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Elkhorn Crest: Lord Nerd Beta

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If Idaho was an experiment on how wide the idea of a bike adventure could be stretched, then the Elkhorn Crest Trail was an experience of the essential: two big days of riding and one night camping at close to 10,000 feet in mid-October. Our path would take us along gravel roads, single track, and what we’d later identify as a boulder waterfall. We expected to see mountain goats. We’d make a fire and that fire would be essential for warmth. We’d ride, hike, push, and pull our bikes. We’d fall asleep under dazzling star-filled skies and wake to a night of breathing crystallized on the inside of our tents. If you were to make a board game about bikepacking, this route would be the game board.

But why consider this trip the essential form? After two years of traveling the globe we’ve had the chance to ride diverse terrain in unique places on an assortment of bicycles. With this battery of experience under our belts we feel empowered to hazard a hypothesis. It would seem that after comparing the various elements of this Elkhorn Crest Trail ride with our other trips, its length stands out the most. In two years of Dead Reckoning we had yet to do a proper two day trip! We have completed a number of three day adventures, but until this trip we had yet to get home in under 48 hours. The Elkhorn Crest Trail ride broke this barrier and left us to ponder what is essentially a weekend getaway.

“Since the the five day work week was codified in the early twentieth century the magic of the S. days has been enshrined in our minds.”

The weekend is a critical and necessary disruption in the linearity of our labors. Even those of you who have managed to subvert the the five day workweek11Or been subverted by either an alternative schedule or six/seven day workweek. must reckon with the fact that the majority of your peers, cohorts, and interactions are with people who have no choice but to venerate and uphold the tyranny of the weekend. It is a large part of how we organize our internal and external timeline. It is what we dream about and plan for. It is a favorite topic of conversation, second only to discussions of the weather. The weekends can be discussed across many cultural lines, an acknowledgement that the total sum of an individual is not what she/he does for work. It follows that weekends have become the boilerplate upon which our recreation is transcribed and as such they occupy the majority of our recreational memories. Throughout the course of our lives we have tested the parameters and limitations and possibilities of the weekend over and over again. This call and response with the weekend has created a feedback loop that demands even more value and esteem be placed on our weekend activities. And it seemed that the fates conspired to makes sure that Dead Reckoning accounted for at least one weekend trip.

With a 48 hour framework foisted upon us, our considerations for the trip were kept within the confines of an intimately understood parameter and we were able to tick the boxes of what we expect and hope for in a bikepacking trip against the weekend model. You read the intro paragraph, right? We experienced exotica fauna in their natural habitat. We rode desolate dirt roads, fine threads of singletrack, and a outsized boulder field that followed the vestiges of an a long-retired road. We set up camp admist the purple twilight of alpenglow in the bosom of a box canyon. The night was cold and clear but we had a fire to warm us and a lake from which to pull water and the stars glowered on us from the heavens as if ashamed of our unexpected voyeurism.

“So yeah, this trip was amazing. I know that word is overused these days, but it this case, for this trip, it’s the only word that works.”

Alex Howes @alex_howes
David "Diamond" Marchi @ridedrinklaugh
Kyle Von Hoetzendorff @newantarctica
Alex Howes @alex_howes
Kelli Samuelson @kellisam
Jenn Pereau @jennpereau
Jess @astronaut_jesss
Alex Howes @alex_howes
Daniel Pasley @yonderjournal

Eight FYIs

  1. If you go in October like we did, the weather could be great or it could be cold and snowing. Our trip was bookended with wind, snow, and frost. But for the two days we were on the trail we had nothing but sunshine. That didn’t stop it from getting really cold at night, though. LIKE REAL COLD. Bring extra everything in terms of clothes because you’ll probably want to put them on before you go to sleep.
  2. You will see mountain goats! This is a guarantee. Just to cover our bases though, a disclaimer: if you don’t see a mountain goat, it could mean a couple of things: 1) You are blind and there is just no physical way that you could see a mountain goat, even if one was balancing on your eye with all four hooves; 2) You expect to see the seminal indie folk band The Mountain Goats (which is really just John Darnielle) because you don’t know that there is an animal in the world called a mountain goat but you do know about this band. So you think, “That Yonder Journal is so full of crap. They said that if I went on this bikepacking trip I was guaranteed to see an aging indie rocker traipsing around scree fields lost in a creative fugue while searching for the melody of his next college radio hit”; 3) You went to the wrong Elkhorn Mountains, or worse yet you just went to the wrong mountains all together. We can’t help you with that, though we hope that you got something positive out of the experience regardless; 4) The mountain goats were at a union meeting or family holiday or some sort of cult gathering during the time you were in the area. ALL scientists agree that mountain goats are very complicated animals and that we’ve only just scratched the surface of their socio-cultural structures and labor organization. Ask yourself this question: if we’re not making sacrifices to the mountains to ensure that they stay sated, then who is? Some say it’s the mountain goats.
  3. Let’s say you do run into mountain goats. All of our research says that these creatures can be particularly flirtatious, especially in the warmer months. Don’t flatter yourself, they’re not interested in your unsettling bi-pedalism—they’re after your salt. That’s right, the Elkhorn Mountains are rather salt-deprived and like all goats, mountain goats love salt (don’t pee on on the flora please!). Plus they have no natural predators in the Elkhorn, so be aware that they might just saunter into camp and start chewing on your sweat-caked gear. To be clear we’re not advocating for any type of violence against these animals, after all they’re goats. We’re just letting you know that we were told to be vigilant.
  4. You definitely want to do this loop clockwise. The descent down from the Elkhorn Crest Trail to Haines is defined by a multi-mile stretch of once-was road that is now a boulder staircase that is very difficult to walk down, let alone ride.
  5. Water is available but it is not necessarily easily available. Basically, once you get to the trail there are lakes along the way. However to get to these lakes you’ll need to hike down from the trail. Water management could be a problem on this route in the hotter months, so be prepared.
  6. Did you know that a little piece of duct tape or Gorilla tape is a great firestarter? Until this trip I didn’t. We were having a little trouble getting something going when we got to Twin Lakes as the small fuels were a little wet and it was cold. Well, Diamond Dave Marchi asked for a piece of Gorilla tape from my tool kit, and abracadabra we had fire. Boom. One to grow on.
  7. The campsite at Twin Lakes is well-developed and there was plenty of downed wood for making a fire.
  8. When you finish the ride you will need to go to the Haines Steak House. Don’t worry, they have vegetarian options, I think. The point is that you should support this community. It’s rad. Do it.
01
Specialized Fuse

02
Specialized Burra Burra Handlebar Bag

03
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack

04
Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag

05
Specialized Burra Burra Seat Bag

SPECIALIZED FUSE

  1. Kelli drove up to Portland and on the roof of her Volkswagon she had a Specialized AWOL. Now, aside from being lied to about gas mileage and emissions, she may have also gotten the wrong impression about the kind of terrain that she was getting herself into.
  2. The AWOL was just going to be a little too much drop bar and not enough dropping in.
  3. So she talked to the near-mythical personage that is Chris DiStefano. I don’t have the space for a proper paean, but CD is a good dude and true to form he lent Kelli his Fuse for our trip. Which was tight.
  4. The Fuse has these bigass 27.5+ tires, which do a couple of things. The traction is all time—so much traction!—so when you’re creeping up a hill/trail/slope at lower than average speed cuz your bike is loaded with 60+ pounds of gear you don’t have to worry about doing special balancing tricks to keep upright and moving forward. All you need to do is just keep pedaling. The other cool thing is that you don’t have to really mess with the tire pressure, you can basically run the same pressure with the bags on and the bags off.
  5. It’s a future mountain bike and as such it has all the right geometry, brakes, standover heights, stiffness where it needs it, suspension where it counts. Etc. All of it.
  6. Did we mention that it goes downhill fast? Like, “Hey gravity can you keep up?” fast. Well, it does. So that’s cool.

SPECIALIZED BURRA BURRA HANDLEBAR BAG

  1. It mounts on the bar just like most of the other h-bar bag systems out there.
  2. The difference is is that it doesn’t also mount the bag on the headtube and the top of the fork. So all that rubbing, grinding, scraping, scratching, shaving stops. Which is cool for your bike and cool for you.

HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR STUFF PACK

  1. Light.
  2. Bullet proof (I think technically maybe not, but as an idiom we all understand what I mean. And if we don’t, I mean that the bag is really strong and will take some serious abuse before failing).
  3. Holds the stuff you stuff into it.

PORCELAIN ROCKET FRAME BAG

  1. 1. Scott at Porcelain Rocket made this for Kelli’s AWOL. Turns out it fits this Fuse just fine.
  2. 2. It’s got a couple of different pockets, holds SO much stuff, is extremely durable, and Kelli’s model comes in a delicious rainbow sherbet color scheme.

SPECIALIZED BURRA BURRA SEAT BAG

  1. So Kelli was running a seat dropper on our ride. What to do? What to do? What to do?
  2. Turns out that the Burra Burra seat bag doesn’t NEED the stabilizer. It works pretty damn well without it.
  3. It also holds a ton of gear.
  4. Cinches up nice an tight.
  5. And it comes in an eye-appealing gloss black.
Packing List

Food

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Freeze-Dried Meals 1/day Mountain House Pro Paks
  • Oatmeal 2/day Pack your own! Bob's Red Mill baby!
  • Bar #1 2/day Clif Mojo
  • Bar #2 2/day Clif Kit's Organic
  • GORP 3oz/day Bulk aisle
  • Jerky 3oz/day Teriyaki or Mangoes
  • Candy 3oz/day Haribo Gummy Bears
  • Chips 2oz/day Kettle Salt & Black Pepper
  • Coffee 3/day Stumptown
Packing List

Clothing

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Bibshorts 1 Specialized SWAT
  • Overshorts 1 Mission Workshop The Stahl
  • Gloves 1 Specialized BG Ridge
  • Cycling Cap 1 MFS!
  • Socks 2 Outlier or Swiftwick merino
  • Shoes 1 Specialized Recon
  • Helmet 1 Specialized Airnet
  • Shell 1 Mission Workshop The Meridian: Phase
  • T-Shirt 1 Mission Workshop The District
  • Sunglasses 1 Oakley Frogskins
  • Long Underwear 1 Icebreaker Merino
  • LS Baselayer 1 Icebreaker Merino
  • Puffy 1 Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  • Camp Hat 1 Poler Pink Rayon Jammer
  • Shoes 1 Luna Sandals
  • Shirt 1 Mission Workshop The Sector
  • Shorts 1 Poler River Chino Shorts
Packing List

Gear

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Seat Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
  • Frame Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket
  • Handlebar Bag 1 Porcelain Rocket MCA
  • Top Tube Bag 1 Specialized Burra Burra
  • Multitool 1 Specialized EMT PRO MTB
  • Patch Kit 1 Rema
  • Tubes 2 Freshies
  • Tire Levers 2 First ones you find
  • Bottles Lots! Some sort of custom Specialized Purists
  • Pump 1 Specialized Air Tool Flex
  • Shelter 1 Snow Peak Fal 2
  • Sleeping Bag 1 Sea to Summit—20° would be ideal
  • Stuff Sacks A few Sea to Summit eVAC
  • Sleeping Pad 1 Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated
  • Headlamp 1 Snow Peak Mola
  • Knife 1 Leatherman Wave
  • Cup 1 Snow Peak Ti
  • Spork 1 Snow Peak Ti #sporklife
  • Bandana 1 Something broken-in
  • Dental Care 1 Brush twice a day OKAY!
  • Book 1 Philip Roth's American Pastoral
  • Lighter 2 Bic
  • Sunscreen 1 Personal preference
  • Lip Balm 1 Something with SPF
  • Repair Kit 1 Needle & thread, sleeping pad patches, Tenacious Tape, etc.
  • Sharpie 1 Wrap it in Gorilla Tape
  • Wet Wipes 1 Soft pack
  • Spare Parts 1 Extra tubes, patches, tire boots, spare chainlinks, nuts & bolts, zip ties, derailleur hangers, etc.
  • Water Filter 1/2-3 people MSR Sweetwater
  • Soap 1 Dr. Bronner's Almond
  • Stove 1/2-3 people Snow Peak GigaPower
  • Fuel 1/stove Snow Peak GigaPower 220g
  • Cord 50ft Paracord
  • First Aid Kit 1/2-3 people Homemade