My vacation website

Sun Valley 2004


July 16th

Twelve people, two start points, one destination. Instead of Crested Butte, we headed to Ketchum, Idaho to see what the fuss about its singletrack was all about. From Chicago, a group of nine left at 10:30pm CDT in two SUV’s and from California a group of three (including me) left at 9pm PST. From California, the drive was four hours to Primm, Nevada where we stopped at Buffalo Bill’s, played Texas Hold’em for three hours, slept for seven, woke up and continued the drive at about 11am. In the meantime, the Chicago caravan drove straight through the night and were in Wyoming at this time. About eight hours later, we all met up in Ogden, Utah, a small city just north of Salt Lake City where we spent the night.

Now with the complete caravan of three SUV’s and 11 bikes, we were ready to head to Ketchum. Getting five bikes and front wheels on the rack was like putting together a puzzle, the bikes had to be in the correct order or the handlebars, seats and pedals would get in the way. Near the end of the trip, the guys had gotten the bike racking time down to ten minutes from twenty.

July 17th

The drive to Ketchum was a short 250 miles. We encountered alot of rain on the way there and unfortunately it was still raining when we arrived. We had a campsite reserved at the Easley Campground, about 15 miles north of Ketchum and we also had a 2 bedroom condo in town. Due to the rain, we stayed in the condo for the night. The weather forecast wasn’t looking too good, thunderstorms for the next two days and even if it ended, we thought the trails would be muddy and unrideable.

July 18th

How about a quick warmup ride?  In any attempt to get in a ride before the forecasted storms, we choose to do the Chocolate Gulch loop. We went to Formula Sports to pick up the Klein that Kevin rented.  The shop said that it should be a good day, the dirt should be the equivalent of fresh powder during winter.  The ‘Good Dirt’ book listed the loop at 3.8 miles so we estimated an hour for the ride. We parked at the trailhead at the end of Chocolate Gulch road and began to unpack the bikes and gear.  At this time we had our first mechanical problem as Mike’s rear tire was severely untrue. Later we discovered that one of the spokes was loose.  However, since the ride was short and easy Mike still rode the trail.  The trail began with a climb which was supposed to be 2 miles, but it seemed to feel longer.  Near the top we met two hikers coming the other way so we stop and let them pass. Of course, I was busy taking pictures of the mountains and failed to notice that one of the hikers was Eugene Levy of American Pie fame. I guess that satisfied our Hollywood star search goal while in Ketchum. Once at the top we took more pictures of the mountains and prepared for the downhill.  The downhill was fairly rocky and technical at the start but it became a smooth rolling trail descending into a meadow.  The downhill ended at the junction of Oregon Gulch and Fox Creek.

Helmet camera video captures. Below is the Chocolate Gulch ride.

Making a left at the junction we rode about a 1/2 mile when we met a hiker who told us we were going the wrong way on a one-way trail. . The easy thing to do would be to check the map, however due to a miscommunication we had left both copies of the map in the cars!

So we headed back to the junction again to see if we missed other intersections or read the sign wrong. Nope, we didn’t. According to the GPS and the vague memory map in my head, we were suppose to head left, but I did also remember that the Fox Creek trail was suppose to be ridden the other way. Well, going right meant doing the Fox Creek Loop which was 6.6 miles. And with the impending rain forecast, we wouldn’t be able to finish the loop in time. This one hour ride was beginning to seem longer… So me and Paul head left again and find out that we were indeed going the correct way. We found the North Fork Loop and began to ride back. The next fork in the trail was a hard right switchback continuing the North Fork trail, however we were headed back to the car so we radioed everyone to go straight, “Don’t do the switchback”.

After relaxing at the cars and waiting for the others to get back, we heard that Mike apparently “did” the switchback and kept going. John was calling out on the talkabout for him to turn around.  Paul and I headed back out on the trail to find them both as they both weren’t responding to our shouts on theradio.  About a mile in, Mike finally responded that he was at the North Fork / Fox Creek trail sign.  Apparently, Eddy had used his talkabout earlier and turned it off when he gave it back so Mike did not hear us telling him not to do the switchback, nor did he hear John calling him.  As for John, he had his radio on 2-5 and everyone else had it on 2-0, so we were able to hear him transmit but he couldn’t hear any of us. Also, during the extended ride on the North Fork, Mike had missed a log bridge and took a nasty fall into the creek.In the end we all got back to the car, about 3 hours later. If this seems like its alot to write for a 3.8 mile ride, well that’s because my bike computer was reading well over 6 miles (not including the wrong way and the north fork).  The truth was confirmed when we dropped off Mike’s bike tire at the bike shop, on their map, Chocolate Gulch was 6.6 miles.  Hopefully, this is correct in version two of the book, “Good Dirt II”.  The rain never came.  After lounging at the condo for a few hours, we went to the campsite and set up the tents.  We got the fire started and then it finally rained.

July 19th

Let’s try a shuttle ride, it should be easy if we drive to the top and then just coast downhill. At least that’s what it looked like on paper, look at the elevation profile below. The Poison Flat Trail was the name of today’s ride. So the plan was to have the people not riding today drive us to the top, then they take the cars and go to town and pick us up in a few hours, let’s say 3 hours. So we figure 4 miles of climbing and 9 miles of downhill, 3 hours easily! From the start, as soon as the cars left there was a fork in the road, well it was a 50-50 choice and naturally we chose the wrong one. We took the right road and rode about 1 mile in where there was suppose to be a another fork and a stream-crossing. Well, we didn’t find one so it was back to the start and the left fork. (Time elapsed – 20 min) This time about a mile up there was a fork and a stream-crossing. But, the sign that was supposed to be there wasn’t. I know,let’s check the GPS… Hmmm, the GPS is out of batteries so it didn’t map that last mile we rode. Since it was me and Paul up front as we are the map and GPS guys, I say let’s tell them that this is the right way anyway. Oh yeah, gimme your batteries from your talkabout since the GPS is more important now.

Helmet camera video captures from Poison Flat Trail

About 1 mile later, going up an exposed hill, JJ loses traction while climbing and tips over on the down slope side of the hill. Paul and I watch JJ’s bike go tumbling down the hill about forty feet. Luckily, the drop wasn’t too far and the bike was fine. Even more lucky was that JJ was able to unclip and not fall down with it. (Time elapsed – 1 hr)

At 2.4 miles, finally a sign! Warm Springs Trail #199, just like the book says. Now at least we know we are on the right trail. (Time elapsed – 1.5 hrs)

Ok, if the top is at 4.3 miles and we are at 3.1 miles, and we are at 7000′ and the top is 7900′ we got a huge climb coming! The climb did start gradually but it eventually turned into a steep, rocky climb which we all pushed over bikes up. A quick check of the GPS showed us only at 7600′ at the top. Maybe the book was wrong, we’re at the top, it’s time to take pictures. (Time elapsed -2.0 hrs)

After the pictures we began to head downhill but then we ended up in an open meadow, we look up and see the trail going up and up again!! e book wasn’t wrong. After some more climbing and push bike we are at the top, there’s no doubt now, the trail sign is there, the mileage is correct and the GPS says 7905′. (Time elapsed – 3 hrs) Now begins the 9 mile downhill! It starts with a semi-smooth cruise through beginning with a huge open meadow. Later on, it got more technical and rocky which resulted in an Eddy endo. The downhill wasn’t particularly fast but it felt long and we ended up at another trail head. Did I mention the 12 streaming crossings? Ok, it wasn’t exactly 9 miles, to be exact, it was 2.3 miles. So now we were at that 6.6 mile point of a 13.2 mile ride. Time check… 3.5 hrs, Mike, Christine and Jong have been waiting at the pick up point for 1/2 hour already and we’re just halfway! Well, we better pick up the pace. At this point we split up into a couple groups and rode at whatever speed we were comfortable with.

The trail from here was a steady downhill, but not one that you could do without pushing a pedal. It was a rocky singletrack with many stream crossings and semi-technical portions. Paul, Kevin and I got to the campsite at the end of the trail at about the 4 hr 40 minute point. The cars weren’t there so we rode down to the road intersection to find Mike waiting for about 2 hours. Eddy and Shanda were close behind within 10 minutes. The rest of the group pedalled in about 40 minutes later. So the total trip time was 5.5 hrs. It seems like we have one unscheduled 5+ hour ride on every trip.

July 20th

Let’s try the ridgeline. Yesterday’s ride was pretty good, but we spent about 6 miles riding along a creek bed with no views. So we went to the bike shops to see what they recommended. One shop recommended Adam’s Gulch and another Imperial Gulch. What sealed the deal was that Imperial Gulch was mainly on a ridgeline. Who cares that it was 10 miles and more climbing than yesterday! Plus the bike store guy said it was easier than Poison Flat Trail.

The ride began with a very gradual climb up some hilltops and eventually into the trees. It was a very uneventful climb which became a long long climb. At the 5 mile mark we reach a junction and take a break. The trail here has been widen by a bulldozer by the land owner. We can also hear animals in the distance, at first it was just once in a while but now it sounds like a whole bunch of them. Goats or sheep is our guess. After riding about 1/2 on the bulldozer trail, we finally hit the top and see the flock that have been making all that noise. We also figure out why the trail has so much crap, literally everywhere. A little more riding and we reach the very top where it looks like singletrack heaven!

This seemingly endless downhill took us from the high meadows, into the trees and through streams. With huge smiles on our faces with stopped a top another summit.

One slight mishap occurred when Kevin fell into the tall grass and he stood up quickly just as Rex was about to pass him by. This suprised Rex and caused him to fall off his bike. See the frame by frame below (click on the framesto see the video). The rest of the downhill was uneventful as we came to another junction at a fenceline, From there we took a left and made another climb and ended with another great downhill back towards the parking lot.

July 21st

The ultimate ride! Fisher Creek, according to the reviews online, bike magazines and book was the ultimate ride.  Located about 50 miles north of Ketchum, it was going to be a long haul to get there.  The fact that it was an 18 mile loop and based on our track record we figured probably 6 hours to complete it.  We thought about shuttling the trail to cut off some mileage but in the end we managed to ride the entire loop.

We drove up Fisher Creek road until we came to an open gate and parked our cars on the side. From there, it was a 5 mile steady climb until we came to a steep rocky road. This was the main climb for the trail and soon we were at the summit and the trailhead at 8100′.

From here began the first downhill. It was a little over a mile, narrow, fast downhill that had exposure on one side at all times.loop. This downhill ended at Warm Springs Creek. From here it was an easy 2 mile climb to the second downhill. Now this was the main downhill of this ride. At over 3 miles, containing switchbacks, thin singletrack, banked turns, meadows, bridges, this trail had everything. The video from this entire downhill is posted and is over 12 minutes long.

Helmet camera video captures from Fisher Creek Trail

We were grinning ear to ear at the end of this downhill. Little did we know that there was one more left. After another climb the trail began going downhill, we were expecting a summit to stop and regroup but we quickly realized that is wasn’t coming. Unprepared for this, I taped this whole downhill with my lens cap on! While this third downhill was good also, the 3 mile bobsled ride from before is clearly the downhill of the whole trip.

Once we made it down to the parking lot near Obsidian, it was a quick 2 mile ride up the highway and another 2 mile ride up the dirt road to car. Amazingly, we completed the longest loop in the shortest time, 2 hours 47 minutes.

July 22nd

It sucks to go home. Well that was it, another riding vacation ending. By 10am we packed up camped, checked out the condo and headed to town for a big breakfast at The Kneadery. After another hour of shopping, we began the journey back to our respective states.

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  1. My parents live there in Ketchum, I miss this place enjoyed your site even tho its years old. 🙂

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