11/10 to 11/14/14′ – After the Adventure Cycling Association published its new mountain bike tour route, the Idaho Hot Springs Tour, there was no way to avoid adding it to the shoulder season schedule. Unfortunately, our prime-time to go for it (early fall) was eaten up by previous family plans and weddings, so the trip kept getting pushed back. Grete’s sprained ankle was finally feeling up to snuff by early November, but the weather seemed that it would be too cold for her to enjoy the ride; so it seemed that we would have to postpone it for another year. The stars happen to align, as they tend to do with Jonny and I, and Jonny was just getting into the PNW after a massive ride from Haines, AK to Whidbey Island, WA – roughly 1700 miles down the Alaska Highway and the Cassiar! Fortunately, his saddle sores were not too bad and he was ready for more cold-weather bicycle adventuring… So we set our sites on Idaho with the plans and hopes that our good bud Dave could meet us part way and finish the back half of the ride with us!
It turns out that November in Idaho is pretty cold. The ride started in Crouch, ID – in true Dream-Team fashion – at the stroke of 9pm with 20 miles of riding, 20°F temps, and ~2000′ of climbing to battle to our first camp… The next morning, we woke up to brisk temperatures and blue skies, and our hopes were high (ignorance is bliss?) as we pedaled along through the gorgeous Idaho forests. We found snow and got snowed-on crossing a high pass that afternoon, but continued on optimistically eventually rewarming at the hole-in-the-wall Twin Springs bar just after nightfall. The locals told us that they hadn’t seen a soul on the route in over a month and after having a brewski or twoski, we pedaled up the road a couple miles to a hot spring campsite; enjoying dinner in the hot relaxing waters before bed.
The next morning was filled with “warming sprints” and optimism with river-road riding and many easy-access hot springs ahead. Again, in the evening, we found snow at the top of a massive climb and froze ourselves solid during the speedy descent into Featherville. We arrived at their local watering hole around 9pm, with the ambient temperature at 14°F and dropping. After a couple beers, a bunch of popcorn, some quizzical commentary from the locals and warnings from family over the phone about a “polar vortex” headed our way, we pedaled out a couple miles to camping (in sub-10°F temps).
Waking the next morning to steady snowfall and a fresh inch of snow on the ground we decided to ride back to Featherville, assess this storm and drink coffee. The “polar vortex” looked to be the real-deal and the nearly 9000′ summit of Dollarhide Pass (our next objective on the route) seemed like a bad idea. We decided to re-route through normal roads to Ketchum and meet Dave there in a couple days. Riding all day on a couple inches of fresh snow was GLORIOUS, and the final few miles to intersecting Highway 20 was an excellent untracked backroad recommended by a local. Arriving at the highway just before dark, we realized camp was a priority and (luckily) stumbled upon a snowmobile warming shelter, providing a dry – albeit mouse friendly – place for the night!
The next morning, we cracked the door to ~14″ of fresh snow and, after attempting to ride in it fully loaded, finally gave-up on continuing the tour. Being that we were only in the Southern end of the route, the polar-vortex was not looking to break up, and keeping dry seemed impossible we rode to the road and stuck our thumbs out. Soon enough we caught a ride to Boise, filled with excellent wolf-discussion, and by early evening had Jonny’s truck back. So we headed to a friend’s house in McCall and began to plan for what to do with our next week…