Trail Creek Summit was a good morning ride and I arrived back at camp by 9 AM. Plenty of the day remaining to make breakfast and head down the path to Hailey and spend time with Emilee, a gal from our Sawtooth Relay team. Outside Hailey Coffee, Emilee greeted me as the Surly rolled by.
“Good to see you, it looks like you’re hardly working!”
Thanks to the bike path and a tailwind, the ride from Sun Valley to Hailey was smooth and relaxing, twisting along the Wood River. Lunch was even better, sitting outside in the garden of a house in Bellevue. As the dogs played and breeze blew through Emilee and I had time to talk about working with kids, moving to Idaho, getting started after University and a few adventures. She had a collection of stories from working as a wilderness therapist and travelling and shared them with joy. After, we walked by the Wood River and watched a deer make a crossing with cottonwood seeds floating through the air. A relaxing afternoon and good company made the ride back a breeze.
At camp there was time to hike around the area, eat some Mountain House and prepare for the next day.
Day 3 was intended to knock out the largest portion of the route, over 110 miles for only the second time since I have been touring. From Sun Valley, the route headed North to Galena Summit, continued on the Idaho Centennial Trail along the Salmon River the back down SR 75, South to Galena and back to Sun Valley.
The climb up to Galena was a gentle grade upwards, climbing a smooth 1300′ over 30 miles. The Summit climb hits for about 7 miles and maintains a steady grade until 8701′ (according to the old sign). At the Summit, 3 other cyclist were waiting with a box in hand.
“Welcome up man! You want some Cinnamon Roll?!”
After realizing that I was neither dead nor hallucinating, I accepted a chunk of the pastry from Stanley Bakery and talked touring with Chris, Keith and Tahoma from the Seattle area. A trio of guys heading from Idaho City to Stanley to Sun Valley along the paved portion of the Hot Springs Route. Thanks for sharing, guys!
The descent quickly led to Valley Road, a stretch of the Idaho Centennial Trail filled with expansive mountain views, antelope, marmots and cattle. 10 miles of rolling hills and beauty.
Meeting SR 75 sent me South toward Smiley Creek Lodge, where I stopped for lunch before the climbing the Summit again. The temperature was low and the sun blared down on the road at elevation. This portion of the ride was the same as my Sawtooth Leg, so I took out a timer and started time at the exchange to compare cycling time to running time.
Starting trip 2 up the Summit was a grind, with leaden legs, soaking sweat and jostling joints. On longer pieces, the mind shuffles through methods of getting comfortable, until accepting that discomfort is the reasonable resolution. Leaving a small piece of pride upon the pavement, I shifted down to the lowest gear on the Surly and kept my tempo at a reasonable level. The final 4 miles up the Summit were peaceful and challenging.
If you enjoy data, the run up took 58 minutes while the ride took 51 minutes. That can be analyzed using complex algorithms… or you can just say it was a slow grind up the second time.
With no Cinnamon Rolls at the Summit, the descent was brief and the final miles into town were monotonous, broken with a stop by the Wood River to fill water and take a dip.
110 miles is the longest route that I have ridden solo and it felt a bit vacuous to have so many experiences and beautiful views without a partner to share with. The beauty of the Salmon River Valley, the jagged Sawtooth Range, climbing Galena Summit and winding along the Wood River were all incredible and are better shared.
The next day, I packed up the luxury of the Tacoma Tent, left an IPA and note for the neighbors and headed back South toward Hailey to meet with Emilee and her fellow Minnesotan, Lisa, for coffee. Lisa was a cyclist as well and shared her favorite rides while appreciating the climbs and views that Idaho offers.
Sitting outside for coffee with Emilee was a nice end to a solo tour and the conversation again grew from challenges to celebrations of being in a new State. From setback to Summit: “there is no hurry… we shall get there someday.”