Mexico to Canada on Dirt - The Continental Divide Trail

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bwanajames, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. overlander

    overlander Gravel Travel Tours Supporter

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    Wicheetaw, KS but longing for Texas
    Lovin the Mexico photos! I go to the Baja quite frequently but never been to the mainland so much. It's on the list...
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  2. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Mom has been harassing me about this for years. But you know how mom's are; your 3-year-old finger-paintings are Rembrandts. But you ADV moto-jockies have got me thinking.

    Migolito, I promise you the first autographed copy.

    BJ
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  3. Migolito

    Migolito Prognosticator and MotoYogi

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    Great! Seriously, you have a way of story telling that transcends this genre. I know what I like, and if I was a publisher I'd already have you signed.
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  4. outbacktm

    outbacktm Bullrun Bison Supporter

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    I’m in line for the second one, thrills my spirit and soothes my soul
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  5. outbacktm

    outbacktm Bullrun Bison Supporter

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    Just listen to your mother, At least about the book
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  6. radmeister

    radmeister Been here awhile Supporter

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    an excellent rr, bwanajames.
    i read it from end to end today and will definitely read your alaska rr.
    it is time to start livin’ the dream.
    you are an inspiration.
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  7. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    Listen to your mother, she knows good stuff when she sees it. I have a short attention span and you do a great job of holding my attention with your writing. Be sure to let us know when you publish your first book.
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  8. Brother Ken

    Brother Ken n00b

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    Listen to your readers, Jim! Now that you're retired and have the time, a book (or maybe more than one) of your adventures would be the ultimate legacy to leave behind. I'll be happy to offer my humble services as editor and proof reader.
  9. Drybones

    Drybones Fish bones are on my truck seat cover, too

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    Just say no to nepotism! I challenge Ken for one of those positions... I do have a BS in Mech. Eng. and am proficient with spell check and am learning grammar. ;)
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  10. Motoman66

    Motoman66 Green Rider

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    May 2, 2016
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    Houston
    CDR now on my bucket list. I very much liked your RR. I have written some lines from a short trip to Big Bend Texas but never published them on the Forum. You inspire me to do it. Any help required in Mexico, feel free to contact. I am fluent in spanish and know the country.
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  11. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    “Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going.”
    ― Paul Theroux


    CDTMap5_Wise River,MT to Lima, MT.jpg


    Just a throttle twist away lay the town of Lima, Montana. Population: 221. The big city compared to neighboring Dell. Pulling up to the Exxon station, I was surrounded by two-wheeled travelers. Yet there would be no lengthy queue at the pump. Their machines were not powered by some long-dead T-Rex, but muscular quadriceps beneath form-fitting black shorts. Given that the Continental Divide Trail was pioneered by bicyclists, their presence should come as no surprise.

    Indeed, this is cattle country, some of whom may be destined for the fiery hell of The Peat grill. Across the back of the large pink building, the establishment declared itself: “Home of the Cook-Your-Own-Steak”. While some people may have fun with this, I generally go out to eat to avoid subjecting myself to my own cooking. (I couldn’t help but wonder if this brilliant idea evolved as the result of a pissed-off customer).

    Sadly, I cannot provide a TripAdvisor worthy report. I was afraid they’d make me wash my own dishes.


    Cook Your Steak_Lima.jpg

    A dirt track called the Lima Dam Road led out of town. Flat as a billiard table, the broad, treeless plains of the Centennial Valley sprawled out before me. No traffic jams here; this was a long, lonely stretch. The sun dipping low, I scanned for places to pitch a tent. But open country takes the stealth out of stealth camping; like trying to hide on a football field. But without a soul around, who cares?

    I find a large bowl spilling off the dirt road and ride down into it. Stamping weeds down for my tent, curling ribbons of steam begin swirling above the cookstove. Dinner in hand, I hike out of the shallow basin to a hilltop rise overlooking the valley. The dusk sky is on fire. Sitting down, my back to a weathered wooden fence post, the horizon subtly shifts color with every bite. A seamless gradient of blues, oranges, and lavenders put the sun to bed. Scraping the bottom of the pan, distant mountains are now in silhouette. The folks at The Peat may be enjoying a better steak, but I’m quite certain I have the better view.


    IMG_0832_CDT_Lima, MT_Resize_Cropped.JPG

    Packing up at dawn, I soon found myself approaching an area famed for bringing a troubled species back from the brink. In 1932, fewer than 70 trumpeter swans were known to exist worldwide. With an eight-foot (2.4m) wingspan and weighing 30 lbs (13.6 kg), they are one of our heaviest flying birds. Their last stronghold: just outside Yellowstone National Park. Warm springs provide year-round open water where the elegant snow-white birds could find food and cover even in the coldest weather. This led to the establishment of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935.

    This effort has become one of conservation’s crowning achievements. Today, an estimated 46,225 trumpeter swans now reside in North America. Unlike the ill-fated passenger pigeon, whose numbers went from five billion to zero at the hand of man, it is comforting to know we occasionally get it right.


    IMG_0833_Crop_Resize_(Near Lima).JPG

    About to exit Montana, I felt a twinge of sadness. I have a lot of history with this country. At age 19, I took a solo adventure on a Honda CB750K from California to Montana. It was my first long-distance motorcycle trip. Something of a lost soul, I ended up spending that summer in Missoula, receiving guidance from kind, insightful people who changed (and probably saved…) my life. There, I met the girl I still pine for. My whole life this has been a magical place.
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  12. 531blackbanshee

    531blackbanshee Adventurer

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    skiatook ok.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this.
    such a great read.

    leon
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  13. dhilt

    dhilt Been here awhile

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    Great Writing for sure. I definitely had a different perspective on that section leaving Lima. We stopped at the diner for breakfast sitting along side 3 other groups all CDT travelers. 2 groups on moto's, one on pedal power. After breakfast we blasted out of town, which took 2.5 seconds. That section where you tried to stealth camp we settled into 5th gear and flew right through only taking one quick tinkle break. At one point we passed a couple on mountain bikes and after 5 minutes or so we glanced back and could still see them but as tiny dots on the horizon. The wide, vast open land there is amazing. You can't hide there but there isn't anyone there to notice you.

    Attached Files:

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  14. RBMann

    RBMann Been here awhile

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    It took 27 pages but you finally arrived at the section I was most interested to see. In 2019 while traveling to Colorado a friend and I headed south from Seeley Lake crossing and paralleling your route. From Ovando we went south and picked up the Pioneer Hwy then did the entire Medicine Lodge Rd. coming out near Dubois, ID.

    Post #13 https://advrider.com/f/threads/forth-and-back-tor-2019.1419981/#post-38943718

    Lovely route with only one stream crossing near Bannack Pass on the CD. Sad to see you missed it because the bridge was out.

    Throughly enjoyed your report and wished I had your writing ability. I am a visually oriented person that doesn't keep detailed trip information but I rely on photos for memories. We will be in Paonia again this July for the Top of the Rockies rally. If you are in the area stop by and say hi. We camp under the scoreboard.

    D296--20190714_132336.jpeg D296--20190714_132839.jpeg D233-20150714_114106.jpeg
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  15. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
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    Colorful Colorado
    "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

    - Ernest Hemingway


    Just before the Idaho border, a huge cow moose appeared. As the largest member of the deer family, these coal-black Clydesdales are the last thing you want to see in front of your handlebars. The year I rode to Alaska, a fellow motorcyclist t-boned one of these “immovable objects”, canceling all his life memberships.

    CDTMap6 Notes_Lima, Mt to Island Park, ID.jpg

    On a distant ridgeline, a large, elevated sphere commanded my attention. Shimmering white in bright sun, this house-sized object resembled a teed-up golf ball. Alien spacecraft? God’s driving range? Relieved not to be abducted, I learned this was the Federal Aviation Administration’s radar dome perched atop Sawtell Peak.

    Rolling through pine forest, meadows and grasslands, the next outpost of civilization was Island Park, Idaho. This town, population 286, apparently relishes its evening cocktails. Back in 1947, the area’s resort and lodge owners banded together, cleverly drawing the city perimeter along a lengthy stretch of U.S. Route 20. Their goal? To circumvent Idaho's liquor laws prohibiting the sale of booze outside of city limits. With boundaries 500 feet wide, yet 33 miles long, Island Park claims to have the world’s longest "Main Street”.

    At 6,293 feet above sea level, Island Park lays claim to the highest city in Idaho. Pulling into Robin’s Roost for petrol and sustenance, I find myself in the middle of an ATV rodeo. Swarming like four-wheeled mosquitoes, they are everywhere. A resort town, people use them like golf carts for all of life’s functions. Even children, it seems, sprang from the womb on an ATV. The downside is, the Continental Divide Trail leading out of town is a shredded ATV sand pit. Not fun on an overloaded behemoth.


    Jackson Lake.jpg
    The Tetons (stock image)


    Nearing Wyoming, the Tetons are coming into view. They have the sharp saw-tooth profile of young mountains not eroded by time. While in Choteau, Cindy informed me that “Tetons” is the French word for “breast”. A little research proved this to be true. It seems French trappers – who had apparently been spending way too much time in the woods - are responsible for naming the three peaks now known as the South, Middle, and Grand Teton. They called the mountains “Les Trios Tetons,” or “The Three Breasts.” The Grand Teton—the tallest of the three—literally means “the big tit.”

    Camping within the National Park was the high-rent district. I pressed on. Following the Snake River, the CDT forked just beyond the town of Moran. Preferring the road less traveled, I left pavement near Buffalo Creek, winding upward into the Bridger-Teton National Forest - where stealth camping skills (or a fat wallet) are not required.


    IMG_0837_Togwotee, WY.JPG
    The calving Mount Randolph.

    Casting a glance to the north, a large, undulating cloud surrounded the crown of Mount Randolph. Lifting fog? But it’s a warm day… Fire? Stone doesn’t burn… Putting down the kickstand and removing my helmet, I found myself witnessing a massive rockslide! Like a calving glacier, a large portion of the mountain had fallen away. The tonnage released to generate such a dust cloud boggled the mind. It’s like a bomb went off! I only wish I had pulled off my helmet earlier to hear the thunderous crashing of stone debris.


    IMG_0835_Togwotee, WY.JPG
    Pristine riding near Togwotee, Wyoming.


    Togwotee Blue Fork_Jackson.jpg
    Take the road less traveled...
  16. kozy69

    kozy69 Adventurer

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    Victoria BC, Canada
    Enduristan makes awesome water proof bags with huge map pockets. You can order them through Dual Sport Plus in Ontario.
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  17. BobcatSig

    BobcatSig They call me... Huckajawea

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    I'm in for this RR. It's great!

    I lived in Bozeman, MT for nearly twenty years, and miss it dearly. The Montana sections were a great reminder of the time I spent exploring SW Montana on two and four wheels.
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  18. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.”

    - J.R.R. Tolkien

    Fighting the urge to make miles into the night has its rewards. Pitching a tent at dusk often results in a softer bed. It also provides a front row seat for the magic hour, when woodland creatures begin to tentatively step out into the meadows. Encamped on the west slope of 9,658 ft Togwotee Pass, golden shafts of light knifed between brooding clouds shroading the saw-toothed Tetons. Alpenglow soon blanketed the treeless tundra, a moment celebrated by distant coyotes.

    If “Togwotee” (TOE-GUH-TEE) sounds Native American to you, you would be correct. Back in 1873, a Captain William A. Jones led an expedition to find a wagon route between the Union Pacific Railroad in the southern part of the Wyoming Territory up to Yellowstone National Park. Accompanying him were some of the leading scientists of day in the fields of botany, geology, chemistry, and astronomy. Leading the eight wagons and 66 mules was a Shoshone guide named “Togwotee”, which means “lance thrower”. The pass was said to be an important trade route for native tribes. But these days, with a snowpack often exceeding 25 feet, it has become a winter wonderland for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers.

    CDTMap8 Notes_Tetons NP to Pinedale.jpg


    According to GPSKevin’s helpful maps, the next leg of the CDT spanned 142 scenic miles from the Tetons to Pinedale, Wyoming. After a short jaunt down highway 26, the original (blue) route returned to dirt. Throttling steadily uphill through stands of spruce and fir, County road 515 began offering a view reserved for calendars, post cards and Hollywood backdrops.

    Apparently, someone in Hollywood took notice. Just off the mirrored shores of Brooks Lake sat a regal lodge reserved for society’s upper crust. Featuring a world-class spa, luxury accommodations and five-star gourmet dining, their website stated: “Overnight stays during the summer season (June 15 – Aug. 23, 2018) start at $500…”

    While I certainly could have used a massage, my evening accommodations beneath an ocean of stars turned out to be priceless.


    Brooks Lake Route of CDT.jpg
    Choose the green route and you’ll miss something special (Brooks Lake).


    Brooks Lake 3.jpg
    Brooks Lake. Absaroka Range, Wyoming (stock image).


    IMG_0839.JPG
    The Lava Mountain Lodge. (With a 25 foot snowpack, was the snowmobile ridden to its perch?)


    I’ve discovered the center of the ADV universe. After five states and a Canadian province, I finally encountered my first CDT motorcyclists on (appropriately enough) Union Pass. Their Southern drawl confirmed what their plates had already told me. The middle-aged KLR mounted trio were from Texas. Like me, they sported the grey muzzles of old dogs.

    Southbound, these gentlemen had shipped their bikes to Kalisbell, Montana, with a final destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In mid-conference, the dust still settling, a northbound father/son duo motored over the rise. They too were perched on a pair of KLR 650’s.


    IMG_0840.JPG


    The new arrivals also hailed from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Far from his North Carolina home, the son, a gangly teen, was just getting his feet wet in the motorcycling world and had put the ubiquitous Kawasaki in the ditch a time or two to prove it. Behind mirrored sunglasses, the goateed father claimed to be a CDT veteran, though he had yet to cross the Canadian border.

    This seemed to be a consistent theme. While undoubtedly having the ride of their lives, many will claim to have done the CDT. But few, it seems, have gone from start to finish. Perhaps it’s just me, but if you decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, for instance, wouldn’t you want to make it to the top? The sweltering Chihuahua desert at Antelope Wells, and stellar Canadian Rockies of Banff are what gives the CDT its flavor.

    Back in Montana, Cindy has sent scores of text messages, making it abundantly clear she doesn't want me to disappear from her life. I would like to see her again, but at the moment, can't say precisely when. As the sun slipped behind yet another set of mountains, my odometer read 74,159 miles. 5,552 miles since leaving home.
  19. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    I’ve wondered about this trip report from time to time, so glad to see you back writing again @bwanajames! And I’m keenly interested in your MEX trip report, when do you think you’ll be crafting that journey?

    The CDR is at the top of my list to ride, appreciate you continuing your saga.
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  20. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado

    Liv2day,

    Thanks for the kind words. The Mexico write-up? Hmm… Good question. Since this ride report has taken longer to write than Gone with the Wind, it’s tough to predict when I’ll get started on the Mexico account. Call it the curse of retirement.

    Here is what the life of leisure looks like these days: In early March, I rode the RT out to California. (You may recognize it from post #499, where it was doing the Walk of Shame riding on a trailer. Yes, after enough research to receive an advanced degree, I finally figured out how to rebuild the final drive). While March isn’t exactly riding season in most people’s book, I had a good weather window to escape Colorado. Once in Arizona, I thought I would be home free. Sun, cactus, shirt-sleeve weather. Nope. There is this little thing called the Mongollon Plateau. Even in Arizona, it is still technically winter. Camping at 8,000 feet, it felt like it.

    Mongollan Ridge, Eagar, AZ, 1250 resize.JPG
    Mongollon Rim, near Eagar, Arizona


    The mission in California was to spend a week with my 88 year-old father, then shuttle my brother Ken and his wife Thia to the Mexico border at Campo for the start of their 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail hike.

    Ken and Thia_PCT South_Mar2020.JPG
    Brother Ken and his wife Thia at the Southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.


    Jim's CDT Rig_Niner_1250 resize.JPG
    (Note: Waterproof Ortlieb Front Rollers have replaced the old-school Nashbar panniers)

    At the moment, Ken and Thia have 400 miles under their belt. My plan, is to race them to Canada on this. In about a week, I plan to be in Antelope Wells, pedaling north on the CDT. I’ll be in no hurry. I’m estimating 6-8 weeks to get to Canada – at which point, I’m hoping the border will be open.

    Does that answer your question? I’ll have plenty of material in the hopper. I’ll just have to follow Margaret Mitchell’s lead and be more disciplined about my writing.

    Jim