Tour Divide '19: Day 3 - Harvey Pass to Grave Creek CG

Shortly after 5a I heard the familiar crunch of tires roll by my tent. I figured it was Hal. Another rider rode by as I was getting ready. It wasn't until 7a before I got moving, I don't do mornings well and I knew that was going to be one of my biggest daily challenges - fight off the urge to sleep in!!
The valley looks much more inviting today.

This gave me a good chuckle.

I had now been over 4 passes & only Elk Pass had a sign. I thought that was a little strange. The left sign here was the only thing I found indicating I was on Harvey Pass.

I reached Butts Cabin 13 miles into my day.
As bad as the storm looked the previous evening, it seemed only half of the route between where I camped and Butts Cabin had received rain. Go figure.

All quiet on a Sunday morning, but clearly a lot of logging goes on here.

Climbing Cabin Pass, which was a nice grade for the most part.

Turning south towards the U.S., but not before one final push up & over Galton Pass.

Mountain bikers rejoice!!

I opted to make a little extra noise through this area.

More singletrack!! That meant one thing, The Wall was approaching.

The trail started off great...

...and then turned into a goopy river.

This view of the Wigwam River made the on/off/on nature of the trail forgettable.

There it is. Punch #3 on the Divide Card, The Wall.
I've heard all kinds of stories about how difficult and treacherous The Wall could be. It seemed luck was on my side this day, the trail was dry. Steep? Absolutely. Even in my hiking shoes I had to be aware of foot placement. I'm sure when wet, it's much more of a challenge. It's over quick too as it's barely 100 feet long. Up top it did keep climbing and that area was a sloppy mess. Either way, The Wall was now behind me. I only had Galton Pass standing between myself and the U.S. Border.

End of The Wall singletrack leads to a nice dirt road.

The sun was shining, it was getting warm and I was getting more sluggish by the minute.
I stopped for a food break and to shed a layer. That seemed to help for a bit, then I noticed the clouds beginning to build over the pass. I think I'm gonna get wet soon. Sure enough about 45 minutes later I was under a tree getting my rain gear on. The showers only lasted about an hour and the roads were fine when wet. The sun came back out and I could feel the humidity hanging in the air. The final couple of miles to the pass kicked up a bit more than I could muster. I pushed most of the remaining distance to Galton Pass. I was whooped, but reaching the pass was the shot of adrenaline I needed.

What ensued next can only be described as a white knuckle descent. It was 100% rideable, but steep enough that I had to stay on my brakes the entire way. By the time I reached a leveling off point my arms were tired and hands needed a rest.
Near the bottom of Galton Pass, I dunked my head in this irrigation pipe spray. So refreshing.

The U.S. border lies to the left of the near hill.

It was warm on the valley floor, maybe 80ยบ.

I was both excited and a bit anxious to see what Montana held in store.

The Canadian side seemed a little more welcoming.

I was expecting a slightly more ornate sign.
There wasn't a vehicle in sight as I rode up, no waiting. The border agent asked where I was headed and that was it. Move along. He was friendly though and pointed me to the small bar/restaurant behind the buildings. I didn't hesitate to grab a frozen Snickers bar and cheeseburger.

The welcome mat had more character than the sign.

Punch #4 on the TD Card: U.S. Border.
I popped out of the burger stop and who should I see? It was Mikki & Larry!! The three of us then rolled together into Eureka to stock up on gas station fare, but Mikki & Larry opted to get a room for the night while in town. I was going to press on to one of the campgrounds.
The official Welcome to Montana!!
Going into the ride I truly felt if I could get through Montana unscathed, I'd finish. Most of the scratches tend to be in Montana for a variety of reasons. I had no intention of being one.

Our northern border wall is quite intimidating.

I was glad we immediately left the main road for the back way into Eureka.

Lots of ranch land here, this is Big Sky country.

Another not-so subtle hint that we were in Grizzly territory.

All fueled & stocked for the next leg. I saw Bonnie & Grant as I was leaving town, I think they were looking for a place to stay the night.
 There were a lot of fast miles after Eureka. I saw two riders up ahead. When I caught up it was Hal & Marty. I began to joke with Hal about this being my daily sighting. I rode ahead and was now on the lookout for the Grave Creek CG.
I think this sign was put out by H.A. Brewing Co. near the National Forest boundary, too bad it was after hours.
I came to the sign indicating the campground, but really didn't see where it was in the dark. A bit of consulting on the Adventure Cycling Association, ACA, offline maps made it a bit more clear. Then Marty caught up and we both did the short up & over to the free campground by Grave Creek. We found a site where another racer had already crashed out for the night. We weren't far behind.

Stats: 97.87 miles & 6,172' gained.



Tour Divide '19: Day 2 - Round Prairie to Harvey Pass

My plan for the Divide was this: Ride my own ride & don't wait for anyone, ride until exhaustion, occasionally set an alarm, sleep and repeat. I sorted fell into the group think when I arrived at Round Prairie the evening before, but in the end I slept great and felt well rested for the upcoming hike-a-bike, HAB, on Koko Claims.

There was a group of six or so of us at camp, I headed out before a few fellas were ready to go, more or less solo.
Koko Claims was the first of many Tour Divide hitlist items.
Imagine having a Tour Divide punch card, where you'd get it punched every time you complete a historically challenging section or reach a place of lore. It would be a big card, but Koko Claims would be punch #1. Maybe #2, getting to the start is worthy enough of punch #1. Banff YWCA: Punch #1.

Right out of the gate, lots of river rock. Not necessarily steep. I tried riding a bit, but it took a lot of energy, it was easier to walk.

A bit farther up, the rocks got bigger, the slope kicked up and things slowed down.
One thing I didn't do, that I now wish I did, was to take a pic or two of the road between the rubbly sections. It was fine, rideable. Koko Claims isn't 100% HAB. You just ride from HAB to HAB.

This one got fairly steep. My biggest issue was simply catching my breath. It typically takes me about 3 days until the bike feels like a normal bike. On the Koko HAB efforts, it just felt heavy.

Finally cresting the top. No signage, no fanfare. Other riders asking 'Is this it?' That's one feature of my Edge705 GPS that I love, I can display a split screen with my location on the active elevation profile. One look at that and I can either confirm or deny a top of a mountain pass. See next pic.
From later in the ride. I'm the black dot...less than 1/4 mile from the top of that climb.

I dropped over the top after a short snack break and saw the ski patrol cabin where I'm sure a bunch of riders camped the previous night. The downhill was swift with a few steep gnarly bits, I rode all of them but the final pitch. A bit too steep/loose/narrow for my taste. That particular section I actually blew right by, but a beep on the GPS got me back on track. It was an extremely vague turnoff which led to a proper forest road. As I would find in the coming days, there were a few of these types of connections.
Mikki & Larry pass by me once again. This would be a recurring theme for days.

Seemingly endless peaks.

Bull River Rd.

Bull River. I love that glacial hue of the water.
I was now cruising on a long straightaway, I could see something up ahead on the right side of the road. Some sort of critter or two. Then I noticed another on the left. As I rode closer I could now see what they were...Badgers!!! How cool. I have a small pouch clipped to the upper strap on my Camelbak where I carry my cell phone. That's what I use for all my pics while riding (Google Pixel 3A). It comes in real handy especially on a ride like this where I can simply get my phone out, snap a few pics and not miss a pedal stroke. However, I couldn't quite get the badgers to focus so I had to stop.
I was ambushed from the left & right!!

They were hissing at me and I could see their claws, time to boogie. Other than the hissing, they weren't aggressive, more inquisitive. I figured I shouldn't hang out to see if things change.

I looked back as I rode away and they were all giving chase!! I couldn't help but think of Badger, badger, badger...
My shifting had begun acting up about halfway through day 1. Only the middle gears of my 1x12 setup, it would either double shift or takes multiple clicks to get into the right gear, but once there, it was fine. I continued to deal with it as I rolled towards Fernie. I tried a few things, but nothing really worked. It wasn't a real big deal, but was a bit annoying. Hitting a bike shop in town was a top priority.
One last shot of Bull River.

Making the turn to begin the climb up Hartley Pass. An odorous Sulphur Creek nearby. Note to self: Don't filter water here.
Soon after taking this picture, I rounded a corner where a rock climber was getting gear from the back of his vehicle. As I approached, he saw me, reached back in his car and held out an apple. 'Want one?' I sure do, thanks!! If anything the apple helped distract me from the overriding smell of sulphur in the air. It sure did taste good though.

I wonder what the story was here.
The Hartley Pass climb had a few punchy bits that I had to walk. I began thinking, hmmm, I hope they aren't all this steep. I saw a couple other riders walking too, so I didn't feel too bad. The pass was a bit more work than I had expected though. I was ready for a short break in town.

Hartley Lake just over the pass.

A now classic sign heading towards Fernie.

Fast bit of road splitting the lush valley floor.

Coming from the Sonoran Desert, I sometimes forget just how green other locales are.

Time to get my shifting looked at.
First stop, the grocery store for chocolate milk. I saw a few bikes at the McD's, but I really wanted to skip fast food if possible. I don't mind taking a couple extra minutes to eat at a local establishment. I tracked down GearHub bike shop and they quickly had my bike in a stand. It took the mechanic about 3.7 seconds to see my derailleur hanger was bent!! For some reason I hadn't even thought to look at it, since I hadn't crashed. Perhaps a residual ding from the airline transit?? Who knows. I did have an extra hanger with me, but really didn't want to use it 1 1/2 days into the ride. The mechanic was able to easily straighten it out and my shifting woes were no longer an issue for the rest of the ride. Bike finished, I got a lunch recommendation and beat the closing by a few minutes at the Lunch Box. I reloaded my food supply on the bike and was off towards Harvey Pass. The layover in Fernie was a bit longer than I had hoped, but everything was taken care of, all was good.
Seemed like a very bike friendly town.

Fernie. Added to the list of places I'd like to re-visit.

Elk River slicing through town.

More local encouragement on the way out.

So far the valleys we've been riding through have run deep with the mountains jutting up on either side.

Climbing Harvey Pass.

Early evening.
I saw a rider up ahead and was slowly gaining on them. Come to find out it was Tour Divide legend, Hal Russell!! Hal had completed the Tour Divide 5 times and was on his final, 6th trip down the spine of North America. I had spotted him at Boulton Creek Trading post and when I first arrived in Fernie, but our paths really didn't cross until now. At 70 years young, Hal can ride. Big time. I introduced myself and we pedaled up the climb together for a bit. I passed on a 'Hello' message from a fellow TD rider back home, Tanner. Hal and I would end up yo-yo'ing the route over the next 2+ weeks.

Hal Russell and his infectious smile.

Waning light as the pass nears.

Another critter sighting!! This time a porcupine. He was too quick running into the woods for a better shot.
I pulled ahead of Hal and made the crest of Harvey Pass. I had planned to push on to Butts Cabin, but as I made my way farther down the descent it began to thunder & lightning in the valley below. The sky was thick with dark ominous clouds and I knew that was right when I was headed. It began to sprinkle, so I stopped to put on my rain gear. It was about 11p and the intensity of the storm in the valley below increased. That was when I decided I should just make camp where I was at. I had no idea what the rain would do to the roads in the Valley and I wasn't feeling like I should risk it at night. I found a large shoulder on the side of the road and konked out for the night.

Stats: 96.78 miles & 8,420' gained.