Stanley and Beyond

Around 11am, we finally got our butts in gear after our luxurious breakfast and rode five miles down the hill to Stanley. Travis was defeated by the sun and bought a merino wool long sleeved shirt for relief. Though we had just eaten enormous breakfasts a few hours before, we split a huckleberry milkshake and had lunch at the Bakery Cafe, which had been recommended to us be several people. We switched out our books at the used book fundraiser outside the visitors center, rode out of town and immediately stopped to fuss with my leaky tire.

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This time we super glued a piece of rubber to the outside of the puncture, which slowed the leaking a little more but not completely.

We continued on through some more burnt out forests, and had to reroute because the ATV trail we were following was completely impassable from fallen trees.

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I'm really curious about the Forest Service's management practices out here.

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Though we started pretty late in the day, we still put in a good 30 miles on some valley dirt roads. There were some questionable directions listed on the map.

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Which led to some questionable routes.

Finally, we called it a day in a meadow with the Sawtooths shooting up in the distance.

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It was next to old "Kelly Creek", which was really a pasture drainage ditch that had a dozen worms swimming in it. Haha I sound really whiney, honestly I'm just glad we had water and a pump. An unexpected phenomenon we are experiencing here in the snow melt zone is mosquito swarms. We've been plagued by them since coming up into the mountains. Like I've said, Western mosquitoes don't really bite, and they're super slow and easy to swat. But there are thousands of them. They're hanging out in the puddles that form where the snow piles are melting, and they drive me crazy. Doesn't Idaho know I'm on vacation FROM FLORIDA????

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Then, in a sudden change of events, in the morning we woke up it was so cold that there was frost on our tent! There was ice in the pot of water we left out from the night before! MAKE UP YOUR MIND, IDAHO. 

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We got off to a slow start in the cold and were about to leave when all of a sudden we turned around and there was an entire herd of elk traveling past!!

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There were little baby elks!!

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The baby elks make a hilariously pathetic bleating noise when they call to Mama.

Okay, Idaho, thanks for making it an epic morning. 

Hike to Alpine Lake

We could have chosen the "family friendly" hike to Bent Lakes, but the guy at the Redfish Lake general store said we looked adventurous and recommended Alpine Lake, a mere 11 miles round trip. You take a shuttle across the lake to the trailhead, and we just needed to be back by 5pm to catch the return shuttle. Sounds great.

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Shockingly, this hike didn't destroy our legs from the outset, probably because we've been PUSHING OUR FULLY LOADED BICYCLES UP MOUNTAINS for a week. We don't carry real hiking shoes on tour so we were in our bike shoes but they were sufficient, mostly. And we started our climb.

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Idaho is a rugged place. No chill, really.

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These mountains are called the Sawtooths.

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Look how this river will kill you if you fell in it.

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The scenery really got pretty about two thirds of the way up.

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But with alpine lakes there's always a mystery. You're like where is this lake???

Up there???

And then you walk up a million switchbacks and you're still like where is this thing???

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And then somehow the ground flattens out and up in the middle of these big tall mountains there is a freezing lake.

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This one had a dramatic amount of ice. Didn't stop Travis from cannonballing! He's a tiny speck in the lower right.

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The water looked so inviting I couldn't help a dive.

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It is so cold I felt like I would die instantly and swallowed a ton of water as I coughed and sputtered my way to land. Everything dries instantly here, and I might have explained how intense the sun is.

What took us 4.5 hours to climb took 2 hours to descend, and we caught the 5pm shuttle just in time.

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There was music and margs back at the lodge, and we read books and relaxed before returning to our dust camp. We even took it easy the next morning and had a real breakfast with real coffee at the lodge, took a morning swim, and finally left Redfish Lake. It was nice to start our next journey with a layer of dust removed.

And the Tire Trouble Continues

I'll tell you what, these Idaho descents are extremely short. We spent literally all day climbing Galena summit and we made down into the next valley in less than 15 minutes. No kidding.

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At the bottom in the hot, completely dry, absolutely unshaded valley, I realized my back tire was flat. I must have run over a rock just right and it cut my sidewall. But no problem right? I have tubeless tires now, and if I get a puncture then the goo will ooze through and harden, sealing the hole. Let me disabuse you of this thought. You're talking to Claire Mitchell, the Mistress of Flat Tires.

I get more flats than anyone I know. At least once a month. Once all my tires on two bikes went flat in like two weeks. I get flats after I buy new tires. Once we were sitting inside with the front door open eating dinner and I heard a pop and a hiss and my bike that had been hanging up all day on the porch had spontaneously gotten a flat. Travis refuses to believe this narrative, saying that the universe is not conspiring against me but COME ON. So of course this tubeless tire thing didn't work. It's my tire.

The goo would shoot out of the puncture and hold, but then air would gurgle out and it would go flat again. We struggled with it for like an hour in this HOT, SHADELESS VALLEY.

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Finally it held enough air that I could ride it and we continued on, but had to pump it consistently throughout the day. I would like to point out that Travis has pumped up his tires twice on this trip so far.

A couple in their 50s passed us in the valley and stopped to talk. They were just doing a little bike overnight to Stanley, and said they had a lot of tire trouble when they did a bikepacking trip in Baja. This is all I can hope for, is that 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, Travis and I still love each other and want to go on bike adventures together.

Our map said that today would be a downhill day over to Redfish Lake, so we were expecting some easy pedaling. Well the valley did slant down slightly, but it was a tough, hot day. We stopped for lunch at a little stream and found some wild strawberries for dessert, and only had one leg of the journey left before camp.

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Well of course the Forest Service provided us with another insane road that just went straight up through a burnt out forest. The trees were burned so there was no shade, it was like 4pm so the sun was really cooking, and we walked over two more ridgelines on a sandy washed out road. Easy day!

Finally we made it to Redfish Lake, not really realizing what we were getting into. This is Idaho's beach. This is where everyone comes to party, get really sunburned and ride jetskis. Well you know what? They party at a lodge that serves beer and ice cream, and the sun doesn't go down till 10pm so we took advantage of the waterfront views and RELAXED.

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There weren't any real campsites left, so we returned to the burnt out woods and stealth camped in a dust pile.

It's very very dusty here in parts. We're coated with it all the time. It sticks to our sunscreen. But we decided to stay the night and take a rest day to do an 11 mile round trip hike up a mountain to see an alpine lake.

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The Old Galena Toll Road Trail

We thought we'd take it easy riding out if Ketchum. I was still feeling tired, and we're really in no rush. We were especially in no rush when we found another hot spring.

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This one was called Russian John and it was in between the highway and the trail, with no signs or markers. The water was actually not an extreme temperature and we settled in for a warm soak and had lunch.

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It was early afternoon before we were finished. There was a major hill planned for the day, but Galena Summit was a while off and maybe we just wouldn't get to it. We rode a multi-purpose trail out of Ketchum that people ski through in the winter, and we get beautiful views of the Boulder Mountains all day.

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Then, decision time. It was 4pm, and the map said we needed to walk across this log and find the snowshoe trail that used to be the Old Galena Toll Road. If we wanted, we could just ride the pavement to the summit. Or just pitch the tent for the night.

Well of course we took the Old Galen Toll Road Trail!!

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At parts you could tell it was an old road, you could even see the two tire tracks. For the most part, it was a reasonable incline, much more reasonable than the forest roads we've encountered. And the views!

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The Boulder Mountains rose up behind us and wildflowers decorated the road in perfect color combinations.

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Granted, the Old Toll Road was a little rough in places, and we probably walked half of it.

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But finally it flattened off, we turned the corner and the Sawtooth range greeted us with its snaggled, icy peaks. We set up tent on our cliff side about 100 feet above the highway and ate a hasty dinner made with stream water from the melting ice pack above us. The mosquitoes were insane. Luckily they were weak Western mosquitoes and didn't really bite, but at any time there were 50 trailing and landing on us. Travis convinced me to scurry to the top of the hill to catch the sunset over the valley, and my poor little legs obliged, but not happily. What a sunset though.

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And then, as the light sunk over the Sawtooth ridge, Travis said, "Claire, I have something to ask you." And he got down on one knee and proposed!

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We're getting married!

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Only took four bike tours.

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The moon rose as we slid back down the mountain, and we settled down into our tent for the night, newly engaged.

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