August 24, 2017 - Jamie Robertson is a cartographer at Adventure Cycling and kindly submitted this guest blog for Geopoints Bulletin.
It’s hard to believe, but this spring will be the 20th anniversary of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. To celebrate this amazing route, beloved by so many cyclists, the Routes and Mapping team at Adventure Cycling is making all-new maps to be released in spring 2018.
We’re excited about the new maps — a new layout, more detail, and bi-directional cues are just a fraction of the improvements we’re working on. However, before the nitty-gritty cartography stage, we researched the whole route again from Antelope Wells, New Mexico to Banff, Alberta to verify information and turns along the route.
To this end, Nathan Taylor and I, cartographers at Adventure Cycling, set out from HQ in Missoula to research our backyard to the north. Using a truck and bikes, we traversed the route from Seeley Lake, Montana to Roosville, Montana. We happened to be researching the route during the Tour Divide race, and seeing so many people using the route amazed us. Through days of driving rain, these intrepid racers gritted their teeth and powered through Montana’s soggy Flathead Valley as they ticked off the miles to Antelope Wells. We moved at a snail’s pace compared to the racers as we took photos, recorded GPS waypoints, and made notes at service locations and towns along the way.
Our week of research contained everything that one can hope for on a Great Divide trip. Early spring conditions on Red Meadow Pass meant pushing our bikes through a little snow, but the solitude and rawness of being in the mountains during that quiet time of year made it all worth it.
After a screaming descent to the North Fork of the Flathead River, sunny skies and perfect conditions greeted us as we cruised perfectly tacky roads through the lupine and glacier lilies. Then we rode back up into the mountains to cross over Trail Creek Pass on our way east to Eureka, Montana.
It was inspiring to meet many cyclists on the route and to see residents along the route waving and offering assistance. This great trip left us yearning for more miles — if only we had more time to keep riding north!
As the riding season winds down this fall, the Routes and Mapping team will be working through two seasons of fieldwork, synthesizing all of that data into new, attractive maps. We can’t wait to show them to the world and inspire great trips for the next 20 years on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Stay tuned and look for the new maps in Spring 2018!
Photos by Jamie Robertson
Yes! I want more off-pavement bike routes! Find out how you can help Adventure Cycling expand and overhaul the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route AND create the new Arkansas High Country Mountain Bike Route!
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Milyko, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.