Wow it’s really starting to feel like we’ve come a long way from the wall at the Mexican border! Here’s Segment 4 through Southern Idaho as we travel northbound on the Western Wildlands Route (WWR).
The first 55 miles of our day wrapped up Segment 5 at the UT / ID state line at beautiful Bear Lake. We had an additional 6 miles of riding adjacent to the lake in Idaho before the route took us east and up into the mountains for a late afternoon climb.
Around 5:30, we came to a 20 mile stretch of private land leaving us with the choice to stop there or commit to another 20 miles for a 90 mile day. Since it was relatively early and the sun was providing light well after 9:00, we made the decision to keep moving. We made a brief dinner stop at an LDS church that generously provided water and continued into cattle and farm country Idaho. At 8:30, we reentered public land and took the first available campsite in an aspen grove wrapping up our longest day yet at 90 miles and over 5000 ft of elevation gain.
Our morning began with a brief climb that took us to a main highway. We glided about 3 miles downhill and took a turn back onto a dirt road by a reservoir. It was Memorial Day and lots of families were still out RV camping and playing with their ATVs, side by sides, and guns. We cycled on climbing gradually under a clear blue sky. Our max elevation for the day was around 8000 ft, and we were pleased to not encounter any snow.
We glided down the dirt towards the little town of Soda Springs for a resupply. Thankfully, the grocery store was open on the holiday. We took our bounty and rode 2 miles to Hooper Soda Springs park for an evening picnic where we sipped naturally carbonated water from the spring. Leaving the lovely park, we were about 15 miles away from public land. We set out for our evening ride back into farm country and pitched the tent as soon as we were able.
We awoke on day 5 since our last time sleeping in a bed and had one thing on our mind – town. We were 70 miles away from Blackfoot and hoped to get in before 5:00. The route took us by a number of creeks leading to the Blackfoot River. The landscape was mostly cattle land with rolling hills in the distance. We crossed the Blackfoot River and enjoyed paralleling the Blackfoot canyon as we neared town. As lunch time approached, we conveniently found a fenced in picnic table under a shade tree marking a historical site of a former schoolhouse. We were elated to get out of the scorching sunshine for a quick break.
In the afternoon, we exited the mountains and rode on a mix of dirt and paved backroads through massive fields. The ride was mostly flat as we entered Blackfoot stoked for a shower and town food.
Just outside of Blackfoot, we were once again surrounded by big fields probably full of potatoes as apparantly Blackfoot is the “potato capitol of the world.” The pavement turned to dirt, and the houses became fewer and further between. Just as I was wondering what we were doing out there, a couple of locals stopped in their passing truck to ask us the same question. They couldn’t quite grasp when I said yes, we were out there intentionally.
Slowly, the route started to gradually climb, and we left the fields for public land. The mountains in the distance seemed so far away as we crossed an arid expanse of sage brush and gravel under abundant sunshine.
It was just about lunch time when we arrived at Well #2 which contained the only available water for about 50 miles to the town of Arco. We ate lunch in the sliver of shadow the tank created, probably also the only shade for 50 miles, and filled our bottles for the hot ride.
The sun beamed down on us as we rode toward Big Butte, an impressive stand alone mountain. The lack of shade provided no reason to stop, so we rode on through the afternoon. After many hours, we were actually approaching the mountains we had seen in the distance this morning. We arrived in the small town of Arco around 6:30 hungry, thirsty, and grateful for the shower at the KOA campground.
We left Arco after coffee and headed back into farm and field country. After a dozen or so miles on dirt, we hit pavement and headed up a pass into Craters of the Moon National Monument with miles upon miles of lava rock lining the highway. We cruised down the other side of the pass under the scorching sun and eventually made our turn onto a gravel road.
Only three miles after the turn, I heard a hissing noise, and my seat started to bounce. I hollered at Sean and stopped, noticing the massive thing I had hit. Not a nail, not a screw, maybe a piece of a valve? It was still stuck in my tire and had created a second puncture from the inside of the sidewall. My tires are setup tubeless, so we stopped, removed the object, and hoped the sealant would do its job. Though it seemed hopeful, any slight pressure to either puncture just made sealant spray everywhere. We decided to put in the backup tube and head back to the highway that way if we needed help at least people would be around.
Our backup tube was a little smaller in width than the tire itself. It seemed to roll fine on dirt, but a couple miles later on pavement, the tire went flat again. Feeling out of options, we stuck out our thumbs at passing trucks to get a ride to a bike shop in Hailey about 30 miles away.
Moments later, a truck pulled over and offered us a ride about half way. We gratefully accepted and loaded up the truck. Mark was a fellow cyclist, understanding of our predicament and happy to help. He dropped us at a highway junction, and he headed the other direction. We waited just about 15 minutes until Cindy pulled over and brought us into the town of Hailey. She was also a cyclist and eager to help. She brought us to a local bike shop that was still open late in the afternoon and wished us luck.
We knew that bike parts are in high demand and low supply and weren’t too surprised to find out they didn’t have any 29″ tires of any width. Brian, a mechanic, was extremely kind and helpful and went out of his way to find out if any bike shops in the area had any 29s. Incredibly, he found a shop in Ketchum a few miles north and actually on our route. We thanked him and loaded onto the free bus that connects Hailey to the ski town of Ketchum and grabbed an expensive but lovely hotel for the evening.
In the morning, Backwoods Outfitters had a tire that would work for me and quickly set it up tubeless. We were once again ready to roll. Though we weren’t thrilled to skip a section of the route, we understand that stuff happens, adjustments are made, and thankfully the journey can continue.
Leaving Bear Lake, we tore into the heart of cattle and farm country Idaho. This segment still had plenty of climbing but mostly stayed between 5000-6000 feet which I would consider lower than a lot of the route. Lucky for us, we passed through this section of very little shade during an atypical heatwave. Yay!
We never had to carry more than a full day of food but did have to bring a little extra water than the 3 liters we typically carry on the fork. A lot of this segment passed through large swaths of private ranching lands and fields stretching our days a little longer than usual as we sought out public land for camping. Frankly, this wasn’t the most exciting segment, but it’s all part of riding across the country.
(miles and elevation gain tracked with Strava)