As soon as we broke camp at Neinmeyer, a pair of cyclists rolled up to say hi. They had started in McCall and ridden the route clockwise. They warned us that the climb up Galena summit, which we’d be facing in a few days, was rocky and steep and would probably require some hike-a-bike. They however made no mention of the beast we were about to climb that day.
The first 15 miles of the ride were great. It was cool because we started early, the dirt road was in good condition, and the grade was more-or-less a false flat. Then we turned right onto Pfifer Creek Road. Immediately the grade changed from friendly to spiteful. After about a mile of over 10 percent grades, we had to stop to rest. Our only respite was the cool morning breeze.
As we continued the grade never relented. According to the Adventure Cycling map, the summit was at around 7200 feet. With every 100 feet of elevation gain displayed on the Garmin, I announced our triumph aloud. 5000 feet! 5100 feet! Only 2000 more feet to go! I tried to remain chipper as Carrie’s mood and left knee were turning sour. At one point we decided to walk our bikes for a bit to give Carrie’s knee a chance to relax.
Just before we reached the top the grade finally relented. We passed some friendly loggers who gave us some encouraging words and then finally, oh thank heavens, we started the descent.
When we reached the outpost of Featherville we made straight for the saloon to get some cold root beers. We also got some ice in a cup so Carrie could attempt to prevent any further swelling in her knee. There was talk of quitting at this point. The barkeep mentioned how a couple had only recently decided to call it quits after they ended up climbing FR156 in temperatures over 100 degrees. I can’t imagine trying to make that climb while it’s hot. I guess we were fortunate that at least we had cooler weather.
In an attempt to keep the trip alive, we made plans to get to the nearest campground and to spend the next day resting. We made camp at the Abbot campground a couple of easy miles out of town, glad to be off the bike. I’d highly recommend that people who start in Boise and attempt to head counterclockwise, to make sure they are physically prepared from the get go to be comfortable climbing extended, steep passes. Looking at the map, McCall would be a good place to start the Hot springs Route, as one could warm up to the more challenging climbs that lay ahead.
- Miles ridden: 39.4
- Climb of the day: Pfifer Creek Road (FR 156); loose rock; very strenuous effort; hardest climb of the main route; potential logging activity.
- Notes: Featherville has a saloon, cafe, and general store. The cafe and general store are open until 8pm; the saloon closes later. The people who run these places were very friendly. The official campgrounds are up the road up a slight grade. We would not recommend Abbott Campground; the mosquitos there were more prevalent than any other campsite during our trip. Chaparral Campground is much nicer.