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Friday, December 27, 2019

Riding to Ride

Back in 2012, I converted my first mountain bike, a 1991 Specialized RockHopper, from a fixed gear commuter to a 3x9 geared bike intended for bikepacking. I dug out old backpacking gear and maps, looking for ideas for multi-day trips into the Black Hills and beyond. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Trans America Route were long term dreams.

Riding that geared, rigid mountain bike on unknown trails triggered a flood of memories from my early days of riding primitive single track in Colorado. Riding to explore. To see what's out there. To experience some unknown physical or mental place. To share a day with friends.

Just a day on the Colorado Trail. Sometime in the mid-90's.

Here, we started at Copper Mountain on the Colorado Trail, took a left onto a goat path and ended in Breckenridge.

More Colorado Trail rides in the mid-90's..

As the spring of 2013 approached, I eagerly anticipated a planned series of short bikepacking trips into the Black Hills. Before my first overnighter, however, I stumbled into the endurance gravel scene. Just like that, my cycling focus swerved.

The grass roots, small event, remote road, endurance gravel scene grabbed a hold of me and pushed aside my bikepacking dreams. I discovered that I could enjoy a remote road ride in an hour or two, occasionally more, and still honor family and work commitments. Every so often, I could join the gravel community at a loosely organized event for a weekend of fellowship, which created enduring memories and friendships. And I could ride remote roads year around, even in the wilds of Western South Dakota. It's been a great ride for 7 years. A Journey To Gravel - part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6.

I love this gravel community. But there's a special allure to self-navigating a day-long remote ride through unknown country, recovering in the evening at a campsite created by gear you've carried, and waking to ride again as the sun rises. Yes, I'm back to dreaming of longer bikepacking rides.

This year, after the C.O.G. 100, Black Hills Gravel Series, and Mother Lode gravel events wrapped up in June, I enjoyed 8 overnighters and 1 two-nighter in and around the Black Hills. I found new-to-me roads and near-roads. I dispersed camped atop peaks and along ridges. I tested and analyzed my bike, components, gear, clothing, nutrition, hydration, navigation and mindset for longer trips. Those tasty appetizers worked. I'm hungry for more. 

In 2020, I'll ride local gravel, but also plan to continue those overnight rides and add the 500 mile Cloud Peak 500 in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. Cloud Peak 500. Maybe I'll add another longer ride, as the only limitations are imagination and commitment. If all goes well, I'd love to be able to consider a ride on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2021. Bikepacking The GDMBR.

Whatever the distance of the day, or length of the trip, I'll be riding.

2020, here I come. 

Hope to see you out there.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Stoke The Fire

End of year reminiscing triggers dreams of remote rides to come. Stunning pictures, inspiring videos, and captivating stories of epic rides through exotic lands fill the internet. It's easy to get swept away.

Although destination adventures fire the imagination, regular local rides stoke the fire. Like many places, the Black Hills of South Dakota offer so many opportunities, so many choices, of local back roads to ride. I can ride local remote roads right here, right now.

Where to go? Favorite and familiar are fun. Rides cooked up by others can intrigue and challenge presumptions. Most often, however, I just look to a new spot on the map, piece together a general idea of a route, and head out there. And the most memorable rides are when I see something interesting and ride off the planned route. Sometimes, I ride right off the map itself.

It's always worth it.

The destination rides will come. Or not. Regular local rides rule.

Somewhere south and west of Custer in Black Hills National Forest.
This secondary road is actually on the USFS map, but not on the truncated copy I carried that day.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Cloud Peak 500 - Navigation

Nothing like a long, wintry weekend to scour maps, research reports and dream up rides. After hours and hours of riding remote roads through my mind, I eventually wind back to the Cloud Peak 500, an increasingly real ride for me in 2020. I pull out maps and notes for a closer look at the planned roads, distances, elevation gains, water sources, food re-supplies, and camping options. Soon, I realize that I need a better map.

Oh, the Cloud Peak 500 blog post announcing the route (Cloud Peak 500) includes a nice gpx file of the entire route (Cloud Peak 500 gpx). In fact, I use that digital map to create a set of cue sheets. For a hard copy map, I start with a venerable USFS map of Bighorn National Forest. However, the Cloud Peak 500 swings pretty far south of the Bighorn National Forest through public lands managed primarily by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and then ventures east through privately owned prairie. Overall, more miles of the Cloud Peak 500 lay outside the boundaries of Bighorn National Forest than inside.

Time for a trip to Roam'n Around, a local outdoors outfitter offering a wide selection of maps and guide books. Sure enough, they stock a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer of Wyoming. Perfect. With all the detail and color codes, I decide to cut out the appropriate pages and just mark them up. Here they are, so far.

6 sheets of maps + 1 set of cue sheets + 1 compass + attentive analysis = my Cloud Peak 500 navigation system.

That's my way.

Pages 1, 11 (miles 0-85, 165-175; 480-485).  Back side page 10 (miles 435-480).
Starts west from Sheridan along the Bozeman Trail, then the big climb up Red Grade Road.
Also, page 11 for the final few miles into Sheridan from the Eastern prairie.
On the back side, page 10 is 45 miles of gravel through cowboy country.

Page 2 (miles 85-165). Drops to Shell and on to the Dinosaur Tracks.
The detour to Medicine Wheel starts at about Mile 108.

Pages 3, 8 (miles 175-200, 205-285; 365-410). Back side pages 7, 9 (miles 355-365, 410-435).
Lots going on here, including the back road to Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site
and then down to Ten Sleep and its NoWoodStock Music Festival.
Also, page 8 for the climb up Slip Road and the descent into Crazy Woman Canyon.
On the back side, page 7 climbs up Slip Road from Kaycee.
Also, on the back side, page 9 emerges from Crazy Woman Canyon near Buffalo.

Page 4 (miles 200-205). Just a short jaunt onto this sheet to visit Hyattville.

Page 5 (miles 285-320). Many river and drainage crossings, including the Middle Fork Powder River,
which features a BLM primitive campground. Closing in on The Hole In The Wall.

Page 6 (miles 320-355). A back road access to The Hole In The Wall and up to Kaycee.

Pages 7, 9 (miles 355-365, 410-435). Back side pages 3, 8 (miles 175-200, 205-285; 365-410).
Page 7 starts the last big climb up Slip Road out of Kaycee.
Also, page 9 pops out of Crazy Woman Canyon near Buffalo and heads out into the prairie.
On the back side, page 3 enters the Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site
and then drops to Ten Sleep and its NoWoodStock Music Festival.
Also, on the back side, page 8 climbs up Slip Road for the descent into Crazy Woman Canyon.

Page 10 (miles 435-480). Back side pages 1, 11 (miles 0-85, 165-175; 480-485).
45 miles of prairie gravel through cowboy country.
On the back side, page 1 starts west from Sheridan along the Bozeman Trail,
then the big climb up Red Grade Road.
Also, on the back side, page 11 for the final few miles into Sheridan.

Here's a big picture look at the Cloud Peak 500, from cloudpeak500,