Although the planning for this trip has been almost a year, it seems that everything has to get done in the last few days. It seemed like departure day would never come and now we’re only a few days off. Let me fill you in on some of our planning.
Since early spring (late April here in Michigan), we’ve been in training, including the dogs. We began with riding our normal singletrack trails, about six miles a couple times a week. Soon, we started pulling our BOB (“Beast of Burden”) trailers, gradually adding more and more weight. We found that 25 pound bags of dog food offered good “dead weight”. Later, we added panniers (saddlebags) with bladders of water for a weight of up to 50 pounds. Hopefully we won’t we carrying that much weight on a normal basis, but there are some “dry” days where we will have to carry up to 8 gallons of water.
In June we started increasing our mileage. We don’t think the Great Divide Trail is going to have a lot of technical singletrack like our home trails, so we started riding the abandoned railroad grade north of town, 20 to 40 miles per day. It has some slope, but nothing in Northern Michigan can really simulate the long passes we are going to encounter in the Rocky Mountains. We can only wait for our final conditioning when we are out there.
Let me fill you in on some of the pros and cons of taking the dogs. Lander and Afton are our mountain biking family. They love nothing more than running with us, and all we have to do is get out the spandex shorts or camelback and they are beside themselves with joy. We have thoroughly discussed this with our Veterinarian and read up on first aid. They’ve trained every bit we have, running about 20 miles per day and riding in the trailer the rest of the time. They are not always happy about being in the trailer because they’d rather be running, but they are learning to deal with it. We did a 3 day practice trip and they quickly adapted to the “run/eat/sleep/do it over again” routine. We have been conditioning their pads and bought them reflective collars, harnesses and bear bells.
Now the biggest con is the possibility of bear encounters. We have read exhaustively about how to deal with the critters on the trail and in camp. We have heard the advice that “bears and dogs don’t mix”. But we have also talked to a couple of experts from that area that indicated that it should not be a problem if the dogs are on a leash, and in fact, their smell or barking may deter a bear. So, with three days until we leave, our inclination right now is to take them. They will have to be tied to our trailer when they run, not as fun as running free, but necessary for their safety. Our friends who are taking us have also agreed to stay in the area for 3 or 4 days, so that if it is just not working out, they can pick up the dogs from us in Whitefish, MT.
And so we are in our final days of packing, paying bills, closing up the house and finishing up at work. We will also be posting a FAQ. Check it out for answers to many of your questions or send us a question via our comments. Once we leave for our trip (July 29th), we will only have internet sporadically as we stop at libraries, so be patient waiting for an answer.