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Old 04-02-2011, 04:50 PM   #1
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Stumbling Along the Continental Divide Trail

As the title state: Stumbling along the Continental Divide trail… Headed South…
Well ok not all of it, but the good part... Due to the almighty time constraints this installment is from Calgary, AB to Yellowstone, WY with many pitchers of beer in between. Since spring is almost here I need to get tale out there before the summer distractions take hold and the memories of this excellent trip are lost forever!

This is our second adventure. See the first one here:

First off, here's the route: Green is going down, red is the route back up

Closer up:

As always, before embarking on this sort of journey there's a frenzy of maintenance to be done a few days before

After I mess around with my motor a test drive is probably a good idea:

Two new major additions to the bike I’m looking forward to trying out are the custom seat and the height adjustable fairing with HID lighting. In addition, this year we'll have two way radios with built in helmet speakers and I'll have a flip down visor helmet instead of googles. I expect the requisite hwy cruising will be significantly more comfortable.

Next trying to stuff all the crap you think you might need for the next two weeks onto your bike. This year we decided to ditch all the camping gear and enjoy traveling lighter. As a result the route was planned around the larger centers along the way.

Day 0

Mowed the lawn really short one last time before loading up the beast with all my gear and heading south to Calgary where I meet up with my partner in crime Jarrett to start the adventuring! Sure hope I didn't forget anything! Funny thing to note is that right before I left I couldn't find my only set of bike keys after seaching frantically for over and hour. I was very close to hacking my wiring harness and making the bike run with a hidden toggle switch.

As a side note, Jarrett had some serious problems with his KLR just days before we were scheduled to depart. Honestly, I thought I was going to either have to go on my own or postpone the trip a week or two. Luckily his roommate being an ex small mechanic and the local bike shop being not super busy helped pull it all together at the eleventh hour. I’ll let Jarrett chime in his comments and pics on the motor mishap.

I (Jarrett) will be adding my thoughts in blue so it's easy to distinguish who is commenting throughout the report. As Thomas mentioned I ran into some major engine problems right before departure. I over tightened and broke off bolts in the engine block, but thanks to the roommate Steve and a couple of beers calming me down, a few days later it was put back together. I was feeling really bad and nervous about Thomas booking time off work and then possibly changing plans or bumping the trip back.

Top half of my engine removed and at the machine shop for a "little" work.

This is why I opted out of riding to Calgary:
300km of dead flat, almost perfectly straight 125km/hr cruising surrounded by impatient cagers.

Day 0 Stats: While technically not on the bike, still part of the journey…

That evening after Thomas arrived at my place we went out and had a couple of brews in Calgary. We discussed the route, it was obvious we were both excited about getting this adventure started. We would have no problem waking up the next morning.

Next morning after some last minute packing/ ditching as much crap as possible we set off

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Old 04-02-2011, 05:43 PM   #2
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Old 04-02-2011, 06:04 PM   #3
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Heading South

Day 1

It should be mentioned that Thomas is extremely knowledgeable with GPS and mapping as it's part of his 9 to 5 job. I think it keeps him excited during the winter searching the web for tracks and routes that will fit in and make up parts of our ride. He pieces it all together, I put in my two cents then our route is decided. Best part is he downloads the tracks onto my GPS so we are working with the same routes and maps.

Our first day the bikes I had planned to get to Eureka Mt. taking the scenic route but not necessarily following the CD trail. Problem was the Banf, AB portion to Elkford, AB is strictly for non motorized vehicles being in the Park and all. So we took the Forestry Trunk road instead.
On the way a little history from Turner Valley

A little quiet Hwy cruising

Until at last the first non paved road of the trip. Finally!

Of course the 15km/hr speed limit was strictly followed…

The old road

For some reason the first shot of Jarrett that wasn’t blurry

This shot was taken a couple of hours into the first day. I was nervous about the last minute work done to the bike and only getting an hour test ride before the trip. As the first day wore on I began to feel more comfortable that the bike was running smoothly. Lesson learned - DO NOT leave maintenance till the week before a trip.

Someone lost their very shitty camper.

I got bored of the road and took the side trail for a while

A Cessna parked just off the road... Interesting

The road eventually gets narrower and more fun


Thomas practicing some hill climbing. I was laughing my ass off when he had to turn the bike around, yelling curses the whole time. Of course it is much steeper than it looks

First creek crossing of the trip

Mr. T testing out the grease job on the wheel bearings

We took an old logging road that was pretty fun

After that it seemed to dead end, so we turned onto this very fine powerline maintenance trail

We got a little lost with so many trails and roads in the area. While we only had a vague idea that we could get through the pass it was pretty fun trying.

Took a break at this little creek Weather wise, this was probably the best day of the whole trip!

The last 20km into Fernie the road was black (probably has to do with coal that is abundant in the area), great traction and prime for some power slides.

Eventually we came out literally right into Fernie! Nice. Stopped for fuel and aired the tires back up for the highway ride to the boarder.

Once just across the border, this is official start of the CD trail. Pretty nice little back road.

Unfortunately upon arriving to our final destination in Eureka MT, there was some local rodeo going on and all the hotels were booked up within 100km of the area. Have no choice this late in the day we reluctantly decided to ride back into the rain and across the border to Fernie and stay there for the night. The boarder guy thought it was a bit fishy that we had stayed in the US for less than an hour but how much contraband can one hide a dirtbike?
Our luxury accommodations

A long first day due to the extra 100km or so of backtracking. Also means tomorrow will be a longer day in the morning. Oh well, we enjoyed the great restaurants and hospitality of Fernie.

Since we ski/snowboard in Fernie during the winter, Thomas and I knew exactly what establishments to frequent so we could quench our thirst.

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Old 04-02-2011, 06:37 PM   #4
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Old 04-02-2011, 07:11 PM   #5
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Day 2

Next morning we awoke early to thick rain clouds. Little did we know how much they would haunt us for the next ten days

Looking out the window in the morning, all of a sudden we were in no rush to hit the trail. This was probably the wettest day of the trip, some of my gear would never fully dry for the entire two weeks. My passport sustained some water damaged that day, I thought it was no big deal but when the girlfriend and I went to Cuba a couple of months ago I had trouble leaving. The passport wouldn't scan, almost became the only hockey playing Cuban.

Unfortunately, very few pics over most of this second day due to the weather. We rode through rain, rain, and eventually snow as we ascended into the mountains. This day truly was a test of the gear and unfortunately mine failed miserably. Jacket & pants: wet. Boots: soaked. Saddle bags: saturated. Gloves: had to be peeled off my hands they were so wet they shrank. Helmet: so wet and fogged up I had ride with the visor open which I don’t recommend. Only thing not wet was my tank bag and the dry sack I had on the rack. Saving grace was the heated grips and vest. Compared to last years adventure, where we had barely a drop of rain and instead had to deal with blistering heat, I was really unprepared for this kind of weather.
Soaked hands. Check out the die from my gloves staining my hand after I peeled them off.

This is the ONLY picture of the road from this day. I couldn’t take out my camera all day in the relentless rain. Honestly, I’m sure this is a very spectacular ride (boarders Glacier Park) but I simply couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of my tire for the better part of the day. Edit: I want to stress that there was some very cool riding on this part, in fact I plan on returning in the spring to ride this part over and see what we were actually riding on. I do recall the roads were VERY rough. Some of the road was just a buldozed trail on the side of mountains and as a result there were a ton of sharp rocks and even lose boulders laying around. Thank god no flats this day!

About half way through the day we stopped, both of us were shivering and wet. I think we only stopped one more time until we got into Kalispell, we rode like mad men trying to get out of the weather. BRUTAL.

This picture Jarrett took of me doesn’t even begin to show how soaked we are.

I second Thomas' thoughts on this part of the trail. Visibility was an issue with the rain/fog/snow, but you could just tell the views would be epic on a nice day... We plan to return. Below are some shots that I took of the trail, note the snow.

At long last we arrived in Kalispell. It was clearing up at last and our spirits started to rise at the thought of some hot soup and cold beer. Funny, I just noticed the 80m/hr top speed. I don't think my bike goes much faster then that.

Stayed at some touristy motel

Nothing but the finest will do: If my comforter isn’t purple and teal I’m not sleeping there. The humidity was noticeably higher once all the gear was laid out to dry!

The old hair drier in the boots trick. Lets just say the rooms smell was a little off.

Jarrett enjoying the no helmets required in MT law.

I wish it was warmer, turns out my helmet was the only thing keeping my ears from freezing.

Nothing says welcome to Montana quite like a 2-1/2 pound burger.

Or a big pile of dead ducks from a hunting trip on a brochure at the door…

I enjoy hunting, but that's creepy tourist advertising.

After supper, we dropped off the bikes and walked to another establishment for some real business. Lots of pints, a Caesar and a little last minute route planning.

Note: For Caesers in Montana they make them in a shaker with a dash of horseradish, not how we do it in W. Canada but tasty none the less. I have since educated myself on Caesers and that type is known as the Montreal Caeser.

The first of many cats wanting to hang out in the hotel. It’s like I had some kind of cat magnet.

I'll let the readers insert there own P___y joke

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Old 04-02-2011, 07:19 PM   #6
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Old 04-02-2011, 10:06 PM   #7
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Day 3

We awoke to sun! and a mild hangover. The latter turned out to be a pretty common occurrence. The sun turned out to be rare as gold.
In the photo we rode into that wall of fog it was pretty neat. The temp dropped noticeably and moisture droplets coated my visor and jacket.

First thing that morning we followed a cutie in a car, it was extremely foggy with poor visibility but she was hauling down that gravel road. She was only breaking when needed, must have known the road. It was great first thing in the morning, we paced her for a good 20min, then i realized maybe she thought these two hooligans were chasing her. Oops. I'm sure she was relieved when we turned off onto the trail.

The trail picks up on this very neat narrow smooth road.

It wound up and up the valley. Couldn’t get a good shot but the whole valley was covered in that dense fog. It's a very enjoyable ride.

Jarrett peeling out after a quick break

Thomas riding toward the light...

Our first re route: Road was under construction and the bridge was out. Had to do a few miles of backtracking, no big deal.

After a little highway reroute we ended up on this smooth and fast gravel road.

Took a side trip up to a lookout tower.

On the way down from the tower I had a very close call with another vehicle. Around one of the particularly tight corners I was hugging the inside left as it’s a sheer drop off on the outside when suddenly a forestry truck just happens to meet me on that corner. I had to quickly swerve to the very edge of the cliff to avoid a head-on. The funny thing was we hadn’t seen another vehicle the entire time we were on that main road, and here I meet one on literally the most dangerous part of the tower access road. Beware!

I luckily met up with that truck on one of the few straight sections. Our radios were not working that morning thus I couldn't warn Thomas, he seemed slightly shaken when we met up.

More high altitude cruising

I like when you can see where the road goes

Eventually it flattens out and you’re in wide open plains

After some nice high speed cruising you’re back in the mountains.

The pine beetle has been making an impact in these areas. They had some forestry research station set up here.

The State also seemed to use this area for a staging ground to fight forest fires, as we met up with a crew who just finished mopping up a blaze. One of the boys let us know the trail was closed the day before due to the fire. A little lucky indeed!

That thing would be fun with a few cases of beer in the back!

These are great roads!

Someone’s old cabin

Thomas coming down from a view point.

Someone had a little WWII memorial up here. Not a bad place to rest in peace.

My bike was enjoying the area as well…

The one nice thing about all the rain was the absence of dust

Once we crested the top of the pass it began to go down and down. I shut of my bike and probably coasted for a good five miles.

Eventually you emerge into a nice flat pasture area

Our first remnants of the mining history in Montana

And then of course we came across the Empire Mill remains

I absolutely love old remains of buildings and things. Jarrett patiently waited while I climbed all over everything like a little kid on a snowbank.

Thomas and I both enjoy history, ruins, and museums. Montana was a great place for ghost towns spawned from the mining industry. Thomas would poke around in every nook and cranny, he was probably in more danger of falling down a mine shaft or through a floor than having a wreck on this trip.

I lot of people worked very hard on this structure at one time. Sad when you think they’re all dead and the structure is in ruins.

I enjoyed these spiky flowers that seem grow all over Montana. Before this I don’t know that I’d seen any before.

After I got my fill of decaying rubble we carried on south.

But not before we had a little wheelie session.

Old mines dot the hillside in these parts

After getting lost for bit we finally emerge on some more high plains. We ride in and out of pouring rain clouds pretty much all morning.

I envy the locals somewhat as there is almost endless exploring out here.

I couldn't believe where we would see cabins in the Montana back country. At times we were at least an hour or two from the nearest highway, it could take an hour to get out on our bikes so it would probably take at least two hours to get in by truck. I don't know if the people "own" that land or have a lease from the State? In Canada we call it "Queen land" not owned by anyone and can be used by anyone, I assume it's the equivalent.

Doesn’t last long before heading back into the forest

After a while down this trail I get the feeling that we’re on a ski hill or something?

It was definitely a little weird popping out on a ski hills cat track.

“No Return to Base”

Yeah this is definitely a ski hill

I wish I had a pic but we ended up riding right down the main run of the ski hill. Towards the bottom a group of workers were servicing the lodge. When they saw us ride past they just stared in disbelief. I guess you don't have too many loaded up bikes from Alberta riding down your hill. It was pretty steep. I just left it in first and sort of skid/slid down. Going up would have been impossible unless it was dry and your were pinning it balls to wall the whole way. Anyway, I waved to the workers like there was nothing out of the ordinary but all I got was blank stares. It was a pretty funny feeling.

I was laughing my ass off in my helmet as we made our way down the main run and past the boys working at the base. That is until I grabbed a handful of front break and almost lost the front end in the mud. Oops.

A little past the bottom of the ski hill was our first real ghost town!

Enter Marysville

Old meets new

According to a plat, at one time there were 27 saloons in this town!

Not much left now

Even the Talking Rock Theater was closed…

A few more years and some of these remaining building will be collapsed as well.

It was interesting to read about how big the town once was, the worth of the ore removed and to see how it looked today. Amazing how fast things deteriorate.

At this point the weather looked like it was going to start pissing on us again so we kept moving on. I had another ghost town I wanted to see nearby but we decided to pass since it would be in the rain. Old mine entrances continued to dot the country side.

For some reason I was feeling like a nice steak that evening.

We rode on through some very interesting high plains again. Unfortunately the rain started full on again so no pics other than this one. We also hit our first really muddy section. A huge portion of the trip could be ridden on fairly street biased tires, but the few bits of mud make the knobbies very worthwhile
I remember we rode a really fun section in the rain on one of these trails. Lots of dips and little washouts that were fun to ramp off of.
We also passed a 4x4 pickup just poking along through one of the rough sections. Seeing him bounce along at 5 miles an hour while we were able to easily cruise at 40+ made me appreciate being on a bike. Sure we were cold and wet, but we could cover so much ground with relative ease.

I really noticed the weight of the KLR in the mud, especially breaking for the corners. Very heavy and unnerving. We both would have liked to poke around some more but the rain ate away our ambition.

Upon arriving in Helena, we drove around a bit looking for a decent place to stay. The only reasonable motel close to downtown had some very sketchy looking individuals eyeing up the bikes. Not one to be overly paranoid I wasn’t about to bring it into the room like I’ve seen some people do but needing my bike to get me through the rest of the trip I did park right in front of the window and throw on the disk lock.


I knew the next day had the toughest riding of the trip (Lava mountain trail…) so I hoped for a little break from the rain

That night we went out on the town, and met some VERY interesting local dudes. One who rides his Harley up to Alberta once year in a fund raising ride. Below is Mr. T turning on the creep.

offthetrail screwed with this post 04-23-2011 at 03:00 PM
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Old 04-03-2011, 01:06 AM   #8
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Good show. Waiting for more.

Next time in Fernie, consider the Ragging Elk Hostel. They have private rooms, WiFi and free breakfast.
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Old 04-03-2011, 09:56 AM   #9
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Good report!! Looks as if you went through there about when I did, last September or so? I am waiting for your lava mountain portion.
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:54 PM   #10
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Great RR, enjoying all of it so far. The CDT is on my bucket list. Don't know when but would like to ride it some day. Looks great. Thanks for taking us along.
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Old 04-03-2011, 10:21 PM   #11
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Day 4

After drying out the soaked riding gear once again here's the pile of silt that had fallen off just my jacket.

Helena had some pretty interesting looking history, so before we left in the morning we rode around a little bit to check out some of the old buildings and such. Might have to stop by here for a closer look next time I’m passing through.
Here’s some lookout tower. I didn’t get to have a closer look but I recall something about it being one of the last fire lookout towers not burned down.

Once on our way out of town we passed these old Lime Kilns. Apparently they once provided all of the building blocks for this area.

We rode a nice smooth relatively fast road at first

Quick stop for Jarrett to air his tires down a bit. I had given up with airing up and down long before this point. While I can understand the need when strictly dirtbiking and trying to get every bit of traction and performance, for the most part I’m more interested in tire life and fuel economy when DSing so I just keep them aired up to the max.

This morning I was fairly hungover and the trail was a little greasy from the downpour the day before. I knew it would only get harder from the discussions we had the previous night. At least the rain would hold off till after we were done the dodgy section.

Eventually we came to a turn off point near the Lava Mountain trail trailhead. I told Jarrett he could either keep going on this road, bypass the trail and we’ll meet up at some point later or he could ride the trail with me. I should probably mention that I have a longish dirtbiking background where as this is only Jarrett's second year of riding, hence his understandble reluctance to riding the Lava Mnt trail.
Anyway, while Jarrett wasn't keen on riding Lava, he felt it would be smarter if we stuck together. Fair enough, makes sense off we go.

I knew it would get a little nutty but didn't want to miss out on anything interesting. I also didn't want to split from Thomas because if something went wrong for him I wouldn't know for a long while, then it would be a mission to get in and find him. Solution, continue down the rapidly deteriorating "road". As a side note, some guys take there trucks down these trails, I believe the trail was rated a 4/5.

Here where the massively lighter 400 was right at home. I was in trail heaven at this point. It was not to tough that we couldn’t make miles, but had enough obstacles to be loads of fun.

Unfortunately for Jarrett, the trail proved to be less than stellar riding. After waiting for him to catch up on one fairly hummocky section, my spirits were dampened when he starting bitching about how rough and slow the trail was. Me thinking the exact opposite had a little trouble fully enjoying the ride knowing that my riding partner was having miserable time.

Oh there was plenty of swears to myself, the bike, the trail, any animals in the area, and life in general... Good times, and funny now.

Anyway, like it or not this was the route for next while so we carried on.

Eventually the tracks starting getting fainter and before long we got to this rotted out bridge.

There had been a few forks in the road and now it was apparent we had made a wrong turn. I only had vague GPS tacks to follow for this section so we were going to have to try a few other turns until we found the right one. Jarrett was not impressed at this point! We turned back and started down the last trail we had passed. After a short while we got to this particularly rocky steep hill. Jarrett wasn’t sure he could ride down, and if he did ride down and it turned out to the the wrong way, he was certain he couldn’t make it back up.
Of course pictures never truly show steepness.

It was decided that I would rip ahead on my bike and try riding a few miles further down this trail to see if it got any better. Fine with that, I do love ripping! The ol’ DR ate this shit up, only thing I would have preferred was larger rear sprocket as the highway gearing was pretty rough on the clutch. Although, all the extra weigh over the rear tire was surprisingly useful for hill climbing traction.

After a few miles I came to another split in the road. Going left looked like it got easier but went the wrong way, going right looked tough. I decided to check it out the left trail for a few miles. Eventually I got to this recognizable area (but facing the other way)

I knew this to be the start of the Lava mtn trail. Seems that we had taken a different side route in. That meant that just back at that last split taking a right would be the proper Lava trail. I rode back to Jarrett and told him what I had found. I gave him the option of bailing out of riding the trail and taking the escape road out to the hwy or to keep going down Lava trail like I was planning. Jarrett, figuring that the trail we were on was probable tougher than the Lava trail he opted to keep going with the original plan, but asked if I would ride his KLR down this hill for him. Sure thing. As soon as I started maneuvering the beast of a bike down the rocky section I could understand his lack of enjoyment on these types of trails. This thing was very wide, tippy, and the front end had some serious dive just tapping the brakes. It was tough to aim the front tire around the boulders with confidence due to the large, fixed fairing. Not only that, but the lack of clearance had it bottoming out and draging over the rock steps. For those of you with bigger bikes wanting to ride this trail, it is certainly doable, but probably not that fun unless you after that sort of thing. Small bikes, hell yeah!
Once we got past were I had turned left and went right, it seemed like the trail was going to be more like this.

I found the trail we took to get to the dreaded Lava Mountain route was harder than the trail it's self. We were both sweating pretty good at this point with the humidity from the rain. The KLR was a beast going down the steep section, trying to stay off the large rocks put you right on the greasy mud which made breaking a bitch. Plus trying to toss around a 470lb bike with a 150lb frame was a work out.

But it quickly turned back into this. We thanked our lucky stars that with all the rain we had so far, it wasn’t on this part of the ride. Of course that doesn't mean it can't still rain while we're out here...

Lots of boulders and hill climbs. It goes on like this for a good while. Honestly, even I grew a little weary after a while.
Would I ride this part again if I came back? Probably. Should you feel bad if you decided to opt out cause you're riding a 1200? Not really.

Jarrett had one slow motion tip over on one of the first hill climbs. It looked bad from my vantage and I recall jumping off my bike and sprinting up the hill to help lift his bike off of him before it crushed his ankles to dust. He wasn't hurt but definitely looked a bit frazzled. I told him to pick his lines before ascending each and keep momentum at all cost. That seemed to really help, because after a few more hill climbs he was really getting the hang of it. I had been dilly dalleying with my camera letting him get a ahead and was surprised how long and fast I was able to ride before catching up to him waiting for me. In fact one advantage the KLR has over the smaller 400 was is the immense torque available at snail like speeds. My clutch was definitely taking a beating on these steep rocky hills.

I remember that 0 mph tip over. I was slowly making my way up a rocky section when I got high centered and went to put my foot down on the low side. Mistake. With the weight of the bike I couldn't get it to stand back up, I also didn't want to just drop it, worrying that i would punch something out on the rocky terrain. It took Thomas and I plus a handful of throttle to rock the beast back and forth and get it over the trap. That being said the tractor like torque on the KLR was great for going up the grades, not to much clutch action at all. I knew I was doing much better, because when I would stop it would take Thomas a decent amount of time to catch up.

Around this time my hand held camera starting acting up, so unfortunately no pics. We came across a very boggy creek crossing through a medow. With all the rain Montana had this week it was pretty saturated looking. Being from Alberta where we have muskeg bogs that will swallow a lifted up 4x4 quad with tractor-like tires, I was very concerned about getting through here. We could see the deep trenches where quads had gone through and scars on the trees where winch lines had been attached. We had neither a 4x4 or a winch. We didn’t even have overly aggressive mud tires.
All we had was a bunch of extra weight, one wheel drive, and - a running start. I don’t remember who went first, except that there was a lot of wheel spin. I recall big chunks of bog and peat raining down on me as my tire spun at 30mi/hr while I inched along at 2. I was so thankful when we both made it through. I’ve had bikes way, way lighter then these stuck in bogs and it can be a serious effort to get unstuck.

Good thing I took a photo, it's not great but you can see Thomas just went through the tractor pull section of trail.

Anyway, eventually the trail begin to widen out and starting looking more like this

And this. High fives around, it was another reminder of just how lucky we'd been with the rain as it starting to come down on us again.

The whole afternoon looked much like below. Either raining or threatening, but by this stage we were used to it and were not surprised when it started to snow/hail little pellets for a half hour. We were over 2300m/7,500ft high.

Stay tuned for the very flooded solo tunnel ride comming up!

offthetrail screwed with this post 04-25-2011 at 06:22 PM
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Old 04-04-2011, 07:09 AM   #12
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Really enjoying the RR. The CDT is on my list, just don't know when I can get to it so I'm enjoying the ride through your report. Thanks.
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Old 04-04-2011, 07:22 AM   #13
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Great RR and pics !!!
Keep it coming
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:40 AM   #14
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Sep 2008
Location: San Diego, CA
Oddometer: 800
I'm in. Do us a favor and follow-up with a gear critique. It always helps
to find out what gear to "not" buy.
"Can't never could."-Grandma Belle Marie Bullock-Shuflin
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:50 AM   #15
Old n' Slow
Joined: Aug 2007
Location: Boise, Idaho
Oddometer: 322

Enjoying the report --- but - being interested in other aspects of the ride I've just gotta ask.

What's a "ceaser"? Is that some sort of Canadian venacular for a nightcap?

Inquiring drinkers want to know!

Growing older is inevitable - Growing up is optional !

05 1200 GS
04 1300 FJR
06 XR650R
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