Friday, January 26, 2007


In the language of the Mountain Crow Indians, "Togwotee" meant "from here you can go anywhere". What a perfect place to launch our training adventure from. For JayP, this would be a 24-36 hour shakedown ride to test out his bike packing, eating, hydration, and winter camping strategies before the Iditarod Trail Invitational. For me, this would be my first significant ride on the FatBike and another chance to dial in my winter hydration and calorie intake. I did the driving up to Togwotee so Jay wouldn’t have to worry about a shuttle and he could simply ride home to Wilson, WY some time on Friday.

I took a half day off from work and we started our ride at 1pm from Togwotee Lodge. We could not believe how warm it was. It was in the teens in Jackson but up at 8500’ it was almost 40F. We shed all the layers we could and joked about wishing we had our summer “kits” with us. The plan was to do a 22 mile loop so that I could end up back at the truck and then Jay would continue on to ride south in the dark and camp at some point before riding home on Friday.

The Continental Divide winter trail network is made up of 600 miles of groomed snowmobile trails so there is huge potential for some epic rides. There are free maps available online or at local snowmobile shops and every intersection is signed. Awesome! Once we got five miles away from the lodge we saw very few snowmobiles and had the trails to ourselves.

Do to the soft snow and big hills the first six miles took us over 1:30:00 but we were riding most of the time. My early season fitness level was causing me to question what I had bitten off but at the same time I was having so much fun exploring new terrain I didn’t want to stop. At about 3:30pm the temps dropped quickly, the trail firmed up, and we were motoring. Motoring on the FatBike is relative though. At 8mph I feel like I am breaking the sound barrier. Four hours into the ride I had settled into a groove and I actually felt as if I could ride for a lot longer. At 5:15pm we came to a point where it didn’t make sense for Jay to ride with me any further so he headed south and I headed for the truck. Once the sun set I put the headlamp on and keep trucking along thinking I was home free. I saw lights from one of the lodge’s snowcats coming at me and I thought “cool, I will be flying once I get onto the freshly groomed trail behind it”. Not! The smooth surface left by their snowcat was hiding a fluffy layer underneath that was not rideable even at 5 psi. I rode the last ½ mile by hugging the 3” wide band of packed snow to the edge of the groomer’s path and frequently got stuck in the snow banks off trail. Back at the truck my watch showed just under 5 hours of ride time and the map said that I did 22 miles.

As I drove home alone I reflected on a great day and thought about Jay out there riding in the dark and eventually sleeping under the stars in his -20 degree bag and bivy. As soon as I accumulate a bit more winter camping gear I will be up for the entire adventure instead of the condensed version.

1 comment:

Doug said...

That is way too cool. What great scenery and a great network of trails to explore. We have an abundance of snowmobile trails here as well. Since we have had a light year for snow I have been unable to explore the local trails. Your pictures have me wishing for snow all over again.