I rode Salt Lake to Banff and back. Slept in a hammock. Took me 12 days. I did it all alone and I loved it.
Banff has been on my bucket list since I was 16. I just left my job. Got a new bike. Figured it was time to go. I didn’t plan for it to be a solo trip but no one else could take the time and the ones that could, did not have a motorcycle. So I started planning. I looked at a map and found all the national parks near by and just made my route. I was not nervous to go by myself until I had my Grandma texting me saying how dumb I was to go alone. Maybe she was right but I wasn’t NOT going to go just because I did not have a buddy. I figured bring a knife, buy some mace, say prayers and be smart.
I have never done this before and honestly did not know what I was doing. I texted some friends for tips but other than that I was winging it. People always ask how I plan my trips: I pick a goal, research for hours to plan it all out then I realize I am going to learn everything I need to once I get there, so I stop stressing. The only thing I really made sure of was my bike. I took Frenchie to a shop to make sure I knew what was going on aka how to fix any problems on the road. I made my saddle bags because it was cheaper and I have always wanted to know how to work with leather. It was so fun but so hard needless to say they worked great.
All I know is that I HAD to make it to Banff. If I failed I could always come back home. Better try and fail then not try at all. My first stop was a small town called Victor, Idaho. My mom was a camp counselor there for 2 weeks and I had the opportunity to speak to about 25 teenage girls. In the LDS Church we do these things called Firesides which is ultimately a speaker that just shares a message. I really love speaking especially to younger girls. The things I wish I would have known at that age AMIRITE? It was amazing, the camp is called Quickwater and that cute little town was stunning. Super grateful I got to experience it.
I headed out to Jackson Hole which was a beautiful ride through the mountains. I found the church in Jackson Hole and did a quick change in the parking lot. I was quite the sight to see: trying to fix my helmet hair in my tiny mirrors and stuffing everything in my saddle bags. I love finding small church wards when I travel, so fun to meet other people my age just trying to figure out life. Also I have to mention most of these kids were in chacos and everyone brought their Nalgenes. These were my type of people. I cruised town after that and got some good recs on what hikes to do. I had to grab a lens for my camera and I met photo prodigy Issac Spotts. He gave me lots of tips because I am an idiot when it comes to cameras. Give him a stalk, he takes amazing photos.
I made some more friends at a camp spot at Jenny lake that let me squat on their campground. Thanks goodness because I was about to go rogue and hide my bike behind some trees and set up camp, which potentially is not a bad idea but when you don't have a bear canister...things get tricky. The next morning I hiked Ampitheatre Lake which was KILLER. 10 miles roundtrip, 3,000 feet elevation gain. Park at Lupine Meadows and follow the trail up, it is pretty tracked out so go early if you can. Make the extra effort past Surprise Lake, it’s worth it. If you follow the trail to the right around Ampitheatre Lake you can hike up to a saddle that has a great view of Grand Teton. I ate lunch up there, it rocked. Some cute couple told me about it on the way up, #localsecrets.
Later that night my new friends and I headed to Mormon row. It was this abandoned little village I guess you could say that was a front row seat to the sunset. Nights like this are what I live for. Random people in a random place making memories. My friend Asa (@asap_rodgers) was riding back across the country on his bicycle, best tan lines I have ever seen.
TIPS FOR THE TEETS: every camp ground in the park fills up by around 10 am so get there early if you want a chance at somewhere to sleep. Gros Ventre Campground usually has spots incase you need a backup. There are a lot of free spots outside of the park but bears are everywhere so make sure you keep all food and toiletries in your car. Since I was on a bike, I needed a storage bin so I had to find real campgrounds. Yes, bear spray is a thing but if you are staying in a popular campground or hiking a popular trail you most likely won’t need it. If you wanna be extra and do some backcountry hiking, get sum spray.
I camped closer to Yellowstone the next day and met Steve. Every campground was full but Steve let me share on his campsite. I had a hammock so I really only needed 2 trees. I was a little nervous but he ended up being a huge blessing. In hiking they have something they call Trail Angels, where it's someone unexpected that helps you on your way. Steve was a trail angel. He was riding back to Maine, 12 grand children and he gave me lot of motorcycle touring tips like:
“Your bike seems fashionable but how functional is it?”
“When you want to get serious about this Moto travel thing you need to get a BMW”
Thanks for the honesty Steve. Besides his subtle shade he was really excited that I was out traveling by myself and thought it was really cool that I had the guts to do it. I really would have been in a bad spot had he not offered to share so THANK YOU STEVE, there's one person in my corner.
Yellowstone was next. For anyone that has been there then you KNOW it is any nature lover’s playground. I was drooling all day. I felt like the log ride at Disneyland but real life and on my bike. TIPS FOR YELLOWSTONE: Old Faithful is the obvious main attraction, it gets packed fast. Get to the park by 8 am, I got there at 8 and still had to wait 20 minutes to get in. Head straight to Old Faithful then Grand Prismatic spring. I would honestly go even earlier because there is just about no parking and when hundreds of people are trying to park, it could take an hour to even get out of your car. So whatever you do, do it early before the Chinese tour busses show up. Also make you stop at the Old Faithful in, the woodwork is unreal. I could have stayed there all day and just read. Truly so cool. Also I heard the Huckleberry things are a must try but since I’m off that sugar life, you go try it then tell me.
I camped in Bozeman that night then rode up to Glacier National Park on July 4th. I rode through Montana backroads and came across the cutest little towns. Towns where there was no service, one gas station and because it was the 4th they were having little rodeos. I thought, “I think this is what America actually is.” I grew up in the city so I never have experienced the small town life but there were some good vibes from these small town people. One guy in Ovando, MT (dirt roads, 12 kids in the high school, population 100) I met, he was a logger, wore a cross on his neck, sleeveless flannel that he cut off, we started talking. He commuted an hour to Missoula (the city) because he would rather live in the country and have his own space then be around people. We could not have been more different but he was the kindest guy. He introduced himself as Larry and as I went to shake his hand he TOOK HIS HAT OFF. I was so flattered and I think I swooned. SWOONED. WHO DOES THAT ANYMORE. So here’s to you Larry, you became v attractive after that move, don’t break too many hearts in Ovando.
Glacier was everything I wanted and more. Yes the Tetons and Yellowstone were rad but COME ONNNN. I was up at 6 riding on the Going to the Sun Road and I hiked Siyeh Pass. I talked to some townies and they told me that was a hike I could not miss, they were right. There as a point when I turned around to look at the view and I got teary eyed because it was so beautiful. God crushed his job when making this earth. OR the Big Bang really out did itself, whichever you believe in. I believe in the God part but the Big Bang is cool too.