a trailer with a comfortable mattress and grab a burger in the bar.

Saturday morning i cycled into Lincoln to join the great divide mountain bike trail, as I arrived in the town the street were lined with people, I presumed they were all there to greet me and send me on my way, but to my disappointment found they were actually getting ready for the 4th July parade in a few minuted time. So i took my place among the ranks and waited. The parade started and within a minute was handed free beer and beef jerky. Sweets were chucked to the children and the streets lined with red white and blue, cowboy hats and solid boots. I talked with the locals for a while then tried to set off. Across the road a family stopped me and ensured i had at least a cup of fresh lemonade. The children were using the money made to buy candy.

I set off at 1pm hoping to go a few miles, but the route drew me in and I was soon slaughtering myself, mile by mile up and up. The first descent was described as steep, and yes it was, half way down i pinched my second tube. The trail is easy but this was worrying in the first 15 mile off road as I had one more tube in reserve having spent 2 already. There was a camp area in the next valley, but I was flying on adrenaline. So climbed the second pass , this descend was smooth but with large washed out sections running and weaving down the trail, making me nervous on my 40mm gravel tyres. Lower where it was slightly rockier i started chucking the bike about; But the steel machine kept going, the wheels staying unbuckled to my relief. By half 7 I thought there is no point in stopping this close to the pass, so pushed and camped then night just off the road down to Helena. I planned on spending a day gettin to Lincoln and two days getting to Helena but had made it all on one day. Yusss!!!!!. The night was spent with what i presume was a pack of coyotes howling a couple hundred yards away. I was downwind and glad to be receiving no attention, with only an inner tent between me and them.

Sunday morning I have rolled downhill into town and am now sat back drinking a beer waiting for my luxury 2* motel room to be made ready. Ahhh hot shower, clothes washing and A/C (I hope).

In summary, the plan has changed, by covering the boring sections of trail 2-3 times faster, the bike will pay for itself and i will cover ground quicker. I shall climb peaks on the way down to Mexico as I choose, hopefully a good few 14ers (no fixed plan but maybe one per day) and a bit of time in the wind river range prior.

I need a name for my bike, any suggestions???? The name i like will be painted or at least marker penned onto the frame forever more.