Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Leaving Challis mostly meant one strong uphill, then a long, unpaved downhill for the remainder of the day. That I can deal with.
A ridiculous hill loomed large for the following morning. At 1,600 m of climbing, all at once and unpaved, it looked like the signature hill of the summer.
There was a great campsite at the Salmon River, but I had the idea to ride another 5 km up the hill and knock off 200 m of climbing, simply so I didn't have to do it all at once. I stopped into the campsite to fill up on water and eat dinner (to avoid attracting critters, don’t eat where you camp).
Just as I was leaving, a group pulled in. They'd been paddling the river all day and were camping here for the night. I was offered a beer, then invited to dinner. Heading uphill wasn't a bad idea, but hard to say no to that! Sat around the campfire until late, enjoying good company and singing goofy songs. Sadly, I couldn't remember all the words to the song about the sleeping Scotsman, and therefore, was unable to introduce them to it.
With both trepidation and confidence, I took on the hill in the morning. Patience. Pace yourself. You're gonna be here a while. It's OK if you need to shift down.
Early on, I was working up a sweat, even at 8:30 in the morning, but that changed as I gained altitude. The temperature dropped and my ears popped more than once. Teeder's lowest gear is literally twice as low as that on Invictus. I was in that gear about half the time. Most of the rest, my second-lowest.
I only had to walk once, mostly because I took a bad line through a rock garden. If the surface had been better, I could've made it all the way up.
Why was it easier than it had been in Arizona? There, even my lowest gear simply wasn't enough, and I repeatedly had to walk on a hill that was no steeper. I was probably in better shape by now. I'd jettisoned a lot of weight along the way (most notably, I no longer needed to carry 5 L of water). But an under-rated factor was the temperature. Hills are more difficult when it's 35 C.
Like the day before, a strong uphill, then a long, steady downhill. The difference was today, the hill took a whopping four hours, but the ensuing downhill was mostly paved. The distance melted behind me.
Curtis, my WarmShowers host, gave perfect biking directions, to the point I was able to get to his house based on a vague memory of his email. Curtis resides along both the Trans-Am and Lewis and Clark routes, published by Adventure Cycling, and isn't far from the Continental Divide hiking trail. And as of this year, he's also on the Wild West Route. He gets a lot of visitors.
Curtis whipped up a heaping amount of pasta, brought out some locally made meads for sampling, and we both stayed up later than we'd intended, swapping stories about hiking and biking. Curtis likes to do both, but isn't interested in a thru-hike, nor any particularly long bike tours. Instead, he tends to pop up randomly on impromptu adventures. Whatever works!
Even with the summer's toughest single climb behind, the most difficult stretch, at least on paper, would take place over the next few days. I'd been apprehensive enough to consider blue blazing all the way around on paved roads. But after staying with Curtis, I felt renewed; like a champ. Bring it on.
from Wild West