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Today I head off for my 3 weeks of bikepacking in the Chic Choc mountains on the Salsa Ti Mukluk. The weather continues to be extremely crazy this year necessitating packing for a temperature range of 0 to 50! That is an incredible swing which really stresses out my packing setup. Thanks to Scott of Porcelain Rocket, I have a custom built mission control bag that is built around a 15L OR dry bag. This is larger than Scott's standard setup and is key to carrying my extra winter gear.
Yesterday in northern Maine we had rain, snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures which made for a good final dry run (no pun intended) of all my kit. What I discovered is that almost everything is perfect other than my rain pants. What a lousy time to figure out that what I have is just not going to work. On the drive to my drop off point today I am just going to search out a pair of cheap 'Dry Duck' style pants. Something that will keep me dry even if they don't breathe. I will wait for another day to get something more suitable for the long term.
The other change I have been playing with is water storage. In general I really dislike riding with a backpack, tending to only use the silnylon Sea to Summit bag for food overflow. I love this little bag because when not in use it stuffs down to a size smaller than the palm of your hand. With my current setup I planned on using this for overflow and put my hydration bladder in my frame bag. However, I am definitely not liking this setup so I believe I will switch over to my Deuter speed bag which I will use as a hydration backpack and then use the frame bag for over flow food storage. The goal being to not overload the backpack, something that I find incredibly easy to do if not careful. It is the law of storage -- Any free space you have will quickly be filled with some form of kit no matter how good your initial intentions were. I think this is why I love the bikepacking methodology so much, it really forces you to pair down your kit. None the less, I will give the backpack a try and hope to not overload it.
With the addition of some cheap form of rain gear I should be all set. The new front bag is holding all of my clothes and camp kit. The two new Porcelain Rocket Anything Cage bags are holding my tarp and hammock. The frame bag will have overload food and tools. The Booster Rocket Seat Pack will hold my food and stove kit. Not knowing how easy it will be to find food, I am starting out with a 5 day supply until I get a feel for resupply spots. Five days is pushing it for storage, but thanks to that new Mission Control bag, I think I will be in good shape.
Ready to roll, I am super excited about this first winter bikepacking trip on the Mukluk. Pictures and updates will be available when I find cell signal and I will provide a complete trip write up after I get back. Now for a bit of snow and cooler weather and all will be good.
Tomorrow I begin the final 1000 mile push towards my first winter bikepacking expedition. Using the new Salsa Mukluk, I will attempt to bike more than 500 miles using snow mobile routes and the back country trails found in the Chic Choc mountains. These mountains, located in north eastern Canada are a part of the Notre Dame mountains which themselves are a continuation of the Appalachian mountain range.
This year, especially this winter, has been warmer than ever creating what are sure to be unknown conditions for both the snow and ice pack. The beauty of this route is it offers me the opportunity to drop down to sea level and travel via the sandy beaches and frozen St. Lawrence River or cut across the mountains and valleys using the large network of snow mobile and cross country trails. Being my first extensive winter expedition, I did opt for a somewhat safer route, with multiple 'outs' should I find myself in over my head.
People I have spoken to all talk about this area, the Chic Choc mountains and the Gaspe Peninsula, as being one of the most beautiful places in North America. I believe it is going to be a trip that really stimulates all of my senses, allowing me to connect with Nature, challenge myself physically, learn a great deal about winter back country camping and biking, and finally connect with a new and interesting culture.
I will have one more post with my routes and gear list detailed before actually hitting the trails. I still have a few last minute decisions to make, with the choice of shelter being the biggest. At this point in time I am still planning on going with my normal winter Alp Kit bivy and and Tarp setup. The one addition I am toying with is adding a hammock back into the equation. I am a huge fan of hammock camping, and given the large amount of second growth forest in the mountains and the snow/ice/mud that is sure to be on the freezing and thawing ground, this may be a good option to carry with me. Temperature predictions are for lows in the teens and highs in the low to mid 30's, making hammock camping a possibly challenging endeavor.
As part of my 2012 Europe micro adventures, I am just back from 6 days of bikepacking the SW coast of Ireland. Not enough time for sure, but enough to really wet my appetite for this amazing countryside. It had been over 10 years since I had last been to Ireland and that was all in the North. For this trip, I caught the ferry from Wales to Dublin and then the train from Dublin to Kilarney.
My trusty Salsa Fargo in tow, I was able to meet up with my good friends Jack & Ellen, owners of Cohills up in Lubec Maine. Ellen is a recent convert to biking, and with her new Surly Troll in tow, we set her up for the cheap and easy form of bikepacking. This setup is so simple that anyone can do it. The basic components are two 10L dry bags and a frame or tangle bag. We simply strapped one dry bag to the handlebars and the other to a Topeak quick release rear rack and she was ready to go.
We started by doing a warm up ride around the Dingle peninsula and then loaded up the bikes and headed out to the Beara the next day. I have to say, this stretch from Dingle to Beara was one of the most amazing stretches of land I have ever cycled. It was remote and rugged, challenging to ride, and awe inspiring to look at. The weather was a bit damp, but that is spring in Ireland. By and large I think we had more sun than rain.
After reaching the Beara, with many people questioning our decision to ride that peninsula over the Ring of Kerry, we finally found one person that thought it was a good idea, and thus our nerves were set to rest. Every other person that we spoke to told us how difficult the ride would be. After the day crossing from Dingle we were definitely on edge, just how difficult could this be.
Well, the first 10 miles or so were fine, and we were feeling quite confident, and then the Universe reached down and set us straight. The ride was one of those rides where you are either going straight up or straing down. Very little of the road was flat or even rolling. Some stretches were downright mean, clearly built by folks that don't like cyclists :-) On some of the outer farm roads the grade was so steep that I was pedaling no faster than Ellen was walking (sorry Ellen, had to throw that out there...).
The ride to the tip of the Beara was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The ocean stretched far and wide, with the golden light of the setting sun reflected off of the barren cliffs. Our map showed a town, but at a certain point we began to doubt. It was so rugged and rolling that until we rounded a turn and crested a hill, there was absolutely no sign of civilization. We were doing the route counter clockwise and by the time we made the turn and began heading north and east, the roads became somewhat more manageable.
Having met a lovely gentleman the day before, we were pleasantly greeted by this same fellow the next day as he came with an offer of being our tour guide. One of the things I love the most about travel is when you are able to connect with the locals and get tours and information that you would have otherwise missed. In this case we were taken to a Buddhist retreat high up on the cliffs and shown a castle that had long ago been burned down and vandalized. Our tour ended as all good tours should, saying goodbye over coffee and pie.
Ireland is a special place and one that should most definitely be seen by bike. The ability to stop and look and explore whenever and wherever you want is one of the great benefits of travelling by bike. The people were amazing and incredibly friendly and we had zero issues with car drivers, even on the small and narrow country roads. I can't wait to go back and explore more on the bike and circumnavigate the island by Kayak.
A full gallery of images is available here.
A Bar that is a hardware store...
These treats are AMAZING!!
Just back from a few days paddling in Wales with my good friend Phil and new friends Justine and Barry, this was one of my favorite images that I captured. The coastline is rugged and full of rock gardens to dance with and caves to explore. The area is somewhat akin to a white water river in the middle of the ocean; large, challenging, and able to quickly humble your ego.
I am extremely excited and honored to have been chosen by Salsa as one of their Sponsored riders. This year, in addition to my Salsa Fargo adventures, I will be setting out on a Salsa Ti Mukluk to expand my definition of Adventure by Bike. For those of you that have had the opportunity to ride a fat bike, you know just how much fun these bikes are. The Salsa Mukluk is a go anywhere, do anything bike and one that will enable me to travel to places not normally visited by bikes.
I will be detailing my 2012 adventure schedule over the coming weeks, but for now, I will be setting off and chasing the snow as I head north for what I believe will be an epic ride in Northern Canada. The goal, explore new territory, meet new people, and share the beauty and power of adventuring on a bicycle.
Here are a couple of pictures from a brief trek on the beach tonight. Note the beautiful new bikepacking bags that Scott Felter (Porcelain Rocket) built for me. These bags were spec'd and built to handle the larger load that I will carry for winter Bikepacking. Note his new bags designed specifically for the Salsa Anything Cages. These AC bags are amazing and for anyone that uses the cages, they are a must have item. I am a huge fan of Scott's and greatly appreciate his support and friendship.
I am just finishing up with 10 day Micro Adventure bike packing on my Salsa Fargo in and around North Africa. It has been a spectacular trip and one that has taught me much. The people of Morocco have been some of the warmest and friendliest people I have ever met. They have opened their homes and families as well as shared their food with a scruffy vagabond traveler from America.
It has been an amazing experience and one that would not have been the same had I not been traveling by bike.
I get back to my computer in a couple of days and will then be able to do a complete trip writeup with images.
UPDATE -- My bikepacking images are now available on my Photoshelter site. To see them click here.