Saturday, December 28, 2013

SP to PR via Fat

I've had the dream for 3 years of riding from Sandpoint to Priest River, via the Pend Oreille River.  In other words, I wanted to ride the ice and shoreline for the 25ish miles that separate our 2 towns.  Why you might ask?  Why not?  I'm sure no one has done it before, the scenery is spectacular and I am always down for an adventure.  Plus fat bikes are built for such an epic ride.

A little history.  Two years ago I went out for a leisurely ride with a friend on the river's ice.  We were having a ball and started heading toward PR.  We soon realized that the ice/riding potential was more than we had prepared for that day.  It was a cool 15 degrees.  However, the ice was great with a few fresh inches of snow on it.  It was then I had the light bulb moment.  I decided we would retreat and attempt to ride all the way to PR the following weekend.  Well, it warmed up in that week, a lot.  The ice got shitty and my dream for that winter melted.

Last winter, I waited and waited for some good ice to form on the river again.  There was a small window of maybe a week where things looks decent.  But again it warmed and the thick ice never return.  Another year lost.

That brings us to this winter.  I'd thrown this idea of riding SP to PR out to a few riding buddies and they were down.  The epic ride "seed" had been planted in their heads over several beers at Eichs.  I further fertilized the idea over more beers at Laughing Dog over several months.  Amazingly, we only lost one rider come ride day...not bad, but an important one cause he was gonna take pics.  Hence, you are left with mine.

We had some freezing temps for over a week before the ride.  This combined with the Corp. drawing down the river way more than normal, made for some nice frozen beaches and good ice on the river's edge.  Ride day, the temps were just over freezing and things were thawing a bit.  However, I figured this may be our only shot this winter.  It may never be as cold as it had been for a as long again.  I couldn't really fathom waiting another year to attempt.  So, we ventured out.

To summarize that day's ride, it was everything I hoped for, but cut a little short.  We rode on huge snow covered ice fields.  We rode over beaches.  We hiked over rock walls and eddies.  We ran out of ice and shoreline a couple times and had to hike up the hillside and ride the railroad tracks (a first for me and not really that awesome).  The scenery was amazing.  The perspective on the river and winter shoreline will forever be burned in my mind.  I was smiling so much my cheeks started to ache.  This was easily one of my best days fat bike riding.

That's all the good things of the ride.  But remember I said it was thawing and getting warm?  Well, we crossed several small streams/creeks that ran into the big river.  Some had a thin layer of ice over them, that we easily navigated across.  Others, had no ice and you could see water flowing.  We could easily ride through those as well.  Because the water of the river was so low, the water in these streams and creeks were spread out and we never saw very deep water in any of them.  At most a foot of water was all we saw.  That was until mile 12.5 when one rider went to cross, what looked like one of several small streams we had crossed so many times before, but it wasn't like the others.  The ice broke revealing a stream approximately 4' wide and being 2-3' deep.  He got wet and bloody.  When you get wet...and bloody, well it kinda kills the group spirit.  We bailed out and went and reviewed the ride over beers...planning for our next attempt.

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