Mile 0: We head out from Galena Lodge knowing that we should be going uphill toward the pass and immediately make a wrong turn that sends us downhill. Not exactly how one would hope to start a journey of this size, but hey, you’re gonna make some wrong turns at some point, might as well get them out of the way.
I realize that I had been looking at the map to go uphill and read the cue sheet to go downhill back toward Ketchum. Cue sheet direction dually noted. We begin by pedaling up the pavement on a fairly busy road, again, not exactly what we had expected but according to the cue sheet it should only be about 1.5 miles. At 1.5 miles, there isn’t anything that suggests we have any other option than to ride up the pavement. Around 2.2 miles, we stop, pull out the map, read the cue sheet, look at the GPS, look at the map. I finally decide to load the map on the GPS, boom. It shows that we are about .5 miles up from where the turnoff is. I rack my brain and can’t figure out how we missed a “road.” We coast back downhill to the 1.5 mile spot. Still don’t see anything. I’m starting to get frustrated.
I take another look at the GPS and just head toward where it says this road is supposed to be, but in reality there is just some fence posts. As I drop off the bank of the road I notice that the fence posts are at the edge of a small stream and there is a walking bridge over the stream that leads to what, in my experience, would be considered singletrack. The map, cue sheet and GPS all agree that this is our spot, so we turn and head out on the singletrack. After a couple of switchbacks, the singletrack leads us to the “road” or more accurately the Old Galena Toll Road. OGTR was once a road, now it was a road base that was kept alive only by the singletrack going over it.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this trusting of the GPS would become our one true guide on the route, thank dog in the sky that I loaded it before hand.
As I mentioned in the intro, we had planned to park in Ketchum, but upon arriving, procuring a few more supplies, we began asking around at the places that had been mentioned online would let us park. No dice. After a couple of hours, we ended up at the Forest Service Office, another place folks had parked at in the past, and were turned away, but they gave us a hot tip on being able to park at the Galena Lodge. We gave the lodge a shout and after some coaxing they said, sure, you can park in that empty field by that cabin over there. Ok, works for us.
By this time, and what would put us right at the start, it was already well passed lunch time. Knowing how things can detiorate quickly without calories, I suggested we have a meal at the lodge before leaving. KB had some pre-ride, let’s get started jitters and didn’t want anything to do with it. So instead, we grabbed some of our snacks and headed up the pass. Our nutrition for the day would consist of just that, bars and chews.
The Old Galena Toll Road was actually pretty cool once we found it and got moving. The road meanders its way up to Galena Pass and despite it being what I would guess as years out of service, the base is still there and the grades weren’t too bad. A couple of the old truss bridges had fallen down and cause us to drop into stream crossings and push our way back out. We quickly dropped into a rhythm and immediately began the endless wonderment of our surroundings. The mountains, the trees, the flowers, the clean air, it was all just what we had hoped for.
What we wished wasn’t there, were the countless downed trees. There weren’t enough of them to complete throttle our forward motion, but plenty to be annoying and make us realize that loaded bikes are not easy to get over or under trees that crossed our path.
We summited and forgot all about them trees.
Once above the summit, we dropped a little into the mountain valley and our singletrack finally put us on a dirt road, or a dirt road like what we had expected.
Based on our time and the distance of the entire trip, we had pegged 40 miles a day as our minimum. Seeing that we had a late start, some navigational issues and no lunch, I was not going to push for anything more than what KB felt like doing. The pass had taken us a considerable amount of time, but once on a flat gravel road the miles started to click by only slowed by the occasional stretch of deep washboards (these would become the bane of our existence) we were within striking distance of our 40 mile goal with a few hours of daylight left.
We hit the Salmon River with some dispersed campsites. I was all for stopping but Kathleen Ann would have nothing to do with it. She was still concerned about being able to finish the trip and we were getting our 40 miles in one way or another. After paralleling the Salmon and what we hoped the route would continue to do, it then turned up into the foothills giving us 12ish miles of up and down with a few stretches of steep grades. With the lack of food, the sun dropping, these hills started to become the kind that you pray to the gods you don’t believe in that the one you are climbing is the last and then repeat on the next one.
The foothills proved to be more difficult than the Galena Summit due to the time of day and that we were already kinda spent. There was no water and we knew that on the other side of this section there was Red Fish Lake with multiple developed campsites. We pushed on, and on, and on, until I could see that our end needed to be soon.
We dropped into Red Fish and found our way into the first campground. It was full. We entered the second, also full. Taking a look at the map, we could see there were 3 more up the road, but not in the direction we needed to be going. We found the camphost and she was pleasant and helpful. She called the other hosts to see if there were any openings. There were none around Red Fish, but just down the road, the way we needed to go, there was a campground off of the lake that had some openings and the host there promised to save us one.
We rolled into Sunny Gulch just as the sun was dropping behind the mountains. The camphost sold us some wood and delivered it. We set up our tent with the view of the peaks behind us.
The effort of the day left us wanting a nightcap, dinner and bed, but we were thankful that despite our late start and the obstacles that presented themselves, we were able to figure it out and make it just shy of our 40 mile a day goal.
We spent the evening the way we would for the next 10. We setup camp, cooked dinner and then studied the map for what tomorrow would bring paying careful attention to the elevation profile at the bottom.
Galena to Red Fish Lake