|David Chenault just below the Tobacco Root Divide.|
Ever since I started looking into possible packbiking routes, the Tabacco Roots have been on my radar. The nice thing about the mountain range is the absence of designated wilderness. Which means mountain biking is legal. But at the same time, there's a logistic catch which prevents traditional (and contemporary) mountain bike touring: no road or trail crosses the steep 10000ft divide. So, it's ether go around the Tobacco Roots on pavement. Or, head off-trail through them.
Dave and I chose the latter, heading out from just east of Sheridan, and up the South Fork of Mill Creek on a rough old mining road. We hit snow line, and hike-a-biked until postholing forced our bikes on to our backpacks. The climb was as gentle as it looked on the map, but a 30ft cornice changed our evening destination from South Meadow Creek Lake, to the Mill Gulch Basin.
|On top of the 30ft cornice that caused a detour into the upper Mill Gulch Basin.|
|Heading down a couloir into Mill Gulch Basin.|
|Beers and brats and a perfect camp spot at 9000ft.|
We camped on the seemingly only semi-dry piece of ground in the basin, and in the morning, we shot up a steep talus-y slope. Then, staight down a mash-potato-snow-filled 45 degree couloir. Which, put me a little out of my element, but with Dave laying a great track, I managed to fumble my way down without too many incidents. After a brief stop to fish South Meadow Creek Lake, I was in my element again, descending a techy mining road past the ruins of old gold claims. Norris Hot Springs was a sight for sore eyes, but our eyes just got more sore after too much sun, beer, and hot water. We were both in the tent by 6pm, trying to fight back dehydration.
Tenkara fishing on South Meadow Creek Lake.
|Old mining road along South Meadow Creek|
|The early morning hours at Norris Hot Springs.|
|Heading up the pass above Bell Lake.|
|On top of the Tobacco Root Divide, looking south towards Branham Lakes.|
|Back on the bike.|
A few days later, Dave's final take on the trip was: "My favorite, most accurate way to measure trip depth is the severity of re-acclimation sickness. This trip was pretty bad for a 3 night, 3 day affair. Just like a good beer, a perfectly balanced adventure is not something to drain away without regret."
I don't think I could've said it better. With a ridiculous amount of variety, the perfect partner-in-crime, and just enough unplanned situations to keep my heart pumping, this was a good one. And, one I don't think I'm going to top anytime soon.
On the playlist: Hurray for the Riff Raff - Slow Walk
On the playlist: Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Freight Train