Never Too Late

I knew it was too late for a bike tour. There was snow in the mountains and the valleys were freezing each night. I’d let work get in the way of my planned autumn ride on the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route and the loss gnawed at me. I craved time bicycling in a wild place where walls are a figment and cell phones have no purchase. So when November arrived and the forecast predicted a few days of sunny weather, I packed up my Deadwood, some gear and food, and headed for Idaho.

The sun shone across the Salmon River valley as I prepped my gear in a parking lot just south of the remote hamlet of Stanley. Once on my steed, wheels rolling toward the serrated Sawtooths, my pre-trip stress began drifting away like the road beneath my tires. I pedaled through campgrounds at the impossibly scenic Redfish Lake—the total absence of tourists a reminder of the benefits of shoulder seasons—and turned up a narrow trail into the hills. High above, where golden eagles soar and elk wander, I found a campsite in the trees edging a clearing. The setting sun painted the sky in hues matching the flames of my campfire as I sat quietly and let the beat of my internal tempo settle into a slower, more peaceful rhythm. 

The blue sky of morning gradually gave way to encroaching storm clouds as I followed road and trail south toward Sun Valley, the air crisp on my cheeks. After camping on high, I stopped on the bank of Huckleberry Creek to gather a day’s supply of water from its frigid flow. Snow whitened the north slopes of the White Cloud range to my left and soon more, in graupel form, came pelting from a darkening, fast-moving sky. The forecast had been wrong. Winter was arriving now. 

The temperature dropped and I rode on, my senses reduced to navigation and monitoring the warmth in my extremities. For hours the valley was nearly treeless and it wasn’t until after dark, the snow coming thick as cold confetti for a parade of one, that I found a copse of ancient evergreens along the banks of Post Creek. Burrowing under the sheltering branches of a monarchal Douglas fir, I sparked a small fire and listened to the deep silence of snow muffling the world. 

Chickadees and ravens woke me in the morning and the gentle patter of snow on nylon informed me the storm hadn’t abated. Gathering wood from needleless lower branches, I made another fire, brewed chai, and let time drift away with the smoke as I lost myself in the dance of flame. 

The trip hadn’t gone as planned. I knew, watching the snow deepen on the ground beyond my sylvan shelter, that I wasn’t going to make it over 8,701-foot Galena Summit and on to Sun Valley that day, or the next. I knew the ride back to my car would be cold, if enlivening. I knew, after these pleasant hours, I could be happy just sitting sipping tea by fire for days, listening to birdsong and watching snowflakes drift to the earth. Most of all I knew that, no matter what you think at the time or how things eventually play out, it’s never too late for bike tour.



Writer and photographer Aaron Teasdale has taken bicycle tours on six continents—pioneering routes in the Andes, dodging Maasai warriors and herds of giraffes in Tanzania, exploring the former war zones of Vietnam with his veteran father, and piloting a tandem with a trail-a-bike on the back with his two sons on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for six weeks—and would gladly go back and re-ride any of them any time. Except maybe for Trenton, New Jersey, which he rode through with the bike-touring band Bicycle for a story in BIKE magazine about ten years ago. That town was seriously sketchy. A former editor for BIKE and Adventure Cyclist magazines, he currently lives, rides, writes, and shoots in Missoula, Montana with his wife and two boys.

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