Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by CoyoteThistle, Aug 20, 2017.
Great read! Great pics!! Thanks for sharing.
Awesome! Now I want to do this too.
Hope you are having fun.
Back home a few days early (unfortunately). There was lots of good riding though.
And thanks all for the interest! Full story to follow...
No pressure...but we want it ALL
Loved the old rr, looking forward to the new one!
Day 2 – Arco, ID to Salmon, ID
Woke up to a wet morning. Enough to make some puddles but it didn’t look too bad. Packed up and headed in to Arco (Pop about 1,000), which it turns out, was the first city ever to be powered by nuclear energy (mid 1950’s IIRC). They only did it for a day, but that’s a neat first.
They also have the top of Satan’s submarine and a long-standing tradition of juvenile graffiti.
Avoiding paved roads necessarily brings you through these very small towns. There are certainly pros and cons to living out of small towns.
Gassed up, grabbed a drink and a snack for later and headed out.
Turned east on good gravel roads that were wet and slippery in places, but mostly fine. First look at the high peaks of the Lost River Range revealed fresh snow up high.
I shifted my planned route on this stretch at the last minute before leaving home because the weather forecast was for snow. I cut out a section later in the day that would have got me up to about 9,000 feet. Snow level looked to be about 8,000. Gonna do the new alt route.
Swung back north and attempted to go over Beaverland Pass. The road quickly turned in to a badly rutted affair. Still passable at this point due to vehicle traffic flattening a track through the sagebrush next to the road.
The destination of that traffic was a cow tank – beyond that the road was deeply rutted and wet. More than I want to attempt this morning. U-turned around the cow tank in what I’m pretty sure now was a 50:50 mix of cow shit and mud. It was slick and stinky and I was really hoping to not start the day with a fall in this. Gingerly made my turnaround and headed back to Arco.
North on Hwy 93 watching for my route to reappear on the GPS when I realized belatedly that I was supposed to be on farm roads working north to avoid highway. Backtracked a bit, wandered east, and eventually got on-route.
Farm roads led to Pass Creek Road as it started to climb in to the Lost Creek Range.
And looking back on the Big Lost River Valley towards the Pioneer Mountains.
Pass Creek Road is excellent and the first part passed through some nice cliffs with some beautiful camping spots.
Eventually reached what I assume is called Pass Creek Pass, which gave nice views of where I had just come.
The road ahead led down in to the Little Lost River Valley.
Once down in the valley, it was all very fast (by 250cc standards that is) and good roads.
The Little and Big Lost Rivers are technically tributaries of the Snake River, but are “lost” because they go sub-surface before they reach the Snake. A lot less farming on this side, I guess because of less water available in the “little” version of the river.
A long run northwest, then back southwest, brought me back to the Lost River Range. Stopped for a snack at the beginning of the re-crossing via Doublespring Pass Road.
Great road, and quite pretty. I passed Borah Peak (highest in ID) here without knowing it. Eventually started the descent back down to Big Lost River Valley.
Some interpretive signs appeared at the mouth of the canyon so I stopped. It’s an earthquake scarp formed by the magnitude 6.9 Borah Peak quake in 1983. This is the scarp (across middle of picture)
The valley (foreground) sank something like 10 feet and the Lost River Range (background) rose a few feet; this scarp is the result of that. Pretty amazing.
Instead of hitting the highway, I headed north on Sheep Creek Road (228A), which started off as a nice two-track through the sage.
It eventually passed through several fence/gate things that had to be opened and then closed and of course lots of cattle. Things got a little challenging as I climbed up steeply and briefly entered the National Forest. The descent was very steep but the road was okay and soon I was down on the flats again on decent roads with great views.
I worked my way north and eventually back to Hwy 93. As I mentioned before, the original plan was to head up in to the mountains again but for fear of snow and mud, I skipped that loop. Instead, I headed in to Challis, ID for much needed lunch.
In 2017 I was able to ride most of the section from Challis over to Conner, MT so I decided to skip it this time in the interest of getting on with things. So, I hit the highway towards Salmon. Tomorrow I can pick up the missed part of that leg above Conner up West Fork Road (473).
As I sat on Main Street in Salmon looking at camping options further north and the next few days of the upcoming route, I realized I might not see much of any kind of real town or motel for a couple days, so I decided to stay put and supply up even though it was only like 5PM.
Salmon is a good sized town by local standards (Pop about 3,000) and has an actual supermarket. I got a couple easy-to-cook dinners and some roughage – might not see fresh food for a few days.
Red is GWEC dirt, Orange was original GWEC, White is GWEC paved, Purple is GWEC planned,
227 miles, about 130 of it dirt
Day 3 - Salmon, ID to Ovando, MT
Headed north on Hwy 93 by 8AM. It’s raining lightly as I leave town and by the time I reach the top of Lost Trail Pass (about 7,000 feet) and enter Montana, it’s raining steadily and really rather cold. After 65 miles or so of this, I reach the tiny hamlet of Conner, MT. A classic GWEC town with a population of 212 with a post office, little store, bar, and one gas pump.
Of the four, only the post office was open for business.
Not sure how long “temp” has been or will be.
I have enough gas to backtrack up West Fork Road and try to complete a bit of dirt that was closed in 2017 before heading a few miles north up Hwy 93 to Darby where I know there’s gas. The clouds are low on the mountains in that direction and it looks cold and miserable. Slightly brighter skies to the east, I think that’s the way to go today. I cruise up to Darby to top off the tank, get some coffee and check the forecast/radar.
By the time I finished my coffee, the skies were looking downright promising to the east. It’s a planned 215 or so miles to Ovando so topped off the tank, found a quick way to get back on dirt and on route, and I was off.
I was soon on good dirt on Rye Creek Road headed east towards Skalkaho Hwy. Instead of the direct route though, I headed south, then east, then north on to a series of sinuous secondary roads. Lots of logged areas and burn scars and occasional views.
The sky would look promising like this and then darken up and I’d get rained on.
Roads here wouldn’t handle a lot of rain, but they were holding up just fine.
Learning to ride with rain on the helmet face shield (never done this much before). Being used to clear vision, it’s uncomfortable not being able to see well and trying to make some time on rough roads. Eventually did make it back to good gravel.
I’ve gone almost 50 miles since Hwy 93 on my route, sign says 19 via the direct route. Classic GWEC stuff!
If anything, it seemed to be getting drier as I worked my way east. Good roads and nice views.
Eventually began a big descent towards Skalkaho Hwy proper.
Few miles of pavement then back to dirt on this “highway”. Eventually came around a corner to a rather nice waterfall, just above the road.
Stopped for a photo and a snack and a drink. Already 1PM and only 70 miles in to the 200+ to Ovando. Time to get moving.
Dropped down and then turned north up Rock Creek Road. Saw more fishermen here than the rest of the trip combined. Couple nice campsites and a beautiful creek/river with a good dirt road.
Will try to come back here to fish some day.
I reached the end of Rock Creek Road at I-90. There was a little store, good, it’s 3PM and I haven’t eaten anything but a bar since breakfast. Well, lots of fishing tackle but the only food was candy. Hmmm. Snicker’s bar for lunch, quick call home with some cell service, and I head out. About 80 miles to go, but I know there are some questionable roads on the next stretch. Still optimistic I can get to Ovando before dark.
Going north from I-90 up to Hwy 200 was a route planning challenge. The first bit was a few miles on I-90 east then turned off towards Cramer Creek Rd. After a bit of interstate, headed up Cramer Creek Road, which I hoped would take me east to Bear Gulch Road. Soon came to a “road closed ahead, no thru traffic” sign. I carried on for a bit anyway. Scattered houses along the road, which is in pretty bad shape already. After a couple miles I caught up to an SUV, when it pulled over to let me pass, I stopped and asked the driver about the road ahead. She didn’t exactly confirm the road was closed but did everything else should could do to convince me to turn around. This feels like a community that doesn’t want traffic on their already bad road more than a truly closed road. But, with the lateness of the day, the long questionable trail to follow, and some respect for the locals wishes, I turned around and headed back to the interstate.
Had decent cell service so I asked Google Maps how to get to Bear Gulch Rd. Option one was a few miles of I-90 and a frontage road. Option two was Cramer Creek Rd, where I just came from. Don’t know what to make of that.
Hit I-90 and was soon back on dirt headed towards Garnet Ghost Town on Bear Gulch Rd. I happened to read a bit of a warning sign that this approach to the ghost town is not recommended for passenger cars, campers, etc. and that there is a better approach from the north from Hwy 200.
I soon turned off the relatively good road and began to work through a maze of BLM roads that I hope will connect me north to Ovando. They started off fine, with some steepish bits, but nothing bad even though things are pretty wet.
As the roads turned in to rougher two-tracks, things got a little slippery and more challenging. Started to have to cross some puddles of muddy water that varied from a couple inches to over a foot deep – no way to tell how deep before plunging in.
It was all working out fine though I was beginning to wonder if this route was going to work. Came to a puddle slightly longer than the others but didn’t think too much of plunging in. Well, surprise. This was the deep one. It was only maybe15 feet across but it was deep enough that water flowed over my front finder and flowed over my knees (I was seated). Bike kind of bogged, I started to loose my balance. I was kind of in shock at what was happening but I managed to instinctively nail the gas. The engine responded and I popped out the other side.
Starting to question weather or not this route will go. Half mile or so later, the decision was made for me – locked gate. At what appears to be called McElwain Fire Rd, the BLM shut me down (confirmed upon return home that this is a normally closed road). Now, I said it’s a maze of roads out here, so I played with the GPS looking for a work around and take in the views for a minute.
Saw an alternative that might work if I backtrack some. Just hope the new route diverges before the puddle of doom. I left the GPS screen on the new route turnoff point and hoped the little arrow that would be me appeared sooner than later. Puttered along. There I am, I may avoid the big hole. Getting close. Shit, there it is. I took the other side of the two-track hoping for less depth. Dropped in, my front wheel hit something hard (probably a rock but it could have been a small car) that tried to knock me over, but somehow we all stayed upright and made it.
This is getting to be a bit much this late in a long day. My workaround didn’t exist and then I flashed back to the warning sign leading to Garnet. If I get there, sounds like an easy road to Hwy 200.
It worked. I stopped and got gas at Clearwater Junction (just a gas station and a bar) and continued on east to Ovando. Sun just about to set now so I noted some nice camping spots right off the highway along the Blackfoot River.
Rolled in to the tiny town of Ovando. The Inn and Market are closed. Saw a guy walking his dog and stopped to chat. He told me about camping a few miles south. He also said I should have dinner at Trixie’s, which is open. It was up on the highway east of town so I would have missed it. Instead I got to have a decent chicken sandwich and a beer.
It’s completely dark now – which camping area should I try to find? Decided the one I had seen along the highway might be easier to find so headed back west. Well, stupid. Lots of signs for river access that all look the same now. Spent a half hour exploring them to never find the one with camping. Total shit show. Headed back to Ovando, south, found the camp spot their easily.
Set up camp along the Blackfoot River, hung my food because of lots of bear warning signs. Figured bears don’t like whiskey so that came in the tent with me.
353 miles 150 miles paved, over 200 dirt
Sorry if a repeat question... but was wondering what camera are you using?
It's just an iPhone 8+. I use the HDR setting usually.
Day 4 - Ovando, MT to Fishtrap Lake CG, MT
Slumbered to the sound of the trees dripping almost-rain on to the tent all night. Awoke to a moist scene.
I like my Tarptent (seen above) – it’s about two pounds and packs to the size of a couple quart-size water bottles. It’s non-breathable fabric and single-walled so in moist conditions I can get lots of condensation on the ceiling. I usually bring a towel for the morning wipe down, but forgot it this time.
The picnic table here was helpful in keeping things out of the mud but I wrapped up the tent all wet – deal with it later I guess. The tent, the ground sheet and my extra parts/tool kit go in the “wet” side of the Giant Loop bag. All my other kit goes in waterproof or highly water resistant bags in the above or in the other leg of the Giant Loop so I should be good.
I pulled my little food sack out of the tree, chuckling at what a lame attempt it was to do a proper bear-proof hanging, packed up the whole mess and rolled back towards Ovando, noting the nice shinny bear box 50ft from my camp. Right.
Ovando is tiny but has gas (making it a good GWEC stop). Population of the place is 71 souls. First went back up to Trixie’s hoping for a proper bathroom and a big breakfast, not to be. Walked up to the door and read the sign saying they don’t open until 10AM, only 8AM now. Guy outside smoking I think saw my dejected face as I walked away from the door back towards the bike. He disappeared inside and a woman came out a minute later and asked me if I needed a bathroom – damn nice folks.
Proper morning routine checked off, I rolled in to town and the Blackfoot Commercial Company was open.
Well past its 100th anniversary it seems. This is the place to get gas, and, best of all, free coffee!!
Chatted with some locals and the owner who were loitering and enjoying good free coffee like me. Seems rifle-hunting season starts in a couple days and bow-hunting season is already going. A few pack outfits in this little town I think getting guides and clients and regular folk out in to the boonies for hunting. Now, I readily admit that I don’t know much about hunting, but I know rifle hunters like to joke about bow hunters – I made a few slightly derogatory jokes about bow hunting, got some laughs, and I was in good with the locals. Big topic of conversation was that last night was the first real frost of the fall – seasons are a changin’ everyone agreed.
Talked to one guy from Texas who was going to pack way back in to the forest for over a month with a hunting guide, guess it’s not an uncommon thing around here. I wished him luck, downed my final cup of coffee, bought a snack and iced tea for the road and headed north, immediately on to great dirt.
Through forests and pastureland on good fast roads.
This place had a lot of horses and mules,
figure they will be busy soon transporting hunters in to the depths of the forest.
Making good time north then west and on the swing back north, hit a locked gate – the fancy kind.
Looks like a private lake with some nice homes. Short backtrack and an easy bypass on a few miles of highway and I was back on track.
Stopped after an hour or so in view of some homes along Big Sky Lake and a highway and tried for cell service – success! Called home to assure Sheri I’m still alive. Most blue sky I’ve seen in a while.
Continuing to work my way west now towards the Idaho panhandle. Lots of trees and occasional vistas.
Temps in the 60’s – clearing skies, so perfect.
Exited the national forest on to what I see now on maps to be the Flathead Reservation (no signs announcing this, but a different road designation scheme here). The roads got a little rough as I passed through the burn scar of the Jocko Lakes Fire of 2007, which almost took out the community of Seeley Lake. Eventually emerged high above Jocko Lakes (along Jocko Rd).
As you can kind of see in the photo, the lakes were drained more or less all the way down. Drought? Fast, dry and deserted road that follows what once was an important Native American trading route led me down, down, down until I reached the outfall from Jocko Lakes.
Any guesses on the mane of the river? Looks again like more good fishing. Continued down the long gradual and fast descent towards Hwy 93 and Arlee, ready for lunch.
Arlee, pop 602 had a couple restaurants that were closed and a market, which was open. Best looking choice for lunch was a little pre-made pizza thing and some iced tea. Looked at the maps and GPS and it looks like I’ve done about 75 miles today. Next planned town is 180 miles out. Looks like another camping night. Better get moving.
Headed west out Saddle Mountain Rd. and soon came to roads with numbering system that was not National Forest, S-2000, VC-4000, and such. Didn’t know what to make of this at the time. Much later in the day on similarly numbered roads there was a sign saying a tribal permit was required for “recreational activities” – not sure if this includes just passing through. If anyone knows the deal, please post – I’ll probably hold off on posting GPS tracks here until I can figure it out.
Either way, these roads were brilliant!
Mostly down in the woods but lightly travelled and fast. Many of the roads, including this one did not appear on my GPS base map. This got me going in circles for a bit as I tried to figure out why my GPS track didn’t follow the road that was on the base map a mile north. Eventually committed to the GPS track and hoped for the best.
Roads stayed great and offered occasional views
At some point, I passed back in to the national forest as I worked my way southwest and found the historic Ninemile Ranger Station. Stole an Internet photo:
Too late in the season for the visitor center so kept moving, headed NW on Ninemile Road (#415). Was this the longest single Forest Service road I’ve ever followed (about 30 miles)? Probably not, but it was great fun. Starting off it passed through a small community of little ranches and then climbed steadily to a saddle – a fast and fun road. I slowed down at the saddle to figure out which of the three new choices of roads was mine. Putting along fiddling with the GPS, I thought I was in gear but wasn’t, went to accelerate as my forward speed approached zero, engine got loud, bike didn’t go, dropped the bike. Christ.
Got moving again and descended down to Hwy 135 and then Hwy200 for about 5 miles than right back to dirt outside of tiny hamlet of Paradise, MT. McLaughlin Creek Rd climbed past some houses and was getting a bit rough towards the top of the saddle then dropped in to an active logging area, back on the Reservation land. I eventually earned a view down on to Camas Prairie.
Soon I gained that very valley floor. Widely scattered houses, straight roads, and beautiful weather.
More good and fast roads first east, then north, before climbing back in to the forest. After crossing Hwy 28, I remained on Reservation roads (this is where I saw the aforementioned sign) for several miles before finally crossing over in to National Forest again. Lots of this kind of stuff as I headed northwest.
Hit the Thompson River probably around 5PM. Was about ready to stop and camp but then I noticed there were houses along here – might not be cool despite a couple primitive sites with fire rings. Continued on despite being pretty tired at this point. Climbed up Fishtrap Creek Road looking for camping options. Sign said Fishtrap Lake Campground with some reasonable mileage – sounds good.
Pulled in to a disserted campground (except for the camp host). Got the still-wet-from-last-night tent up and dried it out as best I could. Nice quiet spot.
Cooked up a can of chili, had a not super cold (but good) beer, and not super cold (but good) whiskey from the platypus flask.
Slipped in to bed just after dark after a final cocktail. As usual, 10 minutes after getting in bed I had to pee. I got up and upon sliding back in to bed, I felt my sleeping pad slowly deflating under me. WTF!
Very tired and a little buzzed. This is not what I needed. Going to be way too cold tonight to sleep on the ground so I found the patch kit and found the hole (an inch-long slice actually). I read the instruction: Step 1 blah, blah, blah, wait 2 hours. Step 2, blah, blah, blah, wait two hours. Then inflate!
Did step one, took a healthy swig off of the flask, and fell asleep on the ground. Woke up about 45 min later, which I believe is the same as 2 hours at this altitude (right?), and did step 2. Back to sleep. Woke up cold and not at all comfortable about an hour later. Decided to go with it, blew up the pad, hopped on, and was prepared to be disappointed. Woke up at dawn with a full mattress under me.
The route from space. All but a couple miles went as planned – surely a GWEC record?
233 miles for the day ~210 dirt
Day 5 – Fishtrap Lake CG, MT to Sandpoint, ID
Woke early and surprisingly well rested given last nights fiasco. A chilly morning but I’m motivated to get moving so I crawl out of bed with the sole thought of a cup of hot coffee. Headed to the bear box to retrieve my foodstuff and tried to fill my water bladder from one of those weird hand pump things. Tried every combo I could think of – fast pumping, slow pumping, no pumping, etc. and never got water to come out. I’ve got some left so I get the first mug of it boiling and start packing things up.
The tent is properly wet inside and out but I roll it up again knowing I need to have a plan to dry it out soon. Second hot cup of joe goes down as the last of the kit gets packed up. I’m rolling before 9AM, headed north on great FS roads. I was treated to occasional views
Pretty stuff. Haven’t really done a careful check of the weather in a couple days, but it’s definitely clouding up as I expected. Rain chances should be increasing through the day and in to tomorrow.
After a dozen or so miles my route curved back around and headed south. After about 30 miles I saw I sign for Fishtrap Lake CG, 10 miles. More GWEC silliness.
Descending steadily now towards good old Hwy 200 again. Passed some homes and a couple nice little lakes.
I think this is Miller Lake. I was ready for the next town and breakfast and was happy after 50 miles to drop in to Trout Creek, MT. Population 261 and the “huckleberry capital of Montana”. It sits along an impounded stretch of the Clark Fork River. Two gas stations, no restaurants open that I could see. Looks like another gas station meal.
It was way worse than it looks. After choking this thing down, I visited the other gas station store. It had a cute little deli thing with real breakfast food. Damn it.
Gassed up, I headed out towards Idaho. A few paved miles to get out of town and then 20 miles of great dirt brought me to the border.
Can’t say Idaho looked a lot different, but I’m not complaining.
The next several hours were just great riding through forests on good roads. Looking back down Shoshone Rd in Coeur D Alene NF.
I zigzagged north and south for almost 90 miles through the Idaho panhandle.
Amazing stuff. Finally dropped in to Clark Fork, ID, more than ready for a late lunch and a weather update. One little lunch spot/bar in town. Had something deep fried but it hit the spot. Three riders from Calgary came in and joined my table. They’re out for a long weekend riding dirt down to Wallace, ID. Sounds like a fun town. Prostitution was legal here until 1991 and it had the last traffic light on any coast-to-coast Interstate. Today, lots of bars and history. We talked routes and compared GPS tracks a bit. These guys like to make their own routes from Google Earth and see what happens too. Hope they had a great time.
I’m pretty knackered after long days of dirt and I was pondering skipping the last 30-mile loop of dirt that would avoid 10 miles of highway. They Calgarians had just come the way I planned to go though and said it’s all great dirt with the Lunch Peak fire lookout at the top of the hill having epic views. Okay, done. Headed north on good dirt, climbing again to nice views.
Before I realized it, I was heading downhill. Guess I missed the fire lookout at the intersection a few miles back. Tired and ready for a motel room, I carried on and rolled in to Sandpoint, ID just after 5PM in light intermittent rain.
Found a room and the hotel proprietor offered me a stack of old towels to dry out my kit. Awesome. Got out the tent and ground sheet and dried the former and hosed down the latter. Other order of business was some laundry. The room had a little kitchen sink and some Dawn dishwashing detergent. Good enough. Socks and underwear being the important bits; got them in better condition (not “clean” per se) and hung to dry in front of the A/C.
Replenished my whiskey supply, had a salad for dinner (roughage!!!), and was too worn out to wander the town.
An historic day on the GWEC. The entire days route (in red) went just as planned. No dead ends, locked gates, too-rough roads, etc. I think a first for me.
225 miles for the day, almost 200 of it dirt
Day 6 – Sandpoint, ID to Republic, WA
Woke early and started the morning by checking the weather forecasts. Longer term is trending wetter and colder. For today, rain is only expected in the extreme northern panhandle of Idaho and northeast Washington. Of course that’s exactly where I am headed. Doesn’t look too wet though. Better get moving.
All of the kit is dry and socks are less stinky if not actually clean. That’s a productive motel night. On the road at a reasonable 8:45AM and headed west, quickly on to dirt on Baldy Mountain Rd. Roads are moist but in good shape. Soon crossed the Priest River.
Continued west and north, mostly not in National Forest. I think some tribal land and maybe some private land?
Left Idaho right about here.
Soon upon entering Washington, I encountered the first of several large burn scars.
Looks like the fire here was several years ago. The road was in rough shape but nothing technical.
Occasional vistas showed the extent of the burn scars
and the clouds moving in – more dense and lower. Gonna get wet.
Dropped down eventually to the Pend Oreille River and then headed up LeClerc Creek Rd. in a steady rain.
Things got a bit slippery here and there and there were plenty of dumb bovines to dodge. Eventually dropped in to the little town of Ione, WA (pop 447). A market called Food Court had a little deli and looked like the best/only choice for food. Also got me out of the rain.
Wolfed down a surprisingly good sandwich and tried to get a weather update. Lousy cell service and when I asked the gal at the market if they had pubic Wi-Fi, she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. Well, no news is good news – carry on!
Not sure what this creek was called, but looked like more fishing goodness.
Road along here was great but it soon dumped me on to a paved two-laner that delivered me to Northport, WA.
Side note: A couple miles south of Northport is the community of Marble. This little place was the one of the subjects of a podcast I had just listened to called Bundyville (season 2). The podcast is about the anti-government and white-supremacist movements in the western US. The little town of Marble was taken over in recent years by some psycho racist church/cult. I was tempted to detour and ride through but I got kind of creeped out at the thought of it all and skipped it.
Back to the forest roads. Soon I was in another large burn scar and I came across a couple groups who had downed good sized trees, dragged them on to the road, and were cutting them up for firewood. Everyone was friendly as they cleared things enough to let me through.
Soon I reached the northernmost point of the GWEC. As is tradition when riding the GWEC, I took a selfie here
Just a couple miles south of Canada. Still need to bounce further west but soon I’ll make the big turn south. Nice forest through here, punctuated a few times by abandoned/stripped cars along the road. Don’t see that often. Something else I’ve noticed today; of all the folks (a dozen or so) I have passed on the dirt roads today (ATV’s, side-by-sides, trucks), not one person has waved back to me. I’ve ridded a lot of dirt roads and a common theme of them all, is most people give a little wave when passing. Just odd.
Before long I crossed US Hwy 395.
Gets my vote for the best highway in America. Cool to see it way up here.
The rain continued and I eventually climbed up in to the clouds to over 5,000ft.
In a national forest and the roads remain good but I soon entered another huge burn scar.
This fire was more recent, not much recovery of the forest yet. Compete decimation.
I’ve had a few moments on these rides when I feel really isolated and alone and far from anything. I got a strong and not real positive pulse of that here. Maybe it’s the people not waving, the white supremacist shit in my head, the dreary weather, abandoned cars, the stark landscape, the proximity to Canada… I don’t know.
I see now in the pictures a stark kind of beauty. But I wasn’t feeling it that way at the time. It all culminated with me actually hearing a voice inside my helmet. Not sure what it said, I think something about a funeral. I’m not used to all this weirdness.
I crossed pavement again at Boulder Creek Rd., still in the burn scar. From here the road got worse and my planned track went down a road that hadn’t had fallen trees cleared. Turned back to pavement, consulted the GPS and found an easy eight-mile bypass that got me back on route at the little hamlet of Curlew. (Of note, that was another 150+ miles of the route that went as planned!)
I debated taking the highway south to the next town, Republic. I was kind of ready to dry out and get the bad juju out of my head. The planned route is 40 or so more miles of dirt. Hmmm. It’s only about 3:30 so no excuse really to bail so back to the dirt it was.
South of town Rd 570 took me through sparse and pretty run-down homesteads. Not raising my spirits. Road got kind of rough and then I hit a sign proclaiming I had entered the National Forest again. The road slowly got better and before long, was downright brilliant.
Views weren’t bad either.
After an hour of this I dropped in to the historic little town of Republic with all the bad juju gone. Still before 5PM but my route south takes me quickly on to a Native American reservation again where I don’t think it is cool to camp. Easy decision in the rain – check in to an historic motel at a reasonable rate, hit the brewery for a couple beers, and have a hot dinner at the Mexican restaurant.
Route went mostly as planned again today. Heading south now.
Tail of the tape:
180 or so miles of dirt.
Day 7 – Republic, WA to Dayton, WA (Part 1)
Rose pretty early and got down to business – checking the weather. A look out the window showed some more rain over night and full cloud cover. Phone promised showers today but the long-hinted-at cold front dropping through the region looked like a go for tomorrow. Nothing to do but keep riding while I can.
Chatted with a crew on Harley’s from the Seattle area while we all loaded up in the parking lot. Sounds like these guys do a lot of miles in a day. They seem to be having fun.
Grabbed a tea and some sort of snack at the gas station and headed out. A few miles west on Hwy 20 and I turned south on to good dirt towards a final brief visit to Colville National Forest then in to the countryside, eventually passing through the tiny hamlet of Aeneas, situated in a nice little valley.
It wasn’t long before I passed a big sign welcoming all to the Colville Reservation. This is another large (about 2 million acres) chunk of tribal land that my route goes through. I’ll be on tribal land until I cross the Columbia River in fact, some 160 miles by my planned route.
Roads started out wide, gravelly, and not effected by the rain.
The GPS eventually led me to some less-traveled tracks.
I passed a couple cars out here, got quizzical looks from the drivers more than waves or smiles. I eventually dropped in to a broad valley and I could see a wider road down below – that’s me. I hit the bigger road and am shocked that it is pure (and rather deep) sand. What? So far from what I expected I almost fell over putting along and sinking. Got moving though and figured out I was in a construction zone when I passed a sign saying “Road Closed” to traffic coming the other way.
Good gravel again until it was off on the secondary roads again. It was on these smaller roads that I started noticing crushed beer cans in the road every half mile or so. Some stretches had dozens of cans per mile. Hmm.
Eventually got on to a properly rutted and rather steep road. It was still dry enough though to get through without drama. Started a big loop back to the north and soon crossed Hwy 155. I stopped for a bit in a light but steady rain to check the GPS. I want to know where potential escape routes are to pavement if the rain gets worse.
Back to it. Soon hit a locked gate. Consulted GPS for a work around. Back on course quickly. It’s properly raining now and when my route veers off of good gravel to a secondary road that’s turning to mush, I reassess. Looks like about 20 miles north to get to Hwy 21 on what might be okay roads. Kind of a bummer since I need to get south, but that looks like the best chance of working. The two-tracks are big long puddles or small streams now but the surfaces are all holding up and I reach the highway in one piece and turn south towards the Columbia River, some 40 miles away. It’s pretty country but and there’s no traffic to speak of so the miles go by pretty quick. Hit tiny Keller, WA at about 30 miles and I’m ready to warm up and get a drink/lunch. The town seems to consist of a gas station/convenience store and not much else. The store is poorly stocked and I find nothing that looks appetizing. Figure I’ll try my luck further south.
Before long I hit the river. Where’s the bridge??
Ah yes, that blob in the distance is the ferry. Before long I’m crossing the Columbia again.
The rain has stopped now and I see patches of blue sky to the south. I switch to my dry gloves and lose the balaclava and get moving. This next stretch should be interesting, I’m headed in to the scab lands!
Headed up the steep and curvy paved road that delivered me more than 1,000 feet above the river. Plan was to get gas (and hopefully food) in the tiny town of Creston. There were indeed two pumps here but they were now defunct. I still have gas so I press on knowing I’ll need to detour to a town at some point.
Now for the scablands. Massive floods towards the end of the last ice age (~15,000 years ago) formed this unique landscape that covers something like 2,000 square miles. Back in the 1920’s a geologist named Bretz realized that the features of this landscape looked just like those in river floodplains (channels, bars, ripples, etc.). The scale was so massive though, that he had no explanation for how it formed and he was roundly ridiculed by his colleagues. Eventually, it was suggested that the rapid draining of a massive glacial lake could explain the features. This theory was later confirmed with the discovery of Glacial Lake Missoula for instance. It’s a neat story that I have always been kind of fascinated by so I was excited to get a look at this landscape. The “bars” where sediment was deposited are farmed and the rolling hills dozens of feet high are “ripples” caused by the huge amount of flowing water.
Mixed in between the bars were the channels that had high flows that scoured down to bedrock.
Enough soil has formed since the floods to support sage scrub and grasses.
It made for fun riding – up and down the ripples on good, fast, straight gravel then slightly rougher and curvier roads through the sage.
I saw a water tower not far from my route, probably a town. I detour in to Davenport, a bustling little town of over 1,700 souls. Got gas and food. It’s already 3PM and I have something like 150 miles to my next town. I know of no camping out here but I’ll keep my eyes open.
I head a little east and then start dropping south. Mostly I’m making good time but in some cases, a good road would lead to a home and then the road would become a pretty beat up farm road. I’d hit the next home and the road would improve. Lots of this and then big fast wide open stretches.
The weather was beautiful with clouds and temps in the 60’s. Crossed over I-90 – a good sign I’m making my way south now. Passed a couple lakes with “resorts” (i.e., campgrounds) that were all closed for the season. Pressed on, enjoying the scenery
but starting to worry about getting to town before deer-thirty.
As I approached Hwy 26, I passed a yet another farm. I slowed down a bit as I do when passing homesteads on dirt roads. Out of the corner of my eye I caught two very fast and largish dogs coming at me. I sped up a bit. The road just ahead was trouble though. It was mostly this odd deep silt that was very awkward to ride on. I checked the GPS – couple more miles of this or retrace my steps and get around it. I was so tired from the long day the decision was easy. Back the way I came. Didn’t slow down to give the dogs a chance this time.
The re-route led me to the tiny town of Lacrosse. I paused to do some math – 55 miles of planned route, maybe two-thirds dirt of unknown quality. It’s an hour until it is properly dark. I’m already properly tired. I bail on the planned route and take a lame circuitous route down to Dayton, the only town of size I can see on my way south. I pulled in after just after dark. There’s a niceish looking hotel on the north side of town and a couple cheap ones on the south, one of which I stayed in on the first GWEC attempt a couple years back. I chose the other cheap one based on that experience.
Settled in and checked the weather. I might have a window tomorrow morning but not looking good at all after that. Got some marginal Mexican food next door and crashed pretty early.
Purple is planned, red is actual route:
Can you see the huge-scale bars and channel features?
Tale of the tape:
About 150 miles paved, the rest dirt and mud.
Whew. Long day--respect to you.
Day 8 – Riding around in the rain
Up early. Rained a bit overnight. The parking lot of the hotel, full last night, is completely empty – it’s not even 7AM. Hmm. Maybe I’m not up early by local standards.
Two years ago I came through Dayton and headed east then south on lots of good dirt through the Umatilla National Forest. Back then it was hot and smoky and I didn’t really get to enjoy this stretch so my original plan was to ride it again under better weather conditions. Weather is different this time, not necessarily better. I know parts of what I rode here last time would be utterly impassible if wet (I remember pits of fluffy silt that would turn in to god knows what if wet). With the first proper winter storm of the year coming sometime later today, I decided to try to get south and get some “new” mileage in maybe on better roads that would hold up to a little rain.
In my desire to get moving, I skipped the weather check, breakfast, coffee, and fuel and just got moving south down the highway towards Walla Walla, WA. This is the first proper sized town I’ve seen in a while. As I filled up the gas tank, the first drops of rain began to fall. So much for the last forecast I read that promised rain later in the day. Time to use some decent Internet to get a real handle on the forecast.
Saw a hipster coffee shop – the thought of good coffee and maybe something good to eat was enough temptation.
For whatever reason, this thing was plain just mouthwateringly delicious – I suppose due to all the crap I’ve been eating lately.
Radar showed a big plume of rain just hitting Walla Walla and points north and south. Looks clearer further south. I can pick up my intended route about 50 miles south, maybe things are drier? It’s a solid rain now so I suit up and head south for the tiny hamlet of Tollgate, OR – the point where I called it quits two years ago.
I rode 40 miles south in solid steady rain. It was becoming apparent that I wasn’t getting south of any rain, this was the solid early season storm that has been forecast. Seems it has arrived a few hours earlier than I thought. I stopped at a “travel plaza” just as I reached I-84. This isn’t looking good. In to a McD’s for more coffee and decent internet. A more complete picture of the radar showed rain all the way down to northern California, showers tomorrow and then a stronger storm Wednesday. Chatted with a local Harley rider, asked him what he thought of the weather, “This rain aint stopping any time soon” he chuckled.
Ran various scenarios through my head. Three days of rain plus a day for the roads to dry out gets me to riding Friday. Need to be home by Sunday. That makes no sense.
Suited up and did the 40 wet miles back to Walla Walla where I think I have an escape plan. Round two of the GWEC ended in almost the exact same place round one did in 2017. Last time I lost the stoke for riding in the heat and smoke and ended things after lots of miles and most of three weeks of riding. This time I still had a great stoke going for riding after only a week, but the weather wins out. I’m headed home on pavement. It's a long way away.
Postscript to follow…
great ride report... i like the writing style and inclusion of maps. thanks for making the effort to document the trip.
safe travels and best regards,