My First Bikepacking Trip

Training for the Tour Divide is an interesting prospect. Sure there is the need to spend lots of time on a bike. But there is so much more. Being new to the bikepacking world, I have a lot to learn. What should I pack? Where should I carry it? How much water? How much food? The unknown nature of this adventure is becoming all consuming.

I have become a blog junkie. Fortunately, a lot of people have blogged their experiences. Perhaps this is part of my motivation for my own blog. Maybe I'm paying it forward in my own way.

While I've learned a ton, I've identified a common theme. People's bike setups evolve over time. I clearly need some real-world experience. I thought it would be a good idea to get some bikepacking runs under my belt quickly.
I had the gear. My bike was loaded with brand-spankin' new packs that had never been outside my garage. It's time to get this stuff dirty. So much to learn.
While reading blogs, I loved reading about various bike setups. So here's a quick note about the bags. I used a Revelate Designs Viscacha saddle bag carrying my entire sleep system. Then I had a custom made Bolder Bag frame pack with a hydration bladder and a couple tools. I also had a stupid cheap top-tube bag for which the zipper fell off immediately. Don't go cheap. (Lesson 1)

I loaded up the Tallboy, turned on the Spot so my wife wouldn't worry, and headed out for Eastern Washington. Because this trip was more about testing the gear than the legs I decided to take the Iron Horse Trail which is a gentle railroad grade. The highlight of the trail is a 3-mile tunnel through the summit at Snoqualmie.

I made it to Cle Elum in time for lunch and met a friend for some local BBQ. Smokey’s is right on the Iron Horse Trail in a vintage train depot. It was both convenient and tasty.

After loading up on pork it was back on the bike. By now the temperature was well into the 90s and way outside my comfort zone. I lasted a couple hours then found myself begging for some shelter from the intense heat. The desire to cool off led me back into Roslyn where I stopped at a local drive in for a milk shake. I then loaded up on food at a gas station before leaving civilization for the day and heading up to Stampede Pass with the hopes of finding cooler temperatures.

I grabbed a variety of foods that I thought would provide good protein and calories for “dinner.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but all the foods I grabbed were EXTREMELY salty. Beef Jerky was the least salty of the foods I grabbed. (Lesson 2)

On its own, this may not have been the worst mistake. But in the heat, I ran dangerously low on water by the time I set up camp. I didn’t dare eat any of this food as it would force me to drink my remaining water. I didn't bother to bring any water purification system with me so I spent the night next several hours being tormented by the stream next to my camp. I nursed my water being sure to save enough to get me back to civilization the next day.

100oz was not enough water for the temperature and time between water sources.

Ok. This is good. Day one and two lessons learned. Time to set up camp.

I can’t wrap my head around the whole bivy thing. Being new to camping it just feels too exposed so I brought a tent. (a Big Agnes Fly Creek Ul1). As I got ready to set up the tent there was a loud snorting sound and stomping just a few feet away in the trees. It was an Elk. He scared the living crap out of me, but fortunately he seemed equally startled and quickly took off down the hillside. My heart was pounding. Though ultimately this was a non-event. This set the tone for the rest of the night. Being my first solo camping experience I was already plenty nervous.  I never felt so insignificant and alone as I did that night. Every little sound had me on full alert.

Come 5 am with little sleep I was ready to go. It was time to get back on the bike and work my way home.

I made it back to Snoqualmie Pass where I could refill my water with a few drops still remaining. Conserving water on this kind of trip is not fun. I must find a way to carry more.

After refilling my water, I headed back through the tunnel and started down the Iron Horse Trail. I was looking forward to spending some high-speed time trying out the aero bars (Still not comfortable on them). Unfortunately the trail was clogged with trail runners doing a marathon. This made for a very frustrating time as I had to work my way through runners who either didn’t know their left from their right or were wearing headphones and couldn’t hear me. Either way getting by a constant flood of runners was a challenge.

I finally made it to North Bend and it was time for breakfast. I ducked into Twede’s Café, of Twin Peaks fame, in desperate need of fuel. It turns out their breakfasts are HUGE. This was a great choice.

With my stomach full, it was off to a gas station to buy some snacks for the remainder of the ride and then pointing the bike home.
  • Where to carry the tent poles. Strapping them to my aero bars was loud and annoying.
  • How to carry more water. I'm missing a bottle cage with the frame pack.
  • Need a water purification system.
  • Need a new seat post. My saddle kept coming loose.
  • Need to find gas station food that works for me.

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