I developed shin splints about eight days ago while on trail, John’s shins splints followed soon after. It was a very painful experience having to hike out. At one point coming down Mangus Mt., it was too much and I sobbed. Heaving sobs. Great release. But we made it to the Toaster House in Pietown and got a ride to a hotel in Grants, NM, (thanks Jetta!). The joy in entering a hotel room, a room recently renamed “The Recupertion Clinic for Over-Enthusiastic and Over-Confident Hikers.”
Remember when I wrote in my first blog post that I think we got this... hoho haha.
We’ve done a lot of research and acquired all the stuff. KTtape, ice, hiking pole wrapped in washcloth, ace bandages, and ibuprofen. We ordered new shoes, orthopedic inserts, and compression socks. Massaging our shins until we squeal and stretching afterwards. Hopefully back on trail Tuesday, continuing to head north, flip-flopping in October to finish the Pietown to Grants road walk.
To help pass the time, we look out our window to see other hikers walking into Grants. Well done! We hope to see you again soon on trail.
Since I last added to our blog, much of our time was spent hiking The Gila Alternate, a route through the Gila River Canyon. This route is one of the favorite sections for many CDT hikers due to the availability of water, hot springs, and the amazing canyon walls accented with towering rock spires. Hikers cross the river 200+ times over the 7-8 days hiking the alternate.
Three days into the alternate, we stopped at Doc Campbell’s, a small store that supports hikers and other backcountry travelers. We picked up our first mailed resupply here—way too much food, probably close to twenty pounds each. I’m seriously rethinking our strategy in regards to food weight to calorie ratio.
At first I found the river crossings and the canyon enchanting. It was relatively flat, the water was refreshing on warm days, we got to soak in the Jordan Hot Springs all by ourselves, and the lush surroundings were a welcome change from the New Mexico desert. But as the weather turned colder, the romance somewhat cooled...
Notes from Wednesday, April 28
This shall forever be known as the cold adventurous day. It was a bit chilly starting out but I felt really good and strong. Daydreamed about the future, looked at the amazing surroundings. Tall cliff walls surrounding us with spires made of stone. The excitement began when I slipped and fell in the cold water. I fell down then I fell forward. I freaked about my phone getting wet. Cried out to John for help. Couldn’t stand up by myself because my backpack was so heavy with food. When I got up I was relieved to find everything in my fanny pack was dry, including my phone. I had slipped on a slippery rock and lost balance due to the heavy load high on my pack. We brought too much weight in food. I want to pack less in the future even if it means less food for the trail.
And now I was wet. My gloves and the sleeves and around the waist of my puffy coat and shirts. We figured it was in the low 50s... until sleet began to fall from the sky. I walked as fast as I could, hoping to dry out my clothes with body heat. Well, I slipped in the river two more times, getting one glove and my shirts wet each time. Cold!
The other exciting moment is when the river had rock walls along both banks and I scaled a wall. On my first attempt I knew I’d never make it with my pack so I headed back down, took off my pack, and threw it above onto the ledge. A bit stupid, dangerous, and the funnest part of the hiking day.
We stopped at 3:30, after nine hours of hiking and I’ve never been happier to be in my down clothes, in my down sleeping bag, in my tent. John’s making hot tea and we’ll eat soon. A difficult but memorable day.
We’ve been hiking for eight days now and I must say, I think we got this. I may be prematurely optimistic but the routine of waking up, eating, moving forward, eating, sleeping, feels familiar. Very much like coming home.
It is unusual to hike the CDT for your first thru-hike but for us, it was an easy choice. We like that there are fewer people along the CDT and after having ridden the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2019, we know what to expect from the terrain, weather, and trail towns. So far, all of the other CDT hikers have already completed either the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail (AT). A few have completed both the AT and the PCT and are going for their Triple Crown (completing the AT, PCT, and CDT).
I enjoy the New Mexico desert. Luckily we missed the high temperatures of the week before and all of the water caches were full. We collected water from a cattle trough once, and it was the best tasting water so far. At times the CDT trail markets are not visible, so we have fun searching for them with help from our Guthook app, mixing the physical challenge with a bit of puzzle solving . We wake up in time to see the beautiful sunrises and I’m in my tent in time to miss the rumored glorious sunsets.
We had a twelve mile road walk on pavement into Silver City yesterday. I’m surprised how sore I felt last night and this morning. We’re going to take our first ‘zero,’ a day to relax, do laundry, shower, resupply, and let our feet and joints recover. Starting tomorrow we begin a two-week backcountry segment, hiking through the Gila National Forest and back into the desert, stopping in Pie Town for a resupply box and of course, pie à la mode.
Strangely, I experienced no anxiety about my safety or abilities for this thru-hike. But I did experience anxiety about meeting other hikers. Due to my introverted nature combined with the recent pandemic seclusion, I actually felt shy, like the new kid at school. Everyone else is already an experienced thru-hiker with a trail name. Many hikers already know one another from past hikes or know about each other. Happy to say, after eight days, this is diminishing. Good conversations with interesting, adventurous, and accepting people. I’ve even been offered a trail name... Hush. You know, librarian and introvert. I kind of like it.
Last year at this time, we were packing up our belongings in Manhattan, leaving the Appalachian Loft one month early due to COVID. All of our plans changed. Instead of riding our bikes around the world, we found ourselves working on our land in Lawrence, KS. I was surprised how easily I accepted the disruption and actually enjoyed seeing more of my family, working remotely, being creative, and having the time to exercise and train.
John and I spent a lot of time during fall and winter learning about the CDT and thruhiking. Videos, blogs, books, web sites. We researched and bought gear. Hiked around Cary and Fort Collins with our packs. Did a shake-down trip at Lory State Park in snow. I believe we are ready.
We chose to hike the Continental Divide Trail for many reasons. No rent, being outdoors, staying fit, low-stress. Depending on your route, the total mileage is between 2,700-3,000 miles. We’ll be on trail for five-six months.
And now, the obligatory photo of my gear! 13.4 pounds base weight (without food or water). Lightweight but not ultralight. And yes, those are down pants.
Well, we finished the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route yesterday, Monday, July 29, 2019. 2,770 miles, 69 days, over 200,000 feet of climbing. Two broken derailleurs, one broken seatpost, several new friends, more muscle and less fat, countless bowls of oatmeal and granola, and memories filled with the freedom, beauty, challenge, and peacefulness of our GDMBR tour.
Our ride from Eureka to Banff was fairly uneventful other than it was filled with riding in beautiful Canadian provincial parks. Peaks here aren’t as high as the US Rocky Mountains but they are more rocky and jagged. And what looked like a flat trail in the profile turned out to be more of a roller coaster with steep ascents and descents. My mind was already at the finish line so I wasn’t particularly happy about having to push my bike. But honestly, I’m already missing the riding. Good thing we’re heading out tomorrow to tour Yellowstone for ten days!
We stopped off in a few towns along the way. It only takes us about an hour (the amount of time to drink some good coffe) before we tire of the tourism. I believe the more a town relies on tourist money, the more unpleasant the town. I really am not a fan of Fernie or Banff. Banff doesn’t even seem to be a real town, more like a giant strip mall for people with money. Thankfully these towns also have great public libraries—our refuge. You can always find the true heart of a town at their public library.
My thoughts on completing the ride... I never would have attempted or completed the ride without John. It was his dream and I came along, somewhat hesitant. I feared that it would be too monotonous and that I would not be able to face the physical and mental challenge. But seeing him enjoy himself so much, appreciating the ever-changing landscapes, one mile at a time, staying in the moment, allowed my mind to decide that I was enjoying myself. Not that I didn’t grumble. But grumbling is okay. I found a kindred spirit in Jill Homer. Her book, Be Brave, Be Strong, recounts her sometime attitude of the GDMBR, “... the rutted gravel road dipped into a narrow canyon and wound playfully back to the highway that I had spent all morning bypassing on the primitive, and therefore preferable, forest road. That’s the big one catch of the Great divide Mountain Bike Route—it never takes the easy way. It takes the most scenic, most challenging, most remote way... especially as the days wore on, it often seemed ridiculous to climb many thousand of feet over and down three difficult passes on flooded, rock-strewn roads, just to get around the perfectly good pavement of a smooth, flat highway.” And because it is the most scenic, most challenging, and most remote—that is why finishing this is so very special to me.
But my next tour just may be in France, with boulangeries, chateaus, and good paved, smooth, and flat highways. Just saying.
Next up—Yellowstone tour, visit with Emma in Chelan, trips to Lawrence to visit our family and (hopefully) start creating a homestead, hanging out with Ian and Jessica in Raleigh, granddaughter arriving in December, and NYC next January-May. A profound sense of gratitude about my life and excited about the future! Xxoo
Another ten days has passed since our last zero-mile day. Today we are resting in Eureka, Montana. Not a terribly exciting town but a town with affordable hotel rooms, good coffee, a big grocery store, and only ten miles from the Canadian border. That’s right! Tomorrow we pass over to Canada. Only 225 miles to Banff! And we have seven days to ride, so at least three zero-mile days before we finish. Don’t want to arrive in Banff too early because we can’t afford it! 😛
Quick updates... after leaving Helena, we rode to Barbara Nye’s Lost Llama Home for Wayward Cyclists. She and her beau, John, offer GDMBR cyclists a place to stay, food, and showers. Upon arrival you are offered sandwiches, soda, and beer. Then escorted to your cabin with full kitchen, stocked with food, wine, and candy; beds are upstairs, in the loft. There is an AUTOMATIC M&M CANDY DISPENSER in your living room. Other cyclists arrive and come hang out with you. That evening, Barbara and John build a fire and treat everyone to s’mores. And this is all free. They just request you pay-it-forward to someone down the road. Oh, and add llamas, alpacas, and baby bunnies to the scene. One of the highlights of my GDMBR journey.
Next night we reached Ovando, Montana. Steffie and Quentin had already arrived but passed on the opportunity to sleep in the shepherd’s wagon due to the fact that they were both too tall for the bed! In Ovando, cyclists can choose to sleep in a teepee, old jail, or shepherd’s wagon. A small town but they really cater to GDMBR cyclists, even providing free coffee at the general store.
Other highlights of the past week include spending a half-day in Seeley Lake drinking espresso, eating ice cream, and relaxing. Amazing single-track riding in Flathead National Forest and taking a day off-route to ride into Glacier National Park. A very worthwhile 40 extra miles. We rode the shuttle bus up the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, perhaps the most scenic of all mountain roads in the United States.
We’ve been riding more miles per day. At the beginning of the trip, we averaged maybe 30-40 miles a day. Lately we’ve been riding 50-70 miles. Feeling a bit sore and tired but I’m enjoying the riding and it is worth cycling the extra miles in order to stop and rest in the few towns along the route. It is also nice to camp in a campground with bear boxes since hanging our food in a tree is a bit of a pain (although John is very good at it!).
We’ve still not seen a bear, moose, or mountain lion. Personally, I’m quite relieved but John is disappointed. I have gotten in the habit of playing music, podcasts, and audio books loudly on my speaker. I don’t want to surprise any big critters. Most days we only see a few other cyclists and maybe a couple of trucks. Still enjoying the opportunity to wild camp in the national forests and tackle the mountain passes... up, up, up and down, down, down.
I hope you enjoy the photos! I think they tell a good story.
So many things have happened since my last blog post on July 2! And since I am a born list-maker, here are some bullet points of our adventures since our last post....
*Instead of hitching a ride with Heaven to Jackson to fix my bike seat, Cowboy Jim, who works maintenance at Lava Lodge, fixed my seat with a simple bolt. He is the great-great grandson of John Wesley Hardin, gunfighter that killed 22 men. Read more in the book, Life and Times of John Wesley Hardin.
* For the second time in two years, we got to cycle around the Tetons. Same area as the photo on our website. Downhill and gorgeous!
* Spent the Fourth in the town of Ashton, Idaho. Great parade—went down mainstreet, turned around paraded back! Lots of kids, no tanks.
* Arrived early in the day at the hotel in Lima, Montana, and watched marble-size hail fall outside of our room. Jack and Dink show up in the hotel room next door! Next morning, rode ten miles to eat at the historic Yesterday’s Calf-A, a cafe with home cooked food, housed in a former one-room schoolhouse. Started the day with cherry pie.
* Camped at the Bannack State Park campground. Bannack, Montana, is a well-preserved ghost town. I love abandoned buildings and really enjoyed walking through the houses, hotel, and Masonic Lodge.
*Next day, a short ride (26 miles) to the Elkhorn Hot Springs. We stayed at the lodge, with complimentary entrance to the hot springs and breakfast buffet the next day. The hot springs was basically a big concrete pool and we loved it. And guess what! Steff and Quentin showed up in the room next to us. Funny how you can stay with the same lovely people throughout a tour.
* After next morning’s great breakfast buffet at Elkhorn, we tackled Fleecer Ridge on the GDMBR. Someone said a 38% incline. As Adventure Cycling says on the map, a ridiculously steep hill. John and I had to throw off our panniers to get our bikes up. I was literally moving my bike four inches at a time. Process: plant feet firmly in sandy soil; use arm strength to push bike four inches uphill; continue. Don’t look up to gauge progress too often. Cuss frequently and well. At times I couldn’t push hard enough to get my front tire over an inch-high rock. Steff and Quentin were also going uphill and as true Trail Angels, helped us with our panniers. Quent even pushed my bike a bit. Ridiculously steep, indeed.
*And now we have a day off in Helena, Montana. I really like this town. Beautiful buildings with stonework; good bakery; cheap hotel with bathtub, fridge, and microwave.
* And things have changed a bit for me, mentally. Really enjoying the trip and will be sad for it to finish in 600 miles. I really believe I could live this cycling life for years as long as I had the opportunity to see family and friends. Missing loved ones.
Looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow to ride to Barbara Nye’s Llama Farm! We have the cabin reserved and everything! Xxoo
Starting with a positive spin: we’re getting stronger. And with strength, the riding is even more fun. Staying completely in the moment, not planning for the future or mulling over the past, as is my habit. The scenery is amazing, especially as we near the Tetons. The wild camping is so convenient and I love our evening ritual of setting up camp, cooking dinner, talking about our day, and snuggling in our cozy tent.
We’ve met other cyclists along the route. I appreciate getting to talk with other people that share our interests in cycle touring and traveling. We’ve been leap-frogging with four other cyclists, Steff and Quent from France, and Dink and Jack from the Netherlands. Fun group of people with different attitudes about the ride. I love Steff and Quent’s manner of touring. Quent describes themselves as “tourists,” off to experience the people, activities, and towns along the way.
We also met two Appalachian State students riding the GDMBR. Sam is a big fan of the university library where we work and it was actually at the library that Bryson talked Sam into riding the GDMBR. But not surprising as cool people and libraries go together. They are very strong riders and have the minimal race bike setups. Will probably complete the route in under 40 days.
And now... the story arch goes to the two main characters and how they resolved conflict along the way. Remember how, in the last blog posting, John’s derailleur blew up due to mud? And how we learned a lesson about NOT riding in the mud? Well, Beth blew up her derailleur the second morning out of Steamboat. Same exact situation. While wise cyclists were staying dry inside hotel rooms, we went for it. Luckily the incident happened near the Ladder Ranch and they were so very helpful. We stayed in one of their small cabins for a couple of nights, borrowed a Jeep BACK to Steamboat and Orange Peel. And here I’m gonna go all fan girl—at the Orange Peel I saw fricking Lael Wilcox! And she smiled at me! (She smiles at everyone).
As always, the disaster turned out to be a high-point of the trip, with the stay at Ladder Ranch, hanging out with the other cyclists that arrived after the sun came out, and eating breakfast with the O’Toole family.
Another evening we were wild camping and began to slowly notice our scalps were becoming itchy. It got more intense, soon it felt like my scalp was on fire. Couldn’t concentrate. Could it be lice, chemicals? Would we need to go to an emergency room? But we are in the middle of nowhere. When I couldn’t take it much longer, I heated up water and washed my hair. Temporary relief but itch returned after my hair dried. John looked at my scalp and my hair was full of gnats/horsefly critters! Super ick, ugh, yuck. I shook out my hair best I could and dove into the tent. Relief. Feels so good when the irritation stops.
We hope to make it to Tetons National Park today. Yesterday the bolt that attaches my saddle broke in half so I finished the last nine miles standing up on my bike. Again, a kind person is offering us a ride to Jackson (66 miles) to get my bike fixed. I do get frustrated when my bike breaks. A mix of sad and disheartened. But always aware that this is the most memorable part of the trip, overcoming obstacles and difficulties to reach the goal.
Hoping to take a rest day on the Fourth in a small town along the way. Nothing beats celebrating Independence Day in a small western town. Xxoo
Hoo-hoo! What a ride!
It all began smoothly. We left Frisco on Monday morning (thanks again Jeff and April) and rode 46 miles to Williams Fork Reservoir. Climbed Ute Pass and had a welcomed downhill to our campsite. First (but not last) day of substantial rain. Next day, we rode to Route National Forest, only 38 miles but earned every inch of it. Some climbs so steep, it made me believe ACA would have never included these roads if they had considered those traveling north. Difficult route but the best scenery thus far, sweeping views of green valleys and snow covered mountains. The rain didn’t bother us so much... until we hit the MUD. This is the mud that all GDMBR and Baja Divide riders fear. Described as “peanut butter,” it clogs up your chain and cassette. Adds 10 pounds to your tires. At some point, you can’t even push your bike because it is so heavy, your feet are slipping, and you are sucked into the tar pit, only to be found thousands of years later.
So, are we having fun? I have asked myself this and my answer is, most of the time. I had a good and long conversation with myself about why I am doing this and made the following conclusions: I am pursuing the unexpected memorable event or encounter; being outdoors with all of its physical and emotional benefits; accomplishing a goal; testing myself, both physically and mentally; and keeping fit in an effort to avoid the cost and other consequences of additional needed healthcare. I would have included the economic benefits of living cheaply on the road without any debt and few expenses but honestly, we’ve had so many unexpected costs, this isn’t reality.
On Wednesday morning, John’s derailleur decided it had enough and decided to end it. His derailleur self-combusted right before Rock Creek. It blew up real good. Luckily, John is bike-repair savvy and was able to shorten his chain and turn his bike into a one-speed, enabling him to reach pavement. We caught a couple of rides into Steamboat Springs, where we left the bike with The Orange Peel bike shop and went to stay with our WarmShowers host, Rich. Rich is awesome and kind. Thanks for a dry and welcoming place to sleep. Keep living an amazing life.
Thursday we we did lots of zero-mile stuff like hanging out at the public library, drinking coffee and eating delicious baked goods at Smell That Bread, and waiting to hear from the bike store. We saw that the weather forecast for the next day was rain and more rain. And rain is okay. We can do rain. The fear factor comes from rain and COLD. Or even worse, rain and COLD and MUD. So, we booked a room for 2 (two) more nights in Steamboat’s finest and cheapest hotel, with a full kitchen.
Best damned decision ever. Honestly, I admire those GDMBR riders plugging along, regardless of weather. But that ain’t me—today. Reality is we woke up not to rain but to snow. Snow on the first day of summer. Welcome to Colorado 2019: the snow and flooding episode. But we get to spend the day walking around a winter wonderland and eating cereal with cold milk/baguette with butter and jelly/yogurt/and salad in a bag. We are hanging out once again in the public library, may go to the Old Town Hot Springs this evening. Already feeling energized and looking forward to heading out once again in the morning. Because we’re doing this. In our own sweet time and John/Beth manner. Gratitude abounds.
Lots has happened since our zero-mile day in Del Norte. We forgot a charger in the middle of nowhere and were contacted by a CDT hiker that found it the next day. By chance, John had left our Librarians on Bikes business card in the case. We told the hiker to keep it or pass it on to someone who needed it. We wild camped among a herd of angry cows in San Isabel National Forest. We rode up Marshall Pass, a pleasant 16-mile railroad-grade ascent followed by a welcome and memorable 25-mile descent into Salida. We spent the night at the Salida Hostel and bought a NEW STOVE (earlier fix didn’t stay fixed) and now have hot food once again.
The last three days have all been short mile days. Riding out of Salida was a brutal 14 mile uphill, so we stopped at 2pm, after only 22 miles. Pulled out our chairs and made camp in Long Gulch among the cows (these seemed much happier than previously mentioned cows). Wrote letters, made notes, played some cards, and made bean-noodle soup for dinner. Next day was a quick 44 miles into Fairplay, CO, where we beat the cold rain and spent the afternoon eating good food, grateful to be cozy in our tent and sleeping bags. Went off-route due to snow pack at Boreas Pass and climbed Hoosier Pass for the second time in two years (part of the TransAm Route). I think I can say that today has been the best day of the trip so far-a fitting Father’s Day tribute to John. We made it to Frisco early, had some good coffee, and headed over to April and Jeff’s townhouse. Upon arrival, Jeff told us we had about 20 minutes to shower before “a big surprise.” Best surprise ever, he had arranged for us both to get hour-long massages! And this was John’s first ever massage. We also had a wonderful dinner, did our laundry, and are sleeping in a real bed tonight.
The plan is to keep riding for another six days before our next zero-mile day in Rawlins, WY. We will be staying with a Warm Showers host in Steamboat Springs but otherwise there aren’t many towns between here and Rawlins. We’re well-stocked with supplies, sleeping well tonight and heading back out in the morning. Until next week!