Bike-Packing the Great Divide Trail - Count Down to Start - 7 days
We fly to Glacier National Airport exactly a week from today. Tom packed all the bikes into their bike boxes, and shipped them yesterday through a bike shipping service called Bike Flight. After looking at all the options, they were the cheapest and fastest of the shipping choices. But, I will tell you, it’s not cheap by any means. Still, shipping the bikes was the best option since it would be such a long drive, and renting a one way vehicle to fit all the bikes plus the four of us wasn’t straightforward either. We chose the expense and trouble of shipping the bikes and flying to the start in exchange for more days actually riding. Let’s pray all bikes arrive without damage!
Seeing those four huge boxes disappear from the front porch made it feel real. We are seriously doing this! Before COVID-19, our plan was to bike tour through the South of France. Sara desperately wants to see Paris, and the Loire Cycle Route we planned to ride looked like a lovely long distance tour through beautiful country. That obviously didn’t happen in 2020, and international travel in 2021 seemed unlikely if not quite iffy, even if we could go to Europe. We still hope to do that trip, but 2021 isn’t the year for it.
We’ve been hankering for a longer expedition, and I’d remembered Tom mentioning a mountain biking trail that approximately parallels the Continental Divide. I think it was around December when I said - “hey, we should do that bike packing long distance trail thing that runs from Canada to Mexico this summer.” I didn’t have to say that twice! Tom was on it, and before I could blink, I was unwrapping all sorts of bike packing gear I didn’t even know existed for my birthday in January.
The next few months we focused on figuring out bikes and gear for us and the kids (I’ll make a detailed list of each of our gear& rigs soon!) We did a shake down ride over spring break in March on the Kokopelli’s trail that runs from Fruita, CO to Moab UT. That was a seriously gnarly trip, and we had to do some alternate routing because the La Sals were still full of snow. There were more stretches of abusive hike a bike than I care to describe. But, we rode all the way from Fruita to Moab, and everyone still wanted to do this trip - at least that’s what they said after showers in a nice hotel and devouring a hot restaurant meal! So here we are!
We haven’t done any long distance, self-powered back-country journeys as a family yet. The 6 nights on the Kokopelli are the greatest number of consecutive nights we’ve spent together in the back country. Our other touring trips were three weeks each backpacking hut to hut in the Swiss Alps and The Alta Via 1 in Italy, and four weeks bike touring the Danube bike route from Passau Germany to Budapest Hungary. On those trips we slept in huts or guest houses each night, and didn’t have to carry camping gear and multiple days of food. We have back country back-packed with the kids, but just out for a few nights at one time. This trip on the Great Divide, I anticipate two to four nights at a time camping, interspersed with resupply stops in town where we will stay at whatever hotel, hostel or inn that’s available.
This is a thru-biking route, so I’m deeply hoping there is some sort of trail community like on the AT, and other long distance trails. My experiences of trail community are what I go back to when I’m feeling cynical about humanity. The authentic human connections, helping and receiving help from strangers, along with experiencing the hardships and magic of a long distance adventure with others who are on the same path makes me feel connected to the vital aspects of my own humanity. The process of stripping everything away down to what is essential, and connecting with others who are doing the same awakens and enlivens me. I feel what truly matters in my bones. I want that for the kids. I want them to feel connected to the land, to themselves, to our family, to the Earth - and to know what they truly need. My belief is that if they learn this now, they will be resourced and equipped to grow up and go out into the world and live in true harmony and reciprocity with the people and environment around them. The adventures we do are definitely about pushing our selves, seeing new places under our own power, and having fun. But for me, our journeys are equally about learning greater life lessons, developing perseverance and a larger perspective of the world beyond our bubble, and
self-discovery. The kids keep going along with our hair brained plans, so I’d like to believe they feel same way!
Now days, we are talking about the more immediate nitty gritty logistics like getting bear spray and canister fuel once we get to the start. It’s also hitting home that we will in fact be riding through grizzly bear country the entire distance we expect to cover. We’ve done tons of hiking and paddling in black bear territory, but grizzlies are a whole different ball game. We’re trying to prepare ourselves and the kids for the necessary precautions without freaking anyone out. Not sure how well that part is going! I’m a little freaked out! Crunchy mommy with a chewy center anyone? Let’s hope the bears don’t think that sounds appetizing! 💜Crystal