Sub-24 Hour Overnight Bikepacking in the Gallatin Mountains

I am the father of a seven month old so opportunities to get out into the backcountry are precious these days.  I don’t want to miss out on time with my baby and wife but I also don’t want to miss out on nights spent in the mountains either so last evening I threw my leg over the top tube of my bicycle at 18:00 and pedaled from town twelve miles up into the high foothills of the Gallatin Mountain Range arriving around 20:00.  I live only about a block from access to our town trail system and I chose a route that consisted of mostly trails and gravel road all the way to my camp requiring only three miles of riding the shoulder of a mid-speed asphalt road.

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I hunted deer in this zone thoroughly in the Fall and have explored this timber-cutting road system on skis in the winter as well so I knew generally where I wanted to make camp.  I came to a wide, flat pass but pushed on another mile to see if the next switchback would offer better views.  I decided it did not and turned around to return to the pass.  I left the road and headed to a rocky promontory that made up the Eastern part of the pass and set about making camp… well, more like I cracked a beer and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before making camp.

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The view off to the SE through a gunsight set of peaks of the rugged Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness complex was sublime and I couldn’t help but gaze off into it thinking of past trips in that wild set of mountain ranges.  Opposite that view the lights from my town of Bozeman and the greater Gallatin Valley were beginning to twinkle.  The sun was setting to the West and the silhouette of the Tobacco Root Mountain Range drew my attention heavily.

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Camp made I took off my shoes and those diaper-like cycling-specific under shorts and found a comfortable spot on some sun-warmed rocks.  The weather was delightful and I sat in my short sleeves until long after dark just taking in the view of the setting sun, the lights of town, and the slowly rising nearly-full moon.

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Sleep came slowly as large critters banged through the woods near me.  Presumably just an elk or a deer but the notion a bear is hanging out near your camp is a hard one to ignore regardless of the fact I’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping out in the wild.

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I don’t know what time I fell asleep but I lay with the door of my simple shelter open and allowed my gaze to drift to the night sky.  The full moon made things very clear and the stars were alight with the twinkle ever-enhanced by being even just a few miles away from the light of the city.  I awoke at dawn, climbed out of my bag and scanned the distant hills for wildlife.  I will hunt this zone again this fall and seeing even just one critter on a nearby hillside was a pleasant sight.

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My trusty Bushbuddy fired up a few cups of water and I had a cup of coffee in hand by 06:30.  While it brewed I broke camp and packed my gear back onto my bicycle.  I spent the evening leisurely soaking in the surroundings but my plan for the morning was to attempt to make it back home for arrival about the time my wife and daughter were awaking.  The beauty of a twelve mile climb on the way in is you know you’ve got a fast, twelve mile descent on the way back out.

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I made it home by 08:00 just as my family was waking and my lovely wife had a second cup of coffee at the ready.  We made up a proper Saturday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs and now have the whole weekend still lies ahead of us.  Make the most of your minutes, hours, and days.  Enjoy the company of your family as well as your solitude.  I enjoy living in the moment, especially since each and every one of them equates to huge changes in the life of my little girl.  But at the same time I look forward with great interest in having the family join me in future micro-adventures.

 

 

  • Jdecker Dotnet

    Awesome pics, cool writeup, dose of inspiration. Thanks, Sam!

    • Thanks, Decker. Planning short trips like this are perfect for guys like you and I. And your kids are big enough and old enough they can pack their own stuff!

  • Joe Newton

    Great TR Sam. Got something similar planned in a couple of weeks.

    • The joy of living right up next to the mountains is such a wonderful thing.

  • Ric

    Definite inspiration to utilize time well and knowing that when there is a will there is a way. I enjoyed the write-up, so much so that I closed my eyes leaned back and allowed the silhouette of the mountain range to become a part of my memories.

    • Ric, that means a lot, thanks for putting it down in words.

  • Phil Barton

    Very well done Sam! My wife and I enjoyed 2 bikepacking micro-adventures this past week in CO. You’ve got me ready to pack up and go again!!

  • Matt

    Yes yes yes yes yes. I feel like this every time I get out on an early weekend morning before dawn, bang out a long trail run, and back in time just after the wife and kiddo get moving in the morning.

    • Absolutely, Matt. Make the most of those moments when others are still slumbering and won’t miss us anyway!

  • Inspiring writeup and nice capture of a perfectly timed S24O!

    • Thanks much, Logan. Got some longer stuff planned that I think would make a good addition to your site and if so I’ll be in touch. Until then 24 hour one and dones will tide me over.

  • Sarah

    Sam! This is so great. I sent it to my fiance and it’s inspired talk about us each doing a quick solo trip. Before meeting Andy, I traveled solo to the Dominican Republic and did a solo camping trip in St. John’s. Now when I talk about those experiences, I almost feel like I’m talking about another person, and sometimes I miss it. While we’ve had some unforgettable trips together I wouldn’t trade for anything, travelling alone forced me way outside my comfort zone, which ended up bringing new experiences I never would have had if I was with someone. With a family now, the solo trips will obviously look much different than camping on the beach for two weeks, but as your post shows, just as inspiring and refreshing. Thanks for writing this!

    • Sarah, I’m so glad the post prompted dialog between you and your fiance. I too know what you mean about looking back at my past self. Life changes, we grow, our family morphs, and although things are different they are still just as special. Go forth and do awesome things!

  • Things change immensely when one has children. It is excellent that you’re able to do the things you enjoy in an area that is perfect; that is very fortunate. Very nice photography as well.