Smoke N Fire 2014 | Idaho Bikepacking Bliss

Left to right: Jeremy Plum, Blake Bockius, Roland Sturm, Forest Baker, and Brian Pal

Beginning of the 2014 Smoke N Fire bikepacking race.

My muscles were tired from tensing up during the long downhill to Deadwood Lake. I flexed and bore-down as if I were trying to fold my body into itself. It was a futile attempt to stay warm. Futile indeed. My water was frozen. My face was frozen. My fingers and toes hurt. And it was only going to get colder.

Screw it. I decided to take shelter in a bathroom, crawl into my bag, and warm up. It was 5 AM. I told myself that I wouldn’t venture out until the sun had taken the bite out of the cold. I didn’t emerge from my warm refuge until 7:30 AM.

Back on the trail, I was excited about the prospect of finishing the 400-mile race before sunset. It had been a great ride so far. There were just a couple of big climbs between me and the finish in Boise. Little did I know that, later, I’d struggle through the final 30 miles with just one pedal.

Put this race on your calendar

The inaugural Smoke N Fire bikepacking race was picture perfect. The organizers, Norb and Tyson, really had their act together. Everything was well-planned and communicated. Very impressive.

The route was forgiving with lots of water sources and plenty of food options. It was very rideable and the scenery was beautiful. And, had I not been racing, I could have enjoyed a dip in numerous hot springs along the route. The forecasted cold temperatures were the only wildcard. It did, in fact, drop into the 20’s on certain parts of the route.

Overall, it was a great ride and brought together a really friendly group of riders. This is a great race, especially for  those just getting into bikepacking.

I finished in 9th place and was happy that I was able to complete it in less than 72 hours. There was plenty of climbing, but my GPS said that I did about 31K ft, which was much less than the advertised 51K. I’m not complaining.

Some recommended gear

Photo diary of my ride

Norb leading the pre-race meeting.Norb leading the pre-race meeting.
Norb leading the pre-race meeting.09-Sep-2014 19:04
Left to right: Brian (WA), me (CA), Blake (CA), and Jeremy (CA). Roland (not in picture) was the 4th Californian.Left to right: Brian (WA), me (CA), Blake (CA), and Jeremy (CA). Roland (not in picture) was the 4th Californian.
Left to right: Brian (WA), me (CA), Blake (CA), and Jeremy (CA). Roland (not in picture) was the 4th Californian.10-Sep-2014 06:54
 
Norb getting ready to lead the neutral start out of Boise. The event was so well organized that we actually started on time.Norb getting ready to lead the neutral start out of Boise. The event was so well organized that we actually started on time.
Norb getting ready to lead the neutral start out of Boise. The event was so well organized that we actually started on time.10-Sep-2014 06:53
Brian (red jersey on my left) crushed the course. He and Blake finished together in less than 48 hours. Brian and I met on the Tour Divide in 2013 and it was great to hang with him again.Brian (red jersey on my left) crushed the course. He and Blake finished together in less than 48 hours. Brian and I met on the Tour Divide in 2013 and it was great to hang with him again.
Brian (red jersey on my left) crushed the course. He and Blake finished together in less than 48 hours. Brian and I met on the Tour Divide in 2013 and it was great to hang with him again.
 
I think there were close to 40 riders. Impressive for an inaugural event.I think there were close to 40 riders. Impressive for an inaugural event.
I think there were close to 40 riders. Impressive for an inaugural event.
Blake (blue Giant jersey), rode through the night. He only got a short nap around 5 AM on a couch in a lodge. He's a machine.Blake (blue Giant jersey), rode through the night. He only got a short nap around 5 AM on a couch in a lodge. He's a machine.
Blake (blue Giant jersey), rode through the night. He only got a short nap around 5 AM on a couch in a lodge. He's a machine.
 
Rob Huguez followed the racers over several day, taking photos along the route. Everyone really appreciated having some photos of themselves. See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robhuguezphotography/Rob Huguez followed the racers over several day, taking photos along the route. Everyone really appreciated having some photos of themselves. See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robhuguezphotography/
Rob Huguez followed the racers over several day, taking photos along the route. Everyone really appreciated having some photos of themselves. See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robhuguezphotography/
After the neutral roll out, the California crew got antsy. I was officially in the lead for 60 seconds!After the neutral roll out, the California crew got antsy. I was officially in the lead for 60 seconds!
After the neutral roll out, the California crew got antsy. I was officially in the lead for 60 seconds!
 
First climb. Bye bye. Have a good ride.First climb. Bye bye. Have a good ride.
First climb. Bye bye. Have a good ride.10-Sep-2014 07:56
10-Sep-2014 08:41
 
10-Sep-2014 10:06
10-Sep-2014 10:39
 
Alice (on the right) earned the women's single speed record on the Tour Divide this year. I hopscotched with her on the first 2 days. On day 2, she decided to just ride through the night without sleep. She is fast and obviously one tough cookie.Alice (on the right) earned the women's single speed record on the Tour Divide this year. I hopscotched with her on the first 2 days. On day 2, she decided to just ride through the night without sleep. She is fast and obviously one tough cookie.
Alice (on the right) earned the women's single speed record on the Tour Divide this year. I hopscotched with her on the first 2 days. On day 2, she decided to just ride through the night without sleep. She is fast and obviously one tough cookie.10-Sep-2014 11:35
 
10-Sep-2014 13:27
10-Sep-2014 14:11
 
Chasing Jeremy.Chasing Jeremy.
Chasing Jeremy.10-Sep-2014 15:28
Nice lunch spot.Nice lunch spot.
Nice lunch spot.10-Sep-2014 17:04
 
Last big climb of the day.Last big climb of the day.
Last big climb of the day.10-Sep-2014 19:41
10-Sep-2014 20:01
 
Ketchum was at the bottom of the descent. I grabbed a hotel room to avoid the cold temperatures. It allowed me to get a quick and early start. Unfortunately, I killed about 30 minutes going back to town when I realized that I accidentally skipped 3 blocks of the route.Ketchum was at the bottom of the descent. I grabbed a hotel room to avoid the cold temperatures. It allowed me to get a quick and early start. Unfortunately, I killed about 30 minutes going back to town when I realized that I accidentally skipped 3 blocks of the route.
Ketchum was at the bottom of the descent. I grabbed a hotel room to avoid the cold temperatures. It allowed me to get a quick and early start. Unfortunately, I killed about 30 minutes going back to town when I realized that I accidentally skipped 3 blocks of the route.10-Sep-2014 20:15
11-Sep-2014 07:39
 
Grabbed some coffee and granola at the Galena Lodge. It was a nice break from the frosty morning.Grabbed some coffee and granola at the Galena Lodge. It was a nice break from the frosty morning.
Grabbed some coffee and granola at the Galena Lodge. It was a nice break from the frosty morning.11-Sep-2014 08:54
11-Sep-2014 10:17
 
11-Sep-2014 10:24
11-Sep-2014 10:46
 
Jeremy and I kept crossing paths throughout the ride. He is definitely faster than me, but he liked to take long, leisurely breaks. It was great to hang with him during what seemed like more than half of my meals and breaks.Jeremy and I kept crossing paths throughout the ride. He is definitely faster than me, but he liked to take long, leisurely breaks. It was great to hang with him during what seemed like more than half of my meals and breaks.
Jeremy and I kept crossing paths throughout the ride. He is definitely faster than me, but he liked to take long, leisurely breaks. It was great to hang with him during what seemed like more than half of my meals and breaks.11-Sep-2014 12:16
Looking back at a short hike-a-bike on the Fish Creek loop.Looking back at a short hike-a-bike on the Fish Creek loop.
Looking back at a short hike-a-bike on the Fish Creek loop.11-Sep-2014 13:28
 
11-Sep-2014 13:41
11-Sep-2014 14:16
 
Wrapping up the Fish Creek loop.Wrapping up the Fish Creek loop.
Wrapping up the Fish Creek loop.11-Sep-2014 14:40
I'm not sure if I would bring aero bars again. There weren't a lot of really long flat sections, so they didn't offer a significant advantage.I'm not sure if I would bring aero bars again. There weren't a lot of really long flat sections, so they didn't offer a significant advantage.
I'm not sure if I would bring aero bars again. There weren't a lot of really long flat sections, so they didn't offer a significant advantage.
 
Redfish LakeRedfish Lake
Redfish Lake11-Sep-2014 16:49
11-Sep-2014 20:32
 
11-Sep-2014 21:11
Deadwood Lake on a crisp morning.Deadwood Lake on a crisp morning.
Deadwood Lake on a crisp morning.12-Sep-2014 10:56
 
12-Sep-2014 10:56
12-Sep-2014 13:58
 
My disk brakes were on fire from this really long and steep descent. Definitely start with new brake pads or be ready to replace them after this section.My disk brakes were on fire from this really long and steep descent. Definitely start with new brake pads or be ready to replace them after this section.
My disk brakes were on fire from this really long and steep descent. Definitely start with new brake pads or be ready to replace them after this section.12-Sep-2014 14:40
Another snack break with Jeremy.Another snack break with Jeremy.
Another snack break with Jeremy.12-Sep-2014 13:33
 
Last resupply at Donna's store.Last resupply at Donna's store.
Last resupply at Donna's store.12-Sep-2014 15:48
I could feel the bearings on my right pedal disintegrating.  Thankfully, I  had only 30 miles to go when my entire pedal fell off. I walked the climbs, took it easy on the descents, and gave my left quad a proper workout!I could feel the bearings on my right pedal disintegrating.  Thankfully, I  had only 30 miles to go when my entire pedal fell off. I walked the climbs, took it easy on the descents, and gave my left quad a proper workout!
I could feel the bearings on my right pedal disintegrating.  Thankfully, I  had only 30 miles to go when my entire pedal fell off. I walked the climbs, took it easy on the descents, and gave my left quad a proper workout!12-Sep-2014 17:38
 
12-Sep-2014 18:19
12-Sep-2014 19:16
 
12-Sep-2014 19:43
My first glimpse of Boise and the finish.My first glimpse of Boise and the finish.
My first glimpse of Boise and the finish.12-Sep-2014 20:27
 
It was such a great surprise to be greeted by Brian, Blake, Dylan, and Sarah at the finish. Sarah and I were neck and neck, but then she braved the cold on night 2, pushing on much farther than me and finishing 4 hours ahead of me.It was such a great surprise to be greeted by Brian, Blake, Dylan, and Sarah at the finish. Sarah and I were neck and neck, but then she braved the cold on night 2, pushing on much farther than me and finishing 4 hours ahead of me.
It was such a great surprise to be greeted by Brian, Blake, Dylan, and Sarah at the finish. Sarah and I were neck and neck, but then she braved the cold on night 2, pushing on much farther than me and finishing 4 hours ahead of me.12-Sep-2014 22:40
Norb and Tyson showed up too. Can't say enough good things about these guys and the race they organized.Norb and Tyson showed up too. Can't say enough good things about these guys and the race they organized.
Norb and Tyson showed up too. Can't say enough good things about these guys and the race they organized.12-Sep-2014 22:40
 
9th place! I accomplished all of my goals - I had a great time, finished, and even met my stretch goal of finishing in less than 72 hours.9th place! I accomplished all of my goals - I had a great time, finished, and even met my stretch goal of finishing in less than 72 hours.
9th place! I accomplished all of my goals - I had a great time, finished, and even met my stretch goal of finishing in less than 72 hours.13-Sep-2014 16:49
It was fun to hang out downtown and welcome racers as they finished.It was fun to hang out downtown and welcome racers as they finished.
It was fun to hang out downtown and welcome racers as they finished.
 
It was great to spend time with my friends Harald and Brynne. They were amazing hosts to Brian and me.It was great to spend time with my friends Harald and Brynne. They were amazing hosts to Brian and me.
It was great to spend time with my friends Harald and Brynne. They were amazing hosts to Brian and me.13-Sep-2014 09:24
 

 

 

 

2 Responses to Smoke N Fire 2014 | Idaho Bikepacking Bliss
  1. Norb
    October 19, 2014 | 10:28 pm

    Great write up and photos, Forest. Darn shame about that pedal for your last 30 miles!

    • Forest Baker
      October 28, 2014 | 5:09 pm

      Thanks Norb. Great job on putting this together with Tyson. I had a blast (even with one pedal).

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