What do you do when you have to work on your day off? Make an adventure out of it, of course! Suddenly, it hardly feels like work. This past year working with the Forest Service, I worked a full-time schedule of four 10-hour days per week. A couple times I had to work on a Monday, smack dab in the middle of my 3-day weekend. Both times I just made a bikepacking trip out of this. The first time in May was only my second bikepacking trip ever. My second bike-to-work trip was later in the year after logging a few more trips and experiences. Each trip was different, but got me to the same place.
Trip #1: Victor to Ashton, Idaho
I left from my house in Victor, Idaho on a Sunday afternoon. I took the bike path to Driggs, then connected with several gravel roads to Tetonia. That alone was almost 20 miles. From Tetonia, I connected to the Ashton-Tetonia Rail Trail. The trail is mostly flat, passing by rolling fields with the vast Teton Mountain Range behind you. If you keep your eye out, you may even catch a glimpse of some wildlife.
Not long after passing through Tetonia, I met up with some folks out for a Sunday afternoon ride. They took an interest in my loaded bike and wondered where I was heading. Some time later I actually chatted with a guy from Idaho State Parks, who manage and maintain the trail. It was nice to meet another staff member of the State Parks, which the Forest Service works closely with at the Mesa Falls location.
The next morning was only a 5-mile commute on my bike to the Ranger Station. From there, I rode in the Forest Service truck 30 miles to Upper Mesa Falls. After work, I took the long way back to camp with still enough time to relax and cook some dinner.
The following morning I made some coffee and breakfast and packed my bike. I stopped at 511 Main, a pizza and sandwich shop, for some lunch, and asked them where I could find energy gels and bars. The small grocery store in town had none of what I needed. The owners of 511 Main also own the local gym. They were happy to open it up for me – take note future Tour Dividers, as the route passes right by Ashton.
The ride back to Victor went smooth, despite being at a slight incline. About halfway to Victor, I did have to stop to filter some water from a stream. This is yet another reminder that no matter where you’re traveling, pack a water filter… even for big day rides.
I arrived back in Victor around 7:30 that night–plenty of time for a good night’s rest for work the next day. The total trip mileage was about 115 miles.
Trip #2: Ashton, Idaho to Upper Mesa Falls
I loaded the bike with bags packed into my truck and drove to Ashton on a Sunday afternoon. Before leaving Ashton, I rode to the grocery store for a few supplies, where I saw a thru-hiker. I asked him if he was the guy walking along Highway 32 the previous evening and he was. I told him about the awesome rail trail and felt bad he didn’t know about it. He was way off route from the Continental Divide Trail, but he had quite a few misfortunes along his trek. One of those was being pushed off the trail due to wildfires.
After the chat, I headed north out of Ashton three miles on the highway and took a gravel road east. The road parallels the North Fork of the Snake River. With one roller after another, the scenery is incredible, especially at sunset.
The road kicks you out onto the Mesa Falls Byway a half-mile from another rail trail starting at Warm River Campground. The initial plan was to take this trail north to Warm River Springs or even further if I could. However, because I got off to such a late start, it was already dark by this time. I opted to cut my ride short and camp in a more accessible area not far from the road. This meant I only had a four-mile ride to Upper Mesa Falls in the morning. That as I laid in my hammock, I admired the clear night sky and listened to a juvenile great horned owl call for hours.
The next morning I loaded up my bike, boiled some water for breakfast and coffee, and hit the road. A Forest Service truck with a couple people I knew passed me and I chatted with them when they came to a stop. It was nice being at the falls so early, as I had it to myself!
After the workday, I headed back out on my bike, but not before answering a few more questions from visitors. I guess out of uniform I still looked like I knew how to answer their questions… “Yes, the falls are down there. Follow the paved pathways and the sound of crashing water.”
I took the singletrack along the canyon rim, which is always a fun section. From the byway, I joined up with an abandoned railroad bed, which was quite the adventure. From there, I connected to some gravel roads and took them the rest of the way into Ashton. Total trip mileage was 40 miles.
It May Involve Some Creativity
Your Turn: Have you mixed work with play? We’d love to hear about your bikepacking trips to work in the comments below.