The Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail

As my 60th decade approached, the children were gone and I wanted to do something epic, usher in the second half of my life very fit and stay that way. Sierra was in Boulder, Colorado, in grad school, with her new husband, Eben, studying geography on a National Science Foundation Award. Bryce was in Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Calan, creating fabulous labels for micro- breweries. Todd and I were home alone, with not a lot of lively chatter, hip hop music, or buddies to drink coffee with. Instead, our home was too quiet, our life was too slow, and as we listened to NPR, we grew increasingly more depressed over the politics of our country. We were not embracing the empty-nest stage with open arms.

Todd was obsessed with chainsaw carving and creating beautiful creatures out of white pine chunks and he stayed mostly occupied with his art. I had this book to work on and had begun to do plein air painting again after many years, but it was not enough. So Todd and I decided, twenty-five years after we began the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail (CDT), we would return to the Rockies. This time, however, we would mountain bike the range from Jasper National Park, Alberta to the Mexican border, on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. The route is far different than the wilderness hiking trail. It mostly follows forest service gravel roads. We might cross the divide and sometimes multiple times a day, and we might do single track, rough and narrow where we have to push our loaded bikes, but it is a completely different experience. It will take us a few summers to complete the entire trek. One of the joys of our adventure is we are visiting many of the passes and towns that we accessed as resupply points on the CDT. In fact, we contacted many of our old llama friends, those who were still alive, and are having one happy reunion after another as we ponder together, where did the time go?

In the summer of 2016, Todd and I bike-packed the first leg, 800 miles, down through the Canadian Rockies and northern Montana. Bryce joined us for the first week, kicking his parents off right. The summer of 2017, Bryce, Sierra and son-in-law Eben rode the first two weeks with us and started their parents off right again for another summer of adventure. We covered 500 miles from Butte, Montana to Pinedale, Wyoming that second year.  It is wonderful that our children care enough that they want to clear their schedules and still go on adventures with their parents, and make more memories. That is the greatest compliment our children can give us. To choose to be in our company once they don’t have to.

This summer, 2018, Todd and I plan to ride another 800 miles and end at the Colorado/New Mexico border. Back in 1998, on our traverse of the Continental Divide Trail, we switched out our llamas and traded them for tandem mountain bikes and trailers, and cycled down through New Mexico on the GDMBT. The CDT was not yet built so much of the 700 miles were on the road with 40 miles in-between water sources. That was just impossible with little kids and llamas who needed water too. But now we learned that the trail is built, so since we already cycled New Mexico, it only makes sense that we backpack it so we both hike and cycle the length of the Rockies. 2019 will see us starting out at Chama to begin backpacking New Mexico. Todd and I anticipate it taking a few more years to complete this epic journey and I’m sure, there will be enough material for another narrative adventure book!